I’ve been thinking on this tweet a bit lately. How do we determine what is the coin of our realm? What is important to us?
I wanted to expand on this tweet. Isn’t really “what others offer” is a question of what we value in ourselves, and in other people? Lets leave aside the fact that this is a transactional model of relationships. Instead, let’s focus on the value. If we really want to understand what we value, I think the real question comes down to time.
How do you spend your time? With whom do you spend it? Because, when it comes right down to it, the only thing each of us has of any value is who we are as people and how we spend our time. Everything else just expands our agency within that framework.
I have been spending a lot of my time lately doing writing, providing support via Discord & Telegram and doing some minor programming for a cryptocurrency called Ergo. I’ve learned a lot about:
- How cryptocurrencies work
- The psychology of people in the cryptocurrency space, which is indicative of people more generally
- Learning to use new software tools
The last is an interesting development, I’ve never collaboratively worked on a project using git. I have use it to provide back-ups and versioning for my own work, such as configuration files, bash scripts and so forth. But, it’s a different experience to work collaboratively with someone else with it. The collaboration has value, independently of the code being created or the ideas behind it. This is something that is missed in the above tweet.
Things change so fast in the cryptocurrency space, and it is filled with people trying to make quick money. Or, “life changing money,” which normally means they can stop working and do whatever they dream of doing, perhaps driving cross country in a Lamborghini. Wen lambo? This is a question often asked, jokingly, but it is also serious.
Given the environment, integrity is very important because there is such a lack of it. Most people are hoping to strike it rich, which means there is a large pool of people that can be scammed.
Beyond the get rich environment, it is also interesting thing to note how little agency people have in the space. At the level of the cryptocurrency itself, there are wild price swings, and much of the variance is market manipulation. Imagine all the problems of the stock market, without most of the regulatory restrictions.
But, it is also clear that the restrictions that are in place are there to benefit certain people, just as much as they are to protect people involved. So, there’s a distrust of larger governance, particularly governance by a state.
In its place, in cryptocurrencies, you have governance by unelected bodies, software developers, investors and other interested parties. It’s never governance by people using the cryptocurrency, in any form whether it is democratic, the choosing of representatives, and so forth.
Best case, it’s a meritocracy. Often, these meritocracies have a benevolent dictator, and while they may wish for more user input, do not know how to move from where they are at to a system where people using the tool are deciding how it should be used and what capabilities to develop.
Without any kind of real governance and input into the decision-making processes necessary to be a functioning entity, discussion tends to devolve into who has the biggest microphone and who can shout down opposing points of view. You might say this is the defining feature of our times, when people have little agency over the things they care about.
One solution to this problem is to care about different things. If you limit what you care about to the things that you have agency over, then you don’t have to argue about it with other people. You can simply do the thing.
Of course, anything sufficiently large is going to require organization beyond mere individuals. But, moving our scope out that wide quickly limits our agency. Most of us scope our concerns so they are beyond any real action on our part. It’s why we develop what the Unabomber describes as surrogate activities, or things we do that serve as a substitute for real agency over things that matter. It’s why people decide to run marathons, climb corporate ladders, or whatever. We set goals such as these when life is unfulfilling.
Where can we find meaning? Where can we find agency? I think the answer to this question in our age is the same answer Voltaire gave in Candide: Il faut cultiver notre jardin, or tend your own garden. Narrow your concerns to a few people. People that show themselves to be unworthy of concern? Remove them from your garden. Spend your time and energy on projects you control and involve yourself in the lives of people you know around you.
Those people don’t need to be “insightful”. Gardens need shade as well as fruit, and every tree and plant can bring something different to the ecosystem. But, we need to thoughtfully engage with the question: what is the garden for? Is it to grow the biggest, best vegetables? Or, maybe there’s something bigger to be found there, such as meaning and agency.