An open letter to the decentralized future and how Ntheos plans to help build it.
Last updated on 5/12/2021
The World Is Changing...
100 years ago, the most common jobs in the world were in farming.
500 years ago, the most common jobs were also in farming.
1,000 years ago, the most common jobs in the world were also in (you guessed it) farming.
10,000 years ago... you get the point.
For all of history, the vast majority of people's day-to-day lives were spent on the labor-intensive tasks of obtaining food and shelter.
Today, our world is drastically different because of our tech-enhanced society. It’s easy to overlook the everyday technology that we constantly take for granted and the radical transformations it has enabled in a short window of time. Consumer tech like smartphones and personal computers have unlocked endless new possibilities which have permanently changed our species. Interconnectivity has never been higher, legacy power dynamics have never transformed quicker, and individuals have never been as empowered as they are now. Nothing is out of sight or reach for anyone with an internet connection.
Currently we are at an inflection point. Humans today see more evolution in patterns, standards and technology in one month than people used to witness over entire lifetimes. The far-out future is closer than we know and I find this very exciting. Ntheos is an idea that I feel should exist in that not so far-out future.
The goal of this piece is three-pronged: 1) explain recent changes and current trends, 2) demonstrate the future inflections that Ntheos is converging upon, 3) which will create a future canvas where we plan to paint our vision on.
Currently in 2021, nearly two-thirds of the world has access to and frequently uses the internet. For the first time, our entire species is located in one place: the cloud. Through this profound accomplishment, the world has become one collective brain, allowing for a rapid acceleration in innovation and technology.
Until recently, knowledge, wealth and opportunity (what I consider core currencies of life) were historically limited to a small subsection of the world’s population. The possible amount that one could obtain in one of these currencies was directly related to one’s traits at birth (race, sex, family, location, time, etc.). The lottery at birth determined the rest of life, amounting to inequality of opportunity that humans obliged to throughout history. This inequality improved as people developed more nuanced ideas on the fundamentals of society.
Starting in the Enlightenment, changes were made to the status quo, leading to breakthroughs and innovations in every field. The world became round, church and state divorced and humanity started to pick up its pace from a casual stroll to a fast walk. As electricity fueled new economies that operated under then-experimental government structures, novel concepts such as corporations, assembly lines and manufacturing began to bring a more material world into being.
Societies became incredibly complex, markets created a plethora of things and gadgets, people obtained more rights and opportunity, transportation and commerce connected the map’s dots and the world became much smaller. These changes allowed for more participation in various economies, which ultimately created a more prosperous, healthy and connected world.
The next step in this progression was the internet, a fairly recent innovation throughout the arc of history, which sought out to be the ultimate equalizer. Built on open protocols with a better world in mind, the internet began to connect the world with more people, knowledge, capital and opportunity. Fast-forward a few decades later and we now are at a point where the net fuels or touches every aspect of our lives. From transportation to health, from schooling to dating, and everything else in between: software has eaten the world.
But the main course has yet to be served.
Although the internet has changed the world more in the last 50 years than any other invention - prior, we still have much work to do towards realizing its full potential. Information technology has improved the world by orders of magnitude in just a few short decades. With that being said, the future holds many unprecedented changes that will dwarf the present status quo that exists.
Here’s a non-conventional thought that I fundamentally believe to be true:
The internet has just truly begun within the last year.
While on the surface that might seem like nonsense, here me out. We are just now reaching a point in which the world has accepted the internet and digital world as the new default. More advanced countries, such as the United States, have clearly been utilizing the newest technologies since their inception. However, most of the world has just recently gotten connected and access to the internet within the last couple of years. COVID-19 dramatically accelerated the amount of people globally connected, primarily via mobile devices.
A network effect is a network that gains more strength and becomes more useful as more people are involved (think opposite of a wi-fi connection). The internet is the greatest network effect of all time, which means that as we continue to increase the online population we also will increase the network’s utility. We are just now beginning to taste the peak.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought the late-adopters, hesitant naysayers and less-developed societies online. More people than ever have learned to use and depend on modern technology. Meanwhile, the tech industry is also amidst a transition away from the Web 2.0 era (that is dominated by a handful of companies) and into Web 3.0 (open/decentralized internet more true to the initial design). Third time’s the charm. :-)
This is no doubt an important moment in history, and from this point on, we are bound to see incredible changes in the world. The future is bright, bold and unimaginably different than where we are now.
Ntheos is committed to helping build that future, a better future. While exciting, this also presents many challenges. Building without precedent means that the precedent must be established by the current builders. Aside from technical and economic challenges, there are also many social and philosophical challenges to take into account. Tech can’t be heartless, consequences can’t be mindless. Not at this point in time.
We must learn from previous mistakes that tech has enabled and do our best to prevent repeating the same problem. When examining the current state of technology and how it’s applications can deviate from initial intention, we must truly think through the implications of what we build.
Once these challenges are thought through and tackled, there lies yet another challenge which is arguably the most important challenge to properly conquer. A crucial part of building the future also includes building a reliable bridge to link the present to that future. This is no easy task, but one that we are determined to take on.
The Ntheos Magazine, i.e. the site you are reading this letter on, exists to be that bridge. The next big thing cannot be gated away exclusively to those who “in the know”. Therefore content here is geared towards bridging the gap between the known (where we are today) and the unknown (where the magic will be tomorrow).
Now that we’ve discussed the current, let’s get to the exciting part: the future.
Ntheos is the platform of tomorrow. It converges on what I believe to be several key inflection points:
... much of life as we know it today will look unfamiliar.
As these changes occur, people will need different and better tools to navigate our new hyper-digital world.
The world is heading one direction, and that’s to the cloud. Join us on the way there?
The majority of the world is finally online. The western world, beginning with the United States, has been online for the last few decades while the rest of the world has steadily followed suit. Recently the surge to get everyone online has increased as both companies and governments see mutual benefits to getting more people online and increasing the interconnectedness of our planet.
At the time I am writing this in 2021, there are 4.66 billion active internet users, which is just shy of 60% of Earth’s population. An overwhelming majority ( > 90% ) of that 4.66 billion accessed the internet via mobile devices. The bar to entry is significantly lower for obtaining a smartphone compared to setting up a laptop or desktop. As the cost to produce smartphones continues to drop, we can predict that the number of online users will continue to climb this decade. Someone only needs to be handed an activated device to get online now. An example of how quickly this can happen can be seen in what Lagos, Nigeria did last summer in 2020.
Of the 3.6 billion people that are currently offline, nearly half are located in just a couple of countries. The four countries with the most offline citizens are India (685M), China (582M), Pakistan (142M) and Nigeria (118M). India and China both have well over half a billion people not connected to the internet, which can be attributed to age and demographics. However, both nations have significant economic and political incentives to get their populations online.
While India currently has the highest number of people offline, we can predict that this number will sharply decline due to the country’s demographics. As can be seen in the chart below, India has a young population, most of whom will be digital-first. Based on the youth, we can assume the population’s number of connected citizens will increase.
Nigeria has the fourth largest offline population, but this number will diminish as the country has positioned itself as a leader in African tech efforts. While the bulk of Africa is offline at the moment, drastic efforts are underway to change that. Interest in helping develop the continent can be seen from both the East and West. China’s trade and investment within Africa is likely to continue as many African countries modernize. Private and public sector interests are aligning in the content as well as many companies are demonstrating interest in developing infrastructure and technology essentials. A recent example is the blockchain company Cardano, who recently announced their new project to assign blockchain-enabled digital identifiers to Ethiopian students.
It is clear that the number of people offline will steadily lower this decade. When programs such as Starlink are also thrown into the mix, movement to the cloud has the potential to accelerate dramatically. Starlink’s adoption would be a 0 to 1 moment for the collective human mind. The ramifications for a completely connected world are almost unthinkable. However one thing is certain, this moment is approaching us soon.
At Ntheos, we are building for the world wide adoption of the world wide web.
Crypto, as I refer to it here, entails not just cryptocurrencies but the entire system more broadly. This includes blockchain protocols, tokens/currencies, smart contracts, NFTs and the many other technologies that are enabled (or yet to be invented) within the space.
The crypto space has just begun to reach maturity. As Bitcoin mainstreamed, Coinbase IPO’d and the DeFi/NFT space came to the forefront within the last year, the ecosystem is getting proper attention and respect from all different actors.
Ethereum and the ICO (initial coin offering) craze of 2017-18 was a turning point for blockchain technology. Ethereum’s ability to compound on the brilliance of bitcoin’s security and mechanism design by adding composable smart contracts has changed computing forever. Software has become more autonomous and useful as a result. A few boom/bust cycles later and now the space is more developed and diverse. It took several years but now builders have the green light to start building meaningful and paradigm-shifting projects.
While there are obviously many exciting things about the overall crypto ecosystem, for the sake of explaining maturity, it’s important to address decentralized finance’s role. Decentralized finance, otherwise known as DeFi, is crucial to the space because it has both served as a proof of concept and allowed for complex markets to be established by smart contracts.
Crypto at its core is software that enables open, borderless and trusted peer-to-peer transactions on the internet. People often downplay the importance of this concept and it’s hard for most to imagine what this will mean for commerce. In the same way that the downstream implications of international trade was unthinkable centuries ago, I believe this moment also empowers many unknown but dramatic shifts.
The newfound depth in blockchain technology’s possible impact should not be understated. Technology can now fundamentally play a different role in assisting our needs. To demonstrate, let’s look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Most traditional internet companies touch on the top three levels of the hierarchy, whether it’s online educational material, likes on a social media post or finding a partner on a dating app. Almost all companies either focus on love/belonging, esteem or self actualization.
Blockchain and crypto allow for a fundamentally different kind of impact. The fourth level can now be addressed on a much different scale than what previously could be done. Safety and security, the fourth level of Maslow’s hierarchy, is crucial to modern life. We need to feel secure not only physically, but morally, and in our property/finances.
Crypto enables breakthroughs on this front and enables far more meaningful ways of achieving financial security, maintaining ownership of personal data (which I see as personal digital property) while simultaneously preserving a higher morale. While Web 2.0 created gig-work and penny-pinching monetization options, Web 3.0 will create micro-entrepreneurs and micro-economies.
Let’s call it Atomomics, yeah? Cool.
You may have heard of the phrase “passion economy” lately. It’s a buzzword for a new economy where people are able to do things they love and get paid for it. The internet has created this new economy since it is now much easier for creators to find other people willing to pay for what they have to offer the world. This concept makes me very happy and is why I am building Ntheos. I believe the current passion economy is miniscule compared to what atomic economics will foster. Atomic economics is a concept I use to describe how I see the future passion economy developing.
Atomomics is the idea that there can now be micro-economies built around passions, people and ideas, down to the most niche of niches. Currently transactions are unilateral or bilateral at best. What decentralized finance has proven, is that there can now be a multi-dimensional transaction dynamic (an economy) built on the web, facilitated around vitually anything.
One-to-one and one-to-many dynamics has switched to many-to-many relationships. Instead of a creator providing a good/service and a buyer buying their offering through a trusted intermediary that has their own set of rules, now peer-to-peer transactions are enabled for everyone, with the rules set and agreed upon only by the transacting parties. Complexities, rules and other dynamics are enforced by smart contracts, allowing for the focus to be on the community, group or digital society.
While labeled the “passion economy” currently, the amount of people developing their own micro-economies will only multiply as decentralized peer-to-peer technologies transform this from a viable option to the obvious option. Currently in America, over 17 million people monetized in some way online, averaging out at $400 earned each across different platforms. This number includes a small few using these services as tools to enable their career and the vast majority using them as supplemental income streams on the side, such as selling used clothing on Etsy.
While this is great for some, it isn’t a viable or sustainable form of revenue for most. And even for those who do reach a profitably sustainable level, compensation recieved relative to value created is abysmal. A million views/streams on current platforms gets a creator around $4,000. I see this as manifesting a value exhaustion, in which the creators who provide the value are undercompensated and thus stop having an incentive to create.
Value exhaustion can be seen in the sharp decline in artistic quality across the spectrum, which is a net negative for our society. The creators, builders and artists of our time should be empowered and encouraged, not fucked over.
Ideas and creations are the core to the economies of tomorrow. If the joke-turned-currency Dogecoin showed the world one thing, it’s that economies can and will be created by people who choose to participate in them now that the barrier to participation has been all but eliminated.
These new atomic economies are a win-win for all participants. The passion economy has allowed some people to transform a hobby into a career or side gig but imagine this on a larger scale: where not only do producers profit but so do those who consume, curate, speculate, organize, etc. The fulfillment that derives from purpose driven work and interactions will become a self-manifesting positive for those involved, thus increasing the strength and engagement of the micro-economies that people participate in. It’s time to move from likes and clout to wealth and passion.
Perhaps the most pivotal aspect regarding this moment in history is the fact that the digital and physical worlds are imminently switching. For all of history, the physical world has taken precedence over the metaphysical. Spiritual, religious and digital worlds influenced societies throughout history but ultimately still took a backseat to the tangible world. For the first time, that is no longer the case. Between phones, laptops, televisions, video games and tablets: the average person spends far more time in front of a screen than doing anything else. When virtual reality matures, this will only increase.
Today’s youth are now digitally native. This has many implications for tomorrow’s world.
First, the physical world growingly has less importance and value placed in it. As people go online, they tend to be more invested in their online communities, interactions and systems. Whether this is a net positive change for humanity or is not yet to be concluded, but it is undeniably occurring.
People are increasingly less bound to physical locations as well. Airbnb and COVID-19 both shoved the human population into nomadism more than is currently understood. The idea of staying in a stranger’s home was taboo until Airbnb came. While this reduced the barrier to travel for many people around the world and simultaneously revolutionized the travel industry, it has had a more profound side effect in my opinion.
Airbnb inched people closer to the concept of living somewhere for a short amount of time, nomadism. When staying at an Airbnb, the experience is much closer to a one way exchange program than it is to a hotel. Upon arrival, you meet either a host, other guests or both. Immediately you are introduced to a location by knowledgeable locals and possibly have a partial tour guide. You get a much more genuine feel of the location and often are staying longer than a typical hotel since the stay is more enjoyable and/or cheaper. This is a shift not just in travel but in the possible way to experience multiple locations.
COVID impacted nomadism on two fronts: 1) acceptance of remote work 2) which therefore led to increased migration. The implications of this are far from being realized, but for anyone without children or dependents, there is now a nomadic and viable alternative to life that wasn’t previously possible or economically feasible for most people.
A glaring example can be examined by looking at California. The massive exodus showed that people are more than willing to move to more economically, politically or geographically desirable locations now that their work situation permits. This is just one example of what I feel is a shift in the way humans have traditionally clung onto locations. While many of these people made moves that are permanent, I predict this is far from a one-and-done migration pattern. More and more people will begin to weigh the benefits and drawbacks to staying in one location versus being nomadic (or at the very least, locationally flexible). This trend will only continue and it will soon seem as crazy to stay in one location as it now seems to wear the same clothing or eat the same meal everyday.
People of all ages are investing in digital over analog because they can. If every person has a hypothetical 16 time coins a day for each hour that they can spend a day, the majority of their capital is allocated to screens. Many jobs that don’t require screens are benign automated away, from driving to construction to fulfillment and everything in between. The flippening is upon us.
For children being born into today’s world, technology is second to arithmetic and language. And this trend is growingly becoming true to children globally. Whether in a developed or developing country, digital importance has been almost fully accepted universally. As the global barrier to interconnectivity is lowered, the youth will come into this world with a very different perspective on how it should operate.
As the digital first generation comes of earning age, digital experiences, communities, transactions and interactions will all but replace their physical counterparts.They will need better options than what is currently available to make this flip come to fruition.
What I listed above are just a few different turning points that I believe, with conviction, to be true and world-shifting. The future that these inflections create is the one that we are committed to building and focused on empowering at Ntheos.
More people are getting online, more time is spent in digital spheres and now there are more ways to build digital infrastructure that supports this increased time in the cloud with crypto and blockchain’s recent evolution. People should be able to sustain themselves financially doing what they enjoy to do because the odds are now in their favor. They can build atomic economies with like-minded peers in a way that has never been possible. As geographical barriers also drop due to the increase in nomadism and remote-work, the societies of the past will not look like the societies of tomorrow. The societies of tomorrow will be based in the cloud. While clearly the physical world is not going anywhere (yet), it is apparent that all trends are leading to a primarily digital way of life where people have more choices, can be more flexible, and ultimately prosper more.
In the future world, we have more freedom, flexibility and time. Tasks will be automated away. Lifespans will be longer with improved health. Access to knowledge will be virtually infinite and instantaneous. So what does this leave us with?
It will leave us with much more time to engage with one another and do the things that cannot be automated away: creative and innovative work, that we as humans all desire.
Creative work and increased free time is present on some scale now. But currently we have seen that manifest in too many negative ways. People getting de-platformed and cancelled; centralized companies dictating the new allowable rhetoric; conspiracy theories manifesting real-world consequences; the list goes on. Combine this with the current business models designed around keeping users hooked and “engaged” just to ring them out dry for their data to for ad money and you get a system that deserves to be broken.
Meanwhile, those who can use the available platforms for good make pennies on the dollar, thus limiting their earning potential to a point in which creation is not economically sustainable. How can we be improving in so many ways yet declining in others?
To be clear, I don’t hold anything against the current platforms because they did the best with the tools and technology that they had at their disposal. They changed advertisement, marketing and the way people interact with each other. That is not a small feat. But in 2021, we have better technology that we can build with. Technology that 1) rewards people much more proportionate to the value they create, 2) allows them to have a say in how their digital property (data) is used, 3) facilitates a healthier and non-predatory peer-to-peer environment and 4) gives users power and equity in the digital society they contribute to.
In traditional societies like America, citizens get a vote and pay to be part of the society (tax).
In digital societies like Ntheos, citizens get a vote and get paid to be part of the society (equity).
Wealth is shared, not fought over.
Ideas are appreciated, not shunned.
Creativity is encouraged, not preyed upon.
Data is property, not revenue.
Collaboration is common, not rare.
Individuals are powerful, not another number.
I see a world that is hyper-digital and passion-driven. Imagine if more people were encouraged to follow their curiosity or pursue their passion.? Not in their spare time but in their daily lives, everyday. What kind of breakthroughs would we see?
The more people that are true to themselves, the better we will be. In the past, we collectively under-utilized the talent pool that our species has produced. How many potential great artists, creators, scientists, visionaries, builders and dreamers got thrown in cubicles, assembly lines and fields? In today’s day and age, with the amount of tools available, this cannot go on. There are far more creative people that have something incredible to offer the world than are people currently offering the world something incredible. I truly believe that. And I am committed to changing that.
The technology is here, the changes are underway and the demand is present. So, it’s time to get to work. I look forward to helping build this future and I hope that you will join us on this journey to create a something that pushes the world, and beyond, forward.
The future is bright, I’ll see you there.
Thank you for reading.