A strange thing happened.

This is republished from Issue 20 of the Design Fiction Newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here: https://buttondown.email/designfiction and that way get the dispatches freshly baked in your inbox.

For the past years, the outsized narrative of DAO [Decentralized Autonomous Organization] as an alternative to venture capital dims the light of its much more profound, and much more interesting potential — a fluid, programmable, modular social network that is by design global, transparent, and collaborative. DAO has the potential to become a new frontier of belonging, to create a new species of collective characterized by the alienation of trust from the ownership and control. Calvino, who in his dreams manifest a desire to “possess” a version of NYC, can extend such private desire to a more tangible contribution. DAOs can become a meta-layer on top of the idea exchanges of the world — a second home for those eager to make strides towards their goals, and know that the way to get there is not by oneself, but in a collective.[FKPXLS The New Frontier of Belonging — Fakepixels](https://fakepixels.substack.com/p/fkpxls-the-new-frontier-of-belonging)

1. Something wild happened.
2. Bear with me a moment.
3. I’ve found myself involved in a DAO. You can Google it and you’ll get words and the words will try to sound definitive and Wikipedia-y. And-also-or you can read my Kerouacian scribbles.
4. This DAO is about Pizza. In this Pizza DAO there are people organizing themselves and a hundreds of pizzerias around the world so that on May 22nd — that’s in 8 days from this writing — there will be a massive, global pizza party.
5. What’s that look like? Well — we’ll see. But the goal is that as many pizzerias as possible to serve 10,000 free pizzas. Big and small shops. Delivery shops. Whatever. It’s being called The World’s First Edible NFT.
6. Crazy idea. Weird. Barely makes sense. It feels like the kind of idea that would be hatched in a 90s college dorm common room only the scope would’ve been free pizza for the dorm, not the world. And the funding mechanics would’ve been perhaps charity donations or some such.

7. It started in a Clubhouse Room that was a Clubhouse Room called “The Room About Nothing” where someone wondered jokingly, “wouldn’t it be cool if..”
8. On March 15th they started ‘selling’ reservations for Rare Pizza NFTs. In 5 hours they grossed $500K USD. The governance of the Pizza DAO is such that 50% of the revenue generated from the Pizza NFTs will go to pizzerias to give away pizza (with 10% to go as a tip to pizzeria staff), so that after 5 hours they could cover 10,000 real pizzas. (Then 49% goes to the community of those who pitched in, and 1% goes to support the continued operation of the DAO and whatever it might do in the future.)
9. As of right now, they have secured 27,106 pizzas. So, like..you do the math.
10. Oh, alright..that’s $1,335,300 USD, which changes second by second because, you know — markets.
11. Believe it or not, I’m less interested in that number than I am in wondering if this assemblage of ideas and action and value is futuristic. Actually, that USD or ETH value is sort of interesting but I’m trying to compartmentalize why it might be interesting for the sake of excavating the nature of this peculiar social formation. That is to say — what the heck is a DAO, anyway? I mean, I’ve read the definition. And I’ve investigated distributed and decentralized systems from a computer science technical perspectigve. Oh, and I read Deleuze & Guattari “A Thousand Plateaus” which may or may not be related but was sufficiently non-sensical that it may have come from the same futuristic universe. By that I mean, confusing and hard work to comprehend, but perhaps gratifying to the extent that one can extract a gram of sense from a whole sea of confusion.
12. Rather than go back to D&G or just listen to podcasts or read blog posts on the topic — all of which I’ve done except the D&G because, like..ugh — I decided to jump into the DAO. Anyone can. Fortunately I have a good friend who’s been in there from the get-go and he spent a wonderful two hours talking about it in the serpentine way he talks about things. Appropriately enough, we did this in a Clubhouse Room just the two of us while I sat at my workstation in cycling kit, having aborted my ambition to do a ride when we stumbled into each other.
13. Soon enough I found myself in a barely comprehensible Discord server full of nom-de-pizza people. You’re either a Pizza Trainee (default) or some ingredient (Japaleno Sauce or Shrimp Toast) or a Don (Don Cheese, or Don Garlic) for example.
14. Some folks are making art for the NFT pizzas (toppings, crusts, cheeses) which will be algorithmically assembled once the algorithm and all that material is created. There are guidelines for creating these things, all described in a comprehensive series of various Google docs. There’s a spreadsheet that scrolls on and on containing all the ingredients that have been created and named according to a predefined naming convention. People assign themselves to create ingredients or propose some. Some folks are ‘Front of House’ or ‘Kitchen’. There are earnest discussions about impending deadlines, about mechanics for paying pizzerias (ACH is possible, Western Union is a rip-off, gift cards may be a suitable mechanism, we’ll do checks if that’s what it takes, etc.) There are some voice channels open, some playing pizza-themed music that was created for the Pizza DAO, some with conversations about how to draw more pizzerias into the gambit, discussing drawing up the legal documents for participating pizzerias, strategizing marketing making memes in the Meme Kitchen, conferring on charity giving, building out websites, coding contracts. I get the sense that many folks in here do these tasks — marketing, logistics, coding, program management, design, etc., — for a living, but this seems infinitely more exciting than an old-fashioned real job.
15. I spent an evening listening to people talking, planning, joking, complaining about being tired, complaining about lawyers and rip-off PR people, about how much work was yet to be done, laughing, saying they were signing off to go get some sleep but then kept talking. All the while a couple of us were filling in a Google sheet full of hundreds of pizzerias that had no addresses for the pizzerias where they needed addresses so an envelope of schwag and stickers could be sent to them, quick like. Someone had a video feed of themselves stuffing envelopes. Copy-Google-Scrape-Paste.
16. It’s nuts. It’s chaos. It’s sorta beautiful, but not in the pretty-flowers-are-beautiful kind of way. More like in the way that the one guy in that one existentially-tinged film, maybe a Jeff Goldblum-like character, who can see beauty in what others see as the end of the world. New life forms forming. New physics manifesting. New elementary particles learning their new rules of behavior. We’re on perilous high seas because that’s where we need to be because that’s where the fishing is best and we might die but it’s too much to resist the possibility that we might be able to achieve the kind of systemic change the world needs so here we are and don’t lean too far out.
17. Because in there, in those seas is the action of a new set of elementary principles. Nothing that comes close to what could be captured in an essay about what a DAO is while you’re sitting there in it, listening to conversations that range from truly goofy in the evening to the kind you might hear in a conference room at an old-fashioned company where people are formalizing marketing strategy, wrangling relationships with key stakeholders, and live-coding Solidity. Or stuffing enveopes for the sake of a shared common goal. Or the ridiculous bond-building banter of a college dorm room at 2 in the morning as ideas take shape that the world outside is barely ready to understand.
18. But if a slice of an emergent generation understands them, and builds them, and holds them tight, it doesn’t matter whether the world outside is ready or not. It’s coming. Change.
19. Beautiful, effervescent, exuberant, earnest, chaos.
20. Why do I describe this in the context of a newsletter that ranges about in the realms of design, fiction, and design + fiction? I suppose it’s because those activities have something to do with fomenting change and change comes about by reflecting on the transition between now and next and these kinds of communities sound like that transition. I think I hear a curious sort of social formation around a peculiar kind of transition to a confusing measure of value there in that Pizza DAO. It has overtones of the time when I couldn’t explain why I would pay to have a “web page”. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s going on.
21. I’m reading Yancey Strickler’s book, “This Could Be Our Future.” Halfway through it feels like it’s a practical reflection on what Kickstarter was supposed to be — a way to connect creatives to their community, or something like that. It was supposed to be a way to live as an intelligent, creative, engaged individual whose fans could support their endeavors directly. Kickstarter tried to formalize a kind of alliance architecture, buoyed by a mechanic where ‘rewards’ were assemblages of products that represented the values of the creator as much or more than they were just commodities.
22. There’s a section in this book where Strickler describes a study that asks incoming college freshman to rank their life-long goals and priorities.
23. Two generations ago in 1970, the number one priority was to “Develop a meaningful philosophy of life.” Number 13 in the ranking was “Be very well off financially.”
24. 46 years later, in 2016 the number one goal was “Be very well off financially” and the number 8 goal was “Develop a meaningful philosophy of life.”
25. I mention this in closing to ask you to reflect on the nature of epistemic change, and the ways by which what is meaningful and valuable evolves, refashions, changes.
26. The other night in a voice channel of that Pizza DAO, a soprano voice was carrying on, laughing, making some sense, talking about this or that in the context of the real-time work they were doing right at that moment to try and grow more awareness to the goal of enrolling more pizzerias to, effectively, take some money from this DAO to make some pizzas to give away for free. Can you imagine the pizzeria guy — “A what?? Is that a new vegan topping, ‘the heck you talking about?? I better get my manager..” From the banter, it was clear they were a key figure in the Pizza DAO — not a boss, as there are no bosses. Simply an earnestly engaged and active participant who was doing real work to achieve the collective goal. Chopping wood. Carrying water.
27. In passing in the chit-chat it was mentioned that they were 12 years old. No, they corrected — “I’m 13!” Collegial laughter followed. It’s all good.
28. If generational mindsets evolve this way, it’s very easy for me to see that that wonderfully odd Pizza DAO is about 3 or 4 months in the future. Not so much the pizza — that’s old-fashioned — but this new fangled arrangement of distributing and organizing activity (or distributing pizza, in this case.) Not quite an open-source formation. Not quite a C-Corp formation, although this was formalized and the entity resides in Wyoming as far as the law is concerned as Wyoming (and Vermont, I believe) have favorable tax considerations for crypto type entitites, or so I hear. Something with a different arrangement of particles and a different set of physical rules.
29. And so..what the heck does this have to do with Design Fiction?
30. Well, Design Fiction is meant to stretch the elastic membrane of our own ability to believe. Conversely, it is meant to help suspend our disbelief about change. With Design Fiction we push against the edge of the present, creating representations of a shape-shifted new present or, as I like to refer to it, near future. We show things that represent symptoms of that near future for reflection or because we want that near future in which such things exist, or we hope can be avoided.
31. This is what’s going on all around us. New formations undergirded by new kinds of meaning and sense-making. What seems normal, ordinary, everyday and exciting to the open-minded, playful, jaw-agape-with-fascination, beginners mind will also try to make its way into the consciousness of others. It’s like that shift in attitudes over time by those incoming college freshmen. It may be that — and I’m not a proponent, booster, or adherent, I’m truly just jaw-agape-with-fascination — there is a near future from which we look back at Pizza DAO as a kind of first “home page” moment. To me, personally, sitting in there, figuring things out, reminds me of the first time I built my own home page. It felt like something but it also felt earnest and confused and without a specific episteme to fit within. It felt cobbled and futuristic and I was embarrased to say I had one because I couldn’t describe why and the best I could muster was an embarassed smile, a shrug, take a swallow of the beer I may’ve had at hand and mutter “I dunno..I just made it.”
32. Now I think back and wonder what did that “home page” feel like?
33. It felt like a room about nothing.
34. I gotta get back to that Google sheet. More pizzerias were enrolled and the addresses need tidying up for that label printer Peanut Chews just picked up from Staples.

Founder of Near Future Laboratory & OMATA. Venice Beach, California. Does Design-Engineering for More Habitable Futures. omata.com nearfuturelaboratory.com

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