Episode Notes

In this episode, Laide chats with Tim Rich about how blockchain can be used to facilitate the charity ecosystem. Tim is the Co-founder, Chief Data Officer, & Cryptoeconomic Design Lead for Blockchange. 

Blockchange is a social innovation platform that combines cryptocurrency, NFTs and gamification to create an efficient, transparent and regenerative charitable donation ecosystem.

Tim is also a sociologist and Historian as is evident throughout this episode. He shares his insights on blockchain as a creative medium, provides some interesting analogies, and also discusses how blockchain can be a net good for society when it's all said and done.
 

Topics & Timeline

  • 2:25 - Mashiat's background & interest in Web3/Blockchain
  • 1:57 - Tim's background & interest in blockchain
  • 5:11 - Blockchain as a medium for social & economic forces
  • 8:10 - NFTs, Blockchain & the monetization of culture
  • 18:27 - Why Charities & NGOs need to get involved in blockchain
  • 22:52 - How Blockchange facilitates fundraising for charities & NGOs
  • 28:23 - Developing countries & donation transparency
  • 33:25 - How society typically responds to technological shifts
  • 38:28 - Creative evolution & cultural credibility with blockchain
  • 51:11 - What's next for Blockchange

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Episode Transcript

disclaimer: may contain unintentionally confusing, inaccurate, comical transcription errors amongst others)

Tim Rich: What blockchain enables that Chucky cheese did not is cultural credibility. The fact that Justin Bieber's willing to drop 1.3M on bored ape and anybody else is willing to spend anything people say, oh, this is bullshit. You know, this is not right. Well, actually it is culture and culture has always been valuable, right.

And culture has always been monetized. And what we're seeing, I think with a lot of these current NFT sales is really the extensive monetization of cultural currencies.

Laide: That was Tim Rich. Tim is the co-founder, chief data officer and crypto economic design lead for Blockchange. Blockchange is a social innovation platform that combines cryptocurrency and NFTs and gamification to create an efficient, transparent and regenerated charitable donation ecosystem. Tim is also a sociologist and historian as is evident throughout this episode, he shares his insights on blockchain as a creative medium, provide some interest in analogies. And also discusses how blockchain can be a net good for society when it's all said and done, I found this entire conversation quite fascinating. I'm sure you will too. Without further ado, Here's Tim. Hi, Tim. Welcome to the on chain medley podcast. How are you doing today? 

Tim Rich: I'm doing wonderful. Thank you for having me here today. 

Laide: Awesome. I'm excited to have you really looking forward to everything you're going to share with us. 

Tim Rich: Absolutely. Well, it's a pleasure to be here. I love your show.

Long-time listener. First-time talker. 

Laide: I appreciate that. Hopefully we get to bring you back. So you can be a multiple-times talker. All right. Uh, let's get started with your entry into blockchain and web three. Like how did that happen? Is there anything you can share with us in

Tim Rich: that? Yeah, absolutely. Uh, you know, I began kind of, uh, before even blockchain came around, I started kind of my career as a sociologist and what I studied in sociology and the reason I was drawn to it, I studied national.

Actually, and the conditions under which nationalist groups form, because I'm really interested in groups and how people behave as groups. I think, you know, the classic men in black quote, like a human is rational and thinking, and caring and groups are scared and stupid, you know, and I kind of love that dynamic.

And so I began my study kind of looking at groups that. Crazy nationalism. Right. And I did that for many years and then went and I left and I was in the advertising world for many years and I ran data science at a large holding company. And that's when I really got hip to the power of data in. To help me understand groups and to help kind of dimensionalize groups themselves.

And so about two years ago, I was bopping around and of course, you know, reading and learning and the idea of Bitcoin came up and this was the first great. Right. This was that big rally that it had probably man three years ago. Now, four years, COVID the COVID time warp, you know? And, uh, I was looking at it and I thought, oh, Hey, wait a second.

This is really interesting because it is a technology that meshes social forces and economic forces. And I think before this, what we've seen is we've seen a lot of social forces. So in the, like the platform world, they all talk about network effects. So I got this platform, a bunch of users come and a bunch of more users come and, you know, and that creates more users and turns the flywheel to throw a little, you know, nomenclature out there in a way we know.

And that's cool, but that is a completely social for. Right. That is a function of social cohesion. And then what I started to witness with Bitcoin is this economic, when there's always been economic network effects, right? And the classic example of this is a bank run. People are worried that a bank is insolvent.

They rushed to the bank to go pull their money out, turns out enough people do that. The bank becomes insolvent, right? That is a negative. Economic network effect and what I saw, I mean, typified with Bitcoin and has just become more reaffirmed as I've been in the space for the last couple of years. Is that what we are witnessing is arguably what I would think the first time is an integration of social forces and economic forces.

And that really got me excited. And that's what got me into the blockchain to understand it as a medium of creation that plays with the interface of social and economic forces. 

Laide: Interesting. No, thank you for sharing that. So when you say medium for social and economic forces, I think of the term that I hear a lot in the blockchain world, which is crypto economics.

So is that how I should think about that? Or can you say more about the social and economic forces? What specifically does that enable? 

Tim Rich: So the crypto economics to me is a, uh, and I, you know, I'm sure that you've had, I've listened to a lot of your other guests and a lot of them are way savvier than I, so I want to couch that there, but when I think , you're two kinds of desks.

When I think crypto economics, I think of a discipline of sciences, a burgeoning one, a nascent discipline. Right. And when I think of that, I think of the design of self-organizing systems based upon incentives. And that's when I think of like crypto economic design is how do I align specific incentives to a group and then take those incentives and tie them to a project.

To get people to self optimize and self-organize and a set way when I'm thinking of this as a medium, I am believing that, uh, blockchain technology or web three technology is actually a net new, medium, like television was and radio was, and the internet was, and it's a medium of creating. And so a lot of what I do when I think about how I build these structures of NFTs and tokens and, uh, very strictly crypto economic efforts is I think about this as a creative medium, and maybe this is a hold over from my ad days, working at creative companies, building like Superbowl ads and all of that.

But I really see this as a new place of creating. And that's where I get really, really excited about the future. And the potential of blockchain is maybe less than the revolutionary social effects, a Orthodox or a maximalist might portend, but rather the creative potential. For new ideas and ways of communication that blockchain opens up to the world.

Right? I imagine in the not too distant future, I would love to see the tokenization of recycling in. Where there's actually a financial incentive directly tied to recycling that can then go to purchase and maintenance of the really expensive machines that are required to recycle the plastics. And all of a sudden, we could create using the medium of blockchain.

And a small economy that self sustains recycling, for example. Right. And that type of organization would not, I think would have been more difficult if not impossible without this new media. Of blockchain. 

Laide: That's interesting. Let's stay on that recycle, in example, and that's really great to crystallize how that could work, but a part of me wonders, like why can't that be done today?

Right? W when you go to Chuck E cheese, it's in a lost cause I've been there and they give you those tokens and you come back and you get a bear, a Teddy bear or something like what what's stopping us from doing that today. What is blockchain of web three? What is something that don't get what it enables that we couldn't 

Tim Rich: do before?

And that is like, that's the that's that question is so. I think, and I'm going to hazard an, a potential answer. And I think what blockchain enables that Chucky cheese did not is cultural credibility. The fact that Justin Bieber's willing to drop 1.3 on this board, ape, and anybody else is willing to spend anything people say, oh, this is bullshit.

You know, this is not right. Well, actually, It is culture and culture has always been valuable, right. And culture has always been monetized. And what we're seeing, I think with a lot of these current NFTE sales is really the extensive monetization of cultural currencies. And if that is correct, Right. Then one could also argue that we could lift and shift that same cultural currency onto recycling program because instead of a Chucky cheese token, which we all kind of laugh at, cause we all want the stuffed bear.

So we go and get the tokens. Right? I want that stuff there. Dang it. Uh, we are actually engaging in a culturally relevant value exchange. Which I think could inspire behavior in a more profound way than could be done with existing structures, because as cool as Chucky cheese is it doesn't pull enough cultural water to get us to actually, I mean, dude, American store, everything away.

Right. So. I kind of feel that there is this position here, that we can leverage culture through this medium to achieve greater goods that otherwise might've been a higher uphill climb interested. 

Laide: Okay. So how far away are we from that reality then? 

Tim Rich: I don't think we're that far. I kind of see this as.

There are some pre there's, some assumptions that I think a lot of us take for granted in this space that I think are worth noting. I think the first assumption is short of total social collapse, right? Where you and I are far more concerned about our crops than we are about the metaverse. Uh, we are going more digital.

We are going, we are increasingly digitizing society, writ large. And all components in it. So what I see then is blockchain as a, and this technology as a foil into the ability to be able to take in real life objects and make bridges from the in real life to the digital world. Right. It's that creation of bridging potential between these two worlds that hither row has not been very easy to achieve.

And I think we all feel that on online chat. Y we go onto an online checkout screen. We want to pay with PayPal. We now leave the site. We go to the PayPal pop-up window, another stupid password. Right now we're into PayPal. We go back to the original site again, like that's clunky. And I think what we are starting to see in blockchain and web three, and I'm using those kind of interchangeably, at least in this moment is.

Technological foundation, enabling a more seamless digital interaction with real life needs and goals like the recycling. Right. 

Laide: That makes sense. All right. So then sticking on that recycling topic, like I hear that and I'm like, that's great. I love it. But then there's the flip side where blockchain, the energy resource, especially anything about creating tokens is quite high.

And everyone's talked about how it's such a waste of energy resource and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I'm sure. Eventually things will change, but how, how do you think about that? Do you think we'll get to that point where it's more of a, it's more efficient as far as energy utilization that can then benefit something like a recycling program, because I can be like, why am I doing recycling when I'm wasting that much energy?

Tim Rich: Oh a hundred percent. Like if I'm recycling two plastic bottles, right at the blockchain uses, you know, 20 tons of carbon off, you know, I totally hear you. Uh, I think there's kind of like two components to that question. The first one is we are in early days of the technology and here's your Orthodox response, right?

Hang in there. It's coming, right. This is the one we're just kicking, you know, we're just getting it spun up. But I also think. Reconceptualizing the blockchain as a medium of creation allows us to look at the evolution of other mediums and perhaps take heart. A great example for me would be early photography.

Right. Early photography used crazy chemicals, right. To make those prints, right. The silver gelatin or the, the, the different types of chemicals that were used on those plates and all of the phosphorus that was needed for the flashes. I mean, early photography was not energy efficient, either, particularly from a raw material standpoint to extract.

And then the waste. I mean, when the early photographers got rid of their chemical. These weren't hazmat cleaned up. Right? If there was a drain, they were maybe poured down it more likely they were dumped onto the. And so just as the medium of photography have evolved into are much more efficient digital photography that we play with today.

I have hope that along that same arc of medium evolution, blockchain will also move towards an energy consumptive fashion. One. Uh, there is a, there's an alternative opinion and I know you love alternative opinions. I do. So I cooked this one up the other day and I'm going to bounce it off of you and your listeners.

Uh, You got Justin Bieber. He spends 1.3 million on an NFT. Okay. And it's on the Ethereum blockchain. So there's X amount of energy, which is used to mint store trade, et cetera. Now, Justin Bieber just got off a tour and he's going to spend 1.3 million on. You know what I mean? The dude's not buying nothing.

Let's cut the BS. Right. And so when I think of other consumptive, like culturally relevant consumptive products, I think. Well, Lamborghinis, for example, there is a ton of resource extraction that goes into a Lamborghini. I bet the paint alone probably couldn't be done in California. We'd ship it to Mexico cause it wouldn't pass California standards.

Right. And so there's part of me that goes, wait, you mean a digital asset is. Uh, digital asset is desirable. We don't have to have Zara fast fashion to be able to represent a coolness and an in-group association. Like, whoa. Like that's really amazing. Right? And I know that this is like a backdoor apologetic response to this, but I'm seeing this cultural credibility for me within this.

And I think, Hey, maybe there is a larger planetary upside. If we move conspicuous consumption from durable goods to digital goods. 

Laide: That explains it clearly. And that's fair. But thinking on that, Justin Bieber example, that one of my struggles though, with like, I was like, you spent 1.3 million and it's cool because we all know it.

But if I spend 1.3 million in an empty, I'm just like, it sits in my wallet and like, who cares in the sense of that? Nobody knows who I am. So do I think about it? 

Tim Rich: Well now what you, but now you're in the group, right? I mean, I think about this sometimes of like layers of wealth. I think at times there are very obvious layers of wealth, Justin Bieber, uh, all these cultural icons, right.

Then there are the hedge funds, the big dudes at black rock. Right. And these folks, we kind of know, and I bet you, some of your listeners would be able to name names and then there's layers of inherited wealth that we have no idea. Right. We don't know these folks from Adam. And I believe that these markers, that this NFT represents this PFP, that Justin Bieber bought is a way to signal his in-group newness in this overt digital way.

That is traceable on the blockchain. And I think that this marker of in-group newness actually is a really powerful. Mechanism. So one of the projects I work on now is called block change and we are a team that helps charities use NFTs and crypto to further their charitable goals and goods. Right. And one of the ways we talk about this to charities to get them on board is we say, look, this is nothing new.

The hospital has always sold those bricks on the walk, right? Going into the wing. Why is it a brick will bricks last for. Right. You can shed this mortal coil and your kids could walk to the hospital and to see you often see your name there, right? There's that overt indelible, quasi indelible marker of large.

Yes. If you will. And that could also be mapped over to the blockchain space because now on the blockchain is your indelible marker of large. Yes. As a doughnut of example, to this given. Right. And I think that the Justin Bieber analogy kind of plays into that similar route, which are these indelible markers of cultural association, whether you associate with a charity or you associate with a certain brand, or you even associate with non associate.

Right. Like a complete outsider. Right. I think that I could see a row, a world, not too far off where there will be those who simply refuse to get an NFT as a way to identify themselves in the world. Right. The same way that those might, uh, kind of prickle at the state giving driver's licenses every five years.

Right. Or those might prickle at other methods of which we use to claim our ingroup status and out-group staff. So 

Laide: then how does that benefit society? I, I hear what you're saying. I think we do that today anyway, but I'm just like, do we need more of this? What's the point? 

Tim Rich: Yeah. Well, that's kind of a hundred percent.

I, when I look at technology, I think there's a lot of stuff I wish I could. Uninvite. You know, Thermo nuclear weapons, for example, I don't think we need them. I think weaponized, uh, germ warfare, I don't think we really need, you know, call me a pacifist. Call me a LA pinko. I don't know. I don't think we need weaponized germ warfare, but we don't really, as people who are participants in the world to which we were born, get to really pick the technology that comes, that we are dealt with.

And so to some extent, I think that we all try to create ways to mitigate against the seen and unforeseen risks of technologies that we create. And the one of these risks of blockchain that you absolutely accurately point out as this power consumption. And so we try and create, you know, layer two solutions or buy carbon offsets or completely different chains using proof of stake rather than proof of work.

Right. Different mechanisms of mitigating this power use. And I think that's right, because we're not going to uninvent the block. And so either we lean into it and we try and do projects where we could get people at the table. Like, frankly, I think charities should be at the table in the creation of web three, because if they aren't, it's going to be all full of bankers and tech bros.

Right? Like, I mean, come on, let's cut the crap. Right. If you're not at the table, you don't get a say in how it gets. And so all of a sudden we're at this point where all of these protocols are getting made and by the way, protocol is how you influence behavior in decentralized organizations. Right? So if we wish to see, say a more equitable.

The society writ large, or we might wish to see more structural components of our society reformed to the betterment of us. All right. We need to be at the table when these protocols are being written. And that's why the work in the charity space in blockchain is really important to me because maybe it won't succeed as a business and maybe it won't succeed as a.

As a company, but what I hope to achieve is getting charity at the table when these decisions are being made, because they deserve a cut of that pie. Right. They deserve a fat cut of this pie by being early, uh, early operators in this space. And that, to me, I don't mean to be an apologist for blockchain, but I'm kind of trying to look at as in like playing a bad hand.

Well, you know, yeah, 

Laide: no, that's a good point. I think there's always this sort of perception. Charities and NGOs, that's just like stuffy old school, slow moving companies and firms. And so it's very easy for people to overlook them or just think of them as inefficient to begin with. And so they, as you mentioned, never get a seat at the table.

Tim Rich: Yeah. And when we think about the charity space and evolutions in it, there has not been an evolution in charitable giving since the crowds. And come on. Kickstarter is what, 20 years old, 15 years old, right? The rest of the world has evolved radically through the acceptance of payments and ways to monetize, uh, goods and services.

And the poor charities haven't had anything come down to them since crowdfunding. So I kind of think there is a little bit of the, um, the wariness you speak of, I think is a very real. Characteristic of these groups and the, um, deliberate movements that they make because ultimately they're not doing it with their money and they're not even doing it with money raised as in, like we would go get funding for this podcast.

They're like literal donations. And so I think there is a very high, moral orientation that they take towards responsibly stewarding those fee though, that capital that they're given and that makes them risk adverse. And what I hope that blockchain and perhaps creating NFTs for them could do is it could be not using existing donations in a new way, but rather a new source of donations period that then perhaps could be allocated into more adventurous uses for.

Laide: That's good. That makes a lot of sense. So sticking on what your company is doing, blockchain, you mentioned one of the things you're working on is helping donors leave an indelible mark by storing that on the blockchain. Like how else are you facilitating and making charity and fundraising a lot, a lot better for everybody or for that charity ecosystem?

What else is blockchain? Do. To 

Tim Rich: facilitate the ecosystem. Excellent. Thank you. Wonderful question. We think about that in kind of two phases. I think there's a future phase and a current phase in the current phase. What we're doing is we are taking a specific components of the charitable effort and atomizing them.

And then tokenizing them into NFTs. So they give you an example. We're working with a wonderful charity right now out of New York city named rethink food. And what their goal is is they had this amazing insight. The founder was a restaurant tour and he saw all of this food going to waste. Now this isn't food off your plate, per se.

These are vegetables that simply don't have enough to complete enough menu items, right? Like totally legitimately clean, honest to God, good food. And a lot of that gets done. Right. And many of your listeners know that food waste is a huge problem in America. Well, you can't just give that food away, right?

Because to give food away to say a homeless shelter or a community organization, it needs to be prepared in a certified kitchen, which is a good thing because these community groups shouldn't be getting second tier crap, right? This isn't a dumping place. This isn't it. This is to help people dammit. So, what they did is they took these restaurants in New York, took the ingredients that were otherwise going to be thrown away, send them to a centralized kitchen and then have a team of chefs and cook there, then create meals.

And then they distribute those meals to key community partners around the boroughs and those community partners then distribute those meals to the folks in. So cost about five bucks to make a meal that is from donation to creation, to distribution $4 and 54 cents. And so what we did is we created an NFT that the one of them was a $5 NFT and that went directly to them.

Right. And now you have a one in Ft to one meal, and of course we could do pack sizes. Twenty-five dollars becomes five meals, 50 10, et cetera, et cetera. Right. But what we're trying to do is create a one-to-one relationship between the charitable goal in the real world and the NFT representation of that world in the digital.

That's one way that we're trying to help with these charities now in the future, as we start to move to future state, um, what we're really, really focusing on is ways to kind of think about, um, these NFTs and these charities as ecosystems in and of themselves. Could we think about combining. NFTs across charities to create other incentives to buy and in effect, cross sell across charities.

Right. Could we start to think about ways that we work with larger INGOs, where they are not, their efforts might not be as easily atomized as our friends at rethink, right. I think. Like a doctors without borders. Right? I know they go into crazy places and they do crazy things, but I wouldn't really know what the real real on that was.

Could we create stories and could we create ways utilizing this new medium to help weave together these charities with amazing. But maybe less tangible ways of showing that to the donating audience, because what we would love to do is start to think about, can we show more transparency in the opera?

Right. Like, could I give five bucks to doctors without borders? And because it's mentioned on the blockchain, I could see that that $5 was directly used to help with, I don't know, uh, polio mitigation in country X, right? Like, and you could start to see because of the nature and the transparency inherent in the blockchain, how that money directly went to this goal.

And I think that would be a radical step in giving because that is very opaque. Right. Right. You give to United way. I don't know. I went into the big pot of money. Right. Did some awesome stuff, but I don't necessarily know what ultimately came of my $5. And so that's something that we really are down the road are seeking to try and get closer to.

Yeah. 

Laide: What has been the reception then of these charity organizations? Because to that example, you mentioned, I think some of charity donations is intentionally opaque. You know, especially, I mean, I grew up in Nigeria, which is a developing country in west Africa. It's no secret that it's very opaque and a little corrupt.

You could say when you think about how, you know, aids from various countries and UNICEF and all the other organizations, uh, is dispersed to the community, nobody knows what happens when you get it. And a part of me thinks. Because of that, these countries, for example, will not ever want to be on the blockchain because they want to keep that course of action that they have today going.

So do you think there's gotta be some regulation or mandate or something to make that more transparent or I don't see them ever volunteering for such a, such a tool that you guys have created? 

Tim Rich: Well, I think that is. The interesting point, I think on one end. And I hate the answer because it's a little capitalist, but any of the markets we'll figure it out.

That is if we roll up to UNICEF with a hundred million bucks on the blockchain, you know what I mean? Like this isn't five. This is 250 million. Could that type of overwhelming capital create these places of transparency? I think the other part of it too, is when I think of graft and I think of corruption.

I think of humanity. Like we're going to move it to the blockchain and someone's going to figure out how to hustle and graft it. Right. I mean, come on. Like we've been hustling and counterfeiting since day one. And even though we have this new, more transparent, more thoughtful way of distributing and tracking this money, I still feel that that graft is going to be there just because of the nature of humanity and our, and not that we're naturally, you know, Grifters.

You know, there's always a bad actor. Right. And so I wonder too, like I'm really Boyd when I think about, uh, countries in the developing world that they don't, that we could jump over steps. So for example, The 3% fee that visa pushes onto the, uh, by the sellers right onto the, the stores like that to me is a real bummer because 3% is quite a bit of a margin of a little button.

Right. That is a massive margin and they can't not take a card for example, so they have to eat it. And I wonder, are we going to be able to actually open up new opportunities for growth and new opportunities by lowering, for example, these transaction fees, utilizing alternative forms of payment. And so I wonder as, as much as we're closing down, are we opening?

New ways of growth and new ways of, uh, exploring how to get to a more wonderful society. 

Laide: I love it. You're very optimistic. I am sort of dated and very cynical in general, which is not great because I'm just like, oh, whatever, it's not going to change. We all know what's going to happen. 

Tim Rich: No, of course it's going to change.

Well, Hey, I'll tell you what maybe. Maybe. Yeah. I tend to agree with you, you know, but maybe this idea, like when we're thinking about how this technology could roll out in other markets. Okay. And a potential example, I read that there are no copper wire phone systems in Africa because they just went straight to them.

They didn't even muck around. We'll run on a copper wire. And to me, that is a beautiful thing because we saved the copper mining. Right. And we saved all of that product there that we don't have to put underground and we could save. I wonder if there are other things like that, that the blockchain will enable that we will be able to save.

Right. And I think that one of these things that we could potentially start to think about are ways that money is moving. Right. And transaction fees and remittances and ownership and the visibility, right? Like, as we all know in the United States, like there's nothing smaller than a. Right. Like, that's the deal.

But as we all know in, uh, cryptocurrencies, to some extent you can go infinitely small, right. Which allows for different economies to buy different objects with the same amount of money. And you don't have to have split currencies. Right. I look at like Cuba where they have two currencies, right. One for the tourists and one for the locals and the amount of trouble that these divergent currencies.

Right. And they created the two currencies because ultimately they wanted people to pay two different costs for the same. Good. Right. Could we use the technology of blockchain in this case to help us someone? Because I don't think that was like designed by Cuba to like pimp over anyone. I think on, I mean, maybe I'm a Pollyanna.

At first blush, it doesn't seem too bad. Right. So is there a way that we could think about utilizing this technology for these alternate forms of maybe redistributing wealth in these countries? 

Laide: Yeah, you're right. I think that was what really excited me when I first learned about blockchain. Almost 10 years ago.

I've had this point now where I was just like, oh, this is great. The first case was remittance was like, oh, you can pay money and fractions. And there's more transparency and cross border trade and transactions. I was very excited about that, but as time has gone on, I've just, I haven't seen it evolve in that way that I wanted it to be a, you know, right now.

Cryptos by the Ridge and maybe it would trickle down. I hate to be a trickle down economics here. 

Tim Rich: Yeah, I know, right? Yeah. I need to like put my hand on trickle down to is like, that's where my bets at, you 

Laide: know, maybe we start there and then we democratize it. Everybody. I don't know, but I just, I just hope we get to this world that everyone keeps telling me that it's going to create an equity and everyone's going to benefit and ball generation, not just for the rich guys, but for everybody else.

And I I'm waiting. So if you have any thoughts there, I'd love to hear it. Oh, 

Tim Rich: my favorite hero is Marshall McLuhan and he is, he wrote this amazing book called the medium is the message. And he was a Canadian media theory. And he theorized in his book, um, the information society or on analyzing media that, uh, all of the way the internet was going to form and advertising was going to shape cultures and all this stuff.

But he says that first we build our tools and then our tools builds our society. And that, to me, I really, really see that pattern. When I think about, uh, Right. And I think about social media and how that has been formed in disinformation campaigns. Right. And how arguably society has started to form in response to that technology of social networks.

In response to that. So in the same way that social media might have maybe gone a little dark though, while allowing for amazing, uh, events like the Arab spring at the same time, could we see the society which starts to be shaped out of this new medium of block chain? If you think of it through the lens of a medium, could we not fully see how this will yet shape our society?

And that to me is where this unknown potential and the emergent potential of this technology starts to form. And that's where I get excited from the emergent components, because they are not linearly progressing. Right. Emergence is like total right field wildness that comes out of nowhere, you know, and that to me, and, and maybe that's like the hope of like a, an acolyte, you know what I mean?

Like we just hold on long enough. I know it's going to come, but I also see it repeated in other mediums. And that's why I think that there is more than faith, at least on my part as to why that, why it has the potential. To transform the world. 

Laide: Okay. Well, that's good. That's a good corollary. What you mentioned with Facebook.

I think you're right. I do, even though I am a little bit cynical, I do believe that in the next 10 years, we wouldn't even really know we're using the blockchain because it would just be native to a lot of things that we're doing. Uh, and so that's when I know would have made it when, 

Tim Rich: when you don't see it anymore.

Laide: Right. You don't see it anymore. And everyone sort of knows something's happening or they know it. They may not understand the underlying technology, but they sort of know what to expect. And so I think that's an I'll know we've made it. I think we'll get there. I think it's so early that it's just very hard to kind of see where things will take shape or evolve 

Tim Rich: into.

So I think that there's such this amazing creative. Potential through this because it is a, what I would still consider it a mix of social and economic forces. I think that there is this incredible, like raw material to play with. And just like we saw these incredible things that came out of, I think digital art is quite fascinating.

Right. And the way we think about how digital art had kind of takes inputs and outputs from the, the view. Right. And integrates them into this feedback loop of artistic expression. I hold hope that humans are builders, which I don't think is a crazy thing to say. Like, I think we inherently build and we can't help ourselves from building.

And I think that building in that creative desire and drive is going to manifest itself into this new medium. And the NFTs that we're seeing now are a corollary to existing mediums that is. Two dimensional image or the three dimensional image, but I hold a hope that we are going to see wholly new creative experiences that utilize this medium in new ways.

And within those creative experiences are going to become applications for the betterment of humanity that we don't currently see in the current applications. Because when I talked to haters, Haters are just like, it's just a stupid JPEG, you know, right. Click and say bomb. And I think what they're missing is the creative potential that is going to be built by using it.

You know, everybody starts on the piano and chopsticks, even show pan, play chopsticks, you know, and then they headed into this amazing creative world of music. And I see that a lot with, uh, electronic music, you know, having been an early rave and EDM guy, like watching the evolution of that into a far more orchestrated space that I feel has much more in common with quote unquote classical music than it does with original EDM.

And I see that as an evolution because of the creative nature of humans, engaging with the new technology and more refined ways building upon. Huh, 

Laide: that's a good example. Do you have any more other, like any other examples with regards to the creative evolution that may occur? I have a hard time visualizing it and I'm like, what does that, what does that look like?

Is it too early to tell, or do you have any early sort of inclinations of how things might change? Yeah, 

Tim Rich: absolutely. And you know, I think this is where. The creative industries, like an namely like advertising as a massive creative industry, though, it is funded by brands and capital. The individuals who engage in that space are like Unchained creative people.

And what I've witnessed by being in those places. Is the, the way that we tie together existing pieces. So what I see with the blockchain, I was just on a call actually with a, um, a nonprofit called the Flint collective and they use light installations inside of cities to help people reengage with the city in a new way and pardon the pun, but to see the urban landscape in a new light.

Right. Love it. Yeah. Why not? Right too easier. I can't, can't hit that one right in front of me. Uh, so what I'm seeing then is they're talking about using NFTs as a way to incentivize participants, to travel across a city, to engage with different light sculptures and as a remuneration to get given a freely minted NFT that might hold part of the creative process of building this experience.

Right. And all of a sudden we've taken a. Tools of light tools of spatial creation tools of Geolog graphic movement and woven them together to create this hybrid experience of light place sound and, you know, Right. And there, it's not really before in this case, it's not an NFT project because it's really a light project, right.

The NFT is just providing a little color of weaving it together. And I think we saw it early in television and we have the Superbowl coming. And so for our friends in the future, You can all look back at it, but the thing about the Superbowl or the ads, right. And I'm very curious to see how current advertising this year overtly or not overtly references the blockchain.

Right. But they're like this idea that even if it's a Lampoon or if it's referenced in these massive cultural moments, I think that's part of why it's going to layer. I don't know yet how blockchain and NFTs themselves standalone as artistic expression, but rather as a combination of a larger piece, I see that expanding really rapidly 

Laide: right now.

I agree with that. I think there's gotta be some sort of like digital, physical hybrid for us to sort of fully. Uh, utilize this technology in a way that makes sense for everybody who lives in the physical world, but I don't know. Right. Um, maybe we'll all live in the metaverse who knows? 

Tim Rich: Well, I hope it's not this damn pixelated stuff, because I want a little richer life.

I'm going to be living in a metaverse. I at least need some HD, you know, 

Laide: so true. So true. 

Tim Rich: Yeah. Hey, I'm not, I'm not moving in until this is 4k. I'm just saying 

Laide: you might get left behind Tammy. You might get left behind. 

Tim Rich: Very likely. I mean, where's my 4k man. He told me it was coming 

Laide: to your earlier point about culture and how it's sort of shaping up.

That's something that I've always overlooked and understated. And I just saw culture as culture, not really as currency in that sense. And so it's interesting to kind of see. Culture is also a big part of that equation. And I've sort of been missing that in my own 

Tim Rich: mental model as well. I think it is a subtle monetization.

Meaning that there are aspects of our world, which are very easy to monetize gold microchips, uh, clean air, right? Like there are parts that we all need and that there are easy monetization methods towards, I think where culture gets sticky is it is, uh, it's always in group. Right. So if you're not in the.

Screw it culture's dumb anyway. Right. And it's also that if you are in the group, the counter is also true, which is rabid participation. And so when it comes to monetizing culture, at least at an advertising level, it's really about like, Creating universals. And this is like universals are love and safety and freedom.

And right there, there are things that we can all agree are like pretty darn good. And a great advertisement will tap into one of those universals and then alter its trajectory into a brand or into a product. What blip, what blockchain is yet to achieve is the status of a universal. I think it is in the mega log.

So there's this idea in sociology that there are about three topics that a society can really understand all at once. And it's called the mega log and these three topics shift. Right. And right now blockchain and NFTs are without a doubt, part of the mega. My mom doesn't know about them, knows her son does something in them.

They seem to be cool and he's excited about it, but I don't know what it is. Right. And that's a mega log part. And I think that through this greater awareness, Of what they are and what they aren't and how they're used and how they can be used even in frivolous ways and, uh, tulip craze ways, right? Like all these different ways.

Um, we're going to see a more general understanding of their value, which will then translate into being able to quantify that cultural currency that is so deeply represented within them. Why does board eight yacht club Viva. Culture X, Y, and Z method. Why does a purely utility token be valuable? Maybe it's not culture.

Maybe it's utility ABM. Right. Why does a hybrid of utility and cultural token, like maybe that's the idea of this? Go back to the recycling idea. I would love to make it cool to recycle. Great. Now it has utility and culture, right? Value a, B and C. And I think we're just having as a culture as a user word again, a society, a better one.

Just, uh, we're having a hard time wrapping our mind around what's. 

Laide: Yeah, that makes total sense. Thank you for shedding. Some more light on 

Tim Rich: that. Probably muddied the waters. It was great. 

Laide: You know, it's great. I agree. I think it's good to see people like you working in this space and sort of being optimistic and providing us with like examples.

The truth is we don't know how things will shape up. Maybe nothing like that has been said in this episode, or maybe what you said, but to a higher fidelity. Sorry to kind of see what happens as time goes on. I want to get past the hype and into some actual like practicality, but I'll try and be patient.

Tim Rich: Yeah. Nobody's talking about this, but we don't have patients that metaverse now. Uh, I think when I start to think about this and I, and another thing that kinda gives me a hope within the whole world of the blockchain is I think about it a lot as architecture. So early architecture had a revolution with poured concrete.

Right. Uh, they were building with brick forever. They create poured concrete and everybody freaks out at the potentials that poured concrete gets right. And the architectural forum called brutalist emerged. And it was named because of bet home brew, which is the French word for poured concrete. Not that it's ugly and a riot proof pillbox, though.

It absolutely are ugly riot proof, pill boxes. Early modernist architecture took this new medium of poured concrete and created vast monoliths like Brasilia, right? That Oscar Niemeyer, whole new city in Brazil, the new Brazilian capital super big super Gran totally Jetsons boss' boss' boss. But then once they built it, they never spent any time to think about how the humans would move through it.

It was so damn big. It took 20 minutes to walk between the buildings, right. There were no walkways in Brazilian. It was just like they had forgot about the humans. And then out of that modernism, right. Came alternate forms of architecture that really brought in humans back into the design. And I think that's where we're at with blockchain too.

We built this amazing. Material called the blockchain. We've been building amazing monoliths. We call them the salon chain, the Ethereum chain, we call them Coinbase, right? We call them these names, but they are actually infrastructure monoliths. And what we're starting to see is the reorientation of the created monolith to the human scale of life.

And that's where board API club have really succeeded is they created a human scale object out of a monolithic infrastructure. And that's where we're seeing these projects that are really getting traction. In my opinion, are human scale manifestations built upon an infrastructure model. And th and thinking about blockchain as a medium of creation, I think opens up these pathways of evolution that do not terminate in more subjugation of.

Right. The pathways of evolution, uh, at least in the architectural sense could be argued to create a better living way for humans. So I think those kinds of analogies while imperfect tricky and ham-handed, and I'm sure many an architect out there will just shred me in the comments. Uh, at least allow me a framework.

In the darkness, understand that while the light may not be present, that does not mean it doesn't exist. 

Laide: That was helpful. That analogy was really helpful. And I think that's what a lot of people who are proponents of blockchain have not really. Taking the time to explain, they just kind of like, you don't get it.

You're stupid. And I'm like, no, that's the wrong way to think about it. You should try to, you do your best to help people get it that way they can become believers. And then further this ecosystem along, even faster. Yeah. You 

Tim Rich: know, there's, there's another, uh, analogy and I don't like reasoning through analogy, but in net new places, I find them helpful.

I think one of the ways I think about NFTs and the value of NFTs is the fact that they're actually solving an age old. And the age old problem is how do I know an object created by a machine? And this problem started back with Gutenberg creating the printing press, right? And the big trouble around Gutenberg was that the monks who were creating the Bible at the time were like, yo, I know the voice of God, man.

I know the voice of God. I know what's up with that. And I know what they want to hear in this book called the Bible. And you put this on this machine, this printing press, and you could change a vowel to a tho and all of a sudden, wham, we got a different path. Right. And printing for years battled with this idea of how do we create authenticity within this thing that can be reproduced.

And ultimately what they came up with was scoring the block. So a, uh, artist like Al Breck dura, right? And amazing dry point artists, right late 15 hundreds, middle 15 hundreds, he would do his plates and then he would score them drag and all across it and ruin them. So that now what was printed was authentic, right?

Fast forward, 400 years. And then we get photography, right? And in photography, there was a huge uproar when it came out because people said, yo photography is not art. In fact, this amazing social theorist, Walter Benyamin wrote a piece called art in the age of mechanical reproduction, where he argued that one of the challenges to art was the fact that photography by definition was replica.

The technology was replicatable. So what is original art there? And we threw up our hands and ran around like a society for a number of years. And then we decided upon the. We're going to create photographic additions to show authenticity. And that's what the NFT is. It is the digital artifact that we were running around for years and don't pirate that Metallica album, right.

Even though it's mathematically identical to the other Metallica album that I bought. And they were like, I can't. Wow. Do I know what's authentic and NFTs are just another step in this human evolution of trying to understand authenticity within a mechanically created or a machine created. And by. Well said, 

Laide: thank you so much.

This has really been a fascinating conversation. I felt I could've gotten for another hour, but what's next for Blockchange? What are you working on next? What should we be aware of before 

Tim Rich: we have the rethink foods out there now come and take a look. Uh, uh, and then we also are working on this Flint collective, which is really amazing, which is where we are integrating this lighting exhibit inside a New York city.

This is a nonprofit lighting group that I mentioned, and we're building out this really integrated. I don't know if it's a scavenger hunt yet, but. AR VR NFT lighting experience that I think is going to be really cool, that we're very excited to really push the boundaries of how we link together, physical and digital worlds.

Like maybe if the lights are showing on a building, you approach a reader with a NFT and you can then inspire a different set of actions in the. And the goal of creating community. Hey, how did you do that? Right. Stumble upon, well, what's gone on over there, you know, uh re-engagement with your home. God, this neighborhood's so cool.

I thought it had gone to hell, you know, but like using these engagement of NFTs and place as a way to kind of inspire real human interactions, we're also really, really excited and focusing on trying to think about creating alternative funding mechanisms for the arts. So something I'm really, really pumped on is I want to create a case study that is like a step-by-step guide for using NFTs and crypto, to be able to fund artistic projects that might not find funders because there's a lot of stuff that should be set out there that simply doesn't align to a cultural zeitgeist and subsequently doesn't get funded for that.

For that painting for that poetry. And what if there was a way that we could create a pickup and go everything's here in the box and it's free self-funding art mechanism utilizing cryptocurrency as that vehicle for funding, alternative ideas. Nice. 

Laide: Thank you so much, Tim. I'm looking forward to keeping up and seeing all the changes are you going to bring about?

So how can people stay updated? What's the best way to 

Tim Rich: connect with you? Check us out online. It's a bring block, change.org is our site. Uh, we also have the Twitter at blockchains though. I have to admit, I am not as rigorous on the tweet tweet some of my friends, you know, but we're definitely there doing our thing.

And, uh, you could also reach out to me directly. Which is tim.rich@blockchange.org. And come on ahead and we're just happy to talk to anyone and love to think about pushing this technology into new frontiers. Awesome. 

Laide: This has been amazing.

Tim Rich: Thank you so much. Pleasure was all mine to join you. 

Laide: Thank you so much for listening.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. I'm your host Laide until next time.