The Punk Fighting for an Open Metaverse

A pseudonymous NFT collector thinks if the metaverse is inevitable we must do what we can to avoid making it a cyberpunkian hellscape owned by Meta. That’s why Punk6529 is one of CoinDesk’s Most Influential 2022.

AccessTimeIconDec 5, 2022 at 12:40 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 8, 2022 at 4:35 p.m. UTC
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Daniel Kuhn is a features reporter and assistant opinion editor for CoinDesk's Layer 2. He owns BTC and ETH.

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Join the most important conversation in crypto and Web3 taking place in Austin, Texas, April 26-28.

Punk6529 is living the future, today. At least, the future as the pseudonymous non-fungible token collector imagines it to be – where everyone has a digital avatar that slips into the metaverse as easily as a bird flies through the air.

“Here I am running around as a cartoon Punk, very seamlessly participating in communities and societies like I live in the physical world,” he told CoinDesk in an interview. Just “participating” in the metaverse is selling himself short, considering the work Punk6529 does advocating for, writing about and building this new digital frontier.

This year, Punk6529, who takes his name from an eponymous CryptoPunk NFT, unveiled his own NFT fund, NFT museum and started work on what he calls the Open Metaverse, a blueprint for an online city. However, most would probably know him by his often-long Twitter threads spelling out the need for crypto, sent out to his nearly half-million followers.

“We must ensure we take the pathway towards an open, interoperable future now,” he said. If that sounds like something a cypherpunk would say, Punk6529 wouldn’t disagree. In addition to being among the most savvy NFT collectors, he has built a reputation as a leading futurist, having spoken with Raoul Pal, Laura Shin and other luminaries on podcasts (often using a voice modulator).

Like many other early bitcoin adopters, Punk6529 has a background in tech and finance that informs his views on those subjects today and the importance of crypto. He believes the world is on a “path dependence” to “persistent digital objects” or, in other words, is increasingly going digital.

“Whatever ends up being the standard platform or API [for the metaverse] is going to end up being very important in a decade. If it’s a Facebook API or Apple API, it's going to be the same type of scenario that exists today,” he said. Although Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the metaverse his company is building will be interoperable, there’s reason to doubt that.

To this end, Punk6529 has been self-funding a number of projects in an attempt to onboard people into a crypto-based metaverse. In April, he launched the free-to-roam museum district of his Open Metaverse, containing what he called “the most high-end art NFTs ever displayed in one place.” His stated goal is to get “​​100,000,000 people to use an NFT.”

It’s a digital environment that can be scaled up, and that other people can build in, without anyone controlling it. Although Punk6529 has called this an “investment in the public,” he also believes that NFTs can one day be an “$80 trillion” category, if all “intangible goods” move onto the blockchain.

Punk6529 currently owns over 850 NFTs, according to his OpenSea bio. But that isn’t counting his museum wallet with hundreds more. Prices have since decreased, but Punk’s known holdings were valued as high as $20 million this year.

Not much is known about Punk6529’s IRL alter ego other than the small details he chooses to reveal. He apparently lived in downtown New York City, not far from Tompkins Square Park, for years, and used to consider himself a bitcoin maximalist. Although he wants to keep his metaverse avatar separate, he admits the glasses, the hoodie and the scruffy beard sported by CryptoPunk 6529 aren’t far off.

“There’s a reason I didn’t choose a Mohawk Punk with a gold chain,” he said. “This is nerd-ville central.”

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Daniel Kuhn is a features reporter and assistant opinion editor for CoinDesk's Layer 2. He owns BTC and ETH.


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Daniel Kuhn is a features reporter and assistant opinion editor for CoinDesk's Layer 2. He owns BTC and ETH.