I have been very, very interested in all the blockchain, crypto and ICO developments that have taken place in the last 2-3 years. So many interesting, thought-provoking projects. Some of them actually transport me to alternative realities – that is the level of groundbreaking ideas we are talking about.
But having said that, I have a feeling I have seen this before and after a bit of thought on the subject, it struck me that it reminded me of the Modernist movement that swept through the world starting in the 1930’s.
Modernism too was a massive break from the existing, proposing a different way to live, build and work. And for me, the striking similarity between ICOs of today and Modernist projects from the past is best exemplified in modernist Architecture and Urbanism (cities) – Modernists made permanent structures that would ultimately affect millions – if not billions – of people’s lives that would be using these structures for generations to come. These new buildings and cities did away with older traditions, humanism and introduced the idea of equal man – equal rights, equal body parts, equal culture. Mas as a unit not a person, buildings as machines for living and a cities as machines for civilisations to develop. It was a massive break with the past.
So why do I think there are similarities? Because ICOs are, in general, about creating massive – global – paradigm shifts that require immense effort by all involved to implement. These new ideas will impact the world and the participants in fundamentally important ways BUT these are all untested waters – a utopia of white-papers that have not met with real life participants yet. Nor do they much care about opposing views.
Back to Modernism – a great example of this disconnect from the past is the city of Chandigarh in India. It was a city built from the ground up with Modernist ideals by one of the most famous Architects that spearheaded the Modernist movement – Le Corbusier. The city was built to bring India into the future – it had all the latest Modernist bells and whistles – concrete, glass and steel buildings, a modernist road layout, efficient traffic, etc. It was built to spec as a Modernist heaven. And here is what happened when it finally met reality, after billions of dollars and years of construction: The people who were supposed to use this new city did not understand it, nor like it. They were not used to this new way of living. what ended up happening was, in retrospect, even funny – the local population decided to live in the streets of the city and rebuild the small houses they were used to right there – on the sidewalk. In other words – a massive, expensive, failure.
How and why do I connect this to ICOs? Because a similar phenomenon is happening – big ideas are being built without a organically scaling and testing with real people. This is a mistake.
And once these ideas come into play, I foresee 3 possible scenarios:
- They could work ( very unlikely ),
- Be a massive, harmless failure that lost a lot of money and effort (very possible)
- But the worst outcome of all would be they end up being forced upon millions of people who do not agree with them nor want them. This tends to happen with some utopian ideas as we saw with Modernism.
Modernists had utopian ideals. They made art, literature, buildings, cities. They had a grandiose vision for the future and they had the arrogance to put these ideas into practice without asking for permission from participants or doing real-world testing. I think ICOs could learn from this mistake (and also the Lean Startup movement) and start smaller and testing with real people before putting grandiose utopian ideas into play with all the hundreds of millions in captial they raise. Ideas that have only ever existed in the collective minds of the whitepaper’s authors.
Reality would like a word, and it wants to tell ICOs to learn from the past. Test before you build – everyone will be much better off.