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Notes on the Apocalypse, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Blockchain.

Forgive me this might get lofty- and maybe stupid- but I’ve got to get it out if only to justify why I just sunk actual US currency into a crypto social media site built by an anonymous person named Diamondhands (at least I think it’s him who built it, I really am not sure at this point...)
I Remember Oranges, and You Remember Gnats
To set the stage, and regarding bets:
All bets equal this sentence, said to the world in public, or private: “I believe this thing is going to happen, and I’m willing to lose something that I value in order to watch the struggle.”

And if the future in America was a bet, It seems like it will go one of two ways:

1: Through isolation, pandemics, ecological crisis, capitalist greed, and our inability to employ any of our incredible discoveries to meaningfully alleviate perpetual human suffering, God will pull the rug out from under us and society will stumble and we will revert to a pre-digital world. Or maybe just our economic power structure will fall apart. Some extremists think it will all be hunting and fishing and guys with guns- survival stuff, Walking Dead stuff- or at least closer to that than we’d ever be comfortable with.

Or 2: Things are going to continue as is. Stumbling for sure, and as messy and shivering as a perpetually newborn deer. But moving shakily forward, wiping our wet fur on the branches and taking deeper and deeper breaths of the cold air. Evolving.

So how to hedge your bets on the future? Well, I’ve got guns and can make a campfire and a decent lean-to. I know my way around machines, so I have a practical skill when it comes time to rebuild society. And my girlfriend is pretty handy with a bow and arrow, so we might make a good team in the dystopia, if that happens.

But if we continue on, you know progressing, then the internet will continue to be the dominant force, and the potential hiding around the corner can only be guessed at. Making the future fertile for even more bets, of all sizes.

It'll Get So Quiet When This Record Ends
A brief overview of the internet:
When many of us first heard of the internet, the thing that we were being introduced to is now called Web 1.0, and our interactions with it were primarily based on data consumption. The creator/consumer relationship wasn’t balanced- the creator force was much smaller than the consumer side. Because there was so much existing knowledge waiting to be digitized and shared there was not a big call for generating content- we wanted to learn all of the things faster- and that tore down significant barriers. There were rumbles of creators here and there, pushing the form (plug for but the wealth that came with managing digital information stayed pretty centralized. We did it for free because it was new. And commerce was still old school, so web gurus still looked more like Cattle Barons and Steel Magnates than the digital gods that we had been promised.

Then came Web 2.0, AKA The Participatory Web or Social Web. Development of tools and programs that could run on the internet made it a more interactive experience. It became a platform, a soap box, and sometimes a friend. Of course with this innovation more walls were torn down- old companies that couldn’t adapt died, new ones grew up and thrived.

And like a cooling star, all the creative potential and financial power of Web 2.0 seems to have condensed and hardened into something that is still pretty centralized. What we call the internet is not the loose confederation of virtual hearths and homes that it might have been. It moved into apps, and apps moved into phones. It is a series of constructed play spaces- created and controlled by companies and bottlenecked by their algorithms- all made to circulate money way above our heads.

We are all now creators of content, and we know that the purpose of the social media platforms that we use are not to bring us together and give us a voice, but instead to group us by type and sell that information to marketers. The community aspect- the comfort we get by sharing and liking and feeling a part of a virtual world, it's just a vestigial tail on the organism they made. It's like that weird little light hanging off the forehead of an Anglerfish, and media companies are happy to leave it on so long as they get what they want- to exploit the innovative ways that we group up and swim around.

And perhaps most oddly, we all seem to be OK with that. Viral sensations and long-tail evangelism, along with dizzying adjustments to our serotonin and cortisol by exploiting our amygdala with bright colors and flashy things, all work together to keep us addicted. We can see clear ways in which this development, for all of its comfort, is also tearing us apart.

According to most of the people who are way smarter than me about such things, we are reliably on the cusp of Web 3.0, where machine learning and A.I. tech can be employed to run the internet-based apps and tools that we’ve created (and will create.) And there are so many integral components to this new version that we hear about daily- scary words like cryptocurrency, decentralization, blockchains and NFTs. It might be confusing because it doesn’t seem to have a current world equivalent. But I think it does.

Back towards my point:
What’s the best way to bust power up? Decentralize it. Feel like you will only be successful if your work goes viral, but can’t get your work to move? Can’t afford to buy ads to comply with facebook’s algorithm? Can’t make meaningful connections with fellow artists to alleviate your loneliness? Can’t be perceived as being vulnerable or make mistakes (Where we learn most as artists) because your life has to be a brand identity?

Currently, we have the illusion of democracy of voice on the internet. But Web 3.0 has the potential to be transparent and self governing. With new technologies we can decentralize power and rightfully ensure equity. We could change these systems so that the process can be plentiful, ubiquitous and transparent.

Or better yet, we can just make a new platform, decentralized from the start.

Just like Modern art seemed to wake up one day and say “Uh, no. We’re done with convention and complicated things like the picture plane and rendering and depicting reality in a stuffy, reliable and static form. We’re going to value something bigger and more emotional.” (Well it wasn’t in a single stroke, but you get the idea.) They took the dominant power structure of art and broke it open, and it fizzed out all over the rug like two alka seltzers tossed in champagne. New ways of thinking (and technology) had moved to a point where they could push against what was previously acceptable, and change the game by simply changing the rules that they were using to play.

In a way, Modern art is craft decentralized.
The Falcon Can't Hear The Falconer (Detail)
So it’s a natural thing for an artist whose career and worth is reliant on social media, to view the idea of a decentralized option as valuable. We are tired of gatekeepers, and tired of being told that our work has the potential to be seen by people who appreciate it, but being isolated from that connection due to finances. Tired of doing 5 jobs just to satisfy the minimum daily requirement of sharing for free. Tired of competing with influencers instead of other artists. And frankly tired of being shown that we should suffer to make- that we should be happy with working while we are being isolated and picked over for our gems. Ok, that was a bit heavy. But personally I'm tired of being treated as a commodity, while not being on the stock market.

So along comes Bitclout, a social media site on a block chain with its own cryptocurrency.

First let me say that I know very little about cryptocurrencies. I only started learning about this world when the NFT art craze hit the mainstream a couple months ago. But I have long been looking for alternatives to Web 2.0 interactions since it solidified. Heck, the whole reason I started writing this newsletter was because social media was increasingly ungratifying. I continue with my accounts and share from the perspective of a creator because you can't live without them now. But I’ve been looking for ways to make new connections and have the ability to control how my work is used and who sees it. So at the outset, let me be clear that not only do I know little, I am also less risk averse when it comes to trying new social media sites.

I am a novice in crypto-anything. But I know even less about the stock market and like most of us, my entire retirement plan rests in there somewhere. The details of the financial stability of my dotage are in the section of the newspaper that I would use to line a birdcage. Do you know how the anti-lock brake system on your car works, or the security on your wifi network? Me neither. I'm just belaboring the point that trusting something in our world doesn’t always require comprehensive understanding.
So Bitclout is the world’s first crypto based social network. You can read its white paper for details on the mechanics of it. I’ve read it 3 times and only get about 80% of it. There are equations for how value is determined and scarcity is ensured, and there’s too much about how cool famous people are. But the thumbnail is this: Bitclout runs its own private currency and you can buy it with the most famous cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. You can invest your Bitclout currency only in users of the site by purchasing creator coins. When you use your Bitclout to buy a creator’s coin, the blockchain makes one in their name. When you sell a coin, it destroys it. In addition to investing in creators, you spend micro amounts of Bitclout when you like, comment or post something. Big picture- imagine a stock market for people, not companies. I have been using it for a few days now and here is a quick synopsis:

  • Unlike typical social media, you can participate in your value. If your coin value is dependent on a handful of speculating strangers who decide when to buy and sell your creator coins, things could fluctuate wildly. So it makes sense to literally put stock in yourself in order to stabilize the value and prevent big swings. The most important thing a person can do is invest in themselves. (Whoa, that’s heavy.)
  • Attaching any type of currency to our actions on a social media site- no matter what amount- makes you think twice about what you do. This automatically curbs shitty behavior, because it costs money to be rude.
  • You can invest directly in what you appreciate. Tired of Instagram influencers in your feed? Don’t invest in them, and no algorithm is there to serve them up anyway.
  • In a few days on this site, I have made small but meaningful virtual relationships with other creators. I have been followed by people who would never find me or my work on other social media sites: CEOs, writers and columnists, business people, etc. Overall, I have had a positive social media experience.
  • There is currently no way to get your money out. It seems like there will be a way eventually when the currency is more stable (at least crypto-stable?) But due to this, anything that goes in should go with an expectation that you are spending it to have fun. Like a trip to Disneyland, a fantasy sports league, or the way some people use the actual stock market.
  • It is not yet open source and the creator is anonymous. In my understanding there is no feasible way to manipulate or cheat a blockchain- which is where the information is kept and processed. Even the creator can’t fiddle with it. It is a clock that they set in motion, but I will feel a bit more confidence when there is a bit more transparency.
  • It is very influencer/market/speculation focused currently. I don't mind fighting the tide but it makes sifting through accounts in order to find my own interests challenging. I love motorcycles almost as much as art, but I have found no motorcycle focused accounts yet.
  • They are being sued. Prior to opening, they created lots of famous people’s accounts. They said it was to prevent squatters from taking their names and identities. These people can take ownership of their account at any time, but they also opened these accounts for trade like everyone else, so anyone on the site can speculate on the value of a famous person without that famous person being involved. Elon Musk is not on Bitclout but he has over 400 creator coins minted so far, all by people investing in the fact that he will join (His value on the site is $12mil currently.) So there are a handful of famous people who think Bitclout is trading on their brand without consent and taking them to court. It is an odd move all around, but frankly it doesn’t affect my interest. I hate the word "brand" a little more each day, and Vegas runs bets on rich people and their activities all the time. Plus no one is actually profiting here. At least yet.
  • The site is clunky. It’s clearly in development, and tools are limited. When I first signed up it took a few days to get my allotment of starter coin. There are no phone apps, no hashtag feature, no video upload, etc. It feels like Web 1.0 in some ways. And while it can be frustrating, it has a low budget aesthetic that gratifies my latent aging punk sensibilities.
Her Father Arrested, Then Released
At this point, I have invested a nice dinner’s worth of actual money into Bitclout. And I may never get it back. But I remember being at the beach as a kid and making castles; working for hours with plastic shovels and sifters to scrape back sand. Digging holes and tunnels and pressing up mounds and making rooms in those mounds by pushing my finger into them- creating and living in a world that didn’t exist before that day. The shape of everything changes, there is suddenly new potential. You get small and sunburned, and your skin crackles and pricks with drying salt water.

This thing is kinda like that, It’s small and it’s weird looking, and it’s time spent that I'll never get back. It’s being made up on the spot and it all may collapse in one wave. But the point never really was the stability.

You can find me on Bitclout now at:
Disclaimer: this is not financial advice. I mean Jesus, if you know me I should NOT have to say that. But please understand that this isn’t me saying you should do something, this is me explaining to myself (through you) why I did do something.
Thanks for reading.
Please reach out if you have any questions about my experience with this site, or insights into any of these topics. I'm trying to learn all of this on the fly and the potential is pretty exciting to me. I'm not putting out any NFTs any time soon though- the tech could be so useful, but the prices are totally a bubble.

The images here (except for that anglerfish) are from my Technical Animal series where I create images using an AI, then paint them in oils on paper. You can see them all on the painting page of my site. I also made a video showing the process of one, feel free to enjoy it. I'm currently training an AI to generate images based on screen caps of Jesus Christ Superstar. We will see what develops.

There is an archive for this newsletter, which you can get to by clicking this blue button:

Please feel free to share this issue, or anything in the archives. Like the Jurassic Internet, this thing thrives on word of mouth from beautiful longtail comets like yourselves.

This Sorry Spacesuit was started (and continues to think about Web 4.0) as a place to support conversations that don't fit into algorithms or truncated tweets, I don't care about your data or your browsing habits, but I bet your perspective is interesting. Feel free to reply.
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