Public Goods Investment
My favorite block during ETHDenver was the “Public Good & Social Impact Summit” on Wednesday morning. Those couple hours captured all of the reasons that I’m so bullish on the blockchain space.
The talks by Abbey Titcomb, Auryn Macmillan, Griff Green, Kevin Owocki, & many others were audacious. Their respective projects are technically audacious, but more importantly, audacious in the positive impact that they want to have in the world.
Griff’s talk especially hit home for me. He referred to a “collective psychosis” that we have when it comes to public goods: we refuse to acknowledge that the creation & maintenance of public goods/non-profits requires sacrifice. Our refusal to acknowledge this truth means that the “responsibility” to sacrifice falls solely upon altruists. Rather than optimizing/balancing the sacrifices made to create more, better systems that support public goods, we let our idealism get in the way of a better future.
With the Geo Web’s SALSA land market, we have factored in a form of sacrifice that can help create and sustain it as a public good. This sacrifice (network fees paid to license land) will end up benefiting the whole ecosystem by economically rewarding users, creators, publishers, and developers for their network contributions. This aspect of the project is one of the most exciting for us as builders. We can’t wait to support all kinds of prosocial creativity, entrepreneurship, and engagement beyond pure altruism.
We’re not immune to this “psychosis” with the Geo Web through. We’ve held a pretty staunch line against taking on return-seeking investment. Incentives matter, so the overriding fear has been that a silent bias could creep in no matter how well intentioned and committed we think that we are. The mistake here is only looking at incentives from one side of the equation. The SALSA market fees don’t yet exist and bootstrapping a deep tech endeavor (mainstream AR adoption in 3-5 years if we’re lucky?) is a tough mountain to climb. We think it’s possible, but is it truly the optimal way to balance the sacrifices needed to create this public good and the value it would generate? We at least owe that question an honest evaluation.
Lack of transparency, misaligned incentives, and misallocated power are three valid reasons to be skeptical of taking on the wrong capital, but they aren’t necessarily inherent to investment. Transparency, aligned incentives, and distributed power are exactly the sort of attributes that can be created with well-designed crypto networks.
When it comes to public goods investment, capped returns, clear mechanisms/milestones, and investors being treated as network contributors on par with users, creators, publishers, and developers of the network seem like good starting places to balance sacrifice and pragmatism (h/t @m_t_prewitt for our recent discussion on this). We don’t know if we’ll ever go this direction with the Geo Web, but it will be an exciting day when a public goods project figures out the right end-to-end framework, and we can break our “collective psychosis.”
On to the updates...
- Our team contributed to a project called Identity Lego Starter Set (4 pcs) aka All In On IDX as part of the ETHDenver BUIDL-a-thon. We were short-listed for the top 20 projects and scored some bounties from our friends at Ceramic, Chainlink, & the State of Colorado. We can’t thank the sponsors and volunteers that made that ETHDenver happen enough.
- Our BUIDL-a-thon focused on decentralized identity. Digital identity isn’t a monolith, so we decided to build multiple identity integrations (“legos”) for different contexts and use cases. They could all end up one day being used on the Geo Web, but that wasn’t the focus:
- Lego 1 = An SourceCred <> IDX Integration that uses verifiable credentials from an IDX index to create and associate aliases from across platforms into a single identifier in SourceCred. @dybulic took charge of the development on this one. Shout out to @META_DREAMER for the support as well!
- Lego 2 = A MyColorado <> IDX verified credential. Props go to @codynhat here.
- Lego 3 = A Physical Land Ownership Oracle created by @bedon292 that verifies the owner of a parcel of land based on public records.
- Lego 4 = An IdentityLink Service UI to make it easier to create/test/demo verifiable credentials under an IDX DID
- The embodiment of what Griff referenced in his talk at ETHDenver is The Commons Stack. It’s great stuff. Go check it out, support the work, and maybe even apply to be a member. The Geo Web will definitely be supporting the work any way that we can.
- If you’re a freelance worker (crypto or not), you really need to check out Opolis. Their vision for empowering the independent worker and changing the culture/conception of what it means to “have a job” in a digital economy is spot on.
- The Pocket Network's governance was one of the inspirations for drafting our Geo Web Constitution a couple weeks back (It’s still a work in progress, so feedback is welcome!). I hopped on a call with Pocket’s governance lead Jack Laing last week and learned a ton. He’s an extremely intelligent and kind person. Go check out his work.
- Spinning up our own hosted Ceramic nodes for easy linked content storage (currently using Ceramic’s dev nodes). Decentralized storage solutions like Filecoin to come!
- Exploring the first iteration of the Geo Web Browser. The Cadastre allows users to navigate the Geo Web from a stationary place, but this browser will enable the “true” Geo Web experience—moving through the physical world to discover digital content.