Why I am optimistic again

Jon Gold
0x88D0
May 12th, 2021

When I became disenchanted with technology in the spring of 2018, it shattered the mythology that I had spent my 20s immersed in.

Technology was extremely meaningful to me: a curious & super-powered primitive to allow us to explore the depths of the collective unconscious by skillfully interfacing human & machine. And yet I found myself in San Francisco: supposedly the global center of innovation, caught day-to-day in the mundanity of a large corporation & doing anything but inventing.

Looking around, the picture was bleak: at some point between 2011 and 2017 it felt like every exciting & scrappy early-stage startup in the Bay Area became subsumed by a corporate surveillance-technology company: every bright-eyed inventor I knew eventually spending 3 hours/day on a shuttle bus to be sad in meetings at a suburban office park.

In the world capital of invention the only things that I could see being invented were new ways to prey on attention, spread misinformation, and boost arbitrary engagement metrics for products that didn’t need to exist in the world. Technology, from my perspective, was making the world a worse place.

I was at the peak of my career as a designer and technologist, and yet I was resigned to think that the future of the technology industry had been stolen by a handful of predatory corporations. Looking around at hundreds of talented & burnt out friends around the industry, it was was hard to imagine anything changing.

In that resignation, I gave up my agency as a technologist. I got up from my seat at the table, and retreated to my own physical & intellectual Walden Ponds. In lieu of any available action that matched my values, I chose to withdraw from any action at all.

Here’s the thing: the technology industry is still important to me. I still believe that properly harnessing technology is the key to our future as a civilization. I still believe that it has the power to transform us: personally & communally.

With the explosion of energy & attention into this current crypto cycle, there is once against spaciousness to imagine futures divergent from the myopic dreams of the Attention Economy. It is open, and yet it is not a certainty.

Crypto is a non-specific amplifier: it has the potential to create a hypercapitalist libertarian nightmare, or a mutually-beneficial interdependent utopia. One thing I do know is that the only way we can influence which outcome we get is by radically participating in its creation.

This time, the stakes of sitting on the sidelines are too high: the imagined darkest possible timeline a certainty only with our inaction. The call to adventure for every burnt out technologist is, therefore, not to surrender to the mundanity of the Silicon Valley of the past or the imagined outcomes of the future, but to bring our full attention to co-creating meaningful and human-centric digital environments that we can be proud of.

My pessimism is radically giving way to unwavering optimism: the energy of the past few days, weeks & months in crypto-powered utopian technology is shining a pure light on a path forward that we can be proud of walking together.

Will you join us?


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