Some thoughts on independence

Photo by Ray Hennessy via Unsplash

Re-sharing below the latest edition of #Web3 Weekly, my regular newsletter about decentralization. If you’d like to get it in your inbox every Sunday, subscribe here.

As it’s Independence Day here in the U.S., I’ll skate a little closer to the topic of politics than usual. (Hopefully without falling in up to my neck.)

Once you get past the surface-level imagery of sparklers and backyard cookouts, July 4 is an inherently political holiday. It celebrates a very particular sort of independence — that of one nation-state from another’s colonial rule.

That said, I believe July 4 is also a good time to think about independence in the dictionary sense of the term as well. Independence is a powerful word in general, a noun closely tied to other potent ones like freedom, agency, democracy, prerogative, and liberty.

Further, the independence of nation-states and that of individuals is tied closely together. A person who lives under the thumb of an oppressive nation-state isn’t truly independent or free. Likewise, a nation-state will never fully value people’s independence as individuals if they’ve given up on it themselves as a shared value.

Unfortunately, I believe the latter scenario increasingly describes the U.S. and many of its closest allies internationally. Democratic backsliding is a real problem and still extremely dangerous in 2021.

Which brings us to the more typical subject matter of this newsletter. If there is to be hope right now for real independence and freedom for people, I’m increasingly skeptical it lies with any nation-state or its government. Better to place that hope in the relentless progress of technology and economics, in innovation and self-forming communities, shaped by our shared values over time.

This is a bottom-up fight, not a top-down one.

On to some headlines:

  • Coinbase is looking to launch a blockchain-based app store. That was one of several tantalizing takeaways from a comprehensive update by chief executive Brian Armstrong about his vision of decentralization. Definitely worth a read in full.
  • Bitcoin made a partial comeback. After a recent market drubbing, the token posted a weekly gain of 7%, trading above above $35,000 as of Sunday morning. Signs are mounting that China’s crackdown on bitcoin miners has been a boon to other countries that want to build up the industry locally. That said, the Bitcoin network’s hashrate, or pace of minting new bitcoins, is still flagging for now, as is the number of active wallets. Meanwhile, big institutions from the world of conventional finance like Soros Fund Management, Mexico’s Banco Azteca, and the massive interdealer brokerage TP ICAP are continuing to increase their exposure. And El Salvador, which recently recognized bitcoin as legal tender, said it will airdrop $117 million of the token, or about to $30 per citizen, to users of a new official crypto wallet. Salvadoran users will also be able to use other wallets in the country’s new bitcoin economy if they wish.
  • Visa has been on a hiring spree for its crypto business unit.
  • The music service Tidal is exploring the potential of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as an option to compensate creators.
  • Sir Tim Berners-Lee sold an autographed copy of the code he wrote to create the Worldwide Web as an NFT for $5.4 million. He’ll donate the proceeds to charity, Wired reports.
  • China flexed its big lead in “smart city” technology. Entrants from the country swept all five categories in the latest AI City Challenge, an international competition designed to encourage and highlight development of artificial intelligence for managing everyday urban logistics like traffic flow, power usage, and more.
  • Crypto investment in India is soaring, up 19,900% over the 12-month period through May, according to Bloomberg News.
  • The startup Worldcoin wants to distribute crypto to everyone on earth by scanning their eyeballs. Hmmm…
  • The USDC stablecoin could soon expand to 10 additional blockchains.
  • Celebrities ❤️ crypto. American football legend Tom Brady and his wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, invested in crypto exchange FTX. Meanwhile pop star pop star Katy Perry is launching her own NFTs and investing in Theta Labs.
  • Finally! An AI-powered robot that delivers beer. Next year’s Nobel Prize nominations are still open, right?

That’s it for now. As ever, a quick disclaimer: This newsletter is intended for informational purposes only, not as investment advice. For the latter, please DYOR and consult appropriate financial professionals to make the most suitable choices for your particular needs.

Thanks for spending some time with the newsletter today! A full revision history of it, including earlier drafts, is available here if you’re interested. If you’d like to get updates like this in your inbox every Sunday, please join our email list here.

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Peter A. McKay

Peter A. McKay

I publish the newsletter #Web3Weekly. Former Head of Content & Writer Development at Capsule Social. Other priors: WSJ, Washington Post, and Vice News.