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Dare to Dream!
By Fred Grinstein
Let’s dream a little bit…
“Crypto is going to make us rich! Start measuring your wealth in Lambos. We’re getting airdropped land plots on Mars! Thank you papa Elon!”
(suddenly stirred awake)
“Oh wait, it’s 2022! We’re in Goblintown! Everything is zero! Bitcoin is dead! The Merge was meaningless! SBF is still tweeting!!!”
I apologize for the clickbait. I am trying to make a point, I promise.
I am a father of two, and I have been trying to explain our dreams to my oldest daughter. . What are these stories that flicker through our minds while we sleep? What do we do with them?
“These crazy movies that your brain likes to play while you’re asleep - they are just fantasies, honey. Just enjoy the fun ones, and try to ignore the scary ones”.
The last couple of years for those swimming in the seas of web3 and Crypto it’s been a bit like this. Frankly, for some who cashed out, their wildest dreams of laying on a beach somewhere in Puerto Rico may have come to fruition, and those who didn't read the ALL CAPS NOT FINANCIAL ADVICE disclaimer, probably caught themselves in some real life nightmares. But for many, these highs and lows leave a very tricky picture of a not-so-dreamy Web3 Wild West.
Personally, I find my zen stumbling across images like this one…
And here we see something worth dreaming about: the world-changing potential of Blockchain technology, the engine inside of what people are calling a third age of the internet. Permissionless, immutable, censor-less public ledger-based networks of information, communication and governance - all built around a campfire of decentralization. Yes, this is a mouthful, but the underlying tech is, perhaps, the final manifestation of our dreams when fully realized.
Take, for example, the amazing work happening at Starling Labs. They are barreling headfirst into the 21st century’s battle for truth. Recent years have demonstrated the failings of web2, whether it’s Facebook and Cambridge Analytica’s roles in spreading misinformation in the 2016 elections, or perhaps more presciently the social media information wars led by the current regime in Moscow to justify their invasion of Ukraine.
Here’s one example among countless others: in April 2022, Russian news media re-appropriated verifiable footage and photos of civilians left dead on the streets of Bucha. What should be evidence of Russian war crimes is disseminated in a nightly news show as fabricated lies from Ukrainians themselves. It’s the dictionary definition of gaslighting, delivered by ostensible news sources, spread further and wider by a bot army on social media channels. It perhaps sounds like hyperbole, but these are wartime tactics used interchangeably with missile strikes to go after hearts and minds.
To stare this Goliath in the eyes, the Davids at Starling Lab are starting with photojournalists, arming them with hardware tech attached to their cameras. Upon snapping a photo, new open-source technology registers the digital content and its metadata onto a blockchain, thereby sealing the integrity and authenticity of the image. This tool serves as one piece of the puzzle to treat war zone news coverage like documenting a crime scene… chains of provenance, coupled with a matrix of immutable independently verified data, all logged onto multiple blockchains, (Ethereum, Algorand, Hedera, etc.), The end result is a “Web3 Evidence Bag” offering up unassailable data for future plaintiffs in an International Criminal Court. Once the nightmare of the Ukrainian conflict hopefully draws to a close, these will be dreams made true by Blockchain technology for those seeking justice.
Today, the Entertainment industry is another arena rife with modern-day dilemmas and desperate for solutions. Hollywood is an industry painfully oblivious to the rapid changes of the Creator Economy. It’s a profit-obsessed culture that is blind to the true value and economic potential of 21st-century fandom. And recent shotgun marriages with the titans of Web2 have brought on a new set of frustrations. These streaming rocket ships built for massive global scale reduce the creative process to data crunched by algorithms. Ratings and actual audiences have been supplanted by stock prices on Wall Street.
I am a Film/ TV development exec and have experienced the Hollywood dream from the perches of Anonymous Content, Vice Media, and A&E Network; all settings where I was allowed to do some of my proudest work alongside some of the most inspiring and entrepreneurial people I could dream of calling colleagues. But in recent years, I confess I’ve lost much of the joy in this work.
I’ve always worked in development, my job has been about building for the near to medium-term future, writing pitches, casting shows, and crafting and packaging new ideas. I stare at horizons all day and imagine what’s on the other side. On the one hand, I’ve never felt more bullish about what’s happening in the Web3 Content space. Whether it’s the collaborative communities of 10ktf or Jenkins the Valet, the new age of “art stars” like Beeple, XCOPY, Pak, or Fewocious, or the rebellious explorations of IP like Goblintown or Nouns… It’s all very space-age stuff and admittedly very nascent.
But then I think of my beloved industry of film and TV-making and whether it’s Hollywood’s rude awakening to the real (bad) economics of streaming, or our tone-deaf award shows, it sometimes feels like we’re on a slowly moving cruise ship in a boiling ocean of cultural and technological change. And we’ve seen movies about what happens to big boats in uncharted waters.
At StoryCo, we’re all dreaming about Web3 tackling these issues. What if in addition to auteurs, the creative force was a Blockchain-powered collective? What if the fanbase of a film or a TV show were actually included in the profit and value share of success via Smart Contracts? What if the target market for a creator and their definition of success is based on reaching thousands of token-holding community members rather than millions?
Do these ideas fix everything? Not sure. Will we discover new problems along the way? Probably. Will our big ideas need more refinement or consideration? I hope so, it would be pretty boring if not. This is the Scientific Method by the way. Question and Answer, learning from the experiment, and keeping at it with greater curiosity and vision driving our journey.
Consider the recent fiasco of the upcoming Azurbala web3 project from Tally Labs. Fresh off the success of their ground-breaking Jenkins the Valet project, the team has been prepping the launch of a new immersive Metaverse experience called Azurbala, initially starting with a TBD set of Profile Picture (PFP) NFTs. In the universe of JPEG collectors, this was all a pretty big deal, and there was a lot of hype going into the drop. As the date approached, the team opted to share some sneak peeks of the upcoming art. To put it mildly, it didn’t go well.
The community found the art horrendous and they weren’t bashful about it. Twitter and Discord erupted, some folks thought it was a joke, even a publicity stunt. The disappointment was palpable. The founders, however, took it on the chin, immediately set up a live Twitter Space, and proceeded to get yelled at by their biggest supporters.
They nodded, they listened, and they went back to the drawing board. While they may have personally liked their chosen artwork, their most important contributors (their community) weren’t feeling it. The launch date was scrapped and as of this writing, the founders launched a token-gated Q&A feedback portal on their website to reboot the art design for the PFPs. The community now awaits V2, knowing they’ve all been part of jumping in this pool together.
Can you imagine anything like this ever playing out with a big movie or TV show? Consider the last season of Game of Thrones getting a do-over. Go ahead, dream a little bit. The ability to zig and zag as a collective with underlying shared values is precisely what Web3 and DAO-thinking are all about. We don’t have to hope a perfect leader seated at the top of the pyramid has it all figured out. We, the community of diverse voices gathered around a big idea, get to be the heroes on this journey, and get to dream up a solution together.
Some people rightfully poke holes at the popular Web3 acronym/ social media hashtag rallying cry #WAGMI (We’re All Gonna Make It), because truthfully it’s not humanly possible to all succeed at everything. But when we lean into the tools and the tech being built on the Blockchain and let ourselves dream together, and perhaps even figure out how to tell stories together as a community - maybe that’s what WAGMI really recognizes. The “It” in WAGMI might surprise us, and in spite of the bear market, a lot of these dreams are starting to become realities… in a galaxy not so far away (like maybe the one we’re in)...