Rediscovering public goods in the era of sunpunk Ethereum

Scott Moore (co-founder of Gitcoin and Alisha.eth, head of the ENS community) recently sat on Crypto, Culture, & Society to discuss public goods, community engagement, and the tools we need to build a livable future.

Rediscovering public goods in the era of sunpunk Ethereum

The Web3 community is inherently rooted in great optimism and hope for the future. The increasing popularity and progress of technology give us reason to believe that a world in which everyone is capable of living and developing is not a dream, but a reality. Yet when we examine the portrayal of technology in the popular imagination, it is striking that a future world is often envisioned in which we are reluctant to succumb. There, technology runs amok, at the cost of our values, privacy and collective freedom. This imaginative failure is far-reaching, but it is also correctable—if we choose to reimagine better outcomes, and the systems that help make them happen.

Technopunk culture, from dysfunctional to inspirational


A genre of science fiction that first emerged in the New Wave science fiction movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In the 80s, cyberpunk continued to gain popularity with films like Ridley Scott’s* Blade Runner* and novels like William Gibson’s Neuromancer*. To this day, it may even still be the most popular depiction of a technological future in pop culture: cool, rebellious, countercultural. But what cyberpunk depicts is a gloomy and grim world: hideous buildings towering over a smoky gray cloud, inhabited by giant corporations, and human beings living in what is at best a capitalist dystopia. . Although we are often confused by its ideas, cyberpunk society is technologically advanced but highly dysfunctional.

Cyberpunk = high tech, medium life

There is a strong spiritual bond between the cyberpunk movement and cyberpunk ideas. The latter appeared in the late 1980s and continued to be popular in the early Internet era of the 1990s. In the process, it offers a better, limited, but not unrealistic, view of what possibilities technology can offer individuals against an increasingly powerful global surveillance state.

Activists like Eric Hughes are primarily fighting for a world where strong cryptography will enable systems of enhanced privacy and personal autonomy so that we can live freely and undisturbed.

sunpunk = high tech, high life

In the early 2000s, a broader concept of the future world began to take shape: Solarpunk. Although Sunpunk started out as a niche environmental movement focused on renewable energy and sustainable technologies, it has since grown into a key part of the global conversation about co-creating an optimistic future. It is a regenerative future that cares about the common prosperity of mankind and the world around it, not against it.

At the end of the day, cyberpunk is about what we should stay away from (dystopian giant corporations, corrupt governments, and fading coalitions of resistance), and sunpunk presents us with an aspirational vision. It emphasizes deep integration (rather than separation) between technology and the environment, symbiotic environmental protection, self-sustainability, and social inclusion (even for those who are not capable). It’s hard not to get excited about a future that focuses on collective human prosperity and local sustainability.

Sunpunk creates new beginnings

We might as well ask ourselves: why are these movements so important? In particular, why is it important to what we do in web3? Simply put, self-narratives profoundly affect our reasons for being and, in turn, how we behave in the world. As Joan Didion famously said: “We tell ourselves stories to survive.”

But as Adam Curtis and others have pointed out, the stories we tell ourselves are sometimes not our own. Too often, systems and algorithms can easily trap us in narratives that do not improve our own well-being; narratives we co-create do not make us strong. We must choose carefully and deliberately the narratives we want to see in this world, and together we free ourselves from centuries of collective conspiracy. The self-narratives of sunpunk can give us great hope and a medium to build the future we want to see, explore the role of technology in it, and collaborate collectively instead of working alone.

In addition to the regenerated world it depicts, sunpunk can also be seen as a Schelling point of hope, especially for those of the web3. Many of us are trying to shed the baggage of historical power structures, or at least dissect them better, whether they take the form of governments, corporations, or other intangible forces such as the economy, which are themselves a shared narrative Structure, is a collective illusion. Right now, many of us are fighting our own way, lacking a unified vision or approach.

Some of us may be investigating why, in contrast to traditional vernacular practices, the modern nation-state (another type of narrative that has only existed for a few hundred years) has quickly become synonymous with political and social harmony. Others may find inspiration in the work of Karl Polanyi, who argues that ignoring local or historical context, our pursuit of continuous growth and economic optimization has resulted in a dysfunctional market society. We can also explore the writings of Ivan Illich for a broader understanding of how educational institutions like universities (and measures such as grades) have become stand-ins for education and lifelong learning.

Sunpunk’s forward-looking focus on human flourishing provides fertile ground for exploring all of these issues at the intersection of social and institutional power, and it also allows us to see where we are supposed to be connected, but instead we build extra fence.

Other worlds are possible

Elinor Ostrom (winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for research on the management of the commons) offers a unique model for alternative political and social coordination that deserves further study. At a high level, the practice can be thought of as a substitute for state or market management resources. Rather, it examines how a community of users self-governs the resources created in a more communal, reciprocal way.

Ostrom has studied irrigation, fisheries and forest use arrangements in many countries, including Nepal, Spain, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bolivia, Sweden and the United States, among others. By applying the insights of rational choice theory and development economics specifically to ecological conservation, Ostrom’s work shows that “local property can be successfully managed by local commons without any regulation or privatization by the central government”.

Ostrom’s book is worth reading in its entirety. After a high level of generalization, we can summarize her famous eight principles as follows:

  1. Set clear boundaries between communities and resources;
  2. Local co-creation of rules with direct stakeholders;
  3. Propose clear engagement procedures for rule changes
  4. Once the rules are formulated, corresponding accountability must be established;
  5. Use progressive social sanctions to resolve conflicts;
  6. Ensuring that conflict resolution methods are informal, easy to implement and low cost;
  7. Where necessary, ensure that rules are not obstructed by higher regional authorities;
  8. Continue nesting rules in this manner until everyone is consistent.

While most of these principles make sense to people at web3, even more than a decade later, there are few examples of them being implemented in a non-hierarchical way in much of Western society.

Another option (this time against companies) can be found in the Rochdale Principles. This is a set of cooperative operating concepts established in England in the 19th century. These principles are still actively used by cooperatives around the world today. In summary:

  1. Establish voluntary and open membership;
  2. establish a participatory decision-making process;
  3. ensure that everyone can participate;
  4. Allow member autonomy in all agreements;
  5. conduct education and awareness campaigns to ensure equality among members;
  6. network with other cooperatives;
  7. Create positive externalities for the community.

The above two examples inspire us to adapt the standard model of self-governance with other tried-and-true but lesser-adopted tools. If we can be optimistic and work together, maybe we can finally avoid the situation in the cyberpunk media, where the super regime and the cyberpunk activists are facing each other.

Can we escape the tragedy of the commons?

In short, one of the challenges of commons- or cooperative-based approaches is the complexity of relationships. As the group size increases, so does the complexity. The commons of a dozen people can run smoothly, and as we approach Dunbar’s number, conflict becomes more likely. (Dunbar’s Number: In theory, the average person can maintain up to 150 close relationships.)

From a network growth perspective, according to Metcalfe’s Law, a group of 2 people can only make 1 connection, but a group of 5 people can make 10 connections, and a group of 12 people can make more than 60 connections. Governing a local miniaturized nested community is one thing, but at the scale of modern civilization, our relationships are not only massive but sprawling, so what happens when the commons reaches a global scale? That’s a whole different story.

The obvious solution is for everyone to contribute a little and simply collaborate — but they often lack coordination mechanisms to ensure everyone contributes. This phenomenon is aptly called: the tragedy of the commons. Although Ostrom critically points out that it can be avoided, it remains a major challenge we all face today. (It’s hard to tell if it’s for reasons of scale, culture, or humanity.)

The tools of the regenerative economy built into Web3, including the “dweb” technology, are a promising solution to these global harmonization problems. The tool of the regenerative economy is sunpunk. Although fundamentally, no tool is perfect. Focusing on the right problems and being able to keep iterating over potential solutions until the best one is reached is a choice we must make. Getting this right affects every corner of the world.

But for this to happen, we need to resist doomsday. While it is important to be critical of new tools (as Marshall McLuhan put it, “We shape the tools, and the tools shape us”), first we must be optimistic about our ability to take back control of corrupt systems , working together to design new frameworks and mechanisms to replace them, and be able to harness the power of a new collaborative currency to fund our work.

redefine public goods

Arguably one of the most critical frameworks to revise is the traditional concept of public goods. In the basic concept of economics, public goods have two immutable characteristics: non-excludability (meaning that no one can be prevented from using the good) and non-rivalry (meaning that one person’s enjoyment does not reduce another’s enjoyment) . Public goods are usually provided by the government because commercial enterprises have little incentive to solve “free-rider” kind of problems (why pay for a good that won’t stop you from using it anyway).

Examples of traditional classification of some different types of items

As Laura Lotti, Sam Hart and Toby Shorin put it in The Positive Sum World: Reinventing Public Goods: “Creating a grand and egalitarian society requires a broader view of public goods, based solely on economics. Imagination is not enough. (Translation by Zic@SeeDAO)” We have to think deeply about what counts as a public good in web3 and consider the tools we might build, because classification is not so easy to discern in web3. For example, open source code is generally considered a public good. But what about developers? When people build infrastructure, should they also be treated as public goods and funded as public goods? Or, because they are finite, should they be classified as communal goods?

Thinking critically but optimistically about what a public good is will allow us to address the “free-rider” problem that has plagued the financing of public goods in the past. The more clarity we have on this, the easier it will be to determine which projects are worth funding.

A framework that goes beyond the above has been adopted by teams like Gitcoin and ENS.

Rediscovering public goods in the era of sunpunk Ethereum

Axis 1 represents market failure, representing the likelihood of capturing any economic value from the project (e.g., the higher the position on the market failure axis, the greater the probability of market failure and the more difficult the project is to monetize).

Axis 2 is the value the project provides to the community (donation/financing amount is determined by the project’s position on both axes).

Now think about it, what if we were not limited to the value created by public goods for a particular community, but also took into account the positive externalities it brings to other communities? With this as a framework, we can imagine how clubs or commons can actually function as “generating” for a true public good.

Open source software can be seen as an example of a truly global public good (in most cases, anyone should be able to access and use it. This continues to grow.) For example, although Ethereum may be primarily used to maintain network security The coin holder has obligations, but the code it produces is public, permanently available to everyone, and can be the basis for other projects to develop. In fact, we’ve seen this time and time again with EVM-based chains.

tools for social progress

Here are some examples of projects in web3 that can help us achieve a more sunpunk future. Many of these are perpetuated by positive externalities generated by other projects, and all in turn create their own positive externalities:

  • ENS’ digital signatures and online identities help us create sustainable, independent (and interdependent) online entities.
  • Optimism’s retrospective public goods financing provides open source software with rewards commensurate with the value it has generated in the past.
  • Gitcoin’s quadratic funding enables the community to collectively support and fund public goods in diverse ways. Both for altruistic reasons (supporting the public good itself) and for instrumental reasons (supporting the good within one’s own ecosystem, and in turn funding more open source software with each round of fees).
  • Gnosis Guild’s modular governance tool helps funded projects achieve fractal governance and self-sustainment.

Ethereum is sunpunk, but only if we choose it

Web3 isn’t just marketing hype and hoax, but if we take it lightly, it could easily end up like this rather than being a meaningful tool for social change. Technology doesn’t necessarily have to be on the opposite side of the environment, or our relationship to each other. In particular, Ethereum, which is not bound by any jurisdiction, can be used as the underlying layer for global coordination to build new institutions for a broken world.

But as has been said many times, this is a job that we must actively choose, and it will not happen by itself. In fact, if we listen to it, it is likely that we will object to it. Let us use the stories we tell and the regenerative economic systems we build to create the positive externalities we crave. Ultimately, it’s all coordination.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
Coinyuppie is an open information publishing platform, all information provided is not related to the views and positions of coinyuppie, and does not constitute any investment and financial advice. Users are expected to carefully screen and prevent risks.

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