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Calling Bullshit

Web3: A more humane, egalitarian, and decentralized internet?

Calling Bullsh!t December 14, 2022 2593


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Our guests

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Glen Weyl

@glenweyl

Founder of RadicalXChange

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Molly White

@molly0xFFF

Software engineer & crypto critic

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Vlad Ginzburg

@vlad_ginzburg

CEO at @Blockparty

What is the future of the internet? And could Web3 help solve some of the big problems we are facing today?

Short Synopsis: 

Stated purpose: To build a more humane, egalitarian, and decentralized internet where every individual has complete custody of their data.

Web3 is advertised as a place where we can all have complete control of our data. And many people see a lot of potential there to do good. It could be a platform where your digital self might reflect who you actually are. An internet where social democracies thrive. 

But with big tech money flowing in, is it just becoming a Facebook 2.0? Or even worse, could bad actors use it to create pure chaos? 

If a technology is so nascent and it is so flawed that the average person can’t responsibly or safely be engaged with it, it’s not ethical to be promoting it as something that people need to be adopting.

If you’re designing a car that crashes 99% of the time, you probably shouldn’t be telling people to strap in and go for a drive.” 

 – Molly White

Web3’s BS score is

Show notes

  • Buy a copy of Glen Weyl’s book Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society here
  • Read Molly White’s blog ‘Web 3 is Going Just Great’
  • Vlad Ginzburg created blockparty.co to allow creators and brands to create unique, connected NFTs.
  •  
Episode Transcript

Web3

SFX: We are in a techy, glitchy, world, clicks, low-key synth music. 

VLAD GINZBURG

The best-case scenario for Web3 is that it brings about a golden age for the creator.

GLEN WEYL

The concept of Web3 is fairly elastic.

MOLLY WHITE

What is the web going to evolve into? I think that there’s a lot of potential there.

GLEN WEYL

Web3 overall is less about blockchains per se, than it is about the idea of innovating new mechanisms of consensus building and social cooperation, using digital tools.

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

Web3. The third version of the internet. It is often described as a potential utopia, guided by the promise of decentralization. An internet where your attention and data belong to you and you alone. 

But is the current manifestation of Web3 a reflection of this promise? Or is it just a bunch of BS?

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

Welcome to Calling Bullshit, the podcast about purpose-washing — the gap between what an organization says they stand for and what they actually do — and what they would need to change to practice what they preach.

I’m your host, Ty Montague. I’ve spent over a decade helping organizations define what they stand for — their purpose — and helped them to use that purpose to drive transformation throughout their business.

Unfortunately, at a lot of institutions today, there’s still a pretty wide gap between word and deed. That gap has a name: Bullshit.

But — and this is important – we believe that bullshit is a treatable condition. So when our bullshit detector lights up, we’re going to explore everything the organization should do to fix it.

TY MONTAGUE (VO) 

What IS Web3? 

When I started digging into that question, I found myself suffocated by jargon and acronyms.  And once I finally got up to speed on the language, I was confronted with a lot of competing ideas. There are as many definitions for Web3 as there are people working to build it. It’s hard to put your finger on something that doesn’t fully exist yet. I had a feeling I wasn’t alone in my confusion, so I asked Calling BS producer Haley Paskalides to get out there and see what New Yorkers had to say on the topic:

SFX: NYC street brings us in

Haley: We’re doing an episode on Web3.

Alison: On what?

Haley: Web3.

Rosalie: Web3.

Alison: What’s Web3?

Andy: I do know what it is.I think it’s all hype. I think a lot of it’s gonna go away and I think a small part of it will stay and be actually valuable for the future.

Haley: What part do you think will stay?

Andy: I think the parts that are, uh, have actual practical applications rather than trying to hype and sell something.

Rosalie: I mean, I never really heard the term before.

Emma: I’ve literally never heard of it in my life.

Browning: I just think of like new tech, crypto, like these are all words that come to mind.

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

The reason all these words come to mind is because these technologies are all components of a larger but still-nascent system and have gotten most of the media attention to date. 

But for the purposes of this episode, you don’t HAVE to know that blockchains are giant open-source databases where data can be created but never destroyed. 

And you don’t have to appreciate the way cryptocurrencies allow money to operate outside the confines of government.

Nor do you need to understand that NFTs are Non- Fungible Tokens, unique digital items that act just like items in the real world.

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

What you DO need to know is that Web3 combines the ideals of the original internet – open, democratic access to knowledge – with the most exciting aspects of some new technologies with even newer capabilities. 

These technologies – blockchain, cryptocurrencies and NFT’s are powerful tools for codifying that aspiration into the very fabric of web3 because they are themselves open source, anti-authority and decentralized. 

This is why Web3 promises decentralization and data sovereignty. It could be a version of the internet where everyone has custody over their own data. A platform where your digital self might reflect who you actually are. An internet where social democracies thrive. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO) 

Another way to understand what Web3 might evolve into, is by looking at what it has evolved  from. Marc Andreassan, founder of Netscape and co-founder of Venture capital firm A16z, says the three different phases of the internet can be understood as READ, WRITE, and OWN. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

Web1 allowed users to intake content or “read”

 

[SOT Marc Andressen] The big breakthrough was you go online, you could read stuff, you could see stuff, you could do searches,

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

Web2 – the version we all know and love – is Read, Write. It’s the digital world of user generated content, an internet funded by the attention economy, where user data is ultimately controlled by a handful of large corporations. 

[SOT Marc Andressen] Sort of the social networking, blogging, video, YouTube, you know, kind of user-generated content era. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO) 

Web3, is Read, Write, OWN. 

[SOT Marc Andressen] and own means you can own value, right? You can own money, you can own digital assets. It’s basically a trust layer, a money layer, and an ownership layer that rides on top of the sort of untrusted, unowned, you know, kind of space that’s been the internet so far.

TY MONTAGUE (VO) 

This individual ownership part gets a lot of press because digital assets can now be uniquely tagged and monetized. Meaning NFTs and crypto are subject to insane wild westing and speculation. 

[SOT] If you own a Bitcoin today, you will be a millionaire.

[SOT] Jack Dorsey’s first tweet selling for nearly 3 million dollars.

[SOT] The art world just turned upside down with the sale of this digital collage. It sold Thursday in an auction for $69.3 million dollars.

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

And while crypto has become a volatile market all its own,

[SOT] Sam Bankman Freed built FTX into a huge crypto exchange, valued at 32 billion over just three years. Well, last week it imploded sending aftershocks throughout the industry. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

it’s also enabled the movement of money in entirely new ways. in some cases, this is positive. 

[SOT] Ukraine’s. Ministry of Digital Transformation saying they have raised over 60 million through more than 120,000 crypto donations.

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

And in other cases, not so much.   

[SOT] Bad actors took advantage of the Ethereum Merge to make millions of dollars.

[SOT] $1.9 billion worth of cryptocurrency has been stolen.

[SOT] People thinking that they’re buying one-of-a-kind digital pieces of artwork or songs believing that they’re investing in the next big thing.  

[SOT] Can’t call the police. There’s no bank. You’ve just lost all your money and there’s not much you can do about it. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO) 

Web3 and all its current aspects – currencies that aren’t backed by governments, art that only exists in a digital form  – these might have started as fringe concepts, but they are now fully mainstream. 

Haley: Have you ever heard of the term Web3? 

Jon: Web3? No. 

William: I have no idea what that is. 

Emma: Oh, dear God, I have no clue. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

Alright so, Web3 isn’t FULLY mainstream. But it’s certainly popular if you’re a coder or an investor or just techno-curious. 

Venture Capitalists like Marc Andreesen, spent a combined 30 Billion dollars on the crypto space last year alone. Many of these investors – a16z included – are the very same firms that helped create the monopolies that control our current version of the web.

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

These giants of Web2 have optimized for popularity, attention, and convenience. And the ramifications of their underlying philosophy have affected all aspects of public and private life. 

We know that algorithms shape behavior, so it’s not hard to see how the future of Web3 will fundamentally affect all of us. 

With the promise of a more humane, egalitarian, and decentralized internet, Web3 represents an opportunity for a different kind of system. But it’s still a very young industry. 

So what will the underlying philosophy of Web3 be? Will it be true to the ideals of the promise? Or by using the same venture capital, will it succumb to the same pitfalls of Web2?

The answer lies within some fundamental philosophical questions. What is each person’s responsibility to society and what does it mean to be an individual?

But before we get into this cryptic hash puzzle, let’s take a quick break.

TY MONTAGUE (VO)

At this point, you may be wondering how the answers to a few semi-vague philosophical questions create the scaffolding that holds up Web3. 

Well, luckily, my guest today Glen Weyl is here to explain everything. He’s a former economist who now focuses on re-imagining the future. 

GLEN WEYL 

The future of social organization, economies, politics, etc.

TY MONTAGUE (VO) 

He’s a big-picture thinker. He co-authored the paper “Decentralized Society: Finding Web3’s Soul” with Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, where they make the case for web-based identity tokens. And his book Radical Markets helped shift the discourse of Web3 away from an exclusive focus on blockchains and towards something much broader and brighter. 

TY MONTAGUE 

So to start out with, in preparing for this conversation, I learned that you actually prefer the term decentralized social technologies to the term Web3. Can you talk a little bit about why you like describing it that way?

GLEN WEYL  

Well, I mean, Web3 is a little bit limiting. And has a focus that makes you think in financial terms. It makes you think of an evolution of the internet rather than the applications that run on the internet. And so I think decentralized social technology to me captures the notion that what we’re creating are technologies, but they also are technologies that are about how people organize and relate to each other. It captures the focus that I think that we should have on social structures and social impact rather than just financial speculation.

GLEN WEYL 

Um, I think Web3 overall is less about blockchains per se than it is about the idea of innovating new mechanisms of consensus-building and social cooperation using digital tools. 

TY MONTAGUE 

Just to get, uh, specific for folks who may not have, your background, I’ve heard a couple of, of attempts to define the term Web3. One is to build a more humane, egalitarian, and decentralized internet where every individual has complete custody of their data. So that’s a theme that, that seems to run through a lot of definitions is this idea of democratization of power. Power has become centralized in Web2, uh, to corporations. And the promise of Web3 is to, is to kind of redistribute that power to individuals, which by the way was one of the promises of Web1, I think.

TY MONTAGUE 

Right.

GLEN WEYL 

I, I, I think that the individual focus is one interpretation. The focus I would take is diversity of communities, not individuals. and this is an important tension in the discourse around Web3. Some people imagine it more in terms of some kind of small democratic network based, you know, Collective self-governance, and other people imagine it in terms of, you know, annarco capitalist, every person for themselves, ownership, property, et cetera.

GLEN WEYL 

The concept of Web3 is fairly elastic. So it’s, it’s a contested space.

TY MONTAGUE 

Right, right. Okay. Um, I wanna pivot a little bit to a couple of specific questions about, you know, aspects of, of Web3 that, that I’ve, I’ve heard talked about. One is this idea of owning our own data and benefiting from it, from selling it in, in some cases, uh, seems to have been a central idea in the space, and I’ve seen that you have expressed skepticism about that idea. Um, why is that?

GLEN WEYL 

Well, it’s, it’s funny because, uh, Jaren Lanier, who’s one of my closest collaborators, and to a lesser extent, I, I think we’re pretty central to kind of originating that meme. And yet, uh, as, as often happens, we think it’s been very misapplied and misunderstood.

TY MONTAGUE 

Well straighten, straighten us out, Glen.

GLEN WEYL  

A lot of people, when they think about you benefiting financially from the value created by data that pertains to you, they want to think of private property as their image and model.

GLEN WEYL 
But that’s not a great metaphor, uh, here. And the reason is, That most data pertain to multiple people.

GLEN WEYL 

So, is this call that you and I are having my data or your data?

TY MONTAGUE 

Right. Yeah.

GLEN WEYL  

Is my social network, my data? Well, actually not really. It’s the data of me crossed, like each link that constitutes that social graph belongs to at least two people in that graph. Right? 

TY MONTAGUE 

Right, yeah. That’s very interesting.

GLEN WEYL 

I would contend that that’s true of virtually all data. So data is relational, almost always. It, it represents things in a social context. It does not represent abstracted things that are the property of a single person. So, if we want to think about data empowerment and data dignity, we can’t think about it in, in terms of private property.

GLEN WEYL  

We have to think about about it in terms of some structure of diverse but collective self-government. You know, a union is a better image to have in your mind than is a house that you own.

TY MONTAGUE 

Right, right.

GLEN WEYL  

The basic rhetoric of the space is wrong and broken. And if we pursue that direction, I think we’re gonna end up back in the outcome that we started in, because there will be a race to the bottom where everyone will know that someone who’s part of that data will sell it. And so you might as well be the one to sell it first and cheaper.

TY MONTAGUE 

That’s really interesting. I, that had never occurred to me.

TY MONTAGUE 

Let me, let me push on that a little bit though, because, you know, one of the big problems in the world, I think is, is created by social media and specifically the business model behind most social media companies, which is attention based, right?

TY MONTAGUE 

And that attention is a personal thing, and you don’t benefit from that at all. And I guess I wonder if there’s a way for people to be compensated for paying attention to things.

GLEN WEYL 

I mean, so first of all, just to be clear, I’m a huge advocate of the notion that the value that’s currently being captured by large platforms rightfully belongs to the communities of people who are actually creating that value in some form. So I, I’m in complete agreement on that.

GLEN WEYL

That being said, um, I think many of the simplistic ways of formulating what you just said wouldn’t really get us away from the bad outcomes that we’re facing.

GLEN WEYL 

So, um, take the example of the social media platforms. I don’t think simply giving people a check in a undifferentiated way for their attention is going to get us past the polarization and so forth.

TY MONTAGUE 

Right.

GLEN WEYL 

But I do think that there are changes to the business model that really could get us past it. So like the, the product that Facebook’s claims to be selling is connection.

TY MONTAGUE 

Yes.

GLEN WEYL 

But connection and the social network and the graph, these are not things that are valuable to individuals. They’re things that are valuable to the society that those individuals together constitute. And of course, there’s no one society.

GLEN WEYL 

Like there’s churches and there’s nations and there’s local, you know, units. And all of these care about cohesion and dynamism within their communities. And at present these systems are accomplishing the opposite of that. They’re reinforcing divisions, and  if those organizations were, you know, to replace the advertisers as the customers of Facebook

TY MONTAGUE 

Yeah.

GLEN WEYL

And to pay for algorithms and curation that built community and solidarity,

TY MONTAGUE 

Yeah. That did what, what Facebook claims to be trying to do in the first place.

GLEN WEYL 

Well, yeah, and, and even if Facebook wanted to do it, it’s business model is misaligned with its mission and so it, it, it, it, it can’t accomplish its goals without changing how it thinks about its financing approach.

TY MONTAGUE 

Another concept that gets talked a lot about that’s sort of related, but, but I think different in some important ways, is the concept of digital identity or digital personhood that seems to be important in the space.

TY MONTAGUE 

And I’ve read that there are lots of competing, uh, views here and some riffs between various groups about the right way to handle digital identity or digital personhood. Is there a right way in, in your view?

GLEN WEYL 

So I’m a big believer in, uh, a theory that was put forward by a guy named Georg Simmel. He was one of the founders of sociology. And he had a, I think, very brilliant observation, which is that humans have throughout their entire history survived only to the extent that they’ve lived in groups.

GLEN WEYL 

And so actually what happens with modernity is not the rediscovery of individuality, but rather that society becomes more complex. So it used to be that you would worship and mate and work and eat all with the same people and they were your tribe. But as we get into more complex cities,

GLEN WEYL 

And in fact, all the terms around democracy are connected to the city. Citizen is someone who lives in a city, right? So the, the reason why this notion of an individual citizen emerges is because now all those different social functions separate out and you become an individual because you’re the unique intersection of those different social groups that you’re a part of.

TY MONTAGUE 

Hmm.

GLEN WEYL 

And I’m a big believer that systems of identity need to mirror that structure. The way that you preserve privacy and still allow all the functions of identity is by fragmenting the aspects of your identity, among the different things that constitute you in your life. 

GLEN WEYL 

And I, and I see data, uh, you know, identity being handled in my, in a very similar way. Like I, I’d love to see a future where rather than us having like one driver’s license that represent us, where we have many different digital tokens, one coming from our work, one coming from like a distributed, autonomous organization that we participate in, one coming from some political affiliation, and all of these together knowing various aspects of ourselves that we can present or reveal in appropriate social contexts.

TY MONTAGUE 

Right. And you sort of waved at this as you went by, but just for listeners, like the danger of a single identity, a single digital identity is security essentially. Is that right? Or,

GLEN WEYL 

I mean, security is one way of putting it.

TY MONTAGUE 

Or privacy?

GLEN WEYL 

Yeah, I mean, so there’s, there’s ways to express it differently. So from a security perspective, you’re very reliant in that case, on a single point of failure, whatever institution issues that thing, getting things right. And in fact, that’s the reason why if you go and interview for an NSA, uh, you know, job, you’re not, they’re not gonna care much about your passport.

GLEN WEYL

Like, they know that that doesn’t really work very well. They’re gonna go and look for all your different social relationships to figure out who you actually are, you know? Um, so, so like, yes, security, absolutely. But it’s also, it’s, it’s absurd that for so many different contexts in our lives, we’re presenting this one social security number that can link us across all this different contexts.

TY MONTAGUE 

Right. 

GLEN WEYL 

Of the times you give your social security a number of nothing to do with social security. And so by not planning explicitly for pluralistic identity systems, we end up with these totally inappropriate cross-cutting identity systems.

TY MONTAGUE 

Yeah. Very interesting. Um, I think this is related,

TY MONTAGUE 

You wrote a white paper about something called soul-bound tokens where you talk about them as a way of encoding trust into the system. Can you explain first of all what a soul-bound token is?

GLEN WEYL 

So Soul bone tokens are non-transferable, uh, NFTs. They’re. statements that are made by one digital, uh, signifier wallet about another. Um, and they can represent a sort of network of social relations.

GLEN WEYL  

But the potential of these is that it makes it much easier for a wide range of organizations, individuals, groups to issue credentials to each other, and therefore for you to have an intersecting set of, you know, credentials that together can constitute an identity in a context-specific way rather than having to rely on a singular institution to give you one thing that you use everywhere.

TY MONTAGUE 

So, a soulbound token might be the, the thing that I use to join one of the unions that you talk about.

GLEN WEYL 

Yeah. For example, like you, you might get one from your university, one from your employer, one from, uh, you know, if you’re a, maybe every podcast that you do, uh, we issue each other a soulbound token saying that we did it together. Right. And that’s like a CV. But it, unlike a CV, it’s not something that you have to send in a PDF and someone has to read and then maybe OCR and then verify whether it’s right.

GLEN WEYL 

There’s like, Cryptographic signature indicating that for every one of those things, the counterparty to that has said that they did this thing with you. So it’s inherently reliable. Um, and that can then be the basis of you getting admitted to all kinds of different things. It can be a reputation effectively that you can stake not a single dimensional reputation score, but a multidimensional representation of yourself that you can use as the foundation for accessing some, uh, social system.

TY MONTAGUE 

Ah, I see. So you have many of these. This isn’t a one thing that you, you have

GLEN WEYL 

Exactly.

TY MONTAGUE 

Alright, let’s, let’s, um, let’s pivot to the peril a a bit. Um, what, what do you see as the biggest threats the, to the potential of, of Web3 or, or distributed social technologies?

GLEN WEYL 

Well, so I think there’s a long-term ideological danger, and there’s a bunch of near-term harms that are being caused by the system.

GLEN WEYL  

There are groups of people such as Peter Theil, Balaji Srinivasan, this guy Mencius Moldbug, Curtis Yarvin, who view all these technologies as a way to undermine the authority, legitimacy, or even ability to collect tax revenue or enforce the laws of governments. And not, not just governments, but any social institution, a church, a, a union, a co-op.

GLEN WEYL 

They’re very openly hostile to all of those types of organizations. And they want to get to a world that liberates quote the individual unquote from those institutions and gives them self-sovereignty. Um, and they mean that like really seriously and literally. So sovereign individual imagines that there are literally a hundred million sovereigns, um, that have no accountability to any external, uh, social authority.

TY MONTAGUE 

Right.

GLEN WEYL 

And that is a, a terrifying possibility. And even if something like that isn’t actually empowered, it gives a cover, a tech sheen to, you know, everything from ISIS to the sorts of people who don’t pay their taxes because they say that the government’s ilegitimate. Et cetera. So that’s really scary. Um,

TY MONTAGUE 

Yes, it is.

GLEN WEYL 

Uh, and there are more modest versions of that that are already playing out. There are people who are in a self-sovereign way managing their own wallets and who are getting physically assaulted by people who get them to give them their keys, uh, or get hacked, uh, in a, you know, more subtle way.

GLEN WEYL 

There’s a, a variety of criminal activity that goes on, especially in the sort of more privacy oriented parts of this space. You know, some of the protocols, especially those that operate in proof of work, do a huge amount of environmental harm. And there’s an

TY MONTAGUE 

Bitcoin, for instance.

GLEN WEYL 

Yeah, there’s an enormous amount of financial speculation going on that’s creating a huge concentration of wealth and, uh, exacerbating problems for many vulnerable people. So these are really bad outcomes, uh, that are being facilitated by the space at the same time as it’s opening up experimentation with much better, uh, possible futures.

TY MONTAGUE 

Yeah. And it feels like the financialization aspect gets all of the press, right? Like that’s the thing that people focus on is, is the money. And I wanna pursue that for a minute because from the cheap seats, it, it seems to me that that venture capitalists are, have latched onto this idea of decentralization in a way that feels primarily like marketing to me, honestly.

TY MONTAGUE 

You know, we saw that happen the first time in the transition from web one to Web2, where it started as a very decentralized thing. There were a lot of people, you know, talking about the, the power of the internet and the power to distribute information, to democratize access to information, to empower individual people. And that all went away,

GLEN WEYL 

Let, let me nuance that a little bit because I actually

TY MONTAGUE 

Yeah, please do.

GLEN WEYL 

I think it’s a little bit too tough on the VC side. And the reason is that there’s a wonderful article by J. C. R. Licklider called Computers and Government in 1979. in which he said that the internet was meant for trusted transactions. It was meant for identity. It was meant for sharing of computational resources and that the protocols that had been built by the public and academic consortia covered just the bearest bones, proofs of concept of what he thought you needed to make the internet work.

Um, and that if we didn’t, if, if the, these multi-sectoral efforts didn’t invest to achieve those goals, that it would be colonized by monopolists.

So it, it, it was a choice. It was a political choice that was made not to invest, um, which got us to where we are more than it was the choice or ill intent of venture capitalists. They operated within a system where the only way that they could fund functionality was by raising money from private investors.

TY MONTAGUE 

Mm.

GLEN WEYL 

And I don’t think they were evil for having done that, but I do think that our society made the wrong choice by pursuing this neo-liberal path that made it inevitable that monopolies would own these critical parts of our social infrastructure.

TY MONTAGUE 

Well, I guess what I’m saying is what about the movie that we’re seeing now is different?

GLEN WEYL

I don’t think a lot is different in the US and in Taiwan it’s very different. It’s, it’s a bit distant. It’s a different cultural context, but it represents the best version of the potential of this space. Um, there’s a digital minister there named Audrey Tang, who’s the first transgender minister of a major country, if you consider Taiwan to be, and I know that’s a point of controversy.

And, uh, she was a leader of the occupying movement there.

And she’s built a participatory democratic platform for the country that a quarter of the population are monthly active users on, and really taken a chunk of the time that we waste hating each other on Twitter and funneled it into people solving real public problems. 

GLEN WEYL 

To me, that’s the most hopeful version. because the public and social sectors have made massive investments, um, and they’ve really done exactly what they should do. So, I don’t think the story’s playing out differently now, and I think that whatever the idealism of people in the Web3 space unless there’s serious engagement from the social and public sectors, you’ll just get a repetition of the same thing.

GLEN WEYL 

However, there is a hope that we can help governments help, uh, social movements understand that and, uh, do something different this time return to something closer to the model that built the original internet.

TY MONTAGUE 

Yeah. Well, that would be wonderful. Any chance of that happening more let’s say holistically in the US?

GLEN WEYL 

Well, I think you need cultural change to make the political change. And so we need to inspire people with visions of alternatives. And I think that to some extent the web3 spaces managing to do parts of that.But I think, you know, the stories like Audrey’s story are gonna be even more powerful. 

TY MONTAGUE 

So, let’s, let’s just talk about the future and, and any predictions that you have for the future of, of Web3 or these decentralized social technologies. Like, can you paint a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario just so people can understand the choice that we’re faced with.

GLEN WEYL 

Yeah, I mean, I think a best-case scenario, is that sort of all the liberal democracies get to roughly Taiwan’s level, which let’s say that that takes maybe 10 to 15% of the effort that we spend on social media doing stupid sort of division reinforcing things and moves that into people doing the online equivalent of participating in town halls, doing, you know, building projects together, solving real public problems, bridging divides.

GLEN WEYL 

Civic engagement just 10 to 15% of the time just that we’re spending on politics online, I think would be enough. and through that there’s also large investments made by the democratic world’s governments to build fundamental infrastructures around identity, data sharing, et cetera.

GLEN WEYL 

We start utilizing all the machines and data that are basically idle and siloed right now because we’re able to have, privacy-preserving protocols that let it be used and let people get value from it, um, without it being coopered up by, you know, some proprietary service. And that enables us to find way more effective ways to cheaper ways to solve climate problems.

GLEN WEYL 

It allows us to defeat pandemics like they did in Taiwan, where they had like only a couple dozen deaths and they grew at 5% throughout the pandemic and have less than 3% inflation. So we’re able to tackle problems as, as they’ve been able to tackle them because of all this distributed intelligence that we have people start building bridges unions and so forth, across lines of political division.

GLEN WEYL  

And that scrambles our political spectrum. And then, you know, new voting systems start to creep their way in that bridge divides and then help people reach consensus. And that reduces polarization. So I, I think those are all really plausible outcomes that we’ve seen played out in a real-world context.

GLEN WEYL 

I think, you know, the worst case is that the dreams of the sovereign individual types get realized, which is to say it becomes impossible. There, there becomes such strong cryptography in so many financial transactions that governments can’t see anything.

GLEN WEYL 

People can evade any taxes they want. Um, and that breaks down all public services. It breaks down, uh, the ability to do law enforcement, to pay for national defense, et cetera. And, um, the only people who are able to maintain those things are authoritarian regimes and extremely wealthy, uh, corporations or individuals.

Those organizations then gain all the ability to coordinate and concentrated power. Everything ends up running through those organizations. They end up in conflict with each other. Um, but there’s no one to adjudicate that conflict because all, you know, the UN is broken down and whatever, and so you end up with some kind of global scale conflict without limits on weapons.

TY MONTAGUE 

That that would suck. Let’s not do that.

GLEN WEYL 

Yeah.

TY MONTAGUE 

So, uh, Glen, last thing, and this is kind of an experiment. We tend to focus on individual companies or organizations on this show and really try to determine what is the delta between word and deed in this company or organization.

TY MONTAGUE 

And so we’ve created a scale called the BS Scale.

TY MONTAGUE 

It goes from zero to 100, zero being the best score, Zero Bs, zero delta between word indeed. And a hundred, a hundred percent bullshit. Um, if you were to give the Web3 diaspora a BS score right now, would you be willing to do that?

GLEN WEYL 

Yeah. So I’d say I’d say 50, 50%. But the, but the problem is that because Web3 means these opposite things, I think you could easily defend the answer of 0% or a hundred percent. Because, because, uh, you know, you’ve got a set of people who wants the space to be like wrecking all social institutions and you’ve got a part of the space that wants it to be about, um, creative new ways of coordination and re-imagining democracy.

GLEN WEYL 

And it’s kind of doing half of each of those things. And that’s because kind of half of the people are aiming for those things. So they’re all kind of doing a hundred percent of their missions. It’s just the missions are opposite to each other. Um,

TY MONTAGUE 

Yeah. A bunch of zero bullshitters all pulling in opposite directions, Right? Yeah. Yeah. That’s very interesting. Thank you for that answer. That was, uh, that was great and this is a great conversation, Glen. I really, I really appreciate you spending time. Yeah, thanks.

GLEN WEYL 

Absolutely.

TY MONTAGUE (VO) 

For Glen, Web3 isn’t about decentralization or even data sovereignty. 

It’s about the potential to make society better.

The promise of Web3 is really an opportunity to reimagine the whole system. As we enter a future more and more determined by the shape of the internet, do we want to maintain the status quo, or redefine our social tools and identities? Will we bring our old ideals with us into Web3? Or can we take the opportunity to reexamine our values and set up new systems that shape our interactions for the better. 

So which future will we choose? The one where everyone lives just for themselves and we descend into lawless chaos? Or the future where we use the internet as a tool to come together?

We’ve invited two additional experts, a Web3 convert and a Web3 critic to help parse this out. 

Right after the break.

SFX: Street noise, NYC brings us back to the street

Haley: Do you think it’s possible that, like, our data can be decentralized and taken away from people like Mark Zuckerberg?

Vin: I guess I have to think about, like, what the ramifications of the decentralized system would be.

Emma: I think it would be awesome

William: I’d like to believe it could be decentralized.

William: it’s a great dream to have. It feels almost kind of like an impossibility, especially sort of the way things are trending.

William: Just like you have these big sort of like internet conglomerates who are, you know, at the center of everything.

TY MONTAGUE 

Folks, I am very excited to introduce two experts who are going to help us continue to unpack both the promise and the peril of Web3. Our first guest is software engineer and notable crypto skeptic, Molly White. Molly, thanks for being here, and welcome to Calling Bullshit.

MOLLY WHITE 

Thanks for having me.

TY MONTAGUE 

So, Molly, could you tell us a little bit about your background, like how you got into software, and then maybe a little bit about the roots of your skepticism.

MOLLY WHITE 

Sure. Um, so I am a software engineer. and, you know, I’ve sort of been a computer geek my whole life. Recently, uh, started researching Web3 and cryptocurrency is a little bit more broadly. Um, last year I started a website called Web3 is going just great, which is a sort of sarcastic title, um, for a project that tracks all of the disasters that are happening in web3, but also in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industries more broadly.

TY MONTAGUE 

You must be busy these days,

MOLLY WHITE
I am very busy these days.

TY MONTAGUE 

Cool. More on that very soon. But first I need to introduce our second guest, Vlad Ginzburg, who is the founder and CEO of the NFT Platform Block Party. Vlad, welcome to the show.

VLAD GINZBURG 

Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here.

TY MONTAGUE 

So Vlad, can you tell us a little bit about your background, um, cuz I know you started out in the arts and then how you came to the Web3 space.

VLAD GINZBURG 

Sure. I did start out in the fine art industry, And, um, over time I became, I became familiar with, uh, blockchains and cryptocurrency, as there was an increasing amount of buzz about the potential for some of those technologies to disrupt the art market.

VLAD GINZBURG 

And the more I learned, the more, uh, I became excited about the possibilities and eventually made the switch to be full-time in the blockchain industry thinking about fine art instead of vice versa.

TY MONTAGUE 

So thank you both for being here again, and, and this episode just for benefit of listeners, is, is a little bit different than most of our episodes cuz it’s the first time that we’ve taken on, um, a sector or an industry rather than an individual company or organization. So usually at this point in the show, we would’ve called BS and we’d spend this whole panel looking at ways to fix that bs. And we do want to get into some of that today.

But I thought I would just start out by asking you both to give us your definition of the term web3, because it’s a little hard to get agreement on that term. So what does the term Web3 mean to you? 

VLAD GINZBURG 

So I would, I would define Web3 as permissionless digital ownership. I would also perhaps add the right to self-sovereignty on the web. So, uh,

TY MONTAGUE 

Talk about what you mean by that.

VLAD GINZBURG 

So I think disintermediating the, a third party, uh, between creator and the market around them is I think the big promise. Because oftentimes what we see in, well, let’s say Web2, right, is creators are putting out content, but the content that they’re putting out really lives in a third-party platform that is monetizing the content or otherwise taking a lot of ownership over it, and the creators aren’t self Yes, that would be, that would be a good way of putting it. And it, it doesn’t seem that the creator is self-sovereign in this natively digital space.

TY MONTAGUE 

And by self-sovereign you mean essentially their own freestanding entity, right? With no, no intermediaries between you and the market. Okay. Molly, I wanna, I wanna pivot to you and ask you next, how do you define the term Web3?

MOLLY WHITE 

I think the most important thing to understand is that Web3 is a marketing term more than anything. So, uh, it has been a pretty successful, I would say, marketing campaign to sort of rebrand crypto after, uh, sort of some boom and bust cycles made people a little bit more wary of crypto as a concept.

MOLLY WHITE 

And so by redefining it to be something that sounds like it will be the future of the web, a lot of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists and other folks have been able to get people to buy in, like quite literally buy into this idea of Web3. If I find myself needing to sort of draw a boundary around what is and is not Web3, you know, if I’m looking at an individual project, typically I look for, is it sort of a web project?

MOLLY WHITE 

So something beyond just like a cryptocurrency token. Does it have some sort of social community on the web or is it trying to use blockchain for something like data storage beyond just transactions? And is there a blockchain involved? So, Web3 is pretty much inseparable from the idea of blockchains and although a lot of people, uh, working on Web3 will use much broader terminology like decentralization and self-sovereignty, they’re typically referring to blockchains with that.

MOLLY WHITE 

The idea of decentralization and cell sovereignty on the web are nothing new. Uh, and certainly not, anything exclusive to this idea of web3. Um, but they are terms that are coming up a lot in those conversations.

TY MONTAGUE 

Yeah. are there positive aspects that you see to it or are you completely, are you essentially a rejector of the entire premise?

MOLLY WHITE 

I think that the most positive aspects of Web3 and you know, just crypto and blockchains more broadly, is that they have brought attention to issues in the web that I think are really important. You know, the idea, for example, of large tech companies really monopolizing how the web operates today is a very serious issue, I think in the web.

MOLLY WHITE 

And it’s one that a lot of people who are working in web3 are also talking about. So I think there’s some really shared goals there between myself and other sort of web advocates and people who are working on Web3. But I also think that the idea that blockchains will somehow form the foundation of a solution to these problems, uh, is pretty overblown.

MOLLY WHITE 

I think a lot of the issues with the web really come down to societal and policy issues beyond just the technical ones and, uh, you know it’s pretty much impossible to apply a purely technical solution to societal and policy problems. Um, and I think that there are some serious negative externalities when it comes to crypto blockchains Web3 that are extremely detrimental to where the web should be going.

VLAD GINZBURG 

Yeah, I actually find some of the most evangelical folks about Web3 end up agreeing more often than not about some of the problems of the externalities that come up.

TY MONTAGUE 

Right.

VLAD GINZBURG 

Oftentimes I will find myself thinking about, um, well maybe we’re at really web 2.5 because so much of what Web3 requires is really just Web2 plus some things like blockchains and NFTs and technologies that are really interesting but still very much under development.

TY MONTAGUE 

Just following on your, your point about Web 2.5, I guess the question that caused me to really want to do this episode is, you know, you hear, um, the, the, the definitions around this space as being about decentralization, about self-sovereignty.

TY MONTAGUE 

The phrase I used that I’ve picked up to build a more humane, egalitarian, decentralized internet where every individual has complete custody of their data, Stuff like that, right? You hear the promise of that. And then I’m watching money flow in and venture capitalists start to invest a ton of money.

TY MONTAGUE 

And that’s exactly what happened in the transition between web one and Web2. Right, Like Web one was sort of the Wild West, very, uh, Democratic, very egalitarian. I mean, I guess to, to the extent that you had access to the technology to connect yourself to the web. And then it became centralized, right?

TY MONTAGUE 

The venture capitalist rolled in. They started making investments and, and entrepreneurs built these giant platforms, which now, as you said, Vlad, tax people on the way through, right? On both sides, in some cases, one side of the equation on, in, in some cases, both sides. What is going to prevent that same thing happening with Web3?

VLAD GINZBURG 

I agree with you that when you, when you look around the, let’s say Web3 industry and you see so much of the same investment dollars that supported Web2 supporting large platforms in Web3, well, you’re still kind of doing the same thing.

VLAD GINZBURG 

You know, you’re, you’re waving this banner of self-sovereignty. You’re waving this banner of decentralization, but some of the biggest platforms in Web3, you’re still using their servers. You’re still very much on their platform.

VLAD GINZBURG 

And so I think it’s a little bit more effective to see the, the potential of Web3 less as Web2 versus web. And a little more as well, Web2, other than social, was also really where e-commerce exploded.

VLAD GINZBURG

And with Web3, it’s a place where NFT commerce is exploding. And we’re able to tell creators you can build your own commerce around yourself. Now, that’s not really happening on some of the bigger platforms, but you can see the promise with the folks that are buying into the possibilities.

TY MONTAGUE 

Molly, any thoughts on that?

MOLLY WHITE 

I have a lot of thoughts on that. Um, I think the comment about venture capitalists, uh, sort of supporting this move into Web3 is a really important one to focus on. A lot of the talk around the potential of Web3 and the decentralization, the return of ownership of data, you know, from these huge tech companies into the hands of the users, the move away from giant tech monopolies, the same talking points are being used by venture capitalists who have supported these technologies that really landed us in the Web2 era. 

MOLLY WHITE 

And it’s pretty wild people taking at face value, these claims by enormous venture capital firms, that they will somehow be acting out of sort of the good of the broader web users rather than, uh, in the efforts of enriching themselves, which is what venture capitalists are paid to do.

MOLLY WHITE 

I mean, they are paid to make money, right? In addition to that, I think it’s also really important to look at, um, The, the claims about how Web3 is somehow empowering creators in a way that they have previously been unable to experience in Web2. There’s not an issue in Web2 with creators not being able to host their own work, uh, receive payment for their work. You know, solicit income from their fans. This is all possible in Web2.

MOLLY WHITE 

The requirement, I guess, for creators to use huge platforms, you know, the, the Spotifys of the world and things like that to reach their fan bases, um, is largely because of the sort of monopolization of attention that happens in Web2, where it’s really hard to just like start up your own standalone website as a musician and actually reach people.

MOLLY WHITE 

You, you’re sort of beholden to these platforms. What Web3 is doing is really creating new ways of, um, you know, artists to distribute their work, but the distribution of their work is not the problem. You know, we’ve had that solution in this sort of Web2 world, and now if they wanted to do it using NFTs or a blockchain, they can do that too.

MOLLY WHITE 

But it’s nothing particularly new. And the issue that has been holding back creators in Web2 still very much exists in Web3, and we’re seeing it play out all over again with massive platforms like Open Sea, as an NFT platform and other various sort of gatekeepers, really monopolizing the ability of creators to actually reach people.

MOLLY WHITE 

And as you might expect you look at open sea and you look at its venture capital funding and you see some really familiar names. You see Andreasen Horowitz who has backed Facebook and Instagram and all of these major platforms that have monopolized attention in Web2, and they’re suddenly decrying those same platforms in the hopes of getting people to believe that they’re now not doing the exact same thing all over.

TY MONTAGUE 

Vlad, I’d, I’d love to hear your take on that, you know, given what you’re up to at block party.

VLAD GINZBURG 

Absolutely. And, and, and again, this is where I see myself oftentimes agreeing on some foundational pieces with skeptics

TY MONTAGUE 

Yeah.

VLAD GINZBURG 

And encouraging folks to maybe reject things like open sea because they are extrapolating things like the attention economy of from Web2 into what we’re trying to build in Web3, which is a creator economy.

VLAD GINZBURG 

Let’s look at the hot issue right now. Uh, today as we record creator royalties are the big burning topic in the, in the Web3 space. Uh, to give a little bit of context to that, uh, one of the things that smart contracts and the blockchain can offer the creator is a royalty structure, uh, on subsequent transactions that you are not trusting a third party to divvy up your royalty back to the back, to the original creator.

VLAD GINZBURG 

But you’re simply asking some code to do that. That’s the idea of permissionless of trustless. You don’t have to trust a smart contract, you just kind of have to program it to do something. Somebody like me, as much as I evangelize the space, might call bullshit on certain platforms. I include open sea in this. Sure they pay out royalties to creators, but they pay out royalties on their servers. It’s still their internal garden doing the calculation, paying it out.

VLAD GINZBURG 

And now we we’re looking at the last 12 months where crypto’s taken a backslide and every company is looking for more revenue. So marketplaces, uh, including now there’s some push and pull at open sea, but a lot of marketplaces are saying, we’re gonna kill the royalty because we don’t wanna lose 5% of the revenue of a, of a transaction.

VLAD GINZBURG We wanna keep that 5%. so creators are raising their hands and saying, Well, wait a minute. That was the whole, that was one of the, that was one of the key features of us…

TY MONTAGUE 

Yeah. What, What are we doing here?

VLAD GINZBURG 

And so what you’re seeing now is these creators that were sold this promise, they’re asking themselves, Well, wait is Web3 bullshit? Or are certain companies in Web3 bullshit?

TY MONTAGUE 

Right. It’s not necessarily the entire space, it’s individual. Players within that space that are creating the issue. Molly, uh, what’s your take on on that?

MOLLY WHITE 

I think it’s possible for both things to be true. Um, you know, that the space itself has inherent flaws and that these centralized platforms and, you know, major players are particularly bad. But one thing that I sort of notice when we’re talking about, you know, decentralizing NFT platforms is what I mentioned earlier, which is that the issue is really not with the distribution or the payment rails when it comes to, uh, creators monetizing their work.

MOLLY WHITE 

What is difficult is getting people to actually find my work. You know, if I don’t already have a following somehow, usually built through these large platforms, then telling someone to, Hey, come see my website, you know, and download my music. It’s impossible to get out there in any sort of substantial way. You’re really relying on social media, um, you know, music distribution platforms to get in front of people.

MOLLY WHITE 

And that same problem exists on Web3 And you also have the same distribution problem. it is a different technology. So if you particularly like blockchains and you wanna create an NFT out of your song, that’s an option to you, but it is not particularly revolutionary.

VLAD GINZBURG 

That’s actually somewhere where I would jump in now as somebody that really believes in this stuff and I feel much more comfortable given my background, um, talking about visual artists, and I don’t disagree at all that it’s been possible to sell natively digital art prior to blockchains. That said, I’ve, I’ve spent time in the art industry and I’ve seen really wonderful works by the names that you’ve heard of, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol.

VLAD GINZBURG 

These artists were around in the early days of the computer and they did create digital artwork. But it’s really tough to sell it.

TY MONTAGUE 

Hmm.

VLAD GINZBURG 

It’s really tough to create a collect, um, a culture of collector ship around it. And while, um, web one and Web2 have given creators the tools to publish natively digital art on the internet and distribute it and disseminate it, never until Web3 has a culture of collector ship been able to grow organically around the idea of digital art.

VLAD GINZBURG 

And we get to a place now where we’re telling photographers and digital artists, you don’t need to step outside of a medium to sell your work. You can exist on your own. And we come back to this idea of, well, now we’re starting to see companies like Manifold companies, like I hope Block Party to tell creators, Hey, it’s actually really easy to manage your own smart contract and set your own fee structure and set your own royalty structure.

So the successful musicians that we speak with in, in, um, in the Web3 space are ones that are successfully building communities.

VLAD GINZBURG 

They are thinking about their NFTs less as songs and more about, I have put a token that I originated into your wallet and now I’m able to see every wallet that has one of my tokens and I can now tell those wallets, Come join me on, on this platform where you can communicate, come, um, you can have access to things that I’m creating digitally. Uh, as I create them, I can airdrop you things and you are building this network around yourself. So I’ve seen musicians do this, uh, do this quite successfully.

MOLLY WHITE 

I think that’s also not particularly unique to Web3. I mean, creators have been creating communities like that for a very long time. You can look at, I mean, I follow a bunch of people, for example, on Patreon who I support because I love their work. There’s the same benefits that, uh, are being described in Web3. And there’s nothing that Patreon is really doing that I can’t actually just do myself if I want to, that is possible in the same way that it would be possible for me to go write a smart contract to do a lot of the same things, and it requires very similar sort of levels of effort as well, I think.

TY MONTAGUE 

Can I, can I make an observation maybe to both of you and have you call bullshit on me? But one of the things that I’m sitting here thinking about is maybe like, one of the things is we’ve trained people to do the easy thing it’s super easy for them to find music and then download it and listen to it. It’s very easy for me to get on Amazon and find a thing that I want. And at some level aren’t we also, or don’t we need to ask consumers like regular people, people who buy things, to actually start pushing back on this idea of convenience? Um, because it’s that that notion of making it easy is sort of the ultimate engine behind these giant platforms, right?

MOLLY WHITE 

I think that’s really true and I think that there is a lot of value in pushing consumers to be conscious of the ramifications of their decisions. So I think there is a strong argument to be made to, you know, like, let’s make a shift back to the indie web and not necessarily consume all our content. Facebook and Twitter and all that. I think there is, um, but I also think we need to be a little bit realistic about the ability of the average person to engage and devote that amount of time, um, to doing things like that. and I think we need to be realistic about the circumstances that are leading people to have to take the quickest option, the cheapest option, even when, you know, when presented with the ethical choice, they might go in a different direction.

MOLLY WHITE 

I think enabling people to have more flexibility to make the right decision rather than the cheapest or the quickest would be useful.

TY MONTAGUE 

Vlad, any, uh, any thoughts on that?

VLAD GINZBURG 

Yeah, some of the promise of Web3 that is legitimate to me and very exciting to me is a very human push and pull between, let’s all get together in one place, and then let’s all split off into our own tribes. And the success I think of Facebook and things like MySpace, eventually Instagram, Twitter, are this very human drive to have all of these tribes get together in one place, and I think that has sort of metastasized into some really problematic stuff that happens on Facebook, that happens on these giant monolith places. And so when we think about Web3 as a rejection of all of this, it’s these tribes breaking away and saying we don’t wanna be part of the monolith.

VLAD GINZBURG 

And now we go over to what, what’s happening right now and some of the creators and communities that are building tribes around themselves, and they’re being given these decentralized finance tools to do it.

VLAD GINZBURG  

I don’t think we’re there yet. I still think that we have years of work to do before, uh, it’s easy enough to use and attractive enough to use, but it’s not gonna be right now, it’s certainly not easy for the legitimate purposes of Web3. And that’s why I say we’re probably years away from Web3 and that we’re in Web2 and a half right now. Because a lot of the value this can bring for creators is very much in R and D and we’re still struggling with the consumer that has a really hard time onboarding into how to buy these things.

VLAD GINZBURG 

And it’s really unfortunate to me, and where I will very much call bullshit on my own industry is it’s hard to work on this stuff. It is difficult to navigate, um, the regulation of onboarding and getting people into cryptocurrency and out of cryptocurrency. It’s very hard to get the consumer to participate in a way that is meaningful.

VLAD GINZBURG 

But there are folks working on it. It’s far easier to put a JPEG on a token, put it on open sea, and say, this is like, I I personally am not a huge fan of, let’s say, bored ape yacht club where everybody has an NFT and that means we’re gonna throw concerts and we’re gonna open up like an exclusive it take, uh, club in, in London and all this other stuff.

VLAD GINZBURG 

I mean, it’s fine, but that’s the kind of stuff that you really don’t need a blockchain for and you really don’t need smart contracts for. But it’s easy because if you market it right and you hype it correctly, then people get excited about it. 

MOLLY WHITE 

There’s sort of this interesting dichotomy in Web3 where you simultaneously have advocates for it, saying You’ve gotta get in now, you gotta get in early. You know, you gotta be in the forefront of this new thing. And then you also have people saying it’s too early. You know, it’s not revolutionary yet, but it will be.

MOLLY WHITE 

The conversation changes every time. You know, it’s like, so should we be using your products if it’s not ready yet? Should we be giving you money? Should we be supporting this industry? It’s kind of all over the place. You know, people will say, Yeah, there are flaws. And at the same, you know, on the, on the other hand, those same people are saying, Come buy my token.

MOLLY WHITE 

Come use my project. And so it’s. It’s tough cuz I think the goal posts sort of move constantly. If a technology is so, so nascent and it is so flawed that the average person can’t responsibly or safely engage with it, it’s  not ethical to be promoting it as something that people need to be adopting that they should be engaging with.

MOLLY WHITE 

You know, I think that uh, if you’re designing a car that crashes 99% of the time, you probably shouldn’t be telling people to strap in and go for a drive.

TY MONTAGUE 

Hmm. Um, Molly, I understand your point, right? If a thing isn’t ready, why are you asking people to use it? But I would observe also that that is seemingly. Um, true of the software industry in general, right? That is an, that is a thing that, that Silicon Valley has spent a lot of time training all of us on, is you’re using, uh, an imperfect thing.

TY MONTAGUE 

So you look at like the, the issue with self-driving in cars, right? Like, I own a Tesla, I have full self-driving capability. I will tell you, uh, it, it is absolutely not self-driving and I absolutely would not use it that way, but I do use it. and so should they not sell Teslas until it’s perfect and ready? Or is it okay to go, you know, you’re taking some risk by, by trying this out, you’re a test pilot and if you accept that responsibility, get in there and go for it, you know? Question.

MOLLY WHITE 

Yeah, no, I think it’s a great question and I think generally speaking, software and actually many industries have a serious problem with ethics and the the acceptability of doing that. I actually don’t think it’s acceptable for Tesla to go, yeah, you might kill yourself or somebody else with this, but go for it.

MOLLY WHITE 

You know, you’ve accepted the risk that you’re taking other people’s lives into your hands. The same thing I think is true with Web3 and crypto, where people are saying it’s early. There might be bugs you might lose everything you put into it. So I think that there is an ethical problem and that we as a society need to push back on the idea of software engineers just pushing forward, saying move fast and break things.

MOLLY WHITE 

But it’s so easy, I think, when you are so removed from your user base to say, Oh, you gotta break a few plates. You gotta run over a few people with your Tesla. You gotta bankrupt a few people, completely wipe out their savings. It’s you. I think it’s really critical that the software engineer says, No, we can’t just accept that we’re gonna break a few plates.

MOLLY WHITE 

We need to be very responsible and thoughtful about not only what we’re building, but how we’re marketing it, how we’re selling it, who we’re selling it to, what we’re telling them they can do with it, and what it will bring to the world and what the risks are, what they’re signing up for, and how they’re protected, or if they’re protected at all from catastrophic failure. And none of that is happening in the crypto industry. And I think that is really, really critical to pay attention to and push back on.

TY MONTAGUE 

Vlad, any, any thoughts on that?

VLAD GINZBURG 

Sure. Um, I’m still going to be very mindful of separating out crypto trading culture, which is not necessarily unique to Blockchains or Web3 and the, the very idea of speculatively Wild Westing. I think that’s a feature of Web3 and a feature of blockchain, but I still struggle to see that as the main thing.

TY MONTAGUE 

I’d love for you both to make some brief predictions about the future of Web3. Paint a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario for me. Molly, why don’t we start with you.

MOLLY WHITE 

Well, I think the best case scenario is that people, uh, redefine the term a little bit. You know, what is the web going to evolve into? I think that there’s a lot of potential there to fix some of the very serious problems that exist on the web and to move towards a more, you know, community-driven platform, which is not so, uh,you know, hyper-optimized for advertisements and engagement at the expense of everything else.

MOLLY WHITE 

I worry that people will really internalize this definition, that Web3, the next generation of the web is going to be crypto and that, you know, blockchains and everything else without, you know, actually examining whether or not that is true or should be true. And so I think in the worst-case scenario, people really stick to their guns on blockchains, crypto, et cetera.

MOLLY WHITE 

And we see what is already playing out with large venture capital firms, capturing a lot of the market, and really quite successfully separating people from their money with promises of getting wealthy overnight, escaping tough financial situations, being on the forefront of the future of the web. I think that is the worst-case scenario, that this really does continue to play out and that people get harmed even more than they already have, which is a substantial amount.

TY MONTAGUE 

Mm-hmm. Thank you for that, Molly. Uh, Vlad, best and worst.

VLAD GINZBURG 

I’ll start with worst case. Uh, worst case is that Web3 falls into the habit of Web2, So I, I call Web2 the golden age with a consumer of content. All the world’s content is available to us at our fingertips at a low price, easily searchable, and it’s been nothing short of truly a renaissance for the consumer of culture.

VLAD GINZBURG 

Web3 fails if it falls at the worst-case scenario of proliferating the idea that we to continue the golden age for the consumer. The best-case scenario for Web3 is that it brings about a golden age for the creator, particularly the natively digital creator of content. The best case scenario for Web3 is that the creators of content can own their creation, own their copyright, own their commerce, and be able to do so without requiring a third party to facilitate it for them.

TY MONTAGUE

Great. Thank you, Vlad. Okay, last question. We have a tool on Calling Bullshit called the BS Scale. It goes from zero to a hundred. Zero is the best score, zero Bs, and a hundred is the worst total bs. What score would you give Web3 today? Vlad? You go first.

VLAD GINZBURG 

To assign an overarching score for an entire industry has actually made this entire podcast and conversation quite challenging because we’re trying to loop into so many different players, uh, good and bad. uh, so to put the score on the industry, Uh, I’m gonna say 20

TY MONTAGUE 

Molly.

MOLLY WHITE 

I would give it a solid 99. Um, and I think some people might be surprised that I might not give it a hundred.

TY MONTAGUE 

There’s some hope there, Molly, at least in the

MOLLY WHITE 

It’s hope. I think that people will really continue to follow the goals of Web3 without being chained to the technology. Um, but I remain fairly optimistic that Web3 will end up being defined quite differently from how it has been defined in the past couple years by the marketing minds behind a lot of the crypto and blockchain projects.

TY MONTAGUE 

Okay. This was an absolutely awesome conversation. I want to thank you both so much for participating in it. I totally enjoyed it. I learned a ton. And, um, thank you for the time today.

MOLLY WHITE 

Thanks for having me.

VLAD GINZBURG 

Thank you so much, Ty.

TY MONTAGUE (VO) 

Alright folks, it’s time to make the call. How much BS is there in the Web3 space? 

This is the first time we’ve looked at an entire sector on the show. And I knew it would be complicated, but I had no idea just how contested and nascent this space is. Not to mention all of the technical language. 

TY MONTAGUE (VO) 

It’s also the first time we’ve received such widely divergent BS scores. To recap, Molly gave a 99, Glen a 50, and Vlad a 20. 

There are so many places our guests disagree, and places their views intersect so, I’m going to paint a verbal Venn diagram to recap: 

Molly and Glen agree that the internet could have a bright future and that future isn’t necessarily tied to the blockchain. For instance, Glen mentioned Taiwan’s digital tools are actually tools built without blockchain technology. 

Molly and Vlad however, both agree that Web3 implies a blockchain. Vlad believes that blockchains can help create the ultimate direct-to-consumer platform. Molly doesn’t think the blockchain is solving any problems and is probably creating more trouble than it’s actually worth. 

And Vlad and Glenn agree that VCs aren’t necessarily the only enemy here – bad actors take many forms.

TY MONTAGUE (VO) 

But everyone agrees that this is a tough topic to dissect, and that to some extent VCs are working to consolidate power in a sector they are advertising as decentralized. 

So, this is a tough one to call. I’m going to give it a 50. I think the fair answer here is that we have multiple factions working their butts off to produce totally divergent versions of web3. And the outcome is far from clear at the moment.  If the VC’s manage to create a centralized version of web3 where our data is plundered for the benefit of a wealthy few, that’s bad and the score goes way up.  If the anarcho-capitalists win and all our social institutions and governments get erased I think that’s very bad too. But if Glenn and some of the other optimists win out and we use Web3 to enact some of the original promise of Web1 and create a better functioning and more egalitarian society, well… that would be great and that score would drop way way down. So let’s all agree to keep an eye on the space and revisit it in the future.

TY MONTAGUE (VO) 

I am so grateful to have such amazing guests joining me for this one. 

I want to thank Glen Weyl, Molly White, and Vlad Ginzburg for taking the time to speak with me for the show. I highly recommend checking out more of their work – to learn more about them, check out the links in our show notes. 

And if this episode monopolized your attention, subscribe to the Calling Bullshit podcast on the iHeart Radio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to people speak into your ears. Please take a minute to rate us and let us know what you think of the show, more reviews help more people find us.

Thanks to our production team. Hannah Beal, Amanda Ginsburg, DS Moss, Haley Paskalides, and Parker Silzer. 

Calling Bullshit was created by Co Collective and it’s hosted by me, Ty Montague. Thanks for listening.

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