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web3’s Inclusion Failures
Despite the genuinely promising future of blockchain technology, the same problems are being recreated, including failures in diversity & inclusion.
The vast majority of technology is neither inherently good nor evil, it is how it is used. Though “web3” — that is, web technology leveraging blockchains — is touted as a revolutionary step forward for humanity, we are bringing our societal baggage into it. While there are an increasing number of web3 users who do not fit the “crypto bro” stereotype, they brought with them foundational cultural issues for people in marginalized groups.
In February, old tweets from Brantly Millegan expressing all sorts of hateful views towards groups like gay people and trans people surfaced, and he reaffirmed them as part of his Catholic beliefs. Given that Brantly is the public face of ENS domains — the domain names ending in .eth that function as crypto wallets — this understandably caused quite a controversy. Recently, a vote was finally held to determine his future in the ENS organization.
The process was democratic — sort of. Tied into the ENS platform is a token aptly named $ENS that bestows upon its holders the right to vote in important matters about the platform. But rather than “one person, one vote,” it was “one token, one vote.” Furthermore, the system lets people delegate voting power on their behalf, and one of the most popular delegates was Brantly. Who voted to retain his post.
Profoundly disappointingly, the people behind Rainbow, a popular iOS and now Android Ethereum wallet refused to vote at all and, shortly thereafter, fired Dame, their Head of Community, because the company named friggin’ Rainbow wanted to distance itself from supporting LGBTQ+ causes. Dame, who is non-binary and a huge advocate for queer people in web3, was thus disappointingly seen as a burden rather than someone of immense value to the organization.
Rainbow’s wallet app is open sourced under the GNU General Public License, enabling someone to fork it and create a version stripped of association with Rainbow, as long as the new app was, itself, GNU-licensed. We are investigating that avenue ourselves. With ENS, the only options are for queer people to own an insurmountable amount of the $ENS token or for a better alternative to be built. However, unlike Rainbow, user’s assets are more meaningful tied to the platform with ENS, so getting people to switch is a massive uphill battle.
In short, there are no easy solutions but for people from marginalized groups to continue to be loudly and proudly part of web3 — and the broader world. This is a fight that must happen both outside and inside of web3, systems of oppression that intertwine themselves with all systems humans build, because the problem is the humans themselves. Everything we create, no matter how much more advanced in theory, is still prey to our petty bigotries.
This phenomenon is especially tiring given that it can leave marginalized people alienated from both large parts of the web3 community and the rather intensely angry anti-blockchain brigade on web2 social media. The discrimination also works from both sides — the haters are far more likely to single out marginalized creators than people pumping and dumping the eighty-seventh ape derivative collection.
We must also push for better approaches to blockchain voting — both from a technical and a social front. Though, given the anonymous nature of crypto wallets, one can easily spread their tokens out to look like many people, using tokens as votes will ensure the wealthy and the powerful control these crucial new technologies. Decentralized governance and even delegation are worthwhile concepts to explore, but this highlights their failures. Furthermore, it should be demanded that people abstain from votes that directly affect them.
Unfortunately, the underlying problems are old and unlikely to disappear anytime soon. But the more we proudly stand up to them — chip away at them — the less daunting they will be. People love saying “We’re All Gonna Make It,” in crypto, a sentiment that is perhaps naive but one that should truly mean “all.” And not, as it does not, as it has for so many people in history, all meaning “affluent white men.”
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