use cases? or nah

What makes something trendy among crypto builders?

How do opinions form around what's 'likely to work' and why does it not seem correlated with what we know to actually work?

I found myself revisiting these questions while reading Polynya’s (excellent) recent rants.


I agree 90%.

I agree that it’s not necessarily where the users or known use cases are. I agree that there are only a few things for which there are demonstrated use cases (stablecoins, fiat, dexes, leverage, art).

I also agree that this is probably the natural state of things and it’s a fool’s errand trying to change it.

Perhaps I’m less pessimistic; I tend to view it all through a bit of an absurdist lens (maybe because no one I know has seriously been hurt by scams yet). It’s absurd that we pour so much hope/fomo into unproven ideas, but not evil.

Where I disagree is in the importance of spending time/money on the truly weird.

2 frenetic and mostly disappointing bull markets later, I still think the giddy dreams of idealists will uncover things that are beyond comprehension today and we can’t let the crushing mindlessness of capital movement recently suppress that giddiness.

Maybe I’m naive. I know we’re not so ‘early’ anymore.

All the more reason to throw some words out on the internet for you to ridicule.

why are we building the same stuff despite no users?

Shared sequencers. Generalized intents. coProcessors. Verified credentials. Autonomous worlds.

What makes a dream that doesn’t exist yet (but very well could) a ‘category’ of innovation? A capital/talent attractor?

I remember chatting with Yi Sun when he was first synthesizing the idea that became Axiom (disclaimer: I am a tiny investor in Axiom). It was Dec. 2022. Literal eons ago. zkCoprocessors weren’t a thing yet.

Back then, Axiom was called zkAttestor, a name that literally described what it was. A system, using ‘zk’ (whatever that is), to make attestations. Not the sexiest term.

When Yi brilliantly coined ‘zk coprocessor’, it was a learning moment for me. ‘Coprocessors’ make sense in the context of technology history. The notion that Ethereum et al. could use coprocessors and that these will serve a large market of applications is an excellent meme.

To make a capital-attracting meme, aim to be legible by things that capital understands (bonus points if it matches something on the Acquired podcast).

Now don’t get me wrong, I obviously think that there’s something in zk coprocessors (tiny investor that I am). But it’s odd that zk coprocessor is now a category when we don’t know exactly what to do with them yet.

Same for the other categories I listed at the beginning of this section. I think they’ll all matter at some scale, but it’s odd how ‘large’ each already is.

“you can make enough money to retire before launching shit

Nader put into words something I also felt very acutely after ethCC this year. The cycle of

money ---> meme ---> liquidity event (and repeat)

is ever-present in this industry.

Some like to pretend it’s not the case, but this is the natural relationship between technology and financial capital (see Carlota Perez).

But it creates this really unsettling feeling at conferences for those of us who have been around for a little while.

I remember walking around a conference-which-will-remain-unnamed and was surprised at how many big glamorous booth setups existed for technologies and ideas that I couldn’t interact with yet. Many with slogans related to “economic freedom”, “data sovereignty”, and “privacy”.

Not enough who are moved by those slogans are as moved to just go work on the dull onboarding tasks (which likely have smaller financial outcomes).

how do I reconcile spending time on the weird?

I think my ramble so far justifies Polynya’s point handily.

In this world of capital being allocated away from the useful, how can I still justify spending time on weird, unproven shit? It’s irresponsible to work on things for which the users/use-cases aren’t obvious yet, right?

We’re not early, but I also don’t think we’re mature. Even the internet is still changing. As network adoption grows and technical barriers are reduced, there will undoubtedly be new important things that don’t cleanly fit the mental models of today.

Of course, the other side of this belief is what fuels the most fraudulent segments of the scamcoin industry, but maybe fraud and innovation are just two sides of the same coin.

I don’t have a pithy conclusion to make.

Now that I’m at the end of my own mini-rant I see the dichotomy I’ve painted and I don’t have a moralistic take on which side is ‘better.’

But they both exist.

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