We Need to Run DAOs on Something Other Than Money

Bored Apes Yacht Club (BAYC) vs RR-BAYC - a bunch of nerdy white dudes accusing each other of being Nazis while using the same exact imagery (which still blows my mind) reminds me a lot of Silicon Valley politics: diversionary, unproductive, and largely misses the point.

There's been a few controversies in the Web3 space initiated by Web2 culture in the last few years that I feel like need to be mentioned here. And most of it has to do with the treatment (or lack there of) of the creative class:

  • The original artist for BAYC did not get compensated properly and has distanced herself from the project since. This is a typical Web2 move that has none of the values that #Web3 supposedly stands for. (Which is why even Vitalik and the ETH core team denounces the project as well.)
  • Lobby3, a Web3 lobbying firm started by Andrew Yang went through a scandal where a few artists felt like they were swindled during their launch when the staff promised them royalties, when in fact they were only getting a one-time cash payment. There was a miscommunication - and I don't think they bothered doing proper paperwork for this one since it became a he-said-she-said controversy in the end - I don’t think it was intentional, but it was very sloppy, at the very least. But the bigger issue here is that they didn't seem to think it was worth the time or effort to give equity to artists, which is the whole point of Web3 to begin with.

I have a lot of respect for Andrew, don't get me wrong, but good intensions aren't good enough if you're serious about changing the game. You have to lead by example.

  • During its marketing campaign last year, BAYC did something sketchy (potentially illegal), which was to "gift" the NFTs to celebrities and made them sign NDAs not to tell anyone about it in order to give the impression that they bought it on their own. I always thought that the adoption of it felt unnatural - that's probably why. Now that the controversies are popping up many celebs are leaving the space since they probably figured the money wasn't worth it.
  • At #NFTNYC2022 this year, I hardly saw any artists at the conference, aside from the ones that were paid to be there. I mean, most artists can't afford a $900 ticket just to sit in a few workshops and panels here and there for 3 days. That means that the majority of the conversations about NFT ecosystems are happening between finance people and tech people exclusively, yet again. (Another symptom of Web2.)
  • Most DAOs on ETH (and subsequent layer-2s) have an off-chain share-holder model (Vitalik opposes on-chain governance and supports "coin voting", which is basically a long-winded way of saying the same). This was a mistake, imo - and we'll start to see the aftermath of their decision here as more controversies start to emerge. This also follows the narrative model of wealthy technocrats telling poor people that "money is not a big deal", while simultaneously making it a top priority in the way things are done. (Artists typically do not have that much money, therefore they do not have much power on these DAOs as a default.)

The pattern here is that there's an overall lack of appreciation for the perspectives of the creative class, which is why I think that most NFT projects are going to die a slow death as the artistic talent moves off the major chains and into better waters. I'm constantly amazed that people are putting in millions of dollars into apps and platforms that are so far off the mark from the actual artistic process themselves. They launch, get hyped, some people check it out for a while but finds no real utility, then the project eventually dies when it runs out of startup runway.

I mentioned earlier that I liquidated a big portion of my ETH holdings because I really wasn't sure if it was going to survive - tech is easy to fix, but culture is much harder. I’m sure The Merge itself will go smoothly, but the toxicity and tone-deafness is what I’m more worried about, long-term. Unlike Web2, Web3 ecosystems are decentralized, so you don’t have the option to strong-arm your competition like previous companies have done in the past.

The reason why I chose #Tezos and Teia to build and mint things on is pretty simple: the most of the devs there right now are also artists themselves - they understand what has been missing and what needs to get done in a very clearly way. Although the money isn't as good right now compared to other chains out there, as a creative, its a platform of sorts that just feels good to use because I do feel “seen” and listened to when new updates get pushed day by day.

My bet is that the industry will eventually realize this - which will come in the form of NFTs that people just think are cool. It's already happening in places lesser known, while the ones in the spotlight are already cannibalizing themselves through internal battles - just a matter of time, really.

If you're looking for a solution, the solution is easy - just create metrics around governance and voting power that has nothing to do with money. Attendance, actions, non-monetary contributions, 1-person/1-vote, etc. there are many ways to do so. But can Silicon Valley let go of the culture that basically worships money as their God and savior? Time will tell.

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