[email protected]
Episode 110 March 27, 2018 | 29min

Decentralized Journalism: A Conversation with Maria Bustillos

Our co-founders sit down with Maria Bustillos to talk about Popula.

Show Notes

Blockchain Fever: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down with Maria Bustillos to talk to about Popula— a blockchain based publication on news and culture. We chat about what it means to publish journalism on Civil: Self-Sustaining Journalism, honouring archives, the power behind direct and transparent news, and how Popula is working to address the problems that centralized banks have caused the world. Rich and Paul also try to write a song, titled Blockchain Fever!

Paul Ford I think that your opinions are roughly as strong as Rich’s opinions [guffaws]. So I think we should put the two together.

Rich Ziade Just tell me something you really like and I’ll dislike it.

PF Or vice versa.

RZ Citizen Kane is bullshit.

Maria Bustillos Ah, Citizen Kane is such fucking bullshit . . . [all laugh].

RZ It’s nonsense.

PF Alright, so this’ll work out well. Let’s um [all continue laughing], alright, alright. Here we go.

RZ Off we go [intro music].

0:38 PF Rich, in the studio today: Maria Bustillos who is a writer, an entrepreneur, a serious cultural commentator who’s been published in places like The New Yorker [intro music fades out], The Columbia Journalism Review, I’m guessing The New York Times.

RZ [Clears throat] she’s not playing games.

PF And she comes to us today — as you’d expect, someone who is a serious cultural commentator focused on history, culture, technology. She comes to Track Changes today to talk about a subject very near and dear to our hearts which is her new blockchain-based media startup.

RZ What?!

PF Maria, hi! Welcome.

MB Hi! Thank you so much for having me.

PF Full disclosure: we should point out that you tend to show up with quixotic projects for us [MB chuckles] and we’ve talked about things like money before, although we’re not in a fiscal relationship with you at this point.

MB No, not yet.

PF No, but I do like to disclose relationships —

MB Some day.

PF — on our marketing podcast.

MB Yeah.

1:43 PF For ethical reasons. Ok. So one day you woke up and you said, “I need to put media on the blockchain.”

MB Well, ok, I’ve been writing about Bitcoin since 2013. Like the first piece that I published about it was at The New Yorker when The Elements blog started over there. And Matt Buchanan, who was then the editor of it, asked me, “What do you wanna write about?” And I’m like, “Bitcoin,” and he’s like, “Are you kidding?” And I’m like, “No, really. It’s gonna be a thing,” and he’s like, “Whatever, lady.” And I was very convinced, I uh —

PF Why were you convinced?

MB Well I’ve always looked at is as . . . not really a currency project. Like when I first read about blockchain technology what’s always impressed me about it is that it’s a system of keeping incorruptible records, unfalsifiable records. And as a journalist that’s obviously interesting, right? Because —

PF Sure.

MB — we are chasing, you know, decaying information like this is sort of the project of —

PF People can lie.

MB Yeah, they really can. And they will if it will benefit them.

PF Mm hmm.

MB So any kind of system of unfalsifiability or incorruptibility is of desperate interest to me. And there wasn’t really anything to do about that, you know, in 2013. It was a currency system — you know I bought my first Bitcoin, myself, just out of curiosity so I’d know what I was talking about for like —

PF Did you go in on Bitcoins?

MB I [hesitates] —

RZ In ‘13?

MB I’m a dabbler. I bought my first one for 64 bucks.

PF Wow!

RZ Oh boy!

3:13 PF Ok, [MB chuckles] so your first on?

MB Yeah.

PF Lemme — I mean it’s an awkward question but how vast are your holdings in cryptocurrency?

MB They’re not vast, unfortunately.

PF Ok.

MB I mean, you know, like once that shit gets up to like 12 hundred bucks, you’re like, “Man!” You know, my husband’s like, “You know . . . you should really sell this thing.”

PF Mm hmm. Did you sell?

MB I still have a little bit [PF and MB laugh boisterously].

RZ Chopped it up.

PF Ok, so you have been pretty into this for quite awhile.

MB I love it! It’s just I love investment as a way of growing wealth, you know, in a conservative way, and I also love gambling which is completely different, right? Those are different. So —

RZ They are different [MB chuckles].

PF Literally, I’m done now because this is — it’s like looking into a parallel universe Rich [MB laughs]. So but you buy into the blockchain — do you buy into the blockchain as a currency? Like do you really —

MB Ok, lemme tell you what I, you know, I hear this a lot and what I always say is, “Is it full of thieves and charlatans? Is it full of scams and stupidity and lunacy?” Yes! The only thing worse is Fiat.

PF I don’t wanna stand up and be like, “Fiat currency!” But it served me pretty good [RZ laughs].

MB Oh really?!

PF Yeah.

MB I mean I’m so glad you didn’t lose your house in 2008 or whatever.

4:29 PF [Sighs] I know but that’s not currency’s fault.

MB Well, I mean — neither is this. You know? It’s like people will find a way to game or steal. Like any store of value is a target. It doesn’t matter.

RZ Everybody that’s into Bitcoin has sorted out the counterarguments. I feel like there’s a playbook somewhere.

PF [Laughs] there’s an FAQ. Ok.

MB These are good — you know the argument against it are valid. That’s the thing. I’m not gonna tell you that they’re not.

The internet exists because people took a piece of technology and an idea into their heart, and couldn’t leave it alone until it manifested…and I can see that happening with bitcoin.

RZ Well that’s part of the fun, right?

MB Absolutely!

RZ The debate and the discussion and the controversy.

PF I mean this is the thing for me it’s kind of like . . . the internet exists because people took a piece of technology and an idea into their heart —

MB Mm hmm.

PF — They couldn’t leave it alone until it manifested as the web and search engines and so on, and I can see that happening with Bitcoin. It’s 99 percent of the people are wearing ridiculous hats, but there’s that like one percent leftover who are like, “No, I like to create markets in my spare time with, you know, two mouse clicks. So this is fun for me.”

MB Yeah. I mean and there are problems that it can potentially solve. I mean I like to tell people blockchain technology isn’t the answer but it’s the paper that you could write the answer on.

PF Right. So let’s talk about Civil a little bit. So, first of all, you have a company.

MB Mm hmm.

PF What’s that called?

MB Batima Cotima [?].

PF Ok.

5:55 MB And it runs a publication called Popula.

PF P-O-P-U-L-A.

MB Dot com.

PF Dot com [MB chuckles]. Um —

MB — that will launch, like, in a few months.

PF Popula was the name of another company you had way back in the day, right?

Blockchain technology isn’t the answer, but it’s the paper that you can write the answer on.

MB It was. It was the proto-Etsy of its day. It was launched in 1998. It was an auction site for vintage, rare, and collectible goods.

PF Right so it’s important for people to know, like, you’re not a dabbler in this world. Like you’ve been around and seen how the pieces come together. You had a startup in ‘98.

MB Yeah! Internet one point oh we rode that rollercoaster for sure.

PF And then became a writer?

MB Yeah!

PF Ok so Popula is something that’s going to launch. It’s gonna be some sorta media thing. Tell me what the thing — like what is the shape of it?

MB It’s a news and culture magazine.

PF Ok. So if I know what a magazine is, I kinda get what Popula is.

MB Yeah.

PF Ok and then there’s something called Civil.

MB Mm hmm.

PF Ok what is Civil?

MB Civil is a platform for publishing.

PF Ok you’re not — you don’t own, or you didn’t create Civil?

7:02 MB I did not create Civil.

PF Ok.

MB They approached me to make a publication on their new platform. The founders of Civil, a man named Matthew Iles, a young guy, very smart guy, sold a big digital marketing company that he had and decided this is what he wanted to do with his life.

PF He got blockchain fever?

MB He did [PF chuckles] and he decided he wanted to save journalism on the blockchain and so —

PF One sign is that we live in a debased era is no one has written “Blockchain Fever” as a song and [MB laughs] gotten it onto the radio.

MB I don’t know. I don’t think you could just baldly make that claim . . . somewhere in the world.

PF Somewhere, you’re probably right.

MB Yeah. We’ll have to find out [laughs].

PF How do you save journalism with the blockchain? Go!

MB Ok. I just told you that it’s a system of producing incorruptible records.

PF & RZ Mm hmm.

MB Journalism has a lot of problems . . . in its funding model, in its deteriorating archives, in the vulnerability to billionaires who don’t like what we write, in — there’s governance issues. You know, how do you bring readers in to participate in what we’re doing meaningfully?

RZ Ok.

MB And all these things can be addressed using blockchain technology. You gotta be really smart and design systems that will work.

RZ All of them?!

MB Yes . . . I mean eventually. Like ok lemme take archives cuz that’s usually the easiest thing.

RZ Yeah. Ok.

8:33 MB I covered the Gawker trial and . . . you probably have heard that Peter Thiel made a bid for the Gawker archive.

RZ I did.

MB As a um — as a rights holder for the Gawker archive, he would be free to go even to the Wayback Machine and tell them that he owns the rights, and they have to get rid of it, and honour his take-down request, and there is a chance that they would that.

PF I mean there’s actually a relatively high chance. It’s not — this is someone who knows how all that works.

MB Yeah.

PF So he’d buy the archives and then he’d go — there’s two ways to do it. You can actually just put a little robots dot txt on your current file and the Internet Archive will honour that and erase —

MB From that point on.

Journalism has a lot of problems: in its funding model, in its deteriorating archives, in the vulnerability to billionaires who don’t like what we write. …And all these things can be addressed using blockchain technology.

PF Yeah. So robots dot txt [robots.txt] for people who don’t know is just a file that tells web archiving and bots what to do.

RZ Great name for a podcast. If anybody wants it.

PF “Robots Dot TXT”?

RZ Yeah.

MB Mmm.

PF These are the weeds that I live in [MB laughs boisterously]. No, so like Peter Thiel could just literally — he’s one text file away, if he owns it, from saying, “Please erase this entire record.”

MB So whenever we publish anything on Popula, a text version of it will be published to the Ethereum blockchain . . . and it cannot be altered. Ever. You have to turn off the internet to get rid of it. If we should —

PF Cuz it’s distributed, it lives in thousands of computers at that point on that blockchain.

MB Yeah. I like to tell people that we’re returning to the age of microfiche . . . where even if you lost a libel suit, they wouldn’t go to every library and remove every reel. They would — you know, you’d be able to make alterations, and corrections, and retractions, but always through addenda. Never through erasure.

10:15 PF Mm hmm.

Whenever we publish anything on Popula, a text version of it will be published to the Ethereum blockchain, and it cannot be altered. Ever.

MB So I mean this solves the problem of degenerating archives. As long as the Ethereum blockchain is maintained and people continue to run that software, everything that we publish is protected permanently.

PF But wait —

RZ Protected from deterioration or from procreation?

MB Both. Both.

PF But wait now I can go read everything for free.

MB Well — we have a paywall system.

PF Ok .

MB But eventually . . . it’s possible, it’s not designed yet, right? So it’s possible that we make everything free eventually.

PF So let’s say 90 days after publication, things go into the Ethereum blockchain archive.

MB Well, they’re published to the Ethereum blockchain archive for sure but, like, how you access them once that’s done. I don’t know yet.

PF Ok. So there’s some question marks.

MB Yeah.

PF This is being built on Civil?

MB As we speak, yeah.

PF And Civil is being built on Ethereum?

MB Yes.

PF And Ethereum is just built on something.

RZ Life.

PF Life.

11:11 MB Yeah well Ethereum was made by this super genius kid, Vitalik Buterin —

PF Right.

MB — a few years ago. And it’s a blockchain like Bitcoin is a blockchain, its own separate blockchain. But it has different features. It was made to run distributed applications on or Dapps, as they’re called, and instead of running on a proof-of-work system that’s like so energy intensive, the way that Bitcoin is, the Ethereum network is moving to what’s called a proof-of-stake system, and there’s not mining, basically, or there won’t be.

RZ What’s the differentiator here? It’s that the content is saved into the blockchain?

MB For me that makes it work doing, like just off the bat. But that’s just one small part. There’s a lot more to it.

RZ Which makes the content impenetrable, right? I mean you can’t —

MB Completely imperishable.

RZ What does that protect from?

MB It protects against Peter Thiel. It protects against link rot. It protects against the demise, you know, the degradation of search engines. It protects against, like, I don’t know —

RZ It’s like an uber-Internet Archive.

MB Yeah.

RZ Essentially.

MB Super Wayback.

It protects again Peter Thiel, it protects against linkrot, it protects against the degradation of search engines.

RZ How does it protect from Peter Thiel?

MB He can’t just robot text his way out of being talked about.

RZ But what if you acquire a thing, if I’m publisher A and I —

12:28 MB It still can’t be changed. It’s just like, you know like when you used to go to a library and you’d see like a newspaper? The newspaper’s old. It no longer belongs to William Hearst, you know? But you’re still gonna see what happened on that day.

RZ Right.

PF So wait, are you saying that it protects us from future Peter Thiels and future Peter Thiel-like states?

MB Yes.

PF Cuz currently the Gawker archive is just on a hard drive serving up to the internet and if Peter Thiel comes along and buys it and turns it off, it’s gone.

MB It might be gone. I mean parts of it are on the Wayback Machine but you can’t, you know, [music fades in] it’s less secure because the Wayback Machine is only on Brewster’s servers.

PF Hey, Rich!

RZ Paul! [Music fades out.]

PF Sorry to interrupt this conversation about blockchains but, you know, people should know about Postlight.

RZ They should!

PF Here’s the thing about Postlight . . .

RZ Speaking of innovation!

PF People often come to us and say, “What are you doing about the blockchain?” You know what we say?

RZ Everything!

PF And nothing! The thing about the blockchain is that it doesn’t — the need for truly great products. Like we have conversations with people and they’re like, “I don’t know how to make people use our blockchain while it’s garbage, no one understands.”

RZ Right.

PF That’s actually where we come in. Like you can use us to fix the product problems that your ridiculous blockchain system has created for you.

13:50 RZ Your ridiculous fill-in-the-blank system has created for you.

PF Exactly. It’s the everything’s ridiculous.

RZ Everything’s ridiculous!

PF And so we’ll get in there and we’ll figure out what your users need, what needs to get built, what your platform is, and what the products need to look like so that people actually use them and don’t just talk about them.

RZ Absolutely.

PF And that’s where we are [music fades in]. That’s Postlight! And —

RZ [email protected]

PF That’s how you reach us. Let’s get back to the show. [14:20 music fades out] I mean there’s other issues too like not too long ago the Gothamist websites and the DNAInfo websites which serve local news, their publisher shut them down . . . and sort of didn’t communicate it very well. Just was like, “Oh these sites are down now, good luck!” And all the writers freaked out because they’d lost all their clips and that is there — your writing clips are your ability to get another job. You can demonstrate —

RZ Mm hmm.

PF — that you did the work, right? So what you’re saying is like in this case everything could go live with codes attached to it and if I needed to retrieve a piece that was written in 2018 —

RZ Yeah, it can’t be deleted.

MB It can’t be deleted.

PF So if I know what that location is, essentially, on the Ethereum blockchain or the Civil blockchain built on top of Ethereum, I can always go back and always find that piece as long as the computers are all turned on.

MB Yes. But I mean that’s just one small thing. It’s like, it’s sort of my prime mover, right? Because I’m really into archives and libraries and the preservation of information and was so sensitive, you know? Because, like Paul, I started on the internet when it was born and we saw, you know, the degradation of search engines, and the degradation of archives and like how link rot has wrecked so much, you know? And so this is really important just for me personally. But then if you move into sort of business model, for example, and I mean these are experiments that are in their early stages. It could be that Civil is a rough draft of something yet to come. Oh and to your point about DNA: our colleagues who are also publishing at Civil um a group called Block Club Chicago are ex-DNA. Shamus Toomey and a couple of his colleagues.

15:59 PF So local journalist are banding together and they are going to publish using these blockchain technologies —

MB On Civil.

PF So does this in some way get rid of the need for the quixotic millionaire who funds the local news?

MB This is our . . . fervent hope. Yes.

PF Ok so the goal is almost like a collective, self-owned, self-sustaining media organization.

MB Popula is going to be a collective.

So local journalists are banding together and they are going to publish using these blockchain technologies on Civil. So does this get rid of the quixotic billionaire who funds the news?

PF So this has always been the utopian goal in publishing. That it would kind of be — it attracts ne’er do wells and crabby communists and like they naturally organize themselves into collectives. And there’s always been a fantasy that if some sustaining model and some way to build the collective without having a philanthropist involved could show up, then you could publish — you could really exercise the hell out of your free speech without necessarily needing a lot of advertisements and a whole lot of the other stuff. Just focus on the news part.

RZ You still need money.

PF Well this is my next question. But like the hypothesis here is that this makes that kind of social structure around publishing more possible.

MB Exactly.

PF Ok so how do you get money into the system? Because you can’t pay Civil coins at the bodega to get your Parliament Lights and your Diet Coke that you need in order to finish your article.

MB There are already agreements in place with exchanges and it’ll probably be something like you have a coin-based or a coin-based equivalent account that will go between Fiat and Ethereum, probably.

17:26 PF So somebody buys some of these coins?

MB You could.

PF Ok.

MB Or like you could — you can subscribe probably. You know the prototypes that we’re looking at now, you can subscribe with dollars but it will entitle you to a certain amount of Civil, possibly.

PF Mm hmm.

MB You know? Or you can just go buy Civil at an exchange. Or you can buy Civil, you know, any number of ways. And then those tokens you can use on the platform, for example, for micro tipping which is a thing that’s very dear to me. Um —

PF That sounds a lot like micropayments.

MB It is like micropayments.

RZ Or the claps on Medium?

MB Yeah.

PF Yeah.

MB Like claps for — well yeah but —

RZ There’s no value to the claps other than —

PF I mean we’re now about to enter — let’s not enter the 20 year vortex of micropayments.

MB I know Flatter. It’s so sad.

PF Yeah.

MB I know.

PF Beanz. Flooze.

MB Beanz! Flooze!! That’s an old one! Yeah.

18:16 RZ Rehability [PF laughs].

MB Oh man! I know. It’s like there have been so many disasters in this space.

PF Well see the problem that I see with all this stuff is the 14.75 a month problem.

MB Yeah.

PF Where you get 14 dollars and 75 cents in a cheque for the 12 pieces that you wrote and like it’s just hard. Like there’s no — there’s nothing there.

MB That’s what makes this so great though cuz like it just go straight to your — it would go into the bank. You would —

PF Tell me how I make 60 thousand dollars a year.

RZ [Scoffs].

MB Ok.

PF Let’s say I’m a young writer. I just got my journalism degree and you’re like, “Oh, great. I’d love to see some pieces from you.” And I write you something. I write you a good essay or I go and do an interview and a profile, and I send it to you in Microsoft Word format.

MB Ok.

PF And you publish it onto the Popula Civil platform.

MB I can pay you tokens and you can cash them into dollars that very day if you want to.

PF Ok.

MB Or you could —

PF So I could go to an exchange?

MB Yes.

PF You could be like, “Here I transferred — here it is XR5744 buh buh buh buh buh. This is your token [MB right] and you can go onto an exchange website and cash that out as Bitcoin, Dogecoin, or as US Fiat currency.”

MB Yes. Except —

PF If you have an account.

19:29 MB If you have the correct accounts and we’re not clear on what those accounts are gonna be. There’s all kinds of rules about, you know, money services businesses.

PF Sure, now you’ve combined all the fun of editorial work with all the fun of running an exchange.

MB It’s — yeah [RZ chuckles, PF laughs] we could do that. So there’s relationships with exchanges so our writers will, and we will teach them how to do that, “Here’s where you open your account, so we can put the tokens in for you.”

PF Ok so that’s part of it is getting writers educated as to how to [MB yes] be in the world of “Space Jewels” and “Nonsense Nickels”.

MB Yes.

PF Ok.

MB And it’s not a — it’s a non-trivial task. But um we’re doing it.

PF This is not why they went to journalism school.

MB No! It’s very certainly not. But, anyway, they’ll be able to get dollars if they want to or they can hold or switch into other cryptocurrencies if they want to.

PF Ok so they now — you’re essentially paying them in . . .

MB It’s sort of like getting paid in Euros or something, you know? You just have to pay a little fee if you want dollars or whatever. But there’s all these reasons for having the token that are in development right now. I could talk about some of them, like we talked about micropayments a little bit. This young writer who has taken some of her cryptocurrency out into dollars and maybe kept some for fun or wants to change it in other stuff. Her piece is up on Popula now [PF mm hmm], when readers come, if they decide that they like it, they can send 25 cents, and you don’t have the payment processing problems. You know? Or the problem of the 14 dollar and 75 cent cheque because that money — those tokens will go to her account that we already know what it is.

PF So it’s all just gonna hang out there in that account. She can [MB mm hmm] — and that’s hers. She can turn that into money at any point.

21:15 MB Yeah. Or not.

RZ And the reader’s gotta, obviously, sign up as well [MB mm hmm] and they’re giving US dollars?

MB If they want or they can give Civil tokens and they’ll need Civil tokens if they wanna do commenting cuz commenting costs — I’m a huge fan of comments on the internet. I love them. Like at The Awl, where I publish so much stuff, some of the most valuable pieces that I did, that people read a lot, were immeasurably improved by additional information and jokes and things that people added. So I really want that. And to make it less prone to spam and pollution, we’re making it cost a little bit. Like it’ll cost ten cents or something to leave a comment. Um —

PF Well one of the earliest applications of this idea was the proposal like this is in the 90s or early two thousands was a proposal that you’d have to pay a little, what we’d now call cryptocurrency, to send an email. That was gonna block spam.

RZ Took care of it.

PF Yeah, except it’s fascinating right? Cuz you’re back to the kind of like — the decentralized like I’m gonna make a little cryptocurrency and have to pay a tiny, tiny fraction of a cent.

MB A lot of the real rhetoric around the crypto world that excites me the most is very, very like the nineties.

PF Right, I mean it’s back in the crazy cakes world, there’s no um dog sock puppet.

MB Yet [chuckles].

PF Although everytime I see the articles about the dudes who live in like crypto communities in Puerto Rico, it’s like a whole community of dog sock puppets.

MB Oh my god there’s some scary — I mean the first time I went to a Bitcoin conference, I was actually so horrified that I just went off the whole thing for about a year [PF mm hmm]. I was like, “I just can’t even believe this. It’s so insane.” You know it was like the seasteading libertarian lunatics everywhere, you know, and I thought, “This is impossible. I don’t know — ”

RZ It’s kind of entertaining though.

MB Oh my god!

PF You have a very — Maria has a very high tolerance for relative craziness.

MB Yeah.

PF So if you went [MB chuckles] — if you immediately rejected it, it must’ve been pretty intense.

23:14 MB Well this one conference I went to the Winklevoss twins gave the keynote [PF mm hmm] [RZ scoffs] and they — [laughs] they had a um a slide deck and they had a quote. That spurious quote from Gandhi, right? About “First they laugh at you — ” and all this nonsense.

PF Right, he didn’t say it. Somebody — yeah.

MB And! Not only did he never say it, like, they misspelled Gandhi.

PF Oh that’s great.

MB On the slide.

PF Oh they probably spelled it G-A-N-D-I which is a well-known domain name registrar in France.

MB [Laughs] no! They just put the ‘h’ in the — in front.

PF Oh yeah. Yeah.

RZ They made a ton of money, right? Like with —

MB No, billions.

PF Billions. Yeah they got in there super early.

RZ Oh billions!

MB Billions.

RZ Oh wow.

MB Yeah. Well, you know, I feel bad because they seem like nice guys but like you know when I was at that thing and it was just all about — the opposite of what motivates me: it was all about, “Let’s get wealth. Let’s get more wealth.” Like they don’t even know what they want it for! It’s like just wealth! That’s it! It’s like they’re all going slightly crazy, like —

PF Well it’s just pure market. Like it’s there’s — an investor mindset is you’re in the market and what’s on the other side of the market isn’t —

24:22 MB Well, you know, I mean I think it’s worth talking about Satoshi Nakamoto whose idea this was and who was very, very angry about the bailouts in England. I don’t know what happened to this guy but like in the genesis block when Bitcoin was founded, when it first started in January of 2009, there’s a message encoded in it that says, “Chancellor of the Exchequer on the brink of second bailout.” [PH mm hmm] it’s a political project. And we don’t know that it’s libertarian. But we do know that it’s anti-bank [PF right], it’s anti-central-bank, that’s it’s anti-the-dilution-of-currency. These are significant problems [PF mm hmm], they’re serious problems, there’s nothing bullshit about this, it’s not about, you know, instantaneous wealth, it’s not about — it’s not specifically anti-government either. It’s about addressing the problems that central banks have caused the world . . . which are immense!!

PF Well when the culture gets hold of a decentralized technology, right? Like that’s when everything goes insane.

MB Yeah.

We know it’s anti-bank, it’s anti-central bank, that it’s anti the dilution of currency. These are significant problems. They’re serious problems. There’s nothing bullshit about this. It’s not about instantaneous wealth, it’s not specifically anti-government either. It’s about addressing the problems that centralized banks have caused the world.

RZ But is this a statement?

MB Is? Is?

PF I think Bitcoin’s a statement.

MB Oh hell yeah.

PF Yeah.

RZ I mean is that all it — can you build economies and startups on a statement?

MB I would say you have a technology that addresses problems that were created by the existing failures. You know there’s all these points of failure in the monetary system that we have. I mean there’s so many of them. We have income inequality, for example. We have, like, the dilution of currency. We have got problems caused by the IMF. We have like the fraud upon fraud upon fraud — you know places like J.P. Morgan, I mean I thought it was actually laughable when Jamie Dimon came out and said, “Bitcoin’s a fraud.” I’m like, “Dude! [Laughing] your company has been caught with its hand in the cookie jar quite a number of times, my friend. I do not need a lecture from you about like, you know? Fiscal responsibility right now.” I mean that’s like really honestly full of shit. So . . . you know . . . there’s a serious set of techniques here that people may not make good use of. Or they might make good use of to address real, serious problems in existing institutions: financial, business, political, everything.

PF Alright. So. Next thing is to launch Popula.

MB Yeah!

Can you build economies and startups on a statement?

26:40 PF And thus start smashing the institutions.

MB Right? I know.

RZ One by one.

MB Multiple fronts [laughs].

PF So if people wanna get in touch with you, what do they do?

MB [email protected] and sign up at popula.com, there’s a place where you could put your email if you wanna.

PF And then when it’s time —

MB You’re more — yeah we’ll —

PF — you will announce.

MB We will send you an email and we’ll be like all over the internet yelling [music fades in] our heads off.

PF Alright, well, everyone should do that because this is weird as hell [MB & RZ laugh] [music ramps up slightly]. I like this idea. I just — I like anything that puts money into creator hands and gives them economic options.

RZ Yeah.

PF There’s very little optionality for writers, right? You know you write a piece, you get paid, and then you’re back. Like you gotta get back in there and get another one [RZ right]. You’re on a treadmill. This conception — I don’t know if the blockchain that we’re talking about here will ever like gain enough value.

RZ Yeah.

PF But this, at least conceptually, like, “Hey, how about if you do some labor, you’re in the game?” That’s cool.

RZ Yeah! I don’t think anyone knows how this movie ends.

27:43 PF No. My god and I don’t think —

RZ What you have to Maria credit for is she’s going in.

PF Yeah, all the way. All the way.

RZ Yeah. So.

PF I mean we still don’t know how the web ends although we’re starting to see the end of, like, what the web looks like for the next 50 years, I would argue.

RZ Hmm.

PF Like I think that like, you know, Google’s gonna look kinda like Google for at least ten more years.

RZ Yeah. Yeah.

PF They’ll be new phones and same, you know, Facebook: who knows? Apple: who knows? But it’s like I don’t think — it’s gonna be 20 years for those companies to change radically. They’re huge.

RZ Yeah. And why change?

PF Yeah and HTML5 I feel is gonna be around for a long — like the standards and the things that make up the web are designed to be around into, you know, 2030, 2040.

RZ Yeah, but there’s a migration away, we all know this.

PF Well this is a new thing. This is a new and tumultuous thing. So it’s fun. Anway, if you wanna talk about anything, including blockchain, you can get in touch with us at [email protected]

RZ Hmm.

PF [Chuckles] that’s right.

RZ Very smooth.

PF That’s the email that you use. We like to hear from people, we like to answer your questions. Um subscribe, tell your friends to subscribe, tell us how we can be better, you can yell at us. A lot of people write and yell at us. A lot of — recently, actually, quite a few [RZ chuckles]. So we welcome even more of that and uh we’ll talk to you next week.

RZ Have a great week!

PF Bye! [Music ramps up to end.]