On Trust and Sovereignty

It’s been a year since I started getting interested in rollups and scaling. I started writing + being more public about my thoughts to crystallize my own thinking and build connections in the rollups + infrastructure space.

Over the past year, the space generally got a better sense of optimal scaling strategies – and a lot of interesting projects are thinking about and implementing them. Before 2021, a lot of scaling efforts like sidechains or rollups were purely research initiatives.

Today, they are flourishing ecosystems.

The space based a lot of adoption flywheels on precedents set by previous infrastructure projects like Ethereum and other L1s. By reactively referencing the past and either replicating those strategies or attempting to make it better with minor changes, we limit thinking about the long game.

Which got me thinking -- what happens if we can no longer bootstrap an L1/L2 ecosystem to a major exchange like FTX? And what happens if the very tools we have to grow usage (CeFi) breaks?

The infrastructure space is fascinating but what is equally urgent today is another major problem which all projects will inevitably face — how to increase the adoption and utility of an ecosystem at large. I'll be continuing to think about and observe the infrastructure space, but rather than monitor it on a day to day, I'll be keeping tabs on it as a larger trend.

What I’ll be thinking about instead

Protocols today are interested in building a world where people are first class citizens of a network. This is a great mission and one that I am heavily motivated by.

However, the reality of today is that: (1) the political environment is one that will likely censor this kind of mission and (2) there is a massive underestimation of how technically apt the average user is.

Cypherpunk builders are motivated by cypherpunk missions, but without the masses, there is no mainstream movement. Getting the average user to trust themselves to make a technical decision about their assets and their governing system induces cognitive friction.

In today’s world where trust in institutions and establishments is incredibly low, the most pressing problem is solving trust between cryptonative protocols and users so they can go direct instead of trusting centralized finance.

This is at the crux of adoption and sovereignty today – trust reduces day to day costs but massively increases exit costs. A user cannot exit a system or a technology unless they have the tools and facts to make that decision. A user needs to trust themselves to make the decision to exit.

This is the ironic thing about blockchain. Blockchains are ‘trustless’ but they actually require a high degree of self trust for asset management, light client verification, transaction signing, voting, etc. As the future becomes increasingly multi-chain, every crypto project will need to solve this issue if it wishes to be an enduring business that survives multiple cycles.

It’s an incredibly salient time in history to be thinking about this– especially when the industry needs to completely rebuild trust with retail.

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