Note — May 22, 2022

To Voice or to Exit: Crypto Cities

I’ll mention first that I read through the first part because I’m a fan of Drew Austin’s writing/thinking, otherwise there might initially be too many cryptobabble projects listed. Ymmv. Otherwise, a super intriguing parallel between DAOs, various other projects, an essay by Buterin, and city living and governance. Two main points; first, some of these projects should consider the lessons of cities in terms of cohabitation, challenges, and change. Second, economist Albert Hirschman’s book Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, where he argues that individuals “can either attempt to use whatever influence they have to improve those organizations from within (voice), or they can simply leave (exit).” Austin considers the increasingly nomadic professional class, crypto, the needs of cities, and who’s left holding the bag when people ‘exit.’ Great mental model, this ‘exit’ and ‘voice,’ and quite useful for cities and ‘citizenry‘ in general.

[The CityCoins vision is undoubtedly] utopian—yet another quality that unites crypto and cities, which have both presented fertile ground for utopian projects seemingly as long as they have existed. With digital space growing more crowded, in similar fashion to the physical space that cities occupy, the desire to escape to an imagined place where everything is better has grown correspondingly. […]

“Probably the biggest problem that the communes faced, though, was the idea of starting from scratch,” she writes. “In many ways, ‘going back to the beginning’ meant rehashing timeworn struggles over governance and the rights of the individual, albeit in capsule form…they needed to negotiate a new balance between the individual and group.” […]

Crypto may indeed finally solve these problems, but history suggests that it is more likely to discard existing cities’ complex, carefully-adapted systems and then fail to replace them with satisfactory alternatives.