Michael Haupt

@michaelhaupt

Why Most Futurists, Crypto and Blockchain Gurus are Snake Oil Salesmen

#BlockchainRant

Calling out the gross irresponsibility of ‘expertly’ commenting on barely understood megatrends

“Have I got something miraculous for you, ladies and gentleman: Bitcoin at $10,000, Ether at $1,000 and Monero at $500! Guaranteed to make you millions. Step right up, step right up ‘ere!”. Image source: Wikimedia

Every bubble is accompanied by self-proclaimed gurus who claim they know what’s going on. When serious questions are asked by people desperately seeking meaningful answers to tough questions about the societal impact blockchain, AI, robotics and Emerging Strategic Technologies (EST) will have, they ramble on and on and provide at best nothing but hot air, at worst misleading and feckless crowdspeak. This is downright irresponsible and needs to stop.

In this article I’ll explore 5 frequently asked questions about crypto and blockchain and provide the answers most commonly given by experts and gurus. For each answer I’ll explain why they’re absolutely wrong and why it’s so dangerous to believe or even accept their answer.

But first, if you need an example of how the typical blockchain snake oil salesman responds to questions, here’s a 4-minute example:

Jeffrey Robinson, author of “BitCon: The Naked Truth”

Setting the scene

Before any meaningful discussion about blockchain and EST can commence, it’s vital to understand the 3 important forces of change the world is currently witnessing. Each of these forces on their own have significant impacts on society. However, the combined outcome of these 3 simultaneous forces will inevitably result in a global social revolution which will eclipse the impact the Industrial Revolution had on humanity’s evolution.

  1. Economic Forces: History tells us all cultures have their sell-by date. The capitalism experiment has resulted in significant inequality and has worked fantastically well for only a small percentage. Even the World Economic Forum knows that the gap between the richest and the poorest is the biggest risk to global stability, but they do not seem to understand that the capitalist experiment will soon fail, perhaps as soon as early 2020’s — that’s what the data says. Crypto currencies must be understood within this context and cannot simply be viewed as an extension of capitalism.
  2. Social Forces: Historically, cycles of inequality and resource overuse precipitated political unrest, war and finally collapse of entire civilisations. The majority of talking heads are blissfully unaware that the end of capitalism might be imminent. The youth are not. However, they have not yet organised themselves politically. When they do, they will start hammering on the doors while the architects of capitalism sit around eating grapes in blissful ignorance.
  3. Technology Forces: Almost every discussion about EST usually overlooks (or worse, is entirely ignorant of) the biggest breakthrough in accounting since the dawn of man: Momentum Accounting (or in blockchain-speak, Distributed Ledger Technologies). Double Entry Accounting was the single accounting breakthrough that allowed globalisation to occur. The societal impact that Momentum Accounting will have will eclipse that of Double Entry Accounting many times over.

Once the impact of these 3 forces are understood, it becomes obvious that a meaningful discussion about EST should only occur within the context of the social revolution they enable. Social revolutions have occurred before (Agricultural Revolution, Industrial Revolution, Digital Revolution), which I’ve written about elsewhere:

“If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.” — erroneously attributed to Henry Ford

Here’s the point I’m trying to make in setting the scene: We’re at the moment in human history where we’re no longer only innovating faster, smaller, cheaper — something entirely new is being birthed. If you understand and accept that we are currently transitioning from Society 3.0 to Society 4.0, you will employ 4-dimensional thinking (explained in the above article). If you’re not able to understand and accept that society is transitioning, you will employ 3-dimensional thinking. There’s nothing right or wrong about either level of thinking — it’s just useful to understand the context.

For the purposes of explaining why it is irresponsible to comment on barely understood megatrends, I’m referring specifically to the answers and commentary provided by the majority of blockchain “thought leaders” and educators. I’m also referring to corporate and civic leaders and champions working on projects to include blockchain in their institution simply because that’s the bandwagon everyone else is jumping on and they don’t want to feel left behind. These individuals typically employ 3D Thinking. I’m excluding blockchain founders and their teams who are solving real, wicked problems, because they grok what’s happening. They typically employ 4D Thinking. Sadly, you’ll rarely see them appearing as a talking head because they’re too busy doing actual work. As a result, when you see someone appearing publicly waxing eloquent about a rosy Bitcoin or decentralised future, you can safely assume they don’t know what they’re talking about. There are exceptions, but they are rare.

[Edit: A reader asked for convincing evidence that I’m not a snake oil salesman — a valid question. The truth is, we are witnessing a moment in humanity’s evolution unlike anything that precedes it in human experience. Anyone who claims to know exactly what’s happening is a fool. At the same time, nothing matters more than at least trying to understand the bigger picture. And I’m certainly not saying I fully understand it all. Pointing at rocks doesn’t make one a geologist. But it’s at least clear to me that we need to understand the megatrends converging at this precise moment in humanity’s evolution. That’s why I’ve made it my life’s purpose to dig deeper than most ‘experts’ go, because I owe it to my daughter to figure out as much of this stuff as I possibly can. Nothing is more important to me than leaving a legacy which will help her navigate more effectively a very confusing world.]

“Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.” — André Gide, French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947

Now that we’ve set the scene, let’s dive into the most common questions I hear about blockchain and EST. For each question I’ll provide a 3D answer (the answer most typically given) and a 4D answer (the answer I suggest will be most helpful to you in understanding what’s going on).

Question 1: Where do you think society is headed?

3D Answer: Common answers imply that it is not possible to know where we’re headed. They include mention of social unrest leading towards a collapse of society, with either a dystopian or utopian outcome, depending on the expert’s personal bias.

Why this is a dangerous answer: The answer abdicates responsibility for our future to others. In the past, defining culture was the exclusive domain of philosophers, economists, clergy, artists, technologists and civic leaders. Now, anyone who wishes can become a co-creator in the process of cultural evolution. Exponential technological advances now allow us all to play an active role in the transition to a new system, and it is imperative that we do so.

4D Answer: Society is headed precisely in the direction we cause it to move in. The indications are that we are moving from a society defined by secrecy in governance, social engagement and economic systems controlled by middle-men to systems defined by transparency, owned and operated collectively. It looks like we are seeing an emergence of a co-creative model, characterised by the rise of an entirely new sector that creates platforms self-organised governance and commerce.

“The future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. The future is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organize. It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this process of change. I am with you.” — Pope Francis, 9 July, 2015.

Further Reading: Life Without Middlemen, Blockchain Governance

Question 2: What advice can you give to children?

3D Answer: The most common answers include:

  • learn the technology behind tools like artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, cryptocurrencies and blockchain
  • develop self-confidence and adaptability, and
  • search for challenges worthy of their passion.

Why this is a dangerous answer: The implication with this answer is that the societal status quo will continue and that these tools exist merely to make our lives easier in the existing paradigm. It entirely misses the point that the child has the potential to become a leader in a societal structure that doesn’t yet exist and therefore needs to be open to entirely different ways of being human.

4D Answer: The best advice is to help them decide whether they wish to be successful in Society 3.0 or Society 4.0, since success in each society requires radically different skills and mindsets. Only once they’ve understood the differences can further advice be given. There is no wrong decision, but a decision must be made.

Further Reading: The Evolution of Societies, Co-Creating Society 4.0

Question 3: What should school-leavers study?

3D Answer: Answers usually include some version of the argument that universities don’t prepare people sufficiently for the workplace and that they should choose flexible or micro-education. Very often mention is made of the trillion dollar student debt in the US, with little hope of it ever being fully settled.

Why this is a dangerous answer: It’s only partially true to say that universities don’t prepare people sufficiently for the workplace. What tertiary education has hoodwinked us into is a belief that it’s necessary to specialise to be successful. If a decision has been made to succeed in Society 4.0, specialising in anything would be the worst mistake since cross-disciplinary skills will be most valuable in Society 4.0.

4D Answer: If you’ve made the decision to become a successful leader in Society 4.0, you should study everything you can about Society 3.0 and what caused it to collapse. This is so that you can learn from our mistakes to avoid repeating them in Society 4.0.

Videos to Watch: How Big Oil Conquered the World, Why Big Oil Conquered the World, Data is the New Oil. Once the role of middlemen in the evolution of societies is understood, watch this early talk about blockchain: How the blockchain is changing money and business by Don Tapscott.

Question 4: What jobs will disappear?

3D Answer: The standard answer compares the Industrial Revolution to the coming Automation Revolution by saying that not all jobs will disappear and that necessity will invent new jobs that we cannot conceive of yet. Some point to the WEF recommendation which is to learn to do things machines can’t do well and learn to work with them, rather than competing with them. Menial jobs like cashiers, drivers, burger flipping, miners are often cited with the gleeful announcement that we should be happy for these dirty, dangerous and demeaning jobs to disappear. Little practical advice is given to those who currently perform triple-d jobs, except that we are to “manage the transition.”

Why this is a dangerous answer: Again, the assumption is that the current model of working for a salary is the only option for meaning in life and that the social contract that requires employment will continue unchanged. But what if Society 4.0 provides a meaningful income without a job?

4D Answer: There is good reason to be concerned about which jobs are most likely to be replaced by automation, particularly for the near future (10 to 20 years). However, the bigger question is how do you find meaning and purpose in life if there is no longer a need to work for a salary. Learn how to use tools that help you connect with likeminded individuals and find wicked problems to tackle and solve. Learn what technologies are being built right now that support Society 4.0 and get involved. This is what will provide meaning in life.

Further Reading: Learn About Project 2030, Developments to Watch

Question 5: What should I do?

3D Answer: This is an incredibly powerful question, which most experts and thought leaders are completely unable to answer coherently. Most often this is because they do not have a full understanding of the societal shifts already underway. Their answers include things like expose corruption, do not let exploitation thrive, practice transparency and accountability and set the stage for springing into action. Most suggest investing in crypto or crypto-mining, some suggest blockchain startups, but very few provide a solid answer to this most important question, especially when asked by the youth.

Why this is a dangerous answer: At the risk of repetition, the suggestions are usually modest actions which assume continuation of the status quo. While they may be beneficial in the short term, suggestions which are valuable longer term are few and far between.

4D Answer: I’ll give you one little challenge if you’re under 30: Get together a group of people to prepare a bill of particulars for a declaration of human responsibilities and stewardship of our human race, our fellow creatures and the planet we live on. Grow that group using your passion, energy and drive. When you have 700m young people in a cohort on Facebook, and they’re all behind your declaration, then you’re at the table.

With 700m people you’re at the table virtually and physically and there’s almost nothing you can’t do. You should be able to do this in a very short period of time, because it doesn’t take a lot of organising. Once you’re at the table, you can start negotiating with big business, with governments, with monopolies, with anyone you want to tackle. All it takes is getting 10% of the planet’s population on board and you can literally write our future from the ground up.

If you’re over 40: educate yourself and get ready for the ride of your life. There’s little more you can do because you’re no doubt so deeply invested in Society 3.0 that making the mental adjustment will be challenging. Challenging, but not impossible.

Videos to Watch: The Third Industrial Revolution, The Empathic Civilisation

Have another question?

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About Me

I’m a Strategic Foresight Practitioner, speaker, mentor and advisor tracking the ever-accelerating progress of blockchain technology, the simultaneous rise in decentralisation and what role both play in the evolution of humanity.

My upcoming book, Postcards from 2035, describes in story-form a decentralised peer-to-peer society built on blockchain. It’s a mix of fact — gleaned from researching hundreds of blockchain white papers — and speculative fiction: faction. The book, which is available free online before it’s published, consists of short stories from my real-life daughter explaining to us what life is like in her future society. She will be 21 years old in 2035.

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