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The tokenization of cities

The web in its current state is like a city without public spaces. People can only interact in places owned by someone else, and a small group of landlords captures an oversized share of all economic activity. – Dror Poleg

I would encourage you all to read Dror Poleg’s recent article called, “The Token Society: Cryptocurrencies will change the way we work, live, and love.” It’s an interesting read, particularly for us urbanists. Poleg starts with urban history. He first talks about how the emergence of industrial cities allowed for new divisions of labor. The example he gives is that of the quatorzième, which is a job that emerged in Parisian society sometime in the late 19th century. The job of a quatorzième was literally to be the 14th person at dinners and functions. Since a headcount of 13 was thought to be bad luck, it was important to be able to call on someone at a moment’s notice to fill this critically important role. While this probably seems silly in today’s context — I mean, who goes out anymore? — it was a real thing and it was a thing that the modern city was suddenly able to provide. Poleg goes on to thread this idea all the way through to today. Web 2.0 enabled a new sharing economy and much larger digital communities (though note the quote at the top of this post). However, we’re nowhere near done yet. Web 3.0 is going to, in his words, enable “the finalization [or tokenization] of all human activity.” Welcome to the new token society.

P.S. I’m by no means an expert on cryptocurrencies. I have just been watching from afar for the past several years. But over the last few months, it has been hard not to pay attention to what is happening with NFTs and the Ethereum network. And I’m not just talking about the price of ETH (which is up ~56% over the last month alone). I am now of the opinion that we are seeing one of the first mainstream use cases emerge on top of a blockchain network. And yes, I believe it will also change our cities.

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