Digital Property Rights
Plus! New SoulBound Podcast w/ Animoca Brands CEO Robby Yung
How did we become rich?
Over the last two centuries, vast swaths of humanity went from living on <US$3 a day to >US$100 a day after millennia of toiling in the fields.
“The Great Enrichment” as coined by Deidre McCloskey, esteemed professor at the University of Illinois .
Institutions, capital accumulation, state capacity and other rationales all appear inadequate to explain the orders of magnitude increase in such a short time. The poorest of the developed world leading better lives than Louis XIV just three centuries later.
McCloskey offers us a palatable explanation: the rise of bourgeois values. Societies no longer scorn money, commerce, and merchants in favor of the “aristocratic” values “honor”, “nobility” and “birth-right” rooted in hierarchical social structures.
The rise of the individual as a self-sovereign; its first offshoots in the Netherlands, followed by England, and shortly after the rest of Europe. Locke, Hobbes, Kant and others planting seeds which would one day cross the Atlantic and reach their unbridled expression in the great American experiment. Many of the values would spread globally over the 20th century following the world wars and the fall of the Soviet Union. “The end of history” as it were…
“Liberalism.” Political and economic freedoms for individuals - equal under the law - was a devastating change to earlier feudal arrangements which unlocked individual creativity. Questioning the status quo, scientific experimentation, and “trade-tested-betterment” became the norm. Innovations, propelled by market-based incentives and the ability of the average joe to reap material rewards for better meeting the needs of his fellow man.
Despite very real concerns over expanding inequality, the rise in collective esteem of bourgeois values is how we became rich.
Property rights had a lot to do with it. Allowing individuals to accrue benefits in the form of land, capital, or status for services rendered proved a compelling incentive. The more distributed property became, the greater the economic flourishing.
As documented in Joe Studwell’s classic: “How Asia Works”, land reform proved particularly effective at catalyzing growth away from concentrated family holdings into smaller family plots; the change led to sky-rocketing yields which propelled industrial investment. As owners, people work harder. They are better stewards. The more owners and the broader the wealth distribution, the faster market activity accelerated pulling ever more human capital into the Great Enrichment flywheel.
Digital Property Rights
Interestingly, these liberal principals have yet to be applied to the digital economy. The growth engine of the 21st century is mired in a feudal stage.
As coined by both Yat Siu (Founder) and Robby Yung (CEO) of web3 giant Animoca Brands, we are living in an era of “digital colonialism”. Data monopolies like Facebook, Google, and Apple hoard the world’s most valuable resource: data. A few large parties dominate the landscape, “exploiting” data laborers and marketplace suppliers with little to no compensation.
Animoca Brands wants to help build a different future.
According to Robby, the next stage of the internet - “web3” - is all about “digital property rights”. A similar liberal empowerment of the individual in the new frontier - cyberspace; no longer tied down to a particular “estate” or walled-garden. A system where users are compensated for the value they provide to the network and can “exit” with their assets when treated unfairly.
An open, interoperable vision of the internet where users are sovereign.
After decades in gaming, tech, and now web3, Robby Yung is perhaps the best person I know to articulate this coming shift. From the vantage point of history…
It will be big :)
Animoca’s story, flagship products, and investment process for their impressive portfolio including OpenSea, Axie Infinity, Dapper Labs and other giants
The key barriers to building an open metaverse and why interoperability is so hard
The risks of premature digitization in a pre-industrial region
Thoughts around privacy differences between web2 and web3
And much more!
Guests: Robby Yung