It’s An Ape, It’s A Blockchain, It’s A Meme-Crazed Crypto Gang!
A few weeks ago, I went to a “crypto and cocktail” meetup with a mixed-bunch of strangers at an artistic and futuristic distillery. I spoke to a tall Nigerian man about market trends and crypto charts. He was boldly optimistic, referring to himself as a “dreamchaser.” Then, I listened to a middle-aged Midwestern woman describe her hat-collection, which was growing as fast as her crypto investments. She was accompanied by a man who recommended bitcoin as a prepper item that you needed to survive the apocalypse.
I joined a tour of the mini-factory and sipped E11even Vodka, named after a popular Miami strip club, as ragtime music played in the background. I had the strangest feeling that I had stepped off an ordinary city street into a Star Wars cantina at the galaxy’s edge. During the past few months of immersion into crypto content and events, I’ve fallen down the most fascinating and unpredictable rabbit hole filled with extraordinary cultural creatives who truly believe they can make the world a better place (and get filthy rich while they’re doing it).
They exist in Web3, a nameless digital country, a community of communities, cahooting in Twitter threads, Discord channels, and metaverse clubs. They are untraceable, yet I find them everywhere I look. They speak in memes and acronyms, most of which I understand, and they practice rituals and rites, like laser-eyes and NFT avatars], both of which I’ve joined.
For the average person, “crypto” is imaginary money, the “metaverse” is a video game, and “Web3” is a new version of the internet, like an iPhone upgrade. Unless you’ve spent 1000+ hours watching YouTube videos, trolling the online influencers, and talking to strangers at crypto and cocktail meetups (like I have), you can’t begin to imagine the implications of blockchain technology.
But when you invest enough time studying the future, you begin to see the tsunami of change that is coming to global and local industry, not to mention the ideological movement that is birthing a new culture and paradigm shift for millions–maybe billions–of people.
It is truly astonishing.
The last time I witnessed something this revolutionary was watching students demonstrate touchscreen technology at the MIT Media Lab in 1999.
It’s hard to believe that was only 23 years ago, harder even to imagine that the HP computer I owned back then, which weighed about 30lbs, was less useful than the smart phone I carry in my pocket today.
So much has changed–and so much change is still coming. More data has been created in the past two years than in the entire previous history of the human race.
And hanging out with Web3 believers gives me the feeling that we are just getting started.
So other than cartoon gangs and animal tokens, what are the significant manifestations of Web3 culture? These are three themes that stand out to me:
1. We are changing the M-F’ing World, One Node at a Time
Unlike the Occupy Wall Street movement, which was an inconvenient protest at best, the Web3 movement is organized, altruistic, and prepared for change.
They’ve got DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations), Daaps (applications that use blockchain technology to disrupt business models or invent new ones), smart contracts (automated execution of agreements), a well-funded market (2 trillion dollars and growing), an army of developers, designers, inventors, and creators; meanwhile, investors are begging to join the party.
What does this mean?
Remember when Dubai was just a desert? Well, now Dubai has a 22,500-square-meter ski resort.
Web3 is going to be bigger than Dubai. You’ll be able to ski in your underwear in your living room wearing your VR headset, or cash in your NFT for a first-class ticket to Aspen to ski IRL.
The sky’s the limit–or should I say, the possibilities are limitless.
This kind of future-casting makes Web3 enthusiasts giddy–sometimes manic–and it’s reflected in the constant communication of anticipation, excitement, and not-happening-fast-enough-frustration.
I literally feel a dopamine hit when I’m on my Twitter feed or reading the latest Blockster articles.
I’m buzzing with adrenaline as I lose one crypto virginity after another–my first NFT, my first bitcoin purchase, my first rave in the metaverse.
I’m filled with pride when I orange-pill a friend (convince them to buy crypto) and get the warm-and-fuzzy feelings when a Web3 community or project has a successful launch.
We are building a new world; it’s inclusive, not exclusive, contrary to what you may have seen in mainstream media. We are women and men, old and young, foreign and familiar, and we are all at the same canteen table, admiring each other’s laser eyes, clinking our drinks in celebration of our camaraderie, clarity, and cleverness.
2. We are making a lot of noise, and not all of it is Mozart
There is not a week that goes by that I do not get a crypto critique article from a well-meaning friend who is trying to save me from the Big Bad Wolf of Web3.
These news stories usually revolve around hackers, scammers and people-who-destroy-the-environment-with-their-energy-guzzling-computers.
I get it. Billions in bitcoin were stolen. A dark web of drug sales was shut down. There are counterfeit NFTs, and crypto mining requires a lot of electricity.
Maybe you are one of the many people who lost some cash on a bad crypto investment. I lost money the first time I invested, too.
These are real concerns, real claims, and I don’t deny them. In fact, I could add a dozen more concerns to the list–like social isolation due to overconsumption of digital media or privilege gaps in Web3 fundraising and VC investments. There is no shortage of shortcomings, and not all of the music we make is beautiful.
Does this deter me? Not in the least.
In fact, it only motivates me more. We have problems to solve. We have technology to trouble-shoot. We have compromises, agreements, regulations and governance to create.
This is what it is to start something new. To build from zero to one. To manifest the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, to quote Charles Eisenstein.
Do you know what I did this morning? I cut the grass. Then I went roller-blading and took a dip in the ocean. My whole life does not revolve around Web3, and I don’t expect that it will for future generations.
The Web3 people I’ve met are some of the most social, most heart-centered, most highly-conscious people that I know. They care about the planet and the human race; they want to replace broken systems with economic freedom; they want to make music — beautiful metaverse music–and invite all their friends to the party.
And I want to be there with them, dancing my a — off.
3. Artists are leading the Renaissance, just like they did in the Middle Ages
When I was in middle school, I became obsessed with classical paintings. I nearly fainted when Mom took me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC to see the works of Renaissance artists like Da Vinci and Michelangelo.
I didn’t know it at the time, but these paintings were a symbol of radical social transformation. The emergence of the Renaissance came after a mixing of new cultures along trade routes, a series of Crusades wars and widespread disease known as the Black Plague.
Sound familiar? Web3’s conception comes from the mixing of millions on the internet, widespread financial crisis and a global pandemic.
Artists are leading the way in Web3. Their kooky drawings, electronic beats, animations, and digital fashions are the Mona Lisa and the Sistine Chapel of our time.
These creations are more than art or entertainment; they are symbols of radical social transformation, cultural change, and a return to humanism, which focuses on helping people engage in community and think for themselves.
Web3 is dominated by the Creator Economy–a.k.a. 50 million content creators plus technology designed to help them with monetization–and it offers a pathway to asset ownership outside of traditional systems, disrupting a financial model as old as the Renaissance itself.
For 500 years, centralized banks have dominated our financial lives, serving as intermediaries between us and our neighbors. Web3 gives us more self-control, self-regulation, and self-reliance to buy whatever Bored Ape we want!
Never underestimate a Meme-Crazed Crypto Gang
I am driven to write and teach about Web3 because it’s fun, it’s constantly changing, and it puts me in touch with Nigerian dreamchasers, Midwestern hat-collectors, and thousands of other weird humans that I wouldn’t otherwise meet.
But more than that, I recognize that I can see the future, and I need to share that vision with others, encourage them to get involved, and empower them to join the community of communities.
You don’t need to be a programmer, a computer scientist, or even an artist to be part of Web3. I am none of those things.
You can bring whatever you want to the party–some good jokes, a passion for the planet, a startup idea, some disposable income–there are endless ways to engage, support, and create with the rest of us.
Web3 is people and culture–one of the wildest, most vibrant, meme-crazed gangs I’ve ever joined–and my membership is for life.