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Friday, March 5, 2021

You Should Be Interested In Persons Of Interest

It’s the end of 2020. And in no way do I expect my casual reference to the contemporary calendar to “date” this article. We’ll be talking about this year for many years to come, for even more reasons than Jillian Godsil gives us reason to in Persons Of Interest: Timestamped In Blockchain. I’ve personally isolated since about March, from everyone except my immediate family. Everything, everything, EVERYTHING! has changed for all of us—but sitting down with a book like Persons Of Interest puts this change into perspective and highlights some of the most human aspects of the various people getting involved with cryptocurrency these days.

The Scope Of The Project

The projects Godsil walks us through range from blockchain technology implementations designed to mitigate problems with human trafficking to silly online video games like Splinterlands, to which I am now addicted and spending a not-inconsequential amount of ETH. Persons Of Interest creates an atmosphere in which each interview is related to the reader in Godsil’s own voice. This storytelling is possible because something has changed about blockchain technology: it has begun to become widely adopted.

 As Godsil herself would no doubt agree, the star of the story she tells is blockchain technology itself. Any self-respecting venture capitalist would self-immolate to put together a portfolio as comprehensive and beneficial as the one Jillian uses to finally prove the point that cryptocurrency and blockchain technology are the operating system of the future. I’ve been involved in the space myself for right at about one year now, and I must say I look back quite fondly to the various things I’ve learned the easy way and the hard way by investing in token economies and even developing a concept I intend to found a startup company around in the near future. 

Hence, it’s fair to say that Jillian Godsil has managed to really deliver something for everybody in her personable and entertaining collection of stories about interviews with people in every part of the cryptocurrency and blockchain space. From addressing the issue of the unbanked to healthy sexual exploration, what we see through the lens of Godsil’s work here is inspiring: blockchain can be applied to everything we can imagine.

The Upside Of Blockchain Technology

Entrepreneurs with an astoundingly well-developed set of social sensibilities are creating projects which even my highly-developed ethical skillset can detect no problems with. I used to teach ethics and I still write about it quite a bit as an expert. It’s fair to say that one of the most fascinating things happening in ethics today is the development of public blockchain technology that integrates trust with transparency.

Eric Lonergan’s interview, which focuses on his book Angrynomics, is a fascinating glimpse into the world of finance and the incredible anti-bank revolution going on there today. Jordan Lyall’s absurd $MEME story, “The DOGE of DeFi,” reveals the funny upside of entertaining memes in the new value system facilitated by cryptocurrencies. Stefan Rust’s interview, “Save The Planet And Earn Money,” bore striking resemblance to a set of problems I first encountered in my graduate degree’s Environmental Ethics course… except Rust’s interview contained solutions that were quite different from what we’d come up with in our seminar. 

The most amazing thing happening in cryptocurrency these days has nothing to do with market capitalization or with token price fluctuations—it’s the projects people are coming up with and building out. I used to attend a lot of conferences in the Austin area, and one of the things I saw a lot of was accelerator demo days. I was impressed by what people were able to accomplish with basic technology, but nothing came close to creating an economic incentive structure to empower locals to make money without working by preserving the beauty of nature.

How many billions of dollars are donated each year to less-effective projects? The trick is to reshape the ecosystem. I gave up on my backyard garden here in Lubbock, TX because the climate was too dry this year and I couldn’t justify the overuse of water that would have been required to produce a real yield. If, however, I could make the yard retain water better by growing different plants… then I could do anything I could imagine back there. It would just take planning and trial-and-error.

And really, that’s the astounding good thing we’re beginning to see from the cryptocurrency space. Give a cash donation, make a very limited impact. Buy into a self-sustaining ecosystem designed to directly incentivize the good you wish to see in the world, and the impact you create will be larger and longer-lasting. There’s a principle in this, a moral that people in cryptocurrency know all too well by now: incentive structures govern the development of behavior. Create good ones and the value you make for yourself and others can be multiplied many times over as other people step in and benefit from your idea.

Conclusions

10/10, would recommend!

10/10, would recommend! That’s all there is to it. Godsil provides a thoughtful and social introduction to the fastest-growing technology space on the planet and I think everyone should read it to get a glimpse of what’s possible and what’s already happening. It’s an amazing time to be alive, and an even better time to be an entrepreneur. If we can tell stories about remarkable entrepreneurs whose creativity and ingenuity have coalesced into something remarkable because of “the blockchain” already, we get this sense that none of it is that far out of reach after all. Someone has already done these things, they must not be impossible! 

Personal narrative does something very important for us, simply by making it easier to feel what’s going on. We have Persons Of Interest to thank for painting a clearer picture of the present and immediate past for our benefit. It certainly appears that technology is disrupting finance in a variety of unprecedented ways. Perhaps the profound uncertainty of this historical moment is outweighed by the advent of smart networks that automate things very efficiently. Godsil’s work provides much food for thought by instilling a real sense of the historical moment into her reader. If you’re inclined, find a copy here.

This article originally appeared at Voice.

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