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The Crypto Renaissance

A summary of Joshua Rosenthals episode on the Bankless Podcast

Joshua Rosenthal, PhD in History and a crypto-native historian, draws fascinating parallels between transformative periods in history—the Renaissance, the American Revolution—and the contemporary Crypto movement, illustrating how lessons from the past can inform our present and future. This article is a must-read for those who missed his insightful discussion on Bankless.

Let’s travel to medieval times

Visualize yourself as a medieval peasant. You live in a stagnant, permission-based society dominated by monarchs. Then two decentralized technologies collided: Ledger-based financial primitives (double-entry bookkeeping) and new, permissionless communication tools—the Printing Press.

This convergence played an important role in dismantling the medieval hierarchical structure, paving the way for what would become Proto-Capitalism. The early adopters of these technologies gained a significant advantage, starting a period of competition and innovation. However, embracing these new opportunities often meant facing stiff opposition from traditional workers, families, and the entrenched societal order. This scenario may sound familiar to observers of the modern Crypto revolution.

Change of Scene - The American Revolution

America - The Land of Opportunities

Often, we visualize early settlers of America as pilgrims and puritans. We imagine them as driven by a quest for religious freedom. Yet, they were inspired by Renaissance ideals and the concept of individual sovereignty. In this new land of opportunity, they envisioned a society where one could trade freely, pursue entrepreneurial endeavors, and collaborate on ideas with like-minded individuals.

What happens when reality falls short of these lofty ideals? Faced with the harsh realities of the New World, these early settlers had to decide. Will they maintain loyalty to the existing order or embrace a revolutionary path? This dilemma underscored a broader question about governance and community life. Much like the pioneers of America, the crypto community faces similar crossroads. Embodying the spirit of builders in an ecosystem where success is not guaranteed.

Public failure is a vital component of progress. It invites scrutiny, allowing for the identification and rectification of errors, thereby refining the system. This process demands a reevaluation of values. Individuals have to articulate what is meaningful and important. It's called The American Experiment for a reason. It was a trial by fire in real-time governance and societal structuring.

The Renaissance, the American Revolution, and similar societal inflection points are not isolated events. They are chapters of a broader narrative that pits permission against sovereignty, hegemony against decentralization, and subjugation against independence.

The US Constitution is a protocol designed to coordinate a decentralized population. Similarly, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are governed by the idea that "code is law". These digital protocols establish a new form of community. One founded on consensus-based currency and contracts.

Nations are imagined communities, instantiated by consensual currency and contract

The Boston Tea Party remembered for its rallying cry against taxation without representation, was about governance and the right to pursue economic independence. It was a conflict over values and the control systems that either enable or inhibit individual and collective prosperity.

Vocation - Find your calling

If you have a vocation, you have a strong feeling that you are especially suited to do a particular job or to fulfill a particular role in life, especially one which involves helping other people.

In the land of opportunity discovering and following a divine calling is the essence of the American Dream. Today, this pursuit is revitalized and transformed by the advent of an economy of ownership, enabled by new communication technologies.

These digital networks, the very "rails" of modern communication, offer opportunities for individuals to explore and excel in their unique areas of expertise. More than ever, it is possible to align personal incentives with broader societal benefits. This enables a harmonious integration of individual aspirations and collective progress.

This shift towards an economy where ownership and contribution are connected allows us to redefine success. It encourages a realignment of our incentives, moving away from traditional, often externally imposed goals. Towards a model that values personal fulfillment and societal contribution.

The Public Square - Governance

Historically, the public square served as the epicenter for discourse and governance. With DAOs there is a tendency to replicate in-real-life (IRL) governance models. However, the unique capabilities of blockchain technology have paved the way for novel democratic processes: Quadratic Voting, Reputation-based Voting, and Proof-of-Attendance, among others.

Example of Quadratic Voting Logic

This innovative approach allows participants to allocate votes to a proposal based on the intensity of their preference. It goes beyond a simple yes/no vote. This system seeks to balance the influence of majority rule with the intensity of minority preferences. This could lead a to more nuanced and democratic outcome.

The revolutionaries of the past didn't dismantle the existing order through destruction or seek permission. They catalyzed transformation by embodying the principles and advantages of new technological paradigms. Similarly, the crypto movement suggests a path forward. Not through confrontation but by demonstrating the inherent value of adopting new protocols and their underlying values.


Renaissance, American Revolution, Now: You have the opportunity to shape the future. Find your calling, keep building and generate value for you & others. Do it in public, and share your successes and your failures.

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