I have heard from some of you that you don’t like it when I write about crypto and NFTs. This personal blog is supposed to be largely about city building after all. So today I thought I would write about crypto and NFTs. More specifically, this podcast episode, which I watched last night.
It’s with Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon of the venture firm a16z, and it’s actually less about specific things like NFTs and more about the reinvention of the internet in general. Why I found it particularly interesting is that Marc co-invented the first widely-used web browser. Anyone remember Netscape?
So he was around for what we are now calling web 1 and he is around for what we are today calling web 3. And there are lots of parallels between then and now. Similar to today with crypto, the early internet had lots of critics and lots of people who thought it was dumb and that it would never amount to much.
Here are a few other thoughts and ideas from the podcast that I found interesting (some of them even relate to city building):
- No matter how many times we have seen the same movie, humanity seems doomed to repeat the same mistakes when it comes to, among other things, embracing new ideas and innovations. I agree with Marc in that part of this is generational. Younger people are often more open to new ideas because they view it as a way for them to establish themselves and make their mark on the world. Whereas older people (established people) often view new ideas and change as a threat to their current position in the world.
- Marc drops a number of books throughout the talk and one of them is The Mystery of Capital — Why Capitalism Succeeds in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. This is a well known book by Hernando De Soto and the big idea is that property ownership and property rights are really the fundamental ingredients in our modern world. People need to know that if they hold title and invest money into something, it’s not just going to get taken away by someone. And it is this underlying legal structure that has allowed people to leverage property into wealth.
- This is a fascinating observation in its own right, but it also relates to crypto. Hear me out. Chris Dixon makes the argument in the episode that web1 democratized information (anyone can search for stuff), and that web2 democratized publishing (anyone can share stuff through platforms like Twitter or the blogging platform I’m writing on right now). He then goes on to argue that the promise of web3 and crypto is really to democratize ownership of the internet. Anyone can buy crypto tokens.
- Why might this be a big deal? Well if property rights in our offline world are a fundamental ingredient to modern society, it seems logical to me that property rights in our digital world(s) might also be equally transformative. And this is precisely one of the things that blockchain technologies enable for the very first time.
- Finally, on a mostly unrelated note, I liked Marc’s comparison of happiness vs. satisfaction in life. Happiness, he explains, is like getting an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. The first and second feel great, but after that you move on. Satisfaction on the other hand is enduring. It’s the feeling you get from working on something really challenging and then finally succeeding. And that’s exactly how I feel about real estate development. There are lots of shitty days and lots of grinding. But in the end, I do feel very satisfied.