History warns us of the past in order to make sense of the present. Yet History offers no suggestion regarding the path that technology is taking us. What we are left with the crypto-space is a great field of improvisation that has seldom been seen before.
“Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” pronounced French revolutionaries in choir. The year was 1789, and overnight, France was changed almost entirely. New social systems were devised, new national identities were reinvented, and a changing sentiment swept the people. Almost instantly, the intricacies of its previous moral, legal and social models were abruptly ignored. A couple of months later, the same problems that revolted the French persisted. Indeed, they were revolutionaries.
Although it is a far reach to compare the French Revolution to the transformations within the crypto space right now, history still offers some truth. It shows us that unplanned, abrupt changes lead us nowhere. It shows us that pragmatic change should be arduous and that things are more complicated than they seem.
The crypto-revolution was ignited mainly as a response to the US’ broken financial systems. Satoshi Nakamoto’s ingenuity of creating – not necessary imposing – a fix to the financial system legitimized the early technology. Bitcoin technology was efficient, sophisticated, and powerful.
Ten years later, the abuse of that technology has lead us down a slightly different path than what was initially envisioned. Regardless, cryptocurrencies have generated a new wave of millionaires and have enriched the lives of individuals that weren’t necessarily industrious and visionaries. Many, out of mere fluke and gamble, saw their pockets grow and their bags packed. Next stop: Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico, La-la-land
Puerto Rico, attractive to many crypto-millionaires due to no federal income or capital taxes and the ability not renunciate American citizenship, has become a crypto utopia. ‘Puertopia,’ as some have named it, has become the go-to place for crypto-evangelists like Brock Pierce looking to create a microcosm of the ideal technological society.
They are buying airports, docks, extensive real estate and acres by the hundreds. They want to use the blockchain system to offer decentralized elections and to reorganize citizenship. They want to digitize money completely, start a cryptocurrency bank and use smart contracts to redefine every aspect of public life. They are revolutionaries. And so was Napoleon.
Out of these new ambitions, the previously coined term “Crypto-colonialism” has been reintroduced to the public conversation. Many critics see the actions of these enriched crypto-evangelists as a form of neo-colonialism through technology. To a foreseeable extent, the critics seem to be correct. The similarities between the mission of these Puertopians and colonizers are notable.
For better or for worse, they are essentially the same: a group of foreigners, attracted to a land for diverse reasons, seek to reinvent its social and financial models with something they deem more advantageous.
Imagine a Puerto Rico, a place still reeling from Hurricane Maria, being redesigned by benevolent crypto-evangelists. Beautiful on paper, perhaps worrying in theory. I find it hard to believe this will happen when the very same environment that enriched and legitimized these individuals is still filled with turmoil.
To be fair, it is a stretch to call these individuals crypto-colonialists, not due to historical inaccuracies, but rather out of reason. Cryptoassets and the individuals who lead them are extreme risk takers themselves and perhaps shouldn’t be devising new social orders. Their systems are still being designed, their leaders are still being determined, and their value is still being constructed. In other words, the crypto space is largely impermanent as it stands.
Thanks to @brockpierce and all the other volunteers who showed up today at the #HackerHousePR 🇵🇷 to make this already amazing co-living space even better.
Check out their website! https://t.co/eeufnq32uO
— EduBlock (@edublock_io) April 16, 2018
I want to emphasize that this opinion does not demean the intelligent entrepreneurs that are pioneering this movement. Individuals like Brock Pierce are influential and wealthy not by chance but rather out of industriousness. Early signs show that Puertopians are starting to have some impact in Puerto Rico.
They are helping with philanthropic activities and are trying to impact the underprivileged through some non-governmental ways. Yet they will face roadblocks, like high costs of crypto mining, rapidly scaling the technology, as well as organizational issues. The great test following these crypto-evangelists as they implement their world vision is if they can transform a society from crumbling infrastructure to paradise all through technology. Regardless, everyone is eager to see how these crypto-evangelists respond to inadequate governmental assistance and bureaucrats.
Walk Before You Run
I argue that change must be sought-after slowly and that the proposers of amendments must not be in transition themselves. The crypto-asset world is too replete with void and non-value nowadays to seek to change the social and financial system of loosely-related places.
We still haven’t found a way to prevent 500 million dollar cyber-hacks, our excessive energy consumption and scalability issues still deter from the attractiveness of our technologies, and many prominent crypto assets blatantly offer no value. We must wait for the great wave that will eliminate all the non-value and leave us with the best of our technology. Only then will we be able to secure out legitimacy and diagnose real-world solution to suffering countries.
Puerto Rico’s case is unique in its degree of particularity. We must be skeptical of individuals who seek to transform every aspect of public life like those 1789 revolutionaries. Wanting to convert Puerto Rico into a Puertopia by technologizing a territory that lacks necessary infrastructure is troublesome.
Trying to create economic growth without first addressing economic development has proved to be an economic fallacy. First, we must ask if the people of Puerto Rico even desire such change, or question if this technology that we play with is genuinely sustainable or needed.
Ideas have consequences, especially when they are applied on the brink of excitement. Despacito, says the wise man.
What do you think of crypto-colonialism and cryptopia? Fact or fiction? Are enriched crypto-millionaires just trying to exploit Puerto Rico, or is there legitimacy to their actions? Let us know in your comments below!
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