Devcon, Technical Podcasts, & Open Source AI
Weekly Roundup 10/16/2022
Crypto + Devcon
Takeaways from ETH Bogota & Devcon
Last week, I attended an ETHGlobal hackathon and Devcon in Bogota, Colombia. It was a whirlwind of a week: I gave two workshops, hosted a panel, and sat on another. Before I give some post event thoughts on the industry, here’s a link to my talk. If you know anyone interested in developer relations, consider sharing it with them!
Crypto culture feels like this thing that has emerged entirely from the internet, transcending all traditional borders and boundaries. There are new events seemingly every week around the world, and the community is made up of people from dozens of different countries. Although people have wildly different backgrounds, they’re bound by similar beliefs about the future of finance and the internet.
There are definitely different ideological sects within crypto: you have anonymous DeFi degens, the solarpunk-loving ReFi folks, traditional Silicon Valley style startup entrepreneurs, hardcore technical researchers, and privacy maxis. But mostly, people are friendly to one another, openly share best practices, and want to see the entire space succeed.
The industry is very internationally focused, and is becoming more so. The events take place literally all over the world, and if you want to keep up, you need to be willing to get on a plane and face the jet lag. The international travel can be jarring, but it’s always interesting. Bogota, Amsterdam, New York, Philadelphia, Barcelona, Denver, Mexico City. The events never stop, but they seem to fill a need for human interaction in a very remote-first industry.
At any given web3 event, you’ll meet people from dozens of countries with widely varying personalities. But people are bound by similar beliefs: it’s a pro-tech, internationally minded, libertarian-leaning crowd that is idealistically trying to build a new future.
Crypto needs to better serve emerging markets
While most of the raw innovation in web3 has come from people based in North America and Europe, the reality is that the industry may present the greatest upside for emerging markets in Africa & South/Central America. The Ethereum Foundation’s decision to host this year’s Devcon in Bogota, Colombia was intentional. When you talk with someone from Argentina or Venezuela, you quickly see that they *get* why a currency that’s beyond the control of a centralized government is a useful thing. They’ve personally experienced hyperinflation in ways that Europeans and Americans have not, and are more likely to experiment with new tools that allow them to store & save value.
I talked with a guy from Argentina who pulled out 3 separate crypto credit cards out of his wallet. He prefers to get paid and earn rewards in DAI.
If we’re honest with ourselves, most ‘web3’ innovations have been solutions in search of a problem (SISP), or they’ve at least felt like SISPs to people in the US and Europe. The lowest hanging fruit in the problem space for crypto is probably sitting there in places like LatAm.
What’s Hot in Crypto?
I had many conversations in Bogota and came away with 4 things that I’m really excited about next in crypto:
All New Devs Do Something Episode
We released a new episode with an expert on Huff, a low level language for writing smart contracts on Ethereum. The episode was our most successful to date in bringing new listeners to the show. There’s a really good community of smart contract developers who like to go deep into the inner workings of the EVM, and we’ll seek to bring more of them on.
Noir - a New Language for Building With ZKPs
One of the things I saw other devs excited about at Devcon was Aztec. Noir is going to abstract some of the most complicated aspects of building on ZKPs away from builders, without compromising on their ability to ship applications.
Cosmos Ecosystem Overview
Cosmos has been able to stay in the zeitgeist for a while, and I’ve always respected their ecosystem. This piece from the generalist is a great overview of what’s happening in the Cosmos universe.
RWA on chain book
Jack wrote an excellent thread and report on bringing RWA on chain that is 100% worth checking out. The overlap between TradFi and DeFi presents a multi-trillion dollar opportunity. To be honest, if we aren’t able to figure out how to involve RWA and existing jurisdictions in DeFi, then IMO it will forever remain niche.
The Open source AI Movement
OpenAI is feeling real competition on this:
To get a map of the ML space, go browse Hugging Face.
If you’re curious about some of the new research in AI and are technical enough to read docs and write a bit of python code, you should definitely check out models on Hugging Face. It’s an interesting repository of models, datasets, and ML tooling. Spending a few hours flipping through different models and trying them out will give you a pretty good overview of where the industry is and what’s worth learning more about. I was always under the impression that, because there are such insane economies of scale in training AI models, AI models were mostly closed source. It’s not quite as open as crypto, but there seems to be a lot of open source projects and collaboration.
Prompt Engineering as Modern Wizardry
This is going to get weird. The act of telling an AI model what you want might become a skillset on its own: prompt engineering. It’s the process of telling the model what you want it to do, and it looks like a mixture of writing a google search query and adding keywords to refine your result. Eliezer is an AI doomer, and I’m not sure that I agree with his outlook on AI’s existential risk, but I do find it strange that prompt engineering feels a little bit like sorcery.
Unrealated News: American Policy Bomb on China’s Semiconductor Industry
In short, the US Government has woken up to the importance of relative advantages in advanced computing, clean-tech, and biotech innovation.
According to this thread, American executives supporting the Chinese semiconductor industry were forced to resign or renounce US citizenship overnight:
A Fortune Cookie Inspirational Tweet
I have a 3+ month period coming up where I won’t have to travel for work. This will be my mantra for the rest of 2022 (probably).
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