What hath we wrought?

Jutta Steiner posted the following on Twitter, in response to the birth of Etherean.org:

In the absence of a clear direction, sometimes it is better to not mess too much with the status quo…
Excitement related to doing something should be weighed against the risk of effecting unwanted changes that can’t be reversed.

She isn’t the first person to express a similar concern. There was some concern expressed within the Ethereum Foundation as well; not everyone likes the idea of “Ethereum” becoming “politicized” (one possible interpretation of what’s going on, but I think not the only one).

On the one hand, I don’t feel that we’re initiating anything here. These things–discussing politics, social and economic topics, ideas such as Radical Markets, etc., especially as motivation for the work many of us are doing on Ethereum–have been going on for some time. We’re just giving it a name, and a central forum for discussion.

On the other hand, as Andy Tudhope likes to point out, to give something a name is, in a sense, to summon or will it into existence.

I don’t have a specific question here, I just want to point at the elephant in the room and have an honest conversation about not only the excitement we’re all feeling, but about the sense of anxiety and fear I have about the risks here. I’m not suggesting that Etherean is or is intended to be a political movement, but there are clear political aspects and implications to the things we’re discussing here. Should we just embrace that and get on with our lives? How do we exercise caution and responsibility in light of the forces we are touching here?

Another way to ask the question: if Ethereum specifically or blockchain in general realizes even a small portion of our aspirations, how do we bend that technology and the ensuing movement towards good?

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This is an extremely important discussion. I think that by having this conversation continually, we are ensuring that there will always be space to steer the movement towards the common good (as decided by the community). When we stop having these open conversations, it is at that point that we no longer have control through community consensus and the technology is all that matters. To me what makes Ethereum unique is that we openly acknowledge that social consensus is as important as protocol consensus (as seen through the DAO fork).


Why not accept and embrace the fact that we are initiating something here?

Assuming that we do, then her critique of our lack of direction is a valid one. But this forum is exactly the type of place where we can take steps towards articulating that direction in clear terms.

Over the past few years the functionality and usability of the tech has taken significant strides, while the intentions behind our efforts have been obscured by get-rich-quick hype. If we continue to buidl with our heads down– without articulating our direction– then we risk having the movement absorbed by the economic interests and cultural inertia of the status quo.


This is awesome. In fact I’d go so far as to say that they are one and the same: the protocol serves social consensus and the only thing that can change the protocol is social consensus.


risk of unwanted changes
risk having the movement absorbed by the economic interests and cultural inertia of the status quo

I see both kinds of risk - moving to quickly and passively accepting the status quo.
But there is an imbalance. Risk comes from taking action. And the action does not come from this movement, but from people building crypto. So the higher risk comes from building “without articulating our direction”.

I think we could take a role of moral commentators. Question moves towards both directions.

“Ethereum” becoming “politicized”

Crypto is already politicized. Think of the Silkroad back in the days, ICO investments from Asian countries, the DAI wallet for Venezuelans. Crypto cannot be a political neutral tool, if people use it for “forbidden“ things, (from the view of their neighbours or the state they are living in).

This movement at the moment is just about getting thoughts out and finding a common direction, no?

I think, we should discuss risks, once we discuss actions. And ask questions, if we see that people take actions. E.g. Does an awesome crypto wallet put Venezuelans at risk of getting caught doing something illegal?

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