Taking Crypto Back to Nature

The crypto community has taken a keen interest in the long-term environmental and societal implications of utilizing decentralized protocols at scale. With a focus on public goods, energy usage and environmental regeneration, we are seeing trends emerge around how to best support those efforts in the industry.

AccessTimeIconNov 21, 2022 at 7:10 p.m. UTC
Updated Nov 21, 2022 at 9:06 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconNov 21, 2022 at 7:10 p.m. UTCUpdated Nov 21, 2022 at 9:06 p.m. UTCLayer 2
AccessTimeIconNov 21, 2022 at 7:10 p.m. UTCUpdated Nov 21, 2022 at 9:06 p.m. UTCLayer 2

Before the arrival of European and majority white influence, the greater Americas (North, Central and South) consisted of thriving Indigenous civil societies. These communities possessed their own unique governance structures, had their own property rights, spiritual sciences and cross-community forms of communication.

To some degree, Indigenous societies resemble the type of “decentralized exchange grids” or dexgrids, emerging within the world of crypto. These are cultural-economic systems that use internal incentives to spur large-scale productivity and trade.

Steven McKie is the co-founder of Amentum Capital. A version of this article was first published on Amentum's blog.

Tightly knit Indigenous communities also had localized supply chains for manufacturing; bolstering local access to a broader array of nutrient diversity. Their bonds were held together by centuries of spiritual beliefs derived from direct interactions with the local flora and fauna.

Effectively, these were some of the most organically “biomimetic” (ability to mimic aspects of naturally occurring topologies in nature) systems in history. As these societies were so embedded with their environmental surroundings by the very nature of existing, they developed sound best practices for maintaining the local ecology, regional plant diversity and the cleanliness of local fresh water supplies.

Through time, these locally created economies and traditional belief systems would be held in spiritual bondage, as new federal laws were enacted that slowly stripped these Indigenous, prosperous nations from the very land and customs upon which they’d formulated their economies and belief systems.

Fast forward to the present moment, and we stand at an impasse globally thanks to these never-ending colonistic practices. Local ecologies burn, and the transplants who’ve subsisted on these stolen Indigenous lands are left without a clue as to how to care for them sustainably.

Now, federal and local governments are forced to depend on laws and legislation to protect their crumbling natural resources with the help of scientists — instead of simply utilizing the assistance of local indigenous knowledge that has been buried under bureaucracy and planned socio-economic entrapment.

Thankfully, crypto-economic systems provide us a way out. A means by which to stymie ecological and natural destruction, by replicating digital communities and tribes that can sustainably source and retain the local environmental knowledge – when creatively deployed and utilized. Enough to right our wrongs, and ensure the survival of our progeny for generations to come, at least.

Forward crypto-economic deployments

The creation of public blockchain systems and the deployment of crypto-economic game mechanisms in the form of novel smart contracts has resulted in a massive explosion of economic experiments in coordinating humanity.

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Fig.1: The basic deployment flow of sustainable crypto systems.

As we’ve naturally progressed in the evolution of our collective industry research on complex systems, we’ve seemingly come to consensus that biomimicry is the right way forward. Life, as it turns out, has had an incredible head-start on getting the biological makeup and topologies of natural systems just right. So, to not pretend like we know better, we also have to give credit to the social engineers of our physical systems in the past. Then we may more creatively blend these new technologies with cultures of old, creating something vastly more unique. We can potentially even bring beauty back to our mechanistic ways by embracing nature in its entirety.

Re-watering our roots

There is a mirror effect that can be found when comparing our need for natural sustainability processes and the financial primitives enabling programmable scarcity in crypto.

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Fig 2: We can combine our efforts in crypto with other sustainability practices to create something truly unique and long-lasting that encourages a healthy marriage of nature and technology. If it exists, it’ll be found in these intersections.

Our challenge is just identifying the opportunities amongst what we already have available in the industry and intelligibly constructing the right combinations of tools to deploy based on the governance and coordination needs of areas in need of incentive alignment.

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Fig 3: A basic representation of what we’re trying to accomplish with permaculture. A healthy life cycle that is mindful of people, community and nature simultaneously.

High availability and fault tolerance

Now, because we’re constructing and deploying these tools with the aid of digitally distributed systems of incentives (public blockchains and other derivative protocols), we’re aware of the need for fault tolerance and liveness (high availability). If we are working to deploy systems that are redundant and resilient by nature, we have to ensure that they can remain active, online and accessible by the participants utilizing them. Nature is always readily available for us as a species, and our digital systems should seek to retain that same level of natural reliability.

A fault-tolerant system and environment works to ensure no service interruptions, but has a higher cost of operation (i.e., proof-of-work/proof-of-stake). Meanwhile, a highly available system would have minimal service interruption; essentially this is the “liveness” of the channels, ensuring they are being provisioned with valuable goods.

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Fig 4: Combining, or just realizing that many of these systems we’ve built become naturally complementary once they’re deployed at scale and the market becomes adept at using them to increase their self-sovereignty.

When we intermix the passive earnings that can be accrued from staking and bonding assets or digital resources to these systems with real-world participants, something very interesting happens.

We find that we can create a feedback system wherein local participants are earning digital value for their contributions to public blockchain systems and adjacent crypto platforms, allowing for more home plant asset investment; in-turn enabling people to be more nutritionally self-sufficient as they learn the best produce and soil management practices for their local region.

With the creative ability to digitize the rights to share-cropping and create call options for future produce production, the ideas are seemingly infinite on how to inject value and future value into more hard-to-reach areas of socioeconomic dismay.

As these newfound systems are established, labor overtime will be automated and more easily analyzable, now with the added benefits of locally available nutrients becoming self-sustaining – also naturally leading to the containment of pests and bacterial disease.

By mobilizing and harnessing indigenous knowledge as well, cultural heritages can be sustained. From heirloom seeds, to proper irrigation and harvesting techniques that protect soil integrity, we can cherish this knowledge like never before.

The non-universal cities of tomorrow

Imagine a future where all manufactured goods, local produce and commodity value have digital twin representations on publicly verifiable cryptographic systems. At a glance, we can see where in the world action needs to be taken to protect and maintain local sovereignty. There are efforts such as Mattereum, which is leading the way for legally defensible non-fungible circular economies, and DexGrid, which is doing the same for green energy production and micro-grids. There will not be one winner in this new economy, but many substitutable and complementary winners.

With the power of non-universal architectures that leverage many different fault tolerant digital and physical systems, we get:

  • New public blockchains that have a richer set of potential expressions
  • Utility focused assets can bridge easily with other utility focused chains to create generalized use cases that are not asset dependent and allows substitute protocols (goods). Natural modularity emerging from technical interoperability is organically the best path forward
  • Liquidity routing and capital lockups aid in capital efficiency and enable more experimentation in the provisioning of value and aid in areas it may be needed the most (i.e., as with Connext)

When we apply the “whole systems” approach from permaculture at the intersection of Indigenous knowledge, we formulate a holistic template for us to start utilizing today. We, as a society, will not have food security without addressing local water supply and quality. We will not have food democracy and the elimination of food deserts if we do not address the social injustice issues that strip people from the very land they’re most adept at maintaining.

The Indigenous communities of yesterday and today (of which I am honored to be a part of) were all about the art of engineering beneficial cross-community relationships. Ironically, too, they adhered to the most utopian ideals currently discussed with supply chains when seeking a benchmark on modular and self-sustaining systems.

We know that incentives matter. Now we just need to do the work of weaving a basket of biology and nature-loving protocols together. Composable becoming compostable, degenerate liquidity farmers becoming local irrigation experts of digital and physical value. This is the future we need for a proper regenerative resurgence. We just have to open our eyes.

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Steven McKie is the co-founder of Amentum Capital and a crypto researcher and developer.

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