We can be modular, just for one day

A piece by Wastelander

11 min readFeb 16, 2023


A Design Space

Echoing its modular design and purpose, Cult is philosophically modular in that it belongs to everyone, and to no one. It can attach, in symbiosis, to any project or community which meets the criteria. This gives it immense power and infinite adaptability, including in relation to monolithic designs which inevitably are vastly less antifragile and encumbered.

As a modular public good, it is designed to outlast fleeting changes in any community and context, across time, and even global upheaval. It is also somewhere within the development cycle of integrating soft and hard governance processes, and discovering itself in the chaotic noise of our world while self-organizing according to its ethos and vision. And all the while, the ever-present supply reduction dynamic of Cult’s ecosystem winds back the levers of the perpetual motion machine.

I believe that the signal of Cult, and the will of decentralization, is able to cut through the noise of distraction and evershifting tribalism and polarization. Cult’s supply reduction is, in part, Cult’s investment in human psychology. It is what calls all the bluffs, ensures parties on all sides of the table put their cards on the table. It turns our eyes past the memetic masks, and towards Choice.

The aspect of the puzzle I am outlining here is from the vantage point of Cult DAO plugging its latent energy into a pre-existing dynamic. Not a single entity with a particular leadership or contingent limits, not a single project — but rather the ongoing interplay between decentralization, the public good of privacy, and our global context.

There are other dynamics also that I personally care about. Lots of them. This is just the first because that is, apparently, how time works for human minds.

The thing about Cult, as a public utility, is that when we place undue emphasis on the personal identities of folks in the ecosystem, it undermines not just their request for anonymity but also our ability to see current and potential underlying dynamics at play. Simply because we are being too narrow with the lenses we are using. Wen we attend too much to a particular kind of input — personal identity, names and faces behind the mask — this inhibits our understanding and appreciation of the sausage maker (function) which takes that input.

Who cares what goes in if what comes out is, mathematically provably, the damned protein? It is a bit of an unreasonably effective method, but there it is.

In all seriousness, we can choose to attend to the underlying dynamics here, and their output over time, while leaving the “personal identity” distraction fest to all the other people slowly morphing into goldfish.

By the way, there’s more to say about this beyond the quip that this is rather like the ethos of zero-knowledge mapped into all of our lives.

Everything unfolds when we attend to the algorithm and output. Ideas are perspectives, and these transcend personal identity as we usually think of it. Now, back to the arc I was sketching.

Cult, as public good, is the kind of thing which amplifies directions crypto can go. Every direction we truly see and feel opens up our interpretive and imaginative capacities past current limitations. Every direction is really, then, both always a set of development arcs in our tech, and also an expansion and enlivening of the beliefs and hopes we share as humans in ongoing relationships with one another.

They describe what our world looks like, just over time’s horizon, if only we collectively coordinate on mixing in our ideas and passions into the stone soup we care so much about. This concerns all, according to the unifying ethos from which Bitcoin was originally born. If Bitcoin was the beginning of something, then what comes next?

Not everyone is on the same playing field here, with the same motivational salience. Not everyone has fought the same battles, seen the same injustices, and recognized the same need. I have limited scope and appreciation for what it was like to be a gladiator in law-abiding ancient Rome, a child slave in 19th century Alabama, or as one of the human beings in Apple’s forbidden city.

We all have limited ability to reason, feel, appreciate, and adjudicate between possible directions for any DAO or other system. This also means I must speak and attempt to integrate, modify, replace, or transcend my current presuppositions and ideas about ways the world should be.

And, I am no nihilist. The difference between innovative technology like blockchain, and that same tech being communicated in the language of stories and images on memetic rails — that is a difference worth bridging. And that is the idea, applied to the case of DarkFi and from a perspective I hope and need to evolve and grow over time. This is what I have outlined in the remainder of this Medium piece.

Thriving decentralization requires the ability to coordinate and exchange resources across networks for the sake of living life. Is it possible to do this when individuals and communities are caught in webs of surveillance? Imagine yourself, you as a single person, attempting to do something of purely your own volition while your every move is watched by another who has the power to take everything from you. To me, the capacity to do what I love, and for my life to be informed by values based on my reflection, cares, and choice, requires a safety to which the Panopticon is the antithesis.

Freedom of choice is paramount. zk-EVM Modulus is on the horizon, and while I am no engineer and so I cannot guess the fine-print details, what I can see is that Modulus offers an expansion, a stepping back and re-prioritization of the role of choice in aligning with Solarpunk, Lunarpunk, or anything else for that matter. It offers the freedom to select whether to build, grant, and transact privately or transparently, depending on our own freely chosen values.

Clearly, I also feel strongly about the necessity of anonymous systems being available as needed, especially to those for whom they are necessary for the coordination of basic needs. I outline the example of Cult DAO’s potential dynamic with DarkFi, which itself has been formed according to global need with an eye towards the history of technology and resistance.

The best technical ideas require stories if they are to scale appropriately. Their timely utility relies on the recognition, by would-be users, of both what they offer and why they matter. The scope of Cult DAO is massive in the sense that (a) its criteria for proposals are astonishingly simple, and (b) its outer mask of memetics can accelerate rapid, automated understanding and adoption by all.

Stories, then, are the vessels required to actualize tech. Just as values and technology co-inform one another, so do changes in our felt values inform the rate of adoption of that tech.

In crypto as elsewhere, we must leverage memetic power in order to convert abstract possibility into live choices, Real possibilities, which accelerate the adoption of technology we believe in. This is how many projects and design environments, DarkFi among them, scale their adoption quickly enough in order to reach escape velocity past the niche stage of tech adoption (the fate of Esperanto) to mass adoption.

Adoption chasms & the social bridges we can build

Geoffrey Moore’s model of the tech adoption lifecycle is suggestive here. It is a cognitive tool for people to see into the future, across the chasm of our lived sense of where we are today to the conditions for scaffolding towards imagined futures. It gives us, as William James put it, a live option sense of futures worth bridging to.

Regulation by various centralized entities is traditionally seen as disincentivizing adoption, and hence as a factor which makes crossing the Big Scary Chasm much more difficult, if not impossible. So, the combination of tech and its rate of adoption over time does not suffice in order to complete this picture. We also must mix in the dynamics between anonymous systems, their relationship with adoption, and regulation. This is the core of Rose O’Leary’s regulation trap thesis. Arguably, the sanctioning of Tornado Cash was the first hint of harsher crackdowns to come. The phase of rising political consciousness, and its transition to quicker and more effective adoption of DarkFi, will be accelerated if appropriately communicated and memetically powered. And, DarkFi already is being talked about.

The logic of the regulation trap model applies to at least two key gaps and, correspondingly, two kinds of connections (bridges or forks) functioning in symbiosis with each other:

(a) The liquidity gap: Incentives and rate of change of liquidity moving from transparency-only chains to hybrid and pure anonymity chains;

(b) The adoption gap: Adoption rate by non crypto natives who require the safety of anonymous transactions and identity in order to support themselves and evade persecution by centralized powers.

One should wonder about the role of symbiosis here. Bridging one chasm helps others also get across: Liquidity begets liquidity, incentives (I mentioned greed above) become too great to ignore, and network effects cascade upwards as the antifragile dynamics between liquidity, adoption, and regulatory pressures accelerate sufficiently to cross the chasm.

I first saw this version of the adoption curve used here. It’s worth noting that DarkFi is now nearing early adoption phase, with its first fully decentralized testnet demonstrating anonymous transactions (among other things) released February 2nd this year.

If there is a positive feedback dynamic between antifragility and adoption, then how easily and quickly adoption takes place is essential. A community or movement can speed up the antifragility of a system by memeticaly bridging and translating to others in language and stories they resonate with.

Solarpunk, Lunarpunk, Punk(X)

Solarpunk and Lunarpunk evade precise descriptions. Or do they? Whatever the case, here is an article which can serve as a starting point for exploring the thinking, tendencies, and imaginaries of these two threads.

I implied above that zk-EVM Modulus is the best of all possible worlds. It will soon be possible to execute both transparent public goods processes & funding, and allow those who wish to, transact and build privately. One should be able to choose, based on one’s own cultivated values, life circumstances, or just plain whim. Take as input (x) your own choice, and punkify it as you see fit.

A question I have heard voiced before is: If transparency is essential to public goods funding, grantmaking, and DAO governance, then how can this take place within a zero-knowledge system? By providing this optionality right alongside privacy, as Modulus does. There, the guiding value is: Build and transact according to your own choices, and your own values. Besides, creative division of labor between transparency and privacy is a design space worth exploring.

The following table is a method of framing zk-EVM Modulus as a public good which bridges traditional crypto divides by including and transcending their values and priorities. This table is meant to guide intuition and therefore only includes examples to serve as contrasts.

These are ideas and possibilities only as I see them, given where I am coming from:

“Bitcoin was the beginning. Cult is here to usher in the end.”

Many endings are, inevitably, also doorways to be opened in their own time. To me, “…usher in the end” translates to usher in a new kind of doorway, both cryptographically in terms of design space, and in terms of the rising political consciousness phase emphasized in the DarkFi regulation trap model. For Cult DAO to usher in “the end”, it must function as a hybrid system, giving the choice to transition from transparency and vulnerability, while also memetically supercharging adoption. This is the freedom to choose our own values, a principle emphasized by the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan.

In a recent Green Pill episode, Jordan Hall talks about something which maps directly to this: Decentralized governance and intelligence as flowing from our values, rather than outcomes (carrots) pulling us forward and constraining the values we see, feel, and explore as live options. A key motivator of this approach is that it centers, as philosophy and coordinate system, human values as values. By their nature, appropriately cultivated values have the required depth and wisdom to hold space for complexity, chaotic unpredictability, and guard against scenarios (paper-clip AI) and dynamics (coordination failure) which prioritize short-term gains while externalizing all costs to society.

The unifying thread here is that living within unchosen or forced values is precisely what we are trying to escape. Turn away from the distractions and other gladiators we are pitted against, towards the underlying causes.

Let there be (X)

To sum up: Take a new, technically sophisticated design frontier, combined with a method of achieving virality, and the result is the difference between a relatively inert idea and its full-fledged birth into the realm of action.

Because, when we are scared, can we really act from our own values? To push the point further, how sure can we be that the values and cares we act from, in moments and times of fear, are really chosen by us?

If not our chosen values, then whose? Aren’t these our lives?

Stone soup for all is both the algorithm, and the output, of coming together. It is something we build together regardless of artificial and distorting conceptions of personal identity. And, many societies and DAOs do not do this, or even pretend to live the ethos of stone soup. The Kurdish people are an example of a people who live, fight, and die for decentralization and freedom, who live stone soup, in the face of centralized oppressors and aggression which many so-called “decentralization advocates” ignore. Today, by channeling funds through mechanisms such as DAOs like Kurd DAO, blockchain and anonymity engineering can help turn that tide.

The things I have said (and hopefully clearly) above about bridging to imagined futures, anonymity engineering, choosing our own values — this is all simply a way of seeing the forest for the trees. Perhaps it is helpful now, perhaps later, possibly never. Human imagination is naturally distributed and free, after all.

So, I make no claim to the validity or soundness of anything I, as a single anon, say with regard to the future. I do, however, ask that we all think, imagine, discover and co-create our values for ourselves. This can take time, and take us out of our daily habits of mind and action.

But, when we step back, we have the eyes to see that many of the differences we live through are antithetical to the original ethos of Bitcoin. They chain us more than they usher in the decentralized future founded on the ideals of sovereignty and the freedom to choose our own values.

“…Our reasoning has been weakened and distorted by the juxtaposing of the dualistic pairs subject-object, idealist-materialist, dialectical-metaphysical, philosophical-scientific and mythological-religious. The intense polarization of these dichotomies constitutes the fundamental methodological error that has led to capitalist modernity…

Though this reasoning has reached its peak in capitalism, rulers and exploiters through the ages have encouraged beliefs and arguments based on these dichotomies because of the fundamental role they have played in legitimizing the continuation of ruling systems. If the human mind were not conditioned to these distinctions, exploitative systems would not have been so successful.” Öcalan, Manifesto for a Democratic Civilization: Volume I

If Bitcoin was a new beginning for democratic societies, Cult is here to help usher in an age of systems which provide the means to choose and live by our own values. These systems are technical interests and day jobs for some; needed safe-havens and public goods on anonymous rails for others; and open for all to join while forced on none.