Zuzalu: Dreams of the Future

Zuzalu was an experimental community, held for two months in a marina resort town in Montenegro. Zuzalu has been described as “a Burning Man for futurists, by others as a sleepaway camp for the crypto elite, and by many attendees as a life-altering experience with historic implications for the biological, political, and social potential of our species.” [9]

Zuzalu felt like an acceleration of humanity's future. It remains to be seen if this nudge forward was to a timeline where technology defuses the worst of humanity’s dystopian impulses. This article paints a hopeful yet critical picture of Zuzalu and its ideas, using anarchist & animist brush strokes. It features photos from myself, Tristan Roberts (TG: @aitheric),  and Rhiannon (IG: rh1create_).

Part I: Enter Zuzalu

(a summary suitable for those who did not attend)

Part II: Tools for Longevity

(the metaphysics of health tech from a science/woo integration maxi)

Part II: The State of Trust

(a survey of governance structures, from a Zuzalu 'Visitor' who overstayed their 'Visa')

Part IV: Towards Nütopia: Intimacy, Cuddle Puddles, & Armed Militias


Little information about Zuzalu was available online.

The word 'Zuzalu' was chosen in part because it had no previous meaning.

What was clear: the crypto-billionaire Vitalik was backing it; and people from all over the world were coming to attend. The fear of missing out snowballed. Hundreds applied to be a 'resident'. Over a thousand people ended up congregating; some staying for days and others for months.

Zuzalu took place in a newly constructed marina resort town called Lustica Bay. The pavement was unscarred by gum or oil leaks. The scent of jasmine pervaded, and everything seemed suspiciously perfect.

Lustica Bay, the site of Zuzalu, featured many terraces with pools.
Lustica Bay, the site of Zuzalu, featured many terraces with pools.

It was easy to tell if someone was there for Zuzalu or for the more typical tourism[22].

Hoodies and airy linen clashed with boat shoes and knit sweaters.

Most weeks had themes that drew in visitors for particular fields.

The co-working space was a popular place.
The co-working space was a popular place.

Unlike a festival or conference, Zuzalu seemed more 'sustainable'. It was possible to work in the ballroom that had been repurposed as a coworking space, and seemingly at all hours someone was taking a call in the nearby halls.

The resort was isolated from the nearby town by a steep thirty minute walk. This made running into new friends inevitable, whether it be at the breakfast restaurant, coworking space, or the sauna. It was impossible to attend every talk or side activity; a wave of FOMO crashed every day as the events were posted in a massive channel on Telegram.

Breakfast was free. Rooms for the residents were subsidized; to a degree - those with passports from lower income countries paid a fraction of others paid. Many Zuzalu residents - “Zuzalians” -  ended up with their own apartments, and waves of visitors crashed upon the empty beds and open couches.

In the absence of material scarcity, social currency became the commodity to covet.

To 'shill' your own agenda, heedless of the 'vibe' (or to be associated with someone who did!) was to lose standing. One might gain status by gifting rare items or organizing memorable events.

Most people I met there were not just 'hoping' to innovate; they already were creating, working on fantastic projects that promised to change the way we interact.

Zuzalu attempted to showcase emerging crypto technology.

The most recent wave of innovation was around the concept of 'zero knowledge' (ZK). ZK can allow someone to prove something without revealing unnecessary details to others.

A basic example: when you show your ID to enter a bar, they can see your name and address, when all they really need to know is whether you are of age.

Similarly, 'ZK' technology allows you to prove a claim, such as 'over 21?' without revealing even your birthdate to the person seeing the proof (or anyone hosting the network).

This solves one of the greatest outstanding issues with Ethereum (and most other blockchains): privacy. Typically, anyone can see ALL of a public address’s activity, which makes privacy practically impossible.

Much of Zuzalu was organized using a 'Telegram' social hub; a chat room that had dozens of subchannels.

ZK tech enhanced the experience; allowing Polls and Anonymous Messaging through a Bot that was good at keeping secrets. This Bot allowed someone to, for instance, tell one of the visiting geneticists that they wanted to recombine genes with him, without revealing the sender. [2]

The 'ZK' tech also powered a passport, called a ‘ZuPass’. When the website was opened, it presented a QR code that could be scanned to determine if the passport was valid.

Exposure to new technology was hard to miss.
Exposure to new technology was hard to miss.

Zuzalu was a place of many paradoxes.

While most participants would be for open borders, most seemed to appreciate how closed their temporary society was. Zuzalu had a "higher barrier for entry and a low barrier" for banning undesirables.

Many Zuzalians believed in a post-capitalist society, yet it was hard to deny the amount of capital that had been deployed to create the facsimile of a bay village. The design of a marina wedged into a hillside was based on an ancient Egyptian town, but here, nothing was real:  The lighthouse on the jetty, for instance, did not actually guide ships; it was intended to be a scenic location for a restaurant.

"There is always a lighthouse."
"There is always a lighthouse."

The vision was certainly utopian, but only partially realized.

While the luxury hotel had a gym and sauna, the residents of Zuzalu had endeavored to build their own gym, on one of the huge terraces behind one of the apartments. The gym’s weights and machines did materialize, but the wood Sauna was only assembled during the final weeks. And it was only then that they realized that there was no access to a suitable power outlet to make the sauna get hot.

This ‘sauna that almost was’ had the funding, it had the vision, but a recognition of existing limitations seemed missing. In many ways, this paralleled Zuzalu. Could this group of idealists build a society? And if they did, would it just be the same old patterns, using cooler new terms?

Daily cold plunges into the Adriatic sea become a shared ritual.
Daily cold plunges into the Adriatic sea become a shared ritual.

One final scene to encapsulate the forces at play: A meeting to discuss a “longevity network state” was called; addressing the collective drive to push a jurisdiction to be friendly for researching and administering longevity treatments. Two dozen of us crammed into a living room and terrace overlooking the Adriatic sea. One charismatic chad pushed his plan to persuade thousands of longevity enthusiasts to move to Rhode Island in hopes of brokering power there, similar to how Libertarians have tried (and mildly, failed) to take over New Hampshire.  One precision-seeking person argued with him, fruitlessly, over semantics. A developer pushed for building information technology to enable a digital FDA. These forces dominated; incoherently drowning out any other input, until I pushed the group to break into smaller discussions, so that the introverts had a chance of speaking their minds.

Zuzalu’s fate is unclear. It seems like it will annually pop up across the globe, a rare flower that never truly puts down its roots, like many of its nomadic attendees.

Weekly "town hall" meetings allowed residents to voice their concerns publicly.
Weekly "town hall" meetings allowed residents to voice their concerns publicly.


Zuzalu was a glimmer of society as it could be. Participants were not just fantasizing about the future; they were organizing to make it.

For as long as there have been emperors, there have been those focusing their wealth on extending their life [13]. VitaDAO, a 'decentralized' longevity research group, was instrumental in organizing Zuzalu. Where VitaDAO begins and Vitalik ends is hard to say: Vitalik was one of the contributors of ETH to VitaDAO, and without his crypto and social currency, VitaDAO may have never taken flight.

Zuzalu had around ten days dedicated to the topic of longevity and biotech. The first week was designed to impart the Zuzalians with enough knowledge to evaluate and contribute to longevity projects. I gave a presentation on the history of clinical trials, explaining the purpose of each phase of testing, and how the regulatory and financial burden meant that many therapies - valid or not - would never make it to market.

The following weekend was focused on longevity biotech projects; bringing together academic researchers and startup founders. Some were working on mRNA vaccines; others on tissue replacement; some even on cryonics for pushing ‘pause’ on the decomposition of our bodies until our descendants figure out the secret to immortality.

Having long been a supporter of 'decentralized science', it was heavenly to see the crypto and biotech experts communing. Just as crypto decreased our reliance on banks, it may also uproot the academic and regulatory institutions that have grown inept, if not corrupt, over time.

“Most imagine a scientist to be an independent researcher who thinks for himself, and this figure may still appear in children’s books, but in practice the occupation mostly entails the enforcement of a fixed set of dogmas”. -Thiel


I saw that a cute longevity organizer would be coming to Zuzalu. 😳

I asked him in advance over Twitter: "Would you like to have tea?". [10]

There was no response. When I found him in person, he asked if by ‘tea’ I had meant ‘drugs’. Considering my background, it was a fair assumption.

Amused, I prodded a little further, to discover that he had never used psychedelics.

He explained: using psychedelics might make him lose his fear of death.

Without this fear of death, perhaps he would not be as motivated to work on longevity. Consequently, psychedelic usage might cause him (and others!) to miss out on living forever.

The logic was cringe, yet sound. I pointed out the converse: what if you end up spending your only life pursuing a futile goal? Later, I thought: What if the weight of trying to save humanity from death, only ended up only crushing his own spirit?

That conversation ended up shaping the heuristic I used when meeting other longevity enthusiasts: Were they more motivated by a fear of death, or by a love of life?

Typically, it was easy to see which of these two camps the participants fell into after a brief conversation.

One director of a longevity research non-profit, however, broke my schema:

She was interested in reducing suffering globally more than living forever or “defeating death”.

Longevity might be better defined not as living indefinitely, but increasing one's ‘healthspan’. Sure, being 'alive' is great, but are you also able to make it to the bathroom without assistance? Can you remember what happened yesterday? Are you doing anything meaningful with your ‘life’, or simply consuming media and food, biding your time until the Reaper visits (or your Dogecoin portfolio goes to 0?).

The "reducing suffering" answer seemed to address not just improving healthspan, but possibly an even bigger context as well.

If reincarnation is real, then it might be ideal to have a long, healthy life so that one may ‘complete one's karma’; to increase the odds of escaping this cycle of birth and death. Without the inconvenience of dying and having to grow up again, we might be able to "learn our lessons" or whatever it is that is the purpose of mortal existence.

Many members of the longevity community, however, had a more atheistic perspective. After death, there is simply nothing. Rather than embracing the void, they run from it.

Many of these ‘fear of death’ folks fell under the umbrella of 'transhumanism'; a term that refers at times to those pursuing immortality, but also those seeking cybernetic and genetic enhancements.

I was in a strange spot: as a ‘genetically modified’ human[14], I could see the appeal in becoming something more than what I was. Yet, the hubris in the transhuman community gave me the ick.


Many transhumanists seem to believe that human life is fundamentally broken, and that only human ingenuity can provide its salvation.

I am for a more nuanced perspective: all tools are not inherently good or bad; even biomedical therapies. But tools that ignore the economic, political, and metaphysical issues surrounding their usage, often do more harm than good.

While I was at Zuzalu, a spiritually-minded friend sent me a podcast on a metaphysical interpretation of tools. Tools "make the world a better place to live in", according to the Catholic (heretic?) philosopher Illich. Tools may be “an assistance to remedy a little bit of the damage we have done to the world”, but they will not bring about our salvation.

After watching the presentations on emerging biotech at Zuzalu, I became convinced that longevity enhancement is scientifically possible… but that many experts were ignoring the related political and economic problems. How could longevity treatments become broadly available? If they did, how would that impact the species? What would happen to our society if only the rich and powerful got these treatments?

While "tools can remedy the ills of the body, as agriculture can improve the soil", it is "only to a point. Beyond that lie dispersion, grandiosity, and ultimately, nemesis." In other words: tools may reduce suffering at first, then may come to cause stagnation and imbalances, and ultimately may make existence worse.

Cars may have increased personal mobility; but now our dependence on them stifles public transit and pedestrian pathways.

“Freud once pointed out that new technologies merely solve problems created by other technologies. To the common refrain that without the telephone, we'd be unable to hear the voices of our adult children who live hundreds of miles away, he replied, "If there had been no railway to conquer distances, my child would never have left his native town and I should need no telephone to hear his voice." Civilization, Freud believed, was nothing more than a repetition compulsion, humanity's attempt to replicate and reinscribe its fundamental disunity with nature through the very tools that created that alienation in the first place. Psychoanalysis may be a somewhat outmoded therapeutic framework, but it's one that takes human irrationality seriously, and perhaps offers insight into the absurd belief that we can use digital tools to solve a health crisis that is. at least in part, exacerbated by them.”

Similarly, Western medicine may have saved us from deadly bacterial infections, but now its incentives tend to keep us addicted to pills that treat rather than cure our ailments.

A recent reading of Illich reframed this as:

"People in highly capitalized societies have acquired iatrogenic bodies[8]. They perceive themselves as their bodies; they perceive themselves as doctors describe them." [7]

Our system of biomedical knowledge points to these two questions:

Are you diseased or not? Are you on this medication or not?

From this “Western medicine” frame, the ability to heal is “outside” of one’s self.


To go deeper, we must examine the boundary between the "self" and the "tool".

Where one draws this boundary is based on "where the permeable boundary between your temporary self and the rest of the cosmos exists".

In other words: Are you an isolated entity, distinct from all of Creation, or are you a drop in the ocean?

Examining this boundary of "Self" allows us to better relate to the "fear of death" camp. Many, if not most, in this camp constrained their identity to their physical body and its seemingly singular mind. They view tools as different material than themselves, and often view actions that benefit their “local self” over the “global self” as "advantageous”, if not good. These "materialist atheists" may treat their loved ones and fellow humans with compassion, but they tend to view Nature with contempt, if not suspicion.

Is there not a reciprocal relationship between the temporary self and everything else?

As the atheist seeks to impress their will upon nature, does not an equal force come to press back on them?

Although rarely spoken out loud, there seems to be a desire to replace God with advanced technology (if not one’s super-cyborgian self) running through the Transhumanist community.

Perhaps it is wiser to recognize “limits are inherent to embodied existence”, and to respect, if not celebrate those limits. After all, these “limits [are a necessary] condition of meaning, and suffering [is] the expression of this experience”.  It would be divine comedy to achieve godhood and then realize it was more fun to be a mortal, without the burden of omniscience.

Moreover, when we try "to create something better than what the creator did", we are   “reaching behind the cosmic role of what a tool is". When we act with such hubris, our intentionality taints our tool usage, making it more Luciferian. When we pridefully “overextend over the cosmo vision that birthed” us, we are succumbing to ego and, likely, going against the creator’s intention.

This leads to nemesis: the creation of an opposite force that ends up being our destruction.

It's possible for life extension to become viable, and be very "good" at first, before it causes even “worse” effects on the quality and meaning of our lives.

Society could tear apart, tugged between those who have access to life extension and those who do not. Or, perhaps longevity treatments are accessible, but the resulting overpopulation accelerates ecological collapse, until only a spaceship filled with Earth’s greatest assholes leaves to colonize the stars as the Earthlings choke. Almost certainly, though: living forever without a purpose beyond “consume!” would become a purgatory, if not a hell. [11]

The intentionality that we carry with us when we develop and use tools can not be ignored. Are we fulfilling the creator’s vision, or are we trying to ‘attack and dethrone god’? Humility is the difference between ‘helping beings complete a little bit more of their karma before they have to reincarnate’, and creating a techno-fascist space cancer that was once called humanity.


Zuzalu was not just a conference about society: it was itself an experiment in building a new one.

Many at Zuzalu spent their creative energy not just imagining new societies, but building them, along with technology that might empower them.

This section will survey trends in the ‘alternative governance’ space, assess some of the technology and dynamics, and conclude with thoughts on whether trust can be scaled and power can be decentralized.


I first heard about Zuzalu through someone that was organizing the 'Network State' conference. A 'Network States' is:

a highly aligned online community with a capacity for collective action that crowdfunds territory around the world and eventually gains diplomatic recognition from pre-existing states.”

Surely, if we combine enough tech nomads together, some government would listen to us, right? Montenegro’s incumbent prime minister seemed to be one of those people; having invited Vitalik and his entourage to visit, leading to Zuzalu. [15]

Network States seem to resonate with the emerging global digital nomad class. While they tend to take advantage of low rent and taxes, many would still like to be part of a community.


I knew the Network State organizer from Prospera[12], a 'special economic zone' on the Honduran island of Roatan. Prospera is also an experiment in governance. On my first visit, it seemed like a co-working space on a tropical beach that was pretending to be a country. It has since annexed a neighboring golf course resort, and has nearly completed the first of four planned fourteen story residential towers.

While ‘special economic zones’ and ‘network states’ have similar visions, of cutting through red tape and building new systems, the power asymmetry between the ‘locals’ and the ‘tech bros’ means that extractive forces lurk in the shadows; the ghosts of colonialism seeking a new place to call home.

Prospera advertises itself as being focused on creating Honduran jobs, but if those employees rarely see any equity, how much upward mobility is there vs a perpetuation of class differences? Is lifting a middle class upwards good, if you are cementing a lower class below it?


Zuzalu itself, despite all its aspirations towards building something new, seemed like a monarchy. The reason why Zuzalu existed in the first place was one king (Montenegro’s prime minister elect) inviting another to hold his court in a seaside town. Vitalik wore the crown, paired with a small council of organizers. While Vitalik never exercised his powers, at least that I saw, the mostly female organizers were willing and able to do so.

It's fun to pretend to be in an egalitarian society, but it's almost impossible to execute.

By my evaluation, Zuzalu’s class hierarchy was the following structure:

  • Vitalik

  • Influencers

  • Organizers

  • Residents

  • Visitors

  • Lustica Bay employees

Even before I made it to Montenegro, I was recruited into the Zuzaluan social hierarchy. One resident wanted to gift Vitalik with a cowboy hat, and as I was in Austin, I found myself tasked with shopping for and transporting it. The gift economy did seem to have a strong hold.

There was little doubt that many attendees were motivated by the possibility of sucking Vitalik's dick, metaphorically or otherwise. Begging for investment directly - ‘shilling’ -  may have been taboo at Zuzalu, but more subtle forms of clout chasing were still very much in vogue.

On its surface, Zuzalu's mission was to build technology that benefits humanity. Some participants were better able to wrap their interests in the garb of altruism [6]. Those that were able to recruit others to their vision of the future held greater clout.


An alternative method of social gating was tested by the 'BlockRavers', a group of partying nomads that congregate at crypto conferences. Wherever crypto folks were gathered, their Telegram channel was an excellent lead on good parties. During Zuzalu the BlockRavers rented a stunning AirBnB on the other side of the peninsula from Zuzalu.

A steep set of stairs led to a large terrace behind the BlockRaver's AirBnB.
A steep set of stairs led to a large terrace behind the BlockRaver's AirBnB.
 A rocky cove at the water made the perfect sound stage.
A rocky cove at the water made the perfect sound stage.
Gatherings often went till sunrise.
Gatherings often went till sunrise.

My AirBnB was located halfway between the marina and the BlockRavers; I spent several evenings at their nightly parties. I remember standing outside of a window, and hearing in one ear: "Do you identify as a transhumanist?" Meanwhile, resisting the temptation to eavesdrop after hearing: "Wouldn't that be considered insider trading?" in my other ear. Meeting someone in a sterile professional setting did not seem as informative as meeting in this atmosphere. Could you *actually* get along with the person you just met? Were they *actually* cool?

When the BlockRavers started advertising their party, they said that everyone needed to see them in person at the marina first, to receive a Venezuelan bolivar.

The hyper inflated currency was useless, except as an entry ticket to the party.

At first, this might seem like unnecessary gating: the people there for Zuzalu were already highly curated!  When I got there, one of the organizers filled me in on the bigger objective: everyone who received the currency was supposed to take a photo of themselves with the currency, along with another participant. These photos should have the serial number of the Venezuelan notes visible. These photos would act as a social trust network; creating a record of who vouched for whom.

If someone was banned, the person who vouched for them might get banned as well.

This made a lot of sense considering the history of BlockRavers: at one party for EthDenver, one of the attendees ended up trashing the AirBnB after everyone else went to sleep, presumably causing thousands in damages.

While an app for this vouching system did develop during the hackathon, it faced the typical usability issues. [4] Using an Ethereum ‘test network’, party goers could vouch for their friends and store this claim ‘on chain’. The serial numbers meant that privacy could be preserved, rather than revealing actual names. The BlockRavers had bigger plans: eventually, all sorts of attestations could be made, such as whether or not someone is into Web3, or is a great graphic designer.


One Zuzalu resident described the Network States conference as having “brought out the Patrick Bateman types”.

There was a certain tension between the left and right leaning attendees, about which economic systems would be preferred. This tension seemed to be apparent to others, and Vitalik invited a leftist contingent led by French scholar Primavera del Filippi to jam on alternatives to ‘Network States’ called ‘Coordi-nations’.

Their first week they worked on better defining their idea, before spending several days presenting what came out of the workshops. During that workshop week, I found myself hanging out with the dozen or so core contributors, drinking wine, chucking clouds, and dreaming big. I could easily imagine this same group of anti-authoritarians in a Parisian café during the Enlightenment era, plotting to overthrow the monarchy.

At times, I found myself frustrated by the pace. People in berets squabble over the semantics of calling a Coordi-nation “Nation-like” or “Nation-ish”, rather than figuring out what social capital they could deploy now. I dipped out of the session early to go practice handstands along the jetty.

This group did achieve consensus on this definition:

“Coordi-nations are voluntary interwoven networks of communities with aligned values and a shared identity. They mutualize resources to redistribute them within the network and to engage in collective action through participatory governance and interdependence between nodes.“ [16]

This, to me, sounds much like what humans have been doing for time immemorial. Groups form, build alliances, and these shift dynamically. But perhaps by being so precise, we can identify the unsavory forces that should be avoided. The fractal nature of Coordi-nations means that if any one group becomes too powerful or selfish, the others can simply stop operating with them, rather than have to organize a coup.


For decades, cryptographers have been working on developing such a 'web of trust'. This seems crucial, now more than ever, as we enter an era in which bots become difficult to distinguish from humans.

“How can we know that the person we're talking to online is real?” can be solved by the same technology that helps us know “Do I want to invite this person I just met to my party?”.

So far, however, these ‘webs of trust’ have not gained the ‘network effect’ necessary to make them a staple of online life. I admired the idealism of the BlockRavers; of making parties the ‘killer app’ that gets the snowball rolling.

Scaling trust past Dunbar's number seems to be one place where crypto might help.

Humans seem capable of managing trust at the scale of a ‘village’, but once we move past that, it’s easy for bad actors to wreak havoc. Blockchains and attestation systems may be suitable for empowering ‘trust’ at the ‘medium’ scale; around the size of towns and companies. Humans yearn for a tribe, and the sports teams and corporations that often that void tend to be more exploitative than fulfilling.


If you do not like your nation state, why not put your energy (attention, taxes) into the communities that you do support? Of course, without residence cards and passports, the question becomes, how do you create a ‘boundary’ of those in the community, versus those outside it? Both the ZuPass and the Venezuelan currency projects seemed to offer partial solutions. In both cases, however, the 'threat' of exclusion was used more often than actual exclusion. Most status-seeking people did not want to do the socially dangerous work of telling someone “No!".

Zuzalu offloaded this exclusionary work to the Lustica Bay guards, who rarely ever checked the ZuPass via the QR code. Because of this, I was able to continue attending the conference events despite my ZuPass losing its validity. A couple times, though, the organizers' lieutenants did check and turn me away. The threat of exclusion seemed to be sufficient to shape the social dynamics.

Piano performance at the final dinner.  Photo not my own.
Piano performance at the final dinner. Photo not my own.

I saw this first hand at the end of Zuzalu. A final dinner was organized on the jetty with the fake lighthouse. The actual organizers were checking the ZuPasses, and consequently I was refused entry. Considering I had not sent a dime to the Zuzalu organizers, and had already received so much, I was not offended.

Dejected, I sat along the jetty. I watched as groups of other ‘illegal aliens’ were turned away, before striking up a conversation with someone in the same situation. They were a contributor to the crypto and longevity fields, but they had been explicitly banned by one of the Zuzalu organizers from attending the final events that evening. Their crime? Being “a bit shilly”.

Whether or not they deserved this designation, it made me reflect on the power structures behind the curtain:

  • Who had the authority to ban someone?

  • Was there any chance to repeal it?

  • Was there a process for giving people warnings for minor offenses?

  • Would it ever be declared publicly, or would the declaration of banishment remain only in secretive group chats?


In "The Dawn of Everything", Graeber argues against the dogma that as societies grow, so does the need for organized violence. Order can be maintained through a hierarchy of violent lackeys, but it can also be maintained through the undeniable charisma of a leader, or through a sect capable of ordering its secrets (see: Scientology).

Zuzalu faced a conundrum, as it did not actually have a monopoly on force. While people could be banned from events, it was up to the Lustica Bay employees, or even the Montenegrin police, to actually exercise violence. Consequently, an underground was formed, as someone could be "banned" by Zuzalu but not actually removed from the area.

Is it possible for these new communities to scale, without having some sort of organized violence? And if so, will they provide it on their own, or be dependent upon the existing nation-states to do so?

Many view the recognition by nation states as one of the final steps in the evolution of a ‘network state’; to be able to, for instance, create a passport that actually permits travel to other regions. However, by the time a ‘network state’ gains recognition from nation states, it seems likely that the ‘network state’ will have lost its way; becoming a centralized point of corruption, despite its supposedly “decentralized” governance.

Alternatively, the ‘coordi-nations’ model may prove to be a more robust way of organizing society run. Direct action to redistribute resources could eventually supplant most of the reasons why we perceive a ‘need’ for government; pushing nation states to focus on building infrastructure rather than trying to provide solutions for everything.

No matter what label they apply to their community, leaders will eventually rub elbows with incumbent elites, and run the risk of ‘selling out’. When it reaches that point, will a successful ‘coordi-nation’ or ‘network state’ continue to operate for the benefit of its members, or will it become an entity itself that marginalizes its members for the sake of its continued growth? The fractal nature of ‘coordi-nations’ at least permits the non-violent excision of cancerous ‘nodes’, but co-opting seems inevitable as the balance of power shifts. Whether or not a coordi-nation is actually able to act like a fractal, rather than a VC cap table, seems the crucial differentiator.


Rather than finding a perfect solution, perhaps we would be better off embracing a mosaic. To let the Boomers cling on to their Medicare and Social Security like passengers on the Titanic. To allow the Network State bros to have their little fiefdoms, and for the leftists to fill in the gaps in between.

While my ZuPass may have been invalid for much of my time at Zuzalu, I did gain two ‘stamps’ on it by moving my phone by a ‘NFC’ card. One was for attending a Pho party; the other for having interacted with ‘Zuzu’, the puppy that was rescued by Zuzalians.

A mosaic of stamps and attestations may be used to signal that someone is both ‘real’ and ‘cool’. If someone has stamps and positive attestations from a great variety of people and communities, some of which I know and respect, then that is a very strong signal that they would be a valuable addition to my own party or tribe. Will such crypto-stamps ever let me through passport control? Perhaps some day. Perhaps some day, they won’t need to.

Communities are united strongly when they share a taboo; of what NOT TO DO. In the “Dawn of Everything”, Graeber points out that the native Americans inhabiting California practiced many types of collective organization, but they seemed united in refusing the system of chattel slavery that their neighbors to the north practiced.

Even though there is tension between left and right leaning anarchists (the ‘coordi-nation’ and ‘network state’ groups, respectively), we may see them uniting to reject the worst parts of authoritarian regimes, even if they can’t agree on how to divide their cows.

While technology may empower some exponential curves, ‘trust’ can not be scaled without introducing exploitable weaknesses. True community must be worked for, it must be cultivated. Crypto may allow us to coordinate globally without the need for nation-states, but it will never satisfy the human yearning for genuine community.


An example of a party invite from the last week of Zuzalu.
An example of a party invite from the last week of Zuzalu.

The final week of Zuzalu featured very little programming, but an onslaught of parties, culminating in a “Sunrise Celebration” on the penultimate night. Many of the discussions posted on the agenda revolved around the question of “What comes next?”.  Talk about when and where the next Zuzalu would be[17] punctuated the final days filled with reminiscing, dreaming about the future, and outdoor excursions.

It was hard to tell how many of these apartments hosted parties at any given time.
It was hard to tell how many of these apartments hosted parties at any given time.

By this point, many attendees no longer had a valid “ZuPass”. Dozens had extended their trips, with or without the blessing of the organizers. This created a selective pressure; those who were willing to stay “unofficially” seemed to be the most hungry to see Zuzalu actually turn into something real.

My AirBnB trip had ended, and I took to squatting in one of the fancy apartments in the marina village. I found out the space would be vacant for the next few days after co-hosting a dinner party there for the queer attendees. The party had been a ploy to see if any eligible bachelors had been missed in my census, but it also provided a reminder on the difference between ‘queer’ and ‘gay’.

Most of the attendees to the queer dinner party were female. One of them spoke about how she seemed to be attracted to couples; whether they be romantic or business partners. One married bisexual shared their excitement about going to a swinger’s resort in Mexico with another bi couple. Another shared that her girlfriend had become pregnant. Aside from the sharing of struggles and triumphs, talk trended towards ‘queer theory’ and ‘intersectionality’. The cisgender gay I had recruited from Grindr, who would have perhaps identified as queer, seemed lost. What was political about who he fucked?

My reading was that the females had experienced ways in which they were marginalized based on gender, and noticed a similarity to how they were marginalized based on their sexuality. This is what ‘intersectionality’ refers to; how marginalized groups face similar systemic pressures; that are often embedded into our institutions.

Many cis gays, having gained political recognition by their nation state, go on to use that system for their own agendas[19]. Queers, however, mix with established political structures like oil and water. They tend to recognize that nation states are used for one group to oppress others. This risk is very similar to one I’ve noticed amongst “libertarians”. While they resist the “boot of oppression” being applied to their throats, many seemed willing to don the boots if it meant making “profit”.

Zuzalu was incredibly queer. You can tell it by the way their boy-king runs. You can sense it in the pink unicorn rainbow aesthetics of Ethereum. In its matriarchy of organizers. I found the abundance of queer energy superficially pleasing, but also incredibly frustrating, because my gaydar was practically useless there.

I made a move on a Zuzulian at a dance party twice. The first was at the end of the first Grimes performance, hosted in a Soviet-era building repurposed as a night club in the nearby port town of Tivat.

Grimes with her contingent of lieutenant simp farmers.
Grimes with her contingent of lieutenant simp farmers.

I had noticed that a cute boy flailed with more grace than most of the other nerds, and eventually I caught him in some place where the music did not obliterate any chance of communication.

“Hey - are you straight?” I asked bluntly.

“Yes…” he said, before I immediately followed with: “Why?”

He paused for a moment before a grin came over his face. He put out his hand, and met it with mine, before pulling me close in a ‘bro hug’. I am not sure what was going through his head, but I was satisfied with the outcome.

My other attempt came during the ‘Sunrise Celebration’.

The night had started with a final dinner party on the jetty, followed by an open bar at one of the beach clubs. A pair of musicians improvised on electric violin and saxophone over the blasting techno. This gathering was eventually shut down, but the diehards migrated to a smaller beach area. A guard posted to defend the liquor eventually started serving it instead.

During this exodus, I approached another guy, his face streaked with blue face paint. I asked him the same questions.

“Are you straight?” was followed by “Yes”, which was followed by “Why?”.

This time, I seem to have struck a nerve. “Err… it’s just… not tonight, sorry.”

My reading after the fact was that he may have dabbled in homo-intimacy in some social circles, but here, with his ‘straight’ friends, he did not want to muddy the waters.

My final view of the Sunrise celebration.
My final view of the Sunrise celebration.

The sunrise finally happened. People took turns dipping into the brisk water. We congregated around a firepit. A cuddle puddle formed on its perimeter.

I had been seeking intimacy, and while I did not find it in the way I had imagined, I still felt a stirring of my heart. During the course of my stay, I had built connections with some of the most active Zuzalians. The form varied; from holding each other up in acroyoga; to practicing “advanced cuddling” in jiu-jitsu classes, to risking our bodies together via parkour. Towards the end, we all shared a deep appreciation for Zuzalu; even a willingness to defend it.

This masculine intimacy came not just from respecting each others’ physical capabilities, but through sharing an emotional connection founded upon the belief that we humans can do better. I had been seeking a partner, but ended up finding kinship.

“Kinship [...] is a form of attachment that is “not just biological or even social”; it helps us understand how “disparate people [are] brought together by their shared, though different, experiences of marginalization”. “Instead of asking for recognition of stable and fixed ways of being, kinship offers a “potentiality of the otherwise.” [20]

Zuzalu was a celebration of the otherwise.

As emotionally vibrant and spiritually rich as communes and tribes may become, they struggle to scale past Dunbar’s number; and for this reason, they have historically tended to lose autonomy to the force of militants.

Will crypto and all this neo-governance chatter ever change that? Will trust and coordination be able to be built between tribes and DAOs, city states and trade guilds, until there is no need for a rent-seeking elite?

The outcome is still undecided, but I know now there is no “moat” for any community without genuine connection and the willingness to protect it.


[1]Typically each apartment went for $400 a night. In theory, by paying $2000 a night, with five other roommates, it would have been possible for this to not need the help of a billionaire, but coordinating that would have been practically impossible.

[2] The messenger never followed up, leading to much frustration.

[3]The effects of the therapy seem to be useful for extending human healthspan.

[4] People needed a special type of ‘test network’ currency called Goerli eth to use the app; so the project had to fund people in this fake currency for them to use it, creating a large barrier to entry

[5]  I ran into a hierarchy of 'simp farmers' that run 'this part of twitter';

relatively attractive females that exploited the gender ratio in nerd communities to accumulate followers.

They were seemingly not affiliated with crypto, but like a horny straight man in a yoga studio, it was hard to not sense something being off.

[7] From Gordon's podcast on Animism; paraphrasing Hugh on the ancient philosopher Ivan Illich. https://runesoup.com/2023/05/tools-of-the-magician-artificial-intelligence-technology-and-the-future-solo-show/

[8] Iatrogenic: illness caused my medical treatment

[9] Meet the Crypto Rich Who Want to Live Forever: Inside Vitalik's Zuzalu - Decrypt

[10] Feeling inspired from Burning Man, I had brought a selection of teas to ‘gift’ to people. Additionally, I offered both tarot reading and massage services. All provided a great excuse to get time to talk 1 on 1.

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungry_ghost

[12] https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/prospectus-on-prospera

[13] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_alchemical_elixir_poisoning

[14] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41990981

[15] Aside from offering Vitalik a passport, it seemed likely the incumbent prime minister was in talks with the infamous Do Kwon before his arrest in Monte Negro. Presumably, Do Kwon was seeking a new identity or protection in exchange for crypto.

[16] https://theblockchainsocialist.com/otns-the-rise-of-coordi-nations-phase-2-has-begun/

[17] Thailand seems a likely candidate. When polled, residents liked the 8 week format, but some would prefer a 10 week.

[19] Drag queens/transexuals have inherited the political machinery used for gay marriage

[20] https://thebaffler.com/latest/queer-history-now-miller

[21] https://decrypt.co/143690/do-kwon-claims-to-have-backed-political-party-in-montenegro-report

[22]Many of the nearby towns were on the Adriatic sea. The nearby port town of Tivat recently had its harbor excavated to fit megayachts, and Kotor provided docking for cruise ships. Connected to the Mediterranean, it felt like Montenegro was aspiring to be Italy if not Monaco, but mostly for vacationing Serbs and Slavs.

[24] Graeber, The Dawn of Everything

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