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Bitcoin launched with lofty promises to improve the financial system in the name of the people. Fast-forward to today: most of its monetary value is concentrated among a small minority of token-holders. Has its initial dream been rendered impossible? Simon Denny talks to Toby Shorin about crypto’s actual potential to bring good to the masses.
Toby is a writer and technologist, and perhaps best known for cofounding the applied research organization Other Internet, which sets itself apart by researching crypto communities with ethnographical methods. He is also a cultural theorist interpreting the impact of media and technology on authenticity, community, and value. Through this lens, he and Simon discuss the role of participatory potential in shaping NFT projects’ success, as well as touching on topics like how crypto has changed art collecting.
Their conversation is bookended by the question of how blockchain technologies can contribute to the public good. Toby argues that, up to this point, crypto has only favored the few – yet an expanded notion of the public might be a fruitful angle for the critical rework it needs. Thinking concretely about the technology’s biggest potential, Toby sees opportunity in crypto philanthropy – or, in his words: “Maybe the YOLO-energy of crypto will make it FOMO into becoming good.”
Seed Phrase is a project by Simon Denny for THE NEW INSTITUTE. This conversation was recorded in Hamburg with a live audience and is made by Georg Diez, Lieke Fröberg, and fx:one audio productions. The music for this podcast is by Amnesia Scanner, from their Web3 project SCAMMER, which was released as a series of NFTs.