Essays Never Normal Newsletter

Let’s Meme the World a Better Place

The world has changed, and we have a choice to make:

Should we focus on the bits or the atoms?

I’ll do my best to explain what that means and how it ties together my nomadic lifestyle, the metaverse, crypto, cows, and a radical plan to buy the constitution.

You Are Here

First, let’s review some quick background. As you’re all too aware, the pandemic forced people indoors and online. This accelerated the following trends:

  1. Remote work has gone mainstream and it’s here to stay. CNBC just reported: “only 28% of Manhattan office workers are back at their desks… office vacancy rates in New York City are now at a 30-year high.”

  2. It has become much more common to have friends, colleagues, and even business partners that we interact with online and never meet in person.

So that’s where we are now, but what happens next?

Now that we can work and socialize online, we should ____________

Let’s explore three different answers to fill in that blank.

Big Companies Go Meta

The term “metaverse” was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 book Snowcrash, but all of a sudden, it’s everywhere.

If you tuned into the news at any point in the past few weeks, then you’ve seen big corporations line up one after the other to tell us how excited they are about the metaverse.

Disney plans to create metaverse theme parks. Meanwhile, Microsoft is pushing business meetings in the metaverse. And of course, Facebook renamed themselves, “Meta” and announced a $10 billion dollar investment in AR and VR tech.

These companies are filling in the blank above by saying:

Now that we can work and socialize online, we should build immersive, digital worlds.

This is the “focus on the bits” approach. To me, it sounds an awful lot like:

Now that we can work and socialize online, you should stay at home, strap a VR headset to your face, and dive headfirst into the matrix — oops, I mean the metaverse.
Mark Zuckerberg demonstrating VR technology at Mobile World Congress in 2016

Freedom to Change the View

Rather than staying home, I took the opposite approach.

In 2012, I made a decision to stop taking client work that required me to be on-site. That gave me the flexibility to work from anywhere.

I took advantage of that freedom by moving out of my house and becoming a digital nomad — traveling, living, and working all over the world ever since.

So, my answer to the fill in the blank above is something like:

Now that we can work and socialize online, I'm going take advantage of that freedom by improving my life and spending time in places that excite and inspire me.

This is becoming a popular choice.

In spite of the ongoing pandemic and associated travel restrictions, Airbnb just announced their highest Q3 revenue ever — 36% higher than Q3 2019.

Part of the reason that the company is doing so well is because people are now living in Airbnbs.

Swap the corporate world for a colorful one.

That’s the tagline of SecondHome’s new jungle-esque coworking space in LA. With “beautiful private garden pods for teams of four to 200” surrounded by over 6,500 plants and trees. They even offer childcare.

But living in Airbnbs and working from beautiful coworking spaces are still all about changing the view from your window.

What if we decided instead:

Now that we can work and socialize online, we should change the world.

This is the “focus on the atoms” approach.

Let’s Meme the World a Better Place

In addition to remote work, another major effect of the pandemic is that we’ve built stronger bonds with our online friends and communities. As those online communities grow in size and strength, so do their real world impacts.

Some of those impacts are silly — remember Boaty McBoatFace?

But even the silly can turn serious. Dogecoin started as a joke, but this past May it reached a total market cap of over $90 billion dollars.

Dog-themed meme currencies may be questionable investment, but Dogecoin is proof of what’s possible when enough people get behind an idea.

And it’s hardly the only proof. Perhaps I should have mentioned bitcoin first. Bitcoin didn’t exist 15 years ago, and today it’s worth a total of over $1.1 trillion.

Then there’s the WallStreetBets community that sent the price of GameStop’s stock to the moon and at least one hedge fund to the brink of bankruptcy.

But it’s not just about money and meme stonks anymore.

The crypto community’s latest obsession is buying the U.S. Constitution:

For the first time in thirty-three years, one of thirteen surviving copies of the Official Edition from the Constitutional Convention will be publicly auctioned by Sotheby’s.

ConstitutionDAO is a DAO that is pooling together money to win this auction.

A DAO, in case you’re wondering, is a bit like a corporation, except instead of being formed in Delaware and governed by board members and bylaws, it runs on a blockchain and uses tokens and smart contracts to allow stakeholders to invest, vote on proposals, and earn rewards.

In just a few days, ConstitutionDAO has managed to raise $12.5 million dollars. We’ll find out tomorrow if they’re successful, but whether they win the auction or not, they’ve already shown the potential of DAOs for channeling online energy into collective action in the offline world.

This got me thinking, what if a bunch of fans got together and took a similar approach to buying their hometown sports team? What about replacing health insurance with a not-for-profit DAO?

There’s already a DAO for CreatorCabins. And Nat Eliason explored the idea of CowDAOs (pooling together for discounts on healthy meat) and CoffeeDAOs in a recent post.

But what if we think even bigger?

I’ve written before that it’s time for a digital country

Praxis is an online community that aims to build a new city-state from scratch. They’re online-to-offline approach resembles what Balaji Srinivasan prescribes and refers to as, The Network State.

These are exciting times! That’s all for this week. More soon…

Not a subscriber?

I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

Want to learn along with me? Join my Never Normal Newsletter: