Dustin Breitling sits down with CurveLabs’ Cem F Dagdelen, Patrick Rawson, and Louise Borreani to speak about the role blockchain can play in the sustainability and resilience of inhuman ecosystems.
Dustin Breitling: Can you reflect on the genesis of CurveLabs? What were some formative moments for yourself or members that were critical in your entry into the world of crypto? What are some of the key organizational principles and beliefs behind the vision of Curve Labs?
CurveLabs: The idea, or rather the necessity, of creating a mechanism design lab was a direct consequence of working on overcomplicated cryptographic primitives which were intended to revolutionize organizational and financial processes and interactions via some gradient of public adoption. Some of our previous work relied too much on this “hopium” infused narrative: “build it and they will come”. In the construction industry, this would be like expecting the public to move into naked and monolithic infrastructures and somehow make it work.
During this time, we worked with many adoption partners, and it became clear to me that what was necessary was to engage with each use case, register those learnings and formalize them in adaptive templates for further iteration, experimentation and deployment. In order to create the economic context for this, me and my partner came together to build CurveLabs. I think there are plenty of principles which play a functional role in our organization but if I had to pick one that would be most relevant on an intellectual level, it is our belief and expectation (conviction?) that expanding a design space while reducing entry barriers will prevail over hegemonic institutions and systems. This is why building the tools, making them accessible and posing economic organization as a question of design is at the core of what we do.
Can you elucidate how Web3 can serve as a critical resource in respect to issues related to applied regenerative economics, governance, verification issues, decarbonization?
At this point it is obvious that Web3 comes with hurdles as much as promises. But if one is to focus on the latter, the immediate promise of new institutions or xeno/anti-institutions can be found in an open source control logic which enables collective ownership, governance and effervescence. This is opposed to byzantine bureaucracies, tyrannical control and atomized anti-sociality. But needless to say, the critical resource does not imply competent implementation or smooth adoption. But as I mentioned, I believe that as long as we keep expanding the design space for a new cybernetics and lower the entry barriers to engage with such xeno-institutional design, we can cultivate an anti-hegemonic movement.
Can you tell us about CurveLabs with regard to its relationship with projects such as CO2ken/Toucan Protocol Kolektivo, particularly how these projects complement and aim to engage with governance, natural capital currencies, UN sustainable development goals, and carbon sequestration supply chains?
CurveLabs works in partnership with many actors across the regenerative Web3 space.
With Toucan Protocol, we worked together on developing various cryptoeconomic models imagining a regenerative currency backed by carbon. Or, more generally, we aimed to answer questions such as: How can carbon become a primitive in decentralized finance? And what role can Toucan Protocol take, as a carbon token production primitive? Carbon offsets are perhaps the lowest hanging fruit when approaching natural capital currencies, and Toucan is the foremost primitive needed for further experimentation.
Kolektivo has been an ongoing collaboration for many years between CurveLabs and Kolektivo Labs. The collaboration started with the CuraDAO — an early attempt to establish and experiment with a DAO in the real world — namely, the island nation of Curaçao. Moving forward, CurveLabs will be working together with other actors in Celo’s Climate Collective to accomplish two main goals: First, improving the DAO tooling available in the real-world by evolving and learning from the Kolektivo pilot in Curaçao; and second, creating more natural capital primitives to improve the access and availability of tokenized natural capital assets as stablecoin reserve collaterals. Ideally, natural capital assets regenerated and maintained by local communities will be utilized across a wide range of financial actors, greatly improving economic-ecological relations at a systemic level.
Another key forefront for CurveLabs has been the dovetailing of gaming and inter-species agency with your collaborative project Weeve that involves utilizing augmented reality to summon three hybrid entities: the Tree of Life, the Game of Sigils and the Game of Oracles. Can you elaborate on the role of blockchain as an inter-species agent as well as why you regard the role of playing, automated logic and game mechanics as an effective resource in tackling the questions of resource accumulation and collective allocation?
This was a fun one. We got invited by Sovereign Nature Initiative to participate in this hackathon. We were tasked with developing ”open-source protocols and applications that enable the agency of non-human organisms to act in their own interest and to produce value in their own right.” Having been exposed to techno-utopian narratives around Nature 2.0, we decided to make our own cut and expose some of the shortcomings and dangers of rushing with “attributing agency” to silent co-habitants. The modus operandi at CurveLabs is to move swiftly past dry critique and into the propositional, and that’s what we did here. The idea was to, ehm, decolonize the notion of charity, its motivation-by-guilt and antisocial ethics so that we can establish a value system for impact which would be native to the interstitial space opened by the notion of play. One can survey our approach further here.
But to answer your question simply:
automated logic is critical to create an arena of ownerless (or rather collectively owned) applications
tokens are a great way to mobilize, capture and systematize collective effervescence
games are crucial to establishing non-singularity and engagement
When we put it all together we have the potential for a non-deterministic mechanism design medium which moves the collective towards self-awareness and self-actualization, rather than raw financialization and optimization.
What are some of the remaining challenges ahead concerning crypto and ecological issues, and what are also some exciting prospects coming up?
The first big challenge for environmental Web3 is its perception by mass media. Nowadays, the astronomic energy consumption of proof-of-work mechanisms tends to steal headlines. As we explain in “Applied Regenerative Economics”, there is a need for the environmental Web3 sphere to move away from “charity” models. This means innovating for more radical and systemic solutions, rather than incremental and short-termist ones. Another challenge includes getting wider than terrestrial ecosystems when thinking about impact. Right now, tree planting and the protection of large mammals seems to be the focus of most environmental protection and regeneration crypto-projects. These biases fail to include fundamental elements of the climate’s system such as blue carbon, oceans and seas species, underground mushroom networks, or permafrost.
There are, however, exciting prospects ahead of us: Crypto enables us to concretize until now quite abstract theoretical concepts that have huge potential to fight the climate crisis — like adaptive governance institutions or regenerative supply networks. Thanks to the programmability and transparency of Web3, we can create resilient social and environmental institutional frameworks: Kolektivo is a great example. We call this radical and ambitious project we are working to build together with Celo the DETS, or “Decentralized Exchange Trading System”, which can be described as a mix between a DAO and a Local Exchange Trading System. These systems aim to enable the creation and collective governance of digital assets backed by the ecological state at a high level.
Dustin Breitling is a PhD student attending Masaryk University, based in Prague and helping to organize the Diffractions Collective.