Being in the blockchain space feels like oscillating between dizzying whirlwinds of confusion and vomit-inducing whiplash.
If this isn’t your first vomit-inducing blockchain rodeo, and you keep coming back for more like a crazy maniac…
You’re likely addicted to that sweet dopamine rush of the potential satisfaction of capitalizing on a bunch of nascent, cutting-edge technologies that most people don’t even fully understand yet.
By most people, I am also including those in the blockchain industry.
Yes, I’m talking about industry leaders and people who invented the tech here.
So if you’re some muggle living a fairly mundane life like most people, you’ve got even a lesser chance of understanding any of it.
Now, if you’re a blockchain developer who’s constantly learning, and building cool tools and projects, you probably have a much better chance of predicting the future than your average street psychic.
But keep in mind what the brilliant physicist Niels Bohr once said, “prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”
This isn’t about developers getting the future of blockchain right.
Rather, this is more about how developers might get the future of blockchain wrong, and what they could do to minimize that possibility.
It’s about identifying the most important factors that will shape the future and how developers could leverage them to influence the evolution of blockchain & web3.
History is rife with endless examples and case studies of the most qualified experts getting the very thing their expertise is supposed to prevent them from getting wrong, dead wrong.
You might not remember, but Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once told the world there was “no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.”
Ballmer was one of the most well-known developer evangelists, but he couldn’t even see the iPhone coming.
Blockchain is like the iPhone in that it’s a new paradigm of looking at the world, and if you’re too attached to existing traditions like Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, you’re going to be left behind.
To add to the challenge, most people, even within the blockchain community, have a hard time keeping track of all the recent developments.
This includes developers.
Many developers are exhausted, overworked, myopic to their technology stack, and of course, underappreciated.
Throw in a slew of psychological biases in to the mix like the overconfidence effect etc. and developers are now at a higher risk of being unable to think clearly about the future.
Before you know it, we’re all trapped inside a filter bubble, curated by dusty, dispassionate supercomputers without even being aware of it.
Also, per the sunk cost fallacy, instead of admitting fault or cutting one’s losses, people are also prone to doubling down on a losing idea or project, or tech stack, until it’s too late.
To give you a historical example…
Edison may have invented the phonograph, but few people know about Eldridge Reeves Johnson, a self-taught engineer who actually realized the phonograph’s potential.
Edison may have invented the phonograph, but Johnson did something far more significant: he invented the recording industry.
The lesson here is:
Just because one is an expert or an inventor of a technology does not mean they’re the one who will make it successful or bring it to the masses.
In other words…
Be cautious about listening to or following experts, including in the blockchain space because…
It’s impossible for experts to predict emergent behavior
The truth is…
Most predictions about the future (and blockchain) will be wrong.
The only constant in the universe is change.
At the heart of what drives all of this change is a mysterious phenomenon known as emergence.
Emergence happens when a multitude of little things — neurons, bacteria, individuals — exhibit properties beyond the ability of any single individual.
This happens simply through the act of making a few basic, binary choices like: “Left or Right?” “Buy or Sell?” Solidity or Cosmwasm?’ Ethereum or Cosmos? Taylor Swift or Doja Cat?
Despite being unaware of it, it’s happening within us, around us, and all over the entire cosmos…at all times.
Ant colonies are a classic example of emergence in action, since the collective intelligence of the colony is exponentially greater than each individual ant.
The colony can detect food, know when to take evasive action, and even know the exact number of ants that need to be deployed to forage food or ward off an attack.
The human brain is another example.
Each neuron isn’t conscious or intelligent on its own, but when connected, the collective intelligence is so powerful and conscious that a person can even think about thinking!
The evolution of blockchain technology is also driven by emergence
The governance, security and economic model, consensus algorithm, the collective values of the community, and every binary decision made by everyone, including each developer and community member involved, all contribute to catalyzing emergent behavior.
Any system that exhibits these attributes is known as an emergent system.
Which, again, are systems that start with simple parts making simple choices, which eventually grow into a complex whole that is exponentially more complicated than the sum of all the simple parts that originally started it all.
And here’s the mysterious part about it:
The trajectory of emergent systems is virtually impossible to predict because they are changeless and changing, constant and fluctuating, persistent and shifting, inevitable and unpredictable all at the same time!
Such behavior is essentially analogous to a freeze-frame of how blockchain ecosystems have evolved, will evolve, and are currently evolving right before our eyes.
Emergence is one of the key reasons many experts, including Ken Olsen, Steve Ballmer, and even Thomas Edison, got the future dead wrong.
If you’re a developer interested in improving your odds of predicting the future of blockchain…
Pay attention to and uncover all the emergent properties and attributes of the system you’re interacting with and see how you can influence them.
Because all of your “inconsequential” binary decisions, like which technologies you use, what you build with those technologies, and whom you align with, will most definitely cascade into something wholly different and unpredictable as time passes.
Since it’s impossible to predict how emergent technologies mature…
The most important variable a blockchain developer should consider is whether their personal values and vision of the future are in alignment with the people, communities, and technologies they decide to collaborate with.
So, if you’re a developer, my advice is for you to identify your personal values & vision of the future and never stray away from it.
It’s not complex like engineering; therefore there’s always the danger of people underestimating such simple advice.
Don’t underestimate it because it doesn’t involve code or because it sounds simple.
Simple doesn’t mean it’s not powerful, in fact, many of the most powerful ideas in our world are conceptually simple.
Here’s the thing…
If emergence is virtually impossible to predict, and you’re inherently working with technologies with emergent behavior, the most critical factor is whom you work & align with, not your tech stack.
If you’re with the right people and the right ecosystem, the technological changes will matter far less as long as your values & vision are constant.
Developers now have the unprecedented power to not only collaborate with communities & ecosystems that are in alignment with their values…
They can quite literally encode their values into the very fabric of the technology they’re building.
As an Architect of Web3, that’s how you influence the future at an individual level.
So, use that power wisely 😉
Disclaimer: Due to US regulations, the ARCH token will not be available to US residents.