Cyber Cohesion: The Human Heart of Web3 Communities

Trust building in virtual realms often encounters an obstacle – replicating the intangible social cues that forge connections in shared physical environments.

However alluring the appeal to leaderless structures may seem, as Elinor Ostrom, the Nobel laureate, reminds us, trust and reciprocity are fundamental to the success of any collective endeavor. Without a foundation of shared values and cooperative spirit, even the most sophisticated technological solutions struggle to foster sustainable communities.

A recent dialouge within an underground Web3 community distills this perpetual interplay between technological potential and human actualization. The story begins with a meme and ends with a parable on the inseparable role of the human element in our next digital evolution.

The story of a meme-driven token in the wake of Art Basel 2024‘s Tezos gathering illustrates this phenomenon. But it also reveals the perpetual frailty of online-bonded tribes.

It started at an Art Basel event hosted by the Tezos Foundation at a Miami hotel. Upon entry into the lobby, a basic structural pole attracted viral meme status for its chicken wire wrapping and the hanging of disheveled tvs. 

As memes began to litter the social feeds and the Tezos blockchain saw the most activity since 2021, there was rumblings of an emerging token called $POLE. As like its predecessors before it such as $DOGE and $PEPE, the counter culture’s newest darling, $POLE, caught some hype and began to form as a possible meme coin.

As images spread of attendee Nicholas Dimes’ post throwing a sarcastic nod along with this eyesore, artists worldwide embraced the joke’s unifying potential leading to the meme now known as #TezPole.

Going by the name Mr. X in this article became the creator of the $POLE token. He then began to prepare for the next step in gaining traction and support: distribute tokens and form community. Thousands of tokens were distributed, a few pools were established, and holders immediately began farming them on platforms like Crunchy.

Later in the weekend, it was time to form bonds and find avenues to establish counsel to oversee the future of the token. Mr. X held an open forum on Spaces where he outlined his request for help, the idea that a DAO is needed but we shouldn’t rush to elect leaders without establishing relationships first.

As Mr. X weighed the merits of measured leadership selection, a wave of questions erupted around influence redistribution. Some newcomers began publicly demanding the token’s treasury keys be decentralized immediately to avoid potential misuse.

Cautious about surrendering authority hastily to vocal strangers, Mr. X reiterated intentions to build relationship foundations before formalizing governance. He assured $POLE aimed for fair empowerment after good-faith trust gestates through transparency over time rather than rushed structures.

In their framework for trust formation and governance in decentralized organizations, E. Lim and S. Snir emphasize the importance of transparency and open communication. Mr. X’s commitment to building trust through open forums and relationship building aligns with this principle, highlighting the need for slow, deliberate governance processes in nascent communities.

Ironically, the very technology promising the future of digital collectives faltered at this pivotal juncture, unable to generate the interpersonal credibility for power migration towards community custody. However close to blockchain’s redistributive ideals on paper, the $POLE phenomenon revealed that even basic barter requires human trust absent in 0s & 1s.

The promise of decentralization relies profoundly on participants upholding collective health beyond self-gain once structures dissipate. Yet the assumption individuals instinctively self-regulate when freed from oversight seems questionable when examples abound of unbridled self-interest despite rules and incentives.

To truly escape power imbalances, blockchain solutions must bridge the gap between code and human behavior. Game theory may predict optimal outcomes, but it falters when players ignore model assumptions. 

The $POLE saga resonates with this sentiment from Humanity’s Ledger: “At the core of this evolution lies the recognition that while blockchain can significantly bolster security and transparency, it is not a standalone solution to all trust-related societal challenges. True trust in human interactions – characterized by emotional depth and relational nuances – cannot be entirely replicated by any technology.” Digital communities, unlike their real-world counterparts, face the unique challenge of building trust from scratch, often within pre-existing frameworks of values and beliefs. This highlights the crucial point: technology cannot replicate the emotional depth and relational nuances that are the bedrock of genuine trust.

The promise of decentralization, while alluring, often stumbles on this blindspot of human trust. As studies from the MIT Media Lab and Stanford Social Dynamics Lab highlight, online communities lack the inherent trust-building mechanisms like shared experiences and non-verbal cues present in physical interactions. This, coupled with the echo chamber effect documented by the Pew Research Center, where online spaces often amplify existing biases, creates a unique challenge for building trust across diverse viewpoints. 

The $POLE phenomenon starkly illustrates this, showcasing how algorithmic structures alone cannot bridge the gap between ideal governance and the complex realities of human interaction in digital ecosystems.

Robert Putnam, in his work ‘Bowling Alone,’ observes the decline of social capital and its implications for trust and cooperation. Without active nurturing of these qualities, decentralized communities risk replicating the ills of traditional systems rather than forging a new path. Fostering empathy and a sense of shared responsibility is crucial for the success of Web3 experiments.

The promise of decentralization relies profoundly on participants upholding collective health beyond self-gain once structures dissipate. Yet the assumption individuals instinctively self-regulate when freed from oversight seems questionable when examples abound of unbridled self-interest despite rules and incentives.

If blockchain’s redistribution of influence aims to escape repeats of power concentration trends that cycle through rising civilizations, solutions must consider gaps between mathematical architecture and human motivations. Game theory laws falter when players ignore model assumptions.

Without concurrent nurturing of compassion and conscience to guide decision-making in this emerging landscape, elimination of existing constraints risks misrule by uncompromising coalitions not accountable to cultures they disrupt.

The $POLE phenomenon, with its microcosm of power struggles and fleeting trust, echos the wisdom of Krishnamurti‘s words: ‘It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.’ If our virtual communities are to thrive, we must confront the underlying social inequalities and foster a deeper commitment to ethical behavior.

For where institutional dismantling outpaces psychological readiness, chaos often fills voids. If blockchain aims for the heights of human potential rather than repeats of bygone civilizations, solutions seem unlikely decoupled from slow nurturing of wisdom and empathy’s perpetual cultivation.

Instead of passively hoping for wisdom and empathy to blossom, we can actively cultivate these qualities within virtual communities. Individuals can engage in open dialogue, prioritize transparency, and champion ethical decision-making.