You’d think I would have figured out that underlying creative beauty of the blockchain back a couple years ago when there was a boom. I knew it was interesting and valuable, people would explain the ledger, payments, etc etc and what came through was ideas around decentralization and what was loudest was all the $$$ and ICOs.

Steven Johnson wrote “Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble” a couple years ago and wow, like… I feel that inspiration after reading it. It pushes past the frenzy.

Token economies introduce a strange new set of elements that do not fit the traditional models: instead of creating value by owning something, as in the shareholder equity model, people create value by improving the underlying protocol, either by helping to maintain the ledger (as in Bitcoin mining), or by writing apps atop it, or simply by using the service. The lines between founders, investors and customers are far blurrier than in traditional corporate models; all the incentives are explicitly designed to steer away from winner-take-all outcomes. And yet at the same time, the whole system depends on an initial speculative phase in which outsiders are betting on the token to rise in value.

What moves me are these incentives around communities and maintenance. When something is new and risky, the incentives are higher to help grow it, support it, maintain it, and make it valuable. Just that incentive itself, on maintenance. It’s refreshing.

Maybe that’s the inspiring thing? But it could be something else. It’s funny how the complexity of the technology shows up. “A small sliver of the population understands blockchain technology well enough to engage in fierce, esoteric debate over the meaning and relative importance of various ideas and terms,” writes Nick Paumgarten in “The Prophets of Cryptocurrency Survey the Boom and Bust”. He continues:

A ConsenSys engineer said, “At a certain point, you break through it, you come to understand it all, and then the door closes behind you, and then you just get it but can’t explain it. All the words you use to explain it are words people on the other side of the door don’t understand.”

I’ll settle on this: there’s more to learn, and more inspiring opportunities.

Writers @Medium, Editor of Creators Hub. Author of “Feeling Great About My Butt.” Previously: Product @embedly, Research @NECSI.