You may have heard — from BI, Morning Brew, or Forbes — that a DAO is now trying to buy the goddamn Constitution. I, for my part, found out incidentally while Twitter stalking the d00ds behind it. (We were all in the same entrepreneurship program together in undergrad.) But, aside from shamelessly name dropping, I’m here to illustrate how this is as serendipitous as a freak storm. Which is to say, not at all.
- Get a bunch of young, excitable people holding theoretical Internet assets together in a chatroom.
- Spam them with memes.
- Spend their money on some big flashy thing.
- Get press from flagship media brands who just want to feel like fellow kids.
- ‘Fractionalize’ — a word which here means, ‘figure out a way for the weebs who just dropped millions on a document they’ll never even touch to feel like they got their money’s worth.’
In this case, the flashy thing in question is the sole remaining privately-owned first edition of the U.S. Constitution, one of only 13 in existence. It will be up for auction by Sotheby’s on Thursday, expected to go for somewhere around $20m. By time of publication, the DAO has raised $_m (__ ETH). Is it likely these guys will own a piece of U.S. history come Fri-yay? No. It’s not likely. But is it possible?
JK. Who knows? I’ve seen stranger things. But what’s more interesting to me is the chain of events that lead to community moments such as these. As with most of the crumbling pillars of Internet culture, it began as an unsung tweet, which then spun wildly out of control with each additional turn of the user acquisition flywheel.
We can see the humble origins of the Constitution DAO in this 89-like wonder from @patagucci_girl around 9:00pm EST on November 11. Fortuitously, her tweet landed on jonahehrlich.eth’s timeline via RT around 10:45pm. By the time I found it at 7am on November 12th, it had its own page with 5.5k followers. The five day old account, @ConstitutionDAO, is up to 17.5k now.
These numbers are indicative of the way ideas spread through the crypto world. I happen to know that Jonah — my old ELP (/B) bud — is an incredibly well connected and reputable node in real life. Which, as we all know, translates 1:1 to the Internet, and blockchain is no different. Prominent crypo Twitter figures (usually those with big tech affiliations and access to capital irl) distinguish themselves with a ‘.eth‘ at the end of their usernames. This strikes me as classic cult shit, the 2021 answer to the orange robes and head knots of the ’60s Hare Krishna hippies. It’s a handy way to signal status, attract parrot opinions, and ostracize detractors in equal parts.
But more importantly, in this day and age, it’s prime algorithm fodder. Because Web 3.0 language and norms are so specific, anyone’s contribution to the crypto conversation is highly liable to wind up, context free, in front of someone with ungodly amounts of fake Internet money and a tall platform to throw it off. Which explains how a one-off meme from Ms. Patagucci turned into $5m in as many days.
Jonah describes himself in his bio as ‘shouting into the town square’. Soapbox preachers are indeed an appropriate comparison. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on your opinion of where an immensely valuable historical document should wind up: in the hands of a bunch of kids who spent their relief checks on JPEGs or a frame in a billionaire’s man cave.
Either way, focusing on this specific instance is kind of beside the point. As one passerby in the proverbial town square put it, ‘the culture significance isn’t about buying the constitution, it’s about mobilizing in an immensely short time to accomplish something next to impossible.’ Raising five mil for the meme qualifies.