Web3 Boom Brings America’s Culture Wars to the Tech Industry
- The Web3 movement and cryptocurrencies are causing a disruption in the software industry.
- Insiders fear the debate is now more about political values than technology, leading to polarization.
- They say if compromise becomes impossible, Web3 will never improve, which hurts innovation.
If you’ve spent any time online in the past year or so, you probably haven’t been able to escape the hype around cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and the so-called Web3 in general. Celebrities like Reese witherspoon and Gwyneth Paltrow have jumped on the bandwagon, and El Salvador has recently become the first country to give bitcoin legal tender status.
The backlash is just as inevitable. NFT projects like Lindsay Lohan and Stan Lee’s Estate were greeted with ridicule and vitriol. Word that Kickstarter planned to pivot its crowdfunding platform to be blockchain-backed has been received by many on social networks with disappointment and even disgust.
Fans of Web3 believe cryptocurrencies and NFTs are harbingers of a tech movement that can decentralize finance and commerce, putting more power in the hands of users and disrupting Google and Facebook. Skeptics believe the benefits of Web3 are unproven or unrealistic as cryptocurrency scams multiply and blockchains harm the environment by their electricity consumption.
Now tech industry insiders say the cryptocurrency debate is coming home as developers increasingly take sides on Web3. Twitter is full of Anecdotal evidence of developers quitting when their employers embrace crypto, even though executives from companies like Amazon and Facebook accept new jobs in the industry. Even leaders like Elon musk and Jack Dorsey – vocal bitcoin and crypto fans – were pushed back after suggesting Web3 was overrated.
– Joyce Park (@trutgirl) December 11, 2021
Importantly, insiders say, this growing divide has as much to do with politics as it does with technology, with interest or skepticism in cryptocurrency being seen as a value statement that can pit a developer against it. peers.
It’s a real bigger risk, some insiders say.
The more polarized the discussion becomes and the more people who identify strongly with pro or anti-crypto camps, the harder it is to have an honest dialogue in the industry about the promise of the technology – and to be reckoned with. the harms of the rising tide of crypto scams and other bad behavior on the blockchain.
Some fear this division will be disastrous for technology in the long run. If the Web3 movement avoids even mild or well-reasoned skepticism, insiders say, the dangers will only worsen, escalating with its growth. And they say conversely, if Web3 skeptics are unwilling to assess the technology on its own merits in good faith, the industry could risk throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
“If it’s going to be bad then we have to know what it is to be able to play defense,” said Kelsey Hightower, senior engineer at Google. “If it’s going to be good, then we have to know how it works so that we can actually step into the action or play it. But we can’t have any of these options from a place of ignorance.”
Web3 has become a polarizing issue
Bitter debates are common in the tech industry, where developers will endlessly discuss the merits of Mac versus PC, or Android versus iPhone, or even whether to put a tab or a space after each new line of. coded.
What sets the crypto debate apart is that the cryptocurrency itself is a increasingly political question in a way that doesn’t cleanly break along party lines. Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic presidential candidate and secretary of state, has described what she sees as the dangers of bitcoin, while Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis walked across the aisle to work with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden to propose new tax rules around cryptocurrency.
Some in tech worry that this will bring the intense polarization that saturates American politics at the heart of the software industry, making any good faith discussion on the subject difficult.
“It’s so polarizing,” said Tracy King, software engineer at startup Xplor. King said that by adding “.eth” to his Twitter display name, signifying its support for the ethereum blockchain, requested a surprising amount of flashback. “I saw people who I thought were friends start insulting and blocking me for being a ‘Web3 shill’,” she said.
Kelly Vaughn, a leading software developer and co-founder of gift card startup Govalo, experienced similar fallout after tweeting about her interest in learning more about Web3. “I know I have a large following and that always brings people with strong opinions on either side of the fence, but I certainly didn’t expect a backlash from the start,” Vaughn said. .
“I feel like everything is getting so politicized here,” Anne Griffin, product manager at travel booking site Priceline, told Insider. “It puts people at a disadvantage to get into technology that will change the world, like very early on. “
—Dame.eth (😈, 😇) (@jacksondame) December 19, 2021
On the flip side, even optimistic cryptocurrency skeptics are reluctant to voice anything like dissent, some insiders say. Liz Fong-Jones, a developer well known for her employee activism at Google, said she was concerned about losing potential customers or future investors by criticizing crypto.
“The instant you mention something negative about cryptocurrency, there will immediately be people nitpicking what you have to say,” Fong-Jones told Insider. “I wouldn’t necessarily characterize the behavior as blatantly harassing as much as it sucks oxygen into the room.”
Anil Dash, CEO of collaborative coding platform Glitch, said that while the pro-crypto camp doesn’t take concerns about environmental damage, scams, hoaxes and other dangers and risks that have accompanied the boom seriously. Web3, it ‘It will be all the more difficult to bridge the gap.
“The Web3 community didn’t have this moment to realize that it had empowered not only crooks and crooks, but also the people who were going to hijack this technology for truly malicious use,” Dash said. “For all the good that it has done, there has been so much harm. And so I think there is anxiety, grief and residual guilt about it.”