Last weekend, I went to the Natural History Museum and beelined for the Origin of Man exhibit. Far be it from me to pass up an existential crisis just waiting to be had.
Apart from my Harry-Crane-esque awe at the handprints, much like my own, etched generations ago onto cave walls, I was most blown away by a Neanderthal grave site, 6000 years old now. It was not the first, nor, obviously, the last. But it stood out because, in addition to coals and bones, they found decomposed flowers there, too. So, for six millennia, we’ve gathered in groups around bright, warm light to protect ourselves from death and, when we can’t keep it out any longer, honor it with beauty.
For some reason, I was reminded of this when I came across two new wholesome web3 communities: Cyber Baat, a collective of African artists, and BFF, a celebrity-endorsed organization intended to explore monetization for women and non-binary people on the blockchain. Now, I’m not saying, like, web3 is a cave fire, death is having to log off and look critically at reality, and NFTs are funeral flowers, or something, because, obviously:
But collective action toward common good is beautiful, especially in the midst of historical pitfalls and minefields of mistakes yet to be made. These groups are finding the light in the dark, building on the basement stages of the web3 shitshow, in an attempt to turn it into something more than the virtual mob-run casino most progressives presume it will inevitably turn into. As pack animals do. If your group is headed toward the tar pits, get in front of them and chart a new course.
Cyber Baat expresses as much on their Mirror blog: ‘creatives of African descent have consistently been undervalued in the art world. This is why we will ensure history does not repeat itself in our corner of the crypto art world [and] we get our fair share of the crypto wealth pie.’ It’s refreshing to see a crypto organization uninterested in spouting the same buzzwords of transparency, immutability, and ownership. Cyber Baat doesn’t lay praises or pass judgement on web3. They simply recognize the direction society is headed in and refuse to be passed up by it again.
BFF, meanwhile, deploys the tried-and-true strategy of getting a bunch of famous / influential names behind a vague initiative and seeing what happens. Their intent is to pave the way for a more equal balance of voices in the web3 space — currently 81% male, according to a graphic prominently displayed on their home page. How they intend to do so is less clear. As of now, there’s a Discord, a short blurb titled ‘WTF is an NFT?’ and a newsletter promising educational content, with crypto rewards for participating.
If you just got crippling deja vu, you’re not alone. Yes, BFF has followed the Culture H0R playbook to a T, only they are also able to populate half their website with 50 photographs of somewhat recognizable faces to lend the project a little bit of the legendary social proof we so desperately covet. And, while they do seem to have a pretty healthy spread of diverse perspectives on board, they also have Gwyneth Paltrow and Randi Zuckerberg, which inspires at least a splash of existential dread.
Nevertheless, the point is: as ridiculous as some blockchain communities might be, there’s ample space for groups who are gathering for the right reasons. Not just for easy money or marginal social power, but to stay one step ahead of the future, in order to help those who’ve been left behind in the past.
Besides, doesn’t matter if you’re bought into a meta sham economy, bankrolling a not-at-all-meta environmental disaster waiting to happen, or huddled in a French cavern. History will always find someone to ridicule.