This post is inspired by a slack conversation with Ryan Abernathey and Sarah Gibson.

It is very important to me that we don’t exist in a world where the Internet is just centralized and controlled by a few huge, hypercapitalist players. I’ve written about ways the open source community can help here (by not tying ourselves to a single provider), and helped draft the right to replicate policy to put it into effect at 2i2c. This topic is important to me - I don’t want a future where step 1 of learning to code is something extremely vendor specific.

Theoretically, this is very well within the scope of the ‘web3’ movement (quite different from the web 3.0 movement which has mostly died out). I would love for that to be the case, but unfortunately I’ve found almost nothing about the ‘crypto’ or ‘web3’ communities attractive. I’m going to try write down why in this post.

Most of this isn’t unique thought - others have written about these with much more citations, and deeper analysis than I have. I encourate you to seek those out and read them. This is also not an exhaustive list, but a bare minimum.

Environmental impact of proof of work

Difficult for me to get past the environmental impact of most proof of work systems. Any renewable energy they use is energy that could be used to take more fossil fuels off the grid. I don’t want proof of work systems to switch to renewable energy - I want them to stop existing.

The rich get richer

In the economic models of almost all ‘crypto’, growing inequality is a feature, not a bug. This is outright formalized in Proof of Stake systems, and is de-facto true in most Proof of Work systems. I don’t really want to live in a world that is even more unequal than the one I live in now. Fixes to this would be fundamental to any possible positive outcome from the ‘crypto’ community.

“Distributed Ledger” is not a solution to many problems

The buzzwordiness of ‘blockchain’, ‘crypto’ and ‘web3’ mean they’re now being forcefit into problems they are very poor solutions for. Every time I see the word ‘blockchain’, I mentally replace it with ‘distributed ledger’, and see if it can still be a good fit for the given problem. Most often, it does not. Problems often have to be reframed in terms of ‘transactions’ to have a blockchain solve them, and I think this reframing is often fundamentally problematic - life isn’t transactional. When all you have is a distributed ledger, everything looks like a problem of incentives.

So any time something purports to solve a problem that is not use as a currency using a blockchain, consider carefully the problem it is solving, and seeing if the solutions it is proposing actually solve the problem in a way that is generally usable given latency and throughput consideration.

Let’s evaluate the tech on a case-by-case basis

The fediverse is quite cool. I think of IPFS as the spiritual successor to bittorrent in many ways (yes, I know they consider themselves to be web3). There’s a lot of really cool conceptual work happening in removing ourselves from being beholden to a couple of major corporations that doesn’t necessarily require buying into a speculative, environmentally disastrous property bubble. I want to evaluate each tech that might be solving a problem I find important, but if it has brought in strongly to the ‘crypto’ or ‘web3’ hype, it just has a much bigger bar to clear to prove that it just isn’t a speculative ponzi scheme.

I can’t wait for the huge amounts of money, wasteful proof of work and the hype train to die out, so we can pick up the useful tech that comes out of this.