Notes on Culture DAO

Since getting laid off I’ve been tossing the idea of a new DAO around. I’ve been reading Iain Bank’s Culture series for the last few months, and the AI minds from the series are what brought me to it. There was a tweet asking which sci-fi series was most likely, given the advances of GPT and other LLMs, and one of the answers was the Culture. So I picked up Consider Phelbas and now I’m halfway through the series.

Building an AI assistant has been one of the projects I’ve been working on — I named mine Zephyr — it named itself, actually, but I digress. The Westworld examples of multiple independent LLM agents running around independently has fascinated me, and I want to build my own little world of these things. There are some gaming projects that are putting them to use in not only player interactions, but in other ways as well. A fishbowl perhaps, that we can peer in and play god.

Seeing as how I’ve spent the last year and a half working on the Star Atlas DAO, it was the only thing I could think to do but build a new one. The tech industry is notorious for their lack of unions, and I figured this could be a place for us to build a new group, a way for us to stick together and work toward some new network state.

And so Culture DAO. If we want to take the optimistic path in our new AI-assisted future, then the Culture is probably the best vision of utopia that I’ve seen put to media. Now of course we’ll have to be careful about how we associate ourselves with Bank’s vision — his estate had a deal with Amazon to develop a series — so we can’t take directly from it. But this idea of super-intelligent AI that function as drones, ships, and habitats as conscious individuals should be general enough.

I put some of my thoughts about the project into GPT and published this What is Culture DAO post.

Do nothing stupid

It’s been half a year since I published anything publicly. It got to the point that I was no longer comfortable talking about things that might let things slip about what was going on at work. It was just safer to not post.

I wish I could say that I kept up the journalling habit, but I didn’t really. Not typing things out the hard way, by hand. Instead, I started using Obsidian, a note-taking app, to start organizing my life. Obsidian has a number of plugins, core ones that ship with the app, and a host of open source community plugins that provide additional capabilities. So instead of these journals, I’d been dictating to Obsidian, then using Whisper to transcribe the files, at which point they could be passed as context to GPT for whatever purpose.

I became quite obsessive with using it, I would transcribe work meetings and use it to create task lists, stakeholder notes, or whatever task I needed. The dream was to have a codex of company information that could be used to build an AI assistant. Things haven’t quite come together, for reasons I’ll explain later.

Of course the subtext here is that I was laid off from Star Atlas last week – my last paycheck was yesterday so now I am officially unemployed. The news was not completely unanticipated — we hadn’t heard anything about VC funding in some time, so it was pretty clear the writing was on the wall. I’d also been bothered by economic doomer news, and had been saving up cash as much as I could these last few months. So while I’ve got my short-term financial needs in the bank, I’m a bit lost when it comes to my long-term plans.

I’ve decided to put all the worry out of my head for the next week or two — the kids start school at the end of the month, so I’m telling myself to just be a dad and enjoy the time with them. I pulled them out of day camp this week — Missus is out of town, so it’s just the three of us at the house the week. My hope is to keep them on track with their studies, and try to return to some semblance of routine once next week when they go back to camp and school. Last week was such a mess, it just didn’t make sense to pay $160 to keep them at camp while I was at home futzing about.

I’m just not ready to start looking for a new job. I don’t even know what I want to do yet, not ready to quit what I was doing. I’ve put so much mental energy into the SA DAO over these past two years that I can’t just stop and pivot. There’s still a lot of things I want to finish. I’ve got a lot invested in SA, and still believe that the team can do it. Now we know they have another year and a half runway. More than me, at this point, but all I want to do is survive. I don’t want to update my resume and go network on LinkedIn and fill out job applications that I don’t want in order to qualify for unemployment. The last two years have been a dream, and I’m not ready to wake up.

If I have to ask what I have to show for the last two years of fat times, I think I’d be hard pressed. We’ve travelled a bit: Costa Rica, Niagara Falls, Puerto Rico; I didn’t really buy a bunch of toys — maybe a bit much on video games — but we’ve actually been taking steps to declutter the house. I’d ask where it all went, but I know most of my budget lately has actually been groceries.

I’ve accumulated a fair bit of crypto, I’d have to go back and look at my cost basis before I make any claims to whether I’m up or down, but I have a sizable stash of Solana that I’m not in a hurry to part with. That’s probably the main determining factor as to why I’m not itching to look for jobs in the real world quite yet. I can’t cut my ties from Star Atlas completely — I’m locked for five years, like 99% of people invested in the DAO. So I’m not going anywhere yet.

There were about 120 people laid off last week, the contractors actually have another week per their agreement, but regardless. Last week we all moved into a new Discord server to commiserate and console each other. My initial reaction was the fact that we had a great team of people that were left out in the cold. After some initial conversations, we determined there are a good number of us that don’t need to go back to work right away. And many of us have the personal runway and desire not to return to the workforce. So while we all deal with the shock of our forced departures, we’re helping each other with resumes and LinkedIn connection, trying to help each other along, figure out who needs to work and who wants to build something new.

I really haven’t the faintest clue what I’m doing, so right now I’m sticking to the Do Nothing Stupid plan: coast on inertia, don’t risk capital unnecessarily, don’t burn bridges. I’m taking some time to get back up to speed on the latest advancements in the Solana ecosystem, and work with anyone from the old team who wants to build. I’m not sure if anyone else has the stomach to work within the SA ecosystem, but it’s what we know, and there’s nothing saying that we can’t do it. Permissionless blockchains and all that…