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Algoholism & The Metacurse

0x225E
December 3rd, 2021

My name is Richard Burton, and I am an algoholic.

When I first admitted this to my partner, I laughed at the term but felt a sharp sadness. Algoholism is a combination of the words algorithm and alcoholism.

  • Algorithms are a set of rules to be followed.
  • Alcoholism is an addiction to alcohol that negatively affects a person’s mental and physical health.
  • Algoholism is an addiction to algorithms that negatively affects a person’s mental and physical health.

I have been living in the metaverse for most of my life. When I was not in the sea, I was on a computer of some kind. Facebook’s feed algorithm gripped my mind at 17. Instagram wrapped its coils around me at 21. YouTube infiltrated my mind at 25. Twitter got its clutches into me at 29. When I have mastered the algorithms, they have given me enormous benefits. I built my first business on Facebook adverts and used Twitter to discover incredible investments.

However, I also feel like these algorithms have buried so deep into my mind that I am unable to remove them. I think Tweet-length thoughts. I pose for Instagram Stories.

The algorithms have got me to eat food I hate, date people I am bad for, say things I do not mean, and present ideas in ways that I regret.

I am stuck in the metacurse.

When someone is drunk, the blame falls on the person and the chemical. There is a relationship between the human and the alcohol. Neither is entirely to blame—it is a mix.

The same is true for my addiction. My relationship to the algorithms has become unhealthy. I take a lot of the responsibility for how I have let them control me. But I also think the algorithms share some of the blame.

Each algorithm gets people to follow a different set of rules.

The best ones tap into one of the 7 deadly sins:

  • Lust - Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Grindr, The League, Raya
  • Gluttony - DoorDash, Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Postmates
  • Greed - AmEx, Robinhood, Klarna, Afterpay, Affirm
  • Sloth - Uber, Lyft, Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO, Google
  • Wrath - Twitter, Reddit
  • Envy - YouTube, Instagram
  • Pride - LinkedIn, Facebook

Each of these algorithms are crafted in private by a set of people we know nothing about. Even the public companies in this list are private about their algorithms’ designs and designers.

The engineers, researchers, mathematicians and product managers are explicitly creating systems to control your minds.

They still control mine.

These Facekooks control my mind.
These Facekooks control my mind.

Open Algorithms

The open source movement changed the face of planet earth. A small group of dedicated individuals felt that it was wrong for a few companies to control all of the source code in the world.

I think we are seeing a similar revolution with Ethereum:

Ethereum is an open marketplace for algorithms

It allows anyone to publish code that anyone can inspect. It is not just about open source; it is also about open data and open state inspection.

As a society, we have been thinking about the nature of public companies for a long time. Transparency at the highest levels of capitalism is important for a well-functioning social fabric.

I think we need a more serious discussion around something new: public algorithms

One way we could enforce this is by creating regulations which compel companies like Facebook and Twitter to publish their algorithms. I highly doubt that will work.

A better way is to simply build better systems. I think the Ethereum community has a great shot at that. Look at the impact it has had already:

ERC-20 (Ethereum Request for Comment Number 20) - The Token standard has created an entirely new world for finance and governance.

ERC-721 - The Non-Fungible Token (NFT) standard has opened up the cultural system to a totally new set of creators.

ENS (Ethereum Name Service) - The naming protocol of Ethereum is laying the bedrock of an identity layer for every human, pseudonym, application, organisation, company, machine, contract and entity.

The combination of these three Ethereum-based projects has already created a totally new kind of metaverse. It is an open one where anyone can have a say.

If you like Uniswap, you can freely use their financial algorithm. If not, move over to Sushiswap. If you like Maker’s risk approach, you can use DAI. If you want to see other takes on a stablecoin, you can try FEI. If you want to step up, you can govern UNI, SUSHI, MKR or TRIBE by becoming a delegate. Anyone can be a protocol’s politician.

You are free to create an NFT with OpenSea, Foundation, Zora or Showtime. They all inter-operate around a share standard.

There are thousands of wallets which anyone can explore because Ethereum will never make a judgment about where a transaction comes from. It just validates you and moves on.

Open Metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg is trying to win a battle when he has already lost the war. Focusing on virtual reality goggles today is like when Microsoft focused on Internet Explorer before—they are missing the point.

The real value in “The Information Superhighway” was Google
The real value in “The Metaverse” is Ethereum

Google was a startup. Ethereum is a protocol.

We need open algorithms and open metaverses that welcome everyone’s opinions on how society should run and culture should be defined.

We need to move from digital monarchies controlled by Silicon Valley executives to digital democracies controlled by people all over the world. That will take a lot of time, energy & focus—but we can do it.

Are you going to let the Facekooks win?
Are you going to let the Facekooks win?

Are you an Algoholic?
My name is Richard Burton, and I am an algoholic.

Are you?

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