The Second Renaissance

How Humanity Evolved Past Labor and into Ownership through Web3

The Web3 Hand of Goddess — a true second renaissance.
The Web3 Hand of Goddess — a true second renaissance.

What IS Web3?

As the Academic Web3 Conference founder, I am often asked about this new industry, where it came from, and how to educate others about it. Basically, I am asked to provide a concise, relatable way of framing Web3 for curious minds. But how do you impart the massive amount of innovation and growth currently happening for humanity into one word? How do you frame the historical time that is happening within Web3?

More Historic Than You Realize

If you search for “Web3”, you will find a myriad of terminology, memes, or maps trying to explain a still-emerging sense of what is happening in this space. An assemblage of individually-framed measures trying to capture the story of something bigger than what their limited frameworks offer. A way to mark this era that out defines them all.

The Web 1, 2, and 3 evolutions of read, write and own.
The Web 1, 2, and 3 evolutions of read, write and own.

Some of these models use the “Web 1, 2, and 3” as perspective. Some construct Web3 as the fourth industrial revolution, and some break it down into actual maps of uses, data, or communities to categorize it for more accessible learning. But if you consider our previous ages of advanced human and technological innovation and look at how they were classified and seen within the greater scope of humanity’s evolution. These minor definitions of “Web3” will fit into one historical marker: a renaissance.

Clearly Comparable

To understand related attributes of similar eras, we can look to their linguistic basis to find comparables. As writers, marketers, and scholars know, how humanity coins an age is often reflected by the consensus that created it. Words can directly indicate what we agree to, and language can shape our entire world. Comparatively, look between two words, a revolution — a sudden or radical change or force, compared to a renaissance — a revival, renewal, or rebirth. Knowing their definitions reflects a more exact translation of what we are experiencing within their dichotomy.

As an emerging industry specialist for all three iterations of the “web,” I know that technology is both the precursor to humanity’s evolution as well as its mechanism. But as a Ph.D. in translations, I also accept that a definition is often predicated on how tools, like technology, interact with humanity’s description of them. Simply put, what we experience is easier to define the more we seek a consensus on language related to it.

You Say You Want a Revolution?

To know what Web3 is, we need to know what it is not. So, classifying Web3 under an “industrial revolution” has two significant flaws within its terminology and societal reasoning. First, the word industrial was brought about in the late 18th century and defined as “resulting from labor.” Half of this historical meaning is based on society recognizing itself as “the labor” and the complete opposite of what Web3 is about, which is freedom from centralized systems. The other issue is with the term revolution and the forceful resonance it describes that an entire generation has already claimed.

The first industrial revolution began with the emergence of mechanical, analog, or steam mechanisms that involved human labor in operating. Their society accepted this terminology so adamantly that they coined many successful icons of this era “industrialists.” Then came a second industrial revolution that involved mass production and electronics but with human labor still at the center. Then, a third revolution was later termed in the 20th century as “digital,” which included information sharing in the form of an internet, but which was still reliant upon human labor to operate.

This third digital revolution’s terminology was so deeply ensconced in the culture from whence it was birthed (the ’60s) that their generation included it in their songs, poems, and social movements to the point that their era is now commonly known as “revolutionary.” A claim they embraced but which doesn’t carry the exact sentiment of our peer-to-peer culture within Web3.

Many have even tried to drive towards a fourth industrial revolution with terms like “Industrial Internet” proposed in 2012 and classify this fourth iteration as smart automation, machine-to-machine learning, and the IoT (internet of things). But no matter the number of revolutions evoked, or the technology justified to support it, the fact is that the words, and definitions, as related to the humanity it reflects, were still based on “labor” as much in 2012 as it was in 1774. Opposite in definition and intention of Web3 terminology.

In comparison, Blockchain, the foundation of the Web3 industry, is classified as “peer-to-peer” or, by definition, “a network with shared access without the need for a central unit” and is the title of Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin white paper. If you ask somebody in Web3 what “it” is, you will be met with words that correlate to this peer-to-peer intention like decentralized. These definitions are indicators of another historical time where humanity renewed its individual and societal attitudes towards a collective good. An era we can now call the first renaissance.

The Second Renaissance within a Web3 comparable map.
The Second Renaissance within a Web3 comparable map.

A Second Renaissance is Born

The first renaissance was classified as the rise of humanism — that is, the potential of all humans, emphasizing common needs and seeking rational ways of solving problems. We find similar terminology and concepts within the Web3 lexicon with descriptors like sovereignty, democratized, and equity.

The first renaissance was also a revival of previous wisdom to help surpass prior achievements. These advancements happened through many mechanisms, one being the invention of the Gutenberg printing press, which allowed information to flow to more people than ever before. Again, this is comparable to how Web3 is expanding our limited physical technologies into a virtually-based environment within the Metaverse. Creating an entirely new share of value in innovative, communicative ways.

Another defining factor of the first renaissance was the opening up of financial and trade systems that brought about new economies — moving from the barter and trade system of the Middle Ages into one based on monies that eventually became fiat. This example is like Web3’s new economy of cryptocurrency, which creates various new outlets of financial application for persons all over the globe, such as NFTs and P2E.

A final defining characteristic of the first renaissance is the implementation of the city-states and their decentralized systems that governed urban centers, like Florence- evolving humanity from the previous fiefdoms ruled by centralized nobles. A very similar process to what is transpiring within Web3 with the move to DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) as a counter-balance to the overly centralized systems of technology giants and governments.

Claiming ownership over labor in Web3.
Claiming ownership over labor in Web3.

Taking Ownership

Now that we can see how Web3 is more like a second renaissance than a fourth industrial revolution, it’s time to impart a defining characteristic of this new identity. Remember all those definitions, terms, and maps at the beginning? Well, some of them got one part right… the “Web3” identity is not just to read, write, and share like the previous internet iterations, but to OWN who we are and what we do, just like the humanists believed.

You can see this in both the words and mechanisms behind Web3 with an increase in the phrases that reclaim our individual selves like sovereignty, self — (mastery, sustainability, love), which have been met with a rise in terminology redefining societal responsibility like equity and inclusion. These words and intentions are converging into the Web3 landscape, recovering responsibility for the self and whole, just like the humanists. Definitions not from an identity of “being the labor,” but by “being the owner” of what we do, what we create, and what we govern within Web3.

But don’t just take our words for it. Look at the actual mechanisms of Web3 itself to see this ownership in action. First, anybody in cryptocurrencies knows (or learns immediately) that you “control your keys.” Which is another way of saying you are solely responsible for your cryptocurrency because only you know your wallet keys. This pivotal foundation of Web3 places each individual’s responsibility at the core. There is no bank teller to get you back into your crypto wallet. If you lose your keys, it could be a costly lesson about self-responsibility but one that is necessary to re-establish so we can take back the ownership of everything we are.

The baby boomers started this shift within the final “digital” revolution by standing against our social agreement to be the laborer of the 18th century’s centralized systems. Still, this reality has taken until the millennium to the surface because we lacked the technology to sustain us. By the time we got to the Millennial generation, they had moved past these revolutions and started to take back our agency by originating the “Creator Culture” of Web2 — paving the way for this second renaissance with the technology now to support it.

Words Create Our World

At the beginning of this article, I asked, “how do we impart the massive amount of innovation into one word for history to understand?” The answer is by looking to past eras of similar significant human evolution to see how they defined and agreed to it.

Luckily for humanity, we already have an era to look back upon and realize the potential for our advancement in what we are currently living within. The technologies already at our fingertips are here to help reshape history again in powerful ways for a collective future. An opportunity for humanity to revive our individual and collective ownership of who we are, what we create, and how we participate in it and born from the true second renaissance happening within Web3

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