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Blockchain technology has held numerous promises: for a better internet, for decentralization, for a critique of power – and maybe even a critique of capitalism. Until, that is, capitalism struck back and turned this new tech into a symptom rather than a solution. But is there still the potential to change trajectory? Wassim Alsindi talks to Simon Denny about the function of ideology in Web3 communities, the origin of seed phrases, and the role of art in enabling positive change.
An astrophysicist by education, Wassim explains why he started working at the crossroad of science, Web3 initiatives, and art. He talks about his own cultural background, and why the ideal of a tool that takes financial power away from authoritarians appealed to him. Simon and Wassim also touch upon several of Wassim’s current projects – as founder and host of 0x Salon in Berlin, as a writer in journalism and academia, and as founding editor of MIT’s Cryptoeconomic Systems journal.
Wassim’s chosen seed phrase guides the conversation from the technical and historical basics (“What is a seed phrase?”) to the periphery (“How to design decolonial crypto practices?”). He and Simon relate their personal experiences from throughout the last decade and revisit some critical moments in the development of projects like Worldcoin and the concept of proof of work. With a sharp eye for crypto’s political and ideological underpinnings, Wassim explains how disagreements lead to schisms, or “forks” in the network, and what impacts, culturally and technologically, these fractures can have.
The changing narratives of opportunity and disappointment throughout crypto’s history of boom-and-bust cycles mirror the struggles for social change at large. Developments in Web3 could open doors to a new modus operandi, Wassim insists – as long as we engage critically and creatively.
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 with special thanks to Max Münz. The music for this podcast is by Amnesia Scanner, from their Web3 project SCAMMER, which was released as a series of NFTs.