Hey friends 👋
I don't know about you, but during my formative years, I went through a particularly rebellious phase. I experimented with wildly colored hair spiked with cheap gel. I wore ripped denim, leather, and piercings, all the while immersing myself in bands that belted out anti-authority lyrics over off-key guitar riffs. At the time, I considered myself a "punk," although in retrospect, I realize that I was little more than an angsty teenager expressing defiance in relatively harmless ways.
Sure, I held antiwar sentiments and took the time to educate myself about current events, but I lived in a small town in Canada, lacking the means to actively participate in any protests or engage in significant actions that would truly make an impact. Without that effort, I’m not sure I could really call myself punk, at least in retrospect.
You see, Punk is a subculture that’s often misunderstood, even generating disagreements among its own members. However, there are a few key components that most people can agree are necessary to the punk ethos. These include antiestablishmentarianism, which involves opposition to government and corporate power, as well as libertarianism/anarchism. Additionally, punks value self-made creations over mass-produced goods. Though often associated with a particular look, these core values are all that’s really needed, at least in my opinion.
One of the things that drew me to crypto was this idea that we could remake the digital sphere in a way that stripped the corporate entities of their power, distributing it out to the edges. If it succeeded as a system, it would simultaneously instantiate the core values of anarchism which I, and many other would-be punks, find desireable.
Anytime I use the terms anarchism or libertarianism in my writing, unless I explicitly state otherwise, I'm referring to leftist roots of these terms. For those unfamiliar, here is a section from the Wikipedia entry for Anarchism:
Anarchism is broadly used to describe the anti-authoritarian wing of the socialist movement. Anarchism is contrasted to socialist forms which are state-oriented or from above. Scholars of anarchism generally highlight anarchism's socialist credentials and criticise attempts at creating dichotomies between the two. Some scholars describe anarchism as having many influences from liberalism, and being both liberal and socialist but more so. Many scholars reject anarcho-capitalism as a misunderstanding of anarchist principles.
While I have my hopes, it’s important to note that cryptocurrency and smart contract blockchains are a tool, like any technology. And while they will undoubtedly help to usher in the next phase of the internet, it's up to us to decide what kind of societal values we want that internet to reflect.
Obviously, there are versions of the future we want to avoid. Usually labeled simply as dystopian (from greek, meaning bad place), these imagined worlds typically feature unmitigated authoritarian control by government, corporations, artificial superintelligence, or some combination of those.
From this theme, a genre of aesthetically intriguing world-building arose called cyberpunk. Books like Neuromancer or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? helped define the genre as did films like Judge Dredd, Blade Runner, and the visually stunning anime Akira. The video game world has been full of cyberpunk games from the fantastic super nintendo games Shadowrun and Flashback, to the best-selling Deus Ex series for PC and console, and more recently, the lazily named, but none-the-less relevant, Cyberpunk 2077.
Make no mistake, a cyberpunk future is entirely possible. So in acknowledgement that this is not the future we want, a selection of alternatives were imagined. And for whatever reason, it has been decided that they too shall be punk.
Though it is a considerably younger genre, with less than 20 years since the term was coined, Solarpunk as an aesthetic has been depicted in science fiction as far back as the 1970s in novels by Ursula K. Le Guin and later, Kim Stanley Robinson.
This genre can be considered the counterpoint to cyberpunk. According to Wikipedia, Solarpunk...
...worlds are not necessarily utopian but rather [ seek ] to present an alternative to a pessimistic, consequential dystopian outcome. To achieve this, themes of do it yourself ethics, convivial conservation, self-sustainability, social inclusiveness and positive psychology are often present. This perspective also more closely embeds the ideals of punk ideologies, such as anti-consumerism, egalitarianism and decentralization, than cyberpunk which typically includes protagonists with punk beliefs but in settings that are used more [ as ] a warning of a potential future.
To achieve solarpunk (or any kind of punk) outcomes, it is crucial that power be distributed. Blockchain is one tool for achieving this, as is open-source software. However, as mentioned earlier, tools can be used for any means, so solarpunks explicitly recognize the role that social coordination plays in creating positive-sum outcomes.
A number of mechanics, ranging from game theoretical to algorithmic, have been proposed to prevent blockchains from being used to further instantiate monopoly power and plutocratic governance. These tools include quadratic voting (where the cost of each vote increases algorithmically), regenerative finance, and retroactive public goods funding (where contributions to open systems are rewarded by the community who assess their value).
Critiques of solarpunk tend to naively equate progressive socialist ideas with the authoritarian socialist regimes of recent history and science fiction. While I disagree with this characterization, let's take a look at the counterculture that it bred.
If Solarpunk is predicated on an optimistic worldview, Lunarpunk is its pessimistic or skeptical sibling. Perhaps most associated with the manifesto-of-sorts “Lunarpunk and the Dark Side of the Cycle,” by Rachel-Rose O'leary, lunarpunk as a crypto idealogy is rooted in the idea that transparency inherently leads to authoritarian control.
Lunarpunk views the world in a much more zero-sum fashion than Solarpunk and, as such, aims to distribute power to the maximum degree. It is deeply aligned with the punk ethos of anarchy and individualism but veers towards the antagonist side of the punk spectrum, seeing direct action against the state or corporations as inevitabilities, and deriving a number of its worldviews from early cypherpunk ideals.
A cypherpunk is any individual advocating widespread use of strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies as a route to social and political change. Originally communicating through the Cypherpunks electronic mailing list, informal groups aimed to achieve privacy and security through proactive use of cryptography. Cypherpunks have been engaged in an active movement since at least the late 1980s.
The Lunarpunk aesthetic and symbolism are centered around the idea of a dark forest, representing societies protected by encryption and other privacy tools that help obscure individuals from the watchful eye of the sun (the state). Tools like zero-knowledge proofs, which confirm details without providing private information, are key to the Lunarpunk ideology. Similarly, the belief that financial information should remain private is critical, and privacy preserving cryptocurrencies like Zcash and Monero are favored over public blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Some Lunarpunks also advocate for private DAO voting or DAO-less communities to prevent collusion and coercion. In DAO-less communities, Lunarpunks heavily rely on the idea that incentives can solve problems more effectively than other forms of coordination, which aligns them more with anarcho-capitalism, a theory that inherently conflicts with the punk ethos of anticapitalism.
There are elements of Lunarpunk that have real merit, like the importance of privacy enhancing technologies in preventing control by the state or corporations. Similarly, the idea of private voting has merit as well. In an interview with Diffractions Collective, Rachel Rose O'Leary elaborated on this:
there are a lot of problems with having transparent voting. Like everyone agrees, even non-ideological DAOs, that having the votes known in advance changes the outcome of the vote. What you eventually see these kinds of Shelling Points emerging very early on, where everyone sees, oh, looks like that proposal is going to win. All votes converge on a single proposal, a kind of cascade of unconscious behaviour where people converge and mimic each other. And so what you’re seeing is that it’s actually coming closer to a representative democracy. And there’s a lot of delegation, which tends towards disempowerment, a diminishing of the emancipatory potential of the user.
I wrote about this exact concept in a recent article for ZecHub Magazine, which is a token-gated publication for community members of the ZecHub community. In that article I wrote about the work NounsDAO did with Aragon and Aztec to work on building out private voting systems. I definitely encourage you to check it out if you find that subject interesting.
So, you may be asking yourself, why hasn't anyone brought together the best of Solarpunk and Lunarpunk? Well, someone has...
As it relates to web3, the term Stellarpunk seems to have been coined by Puja Ohlhaver of Harvard's GETTING-Plurality Network at the Allen Lab for Democracy Renovation.
Puja, who coauthored the paper "Decentralized Society: Finding Web3's Soul" alongside Vitalik Buterin and E. Glen Wyle, is clearly someone who thinks as much about decentralization as she does about astronomy. In an episode of Kevin Owocki's Green Pill podcast, she defined as the drawbanks of Solarpunk and of Lunarpunk and how they relate to this new idea of Stellarpunk.
some of Solarpunk's mechanisms may not stand up well in adversarial environments
public onchain data leads to a risk of surveillance
(public) voting allows for hidden off-chain collusion
in an anonymous environments, there is still hidden collusion, and it's even harder to identify
without reputation, it's hard to effectively coordinate and to prevent sybil attacks
focus on individual privacy overlooks shared data, created by groups, and who should govern the use of that data.
To address these issues, she promotes the idea of Stellarpunk, which derives its name from the principle that the sun is simply a star whose light (influence) is most relevant within our solar system, while other stars' light is relevant in their respective solar systems. How this plays out in practice is by using mathematics to discount the influence of external communities on a DAO to minimize the risk of perverse incentives and collusion. Puja also advocates for the use of Harberger Taxes for certain kinds of semi-private goods.
Since these ideas are relatively new, there is not a lot of information available for me to consolidate. However, if you are interested in learning more about the concept of Stellarpunk, I recommend checking out this interview with Kevin Owocki on the Green Pill podcast.
So there you have it - several visions of a punk future. Some cynical, while others are optimistic. I would argue that what Puja seems to be advocating is simply a variation of Solarpunk, though I must say I love the name.
What do you think?
As many of you know, I'm a big believer that privacy is a fundamental human right and our most important principle for preserving individual freedom against corporations and governments who might want to abuse power. That's why I've advocated before for tools like MASQ and Skiff, both of whom have even sponsored the newsletter in the past.
Well, I was particularly pleased to see a new strategic partnership between the two was recently announced. Through this partnership, MASQ will include Skiff's apps in their privacy-first browser by default, and the two companies will engage in cross-promotion.
You can learn more about the announcement here.
And that's not the only partnership announcement we've seen in recent weeks. Brave, the company behind the browser and search engines by the same name recently announced a partnership with Electric Coin Company (the company that helps to develop and steward the Zcash protocol) as well as Filecoin.
Together they plan to add support for the shielded (private by default) ZEC payments in the Brave browser as well as private messaging and file sharing using technologies from these two blockchain companies. Not much more is known at this time, but you can read the official announcement, here ⬇️
There's been so much Ethereum scaling news lately, it can be hard to keep up. There are now over 10 forks of Optimism, many of which meet the definition of a superchain within the Optimism Collective's framework.
You can learn more about the OP Stack, the Law of Chains, and Optimism Governance in my recent deep dive article below ⬇️
I wrote this piece for the same reason I write a lot of my content: I looked for answers that I either couldn't find, or had to dig for. In preparation for that piece, I spent over a month, reading every OP Labs, Optimism Collective, and Base article; I watched every Optimism related video from ETHCC and ETH Bogota as well as episodes of Bankless and the Defiant; then I read through twitter threads, other blogs, and even the official Optimism Docs.
All of this research was consolidated into an article that I'm extremely proud of, and the reception has been wonderful. It is my most shared article on twitter and lens, as well as my most collected article ever on Mirror.
Recently Optimism announced RetroPGF Round 3 and I decided to nominate myself. Given that I believe this particular article to be the best available explainer to date, I'm hopeful that this nomination will at least get members of the Optimism Collective to share it around, and at best lead to some votes.
If I'm lucky, I'll get some retroactive funding that will help me buy a desperately needed laptop. You can learn more about that in this bizarre PDF / NFT experiment I created.
There are new chains taking advantage of the OP Stack regularly, from Mantle to Celo to Debank Chain. But that's not the only news in the L2 world. Perhaps the biggest news to date is that the Solana Virtual Machine will now be available to help scale Ethereum via a new L2 called Eclipse, an unexpected and unusual combination of open source technologies from Solana, Celestia, and RiscZero that’s already led to some pretty great memes.
All this talk of L2s is the perfect preface for...
In case you msised it, I worked together with a talented claymation artist to create a unique stop motion animation made using real clay. That animation is tied to an NFT that serves as way for readers to fund my work and show off their fandom at the same time. You can mint my patronage NFT on Ethereum, Optimism, Base, or ZORA NETWORK and I'm trying to come up with unique perks for holders.
For example, I’ve been experimenting with ways to communicate directly to holders via token-gated chat or other web3 native communication methods. I've tried XMTP as well as Tribes, and I am also looking at options like Console. I'd love to know from token holders what option they think is best, but for now I have under 20 patrons, so it's pretty easy to get in contact via traditional methods like Discord and email.
The reason I want to get in touch is because one of the first perks of being a patron is that you can send me your questions which I will try to answer, long form, here in the newsletter.
This month's question comes from Tim, who asks:
When can I stop having to worry about chains and swapping?
Great question! This has been on a lot of people's minds now that we're seeing an explosion of L2 activity. What happens when we start using tens or even hundreds of different rollups and rollapps?
While a lot of smart people are working on this problem, there is no 100% clear-cut answer here, but there are some interesting ideas about how this should be handled.
Smart contract wallets like Avocado allow users to hold assets accross multiple chains, pay the gas fees in whichever token on whichever chain they want, and even offer unique features like one-click PoolTogether deposits. On top of that, these smart wallets also usually feature simplfied account creation and recovery, making them ideal for beginners.
There are some downsides though, including much higher prices than what is actually required for the transactions (after all these wallets want to generate revenue), and potential lock-in as they often use centralized RPCs etc.
Optimism and other L2s are coelescing around this idea of a superchain, which is to say many chains, all built upon the same open-source codebase, which operate seemlessly as one. This has particularly interesting implications for bridging within a given ecosystem.
It is possible to introduce synchronous cross-chain messaging and enable atomic cross-chain interactions by using a shared sequencing protocol on both OP Chains. […] sequencers on chain A and chain B would each receive the arbitrage transaction, come to consensus on when they will include it, and then atomically include each transaction in the linked block. […] These shared sequencing protocols can be implemented permissionlessly on top of the modular sequencing layer of the post-Bedrock Superchain
Source: OP Stack Docs
This means that, if wallets come up with a good UX tailored to superchains, you might not ever think about which chain you’re on again.
Another interesting option is one that I know you're already aware of: Portals.fi. Portals takes the idea of Zap (swapping into and out of LP positions) to another level, allowing users to effortlessly participate in DeFi protocols like PoolTogether, Velodrome, and more. When we see this concept combined with superchains, all within a user-centric smart contract wallet, I don't think you'll ever feel burdened by questions of chains or swaps again.
Hopefully that answered your question. This is a place where the industry is evolving constantly. As new projects and primitives find there way into the ecosystem, I’ll be sure to talk about them in the newsletter. And similarly, whenever I come across cool things to share with readers, I’ll offer some…
Hopefully, you enjoyed this issue's look at different kinds of futurepunk ideologies. I think a lot of my readers probably consider themselves to be either Solarpunk or Lunarpunk and see little room for agreement. Perhaps Puja's ideas about Stellarpunk will help sway you to find common ground, but in case that doesn't work, I've got recommendations for everyone.
For the optimists, there is a fantastic article from Zora Zine that explores Solarpunk through a critical lens. Notably, I think this article helps explain the ways in which Solarpunk is intentionally different from some sort of green proto-Marxism, as some skeptics might suggest.
For the pessimistic, here's an episode of Wired's Gadget Lab podcast exploring the idea of Local-First software. This new trend is a pushback against always-connected software like Google Docs and Notion. Apps like Obsidian, Anytype, and Logseq allow for open file formats to be saved locally and backed up to any cloud service you prefer.
Learn more about this new paradigm here ⬇️
Finally, something for those of us who love experimenting with novel technologies, here’s a nintendo emulator with built in zero knowledge tech from Aztec, that will allow for proving in-game achievements without having to film/livestream them.
As a classic video game lover, I'll definitely be trying this out. How about you?
With that, I think I should wrap this thing up.
Until next time,
If you enjoyed this newsletter, consider collecting a copy. It's like tipping and receiving a unique digital collectible as a receipt.
And for the cypherpunks, I accept anonymous tips with Zcash to my shielded address: