Since El Prof had to go and make it all about identity, I feel obliged to mention this, even though it’s not an actual news story. Soon after reports of Elon Musk’s $44B overcompensation broke, degens started circulating their own fan theories on the changes he’d make to the platform. Because, yeah, existence is all one big Star Wars slash fic now. And one of the most common ones — articulated by Balaji Srinivasan here — is that Elon Musk could, or should, or will make Twitter into his own universal Proof of Identity protocol.
It’s built on the (frankly Atlas Shrugged levels of fallacious) assumption that the U.S. government, big tech, and the legal establishment at large will unite to try and cripple Elon in advance of the deal going through on October 24th of this year. To which I’d respond: just because a loud horde of performatively woke white people complain about the deal on Twitter does not mean ‘anything and everything will be tried [to ‘torpedo the deal’] because the American establishment rightly senses they won’t win a game of free speech and free markets anymore.’ It just means that episode of Atlanta set at the billionaire’s party wasn’t as surreal as it seemed. But I digress.
Srinivasan’s suggestion boils down to this: to stick it to those damned communist bureaucrats running America, Musk should put together a sort of grassroots campaign to win over Twitter’s global userbase before the deal, and get them to do the heavy political lifting for him, putting pressure on their governments to allow the deal to go through. The incentive would be an airdrop of a crypto token — a Twittercoin representing the (to be fair, immense) underlying value of the platform’s aggregated user data — to all users who register their identities by logging into a separate site and, like, pledging eternal loyalty to the lizard man, or something.
At the risk of beating a dead fringe philosopher, it’s all very Randian. But it’s also within the realm of possibility. Personally, I think Musk will have no problem with the deal going through, because he’s a white male billionaire, a demographic who historically get whatever the fuck they want. And, if he did indeed wield his clout and reach to authenticate the identities of even a fraction of Twitter’s userbase, he could still be looking at millions of adopters — far more than a true grassroots protocol (or even the VC-funded shitshows El Prof slandered up top) would be likely to gain.
I’m a bit more skeptical about the rewards part. Srinivasan asserts that ‘every user [would have] a rooting interest for the Elondrop’ because a Twittercoin ‘could easily be as valuable as Ethereum’s $350B’ — two assertions with which I strongly disagree. A significant portion — maybe the majority — of the popular culture at large opposes crypto on principle, and a new token with highly theoretical value forced on them by a billionaire they hate is unlikely to change that. Furthermore, while the value of Twitter’s aggregate data is huge, the amount allotted to each individual user for their personal data would be fractional at best, and it would need more functionality than paying for a ‘priority inbox’, as the author suggests, to change this.
The only way to give true value to individuals for their data is by pooling it together in ways specific to their identity and beneficial to similar use cases. It’s the sort of niche, communal project only taken on by those with nothing to lose — like the naive, borderline unemployed writers bringing you this newsletter every week. It’s not the sort of project taken on by those with half a hundred B’s to throw away on turning their social media platform of choice into a vanity press.
But. Regardless. Yes, it’s possible our online identity will soon be synonymous with Registered Objectivist Party Member, or official membership to the Elon Musk fan club. To the meme lords go the spoils.