For the past seven years, a dear friend who’s been in the trenches with me fighting the securitization of vulnerable populations as human data commodities on blockchain got drawn into a two-day webinar with well-known influencers in the crypto-skeptic space. She’d been excited about the opportunity to connect with an international network of people working on shared concerns. I know that hopeful feeling one gets when encountering a new group of folks who seem to get some parts of the puzzle but still have significant gaps. It’s a tantalizing opportunity to think you may be able to help fill in some of those holes, make a difference, and bring clarity to our collective understanding of the problem.
She did a great job. Her ten-minute presentation on ed-tech, impact finance, and blockchain identity starts at timestamp 15 minutes in the video below.
This friend was the person who worked with the NAACP at the state and national level to pass a resolution opposing the requirement that any person obtains a blockchain digital identity to access public services, including public education, health services, food assistance, shelter, or legal support in the judicial system. You can find the text of that very timely (July 2019) resolution here; simply do a keyword search for “blockchain.”
She gave me invaluable insight into pay-for-success finance and how it presented in Silicon Valley at its earliest stages. I wrote a blog post about the early pilot deals in December 2018. At the time, we had no idea that bio-computation and epi-genetics were being woven into prediction markets in human futures (see the interview series Jason Bosch, Leo Saraceno, and I did on Atomic Ecologies for background on that). So much has happened over the past five years and so quickly that it’s been hard to catch a breath to reflect on where we’ve been. What’s clear to me is that the ties between global finance, emerging tech, and California’s fraught, unresolved history of eugenics can no longer be ignored. I’m looking forward to the trip Jason and I have planned to the Eureka state to conduct field visits and try and rebalance some of these harmful energies in November. We’ll keep you updated from the road, so be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
If it weren’t for this friend, I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to dive deeply into this anti-crypto spectacle. But I was curious, and to be honest, the more I looked into who was behind this event, the more curious I got. If you follow my work, you’ll know I am no fan of crypto-currency and see its many failings. My primary concern, however, has always been the smart contract layer, digital identity in “smart environments,” risk analytics tied to “pay for success” financial dealings, and speculation on natural life. While many entered into the blockchain space as a financial hobby, I entered the door where Shaun Conway and impact investors planned to carry out data surveillance on toddlers in government-subsidized South African pre-k programs as a test run for global futures trading in behavioral compliance.
When you enter the “invest in kids bonds” door knowing there are plans to create asset-backed securities in toddlers and trade them (and perhaps short them) on global markets, the single-minded interrogation of cryptocurrency exchanges and NFT rip-offs feels woefully inadequate. If the stakes weren’t so high, it might be amusing to watch folks who’ve been swimming in the shark-infested waters of financial derivatives for years point fingers decrying crypto-Ponzi-schemers. Calls for better regulation and professed empathy for those who lost their savings to fraudulent digital money schemes ring a bit hollow once you realize many of the panelists’ livelihoods are intertwined with the same financial interests, journalism outlets, and think tanks that were enmeshed in the crash of the global economy via toxic-real estate debt products. These are the same folks who are now in the process of developing the risk modeling, tokenomics, and APIs needed to run the smart “Ricardian” contract, “sustainably resilient,” open-air prison.
Our shared mixed reality panopticon is constantly remade through the cognitive warfare of algorithmic information management. Curated language and narrative tropes are strategically wielded in perpetual skirmishes of semiotics and steganography. Every data point you feed the machine is a psychometric goldmine. They know what you want to hear, manipulate your hopes and fears, and tell you just enough to keep you wondering and coming back for more. We’re wandering around in a Sugarscape simulation, an artificial society where only a fraction of the world’s population comprehends the game’s rules, the stakes, or how deep the illusion goes. That goes for what passes as “the resistance,” too.
The more I research, the more I’ve come to appreciate the challenge of pinning down “reality.” Each of us lives our version of the “reality” story burdened by tragically incomplete access to information, misunderstood motivations, hidden alliances, and communication snafus. The world’s a stage. We are players, whether we realize it or not. The master screenwriter tosses out last-minute script edits with plot twists that demand skillful improvisation and suspension of disbelief. The show must go on, so I keep moving through the next scene, the next act, hoping for moments of clarity as I try to stay ahead of the alt-consensus-reality apparatus. I hope that for the small audience that appreciates my outsider mom perspective, I can pierce the veil here and there to warn of potential misdirection, landmines, and conceptual boxed canyons.
In that spirit, I spent many hours watching videos from the two-day event, scanning the landscape of the people and institutions involved. Among them were Adjoint, Inc. (smart contract financial settlement), Systemics (Ian Grigg’s DigiGold infrastructure, triple-entry accounting, and Ricardian smart contracts), Brookings Institute (educational impact bonds and interspecies currency), Centre for Evidence-Based Management (international NGO promoting data analytics of the kind that will be needed to run social impact deals), Bloomberg News, and The Financial Times. There were mid-level digerati promoting books and blogs whose larger purpose, as I saw it, seemed to be to obscure and dismiss the predatory nature of tokenized life in Web 3.0.
The symposium was organized by self-described crypto-skeptics Steven Diehl and Darren Tseng, finance sector programmers. They’ve been quite effective stepping into their assigned enthusiastic “callow geek” roles. Just a couple of well-intentioned young men looking to save the world from Bitcoin libertarians and Ponzi schemes, right? Pull back the curtain, and the plot thickens a bit. The excerpt below is from the transcript of Diehl’s presentation on October 13, 2017, at Mattereum’s “Internet of Agreements” conference in London, focusing on coded law and smart contracts.
“What does Adjoint Inc. do? I’m the CTO of this company, and we’re here in London. The boring side of our business is we create settlement networks for creating executable forms of industry standard contracts, like ISDA (International Swaps and Derivatives Association) and EFET (European Federation of Energy Traders) agreements, for modeling the structure of financial products, such as derivatives, swaps, options on mutually distributed ledgers.
I don’t work in the public chain database at Adjoint; I work on private server networks between financial institutions, such as (something missing here, but this is the way it was stated in the transcript). Primarily we look at modeling executable forms of OTC derivatives contracts, and I’m particularly focused on taking a description of the semantics that involve the temporary rights and obligations of counterparties that are party to a derivatives trade, modeling that as code, and then putting that on a distributed database so that we can have more efficient settlement systems. The more interesting part of our business is that we also spend quite a bit of time doing research and development on what I would call third and fourth-generation blockchains. I do a bunch of research and development on verifiable computing and formal methods, things like zk-SNARKs (Zero Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) and reasoning about the semantics of contracts formally.” Stephen Diehl
Vinay Gupta, head of Mattereum and host of the event where Diehl spoke, was strategic architect of Joseph Lubin’s Consensys, an organization that has been working diligently since 2017 to frame out the infrastructure needed to scale DeFi, ReFi, and “green pill” social impact finance. This isn’t just about making ESG portfolios and stakeholder capitalism more accountable and efficient. A second goal, which may ultimately supersede creative debt finance as a force shaping society to fit cybernetic circuits, is the aggregation of impact tokens meant to fuel the machine learning that will refine artificial intelligence and possibly catalyze the Singularity.
Throughout the conference, most panelists downplayed Web 3 and blockchain, often asserting that there were no viable use cases and that these technologies didn’t solve any existing need. This was repeatedly stated by a gentleman who had formerly served as a managing director in JP Morgan’s global technology office and a VP of their derivatives operations. His point was that distributed ledger technology is not new. This is correct; the concept dates back at least to the 1990s. However, at that time, there wasn’t the capacity to scale the sensor networks, unique digital identifiers, NEMs, and MEMs required to build out socio-technical / cyber-physical environments. He left JP Morgan in 2017 for greener fin-tech consulting pastures.
Had he stayed through the 2020 sale of the firm’s Quorum Enterprise Ethereum Platform to Consensys, he likely would have had a better handle on the role the smart contract layer plays in the financial settlement space. It is interesting to consider how derivatives and human capital management could one day interface in a matrix of embedded contracts operating in service of prediction markets and real-time risk analysis. One place to keep an eye on is Dallas, Texas, where the StriveTogether affiliate Commit has partnered with JP Morgan on block-chained cradle-to-career pathways for “opportunity youth.” For now, most people don’t recognize these pathways as cybernetic governance systems mediated by blockchain technology. Greenlight Credential’s competency-based transcripts store health and mental health data as badges. RedCritter NFT “good behavior” tokens train children to jump hoops for scrip at the ed-tech equivalent of the company store. Both are twenty-first-century upgrades to B.F. Skinner’s pigeon pellets. Rather than being trained to guide missiles with programmed pecks, tomorrow’s children will be taught to code immersive “reality” and digital “trust.”
The world planned by the technician class is meant to run on tokens, and Eric Schmidt and Chainlink’s Sergey Nazarov are super excited about that. In such a future, we would have infinite contracts with the built environment that would require us to deposit the proper token to activate X, Y, or Z “opportunity.” It is a whole new perspective on the “payment” space that requires us to reimagine “money” more abstractly – more like my friend Jason Bosch’s idea of “freedom tokens.” As such, the payment space is something we should all be keeping an eye on, especially now that “cross-border” payments get muddier in an extended reality where we may end up exchanging tokens with virtual machines living “in the cloud.”
I found it interesting that the former chair of PSR, the Payment Systems Regulator, was a symposium panelist. PSR is an NGO created as part of the UK Treasury’s Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act of 2013. This woman moderated a discussion about crypto regulation with a corporate governance law professor based at Santa Clara, the Jesuit University embedded in early California pay-for-success pilots, and a SEC cybercrime investigator who teaches at Georgetown and Duke Law. All three schools are major promoters of social impact finance. The cybercrime investigator didn’t seem to realize Web 3 is about digital ID and the industrial internet of things, prerequisites for ushering in globalization 4.0 and remote robotic labor.
Crypto wallets and Bored Ape NFTs have been offered as Hegelian-dialectic appetizers, delectable snacks, and a caloric boost to fuel narratives to nudge us towards “solutions” we’re told will restore civil society’s “social contract.” Such an approach could meld distributed ledger technology and ubiquitous edge computing to “serve” us “better”! All the fraudulent greed and crassness we find assaulting our senses promises to be cleared away as so many crumbs on fine linen tablecloth before the main course, UN Sustainable Goal-aligned e-government solutions wedded to Microsoft’s Planetary computer and Ervin Laszlo’s World Homeostat, arrives. That is the end game, managed life (Kubernetes, cybernetics) using nano-tech track and trace energy economics interwoven with infinite unseen contractual arrangements. Maybe the guy’s long thread making a case for blockchain and Web 3 being inconsequential was an inside joke.
It was posted on April Fool’s Day, and these folks love signaling each other, presuming the rest of us are dupes and oblivious to the ongoing rotten game. If and when the Web 3 rollout will become viable remains an open question. However, in my opinion, it would be folly to imagine the financial interests standing behind Adjoint, Inc. aren’t pouring money into blockchain, machine learning, sensor networks, molecular engineering, and quantum computing to realize this mechanical delusion. Throughout those two days, there was sleight of hand uplifting blockchain and Bitcoin as straw men to be gleefully knocked down. These people are experts and must know where things are headed with DLT (distributed ledger technology) in the financial derivatives space. Or, if they don’t, they should have their salaries and book royalties held back until they get up to speed.
Havell Rodrigues, a hedge fund manager interested in impact finance and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, launched Adjoint, Inc. in 2016. By 2018 it had expanded internationally with offices in Houston, London, and Zug, Switzerland, the hub of the crypto valley. Andras Miklos, formerly senior project manager at Credit Suisse, where he “developed a business intelligence and benchmarking model for assessing the strategy of the UK Private Banking business” and a “financial planning model for the Luxembourg Platform enhancement strategy of the Private Banking and Wealth Management division,” briefly headed Adjoint’s Zug office before climbing the ladder to become treasurer of the board of the Swiss Finance and Technology Association and vice president of digital custody systems for State Street Digital in Zurich. It is unclear if Adjoint is still operating. I could not find a website; there was a dead end on the company’s LinkedIn page, “nosuchbucket,” and Rodrigues’s profile dates his tenure there from August 2016 to August 2021. Tseng’s LinkedIn features Adjoint as his current employer, and it seems logical that if that had changed, he would have made those updates in advance of this much-lauded event.
At a 2017 Mattereum conference Diehl and another panelist Ian Grigg who developed third-party accounting and Ricardian Contracts, legally enforceable smart contracts for financial instruments, in the 1990s were interviewed by Jason Louv. Someone gave me a heads-up in the comments of one of my videos that Louv is an Austin-based practitioner of Enochian chaos magic at Ultraculture. He has written for Vice, Boing Boing, Motherboard and authored several books, including one on John Dee. Last year Louv interviewed Vinay Gupta, head of Mattereum, for his podcast. Gupta, a consultant to the military, corporations, and the Open-Source community on how to save the world with blockchain and micro-insurance spackle, was among the presenters at the Mormon Transhumanist Association conference on Blockchain this past March.
I sense that the Diehl, Grigg, Gupta triangle is significant. Web 3 is meant to become a matrix of energetic entanglements where “money” and eventually “compliant behavior impact tokens” will be exchanged to make social values and relationships visible to the machine where they can be analyzed and regulated. Grigg was experimenting with complementary currencies as “beautiful money” back in 2005-2006 with a Digital Pressed Flower Currency project carried out in association with media artist Johannes Grenzfurthner and philosopher Stefan Lutschinger in Amstetten, Austria. I made a six-minute video about their project linking it to Mexico’s conditional cash transfer program and Julian Huxley’s research into the metamorphosis of the axolotl a few weeks ago.
One of the symposium’s panelists was affiliated with the Brookings Institute, a think tank promoting Johnathan Ledgard’s interspecies currency. Energy exchanges through meta-data tagged digital currency will be mediated through invisible contracts like all those “terms and conditions” boxes you click through to use digital products. You know, the ones most of us don’t read, but we click “agree” anyway? And if we did read ALL the text and didn’t agree with some aspect of the arrangement, then what?
Another participant represented the Center for Responsible Lending; an NGO set up to protect low-income people from predatory debt traps. The organization spun out Self-Help, a community development operation active in the affordable housing space, read Opportunity Zones, where histories of redlining are now being turned into money-laundering vehicles for giant real estate portfolio holders. A few years back, Martin Eakes, founder of the Center for Responsible Lending, lauded Bank of America, with whom he had partnered, for creating SafeBalance Banking, where people would not be able to overdraw their accounts. The spin was about saving people from costly fees, but in the back of my mind, I’m thinking about ieDigital’s shocking wearables that zap a person when they get close to their balance or turn down the heat in their homes. Such things are now possible with Web 3 Internet of Things banking. Who is being protected? Families falling into the ever growing pit comprising the working poor? Or “too big to fail” banks?
What if you don’t want a Pavlok shock bracelet linked to your Universal Basic Income debit card? It’s not as though you will be able to ask for a custom contract to which you would agree. It’s all being rigidly coded into the “open,” “distributed,” and “resilient” Metaverse ledger – Lamina1. That ledger isn’t a person by design. They don’t want us to trust people who may tap into their humanity, opt to make exceptions to the rules, and not carry out the dictates of the code with fidelity. So many of the mind games being played out, the polarization and betrayals of confidence and shifting alliances, are intended to break ground for the coming mathematical reality written about in 1921 by Yevgeny Zamyatin in his novel about totalitarian world order in “We.” Trust mathematics, not humans. That is the prevailing message.
What do you do if you don’t agree to the terms but are compelled to use the product anyway? Eventually, those terms won’t just be for apps but will be necessary for access to buildings, “mobility solutions,” payment systems, public spaces, and so on. We all check those boxes and hope our agreement doesn’t come back to haunt us in the future. We have no idea about all the things to which we’ve technically agreed. They know to hide everything in the fine print. Sometimes they even change the terms and conditions later, sending a courtesy email to keep you advised on the rules of the updated game. I’ll bet Stanford’s smart toilets will have lots of fine print. These contracts will be linked to simulation modeling and predictive analytics around risk. In a presentation given by Gupta at a 2017 Dutch Blockchain Coalition gathering, “Deep Dive into Identities,” titled “How Blockchain Can Change Our World,” he describes a future scenario where our digital identities are patched together with sets of “claims” about us backed by insurance guarantees. One of his slides states: “As long as someone will insure you, you exist.” Think about that.
That is the world we’re allowing to be built for nature and future generations, because we cannot or will not make the time to understand what is unfolding, look at the labyrinth’s walls, grab the string, and walk out. Another crypto-skeptic panelist, an affiliate of the Oxford Internet Institute, wrote the textbook on in-game virtual economies, not unlike a labyrinth, and how they were a good thing and could teach us many lessons. That, of course, is the logical end game for the growth imperative of capital. The next generation, the children, the refugees, the prisoners, and the working poor, will be coerced into coding a cloud-based empire interwoven with cutting-edge military psychological technologies. It will be B.F. Skinner’s maze of tokenized behavior pellets. Thanks to Google, Niantic, and In-Q-Tel, we can continue to grow our consumption of goods and services while generating data to fuel the machine learning that seeks to steal the sacred and substitute flimsy, profane simulacra.
Of course, no one will want to live inside that story. So, to drive the plot forward, the focus must be kept on use cases around unregulated digital money, ludicrous assets, and toxic celebrity. My friend’s presentation shone a light off this narrow path, but a person can only do so much with ten minutes of airtime. Unpacking the implications of what it will mean to live on the blockchain through digitally twinned social constructs mediated by artificial intelligence in an in-depth manner would probably result in most people walking out of the theater prematurely. They can’t have that, right?
Those bigger-picture conversations, for now, are primarily had in smoky back rooms among the deep-pocketed backers of the big show – the ESG social impact investor crowd. I’ll note here that the event included the former head data scientist for Salesforce and Deutsche Bank, simply listed as a financial technologist on the video, as well as a former Managing Director in derivatives for JP Morgan and the head of corporate affairs for SWIFT from 2013-2019 who’s more recently been serving as a member of the Bank of England’s Central Bank Digital Currency Engagement Forum. While it may appear a low-budget enterprise with videos that have under a thousand views, this symposium was definitely within the sphere of influence of powerful players in the derivatives finance and data analytics space.
The event included a keynote by a colleague of Robert Hertzberg, the state senator proposing California’s digital identity legislation. This US Representative from Sherman Oaks, CA has come out strongly against crypto currencies while being silent on Web 3.0. A former Berkeley professor quit over the amount of crypto money flowing into his department. As a theoretical example, the self-described mad scientist offered an “institute of demonology” in his remarks about sketchy crypto funding sources in the academy, which called to mind a 1966 article about Chaim Pekeris and the Golem of Rehovoth supercomputer. I emailed him to see if he knew of it, but I never got a response. I found it interesting that he named his firm, one that provides cybersecurity for the UAVs that will patrol our shared extended reality prison, Skerry (Scary?) Technologies. This refers to tiny islands of individual consciousness in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Series “The Game of You.” Make Bitcoin the bogeyman. Stop short of extending one’s analysis to cyber-physical environments designed to “learn” us through digital surveillance, including from the bird’s eye view. Life is less complicated, and the story holds together better, with more explanatory coherence, if you can silo off uncomfortable information and make it someone else’s concern.
Seeing a black swan at the beginning of the UK MP’s presentation was odd. He’s with the Cooperative Party, which took advantage of the lockdowns to push Universal Basic Income in April 2020. He also just happens to be a leader in sustainable finance and leans towards the Malthusian population control side because it’s, well…” green.”
Several folks from El Salvador were brought in to attest to the ineffectual Bitcoin rollout in their country in tandem with increasingly brutal-authoritarian tactics by President Bukele. No mention of the 2007 Interamerican Development Bank arrangement setting up conditional cash transfers tied to low-income women and children’s education and health compliance in El Salvador. Better to keep everyone focused on the Chivo wallets, wallets that most citizens only activated to get the sign-on payment and then discarded, rather than explore what is on the horizon with blockchain digitization of Latin America’s public benefits systems. Once these skeptics get rid of unregulated, predatory crypto wallets the World Bank will sweep in and give the youth of Latin American (Africa, India, Polynesia) some variant on The Learning Economy Foundation’s UN Sustainable Development Goals “Learn Card.” In the new blockchain education economy “opportunity youth” will play online games and be psychometrically profiled as social impact data commodities while stacking up educational badges and tallying up the digital scrip their families need to survive.
It is these youth that the producers of the masque have tapped to do the grunt work of coding and securing the empire for the digital conquistadors. No one mentioned Salesforce stepping into the NFT space (panelist JP Rangaswami’s old firm). Can Soulbound Tokens be far behind? Probably not, given the planned role of the company’s Social Suite dashboard services for ESG impact finance reporting. Speak of Bukele but not of the next iteration where structural adjustment demands poor nations mortgage their children as improvable human capital. Stay silent about tech companies that operate in the social impact space while maintaining contracts with Customs and Border Control.
In this crypto spectacle, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert gleefully play over-the-top, villainous “ugly Americans” shilling Bitcoin alongside Bukele, the young, malleable leader tapped by digital conquistadors to create conditions, through brutal measures and generous payouts no doubt, that will pave the way for a new kind of leader, one who will transparently facilitate the implemetantion of billionaire-backed universal basic income, an efficient and accountable socio-technical infrastructure intended to enmesh El Salvador’s children and their families in Web3 “progress” as digital compliance assets. The greed and crassness of volcano-powered Bitcoin is a perfect foil against which to roll out UBI in an attempt to pull Latin America’s robust informal economy into the digital enclosures.
One of the more meta conversations involved a two-part discussion of storytelling in the crypto-sphere by an actor who grew up in Austin, earned a degree in politics and economics at UVA, and became the main protagonist in the show Gotham. Gotham is also an AI data analytics platform developed by Palantir for government agencies. Through its low-bono technical assistance “philanthropy,” Palantir” was the third-party verifier for early pay-for-success finance deals in mental health and homelessness. The Gotham actor described crypto as an energetic social contagion. On that point, I wholeheartedly agree.
While some participants situated the crypto discussion within a context of past and ongoing harms to communities of color, the Global South, and the poor, few were able to apply those lessons to the new forms of predatory finance that are emerging with Web 3 and digital identity. There was talk of exorbitant fee structures, predatory loans, and losses of uninsured assets. What was left unsaid, however, is that hundreds of NGOs, think tanks and academics (Impact Management Project) are working furiously to sketch out marketing campaigns that seek to legitimize the tokenization of people and the environment as alternative asset classes / creative collateral for “beautiful blockchain money,” not to mention micro-finance schemes targeting aspirational entrepreneurs, often low-income women. Do they imagine we will embrace the “green-pill” regenerative finance pitch with public goods tracked on ledgers so the machines can “see” what our communities value? Charles Eisenstein is constantly pushing the “sacred economy.” Since he’s “teamed up with Sep “I put IoT sensors in the slippers of Wildflower Montessori students to track their social behaviors,” Kamvar, former head of MIT’s Social Computing Group, how long will it be before we see blockchain impact deals where instead of coins, you have tokens tied to the economic prospects of toddlers. Sadly, I can envision James Heckman, JB Pritzker, Paul Tudor Jones, Steve Ballmer, and Stanley Druckenmiller making champagne toasts to that.
New realities of telepresence and haptic robotic labor were downplayed, even though the plan is for blockchain identity to evolve into an accumulation of digital wallet tokens subject to review by non-human agents set up to oversee the legitimacy (or not) of pre-programmed economic and social transactions. We are meant to assume that living under the Global Brain’s benevolent gaze will be democratic, humanized, safe, trustworthy, and accountable. They want us to embrace governance algorithms that know us better than we know ourselves and promise to protect us from unchained life’s sinister and exquisite extremes. It is the dark side of the liberal politics of social care to realize that perhaps the safety net of public welfare was actually set up so that it could be run, decades later, by Palantir and Salesforce and Microsoft’s planetary computer. This program runs on polarity and serves the interests of power to tag, trace, and reinforce oppositional ideology. The boxes they have set up for us make it far less likely that we will question the most basic assumptions of our reality. The progressives can never imagine the government or non-profits would seek to harm the vulnerable, and the conservatives can never imagine the same of their churches or the chamber of commerce.
In my opinion, those at the top are hoping that this Radio-Eugenics World War Three will be a mostly bloodless coup of natural life where a majority agree to willingly embrace distributed ledger chains of “progress” as if the behaviorist, cybernetic enclosures to “save the world” had been the peoples’ and the patriots’ idea all along. The goal is to find the sweet spot where those espousing collective global progressive materialism might be able to strike an uneasy balance with the anti-government, free market, religious crowd. The producers of this play believe they can thread that needle. Imagine you can zoom out and see it as a polarized, emergent structure of domination rather than the ideological struggle the talking heads are making it out to be. In that case, it’s fascinating to watch them try. Picture puppet masters on the left and right contorting themselves in an uncomfortable yet necessary, synchronous dance routine as they attempt to manifest Oliver Reiser’s “World Sensorium,” an outcome they imagine will ultimately benefit both ends of the dipole that is global social physics.
We’ve made our way through the exposition phase of this grand Maya illusion, an all-encompassing techno-masque in which the Earth’s inhabitants have unwittingly been drawn in as both audience and cast. With the dramatic arc established, we’re now enmeshed in structured narratives meant to draw our attention to the manufactured harms of crypto-currency and ridiculous NFTs. I don’t mean in any way to dismiss the actual damage caused. The “crypto bubble,” as these folks describe it, has been devastating for both human victims and the environment. Yet anyone who understands how systems of power operate recognizes tactical sacrifices are made to advance ever more ambitious aims. Those seeking full spectrum dominance don’t give a damn who they crush on their march into delusions of a digital empire where atoms are replaced by bits that can be shaped to the metaphysical whims of billionaire sorcerers and their mad scientist acolytes.
We are being pushed towards a climax where the audience/actors aligned with adversarial parties are supposed to coalesce behind a resolution that will be falsely uplifted as one that restores trust, reinvigorates democracy, ensures freedom and choice, mobilizes grassroots participation, enables shared prosperity, uplifts marginalized communities through the coordinated efforts of a data-driven civil society, and saves the world. This is a plan laid out by the same people enabling the continued operation of the world’s largest financial derivatives portfolios.
Act one established the context and set the mood: wealth inequality, technological disruption, social strife, environmental degradation, and anticipated labor automaton. Act two built dramatic tension with fin-tech crooks, selfish and foolish speculators, extravagant energy consumption, decadent digital property, and authoritarian puppet leaders. Act Two is where the Crypto Symposium ended with a cliffhanger. My prediction is that the final act brings resolution through tokenization of the commons with a shift to “green” proof-of-stake and next-gen nuclear. Before the curtain falls, there will be agreement on proper regulation of digital payments and property to benefit all citizens of extended reality in alignment with a global truth and trust commission. With Pierre Omidyar’s “Good ID” in place, a world of peace and collective harmonization can be regulated through the One World Homeostat, assuming human rights are respected within the terms and conditions imposed by the smart contract layer of international arbitration.
At the end of the two-day symposium, Darren Tseng and Jan Akalin, a youthful management consultant formerly with Adjoint whose LinkedIn indicates business ties with Russian firms, announced the launch of a 501(c)4, Center for Emerging Technology Policy. This new think tank is intended to advise officials by working internationally through public-private partnerships, connecting policymakers with knowledgeable technologists to advance inclusion and strengthen “democracy” in an “increasingly interconnected world.” You know the saying, in the Web 3 matrix of digital identity and decentralized ledger technology, “no one is left behind” to rock the boat or question the presumption that living within cybernetic circuits is a future to which we should aspire.
Now raise your hand if you think BlackRock and the venture capitalists behind the Impact Management Project have invested billions into creating the vast Web 3 cyber infrastructure network to stop harming poor people and endangered species. No? That’s what I thought. It’s about setting up regulatory procedures to properly measure harm and enact socially acceptable predictive profiling using “evidence-based” protocols and digital twinning. The game of mixed-reality social impact requires ameliorating some of the most egregious harms even as new channels of trauma are devised and branded as solid investment opportunities that no coincidentally expand the influence and power of global NGOs and faith communities.
Austerity, adversity, and crisis drive the impact-data economy, opening the door to a new financial system meant to supersede the neoliberal policies that enabled it. The new paradigm will derive value from tokenizing compliant behavior demonstrated through attestations and networked digital agreements. Tokens will be leveraged to “humanize” the Singularity machine through outfits like Ocean Protocol. The digital exhaust of our biology, intellect, emotions, and social interactions is the supreme sacrifice to the anti-life parasitic force that inhabits the extended reality matrix run on Ricardian contracts and distributed ledgers. Remember, it’s all “for our own good” so we can be “safe.” That is how Hal 9000 intends to create order from chaos – holons with cyber-physical integration that force submission to global sustainable development goals. Meanwhile, Palantir’s all-seeing eye will be looking on to verify that all is “trustworthy” and in alignment with BlackRock’s wishes.
The 2018 white paper, “A Declaration of Interdependence: Towards A New Social Contract For The Digital Economy,” by Don Tapscott of the Blockchain Research Institute, is setting up this planned future. It’s the same vision depicted in Institute for the Future’s 2017 foresight road map, “Blockchain Futures 2017-2027: A Blockchain Decade From Currencies To Computing And The Commons,” only with a slightly rosier lens. On the one side, they’ll be selling Florida and Texas libertarian tech investors on the wonders of DeFi, school choice digital vouchers, reduced government techno-efficiencies, and deregulation; while on the flip side, they’ll be pitching Left Coast progressives on tokenized cooperatives, blockchain Universal Basic Income, and digital ID for undocumented people and marginalized communities. Decentralized ledger technology (DLT) is being set up as the winning option across the political spectrum.
The digital conquistadors have unimaginable amounts of money to throw at this, and they are, because DLT and smart contracts integrated with internet of things tokenization IS their new empire. They won’t tell people that living in extended reality means satellites and drones will always know where you are. And not just your location; the global computer will evaluate your bio-stats, financial liquidity, preferences, and movements in real-time to assess and mitigate risk based on parameters encoded in its mechanical hive mind consciousness. They won’t tell you that “liberation” left or right may mean competing for gig work in another country where you are hired by an HVAC machine, not a person, a machine. This radical participatory voting? They won’t lead with the fact that the machines will have tokens, too, and legal rights like people.
Information warfare is about deft curation and personalized storytelling to a known audience. I’m suggesting it’s possible to view this two-day event as a storytelling marathon where presenters gave their intended audience, one groomed for outrage for several years by many outrageous things associated with Bitcoin and NFTs, what they wanted, which was an outlet to grouse and demonstrate ethical superiority over “the other.” In this case, the others were consistently framed as fraudulent, Ayn Rand libertarians, sometimes racist, sometimes expats, engaging in dark activities, ducking regulations and taxes to pursue tacky, superficial, self-aggrandizing agendas of greed and chaos.
My awareness of the Web 3 blockchain space is centered around friends with ties to gatherings like ETHDenver, where the players, while still enmeshed in the venture capital power structure, craft identities meant to evoke a decidedly more altruistic and egalitarian vibe with much talk of advancing the common good through shared tokenized assets and redistributive governance protocols. While there were a few mentions of Ethereum at the Crypto Symposium, the presentations certainly did not equally interrogate the potential pitfalls of smart-contract, tokenized progressivism. No, the villain of this tall tale was meant to be a greedy libertarian populist with nefarious intent, not a Silicon Valley multi-millionaire looking to hook folks up with tokenized Universal Basic Income so he could siphon off their behavioral data to run futures markets and train his robot army.
As I watched the videos and saw big holes in content and what felt like strategic omissions in the narrative framing by many people who should have known better, I became angry. It triggered memories of a naive Alison who poured her heart into fighting terrible tests that were being weaponized against children in schools, only to realize the battle was so much larger than tests and that one of the key people who’d been set up to “lead” the resistance, Diane Ravitch, had a well-connected venture capitalist son whose company, Raine Group, was heavily invested in alternative credentialing systems and extended reality educational environments. It was the first time I realized that it was not enough to gird yourself against outside opponents. Often the threat comes from the inside, which hurts because you don’t want to harden your heart in the face of such duplicity.
I made several dozen short clips of 1-4 minutes each from these presentations, pulling out specific cases where presenters whose background indicated they should know what we were dealing with was far more than Bitcoin fraud and unregulated pump and dump schemes pull punches and direct people away from how decentralized ledger technology, sensor networks, impact tokens, and smart contracts would be used to upgrade traditional financialized debt products to meet the demands of ESG investment portfolios. In a few cases, I added scrolling bars that pointed out what was NOT being said.
Only then did I realize the bear I’d been poking had ties to financial behemoths with their histories of corruption, mismanagement, and authoritarian government systems. To look at Diehl and Tseng, it might not occur to you that their Boston headquarters was in the John Hancock Tower in the Back Bay, a 1970s modernist nightmare whose stability is perhaps only slightly better than the derivatives products for which they’d been developing automated settlement systems at Adjoint, Inc. Cliff says when confronting such systems, it’s best to stand obliquely in a calm, firm manner rather than advance in anger, because it feeds off of that energy and can use it against you. I’d made a tactical miscalculation, a mistake, taking an assertive stance. Mind you, this was a free conference and ostensibly meant for the public good. Diehl responded by asserting copyright claims on three of those clips, enough to take down my channel, though the third was simply removed, and the final, fatal claim was not made.
Thus, I continue to hang on to my hundreds of hours of content for the time being. I have it all backed up, and since I’m not into blockchain media, it’s a bit of a puzzle about where to relocate. If I disappear from YouTube, I encourage you to subscribe to my blog (see email box in the sidebar) and send me an email to timpsila at protonmail dot com, and I will put you on my list for new posts and live streams. Live and learn. I deleted all those clips. Instead of a blow-by-blow, I gave you a broad-stroke overview and included over a hundred screenshots with links in an appendix at the end. Feel free to explore and compare this additional context with the panelists’ commentary. Consider what was left out of their narratives. It can often reveal more than what was said aloud.
When I started my education activism, I struggled when I shared information on pay-for-success finance and emerging technologies like blockchain identity and wearable technology. It was a rare gift when someone understood what I was saying immediately. When it happened, you could see the lightbulb go off for them as the missing piece was inserted, and everything fell into place. That didn’t happen often. It was more likely that someone would listen to you, and then in the weeks and months following, it was apparent that none of the information had any impact on their thinking. They were simply continuing to walk the same well-trodden path.
Sometimes I would try to ascertain where a particular person fell on the spectrum. I had three categories. The first was people who were too busy or stressed and simply did not have the bandwidth to let the information sink in. That was a large percentage. The second group was people who could understand what I was saying, the time, and the knowledge base but could not accept it because it would make it too difficult to continue their life without making substantial changes. For them, it was about cognitive dissonance, discomfort, and fear, maybe with a bit of laziness thrown in. The last category was the people who knew exactly what they were doing and were extremely good at playing their role as enablers of the new paradigm.
Trying, often unsuccessfully, to ascertain the degree of complicity in people used to take up a lot of time in my headspace. I’ve since come to realize it probably doesn’t matter. We can never fully understand people’s motivations, the realities they inhabit, or the stories they tell themselves to get out of bed and face the day. Most of us are touched by some part of this domination structure through our actions or those of our loved ones, colleagues, neighbors, or people in our social circles. The only way to escape the labyrinth is to see it, situate ourselves, and make peace with it. Ariadne’s thread is there for us to walk out of the labyrinth once we can acknowledge the walls, look down at the floor, and pick it up. Any person can make a goal of becoming oriented to one’s position in the tangle of energetic contracts we’ve unknowingly entered into, wash ourselves clean of those terrible bonds, and step out of the play. Until that happens, we will continue to find ourselves caught in a dramatic back and forth – sometimes the actor, sometimes the audience, sometimes a willing participant, sometimes not.
I continue to learn and practice, even as I stumble and fall. I was frustrated with many of these crypto-skeptics – with their inability to see and articulate the clear and present danger that I see. They didn’t understand that their event, their focus, and their new think tank were designed as a vehicle to bring about a gentler, soul-killing, cybernetic dystopia of tokenized, programmed “goodness.” Initially, I tried to make them wrong, which was a mistake. I can’t presume to know their story. I can only seek clarity in mine.
As a mother, I know that securitized toddlers, giraffes, and rivers will never create “beautiful” block-chained money or “green” liquid assets. That is not what it means to be a good relative. I’ll chant it over and over in the hope that understanding may one day sink into the consciousness of the derivatives traders, the mathematicians, and the blockchain coders of social and environmental “justice.” I believe that can happen; I am not a nihilist. Until then, I’ll keep lines of communication open, calling on the cosmos beyond the limits of the material in the corners where the barbed hooks of micro-insurance can never reach.
There, divine chaos sings a song of life, wholeness, and healing. It is there that our hearts are truly seen.
An Appendix of 150+ Screenshots of Panelists and Related Information with Source Links
Crypto Policy Symposium Presenters, September 5-6, 2022
Symposium Hosts, Stephen Diehl, Darren Tseng of Adjoint, Inc. with Jan Akalin
Stephen Diehl, Adjoint, Inc. Co-Founder, Crypto Symposium Host
Doug Sills – Adjoint, Inc. Investor
Adjoint, Inc. Headquarters Boston, MA
Darren Tseng, Adjoint, Inc. Co-Founder, Crypto-Symposium Host
Havell Rodrigues, Impact Investor in DEIJ Space, Co-Founder Adjoint
Jan Akalin, Former Staff at Adjoint, Inc.
Darren Tseng at Mattereum with Vinay Gupta, Digital Identity
Vinay Gupta Remote Presenter Mormon Transhumanist Association Blockchain Conference March 2022
Jason Louv, Occult Magician Writer, Interviewing Stephen Diehl at Mattereum Event 2017
Vinay Gupta, Founder of Mattereum and Strategic Architect of Consensys, With Jason Louv
Monday, September 5
Brad Sherman, California state representative, keynote.
Robert Hertzberg, Political Associate of Brad Sherman
Brad Sherman Hearing on Digital Assets in 2021
Ruth Wandhofer, Stephen Diamond, John Reed Stark
Ruth Wandhofer / Payment Systems Regulator
Stephen Diamond / Santa Clara University
John Reed Stark / Duke University / Georgetown University
Martin Walker, Nadine Charbrier, Tonantzin Carmona, Mario Gomez, Fred Abrahams
Martin Walker / Centre for Evidence-Based Management
Nadine Charbrier / Center for Responsible Lending / Self-Help
Tonatzin Carmona / Chicago Community Trust – Municipal ID / Brookings Institute
Mario Gomez / El Salvador Anti-Bitcoin Activist – Libertarian Framing Examples
Fred Abrahams / Human Rights Watch
Martin Walker, Edmund Schuster, Kelvin Low, Jared Bibler, Natasha de Teran
Edmund Schuster / London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Kelvin Low / National University of Singapore / Singapore Blockchain
Jared Bibler / Iceland Crypto Scandal / Deloitte
Natasha de Teran / SWIFT Corporate Affairs / Carnegie Endowment for Peace / Bank of England CBDC
Izabella Kaminska, Jacob Silverman, and Ben McKenzie
Izabella Kaminska / Blind Spot / Financial Times
Jacob Silverman / The New Republic
Ben McKenzie / Actor – Gotham / Austin Roots
Izabella Kaminska, Vili Lehdonvirta, Ian Grigg
Vili Lehdonvirta / Oxford Internet Institute / Virtual Economies
Ian Grigg / Systemics / Mattereum / Ricardian Contracts / Digital Flower Currency
Rory Cellan-Jones, David Gerard, Keith Pritchard
Rory Cellan-Jones / Former BBC / FTI Consulting – Health Tech Blog
David Gerard / Wikipedia – Wikimedia Foundation / “50-Foot Blockchain” Book
Keith Pritchard / JP Morgan Chase Derivatives / Quorus Consulting / Dallas County Promise / G
Tuesday September 6, 2022
Alex Sobel, UK MP, Keynote
Martin Walker, Pete Howson, Alex DeVries, Bob Seeman
Pete Howson / University of Nottingham / Sustainable Web 3 – “Green” Blockchain
Alex DeVries / Bank of the Netherlands / PWC (Price Waterhouse Cooper) / Sustainable Blockchain
Bob Seeman / Data Analytics Consultant / Microsoft
Sebastian Hervas-Jones, Roxana Marachi, Nicholas Weaver
Sebastian Hervas-Jones / Tortoise Media
Roxana Marachi / Eduresearcher / NAACP
Nicholas Weaver / Skerry Technologies
Emily Nicolle, Oscar Salguero, David Gerard, Molly White
Emily Nicolle, Bloomberg
Oscar Salguero, El Salvador Software Developer / Context El Salvador’s 2007 Loan to World Bank for Conditional Cash Transfer
Molly White / Hub-Spot Boston / Blogger / Berkman Klein Center for the Internet and Society
Jemima Kelly, Joey D’Urso, Geoffrey Huntley, JP Rangaswami
Jemima Kelly / Financial Times
Joey D’Urso / The Athletic / BBC News
Geoffrey Huntley / Roving NFT Critic – Software Developer / Van Life Australia
JP Rangaswami / Deutsche Bank / Salesforce
Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan, Carol Alexander, Frances Coppola, Amy Castor
Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan / Financial Times
Carol Alexander / University of Sussex / Peking University Business School / Derivatives Textbook Series
Frances Coppola / Financial Times / Coin Desk
Amy Castor / Freelance Reporter