June 14, 2022

Josh Stark: the Ethereum Foundation & Atoms, Institutions, Blockchains

Here is my conversation with Josh Stark from the Ethereum Foundation.

Apple Podcasts podcast player icon
Spotify podcast player icon
PocketCasts podcast player icon
Overcast podcast player icon
Castbox podcast player icon
RSS Feed podcast player icon

Here is my conversation with Josh Stark.

Josh has a long history in the Ethereum ecosystem going back to the early days of the community. He cofounded one of the first L2 scaling protocols with Counterfactual. He also cofounded ETHGlobal which is a much-loved series of hackathons/events that brings the community together and which acts as an entry point into the ecosystem for many people. And nowadays and most relevant to our conversation, he works in a leadership capacity at the Ethereum Foundation.

In this conversation, we talked about two topics: one being the Ethereum Foundation, and two being the question of why blockchain is matter — this being something that Josh has spent a lot of time thinking about and which he's written about in a long form piece titled Atoms Institutions Blockchains.



3:50 subtraction

7:22 creating a self-sufficient crypto ecosystem

12:33 the property of ‘hardness’ for blockchains

17:47 understanding decentralization

23:11 Atoms, Institutions, Blockchains

26:00 blind men and an elephant

33:06 our civilization’s infrastructure

43:33 digitally-native hardness

59:38 how the EF operates

1:06:21 challenges with decentralized coordination

1:12:08 infinite players have nothing but their names

Mentioned in the show:

Atoms, Institutions, Blockchains: https://stark.mirror.xyz/n2UpRqwdf7yjuiPKVICPpGoUNeDhlWxGqjulrlpyYi0


[00:00:18] Sina:  Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Into The Bytecode. Today, I sat down with my good friend, Josh Stark. Josh has a long history in the Ethereum ecosystem, going back to the early days of the community.

He co-founded and worked on one of the very first layer two scaling protocols with counterfactual.

He also co-founded ETHGlobal, which is a much loved series of hackathons and events that brings the community together and which acts as an entry point into the ecosystem for many people and nowadays, and most relevant to our conversation, he works in a leadership capacity at the Ethereum foundation.

So in this conversation, we talked about two topics, one being the Ethereum Foundation or the EF -- how it operates, what it's actually like to work there, how it thinks about what to prioritize and two we dig into the question of why blockchains matter in the first place, which is something Josh has spent a lot of time thinking about and which he's written about in a long form piece, titled Atoms, Institutions, and Blockchains.

And so without further ado, I'll leave you to it.

[00:01:31] Josh: EF is a community of teams. Its broad mandate is to support the Ethereum ecosystem. and there's kind of three principles that we talk about a lot that, really inform, you know, where we work and why we work.

And those three are as follows – one, longterm thinking. You know, we're not especially interested in, you know, short-term narratives or market cycles. We are interested in the things that are going to matter, you know, years, decades into the future. Secondly this idea of subtraction which, you know, we've talked about publicly a lot and, you know, Aya has given many presentations about it.

Albert who used to work at the EF has given talks about it as well. And the idea here to sum up a complex idea, is that, you know, we are not trying to grow as an organization for its own sake. We are not trying to accumulate things, whether that be money or prestige or power, we are trying to, you know, reduce our overall impact in the ecosystem over the long-term, by helping everything outside of us grow stronger.

And so that influences a lot of what we do and don't do, and is really foundational for, you know, a lot of the things that we quite intentionally choose not to do. and then the third thing is, you know, we call stewardship to values. We aren't, and we can't be agnostic to, you know, the values of the Ethereum ecosystem and the values of the protocol. I think it would be a mistake to think of Ethereum or really, any blockchain merely as a technology. These things are technology paired with, ideologies with movements, with communities of people who hold values and express those values and act on them. So, you know, it's not our role to the side, what the values of the ecosystem are. That's up to, you know, all these individual people and organizations who choose to be part of it, but we do see it, our responsibility to try and nudge things in a positive direction to balance maybe what naturally occurs and what gets the most attention in an ecosystem and remind people that this is a very big tent that includes a lot of different values, different people different organizations.

[00:03:50] Sina: Right. Man, there's so much there to unpack. Maybe on this, like on this point of subtraction, there's been this analogy that I've personally find helpful in thinking about this. And it's in drawing a parallel between Ethereum and the arc of the Internet and how it evolved.

Right. And thinking about the fact that at the very beginning, you know, at T equals zero. let's say the internet started out as a P2P network between four universities that had hooked up this network and each of them played a very important role in keeping this network up and running both at the technical level, but also at the level of like, this is actually a thing that the world should care about and talking about it and moving it forward.

And over time the internet kind of grows, grows and grows where today it's this just kind of fabric that's woven into the world and it's almost absurd to think about like one company or one organization being critical to the functioning of the internet. Right? Like there's no org that you could knock out and it would bring down the internet and, you know, there's some like distribution of like, there's certain orgs that

Have more of a influence in like the infrastructure, like how things are hooked up. But at a global level, it's decentralized and resilient to those types of things at this point. And when I think about Ethereum, you know, like when Ethereum was started, right, the Ethereum foundation was kind of this original organization that was helping get everything off the ground. Right? So it was developing the very first client, which is Geth. It was developing the programming language. It was, running the only events that brought people together with Devcon.

And as time progresses forward, there's more and more organizations who enter this arena. Where today you look at a theory. And it's, you know, Ethereum does not equal to the Ethereum foundation at all, right, like there's hundreds, thousands of companies, nonprofits, you know, people contributing to this thing around the world and.

We're almost at this point where you could, you know, almost like remove the ETF and Ethereum would continue fine. Now there's still like a few pieces, like few critical things that the EF is contributing to like Eth2. Like, you know, certain things would take a hit. But I think the trajectory of this thing is that at some point in the future, this network, this community is completely self-sustaining.

And so if you overlay this on the like strategy of the Ethereum foundation, It basically wants to push power and responsibility and all of these things to this ecosystem in a way that like it makes itself less of a pillar, less, less of a critical node over a time. So it's trying to decrease its own relative significance by increasing the significance of like all of the larger ecosystem and all the players that are involved in it.

And, and that's like that to me is like one way to think about this idea of subtraction. And I just find that to be a very. Very like beautiful idea.

[00:07:22] Josh: Yeah, I think that's exactly right. You know, maybe there's kind of two interesting areas to expand there. One is maybe like a helpful metaphor that we talk about a lot, which is that you know, we talked about the EF being a gardener or maybe like, you know, someone helping to grow an ecosystem and in order to enable an ecosystem to grow, you can't plan every detail out of it.

If you believed you could plan or control every detail of it, then what you would be building is not really an ecosystem. I know ecosystems need to be able to have pieces removed and still function. They need to be able to grow and change in response to changing conditions and having, you know, one entity try and control.

It's never going to work, right. This is maybe like an analog of the principle that any complex system inevitably grew out of a simpler system that also worked on its own. And if what you're trying to grow or enable in some way is a complex organism that is decentralized and self-sufficient and sustainable.

You can't really start that off, you know, from a very centralized command economy controlled way, because, you know, at some point you're going to have to pull off the training wheels and the thing's gonna fall apart. So I think the Ethereum community from the very beginning has understood that and believe that, you know, the training wheels need to come off virtually immediately.

And that can be frustrating to, the people who, don't have maybe the vantage point, that we do or who are very concerned about a short-term trajectory. But again the long-term view here is it is what we care about. If a theory only succeeds for 10 years and then fails forever that's failure that's not a success by any metric that I would care about.

So long-term success is the only game in town. And so that's what we're optimizing for.

[00:09:24] Sina: Yeah. When you say if like virtually from the beginning, this was happening, like, I'm curious if you look back over the arc of the Ethereum ecosystem, are there specific points that you see as like these were instances where an additional layer of decentralization was introduced into the ecosystem?

Right. Like, I mean, as a very recent example of this, I think the fact that there are multiple ETH2 clients. And all of them are basically independent organizations. The EEF doesn't actually have an ETH2 client team. That to me is like a beautiful kind of instantiation of this idea. But I'm curious, like looking back, do you see other cases where you kind of noticed that this was happening

[00:10:17] Josh: I mean, I think that we can't talk about this without talking about Consensys, right?

The fact that there was another very committed and well-capitalized organization very early in Ethereum history who are willing to spend and try experiments and get things right. And get things wrong. was a, you know, a major contributor to, kind of proving the point that, you know, it was not just the EF's job to, to do things.

And you know, out of that, you get a lot of projects that spin out of consensys that, you know, kind of form their own ecosystems and, you know, go on to spin things out in turn.

But that was definitely a notable one early on. I think the ETH2 clients is a great example. I think something similar is happening now with the development of layer two protocols, right? Where you have these, multiple, incredible successful organizations who are building different solutions, who will be, you know, major components of the ecosystem, who, are well positioned to bring on users and attract applications and be a very kind of like user and developer facing interface.

I think that's a huge step forward, completely aside from the benefits of layer two itself, just the fact that there are all these multiple organizations who will compete with each other and collaborate with each other. It is a very notable milestone in this overall story of, you know, the growth of the ecosystem.

Another one that happened recently, I don't know the exact date, but maybe I should figure this out, but, you know, three years ago when people look at who is funding money in the Ethereum ecosystem and who was, you know, providing grant money for public goods, you know, the EF kind of stood above everyone else, just in terms of the amount of capital being deployed and the amount of capital being available.

But now if you look at, you know, the top 10 DAO treasuries you know, the EF is a pretty small organization compared to, you know, all these other DAOs that exist now and are trying to figure out for themselves, you know, what is our mandate? How do we allocate funding effectively with the ecosystem?

How do we collaborate with each other. You know, the story today is very different from three years ago, six years ago, longer than that.

[00:12:33] Sina: totally. Yeah. Like looking at the Gitcoin grants rounds and seeing who was contributing to the matching pool, you can kinda like see the decentralization of public goods funding on a timeline, basically. on this question of layer twos. Like fast forward, you know, three to five years, how do you actually define what the Ethereum ecosystem is? And what do you think the world will look like? Like my kind of mental model of this is that the Ethereum main net will increasingly be used by roll-ups as a data availability layer. Right. And more and more applications than users will just be deployed on these layer twos and interfacing with these layer 2s. And so I think there's just an interesting question about like, let's say 10 years into the future is Ethereum known as like a consumer level brand, right?

Like do individual people in the world even know about Ethereum or is it these roll-ups that they know about? And Ethereum is really just this infrastructural, like settlement layer, that brings security to the whole thing. How do you think about that?

[00:13:53] Josh: Yeah, I have a relatively strong view on this, which is that I think it's actually really important that the Ethereum brand name, whatever, be visible to users of roll-ups where those roll-ups depend on Ethereum for security, you know, at the end of the day, like the fundamental thing that blockchains like Ethereum provide is, you know, security, or as we'll talk about later, you know, hardness. This idea that, if you own an asset you really do own it.

And you know, the network can't be kind of compromised from, you know, a well financed attacker. Or, you know, the project that is properly non-custodial, can't take your money, et cetera, et cetera. And at a base level, you know, all of the things that make that possible are kind of - have their root at Ethereum itself.

And so if people don't understand where that security is coming from, then I think they won't be able to make informed choices. Right? If a user only understands that, you know, they're using roll up X and that roll up decides at some point to, you know, swap using Ethereum for some other relatively insecure L1 that paid them a lot of money to migrate.

They can't really not explain that to their users when the basic property of what they have. What would that be owning some crypto or an NFT or using the marketplace on the rollup has fundamentally changed? It is like a critical part of a product at the end of the day. And you know, that’s why I worry about a situation where this does become obscured to users.

It would create a kind of, you know, systemic risk where, people are not able to adjust their choices. As the reality under their feet shifting. if you know, some other L1 is being swapped in, people need to understand fundamentally what they're actually buying. And of course, you know, this is all on chain. We can see it. People are able to, confirm for themselves, you know, what is this rollup anchored to? But I think that's only part of the story, right? We can't rely on every single person, you know, eventually billions and billions of humans to, you know, know how to validate something from, you know, running their own node and their own on chain data.

They need an application to tell them this, that needs to be like a cultural expectation that it is normal and expected to be clear about these things. Like we need the kind of information economy around helping users make these choices to actually match up to what reality is.

[00:16:36] Sina: Right. It sounds like almost more of a behavioral, like. Social layer question then a technical one, right.

[00:16:47] Josh: to me like those aren't different questions, right? I think a key thing that a general type of mistake, I think people make and thinking of blockchains is this classic scenario of the comp side professor from Berkeley only views them through a computer science lens.

The finance person only views it as a market. the video game person and only views, it has like a weird end game economy that doesn't quite work, whatever it happens to be. But another version of that kind of mistake, I think, is to view this as something distinct from the social layer stuff, you know, blockchains are a social technology, they enable social coordination.

They don't, if people don't understand them or be able to relate to each other about them, then they're kind of meaningless, right? If people don't believe that blockchains work, then they're not going to use them. And that kind of that relationship that people have to, it is pretty fundamental to the whole thing.

[00:17:47] Sina: Yeah. how do you sense make out of the way people currently understand and like interface with blockchains? Right? Cause I think even today, like it's like anyone who's actually using crypto today is still somewhat of an early adopter. I would say like, it's still like pretty hard to, I dunno, like use metamask and like transfer like crypto from an exchange to your wallet and use etherscan.

And like all this stuff is like still pretty janky. So like, I think the people who are in that ecosystem in any way at all are pretty sophisticated, on a relative scale. and I already feel like this question of like, okay, like how decentralized or how, you know, whatever blockchain is, or like the particular protocol that you're using on a particular blockchain.

Like these questions are just completely mired in just opinion. Right? it's like very hard to understand what the hell is going on. Unless you like go and try to make sense of it yourself, which not everyone can, not everyone has the time to. yeah. How do you think about what's happening already in the space and how it projects into the future and like what needs to change to make some of this go in a better direction?

[00:19:13] Josh: It's a very big question.

[00:19:16] Sina: We're here for the big questions.

[00:19:18] Josh: here for the big questions. Yeah. I definitely think that one of the most under appreciated or under hyped priorities for crypto as a whole is explaining to people how it works. And you know, people obviously care about that. But it's, I think it's not, I think most people don't appreciate how like critical and like absolutely critical path that is. Again if people don't understand anything about what this is or how it works and all they're doing is, you know, clicking buttons on the website without any sort of appreciation for why this is different than clicking buttons on facebook.com, then we're failing. Then I don't think we really achieved anything.

This needs to include you know, educating users and helping them understand what the political choice is essentially that they're making when they're using an application that is secured by an open blockchain like Ethereum, versus when they're using an application that is just, you know, going into Facebook or Meta’s backend somewhere.

And I think right now we're not doing a great job at that. And there's lots of different, you know, perspectives on this. It's not just about, you know, understanding, you know, how proof of stake works or, you know, what a smart contract is. It's, lots of different pieces of this. One that I love to complain about is --- it's very unfortunate that, the primary mental model people have for crypto is it is a list of assets. Some of which are worth more than others. And some of which have higher market caps than others. That is probably 95% of all people who know anything about crypto.

That is when they think of it, the picture there's Bitcoin at the top. And there's Ethereum and then there's a bunch of other stuff and the prices go up. That, you know, I understand why that happened. It happened because of course the first use case that really had any success was trading these assets, you know, watching the price go up and down, believing in the story that, you know, one of the things on this list is going to go up higher than the rest.

And then one of the things that's the zoom down lower than the rest, but it is an extremely, tiny view of this larger thing. One, I would love to kind of, you know, shift people into seeing this, not as just a list of assets, but as a, a system of interconnected domains, right?

If you actually try to picture, I think, a more accurate picture of what the crypto ecosystem looks like, picture a bunch of spheres and there's connections between them, where there are bridges that allow users to move assets and activity between them. You know, some of them are connected to each other by virtue of being a layer two in the sense of they're borrowing the security of the big, you know, purple Ethereum's sphere.

And if you look at things that way, I mean, this is maybe biased from my perspective, but if you look at things that way, it becomes clear that Ethereum is the ecosystem, right? There's, you know, two very large circles. One's Ethereum with all of its other ERC-20s, NFTs, and assets on it. The other is Bitcoin.

But all of the bridges that connect all of these different things and the diversity of assets that people are playing with and experimenting and building. You know, it's all either happening on Ethereum or it's deeply connected to it. But people, you know, there's that - visual metaphor doesn't exist yet.

People still mostly view it just like it's a stock market. Because we haven't really been able to explain this properly yet.

And not because people aren’t trying, I just mean that, you know, we should you know, probably we both heard the phrase a lot, over the years that the solution needs to be as big as the problem.

And I think right now we're not reckoning with how big a problem this is.

[00:23:11] Sina: Yeah.

totally. maybe this is a good transition point to this blog post that you wrote, right?

Atoms Institution's Blockchains, which kind of, I mean, part of its purpose is. It's like your take on why any of this matters, right? Like I think it goes to the heart of this question of why these systems needs to be decentralized and why that's a critical property of theirs that like everyone needs to understand.

It's not just an accidental side effect or like a side property.

So how would you lay out the thesis of this piece and what you're saying in there?

[00:23:58] Josh: Yeah. I guess working the space for a while now, and I've seen, you know, multiple waves of people, like come in with all their bright eyed, enthusiasm, and be, you know, a really active part of the space and then burn out and get discouraged and leave.

And there haven't been periods where I've felt that way too, you know, it can be a lot there's a lot of, bullshit that happens in this industry and it can get them be demoralizing. And I started thinking about writing this and kind of sketching it out as kind of response to those feelings of, you know, I need to be able to articulate for myself, I guess the kind of things that I intuitively feel, but can't quite name yet.

And I really wanted to be able to put something down on paper that I can look at and say, ah, yes. Okay. This is why I'm here. This is why this is worth, you know, spending my life working on. So that was kind of the starting point.

[00:24:52] Sina: Yeah, I hadn't connected those thoughts, but it's really cool that, that's like, in some ways, this piece can act as that item for you.

[00:25:01] Josh: Yeah. even if no one else cares about it, it was, and it continues to be helpful and clarifying for me. So I guess in, as you try to answer that question, you know, it becomes complicated fast. You know, you can tell a story about why an individual application. Like Bitcoin or like, you know, an NFT or Uniswap matters. But that's, you know, that's not satisfying because it's just a matter of these individual things. So, you know, then you try to answer, okay, why does this, like this thing of a blockchain matter? Or, you know, these broader narratives of like DeFi or the creator economy or, you know, seizure resistant money.

You know, there's kind of broader stories, but of course, there's this bigger picture, which is, these blockchains enable all these things. Even things that like are, seem pretty unrelated at first glance are, all enabled by this thing, what we call a blockchain. and So it felt obvious to me that like, we're really only scratching the edges of understanding this, you know, massive thing.

you know, there's this classic story of the blind men and the elephants, and I'm sure everyone's heard it, but briefly, you know, three blind men who've ever seen an elephant encounter an elephant one touches the trunk and you know, says, ah, this is a rope for climbing and other touches the ear and says, oh, this is a beautiful carpet that I would lay down in my house on the other, you know, touches the, one of the elephant's legs and says, no, you fools, this is a tree.

And of course they're all wrong because they can't see the bigger picture. And I think like, you know, DeFi, Web3, smart contracts, hard money, NFTs. These are all, Good blind man's story is about a part of the elephant, you know, and there's nothing wrong with that. You need to be able to explain these things well, to get people to care about the applications.

But I think they're all of the type of just, can, you know, I've counted the number of wrinkles on the trunk and I can observe that there was air going in and out of it. And I can like, even though I'm blind, I can give you a very accurate, compelling story about what this thing is, but they're not the big picture.

Right. They're not the highest level of view. And I guess to make this even more complicated, Problem is not even explaining this one elephant that these five men are touching it is to realize that there are other elephants out there too. And that we need to not only explain this one elephant, but you know, what is the species of elephant and how do all these elephants relate to one another?

So that's getting kind of abstract, but the point is I think that we, really discounted quite far back to really understand, what's going on.

[00:27:36] Sina: And by other elephants here, you're not referring to like other blockchains or anything like that. It's like other, just things in the world, which you’ll get to, that, that give us the same properties that blockchains do at a base level.

[00:27:51] Josh: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

So getting to the actual thesis I think the really simple narrative way to explain this is. You know, we can observe throughout human civilization that there are these tools or systems or applications that we use to coordinate with each other. So money is one of those systems in all its varieties. Financial systems, contracts, law of all kinds various forums of governance and collective decision.

All of these you know, tools, applications, whatever, have something in common, which is that they require, the ability to make specific things very certain in the future.

Now that probably sounds obvious, but here's some examples, right? So a contract, like what, what distinguishes and is important about our ability to enter contracts with one another is that, you know, we've built these complex institutions over millennials.

You know, lawyers and judges and police forces and the product of that is that, in certain nations, we can go to each other. And if we, you know, say certain words to each other and tick certain boxes, all those institutions will make it very likely that in the future the contract will be enforced.

and that is the point of this that is what distinguishes, you know, a contract from a mere promise is that we've built all this infrastructure to make it very likely in the future that a certain thing will, or won't happen. Another example might be gold right now.

Gold is useful as a money, as a store of value. And one of the reasons for that is that we have, you know, a pretty high degree of certainty about what the future supply of gold will be. Right. Gold would not be a very good money or store value, if we had absolutely zero idea what the supply of gold was going to be in one year or five years or 10 years, but because we know that there's really only a certain amount, literally physically in the earth and our technology can only access a certain portion of it that, you know, it's pretty predictable.

Like we've, you know, it just is relatively certain or very certain in the future that gold will have a certain supply. And so all these things rely on, you know, some ability of human beings to just make the future more certain or past a certain level of certainty that, you know, it's good enough for the specific thing or thinking of, obviously neither of those examples I gave are absolute certain news contracts can be broken.

You know, police officials can be corrupted, you know, an asteroid full of gold could hit the hood the earth tomorrow, but they've passed this like minimum bar of certainty for us to be able to rely on them. So, all these things rely on this property. And so the answer to what blockchains are, is.

At extremely simple, they're just a new way of creating this certainty about the future. And in the blog post, I used the term harvest at the, the special property that blockchains provide and that the other sources provide as well. Is this property of hardness that we can make claims about the future.

We can harden them. We can make them very likely to obtain to be true in the future.

And once you kind of, have this insight and look at all these different sets of things that out there in the world, You can see that there is, there seem to really only be three sources of parts.

You know, one is this new one blockchains, that we've recently invented and, you know, have proven them that they can enable money enable, you know, complex semi contractual relationships, et cetera. The second is institutions, right? Like we create these collections of people who behave in certain ways.

And that includes, you know, all legal systems, you know, corporations that enforce various rules, complex financial institutions, governments, et cetera. Then the third one is, you know, physical reality itself which, you know, I use atoms as a shorthand and that is, you know, part of what makes gold certain in the future.

We didn't have to create institution to control gold supply. We just happen to live in a universe where the rock that we're on has a certain amount of gold in it. And we've just kind of picked up on that, you know, naturally occurring fact and built a social system around it.

[00:32:26] Sina: Hm.

[00:32:27] Josh: So to come back to the elephant metaphor you know, it's, we're exploring this one elephant that is blockchains and the different parts of it are these applications.

But then, you know, we realized that there we've also been kind of muddling along with these other elephants, one being institutions and you know, all these other kind of pieces of it, are just, part of that. And then another elephant is, you know, the physical universe and what all these things have in common is that they're just ways that human beings make the future more certain and turns out that's, you know, a fundamental piece of all these applications, tools, and systems that we use to coordinate.

[00:33:06] Sina: Yeah. So they're basically, they give you an ability to design a new, like physics, almost that, of these properties that will hold through time in the future with some level of certainty. I'm curious, like taking this lens on the world and what we're doing, like, are there types of things that blockchains can bring hardness to that atoms and institutions can't? or like, does this help us kind of figure out where in this landscape of like possibilities to, to focus our energies.

[00:33:51] Josh: one, I guess one thing that's unlocks is, and you know, maybe this is kind of more getting to the political part of all this is. Once you understand that, like there are these, you know, big things that we use to build these coordination tools, you realize that, you know, we should have opinions about which ones were using and why, and for what, and we should pay attention to when, you know, some system that we used to use that maybe at one point was guaranteed by atom hardness starts being guaranteed by institutional hardness.

We should care about that change basically that. I like to go to another metaphor. These are kind of like the materials, like the physical stuff that we build our civilization’s infrastructure out of. And, you know, an architect has to care not only about the design of the house, but also what materials are used for what parts of it.

You know, there are things that you should not use drywall for. You wouldn't use drywall for, you know, load bearing, but drywall is fine to finish a wall and put a shelf into, if it, you know, is not holding more than maybe 15 pounds. Don't take that advice by the way. If you're installing shelves, I just picked up a number out of my head.

So we have to care about the materials we're using it. Right. And I think. One kind of major thing that blockchain is contribute to the world is that they enable us to ask these questions. Right? I think one success story for Bitcoin is that it has earnestly, it encouraged people to, ask critical questions about different monetary systems.

And whether you agree with a certain criticism of a certain central bank or not it's probably good that people, you know, understand a bit more about where money comes from and who it gives power to and who at the end of the day controls it's not just a naturally occurring feature of our environment.

It is something that we built and that we choose to use and it's possible to choose something differently. And that's the kind of, you know, thing that Bitcoin has helped people understand. And I think the much larger picture is that all of this meaning, you know, crypto blockchains is going to let people see that, all sorts of the civilizational infrastructure we have around us.

it's a choice that to build it out of institutions and it is a choice to, enable those institutions to have certain kinds of power maybe was the wrong choice. And you know, it's not inevitable. money, law systems, all these things we use to coordinate with each other and to build together and to, you know, attempt to flourish.

There's other ways of doing them too.

[00:36:41] Sina: One thing is like this feels like quite elemental, right? it feels very core to what just humans on this planet are. Right. Or like what we're trying to do, which is basically being able to know things will stay true through time. Like being able to impose some structure on the universe as it progresses through time.

Right. that is what we're doing here. And I mean, in some ways it's applied to the realm of like human beings and, you know, intersubjective reality in some ways yeah, it you know, I genuinely believe that we don't understand these most basic parts of.

[00:37:27] Josh: You know, our societies, you know, we tell stories about them, but I think we genuinely don't understand like what they are and what kind of category they fit into. One kind of like analogy that I use in the blog post thing that is helpful is, today, the idea of information, you know, abstract data of any type ranging from, the GCAT in your DNA, in yourselves right now, To you know, this book on my desk too, the what's being used to have this conversation right now, and it's all just information.

That's an extremely recent idea, right? It, wasn't not until really, I mean, the early fifties and sixties that this idea of information as this kind of universal thing that, you know, helped explain everything from language to music, to, you know, the nature of biology to, you know, waves and patterns and radio, like that idea did not exist before, before a certain point.

And today it seems just absolutely fundamental to us. Like we it's, anyone would understand that it's pretty much primal for the way that we look at the world today. And I really think that there's an analogous thing happening here that only because we have this new technology that is surprisingly enabling money and markets and complex, like pseudo legal relationships that have this characteristic durability that we only thought was really possible by creating institutions of people to do things, because we have this new technology, we're able to see that there is some underlying thing, right?

If a blockchain really can do what an institution can do. And that is just an objective fact at this point, because we can look at how people behave and they actually do treat these things with value and using this currency because blockchain institutions can both do that. Like there must be something underlying, there must be something that they both share that they both have the capacity to do.

And I think that thing is hardness, is this idea of this kind of uniform concept of making the future more stable or more predictable in some certain way?

Um, so I think because we've gone through, you know, these previous momentous shifts in how we perceive the world you know, it gives me some confidence that, you know, when things don't make sense it might just be that we're missing something pretty fundamental that we haven't thought to point out yet.

[00:39:53] Sina: Yeah. That's super interesting. so so hardness is, a fundamental concept that enables us to understand things in a new way. And it's referring to this ability to basically create some like reliabilities through time, like know that the state of affairs, the state of things will hold true to some equation as time progresses. And that's like the fundamental thing that, that we're pointing to here.

[00:40:27] Josh: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:40:28] Sina: do you think that belief systems, or, you know, memes in the more kind of, you know, in the deeper sense of the word, like basically idea packets that take hold and replicate and influence how people behave?

Like, are they also a source of hardness and are they distinct from these other three? How would you, for instance, like, think about the idea of a religion, right? Because if someone believes a certain like religious doctrine. That means that they will behave a certain way in the future in a reliable way.

And if a group of people believe those same things, then you can also say something about how they'll behave as a group.

[00:41:18] Josh: I would say no. So I guess an important clarification is that, the universe of hardness and the things that we build out of atoms and institutions and blockchains are not the totality of all things that influence human behavior. Right. There are many things that influence human behavior, but I think has very little to do with this idea of hardness.

Right. And I think. You know, culture, religion, social expectations, various kinds of social relationships are all kind of outside of it. And I guess the distinction to be drawn there is that key to hardness is that it is very specifically customizable, right? That you know, you and I can write basically whatever we want down in a contract.

And the legal system will enforce the specific thing that we've agreed to. You know, that can be a, you know, a number you know, that is written down or like very specific performance of some obligation. And of course there's boundaries on that depending on legislation, but let's ignore those details for now.

So it's specific and similarly like a blockchain, lets you have, you know, this person has this account balance and this persons got this account balance and here's some specific code that's going to run, et cetera, et cetera. And even, you know, atom based stuff, that's specific to, you know, if I have an amount of gold sitting on my desk, I have that amount of gold sitting at my desk.

It's not vague. The cultural stuff that, you know, influences human behavior to generalize is, you know, a little more kind of vague,

It wouldn't - Yeah, it's fuzzier. And it's also, it's not like a thing that an individual can necessarily influence. You and I could not - if we wanted to have some sort of commercial relationship, we couldn't go to our community and say, all right, look everybody.

The one who established like a new cultural norm that if by June 23rd, 2027 you know, Sina owes Josh this much money and this much interest people are gonna say, like, I don't care about that. Why don't you go write that down? At which point it's, you know, it's, there's a separate kind of system for it.

So even though culturally very powerful in terms of motivating, what people choose to do with their time and what they care about and what they don't and you know, what they will fight for. It's just a different kind of thing. It's like a mass operation --

[00:43:33] Sina: softer edges. It's like, yeah. It gives you a directional sense of what things in the future might be like, but it doesn't give you the same level of granularity.

Either in the sense of like time, it's kind of interesting, like bringing this lens to Ethereum, right? Like, it kind of tagline could be like Turing complete hardness.

Right? Cause it, it

basically lets you define anything that can be expressed. You know, in a program and it also has this notion of time progressing in the future. So you can literally describe any, anything whatsoever. So I guess the limits of this, source of hardnesses power, right?

Like the things that even Ethereum has a hard time bringing hardness to feel like the sorts of things that one, maybe can't be defined as precisely, right. Anything that has, that can't be made quantitative in the same ways because you can't just express it in the lines of a program and two, maybe the types of things that you know the thing you're trying to make the claim on, requires like human level of judgment, right? Like it's not something that can be objectively adjudicated I guess they're not different in that way from say the institution of law, right? Because like, it's not like the legal system is this just thing that executes every case absolutely. With some mathematical formula, it relies on human beings, which are like imprecise and take in all this complexity and make sense out of it to enforce it, its hardness. but I guess those are two things that come to mind.

[00:45:34] Josh: you know, a lot has been made of, smart contracts aren’t legal contracts and of course, by now we all understand that and should have always I guess, you know, the correct perspective is, you know, legal contracts and smart contracts are both things in a larger category that you might kind of say is like, you know, programmable hardness. One is programmable in the sense that we are writing down instructions in specialized, but human language, which was then interpreted and acted upon by human beings.

The other is programmable in the sense of a, you know, extremely constrained digital software environment that, can do anything within a kind of certain set of parameters, but it doesn't have any, you know, the physical influence our world. And yeah, like they're just different things, you know, I guess one, one way that the things perspective helps is that it really just takes the magic and mystery of all this.

These are just things that have certain properties that are good at somethings but bad at others, right? So, institutions are very useful. The story of human civilization is in large part, a story of us building better and better institutions that are capable of coordinating a global space-faring civilization.

They're good at lots of things. One thing that they're good at is, you know, there's a lot of complexity to our world and things frequently require some amountout of human interpretation. The judgment has to be made. That is a way that institutions are useful. Another is that, you know, they tend to be perceived as more legitimate, when there are, you know, people making these decisions, when you can point at a building full of people who are a part of your community, you know, it is easier for people to have kind of confidence and trust in that building full of fleshy humans, just like them, because, you know, we're just inclined to think that way.

You know, blockchain's on the other hand, they don't have either of those virtues but what, one thing that's great about them. Is that they're extraordinarily accessible. Right? It is not the case that anybody can just go and make an institution or go in convinced any institution to, you know, give hardness to a specific thing.

But it is the case that anybody, anywhere in the world with interconnection and a basic amount of programmability can, you know, use Ethereum to make something hard, whether that be, a new automated market maker DEX, or, you know, an NFT or it's something else that we haven't seen yet, it has, you know, this kind of complete and cheap accessibility to the population.

It also is natively digital, right? I think like one kind of mega trend kind of under the surface here. the way that I graft, like the kind of web3 story onto Atoms institutions blockchains, is that, you know, we are kind of trying to create like a digital global civilization in the sense that we now have this expectation. It shouldn't really matter where you're born. You know, we're all together on the internet. We can all communicate with each other. We should be able to do business with each other. We should be able to hire somebody from around the world to send them money, to collaborate, coordinate with them. We are trying to do that because it's just a natural thing.

Now that we have this incredible toolkit, you know, called the internet. But the world isn't really kind of built that way. the systems that enable, you know, real coordination in the systems that enable hardness and thus allow for money, finance, law, government, all these things are still very much grounded, entirely in institutions and institutions for the most part are entirely grounded into specific nation states and jurisdictions.

You know, they can't really adjust, cross borders as easily as we tend to want them to. And so the thing that you know is really happening under the surface of web3 is that blockchains solve that problem. We are able to, you know, have a source of hardness that is already natively in this digital environment and is thus natively global.

Anybody can use Bitcoin, anybody can use a theorem. You don't have to ask for someone's permission or go through, you know, through the lottery of birth, whatever restrictions are placed in your way by, you know, the government good or bad that controls your life. And that's really, what's kind of happening here and that's, you know, one of the big things that the blockchains enable that nothing else could do prior.

[00:50:08] Sina: Yeah, it's super, super powerful. I mean, another thing that's true about blockchains as a source of hardness is that there's kind of a closed loop between these different systems, if they're blockchain native, right. So the the hardness will automatically be enforced without there needing to be any interfaces.

Like it's like atomic hardness. Right. It's just like happens because both of these things are smart contracts run on Ethereum and their physics of them are tied into each other.

So how do you feel about this kind of analysis after the fact you, do you feel like you've hit an adequate answer to what's going on here? Or how do you feel in this quest for understanding what's going on?

[00:51:02] Josh: Yeah. I mean this, in the long-term I think that this is going to help explain what's about to happen.

It's going to kind of help explain what, you know, sort of applications we might see and how people will eventually start to think about the relationships between these things. Right. I think like, I think the end state, like the view from the future where I'm trying to, you know, sit and look backwards is that, institutions, atoms and blockchains are viewed as just component infrastructure and that we, choose what to use in different cases. Right? We are, we become aware as a society, as a civilization that, you know, there are risks to using institutions as your source of hardness. You know, the obvious ones being that it places individual people who are fallible, corruptible, evil, racist, sexist, whatever in a significant position of power where those things can be abused and when they are abused.

Right. I think, one natural thing that institutions do is they're always in this mode of, convincing people that people should trust them.

[00:52:15] Sina: trustworthy, Right.

[00:52:17] Josh: Yeah. And that's kind of a necessary greasing of the wheel, maybe. These institutions to, to work at scale, but it's always been true that institutions don't serve everybody equally.

Right. And this is kind of a thing that you identify as a lot of political trends around the world, given, from multiple different, you know, political vantage points that, institutions treat some people differently than others. And they always have, and they always will institutions that are tied to profit motives are always going to have dual loyalties in some sense of, you know, they, the people that rely on them want them to be a stable source of hardness, among other things, the people that might be in control of the ship want that institution to, do something else to make money in a certain way, to pursue a different business model.

You know, turn off the open API and invalidate all the startups that have been building on it, that kind of thing. And so I think we're going to reach a point where we're able to make these choices and say that well, you know, maybe in this case actually makes a lot more sense to use a blockchain as the underlying source of hardness for example, global finance or for, you know, base authentication layer for a digital identity.

Because you know, these things are just better, better up to the task.

And we will still, of course have institutions. They're not going anywhere. We will still have legal systems. They are a critical part of our civilization. But we will, we will use both in different ways at different moments and they will you know, work together.

They will be kind of. You know, hybrid to some extent, I mean, this is already true, right? In the sense of the way that most people experienced cryptocurrency is yeah. They might have a noncustodial wallet, but you know, they might occasionally use an application that is a little bit less decentralized.

They occasionally use an exchange that is, you know, very similar to a bank in some ways or it's trust model. But they're moving between these things that they need to. And obviously I believe that we're tilted a little or much too far on the direction of relying on institutions right now, but, they will always kind of both be part of the picture.

[00:54:28] Sina: right. This lens also. Helps explain why decentralization, right. And the robustness of these systems is actually super important, right? Like it determines the degree to which They can be a source of hardness. Right? If the system is unreliable is like going to change under your feet.

That reduces its ability to impose hardness on the world. And that's the whole point of these things. so that's like a pretty helpful lens because I think there's, you know, there's other properties that blockchains can give you without the hardness, right? you can sacrifice some level of decentralization and still maintain the fact that this is a global, you know, interoperable, ledger that just executes these programs, But like if you lose that ability to be a source of hardness in a super reliable way, you know, over a timeline of decades and centuries, you just fundamentally like limit what can be built using this thing in a very important way.

[00:55:45] Josh: Yeah, exactly. You know, the base layer needs to be as secure as possible, and people will make deviations from that. You know, in some cases, but you can't build a more hard system on an, very weak foundation. The foundation needs to be as, as hard as possible or enabling.

And then people can kind of, you know, make their own choices on top of it. And again, this kind of comes back to why it's so important for people to understand what's going on behind the scenes. That, you know, if people are not, you don't understand the differences between guarantee that they care about being hard because of institutions.

Or being hard because of a blockchain, then they can't make an informed choice. Right. They need to understand that here are the risks with one, and here are the risks with another. And right now, like we're just not able to have an informed and honest conversation about that. Right. Institutions, people, you know, it's, it can be hard to predict risks.

There's a confusing political component of that, of, you know, what institutions you trust and don't trust can be very partisan in some countries. People don't understand, you know, what the hell this blockchain thing is and why it's trustworthy or not. So, you know, we're not anywhere close to, individual human beings being able to think about and make an informed choice to, you know, vote with their feet and what they want to use in different cases.

And it's going to take a long time for us to get. You know, people can make pretty informed decisions today about, which cell phone provider to use, or, you know, wish internet plan or you know, what material they should build their house out of. And we need to get there, with this much broader, concern of our, what our civilization is built out of as well.

[00:57:34] Sina: Totally. So next time someone asks me to explain the theory, I'm at a dinner party, I'm going to, I'm going to be like, well, let me explain hardness to you it's a new pathway for me. I don't need to start --

[00:57:49] Josh: an hour. Yeah.

[00:57:51] Sina: I do think it's an interesting lens. I've never taken this path for explaining what all this is, but I think it does hit on like the most important notes of why all of this matters.

[00:58:04] Josh: Yeah. It's not, you know, it's not the total story to me. It's kind of like the enabling thing. And then there's a lot more, you got to say about it.

[00:58:12] Sina: On top of it.

[00:58:13] Josh: another kind of way that I started thinking about this and a way that maybe helps motivated is that, you know, it's, we always talk about the way that blockchains are different from institutions, right?

We're always able to say like, oh, well one is decentralized and the other is centralized, but there is not a good story about how they're the same. Right. And people just kind of treat that as like, it's not even really a question that needs to be answered, but you know, given that both of these things can produce a money and both of them are already used and relied upon by people.

You know, there must be some story we can tell about what these things have in common. And I think that's a really important like, like switch we need to make of, you know, it's not enough to say that, this is different from institutions. This is different from fiat banking.

This is different from a bank. This is different from whatever we need to be able to say like, well, the things you do like about banks and fiat money, that it is reliable, we can explain to you why this is equivalent or better in certain scenarios and just, you know, talking about decentralization, talking about the opposite, talking about the difference, I think is not enough to really explain to people what's going on here and, you know, whether it might be a valuable thing for them.

[00:59:38] Sina: . So I know we've been talking for awhile. There is one more area that I was maybe interested in talking about.

when I look at the EF, the EF is not organized in a traditionally, you know, hierarchical way. And then on the other end of the spectrum, it's like a fully traditional team with a manager who has, you know, who, I don't know, sets the roadmap, has one-on-ones with their team runs like compensation reviews, like all these sorts of things. And I'm curious, what have you learned about that?

[01:00:12] Josh: I guess so to break it down a little bit you know, again, I think that a general principle and something that I think is very key to how the EF thinks about itself structurally is that small teams of people can get a lot done.

And what the EF tends to be is a community of relatively small teams that have a lot of, you know, kind of independence and ownership over what they do and different teams, you know, within the eff work quite differently. Some are more structured than others. Some might, you know, resemble a bit more of a, like kind of, traditional product team that have, a certain standup schedule and sprints and reviews and so forth.

And there's a, you know, a team lead who facilitates and kind of, manages that, and then there are teams that are. that want to be, or need to be less structured. That might be a, you know, a bit more in the direction of, kind of open exploration and research and might just, you know, ended up spending most of their time, even working with people outside the EF more than they work with other teams inside the EF, because they're, plugged into, that's kind of broader, distributed R and D community around the world that, you know, it is the kind of broader Ethereum technical community.

So there's no like one size fits all answer, right? The direction that we've chosen to go. You know, we're not trying to be this like kind of consistent hegemonic organization where there are standards for everything and teams need to kind of fall into place within this structure. Rather we try and let teams lead in the sense that teams to determine for themselves what works for them. And there's obvious downsides to that. Less kind of consistency and you know, structure can be great for some teams and hard for others. It can be great for you to have some personalities, but not for others. Some people really like structure and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.

It's just not the choice that we've made and it's not the choice that's right for, you know, our strategic environment. So, you know, that's part of an answer. So I guess part of what I've learned and what informs, how I think about things is just, really kind of learning from the EF and learning from the team leads and the people who work here and, you know, who have figured out what works for them.

And then, you know, based on that, trying to support where needed, right. You know, one kind of form of that, or I guess a form of management. I try and provide to teams and team leads is, not to say that things need to be done a certain way, but to provide options and resources that, you know, if you, if a team wants to kind of know off the shelf you know, what are the best practices for X, Y, Z then, you know, we can help inform that and give feedback on different options, you know, connect them to the people who can have asked those questions rather than, you know, kind of top down say how it has to be and --

[01:03:17] Sina: an example would be if you're trying to do some recruiting, right? It's like each team can run. It's totally independent recruiting process, but if they want, there are central resources they can plug into.

[01:03:30] Josh: Exactly. Yeah. So if you know, team, if the team has a strong opinion about the right way to do hiring for them you know, teams can and can run with that process. If they want to kind of plug into a, you know, more kind of off the shelf yeah. Set of resources that the EF, you know, operational side provides and then that's available too.

So I think that is kind of, that's one kind of key thing and, you know, it's not too revolutionary. It's pretty obvious kind of in our environment. But it does work. The downside, we know part of the downside is that you know, it makes it harder for people in operational or more like, you know, central management positions, right?

One, one reason that organizations that are centralized tend to end up being rigid is because, you know, the people that are, in charge decision-makers CEO, whatever they want to make it as easy as possible for them to make sense of what the organization is doing and to be able to react and control it, you know, to be able to pass down priorities from the CEO's office down to every person working at that organization.

If you want to have the ability to do that you do need it kind of like centralized, very rigid well-defined process that you know, where priorities kind of roll down into other teams. But that's not the way that we operate. It is not possible, and it is not the goal for, you know, the people that serve as leadership of the EF to understand every part of, you know, what every team should be doing. Teams inform their own roadmaps. They are the experts in their domains and they work with the ecosystem and with the kind of, you know, sub communities that they're part of within this broader Ethereum community to figure out what, what matters the most.

And, you know, there's some kind of soft level of, here are some things that are important. We might, you know, create a new team or encourage a team to kind of look at something. But again, it's very team driven. So, that's maybe the key thing. This also means that, you know, there's a pretty wide variety of experiences of what it's like to work with the ETF, because it really kind of depends what team you're on.

You know, some teams, again, more structured other teams, less structured. Some people who end up the EF you know, might kind of be between teams a little bit, or it might kind of spin out into another project. And that amount of. freedom and like the ability to be entrepreneurial and to kind of create your own job.

That can be an amazing thing for some people who really want that. And it can be, scary or paralyzing or just not the right fit for others. So, you have to kind of want to work a certain way, I think to be successful in this kind of freewheeling thing.

Although again, there's a variety of experiences on different teams to EF.

[01:06:21] Sina: Yeah. totally. I also find that it's interesting how the style of organizing extends beyond the boundaries of the EF. Right? So that, like, I don't even necessarily look at the EF as an organization that has a clear inside and outside you know, and this comes to mind when people, you know, used to ask me like how many people work at the EF.

And it's a really difficult question to answer if you're trying to do it well, because there are certain people who are, you know, on full-time contractors with the EF. But then there's this like other layer of folks who are. Grantees, right. And theyre grantees who set their own directions, like come with proposals with a budget and maybe a hundred percent of their annual kind of budget is coming from a grant from the ef.

And so functionally speaking, what is the difference between a, an external team? That's the grantee in this way and, you know, quote unquote internal team that, that has a budget from the eff. And I think it's super interesting that the org operates in this way.

[01:07:38] Josh: Yeah, it's a. It's a very fuzzy boundary. Right. And it doesn't need to be a hard boundary. You know, I guess like one, one kind of helpful visual metaphor maybe is, you know, picture you're high above the air in a jet and you're looking down and there's, you know, a network of interconnected towns and there's, you know, houses that are kind of deep right in the middle of a town.

And there are houses that are kind of more on the edge so much so that they might seem like they're kind of part of two different communities. And this is kind of how the EFs, right. We're kind of a small town with an a much larger network of communities and cities and regions and economies. And some people are kind of on the outskirts because that's where they want to live.

And other people want to spend more time, you know, closer to kind of other teams. And people kind of come in and come. It's, it is in the day, again, a community I think is the best way of thinking about it, a community within, you know, and alongside many other communities as opposed to a company or organization or institution.

[01:08:45] Sina: Yeah. And that has its strengths and its challenges. Right. Of like then, uh, you know, people from the outside, especially people who aren't even in, you know, in the crypto ecosystem, right? Like some. Or it could look at the Ethereum Foundation and think it's this, you know, uniform thing that they're talking to.

But meanwhile, on the inside, there's just like many different moving pieces that aren't necessarily like being coordinated from a central place.

[01:09:14] Josh: Yeah, Yeah, exactly.

[01:09:15] Sina: Yeah. a lot of people are intrigued by the EF, but don't really know that much about what it's like to work there So I'm curious, like, do you have a way to paint a picture of that for people

[01:09:33] Josh: Yeah. I mean, it's there's a lot of variety. But I can tell you, you know, I guess what what I love about it and what I understand to be some of the commonalities that, you know, I've talked about with other people, or I've heard them say you know, from my perspective again, kind of going back to where we see.

You know, it is just the place that is one of the places, or maybe the place that is thinking the most about the big picture and, you know, is kind of encouraged to think in the longterm. And those are really kind of the questions and challenges that, you know, I think are most exciting to me. The thing that motivates me is, not only the impact, but the, you know, the, kind of the depth of the challenge and it doesn't get much bigger than I think the kind of things that that we get to think about and the kind of things that, the teams, the eff that, you know, I'm privileged to be able to work with and to support and try to make their lives easier.

You know, the things that they contribute to are very big. Another is that, you know, I think this is probably common across many critical organizations, but you know, there is a real sense of mission, right? People work at the EF because they care about it, right.

people are not here to, pad their resume. Or because there's a well-worn path already on, on some career trajectory people are here because they believe in the mission of what we're doing. And they want to see it head in a good direction and they want to be part of it. And that is something that I, you know, I don't want to ever take for granted. I guess the other way of putting it as, you know, we've, the organic has chosen very intentional.

To allow for kind of natural adjustments and growth and shifting, you know, a lot of the teams that are part of the EF are spin-outs of other teams where there was some new need that was developed. And some of them thought, you know what, I should really work on that. And, you know, pitch this to somebody, got feedback on it and got funding for it.

And is now a team, you know, working on some discreet area or area of concern or some discreet problem. And that kind of, you know, ability of, you know, where you start out might not necessarily be what you're working on in six months or a year. And that kind of ability to, you know, again, create your own job, I think is really compelling to some people.

And the, you're not constrained by the box. The organization puts you in many ways, again the teams lead where they want to go and the broader eff is there to kind of like support and make the big picture decisions.

[01:12:08] Sina: Totally. at least while I was fully working at the EF very intentionally didn't have titles in the org. Right. And I think part of the reason was to let this

level of flexibility and adaptability exist right. Of like

you can't, you can just like very fluidly move around, work on other problems.

And I think that's just a very cool thing to be a part of.

[01:12:34] Josh: Yeah. Yeah. Titles clarify, but you know, titles also constraint. You know, if someone sees themselves as their title, you know, that this is my status. It is my social signifier within this organization, within this community. Then, you know, starting to work on a new problem, even though it's what you want to do means maybe giving up the title, maybe you like the title for reasons that are entirely independent of its purpose and explaining to others what you do.

So, you know, having the freedom of like, you know, you're not your title, you are a person and you have a set of things that you're working on. And you have some conviction in those things means that what you're working on can change. And if someone wants to know like, you know what your job is, they can ask you and then you can explain it a few sentences and that'll give, a hundred times as much information and as much true information as just, you know, seeing someone's title a card in the, or chat or something.

[01:13:32] Sina: I may be paraphrasing, but I remember a conversation, but some time ago

about titles and she quoted this line from, um, finite and infinite games where it says, finite players have titles or seek titles or something like that. And infinite players have nothing but their names.

And I think there's just something so beautiful in that where Ultimately, if you have nothing about your name, then you're total unique, right? There's your you're freedom to kind of really carve your own path and you are not slotting into this like existing machinery that

It's like a lower resolution representation of who you are. And if you have nothing by your name, you just do like what you care about. You know, it frees you to do that.

[01:14:24] Josh: Yeah, absolutely. to connect us back to another thing we talked with earlier that, it's pretty common at a, you know, early stage startup or a small team that there might not be titles in that environment too. Right. Everyone just kind of knows each other well enough to know what they're working on.

And you don't need titles at that point. Titles are kind of a. You know, there a solution to a problem of, you know, getting past the Dunbar number to some extent where, you know, you need some other, mechanism to help people understand what others do. And I think that, you know, by virtue of being really a collection of small, but highly effective teams we're free a little bit and not having huddles also kind of, I guess, encourages people to think in those terms, as opposed to seeing themselves as, part of some monolithic, larger structure.

[01:15:14] Sina: totally. All right. How do you feel about if we call it here?

[01:15:19] Josh: Yeah. All good. Well, we'll see how I feel when I hear the recording. I mean, I'm sure it will be fine, but

[01:15:28] Sina: Yeah.