In recent weeks a debate has sprung up in various corners of the Freedom/Truth movements. Particularly, a debate between the section of this community that believe blockchain and/or cryptocurrency can play a role in the quest for liberation, and those who believe that blockchain/crypto is simply a tool by the Predator Class to ensnare everyone in a digital prison.
Obviously, within any large community there is going to be a spectrum of views and positions. This points to the importance of recognizing the nuance involved in this discussion. It is not simply a black and white debate as some folks on both sides have claimed. The goal of this short essay is to continue the conversation I recently had with Ryan of TLAV.
This article is not meant to be a beginner’s guide to blockchain and/or crypto. We will not be diving deep into the mechanics of either, but it is important to note that a blockchain (a digital ledger of data) and cryptocurrency are not the same thing. Cryptos, like Bitcoin (BTC), run on a blockchain that records all transactions of the currency. However, blockchains can be used to record all kinds of data, including birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, and health records. Understanding that there is a relationship, but the two are separate concepts, is important for this conversation.
I will be outlining some of the concerns expressed about the blockchain and crypto spaces, as well as the benefits touted by the supporters. Finally, I will highlight areas where both crowds should be able to find common ground.
I also want to make it clear that this piece is not aimed at anyone specific, or meant to deride any one person’s views about this complex topic. The reality is that those in the “anti” and “pro” camps, on the whole, have more in common than not. If we are to opt-out in mass and thrive outside of the Technocratic State we need to find common ground. This article is an attempt at starting that conversation. We are asking all parties to commit to building an alliance of activists who use technology – to varying degrees – in the interest of the fight for liberation.
The Crypto World Order
Since my first involvement in the crypto space in 2012, I immediately recognized that there were two basic ways to separate the community: those who wanted regulation of crypto and those who stood against it. The crowd who stands against the regulation and/or interference of crypto or blockchain has their roots in the cypherpunk movement in the 1980’s and 90’s. We will talk more about them in a moment. The crowd that stands in favor of regulation also constitute a spectrum of opinions.
Generally speaking, this crowd believes we should welcome government regulation, investments by big banks and corporations, etc. These folks often believe that regulation or support of the banking cartel will bestow legitimacy on the crypto and blockchain movements. Whether or not this is a misguided view is not our focus. The reality is that many blockchain developers and advocates of blockchain and crypto do believe that regulation is the only way for cryptocurrencies like BTC to eventually gain a place next to the traditional fiat currencies, like the U.S. dollar. Others might believe that BTC or another crypto could eventually replace the dollar as the world reserve currency.
Those who argue from such positions have made an effort to create a crypto space that is heavy on the glitz and glamour, with conferences hosted in exotic locations often with a high entrance fee. These proponents have done their best to invite in politicians, celebrities, and Wall Street financiers in the hopes that their endorsement will mean more growth in the space, but also legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
It is this type of thinking which will likely spell doom for the hopes of a large, mainstream crypto community which specifically rejects the trappings of previous economic arrangements, aka business as usual.
For example, Blockstream, one of the more well known blockchain technology companies, has received around $76 million in investments from a number of firms, including AXA Strategic Ventures. Until September 2016, AXA’s Chairman and CEO were Henri de Castries. Castries sits on the board of Nestle, HSBC, among others. He was also a steering committee member of the Bilderberg Group from 2010 to 2019. Now, do these facts alone mean that Blockstream, and the various blockchain projects their team is connected to, are immediately compromised? Clearly not, but it is an indication that not everyone in the crypto/blockchain space are anarchists or principled activists dedicated to the vision of crypto disrupting the current economic system.
Another example involves Barry Silbert, the founder and CEO of the venture capital firm Digital Currency Group (DCG), which describes itself as ‘the epicenter of the bitcoin and blockchain industry.’ The list of projects funded by or acquired by DCG is quite impressive. DCG company has invested in numerous crypto and blockchain projects, including Brave, Coinbase, Ripple, and ZCash. This makes it all the more concerning that Silbert has spoken at, and been highlighted by, the World Economic Forum. Again, this does not immediately mean that every single project under the DCG is thus compromised because the CEO is affiliated with the WEF, or that he supports their “Great Reset” agenda.
However, it illustrates once more, that some people in the blockchain community are part of, or connected to, the same financial elite which have been running the show for generations. This is problematic. Surely, we cannot expect these mainstream crypto projects to collaborate with bankers and 1%ers and somehow lead to a world where those same people are not sitting on top.
Beyond the connections of the blockchain space and the Predator Class – and there are more – the opponents of blockchain technology also point to the future envisioned by the Great Reset and the role blockchain is expected to have. For example, the WEF loves to talk about the Internet of Things and more recently, the Internet of Bodies or Humans. They imagine a world where everything you do is placed on a blockchain. Not in the anonymous, decentralized or private way imagined by much of the crypto-anarchists, but a blockchain where all citizens lives are literally placed on a blockchain that cannot be altered.
This vision also imagines the shift to stakeholder capitalism and social impact investing where the financial elite place bets and invest on the potential outcomes of your life. While the vision is predictably couched in flowery language – inclusive, diversity, sustainable – it’s clear that the Predator Class desire a future where a health passport dictates where and when you can travel, a social credit score determines the “privileges” you can access, and all of this data is stored on a blockchain where the public-private fascist partnership can watch your every move. In the most nightmarish version of this potential future, individuals who are locked into this Technocratic State could even be denied access to food, water, and housing if they are short on the necessary digital tokens.
This rabbit hole goes deep and it’s clear to anyone paying attention that there are some worrisome developments on the horizon. The largest crypto/blockchain projects such as Ethereum are making it clear they have no problem supporting projects which could spell the end of privacy and liberty. While it is also true that many, many people around the world have profited from the cryptocurrency and blockchain boom, there are clear reasons to be concerned about, and, perhaps, reject the use of cryptocurrency and blockchain altogether.
Blockchain Could Make Governments Irrelevant
The arguments in favor of the use of blockchain and cryptocurrency are more simple than those against the technology. First, in regards to the financial profit benefit, it has been said that crypto only benefits middle class Westerners and the financial elite. In fact, when the mainstream press (or left wing media) write about crypto and blockchain there is often a tendency to characterize the space as an echo chamber of white suburban men.
While this demographic is a large portion of the space, it’s disingenuous to deny the fact that cryptocurrency and blockchain projects have provided access to economic value and exchange to those who are traditionally seen as “unbankable”. The reality is that crypto projects in Africa, and Central and South America are specifically focused on how to provide people who would typically be denied access to a bank account the ability to store, hold, and transfer value.
The Great Reset vision imagines giving these people digital IDs, often involving biometrics, so they can be “legitimized” and brought into the system. This could, indeed, lead to the world where individuals are locked out of society. However, the true cypherpunk, crypto-anarchist vision is one where the formerly unbanked no longer need a bank or a government to trade value. With a decentralized, distributed, and truly anonymous blockchain, an individual could have a way to transmit value to anyone in the world without government approval or bank services. Additionally, a blockchain could provide a community – large or small – with an opportunity to hold transparent voting without relying on governments and their voting machines. This is the best case scenario that many people in the crypto and blockchain space are fighting for.
Another blind spot in the blockchain opponent’s thinking relates to the variety within the crypto and blockchain spaces. As noted, there are many different viewpoints on how to grow this technology. There are absolutely, without a doubt, projects that seek to bring about the dystopian vision many of us are so desperately fighting against. They may even be doing so under the belief that they are helping bring about a more equitable and just world. However, these individuals are countered by those who are developing blockchain projects with this specific goal in mind of removing centralized institutions from our relationships and replacing them with blockchains or similar technology.
The space is so varied that you have capitalists, Wall Street bankers, leftists, anarchists, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. There are crypto projects focused on integrating permaculture principles, some aimed at promoting Universal Basic Income, and even some focused on utilizing the technology with environmental concerns in mind. The point is that there are literally thousands of developers in the space, and the idea that every single one of them is corrupted, paid off, or simply a useful idiot is simply childish. Those who favor a blockchain space that is focused on privacy, anonymity, functionality, and decentralization may indeed be in the minority, but there is a growing effort to bring back the anarchist roots of the community.
When I talk of the benefits of blockchain, opponents will often bring up the “locked out” scenario, and ask, “Well, what will you do if ‘they’ turn your crypto off?”; or they ask what I will do if I am locked out of the internet, or if the power goes out. First, this game of picking an extreme situation and having your opponent respond is rarely fruitful. Not only is it misunderstanding the goal of crypto and blockchain, but if the power goes out we are ALL dealing with bigger problems.
To answer the question: the goal is to get out of their system – off their internet, their social media, their banks, their education system, etc. – in favor of more free versions of these technologies and institutions. Personally, I do not plan to be sucked into a situation where a biometric ID is required to get online. Nor do I plan to live the rest of my life dependent on the mainstream power grid. To walk willingly into that future is a choice that would likely lead to being locked out or coerced into compliance.
We must support and build alternatives to the World Wide Web. We must embrace alternatives to military-intelligence tools like Facebook. We must refuse to comply to mandates that ask us to place our lives on whatever blockchain the government and corporations embrace.
A Path Towards Unity
The only hope that I see for reconciling these differences is for the opponents to take a more nuanced view of the situation while still expressing their concerns. They are free, of course, to abstain from the use of crypto or blockchain, but those who choose to utilize blockchain for transacting value, or for censorship-free video-hosting, or local organizing, etc., should not be viewed as “shills” or the enemy. Likewise, those who choose to use crypto and/or blockchain should respect the choice of those against the technology. When the opportunity for dialogue and understanding presents itself, we should take it.
If we choose, instead, to draw lines in the sand – you are either with me or with those other people – we are no better than the Predator Class we seek to dismantle. We should use all the tools available to us that align with our individual principles, while aiming to build an alliance of free hearts and minds rooted in our desire for a liberated humanity.
To learn more about opting out of the Technocratic State, check out my recent book, How To Opt Out of the Technocratic State.