Existential Dread

I've got some nagging existential dread.


  • The author has a background in successful startups and discovered Bitcoin early on.

  • They partnered with a technical co-founder to build a no-code composer for smart contract dApps focused on labor transactions.

  • They aimed to create a community-driven platform where users could build their own dApps for different types of jobs, utilizing blockchain technology and incentivizing creativity and development through a DAO.

  • The arrival of AI made them question the need for traditional marketplaces and human involvement, as autonomous agents could potentially perform tasks more efficiently.

  • Despite the disruptive potential of AI, the author still sees value in matching workers with jobs and believes that AI will eventually integrate with Web3 technologies, requiring programmable money and a decentralized Web3 stack for labor and services.


Before I delve in, please allow me to provide a little background. I've been involved on the business side of some successful startups, not world-beating, but they've made money for investors by establishing solid businesses worth millions to acquirers as we rode the massive waves of Web2 and Low-So-Mo as some called it.

I found Bitcoin at about $70 dollars (I find this easier than quoting a date), but sat out waiting for more to do beyond dev work. Sure enough, eventually, there emerged endless opportunities for business development. I was diligently plodding along an earnout and I found myself spending every free moment digging in on the exploding space. So, I set out to build a blockchain project and finally take on the role of co-founder on the business side. I met a brilliant technical co-founder in the bowels of a Discord server and we just saw the world the same way.

To us, the future of work was the most interesting area of focus for blockchain technology. And we could see it was an opportunity of the same scale as DeFi or NFTs, but with few teams working on the problem.

We set out to build a no-code composer that would allow developers and entrepreneurs to build smart contract dApps that could manage labor transactions between employers and freelancers. What was exciting to us was the idea that Web3 was really about programmable value. And programmable value was a layer deeper than money. Blending work and payment together into one smart contract could be game-changing.

Now that we had the no-code composer we looked to run a series of proof of concepts that would dovetail into nurturing the web3 modality that could allow a community of users to build their own dApps (augmented smart contracts) for different types of jobs. Traveling nurses would use different smart contracts than content writers for example. A traveling nurse might want a ZK proof that shared proof of credentials without revealing sensitive personal information whereas a content writer might want an IPFS window that stored the written deliverable on-chain. You could imagine a land grab to refine smart contracts for labor. And there could be a DAO to distribute transaction fees back to the builders to incentivize creativity and development. With Web3 in mind, this would be a regenerative, open-source public good.


Our dApp went live just as ChatGPT set the world on fire.

Having blended mobile and social and so forth with previous ventures I felt very comfortable making room for AI in our story. The next step was to build a marketplace where individuals could find jobs and gigs related to labor and services. this would attract workers and jobs which would sustain a community working to refine labor and services smart contracts to make the entire platform more efficient and expressive.

I still genuinely believe in the beauty and potential of this vision.

However, with the arrival of AI, we started questioning the need for traditional marketplaces and even human involvement. It just seemed most likely that autonomous agents would be taking on increasing portions of tasks traditionally performed by humans. At the top you might have a co-pilot guiding the execution, and at the other end of the barbell a human executing vestigial digital and IRL tasks. And, undoubtedly many workers would enjoy receiving a push notification, asking if they were available for a particular sub-task, such as picking up lanyards and then heading to an event to hand them out at the door. But wouldn’t autonomous agents start booking venues, choosing menus, inviting guests, and even designing said lanyards, requiring fewer freelance workers each day?

And as for the marketplace itself, the AI's ability to match your skills and availability with the task requirements would render the marketplace concept obsolete. An AI could easily sift through tens of thousands of prospective workers and could select them based on data we'd likely ignore like language sentiment analysis, shared Twitter followers, and even college undergrad courses.

Humans just won't do this stuff as well.

Naturally, it's risky to be too early, especially regarding our involvement in the crypto realm. But AI is moving so fast. It might sound unbelievable now, but it’s not hard to imagine future generations shocked by the era of humans selecting the central banks' interest rates. AIs will effortlessly handle so many tasks. Building in this space, this reality is hitting hard.

Currently, our primary attention is directed toward AI, specifically matching workers with jobs. We assume this approach will become commoditized, even absorbed via vertical integration from the big AI platform(s). We assume the talent pool will gravitate to the most powerful AI. But we also assume AI teams will inevitably work with Web3. In order for AI to utilize potential human output as effectively as software output it will need to use programmable money. Humans might still want USD wired into their bank accounts, but the AI will be using digital money right up until that final wire transfer. Helping wire up a self-sovereign decentralized Web3 stack specifically for labor and services (think DIDs, chat, chip readers, QR code integrations, escrow insurance, intra-platform stable coins, etc., etc.) is crucial to protecting humanity's interests, data ownership, trust minimization, and so forth.


All of this to say - the idea of a land grab of entrepreneurs building custom mini-Dapps for different jobs, and the idea of a decentralized marketplace for work. So much of our initial thesis - has simply been washed away by the promise of AI.

So the existential dread is - what remains? The token to support open-source Web3 efforts works within the context of the AI-enabled future of work?

But won’t that eventually be consumed, like Central Bank interest rates?

It’s hopeful that human labor will be deployed by AI in a self-sovereign manner.

And matching provides a super exciting short-term opportunity.

Again, for now, there's a lot to work on. And, it might just be the last place to work.

Ping us if you're interested! And visit www.cambrianprotocol.com to add yourself to the AI.

image prompt: --ar 16:9 a professional PowerPoint slide titled "Embracing the Vision" - Feature a compelling image representing collaboration, innovation, and a future where human potential and AI-driven automation coexist harmoniously. --s 750 -


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