Squad Wealth: DAOs, NFTs, and a new form of collective wealth production
February's Curated Ingest
A lot of sources this month! As the semester’s ramped up, I’ve found a lot of tangentially related pieces that I struggled to sort through. I hope you find this edition of my newsletter to have enough of a common thread. Enjoy!
What would a new form of collective wealth production look like? SQUAD WEALTH.
We’re coming out swinging! Rushkoff discusses the future of technology and elite escapism in his piece Survival of the Richest. (He has since written a new piece titled: The Rich Have Entered Their Escape Pods.) Elite escapism is a term that maps well to my anger towards (largely tech) billionaires. Elon Musk is an easy example. But this piece goes deeper than just literally escaping this planet. Escapism is a fundamental pillar of the Church of Silicon Valley: “The future became less a thing we create through our present-day choices or hopes for humankind than a predestined scenario we bet on with our venture capital but arrive at passively.” Passivity is a defining feature in many people’s lives, with quasi-individualistic consumption being the only way we find agency. Even this curation is a symptom of this unfortunate reality.
Rushkoff’s piece is also just another example of how we continue to be further atomized (read: cogs in a machine) as capitalism continues its dogma. This is painfully clear in our physical lives, especially as it relates to production (job market), but much less clear online. This Atlantic article expresses the massive faults of the nuclear family structure, especially in the US. Importantly, altneratives are listed at the end that help address these issues. Collective neighborhoods, co-ops, etc. are important - and are also (not so) coincidentally how the internet started to take hold. Over the last 30 years, however, the largest tech platforms have moved further towards consumption without any meaningful interaction. Instagram’s latest update is a clear example of this: all methods of content creation and interaction were moved further away from the coveted bottom bar. The bottom bar is now filled with different modes of consumption (reels, the regular feed, etc.) and even a new shopping panel. I’ve curated some sources below that work towards more collectivized future:
DAO Guilds (decentralized autonomous orgs)
The creation of intense waves of decentralization and atomization (gig economy in every aspect) begs the creation of the guild. Dryhurst, in his piece DAO Guilds: Establishing Territory, argues that these guilds will map their own territory, or extend the map we already operate on: “Namely, those individuals on the fringes whose activity expands the map — consider such people as data pioneers, or frontier data subjects. If you are reading this and active in the arts, you may know a few of them: the visual artist who repurposes imagery from another era to contextually frame an emergent sociopolitical issue, the musician who marries inspiration from disparate decades to create a new sound and look. Under advert- driven platform capitalism, every new niche combination of interests, concretised into a new category by sustained and growing activity, creates a potential new trade route to sell people stuff.” Enter…
Squad Wealth (important read)
...squads are becoming more economically and socially resilient. Individuals may have limited access to compounding returns, but groups have greater flexibility to move along the risk-reward curve. Contributions to the squad are positive sum. And in return for their contribution, members have access to an expanded set of opportunities, claims on future economic flows and guarantees backed by the group. By risking together, a scrappy group can gain access to multiplicative yields—the path to SQUAD WEALTH.
…The group is the basic user class for the tools we need today as a society, yet few pieces of software allow the squad as a whole to produce cooperatively and generate wealth together.
…The point is clear: access to finance and the creation of capital assets is crucial. What squads need now is the technical infrastructure to capture and compound jointly produced value. Though dollars keep squads afloat, dialing up the financial infrastructure too soon can kill the vibe. The squad economy primarily yields non-monetary forms of value. SQUAD WEALTH is a rate of 5 memes per day, it's the e-girls vacation, the TikToker hype house, the empty church your crew rented upstate. SQUAD WEALTH is when the Discord is popping off and it brings you more joy than a 70-hour-week hustle ever could. Millennials all want to quit their jobs and start venture-funded companies, squads are already on some other shit.
It’s important to note that NFTs enable the direct monetization (and continued revenue sharing) of many of the ideas Hart, Shorin, and Lotti discuss. (Sidenote, the whole Other Internet squad is awesome, worth looking at their other work / general thesis).
Friends > Communities
Azout builds on this idea by arguing for the new digitally native norm (the devil is in the default) to be one centered around small groups of people creating wealth and social bands. Cool. Easier said than done. This is a more fundamental idea than simply creating Discord, Slack, gather.town, or other various groups. Those aren’t digitally native norms for small community, and don’t include any sort of wealth building (there are complex and rare workarounds). As D’Arcy Coolican said on Twitter: “We live in the world of my money and your money. Our money isn’t quite here yet, except within the confines of romantic partnerships, families and businesses.” He lists a few examples halfway through his piece, but I’ll highlight one simple example. A group of writers, columnists, and podcasters left their large institutions to instead produce a grouped Substack subscription for all of their services, called Every.to. Again, if this sounds interesting to you, Azout lists numerous tools and other examples on the topic in his piece. (P.S.: La Comitiva ;]. NFTs may enable a project with a time-frame built in — maybe collectives can organize around projects for set periods of time (known from the beginning) and create a new mushy, unstable, free, and networked economy of the future. Maybe The Party was Meant to Stop, as Revell states in his piece with the same title.
Sent by my friend Aarushi! To me, this (also Atlantic) piece pairs well with my nuclear family Atlantic article mentioned above. Hypothesizes a world that focuses on friendship instead of the Western marriage.
A great read on the perils of performative positivity. Futuress is a great resource, check them out! Here’s a good quote:
“Optimism hinders the politicization of designers. If design is going to contribute to tools that can change the world positively, it must begin to embrace pessimism.”
…I have a brain crush… Interestingly, they also have an Urbit channel:
“Nascent is an EXIT TECH production studio investigating alternative infrastructures. Delving into the nature of games, economics, and consensus systems, we create theory-based computational experiments and tools to prototype technological secessionism and spark discussion about the base layers of current stacks.” They also have a text-based reading group that started with ‘Capitalism's Transcendental Time Machine’
German thesis paper on the visual manifestation of crypto coins.
Terra0 was trying to NFT (tokenize) earthly assets (like forests) way back in 2016-2018. Here’s their original white paper, but their website is also worth a look.
Simple yet thorough explanation of NFTs (published on an NFT blog service) for those who want more.
A back and forth between Alex Rosenberg and Daniel Dennett on purpose. Cool site if you don’t need to read about purpose rn.
Dissent Mag discusses the origins of money, and why we need to change our current monetary status-quo post corona. I thought it got better as it went along.
That’s all for this edition! Feel free to comment your reactions below —> do you buy the concept of S Q U A D W E A L T H? If you’ve read this far, comment below what kind of coffee you want me to make you. 💕 xoxo