Notes from the Crypto Underground


“The future of human coordination is DAOs,” said James Tunningley, a former British diplomat who left his post in Nairobi, Kenya, last year to immerse himself in the world of blockchain.

Tunningley was among hundreds of globetrotting attendees who attended haunting talks and parties at DAODenver’s Temple Night Club on Tuesday and Wednesday. The event was a satellite of ETHDenver 2022, an annual meeting dedicated to Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency network after Bitcoin.

“It’s a great showcase of what the future of society looks like,” said DAODenver speaker Michael Healy, a former WikiLeaks volunteer who recently advised a project that used blockchain tokens to raise funds for the restoration of a rural road in the Indonesian island of Bali. that had fallen into disuse. “We don’t depend on the government to build things,” said Healy, a long-haired Briton-Singapore, who predicted that DAOs would become the dominant vehicles for financing infrastructure in the coming years. He said the tokens for the Bali project would simply give funders the ability to display their contributions online, like having their name on a museum wall. Future infrastructure projects could provide token holders with more practical incentives, such as allowing them to automatically receive toll revenue.

DAO advocates argue that groups have the potential to be more agile and create better incentives than existing institutions, because groups can automatically grant governance rights and other rewards to participants who perform desired tasks. Thousands of DAOs have been formed, and backers expect their number to reach the millions, or even billions.

So far, they have generated a lot of buzz, but few significant achievements. One group, ConstitutionDAO, attracted warning late last year when he raised tens of millions of dollars to buy an original copy of the Constitution at auction. In the end, he was outdone by a hedge fund mogul. Another group, CityDAO, purchased land in Wyoming as part of its goal to build a real-world community for its members. But the group was hacked in January, and tens of thousands of dollars were stolen from his treasury.

As DAO proponents look to achieve their first mind-boggling achievement, hopes are pinned on MoonDAO, a conference sponsor, which intends to launch some of its members into space on a private flight within the next few months.

The group was founded by Pablo Moncada-Larrotiz, a former Google engineer who quit his job to build a DAO that would allow groups of friends to share access to their possessions. He said the project was inspired by a passage from the Whole Earth Catalog, a counterculture publication launched in the 1960s in an anti-consumerist spirit.

Late last year, Moncada-Larrotiz launched his second group, MoonDAO, with the initial goal of raising $450,000 to buy a single Virgin Galactic spaceflight ticket. The group raised more than $8 million at its launch, and Moncada-Larrotiz said it currently has more than $30 million available. In January, the group Announced had secured a “soft reservation” for several seats on a rocket launched by Blue Origin, the space company founded by Jeff Bezos. Moncada-Larrotiz declined to comment further on his group’s conversations with Blue Origin, which did not respond to a request for comment.

He said the group was still on track to send members into space by mid-year, though he acknowledged the speculative nature of the effort. “Everyone is experimenting with DAO,” he said. “No one really knows what the plan is yet.”

His group sponsored the Full Moon Party on Tuesday, where blue hair was the look of the night and revelers were eager to discuss their blockchain ambitions. Shumo Chu, 35, bragged VitaDAOa group dedicated to longevity research, and argued that DAOs offered a better incentive system to advance scientific knowledge than the models offered by academia and the pharmaceutical industry.

Jade Darmawangsa, 21, spoke ReFi DAO, a network of environmental groups. He explained that beyond talking about the transformative potential, there was a more practical reason to organize as a DAO: the massive flows of investment capital in crypto technologies. “We need the money from Web3,” he said, using the umbrella term for blockchain-based Internet services.

Throughout the day, attendees sipped coffee at tables normally reserved for bottle service at a venue that will host Pauly D, the DJ best known for his starring role on MTV’s reality show “Jersey Shore,” later this month.

There, speakers offered a mix of utopian visions and realistic advice.

“This whole notion of DAO is not a foreign concept,” stated one speaker. “This is how African villages and communities have been doing it for thousands and thousands of years. We’re just removing all these useless layers and going back to the roots.” down the street, YOUR DAOa collective of feminist developers, organized a breakfast discussion on combating homelessness.

Other speakers advised founders to avoid using words like “interest” and “securitize,” which could draw the attention of regulators in Washington, who have begun to worry about the risks of cryptocurrencies and are moving to put some limits on cryptocurrencies. an industry that prefers to write its own rules.

A major barrier to the bold visions of the DAO founders is legal incorporation. While some jurisdictions, notably Wyoming, have taken steps to create new legal structures for DAOs, most groups must register under preexisting structures before taking many real-world actions, such as opening a bank account.

Before its members can reach the stars, MoonDAO is among the groups that have to deal with such earthly concerns. Moncada-Larrotiz said the group was deciding where to register as an unincorporated 501(c)(3) nonprofit association.

After its first spaceflight, he said the group, which has galvanized hundreds of experts and enthusiastic hobbyists around space exploration, will focus on its long-term goal of creating a self-sustaining lunar base (maintained by “robots and people ”).

He mused that the group could use some of its resources to hire professional engineers and argued that the DAO, which has active members in China and is working to establish a presence in India, could be competitive with nation-states and private companies like SpaceX. in the race to colonize the solar system.

“I realize how crazy this all sounds,” he said. “But it’s been a wild ride, so I’m starting to believe.”