The End of History
I once boasted on a date that Hegel invented history. The gross over-exaggeration on my part led only to rolled eyes, nervous laughter, and unreturned texts. But in a sense, Hegel did develop a teleological view of history that imbued progression with a sense of purpose. An enlightenment theorist at heart, Hegel’s philosophy is distinctively evolutionary: human societies—from surviving sabertooth tigers to agribusiness, Hammurabi’s code, the Renaissance, and finally fully-fledged financial systems built upon decentralized public ledgers—stride through Sturm und Drang to attain self-transcendence. Men are born free but do not know that they are until they push upon the limit of their freedom in some meaningful way. People achieve this self-realization through a dialectical process, which relies on the life-and-death struggle between two contradicting orders until the unity and sublation of the opposition (synthesis) is achieved, and we proceed to a higher, more sophisticated condition. Hegel wrote: “Thus Spirit is at war with itself; it has to overcome itself as its most formidable obstacle.” Hegel applies this idea to states and argues that history ends when nations perfect their nature by overcoming themselves.
We now stand upon a point in history where the tension between the two opposing ideologies has reached a breaking point. Behind us rests the glaring inefficiency, opaqueness, and failure of the capitalistic society. In front of us lies a forked path: one, Web3, and the idealized, enlightened, freed, and transcendent sovereign individual. A step down this path means embracing and tackling the problems that may stop us from the reunion of supply and demand in modes that are both genuinely productive and compatible with decentralized, autonomous organizations. This has already occurred to some degree. The other leads down Artificial intelligence-enabled faked decentralization backed by totalitarian regimes and technocratic monopolies. A step down this path will lead to an Ai turbo-boosted Hobbesian Leviathan that will exert its influence from the shadows. This has also already occurred to some degree. Naturally, the question is, how did we get here, and where are we headed? Let me explain.
In Hegel’s day, the spirit expresses itself in the state, declared by Hegel to be “the march of God on Earth.” But what does this final expression of the state look like? I believe Hegel was wrong when he claimed that it would look like a monarchy, especially one under Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. For me, it’s paradoxical. On one hand, it would entail the ultimate dissolution of the state: in not anarchy, but transcendental individual sovereignty. One is one’s own monarch. On the other hand, it would also see all men become interconnected through the ultimate realization of the metaverse. My vision of the end of history is an embrace and synthesis of both paths to attain transcendence. But how do we get there? The immediate next step, at least, will no doubt involve the establishment of an interwoven web of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations—or DAOs.
As history moves gingerly from feudalism to ownership societies (especially in the symbolic rupture of the French Revolution, which attempted to establish a division between universal property rights and monarchical tyranny), to a democratic, value-driven Neo-capitalist world powered by blockchains, we sit on the precipice of something great. We have felt the limitations of capitalism (which Hegel pointed out 200 years ago) in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the fact that a decentralized system was even invented in the first place (and the reason why Satoshi felt the urge to invent Bitcoin) was due in part to the catastrophic collapse of our system. Here a diligent reader cannot be faulted for regarding Hegel as anti-capitalist; after all, it was he who articulated the dialectical method in describing progression that Karl Marx (the German harbinger of doom) would later position within a materialist framework to predict the death of capitalism. Not so fast. In my view, the principal problem with capitalism is not with the system, but with implementation: we did not know how to intelligently design the machinery that would make it run. Thus, our deficient organizational arrangement led to the crisis, not human malice or greed.
Technology has allowed us to sagaciously reimplement the system this time: instead of having factory jobs aimed at extracting worker value, we have monetized abstract self-expression. Bitcoin democratized currency, Ethereum the internet, DeFi the financial system, NFTs the different forms of media, and DAOs, organizations. The Marxist doomsday of the “concentration of industry” brought about by technological transformation is emphatically refuted; Marxist alienation is overcome. Content is being generated by participating users who also consume the value created, creating positive system dynamics. As Web3 pioneers lay the groundwork for the creation, digitization, and tokenization of value, humanity has begun flirting with true content ownership by enabling creators to monetize their labor in a way where they are wage-makers. Heck—new SocialFi platforms even allow you to create your own currency that people can trade and speculate on, and it won’t be long before people are selling $bobaepicure puts. In sum, we finally have an economic system that leverages human ingenuity as opposed to exploiting hard labor. Compared with the previous two generations of the internet, the metaverse, as I see it, is a medium and platform geared to promote the free exchange of direct value, which entails far more than just mobile payment, transactions, or VR chat. The future is express-to-earn and live-to-earn, promoted by DAOs.
Thomas Hobbes, the father of modern political philosophy, wrote in Leviathan that in the state of nature, man’s existence was doomed to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” The state of nature is in essence a state of war “of every man against every man.” According to him, man feels a consistent drive to assert his individuality emanating from his right to self-preservation, but there is no way for him to come to trust one another’s intentions, to make sure that his rights will not be violated. Driven by fear, imagination, and instincts, every man does what he pleases to do in order to preserve himself—even murder—and thus humanity descends into chaos. Where there is “no common Power,” writes Hobbes, “there is no Law: where no Law, no Injustice. Force, and Fraud” are the two cardinal virtues. Anticipating this chaos, men come together to form a social contract and submit to a monarch by relinquishing their rights—by art, the Commonwealth, the great Leviathan, is born.
Crypto land fundamentally flips modern political philosophy on its head—we have invented a way for there to be law when there is “no law.” Web3 allows us to finally transcend this idea because we now have an invisible, permissionless, lawless, and trustless blockchain layer that allows us to reach a consensus without authority. Block validation is by design censorship-resistant. A DAO is by principle democratic. Increasingly, I see a tomorrow where everything can be organized as a DAO: DeFi, SocialFi, and NFT projects are organized as DAOs, blockchain miners and validators are a form of DAO, CEX projects are turning to DAOs, social clubs are becoming DAOs, creators are forming DAOs to issue NFTs, games are forming DAOs to raise funds through NFT sales, and venture capital funds operate as DAOs. You have a DAO, I have a DAO, and Irene has a DAO. An alien Cryptopunk has made itself a DAO, and no one knows what it wants (https://aliendao.xyz/). The constitution DAO is still trying to do something after failing to outbid the founding document from Citadel’s Ken Griffin. AssangeDAO, a DAO co-founded by Bitcoin developer Amir Taaki, was created to free Australian dissident Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame from prison. Overall, any organization under this form of neo-capitalism where members themselves are part-owners and managers can be considered a DAO. This more intelligent design of capitalism needs to be implemented now.
Economic freedom is a means toward political freedom. Political freedom is in turn based on the accumulation of power that is everywhere and comes from everywhere. John Dewey put it best: “the demand for liberty is demand for power.” In this new world, having a direct stake in this decentralized ecosystem means wielding real power in the state for once. This radical reimagining allows me to picture a future where dynamic, borderless organizations without (or with little) hierarchy can undertake much of the value creation: supply of services is more conceivable with interconnected value networks, exchanges, and bridges providing connectivity between these ecosystems. I think, as a young Hegelian myself, this is what some disciples of Hegel, the “Hegelians of the left”, envisioned: to the confused delight of Marx (and dismay of Hegel himself), the final expression of geist and human freedom means to us the ultimate automation and dissolution of the state in favor of individual sovereignty.
The Philosophy of Crypto
A new question arises: with the technological framework that now enables us to reimplement an intelligently designed capitalistic system, how should we come to adopt the future? We turn to philosophy because crypto is in need of philosophy. Web3 requires philosophers to put it in perspective and crypto demands a creed that extends beyond “wen moon” and “pumpit!” Values need to be more than tokenized and monetized, they must be redefined and imposed in this Brave New World. The philosopher answers this calling. Science, without philosophy, is but an exercise in the vindication of itself. Hegel himself accepted the Romantic critique of Newtonian science as narrow and insufficient when it came to explaining the natural world. Academia focuses too much on problem-solving and the reduction of complex absolutes into digestible subparts, losing sight of the bigger picture. Thus, as we enter the Web3 Cambrian explosion, it is vital that we bridge science and technology with deeper metaphysical ruminations: what is physics without metaphysics?
When eventually our digital avatar eclipses our real-life identity in importance and renders it obsolete, we will need to reevaluate what it means to be human metaphysically. Moving governance on-chain has failed to resolve any of the problems of democracy that the anti-majoritarian framers of the Constitution had to face. If a state becomes a DAO, would it not be founded upon a digital, decentralized social contract? How will this contract be enforced without high state capacity? In The Sovereign Individual, James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg claim that state-building, summarized by Charles Tilly’s old adage that “war made states and states made war” has been driven obsolete as they trumpet the end of sovereign Weberian nation-states that derive their power from “[monopolizing] the legitimate use of physical force.” Crypto and Web3 mean that we now finally have the technology to do it. If individuals are to replace the state upon the end of history, as I too believe, then they better understand how to rule themselves. What would post-state, individual sovereignty feel like? After all, Hegel wrote, “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk”—understanding is only found in hindsight.
Ultimately, Web 3.0 is about unleashing creative juices. DeFi, DAOs, and NFTs are all part of a Fichtean struggle driving a dialectical evolution that promises to give birth to the eventual end of history. I think Hegel’s end vision is a rational one: he envisioned a world where humans achieved perfect self-knowledge and self-mastery when life became democratized, permissionless, transparent, hyper-rational, and (in my reading) decentralized. Crypto. Rationality and transparency, in the metaverse, will finally enable intelligent capitalism and democratic institutions to function as theoretically intended through DAOs. is not hard to view the metaverse as the qualitative evolution of the internet based on the Internet of Things, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, and AR/VR tech, the final self-actualization of the state, the end-point of humanity’s sociocultural evolution, and the final form of human governance. We will come to capture the value of Earth as a whole while allowing for the permissionless flow of information and fostering low-cost, remote, real-time interconnection and collaboration. The Ubermensch will live in this new ideological and utopian future, where he creates, establishes, and imposes his values upon the world as a sovereign. Yet, these new superhumans would also be amalgamated by the metaverse into a giant hegemony with its own global consciousness and greatly enhanced collaborative capacity. They lead an almost incomprehensible paradoxical existence: together they form an artificial man powered by the mega web and cybereconomy worthy of Hobbes’ most fantastical invention, while, at the same time, they each rule as individual sovereigns in perfect freedom exercising their will to power. This is synthesis.
Phew—that was a lot of intellectual masturbation. Now for a few words of caution: as of now, all the permissionless and decentralized features I talk about are de facto non-existent in Web3. Instead of ushering in the revolution, many companies are working hard at centralizing the decentralization. Take OpenSea, for example. Most GameFi projects are built on centralized servers with only the actual NFT part on-chain. Furthermore, as I pointed out in my last piece, most GameFi players are still “forced to become workers under the ‘scholarship’ system—where they borrow expensive assets from the investors and earn with them while giving them most of the profits—a type of 21st-century serfdom where a rent-seeking guild sits between them and the game.” People remain the biggest problem: individuals just don’t want to run their own node/server. Almost all dApps use either Infura or Alchemy to interact with the blockchain. As Marlinspike points out, when dApps interact with the blockchain via your wallet, they are just making calls to Infura anyway—Consensys for the win!
Surveillance capitalism is also another worrisome development. As people become increasingly digitized and connected through the metaverse, new avenues will open up for tech conglomerates and shadow government agencies to abuse private communication. Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff believes that a “rogue mutation of capitalism marked by concentrations of wealth, knowledge, and power unprecedented in human history” in the form of Web2 giants like Facebook and Amazon are leading us to destruction. Even America and other fledgling democracies have turned to using the IoT and artificial intelligence for “identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and … [gaining] access to networks or user credentials.” Even the decentralization of many L1 protocols is questionable: just look at the Nakamoto coefficient—the minimum number of entities that need to be compromised to launch a 51% attack—for Solana, BSC, and Terra. Finally, even DAOs, though in principle revolutionary, pretty much exist in the form of discord servers: hollow shells that offer empty promises based on marketing rhetoric. They have yet to vindicate the utopia I painted earlier. On the whole, though web3 touts its ability to destroy the monopolistic information silos in web2 organizations, it looks like a decentralized, democratized, permissionless, transparent, and rational future is still very far away.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Moving forward, we have to acknowledge that there are always going to be inherent centralization forces at play whether we are in Web2 or Web3. Take block production, for instance: all forces are pushing us towards a world where production is centralized. Running nodes is inherently a resource-intensive task and for most people, it’s almost always better to delegate that through divisions of labor. However, in crypto, the key difference is that we are making block validation trustless, permissionless, and censorship-resistant: any centralization tendencies don’t lead to the winners abusing their power and us down the Road to Serfdom. In fact, centralizing and decentralizing forces form a dialectical struggle that will empower the increasing sophistication of Web3, not destroy it.
In the 1930s, John Maynard Keynes penned an essay titled “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” In it, he foresaw a future where “the economic problem may be solved, or be at least within sight of solution, within a hundred years. This means that the economic problem is not—if we look into the future—an enduring problem of the human race.” When Marxist struggles for subsistence become a thing of the past, what then? Keynes looked forward to this “day not so very remote, to the greatest change which has ever occurred in the material environment of life for human beings in the aggregate. But, of course, it will all happen gradually, not catastrophically. Indeed, it has already begun. The course of affairs will simply be that there will be ever larger and larger classes and groups of people from whom problems of economic necessity have been practically removed.” Keynes’s vision aligns with mine where I claim that we have redesigned our capitalist system to exploit human ingenuity for society’s gain as a whole rather than greed for each individual’s own benefit, as he believed “it will remain reasonable to be economically purposive for others after it has ceased to be reasonable for oneself.” In this world, DAOs will power the express-to-earn value economy. It is a testament to my vision that abstract self-expression has already supplanted traditional work. Meme coins, for example, have been one of the most disruptive trends of the last annum: how else would one characterize the rise of Dogelon Mars ($ELON) or Shiba Inu ($SHIB) other than the tokenization and monetization of self-expression? Mfers and Doodles are a whole different story to be covered for another time. Though decentralized social platforms have yet to take off, the day when everyone will have their own interoperable, interchangeable token is not distant. This newfound openness will allow people to mix and match different ownership returns to express their individuality and unique desires. What a future Keynes imagined.
Keeping Keynes and Hegel in mind, we glance down the fork in the path ahead. Behind us lies the tattered financial system, increasing inflation, and historical oppression. We must step. On one road lies the web3 revolution, and the enlightened, freed, and transcendent sovereign, who Davidson and Rees-mogg hail as “gods of myth.” A path where people can get paid for self-expression (say browsing the internet with a specific web browser, writing a review for the coolest new hip hotel in SOHO, or posting half-naked photos of themselves on a Caribbean beach, etc.). The other leads down feigned decentralization backed by totalitarian regimes and technocratic monopolies. A step down this path will lead to an Ai turbo-boosted Hobbesian Leviathan that will rule from the shadows. In which path will we step? I believe it’s not that simple. We will not reject one path for the other; instead, the two paths will converge, intertwine, and synthesize in the distance in a way that is beyond our imagination. Web3 and crypto will come to incorporate AI and technocratic institutions to allow humanity to reach a higher form of metaphysical existence. Humanity will prevail as it forges its own path onward, marching ahead as it always had. In classical Fichtean fashion, history will progress, and the synthesis, the end of history, will be transcendental.