From Ethereum to Consensys: Joseph Lubin's Visionary Journey From robotics and artificial intelligence to the financial services industry, Joseph Lubin's multifaceted background paved the way for his transformation into a leading figure of the Web3 revolution.
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From robotics and artificial intelligence to the financial services industry, Joseph Lubin's multifaceted background paved the way for his transformation into a leading figure of the Web3 revolution.
Lubin, a founding member of Ethereum and founder of Consensys, has always possessed a forward-thinking mindset, which he applied early on in identifying systemic flaws in our global financial institutions. Today, he stands as a torchbearer guiding us into the era of Web3, decentralized systems, and beyond.
Over a decade ago, Lubin observed unsettling patterns within our financial systems, including unprecedented levels of debt in the system that suggested a looming global crisis. As he delved into these concerns, he became aware of the Strauss and Howe generational theory. This theory describes 80-100 year cycles composed of four generations. It paints a picture of cycles of growth and expansion, which eventually meet their downfall due to societal developments that outgrow the once-novel visions. This pattern leads to a societal reset, calling for a fresh vision and a new system- a pattern that seems to echo our present reality.
When Lubin encountered Bitcoin in 2011, he saw the dawn of this new era. Satoshi Nakamoto's revolutionary whitepaper introduced a technological innovation, a decentralized database that could fundamentally alter the foundations of trust and authority upon which our society is built. By ensuring that everyone sees the true history of transactions and making it virtually impossible to overturn this history, Bitcoin invented a new higher-powered form of trust: decentralized trust. It shifted the societal trust paradigm from top-down –with authorities working through intermediaries to control all aspects of society– to bottom-up, where everyone can inspect what happened and when with respect to transactions in the economy, and the only intermediary required is the open global decentralized database.
A few years later, Lubin found himself at the forefront of the Ethereum project. Its whitepaper, penned by Vitalik Buterin, promised a platform where any software developer could contribute to the new economy, removing the need for esoteric specialists. Recognizing this potential, Lubin devoted himself to nurturing Ethereum –the first decentralized blockchain that allowed for smart contracts– and its ecosystem. This then gave way to the birthing of Consensys, a hub for fostering faster adoption of Ethereum, by incubating projects and exploring the vast potential of the ecosystem.
Today, the fruits of Lubin's work are apparent across diverse corners of the globe. In countries like Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and Argentina, where the monetary systems have been unstable for decades, blockchain technologies offer essential solutions such as value preservation and remittances. However, in Western liberal democracies, the implications run deeper, creating novel ways of looking at industries and offering them the means to evolve rather than just disrupt.
Consider the entertainment industry, where artists can directly connect with their fans through non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and decentralized organizations. Here, Web3 technologies promise a future where the majority of the value created isn't pocketed by industry intermediaries, but by the creators themselves. Similar opportunities are unfolding in the advertising sector, as the traditional web cookie used to track and exploit browsers are slowly being "decommissioned" by regulators, companies, and users who value privacy, and will be replaced by NFTs and decentralized identities, putting the control back in users' hands.
According to Lubin, Web3 brings major foundational gamechangers such as decentralized finance (DeFi). Although DeFis currently the playground of crypto and finance enthusiasts, Lubin envisions a future where the entire finance world is stampeding into this space once regulatory hurdles are overcome. In decentralized finance, the potential for instantaneous, programmable, and high liquidity systems promises unprecedented opportunities. Eventually, much of global finance will be built using decentralized finance technology simply because DeFi will bring much-needed improvements like increased transparency around the formation and enforcement of the rules under which systems operate, and the virtual elimination of counterparty risk when one's counterparty is a smart contract or a protocol rather than a person or company. These are just two of many directions that the world of finance can explore as it begins to understand the profound benefits of this paradigm-shifting disruptive technology.
In today's rapidly evolving and increasingly dangerous world, a profound existential choice faces humanity. On one hand, we could journey down a path of tyrannical control, where governments manipulate everything, endeavoring to prevent the misuse of cheap and exponentially destructive technology. This path, successful or not, is rife with pitfalls. The other way, a far more hopeful path, embraces progressive decentralization as its organizing principle. Here, we can envision a future based on decentralized organizations and protocols, where transparency is a given, and negative externalities are identified and incorporated into a more holistic system so they can be properly accounted for and ameliorated.
Source: Lucidity Insights
In natural ecosystems, every waste product serves as the feedstock for some other organism or system. This is how we must design the systems we build and steward going forward, whether they be agricultural, water management, social media/advertising or AI. This vision for the future requires rapid dissemination and robust action to create the next system of the world, and education plays a central role, believes Lubin. Initiatives like Consensys Academy and MetaMask Learn are at the forefront of this movement, striving to mentor the next generation and provide compelling, extensible tutorials. "We're starting to view our software developers and end-users as two Web 2.0 vintage bookends bounding a growing population of Web3 builders," Lubin said, explaining the increasing democratization of technology-enabled participation.
In this Web3 world, individuals have much more control and influence over the systems that guide their lives because they will be first-class members of those communities, not just customers, and no longer the product of the service provider. Here, the power that currently resides solely with corporations like Meta platforms (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp), TikTok, or Twitter, becomes decentralized, providing end-users and developers more agency, and enabling them to become active builders of, and participants in, communities and ecosystems that affect and improve their lives. The Web3 builder class will eventually grow to encompass the entire global population, as Web3 tools enable direct participation in online communities. As we all rise to the calling to be more active in the systems and communities on which our lives and quality of life depend, we will soon be able to call on our personal artificial intelligence (AI) allies who enable all of us to level up fast, understand any issue that affects us, and participate in the governance and decision-making that tangibly improves our lives.
Properly decentralizing social networks doesn't mean you add NFTs to them or add decentralized asset organization (DAO)-based decentralized governance, or cut moderators in on the profits they generate as a labor of love. These are significant steps towards a decentralized model. In this setup, rather than being reliant on a handful of social network accounts that are controlled and can be revoked by Web 2.0 companies, everyone will establish their own decentralized IDs. These IDs will be used alongside verifiable credentials, in line with World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards, as well as NFTs and badges. Collectively, these elements will form the backbone for building and maintaining the identity and reputation of individuals, intelligent entities, organizations, and even things.
The next generation of social networking will put the user at the center of and in control of their social graph. They will construct and maintain multiple social graphs for different purposes. They will own their identities, and publish their own profiles tailored to different contexts. They will subscribe to other entities' social graphs, and publish content to their own graphs, inviting people to subscribe to them if they are interested. They will own her graphs and select tools from different providers to operate on the content of her graphs, or on the graph structures themselves- perhaps to increase readership or monetization or political influence. They may link their graphs with other graphs in order to share certain content if the owners of those graphs choose to work together to share the relevant content with their subscriber base. They will be in control of their identities and social graphs and there will be many social network tool companies that add value to their feeds while the user remains fully in control.
Our social graphs in the Web3 era will be a profound extension and expression of our identities, interests, and, ultimately, our reputations. They will be a fundamental construct representing who we are. In the Web3 era, we will be the owners and controllers of the core elements of our lives, not manipulated and addicted users, not just consumers and not exploited products of Web 2.0 and traditional economy megacorps that have become producers of as many negative externalities as valuable products and services. The Web 2.0 era served us well and evolved us as a species in important ways. But we desperately need the community-focused and user-centric ethos of Web3 to heal deep schisms and establish healthier collective paths forward. Or Web3 children will look back on the constructs of Web 2.0 society in disbelief and horror that we all outsourced many core aspects of our identities and reputations to soulless, profit-maximizing companies that nearly broke the world.
Aligned with this vision, Consensys unveils its evolved brand, aiming to "inspire and empower the builder within each of us." A call to action that encourages individuals to embrace their role in constructing a more decentralized future. Lubin's journey thus represents the vanguard of the Web3 revolution, shaping a world where trust is decentralized, builders regain control from the intermediaries that fed off their work for centuries, and the creativity and power of finance become directly accessible to all. His leadership and vision, coupled with the rapidly developing ecosystem, serve as a beacon of optimism and a reminder that we're just at the beginning of this exciting journey into the era of Web3.
It is a vision of a future that is both exciting and inspiring, a world where the power is in our hands to shape our destiny. A world where we are not just passive consumers, but active builders. As we move forward, it's certain that the reverberations of Lubin's pioneering work will continue to shape the course of our digital future.
The question is, are you inspired to discover and unleash the builder within you, and to contribute to a more decentralized world?
To dive deeper into the future of Web3 and the decentralized web, read our full report on Opportunities in Web3 by clicking here.
This article was originally published on Lucidity Insights, a partner of Entrepreneur Middle East in developing special reports on the Middle East and Africa's tech and entrepreneurial ecosystems.