Please do not let Ethereum be the next burning man: Reflections On Devcon 4


The momentum behind Ethereum as a sociopolitical movement is stimulating, but if we are serious then we must do better when we talk about diversity.

I said it before. I'm new here.

The whole world of Ethereum – language, social and political dynamics, technical specifications – is all relatively new to me.

I came to Prague with many questions on decision making in decentralized and non-hierarchical networks, and on how to make sure that people belonging to different and often under-represented groups are represented in those systems. I understood these questions as central to my interest in Ethereum technology and blockchain more generally, and I realized that there were many people who are also deeply interested in these things. However, I believed that most people thought of governance primarily at a technical level, rather than how it applies to real-world organizational structures and social systems; I had not seen a significant push towards diversity and inclusion.

I thought the most important problems for most of the people who built this technology were Web 2.0 surveillance capitalism, banks and government-regulated money-things that can be dealt with directly through blockchain technology. Not that those are small problems; they are important factors for the creation of the world in which I want to live, but I had the impression that some of the big questions about governance and how to structure the analogue world – though implicit – were only really discussed by a few (though important people.

However, upon my arrival in Prague I discovered that those who make the decisions and how they are made are not only my interest, but the fundamental questions underlying them throughout Ethereum, regardless of whether they are explicitly recognized.

Not having attended previous years, I can only speculate the differences between Devcon 4 and previous years from the comments I heard from ethereal veterans (perhaps this is the only space in which being part of something for more than two years makes you a veteran). That said, during the week I heard more than one person celebrating the so-called "winter crypt" for its positive effect on conversations, which were now less focused on ICO and shillings than on society and systems, philosophy and strategy, inclusiveness and diversity. In fact, it was the first year with a song dedicated to society and systems. Better still, despite the bearish character of Ether, the participation in Devcon doubled this year, with the sale of tickets in a few minutes. So maybe I entered at the right time.

I was pleasantly surprised and often inspired to see the potential impact of Ethereum on social, political and economic hierarchies centered around Prague. Glen Weyl, an important thought leader who is best known for the co-author of "Radical Markets" and for his work with Vitalik Buterin, has come to say that blockchain is perhaps "the most serious and organized movement for a vision" positive, forward-looking and liberal of the future. "

Absolutely central to the ability of the blockchain movement to create momentum behind a cultural, political and economic shift towards a liberal future is the need to create a more inclusive ethereal community – of users, developers, designers, writers, community organizers, 39; business – you name it. If we do not do it, even if we can create our own little ethereal fantasy land, it will be designed and probably accessible only by an exclusive and already privileged minority. It will be a part 2 of Burning Man, but for technocrats.

Efforts towards inclusiveness have attracted attention. There have been entire events and talks devoted to the issue, and some people and organizations (shouting SpankChain!) Have done particularly well to center this topic. However, on the whole, the problem has felt more peripheral and implicit than intentional and explicit. I have heard much more about nation states, anarchy and experimental organizational structures than specific problems (other than money) that this technology can solve, who can take full advantage of the disruption of existing power dynamics or how to get those people involved in the Ethereum community. When diversity and inclusion were discussed, it was often sufficient to indicate the proportion of gender rather than the specific audience we want to reach, the barriers to entry or the way we put them on board.

Perhaps this oversight is due to the public and to the participants; governance applies to everyone, so all members of the community are interested. It is more difficult to talk about ways in which the community could be better oriented towards under-represented people when so few people from marginalized communities are there to talk about their needs and interests first.

At the Fellowship of Ethereum, the Prague Magicians' Council, a ring discussed the importance of remote hackathons and locally organized habits for the perpetuation of decentralization. I think this strategy also applies to increasing diversity in space. Travel expenses to attend conferences and large hackathons are expensive and prohibitive for most people, which means that the community, and the conversations we are having, remain largely inaccessible. If these events are organized around the construction technology that solves local problems, the better; this could give us the means to connect with the problems that afflict our communities, which should allow us to build better, more usable and meaningful applications for real and non-crypto people. Even better, it could stimulate the interests of those people to join the community and contribute with their ideas.

However, this alone can not be the answer, because local and remote hackathons sponsored by local organizations are already happening. I'm not enough. Perhaps part of the solution could also consist in the development of some hackathon and meetup equivalents for non-technical people like me. Ethereum needs designers, artists, community organizers and the like as much as developers need, and there are already many artists and activists of different backgrounds who share similar sensibilities and ideals.

The ring at the Prague Council was inspiring to me, but I was left with no idea how to do an organization work similar to a non-technical person. How do you attract people to your Ethereum Meetup group who do not know what it's blockchain, not to mention Ethereum? And what is the equivalent of hackathon?

Alison is an occasional publisher and writer for ETHNews. He has a master's degree in English from the University of Wyoming. He lives in Reno with his dog and a half-loving cat. Among his favorite things there is the binge to listen to the podcasts, have the laughs through the memes of the dogs and spend as much time as possible outside.

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