What’s Your Metagame? An Open Letter to the Crypto Community

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It IS a community, you know.

It’s an epistemic community, which is a ten-dollar phrase meaning a community of shared knowledge, or more specifically a community that shares a sense of how one gets to useful and valid knowledge.

Within that broad epistemic community of crypto, there are lots of very different goals, lots of very different geographies and environmental attributes, lots of very different talents and constraints.

There’s also lots of money and lots of passion. Which attracts lots of raccoons to steal your money. And lots of false prophets to steal your passion. And usually your money, too.

I’m trying to build a different epistemic community than yours – one based on shared knowledge of small-l liberalism. There are lots of important differences in the epistemic focus of small-l liberalism (at least as I understand it) and the crypto community (at least as I understand it), but even more important similarities.

The crucial similarities are a commitment to individual liberty as the sine qua non for any organization of our social lives, and a resistance to instruments of the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy, both of which have a very different conception of how our social lives should be organized. There’s also a shared belief in technological progress and advancement, an advancement that drives an up-and-to-the-right arrow to history, as well as a shared belief in the epistemic foundation of that technological progress – the research program.

I’m writing this letter to invite an exploration of a joint research program, as described in the Take Back Your Data section of Things Fall Apart (Part 3) – Politics.

I’m interested in sharing ideas for a research program focused on liberty.

I’m interested in sharing ideas for a research program focused on resistance to the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy.

I’m interested in sharing ideas for a research program focused on technological advancement.

I’m interested in learning.

I’m interested in teaching.

I’m NOT interested in a shared research program ABOUT money.

I’m not interested in coins. I’m not interested in tokens. I’m not interested in cryptocurrencies per se.

Why not? Because I believe that a research program ABOUT money is inevitably a metagame fail. It’s not just the raccoons that money attracts like an open garbage can, although that’s bad enough. What’s worse is that money attracts the hostile gaze of the State, and our communities cannot withstand a direct confrontation with the worldly seats of power.

I say this because humans have been wrestling with these questions for thousands of years. I say this because we have evidence of succeeding in these confrontations and failing in these confrontations. Here’s how one well-known resistance fighter handled the issue.  

And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”

But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”

They said to him, “Caesar’s.”

Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

― Mark 12:13-17

Everything to do with money – and by everything I mean everything, including banking and credit, not just the currency itself – belongs to Caesar.

Money is why Caesar exists. Money is the sole foundation and the sole provenance of the City of Man. This was true for Jesus. This was true for Maimonides. This was true for Siddhartha Gautama. This is true for us. If you challenge Caesar on money … if you fail to render to Caesar the ONE THING that is inextricably and undeniably his … then you will lose.

I read the Old Stories of religious leaders and tell them to you now, not because I’m a religious person – I’m really not – but because these are stories of successful secular resistance and winning secular metagames. It’s not an accident that in every example I know of an epistemic community successfully fostering real and lasting social change, they have rejected the siren call of Resistance-as-money. It was the wrong answer to Caesar’s test then, and it’s the wrong answer to Caesar’s test today.

I’ve been thinking about writing this letter for more than two years now. So long as people were getting rich from their crypto faith, though, I knew it would be pointless to write it.

As the Buddhists say, “money is the most trusted material to test human nature.”

When money is flooding in like a river, the roar prevents us from hearing anything else. Certainly that’s been my experience, usually to my ultimate detriment. But when the water rushes out, there’s nary a sound. We’re all ears. That’s been my experience, too. Almost always to my ultimate benefit.

There’s bigger game afoot than getting rich.

There’s liberty and justice for all.

We say those words by rote when we’re kids in school, and our belief in those words gets thoroughly kicked out of us as we move through the world. But I tell you that it’s time for a comeback. I tell you that this is a game we can win, if we play the metagame as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.

To see what we’re about, check out the Epsilon Theory website. You can enter the rabbit hole from pretty much any point, but the “Things Fall Apart” series is a particularly good place to  start. In any of the notes, you’ll find that the commentariat is vibrant, active and wise. It’s the best thing happening on the internet today, imo, and it’s where we will design a shared research program to change the world.

And when you’re ready to join our pack, go here. You can just watch if you want, but I hope you’ll participate. Because the smarts and the passion of the crypto community will make all the difference in this long game, if there is a metagame to the crypto community beyond the creation of Resistance-as-money.

Is there more to crypto than cryptocurrencies?

Asking for a friend.

Ben
Hunt
Co-founder, Chief Investment Officer
Second Foundation Partners

1735 Post Road, Suite 10
Fairfield, CT 06824

@epsilontheory
ben.hunt@epsilontheory.com

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Christopher Beirn
Member
Christopher Beirn

Ben,
Here’s a fellow traveller you may or may not be aware of:
https://medium.com/s/futurehuman/survival-of-the-richest-9ef6cddd0cc1

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Redcat
Member
Redcat

These are the reported rantings of ultra-rich survivors of the money wars, figuring out that cash isn’t king, nor ironically is power. Big deal, I say – just pathetic. But to me, the story emphasizes the negative impact of full-on Capitalism (read on, please), rather than a warning about the egos of the very rich. The most recent (say, 21st century) attitude of Us v. Them regarding the ultra-rich ignores gov’t refusal and/or inability to… Read more »

Lorne Inglis
Member
Lorne Inglis

As John Kenneth Galbraith said: “There is nothing reliable to be learned about making money. If there were, study would be intense and everyone with a positive IQ would be rich.”

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Redcat
Member
Redcat

… as opposed to much of the electorate’s “everyone who’s rich is really smart” … … as opposed to much of the electorate’s “nobody who’s not rich can’t be very smart” … … which creates the seemingly-credible conclusion, “intelligence and wealth go hand-in-hand” … … which creates support for Ms. Rand’s fictional backing of that concept and the non-party based on it. I think this is global thinking. Not a pleasant thought for me. But… Read more »

Phil Bak
Member

“Money aint got no owners. Only spenders”
-Omar

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notsofast crypto
Member

Literally true with crypto.

What are more easily represented as coins, are in fact rights to spend.

That we call them coins, is just an easier way to split and recombine an infinitely divisible value as required by the value of a proposed spend, and then forward to someone else, the Unspent Transaction Outputs or UTXOs we control into new UTXOs that person now controls.

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Phil Bak
Member

“wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.” Harmless as doves is not much of a rallying cry. The money business may attract bureaucratic scrutiny, but that’s precisely what makes it such a fantastic area for disruption. You aren’t going to see financial institutions tolerate true change, so you need to build a full workaround clever enough to evade the whole system, something only a true fearless innovator can even think about. Crypto v2, probably… Read more »

Clive Hale
Member

Ben
I am wondering if gold belongs to Caesar? Roosevelt seemed to think it did…

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Andrew Meyer
Member
Andrew Meyer

Crypto, is an implementation of Blockchain. Blockchain is simply a communications platform. It’s a very immature one, that is worse than other platforms, except that it has one advantage; it enables self-verifying integrity of a message. If blockchain’s ability to self-verify the integrity of the message proves to be important enough, all the other issues tied to the immaturity of the platform will be worked out. Intuitively, blockchain is simple. Think of when you played… Read more »

notsofast crypto
Member

Appreciate your two cents but would love to add my two satoshis (0.00000002 Bitcoin). You’ve explained part of how a blockchain works, but because you focused on the non-monetary message portion, it’s only part of the whole, and thus has to remain in the conceptual. Without an attached incentive for successful consensus within the telephone game, why continue to play when you get bored, why not cheat to make the message benefit you exclusively? Each… Read more »

willem
Member

@notsofastcrypto I generally agree with your assessments of incentives in proof of work distributed systems. My struggle with most decentralized proof of work or proof of stake systems (most crypto as it exists today) is that they’re horribly inefficient. Today it really doesn’t currently make sense to build high throughput systems on top of them (payment networks, databases, etc). This may change in the future, there is lots of good work going along to scale… Read more »

notsofast crypto
Member

Great points. Glad to address them. We’re still figuring out how to measure whether or not blockchains are efficient. There is plenty of media uproar about the obviously large amount of energy consumed: 67 terawatt-hours annually by this estimation.https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/05/new-study-quantifies-bitcoins-ludicrous-energy-consumption/ Similar uproar about American household Christmas lights, which consume an estimated 6.63 terawatt-hours annually, is conspicuously absent.https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/05/new-study-quantifies-bitcoins-ludicrous-energy-consumption/ Whether the value of permissionless, distributed assets/money/value is worth ten times the good feelings Americans get from Christmas lights… Read more »

notsofast crypto
Member

Fixing my mis-pasted Christmas Lights link: https://phys.org/news/2015-12-christmas-energy-entire-countries.html

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Andrew Meyer
Member
Andrew Meyer

Interesting insights. I think I come from a different perspective than you do, in terms of the possible uses of blockchain. To me, there is no reason blockchain and crypto currencies have to be linked. Let me give a couple examples to support my thinking. First, smart contracts are a decentralized method of verifying a legal contract and they have nothing to do with currencies. Second, cryptokitties are an example of linking a tangible asset… Read more »

notsofast crypto
Member

Really appreciate your further thoughts here Andy. To hammer home the unbreakable link between blockchain and what you’re calling currencies, I have to aggregate currencies, tokenizable assets, and messages/timestamps/nonmonetary transfers/smart contracts into one entity called Assets That Get Transferred On A Blockchain or ATGTOAB. It’s an easy fallacy to slip into traditional finance-based definitions and much rotten hay is made from arguing against the horseless carriage. Smart contracts as you describe them are little more… Read more »

Andrew Meyer
Member
Andrew Meyer

@notsofast crypto – thank you for the insight, very educational.

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Redcat
Member
Redcat

hmmmm … “hard-coded into the software” … how’s that work? firmware? solidware? or maybe just implemented in hardware?

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notsofast crypto
Member

It’s very much hard-coded into the software, by consensus. There are currently 10465 independent Bitcoin nodes, running the same software– and distributing consensus that they’re doing so– every 10 minutes give or take. To change the Bitcoin software materially requires a hard-fork, where ALL miners signal and propagate the changes, or a user-activated soft fork (politically complex but nutshelled involves non-miner nodes upgrading in order to force the miners to follow suit).

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Redcat
Member
Redcat

In the end, people control the block-chain and any application thereof. Access and applications are human generated and controlled. Block-chain is a vehicle; its implementation is by humans; its uses, its applications, are created and maintained by humans. Ultimate trust is not justifiable. In that sense, crypto (currency or whatever else might be called that) is hackable, internally and/or externally. Trust me.

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notsofast crypto
Member

Totally agree with you on the philosophical extreme of ultimate trust, but blockchains are trustless. Human trust is not a part of the equation. A human either participates according to the blockchain’s consensus rules, or does not participate. Hacks (which I must interpret as unwanted, damaging, or self-enriching changes at the expense of the network) either happen by consensus, in which case they’re not really hacks at all because everyone wanted them to happen– or… Read more »

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