DeFi and the Hyper-Capitalist Counterculture
DeFi claims to be yet another attempt to remake society for a new generation, but it is capitalism reincarnate in a darker, more subversive form.
DeFi (Crypto/Web3/Bitcoin) seems to embody the frustration felt by the 99% against the 1% who keep getting more and more powerful irrespective of whatever changes that happen to society. Every piece of technology ends up making the incumbent more powerful. This is what seems to me as the technology paradox. While technology brings more empowerment to everyone, it also ends up being co-opted by the powerful and used as a tool of control.
Through the modern ages, right from Marx, there have been waves of counter movements against the capitalist architecture that exists in society. In the mass media / globalised society, it has been expressed as the hippie movement of the 70s to punk in the 80s. The 90s and the noughties have been remarkably free of any rebellious counter movements. I think this is because the generations were able to express themselves on the internet and find interest groups on various platforms.
The internet itself started to get colonised with the advent of Google and Facebook post 2005 and then its been a downward spiral of big tech capturing most of the so called independent spaces. This capture was not done by legal means but by brute force content creation by incentivising people to be their most provocative selves on the internet either unnaturally happy and attractive (Instagram) or abusive and violent (Twitter). Google has (inadvertently) converted the casual internet into a mass ad delivery network where every content creator has to resort to spammy tools to survive. With the independent spaces on the internet being shut down, the need for a new form of expression was needed.
This was coupled by the consensus of governments across the world that the status quo will be maintained at all costs, even moral ones. Both through the 2008 financial crisis and the 2020 pandemic, governments have continued to uphold old, corrupted and crumbling structures instead of handing over the reins to a new generation with fresh ideas and energy.
A new rebellion is in the air, and unfortunately the shape this new rebellion has taken is of capitalism in its worst form. While it was started by hackers as a response to profligacy of central banks, its found it’s first killer app in illicit trade. Then it was relatively quickly co-opted by large, greedy Venture Capital funds into an engine of hyper-capitalism — flooding the internet with yet more technobabble in the form of block chain and political posturing. DeFi takes multiple shapes and forms based on the debate. It is either technology or politics, and sometimes it is a currency and other times, an asset. TED talks have been created and world leaders and business leaders have been blabbering nonsense to the general public.
If you are a believer in DeFi, I empathise with your frustration. Yes you want to burn it all down, believe me, I want it to burn it down too, but not at the cost of bringing systemic risk to the entire society. Capitalism has survived because its worst impulses have been counter balanced by democratic institutions. In fact capitalism has played a great role in sustaining democracy itself by creating a system of some form of meritocracy in redistribution of wealth and power, keeping it alive against dictators, demagogues and politicians. If capitalism has a dark side, DeFi is the devil incarnate.
In some ways, the goal of DeFi is to destroy the current system. The path is chooses is not an idealistic one chosen by say the free software movement or Wikipedia, but a cancerous one. General public has been saturated with hyper marketing and over-information, is ready to believe anything. Any technologist worth their salt will be easily able to call out the hype and hollowness that surrounds DeFi and its attempt to subvert public opinion with massive advertisement.
With every moment of inactivity, governments are just allowing this cancer to spread. At some point, the blast radius will become so large that we would be not be able to remove the cancer without killing the host.
Speak up, while there is still time.