Reading Into The Blockchain Wars

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Evan McFarland remembers when he first heard about crypto and blockchain. It was during the 2017 financial bubble while in college. He recalls:

“some fellow sitting next to me in a physics class said he made $800 during the 45-minute lecture. So I started asking questions. That was my intro to Bitcoin, but I moved past an interest in trading very quickly.”

McFarland says he was an undergraduate sophomore studying facilities engineering with a specialization in steam systems. 

“What I was really learning though was that my so-called ‘educators’ were failures in the industry, teaching about dying technology through authority afforded to them by the most mismanaged organization I’d ever seen.”

He says that it felt as though the college administration was incessantly committed to wasting the time and money of their students. Yet he was advised by everyone he could think of that sticking to that path was important nonetheless. 

“Blockchain technology struck such a chord because of its promise to decentralize organizations like this, or at least sprinkle elements of fiscal and organizational transparency into them. I couldn’t keep the light bulbs from going off about how my college administration and similar organizations would be made radically more efficient and honest through integration with blockchain systems.”

For the remainder of his college days, McFarland focused exclusively on blockchain, so obsessively, he says, that he would wear earplugs to block out class lectures and read more crypto whitepapers.

McFarland admitted to me that he hadn’t shared this origin story publicly before but in doing so hopes it will help people understand why crypto is jam-packed with some pretty rebellious folks. He believes this is due to the fact that in one way or another they’ve been screwed by traditional systems that they now want to improve. 

“To this day I owe my college a debt of gratitude for galvanizing my contrarian roots, and that’s why my book is solely dedicated to my alma mater.”

Today McFarland is the author of "Blockchain Wars: The Future of Big Tech Monopolies and the Blockchain Internet" where he brings his erudite nature to the blockchain landscape in the hopes of helping tech entrepreneurs, business owners, government leaders, cryptocurrency investors, and other industry professionals fit together the separate pieces of a widely-dispersed technological puzzle. Once solved, he says, it will help us improve our daily lives as well as the trajectory of modern technologies. 

Deploying a mix of hard science and bold speculation, Blockchain Wars is the definitive guide to blockchain technology and the new frontiers of today’s rapidly evolving digital economy. 

Web3’s structure; the future of privacy; digital governance; decentralized autonomous organizations; blockchain identities; financial infrastructure; IoT supply chains; organizational transparency are among the many themes explored.

In an interview with Gokhshtein Media, McFarland was asked what a typical day looks like for him as one of the world’s emerging thought leaders in the blockchain space. He responded:

“Well, I work at a lot of startups where I’m most useful in the earliest stages.  So by happenstance, I tend to switch roles every few months. The work is a little bit of everything, researching, writing, programming, advisory. They’re startups. So whatever needs to be done.” 

He also co-founded and works actively with BTC Flower, a fun NFT project and to-be DAO by the French artist Ludo.

“It’s a really interesting experiment there as we mix game theory tactics with principles of openness/decentralization in some very novel ways. My main job though is with a huge traditional tech company that’s working to create a DAO, where my specialization is tokenomics design.” 

He refers to the latter as a fascinating experiment and possibly the first example of re-applying incumbent methodology to the startup world of crypto. 

“So I get to watch the main question of my book play out in real-time as a legacy tech company tries to take on a Big Tech company, by acting like a crypto startup (spoiler alert: It’s not going that well).” 

As for lifestyle pursuits, his main goal right now is to move out of NYC and open a greenhouse-style cafe somewhere warm and quiet where he can grow amazonian plants and serve herbal teas. Once that is in full motion, he says that he will set his sights on Big Pharma, combining his love of decentralized governance and plant medicines.

Asked about what prompted him to write Blockchain Wars, he chuckles and responds:

“Okay, time for another origin story. While I was first learning about blockchain I had zero idea how to separate fiction from reality because credentials bear no weight in the crypto sphere. It seems like everyone who is talking about a future has little to no basis in history.” 

McFarland admits that it’s still so hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. He says that while in a college class he wrote out a list of ideas/questions he'd have to sort out to get to any sort of bottom. 

“I knew there were no existing answers, so I realized and decided right then and there that those ideas were to be made into book chapters. A few months later I was out at sea as part of my studies and during a deep meditative period out on the mid-Atlantic, the whole arc of the book hit me as no idea had before.” 

Continuing on this same narrative, the truth about blockchain’s future adds McFarland, lies in the middle ground of what the Big Tech people and the cypherpunk people say about it. 

“It sounds obvious until you notice that neither party ever acknowledges the other because their visions for the future are mutually exclusive. When breaking down chapters into subcategories viewed through this lens, the questions slowly but surely became answerable.” 

It is here, he says, that the book defies publishing advice and doesn’t have a target audience. Rather, it just tries to answer a question. 

In terms of feedback so far, he says it’s well-received by (1) really ambitious tech/startup people that know they want to work in Web3 but are not sure in what capacity and (2) tech professionals that can’t figure out how to get out from under the thumb of a Big Tech company in a given domain.

On the flip side, he admits that the book has been rather poorly received by crypto tourists, speculators, and legacy finance folks that just want exposure to crypto and guidelines for making good plays. 

“My goal for the book and the feedback I've received suggests it stayed true to this, is to offer a sampler describing the major industries/domains blockchain stands to disrupt, and loosely weave together the big picture without imposing a particular interpretation.” 

In an ideal scenario, says McFarland, readers will resonate with one industry/domain application that makes them tick. And in combination with the generalist perspective of where that fits into the whole book, they’ll already know how to pursue solutions in that niche area.

With respect to some of the more common misconceptions about blockchain, McFarland this interesting take.

“Oh geez. How to answer this one. Just about everything said about blockchain is a misconception, and I think that’s okay. The book's first chapter is loosely dedicated to explaining how the word blockchain means nothing and explains “Web3” as a better proxy for the crypto sphere umbrella term.”

He continues with this stream of thought:  

"The way I do it I guess is by learning about how blockchain infrastructures work, how things are built from them, and then reason up from there as to how to build things using a given infrastructure. Doing this backward, like reading articles about the future of infrastructures, NFTs, social media, or whatever, is just noise.” 

McFarland adds that since most of us don’t have time to learn from the bottom up, another helpful misconception to point out is that you need to understand “blockchain” to be involved in the industry. 

“Blockchain-specific knowledge is becoming more specialized, and necessary for a smaller percentage of the cryptosphere’s participants. What’s scarce in blockchain startups is clear-thinking doers, with a background in whatever industry.” 

He says that he can’t wait for the day people start applying to jobs with degrees in blockchain because the good startups are just going to laugh at them. 

With this, McFarland offers a does of advice: 

“If you want to learn to weed through blockchain’s misconceptions, find a subcategory of it that you’re interested in, and figure out how to provide value there in a way that matches your temperament, for free if necessary, and you’ll learn.”

Asked about what 3-4 blockchain trends he predicts will see a breakout in the next 12-18 months, McFarland punted a bit. 

“I don’t really follow trends much but I’ll give this my best shot. The leveraging of token economics is probably the biggest immediate-term paradigm shift I’m seeing. We are seeing radical economic experimentation in everything from global fiscal policy to the largest capital markets. All this uncertainty around illiquid and over-leveraged assets in the traditional space has made it acceptable, even legitimate to do the same to a more extreme degree in crypto, which means any team that can raise a little capital and doesn’t get greedy can create 10X more illiquid value in tokens, that then can be distributed to their community to bootstrap and enormous user base.”

He asserts that traditional tech is realizing this and that the activation energy to get network effects is going to be done in this way, with subsidized governance token models. 

“It’s an offering Big Tech could never adapt to, and as a result provides  a practical route to poaching their users in decentralized alternatives.”

McFarland then offered another trend to keep an eye on, namely, NFTs in metaverses and gaming in general. 

“All the gigabrains are on this, trying to manifest everything we interact with on-screen into NFTs.  High-performance games on-chain are pretty much here.” 

He continues:

“I think this will materialize first in metaverses but it’s a terrible time to make a play in this area, as the standards that will combine NFT’s, metaverses, and play-to-earn games are impossibly complex and uncertain. And honestly, it’s a fool's errand trying to predict the winners.  That’s more than a 12-18 month thing, but it’s what’s happening now.”

In terms of a final trend, McFarland had this to say: 

“The last trend I’ll point out is a macro one, and really what the hell do I, or anyone, know about macro trends, but here goes. Crypto and institutional structures, practically speaking, should have an inverse relationship in their productive capacity because they are at odds with one another. But they haven’t behaved that way ever because the shared myths around crypto haven’t been strong enough for its investor base to treat it that way. I’ve seen up close the productive capacity of innovation in the blockchain space outpace its market’s growth over the past five years while the productive capacity of new innovation, particularly in tech, reached a very apparent plateau.” 

The trickery, he says, of modern fiscal policy combined with heightened fear in the masses for the past two years has postponed the deserved degradation of institutional trust. He believes that none of these things have sorted themselves out yet.

“Of course, no-one can know what the tipping point is, but it feels to me like to be close by. As the negative consequences of Big Tech and government behavior, of which I’m far too familiar, become apparent, people will flock en masse to something they can trust.” 

He believes that Bitcoin and the revolution of trustless blockchains systems that followed have an unbeatable story and value proposition for these people, adding:

“That migration will get crypto to be seen as the one independent market, with a productive capacity inversely related to all others. So yea, I’m bullish in the mid-long term.”

In closing, McFarlane believes that Blockchain-related legislation is a more influential factor for larger more legitimate organizations which does pose a real hindrance to innovation. But the bulk of the innovation, he says, is coming from small teams that build global permissionless systems anyway, so he doesn't think it’ll matter in the grand scheme of things. 

“I don’t understand blockchain regulation at all and have yet to meet a competent lawyer in the area, which makes me think the rules are dubious at best.” 

He concludes:

 

“The whole thing is a joke honestly, as the only thing these crypto crackdowns accomplish is in the psychological realm. Governments are decades behind in terms of Internet regulation, I don’t worry about them ever catching up to Web3. When push comes to shove they’ll “partner” with Web3 before they fight it for the same reason they “partnered” with Big Tech: They don’t want to miss out on all the fruits.”

 

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