#203 The Web of Life & New Tech Webs – A Beautiful Connection? With Monty Merlin of ReFi DAO
How much do you know about AI, blockchain and Web 3.0? If you’re like us, the answer is probably very little. But these techs are going to change our world out of all recognition and while there is the potential for catastrophe, in the right hands, the same technology has the potential to help us shape the future we’d all be proud to leave behind and this is what this podcast is about.
I listened to Monty Merlin’s TED talk and then to his work with ReFi DAO and thought that he had a unique ability to explain the mind-bending complications of this, while also having the vision to carry us into a world we’d actually want to see.
Monty is one of the founders of ReFi DAO. Monty is working deeply and effectively at the cutting edge of emergence, a change-maker working on many different scales to build a future we’d be proud to leave behind. He is helping to build a global network of regenerative communities and start-ups and then taking those ideas out into the world as a public speaker and evangelist for ReFi & Regeneration. His public work includes a TEDx talk titled ‘Can Crypto Regenerate the World?’. He has an undergraduate and Master’s degree in Management & Innovation, with specialism in sustainability, digital technologies, blockchain, and design & systems thinking.
This conversation ranged across landscapes from the nature of greenwashing to the potential for borderless nations, from the way financial markets currently underpin the existing structures, to how they could be tilted to underpin a whole new regenerative paradigm. We explored the difference between what’s sustainable and what’s regenerative – and discovered what’s actually happening now, that you could be involved with in your communities of place, purpose and passion. I say the word, ‘inspiring’ way too often in this podcast, and I apologise in advance, but it’s true: knowing that this is happening is one of the bright points of this year and I am genuinely thrilled to be able to share it with you.
Manda: Hey people, welcome to Accidental Gods. To the podcast where we believe that another world is still possible and that if we all work together, there is time to create the future that we would be proud to leave to the generations that come after us. I’m Manda Scott your host in this journey into possibility. And I have just had an extraordinarily uplifting conversation with someone who is actively working towards the emergent future that we all want. But before I introduce him, I do want to remind you that if you want to engage more deeply with the ethos that underpins Accidental Gods, we have an online gathering on Sunday 29th of October. Dreaming Your Death Awake is a stand alone, you do not have to be a member or to have done any other work with us. Though I do tend to think of this as the start of a cycle, partly because there’s a theory that the year was counted to start at Samhain, which is the 1st of November, which is again the onset of winter in the old cycles of the year on this island. But mainly because I am 100% certain that we can’t learn to live fully until we’ve embraced our death, and understood how to stop taking any moment of our life waking or sleeping for granted. When we apply this level of attention and intention to our days, then the boundaries of what’s possible are thrown wide open. And I think that’s what we need now. Open boundaries. Letting go of what we used to think was possible and finding out what is actually possible when we’re really living fully in every moment. So that’s what dreaming your death awake is for. I will put a link in the show notes, but the gatherings are always on accidentalgods.life on the Gatherings tab. We have a whole new set planned for next year. Faith and I just had most of a Sunday sitting planning, trying to find ways we can integrate the theories of change we explore on the podcast with the core experiential work of the Accidental Gods membership. So watch this space. But Sunday 29th is Dreaming Your Death Awake.
Manda: And in the meantime, I want to introduce you all to Monty Merlin. Someone who is working deeply and effectively at the cutting edge of emergence, a change maker who works on so many different scales, to build that future that we would all be proud to leave behind. Monty is a founder of ReFi DAO, building a global network of regenerative communities and start-ups. He’s a public speaker. He’s an evangelist for refi and regeneration, and he has a TedX Talk entitled Can Crypto Regenerate the World? which I have put in the show notes. He has a master’s degree in management and innovation, from what sounds like a genuine attempt to bring theories of change into education. To make the doing of it become an agent of change in its own right. That alone would have been enough for the podcast, but he specialises in sustainability, digital technologies and blockchain and design and systems thinking. And we all know we are on the edge of tipping points, where the combination of AI and the Internet and everything around it pushed by huge money, in dollars but also in cryptocurrencies and backed by the financial markets, is going to change everything.
Manda: But it can also be really hard to get our heads around how this is happening. The mechanisms, the logistics, the ideas behind it, and how it could hold the potential for a genuinely regenerative future. Monty is one of the few people I’ve come across who can take these mind bendingly complex concepts and render them comprehensible to ordinary people, without making them so baseline that they stop being of value. Our conversation today ranged across landscapes from the nature of greenwashing to the potential for borderless nations. From the way the financial markets currently underpin the existing structures, to how they could be tilted to underpin a whole new regenerative paradigm. We explored the differences between what’s sustainable and what’s regenerative and discovered what’s actually happening now, that you could be involved in in your communities of place and purpose and of passion. I say the word inspiring way too often in this conversation, and I apologise in advance, but it’s true. Knowing that this is happening is one of the bright points of this year, and I am absolutely, genuinely thrilled to be able to share it with you. So people of the podcast, please do welcome Monty Merlin of ReFi DAO.
Manda: Monty, welcome to the Accidental Gods podcast. It is a real delight and an honour to have you here. How are you and where are you this lovely autumn morning?
Monty: Manda It’s great to be here. And yeah, I’m really excited to be on this podcast with you. Your writing has been very inspiring, and yeah, I’m currently calling in from the south of France, where I’ve just come out to stay with my cousin, who’s set up a little co-living co-working community out here. So I’m here for a couple of weeks, but I’m originally from the south west of Dorset in the UK and I’ve been a bit nomadic the last six months, travelling around to various different conferences and places in Europe and meeting all sorts of interesting people.
Manda: Brilliant. So hopefully we’ll get to unpack some of that at some point, because that’s been sounding really interesting as I’ve been following you. Not in any way tracking you across the Web. Okay, so let’s unpack this a little bit. You’re one of the co-founders of Refi DAO, and even the name of that begins to touch the edges of what my understanding is, of what a DAO is, how it works. I don’t know what refi is and what it means. So can you unpick a little bit of how you got to be there and then what that means? In any way you like.
Monty: Sure. Yeah. So I think maybe it makes sense to start from the beginning a little bit, in terms of myself and where I’ve come from. A bit of kind of background. And so I guess from a very young age, I’ve always been an environmentalist and thinking about big issues, because I’ve grown up in a family where that is what we talk about all the time. My mum’s written many, many books, been an environmentalist for 30, 40 years now. And and I’ve got two older brothers who are also fiercely intellectual and love debating. And so you can imagine the kind of household that I’ve grown up in, which I’ve been very, very fortunate. But I’ve also always been like a techie and a builder and love thinking about the future. So I’ve been building websites and hacking things together. I was even a hacker at one point, doing things in that. At the same time studied economics and philosophy at school; topics of interest. So the world of cryptocurrencies and web3 and blockchain was always interesting, from the very beginning, to me. Because it is this confluence of economics, of politics, of philosophy, of tech; of all these kind of things. But at the same time, it never had this environmentalism side to it. In fact, quite the opposite.
Monty: We all know that Bitcoin has this kind of negative environmental image, which is largely true. Yeah there’s definitely a lot more nuance there to unpack, but we don’t need to get into that. So it wasn’t really until my time at university, I was studying at the University of Bristol on an amazing course called Management with Innovation. Which was a really great course, because it actually allowed, the innovation side of my degree, you could study many different subjects or disciplines and then do it combined with innovation. So I was in this cohort of people from computer science, from geography, from finance, from all these different disciplines coming together to learn the methodologies and the ideas behind business start-ups, organisational structures, and then actually applying those theories of agile lean, you know, all these kind of methodologies in the real world by practising and actually starting Start-ups. So instead of writing a dissertation for my master’s, we launched a Start-Up for a year. And, and that is what I’m continuing to do to this day. So yeah, it was during my master’s program that this ReFi sector was born. ReFi standing for regenerative finance. And so maybe we can get into a bit about what ReFi is and my journey since I discovered it at university.
Manda: Definitely. I would like to unpick a number of things just before we get to that, just to give us a more solid foundation and purely for my own curiosity. When you did economics and philosophy at school, it was neoliberal economics? Did they mention Kate Raworth or Jason Hickel or…
Monty: Was always coming from, I guess, my own research and background with having my mum being in this study. Okay.
Manda: Yes. Your mother, who is Julia Hales, who is a very well known sustainability pioneer. So yeah, it’s, it’s, you have a really interesting pedigree. Monty, speaking as a vet where pedigrees are what you look at whenever you assess something. So you brought into what to me seems quite an old paradigm, neoliberal world, the concepts of understanding that we are an integral part of the web of life rather than here to extract from it at all points. Were you alone in your degree in being aware of and embedded in this world, or were there others of your age group who who got it as well?
Monty: Yeah, that’s a that’s a very interesting question. I think when I was in school, I was actually, you know, focussed on on understanding the neoliberal ideas that were being taught because I did find them deeply interesting. But at the same time, of course, I was, you know, reading and learning about Kate Raworth and these alternative regenerative economics and, and things like that. But it actually, yeah, it felt actually quite separate and, and I guess it wasn’t until more university when there was more creative explorations to be able to like take the topics that I was learning and take it in the directions that I was interested in and read the papers and write my essays on these more alternative theories. And of course the professors there had more intellectual depth to be able to challenge some of these ideas. But I you know, university is a lot about critical thinking as well. So, you know, that’s I guess, been been my journey in terms of in terms of that. But I think also even it’s interesting, you know, with my mom as well and thinking about her journey and the work her work and so like where where she became really successful and popularised this green consumer movement. So her her book that sold a million copies was the Green Consumer Guide, which she authored with John Elkington, who is another sort of famous or sustainability academic.
Monty: And at the time it was a movement to, instead of the prevailing kind of culture of environmentalists, was to rally against business and just go, You’re all evil, you suck. And the business would just go, okay, cool, well, we’re just going to ignore you. And so the Green consumer movement was this idea that actually by changing your spending habits as a consumer, you could send the signal to companies to change, and that would create this kind of movement. And it did create a massive impact at the time. You know, suddenly companies were inviting environmentalists onto their board and like changing their policies. But I think growing up now and seeing the net result of that, it’s clear that that is very much reached its limit. And we see so much greenwashing, we see this kind of commodification and, you know, micro consumerist kind of rubbish, frankly, where actually companies now put the responsibility on the consumer and and it really ignores that there’s a really deep systemic problem here, that it’s far greater than any individual and frankly, not an individual’s responsibility. You know, there’s obviously plenty of space for individual action, but we really need deep system change here. And that’s what that’s what I’m hoping we can talk about and enact. Yes.
Manda: Yes. Because BP did not create the personal carbon footprint calculator in order to wean us off fossil fuels. It created it to divert all of our attention, our bandwidth, our energy and our courage into micromanaging our own lives and letting the system carry on. As it was. I was at a conference recently with Josiah Meldrum of homemade Gods, who was recalling, I think it was him, and I think it was then. And if you’re going to tell me that you had this anecdote, I wouldn’t disbelieve you, but that a conference where somebody was explaining why they’d given up one particular mobile phone network for one, that was much, much more regenerative and engaged and all the rest of it. And it turned out that it was owned by the people she was talking to. So O2 owned Giffgaff, I think, and she dropped O2 to go to Giffgaff because Giffgaff was much more regenerative and the guy on the panel went, You do know that we own it, don’t you? And so what happened, I think, with the green consumer movement was exactly as you say. Companies did change some of their policy, but what they did was to create brand streams that catered to that market, seeing it as a growing market and continued with everything else they were doing that was extractive. However. So I have a really interesting this is part of my own inquiry for myself and we will definitely get to regenerative finance in a second. But just as a broader philosophical question. We are told in spiritual terms, and I believe in personal terms, that the only person in the end that I can genuinely influence is myself. I can write books, I can do podcasts, I can express ideas out into the world. But big change happens inside. And yet we know by now that you and I and the people who listen to this podcast and your podcast are not enough to affect the rate of change at the speed that we need it at the scale that we need it. How do you internally cross the bridge between internal change and collective change? Does that make sense as a question?
Monty: Yes. Yes. No, I think it’s a very good question. And we kind of have this mantra, I guess, in refi and refi Dao, and that regeneration begins within and that in order to regenerate the earth, we must first regenerate ourselves and, and, and help support people around us to do the same. And and so really, it’s about looking inwards to understand what are the drivers within ourselves that maybe are driving for extractive tendencies for these over maybe overexpressed masculine dominance of power structures and more and consume and I need money and wealth and you know these kind of things and just to to question those those drivers and is that actually what’s creating happiness and flourishing for the world? And so I think that in order to engage in regenerative business and regenerative practices, you have to have unlocked this mindset because otherwise we’re just going to recreate the same extractive systems before, but in new expressions and new contexts and new ways with new technologies, but without actually addressing some of the more systemic fundamental within as well as the systemic, fundamental kind of reality of the external systems that we operate within. And and there’s also a word that external which actually this links to another principle that we kind of look at. And I know you’re very familiar with this idea that we’re actually not separate. We’re both an individual and a whole and part of a much larger whole as well. So rather than seeing us all as distinct individuals that are there to conquer and grab as much resources as we can as individuals, actually seeing us as part of a dense, interconnected web of connections, that that overall, the summation of that is, you know, Gaia. And we can talk about the Gaia hypothesis, but I’m sure all your listeners are maybe aware of that already. But I guess the closest you could you could get to my form of religion would be the guy hypothesis. Yeah, but, but yeah.
Manda: Anyway, okay. And, and because this podcast goes out of my own spiritual focus, I’m not really interested in how that sense of being part of the greater web of life, however we define it. Are you aware internally of how that changes who you are and your behaviour and your relationships? How do you map that internally if you do, this may be too deep a question. It may be too personal, I think see where you go.
Monty: I think what was coming up for me is just how it feels. Me personally, with a deep sense of meaning and of purpose and is is what fundamentally motivates me and interests me. And, you know, I think maybe, you know, humans obviously crave and seek meaning and stories and narratives and we’re constantly kind of making these. And that for me is, is where religion has played such a large role. And then we have actually moved from religion to kind of nation states and other form of structures that we now see our identity within and now actually moving towards kind of networks and communities of people all around the globe where we’re starting to ascribe value and and get meaning from. And for me, I get a real sense of meaning of of feeling a part of this global kind of interconnected organism of which I can hopefully have a meaningful impact on and make make the world a better place. I don’t know. For me, that’s really interesting. And yeah, yeah, it gives me motivation every day and yeah, thank you.
Manda: Yes, that’s really inspiring. And I’m really curious about the breaking down of geographic boundaries and the moving towards a more net based sense of identity. But let’s get to that later. Let’s head in now down the rabbit hole of regenerative finance and regenerative business, because I end up with a kind of internal schism where the word regenerative and the words finance and business are mutually opposing and they’re impossible. And you clearly live in a world where that’s not the case. So can you first unpick what regenerative means for you? So we’ve got our definitions clear and then how is how is it possible to have finance that is regenerative?
Monty: So yeah, in order to kind of understand regeneration, just kind of need to think about the, the dominant terms that we, we hear about today of sustainability. And, and if we think about what sustainability really means, it’s about sustaining our capacity so that we’re not losing and degrading what we already have and sustaining it for future generations. But if we look at the current state of the world, I would say that sustainable is quite a low bar given how much destruction has already gone on and the state that we’re at in terms of our atmosphere, our biodiversity loss, the way our economic and social systems have, have developed. So I think we need to do better than sustainability, and I think we need to need regeneration, which is about how we actually build and improve our resource capacity and create systems that are actively improving and getting better and and developing. So that’s a kind of quick mental mental model.
Manda: Yes. And I just wanted to interject, say, at the same conference where I was talking to Josiah, a wonderful woman called Claire Whittle was on stage and she said we have to drop sustainability because she spoke to somebody recently who said they went home to their partner and asked, How do you think our relationship is? And they said it’s sustainable. You’d be really disappointed.
Monty: So Right, exactly.
Manda: It’s got to and sustainable just effectively for me just means doing slightly less harm. And we’re way beyond the point where we have to actually start healing what has been done. So we’re agreed that regeneration is about recovery and restoration and healing of self and other. I think so then. Now I’m really curious as to how do we apply that in the realms of finance and business in ways that can exist in the hegemonic, neoliberal, predatory capital death cult and still act in regenerative ways?
Monty: Well, that is the question that I’m fascinated about. So so in terms of finance, I look at finance and economics as almost the single greatest coordination tool that humans have ever invented and greatest in terms of impact on the world. Like we all every day, all over the world, make decisions that are influenced by finance, money and economics. And at a giant global level, this invisible hand of market forces seemingly guides human behaviour on a vast scale and does so almost without being conscious of it. People are just kind of operating in this system that’s being driven by finance money and these very complex systems. And and so for me, I think the great area of interest is can we start to think about these systems, reimagine them, redesign them in ways that can have the same giant systemic global impact, but re-orientate them in the direction of not just replication of financial capital for an elite, but instead the creation of holistic wealth. And so we have this model in refi that’s very prevalent and it’s called the eight. Forms of capital. And so it looks at, okay, we’re used to the dominant paradigm. Of financial capital and GDP above all else. But actually, when we think about it more holistically, there’s material capital. You know, the things around us. This table here, a car we have living capital, the natural world, biodiversity, cultural capital, experiential capital, intellectual capital, spiritual capital and social capital. And when we start to look at wealth in this much more holistic way, we can say, okay, where are the areas where some form of financial, not even just financial, it kind of goes a little bit beyond that, just almost coordination mechanisms and and looking at also social and cultural systems that actually help to get us towards this future. So, you know, finance is one part of that. It’s broader than that as well. But also finance is a very important part of that as well because for me, I feel like it’s an area where we can have a real large scale rapid impact if we design these systems smartly and in the right way.
Manda: So let’s just define finance Is finance the markets as in the trading of invisible things across the Internet very, very, very fast in order that a capital accumulates in certain places. Is that what finance is as it stands at the moment, or do you have a broader definition of finance?
Monty: I think that’s probably the dominant mode of finance that we see today. But I think I do see finance more broadly than that in terms of like at its root level, like, you know, when you do like some mental accounting, when you’re with your friends and you say, Oh, you buy this, I’ll buy this, and you kind of try and balance out. So it’s roughly fair on a holiday, you each kind of spend a rough amount. It’s kind of like how you’re obviously when you’re doing that with a friend, you do that on a friendly basis. You’re you’re you’re not going to like ruthlessly account for all of that because you know, your friends and whatever you hope, I mean, maybe some people do. But when we start to think about how humans want to cooperate across social distance, so with our neighbours and even beyond our neighbours, we don’t want to have to go through the mental bandwidth of the time of creating trust networks. And you know, we kind of can’t coordinate beyond that scale. And so for me, finance is a coordination mechanism that allows us to I mean, we’re talking about money here really is a coordination mechanism that allows us to create larger societal organisational structures. And that to me is quite a broad concept. And so how can we redefine that, that concept to be much more regenerative in this holistic sense? That would be my my frame of reference.
Manda: Yeah. This is so exciting. Monty So we’re trying to coordinate something which at its heart, my internal model for finance is still the giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity. And I’m really intrigued as to how you take something whose purpose at the moment is to grow. I was really struck by Zack Stein on the Emerge podcast where they were discussing AI and the whole Eliezer Yudkowsky. You know, it’s just going to switch us all off because we’re all made of atoms it wants to use for something else. And the fear that AI will go rogue and the only thing it will know is how to grow. And we’ll have this incredibly complex system spread across the earth that will destroy everything in its path in pursuit of mindless growth. And Zack said, We have already got that. It’s called capitalism, and we don’t know how to switch that off either. Why are we worrying about the AI when we’re living in something that is doing exactly this and growing exponentially? You know, let’s let’s get real about the problems. So finance or business or whatever we call it at the moment seems to me that it’s beating Heart of the giant vampire squid is to grow. Is to accumulate capital. And how we distribute the capital is a question. And we could choose to distribute the capital in a more equitable manner, but we would still be within a system that was requiring to grow and extract. How how are you? What is your theory of change, of taking the giant vampire squid and turning it into I don’t know what’s a better metaphor. A tree.
Monty: Yeah. So I think this, this, this growth question is really interesting. And for me, I think when we look at capital now with this more holistic framework of living capital, cultural capital, experiential capital, I think there’s clear areas in there where we need significant growth. You know, like we need to reprioritize financial growth towards growth in our living capital, which we’ve depleted. And so for me, I think there’s still a place for growth, but we want to re-orientate growth towards the areas that actually creating holistic value for the world and take away growth from the extractive, destructive industries that are polluting and destroying the world. What if we could say, okay, instead of having 1000 companies that are producing useless plastic toys and consuming all resources for something that’s actually just driving a consumerist machine, that’s making no one happy and extracting from the planet that.
Manda: And creating things that float on the sea and choke everything that lives there.
Monty: Yeah. And that’s at its best, you know. You know, how can we de-growth from those sectors and put growth in towards the regenerative sectors? Okay. And so that’s what I’m interested in. And, and of course then looking at it through the, through the model of Kate Raworth and General Economics, I think one of the brilliant insights for me is, is, you know, you want to obviously operate within that doughnut because within the doughnut is where you have an insufficiency of of your basic needs being met. And beyond the doughnut is where you’re reaching planetary boundaries and we’re going beyond our capacity. So you obviously want to to have an economy that is within this doughnut. Of course, we’re not there at the moment, but the crucial insight for me is once you’re within this doughnut, you can actually grow the doughnut itself. And through enhancers in technological advancements and efficiency and the way we manage and balance and use resources, we can grow the size of the doughnut, improve the Earth’s regenerative capacity. And that creates a larger pie for all, which is, again, I think it’s it’s realigning growth within the planetary boundaries. So that’s yeah, that’s how I maybe would look at growth.
Manda: Wow. I’m really intrigued about growing the doughnut. I’m not fully understanding because for me the safe operating space has a hard lower boundary in that you don’t want to drop below basic human material, social, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. And the outer rim is defined by, I thought, hard physical constants of the boundaries that we are currently breaking quite spectacularly. The new Stockholm Resilience Centre diagram of of the boundaries that we’ve exceeded since they first did it in 2009 is, is frankly terrifying. And within that, those two is our safe operating space. In your model, where’s the flexibility for growth? Where does the growth happen?
Monty: Yeah. So so if you look at the current world, we have, like you say, this resource capacity of the earth, right? But what we’ve actually been doing is, is extracting from its resource capacity when we destroy a rainforest or implement some extractive model where we’re degrading the soil, suddenly there’s less productive capacity to then continue producing more food. And so so actually by regenerating our Earth’s resource capacity, that’s one way.
Manda: Okay, so we build soil, then we have more soil. Yes. Yes. Okay.
Monty: Yes. And another way would be say we take the example of AI and we 100 x our productivity. If we 100 x our productivity in regeneration, then we can suddenly, you know, consume vastly less resources. And so therefore we’ve actually grown the size of the doughnut because we’re individually consuming less resources, because we’ve made our societies more efficient through the use of technology in a kind of productive way that’s actually in alignment with people on the planet. Okay? And so, yeah, those for me would be two different paths of maybe how we grow the size of the doughnut, essentially. Okay.
Manda: So brilliant. Thank you. This makes a lot more sense. How does that happen then? Because the capacity of let’s, let’s move into AI because it’s a bit of a hot button at the moment. If it increases by 100 times the capacity of extraction, we are we are 100 times faster doomed, which is not not a happy thought. If if instead it increases by 100 times or 1000 times or exponentially beyond our capacity to measure times our regenerative capacity, that’s grand. What’s your theory of change? Of flipping the direction of travel? Because at the moment the the overwhelming majority of finance business, the the death cult is a death cult. It does want to grow because politicians can only measure things in GDP and for some reason they’re still in charge. Why? I have a theory of change that gets rid of them quite fast. Um, how how are you seeing this happen in a timescale at work?
Monty: Yes. So so my my theory of change there is within reify this field regenerative finance. The reify abbreviation specifically relates to the use of advanced technologies, whether it’s web3, blockchains, AI measurement, reporting, verification, technologies, satellite, remote sensing, all of these advanced technologies, how we can utilise these in pursuit of building this next generation regenerative system. And I think part of what’s so exciting to me is the power that these technologies unlock is it allows us to build and experiment with these entirely new systems that we can just start we can start trying to build these if the governments and the corporations and, you know, people aren’t doing it, then then we need to do it right. And so what does it look like to start creating regenerative economic systems, regenerative communities, you know, regenerative social, economic, environmental systems, creating a network of these all over the globe. And suddenly you know, growing that network so that more people and resources are being channelled into this new regenerative paradigm. And it feels to me that’s a way we can almost like instead of just attacking the old system, which you’re just going to receive an equal and opposite, if not greater force back to try and squash you. What if instead we can we can grow our own movement, right? And actually part of our thesis as well is really creating bridges with the conventional industries, world governments, corporations, to start to bring them into the structures, into the thinking. And obviously that requires a different pathway for different people and different groups. But, you know, that’s been definitely one of our core thesises and we have we’ve done a network of about 70 events across the globe in communities all over the globe that are talking about regenerative finance and this whole emerging ecosystem and starting to try and build bridges to local municipalities, NGOs, corporations, whatever is in that locality, to start to have the conversation of how do we build a regenerative economy and and get ourselves out of this total mess that we’re in. So, okay, there’s no guarantees that that’s going to work, but.
Manda: It’s got to be worth.
Monty: Trying. It’s got to be worth trying. And so that’s that’s what we’re here to do.
Manda: This is pure Buckminster Fuller with the way to to break a system is not to attack the old system. It’s to create the new system that makes the old one obsolete. And you’re actually doing it. Monty could not be more excited trying. We’re trying, but you’re trying and. And you’re trying with the absolute cutting edge latest technology, which itself as you know, I’m assuming you’re at the point where whatever version of AI you’re speaking to, GPT or Lama or Vulcan or something that you’ve grown on your own is capable now of recursively helping you to do this. If you give it the value set, it can help to do this, and that’s beyond exciting. So so can you tell us, first of all, can you explain for people of small intellectual capacity, which starts with me what a Dao is and how it works? And then let’s explore how this is happening in real time in the world.
Monty: Absolutely. So, yeah, we’ve explored the refi side a little bit of refi Dao, so maybe it makes sense to, to, to explore the Dao side a little bit. So wow. Yeah. Dao’s Dao stands for Decentralised Autonomous Organisation, and it was an innovation that was brought about with the development of these cryptocurrencies. You know, you’ve heard of Bitcoin. Next came Ethereum, which allowed you to actually create not just money on top of these blockchain networks, but actual new types of organisational structures. And so it might make sense to, to, to explain blockchain and web3 a little bit.
Manda: If you can explain blockchain in a way people will understand will be in your debt forever.
Monty: Monte Okay, let me give you a go. So imagine we can take the example almost of creating a network of, of value and, and so imagine like if you’re trying to maintain a database of transactions that have gone on and, and you had an Excel spreadsheet and you were recording, I sent you $5 in my Excel spreadsheet, right? If I own the Excel spreadsheet on my computer, how are you going to know if I just tweak the numbers a little bit and gone? No, actually, I owed $10. You owe me $10 and you’ve got your own version of the spreadsheet that you’re owned on your computer and you can suddenly tweak the numbers and change the data. And. And then how are those two spreadsheets talking to each other in a way that’s trustful because they both could have completely different versions of the reality of how value has been exchanged or what transactions have gone on or what data has been put on there. Has the data been changed? So that’s a centralised database, right? It has one version of the truth that exists locally. And so a blockchain is really a way to say, okay, how can we create a database where everyone maintains their Excel spreadsheet? Right? If you think about it in that way.
Monty: But they’re all talking to each other. They’re interconnected in order to update the Excel spreadsheet to say this thing has happened, everyone needs to agree in this peer to peer network, and then the entire global state goes, okay, this transaction has happened. We all recognise it. We’ve reached consensus as to what’s happened. And so if we’re trying to keep track of whether it’s a financial network, but also the state of our ecosystems, you know, if we’re saying, okay, this tree has been chopped down and you know, we need to reach a consensus that that tree has actually been chopped down. And so we need to collect multiple sources of of data that verify that that tree has been chopped down. And then we can update this global database, this blockchain of parties that goes, okay, we all agree that that tree is no longer there and then that is in the global ledger, the blockchain, right? And so really you can just think about blockchain as a technology infrastructure similar to the Internet that is more peer to peer that actually allows you to reach consensus on the truth within that network, i.e. the state of transactions, the state of the data, the state of the participants within that network. So I hope that wasn’t does that.
Manda: And, and you can’t go back and change it because you would have to change it simultaneously on an almost infinite number of separate machines. Right. And that’s a logistical impossibility until we come up with quantum computers, right?
Monty: So those are the kind of classical properties that that people mentioned Blockchain has. It’s immutable, i.e. exactly what you mentioned. You can’t change the state of it just because of your whims. There’s a high level of transparency because anyone can see and look in the global state of what’s happened within that network and it’s peer to peer and has a few other interesting properties as a technology. So at the base layer, that’s blockchain, and then on top of that becomes more and more layers of things that you can start to build on this new global substrate of a technology infrastructure similar to the internet. You can imagine an Internet as a protocol, and then we build all of the things that we do on the Internet today is built on top of that base layer protocol. So this new blockchain protocol just has some new new primitives of being more transparent, immutable, that allows us to build new forms of applications, of value, of networks, of organisations on top of these new infrastructures.
Manda: I want to let you go deeper into that, but I have some real baseline questions first. Yes. Is everything based on Ethereum now or is there a new set of blocks? And if so, without losing people? Bitcoin was proof of work. Ethereum is not proof of work if we are heading into a world. So this is a big if. I am quite powerfully influenced by Simon Michaux, who reckons that we are using 19 terawatts rolling at any given point. There is not the material flow available to create 19 rolling terawatts globally in a way that is renewable. There isn’t, for instance, enough copper in the world mineable in the timeframe. If we’re going to have to shrink our power use quite significantly. Does the entirety of the blockchain require extraordinary amounts of power? It’s not going to require Bitcoin amounts of power, but does it still require very large quantities of power to keep it? Is that a potential rate limiting step?
Monty: The simple answer is no. We’ve actually solved that problem in the blockchain space. There’s still obviously some public perception, I guess, that’s come from the legacy of blockchains, of of you’re right, the first version of this infrastructure came from Bitcoin. That was the inception of blockchain technology, and it leveraged this proof of work algorithm that required a very computationally resource intensive network of miners that you might have heard of that consume vast amounts of power and hardware, the actual physical hardware to maintain that network. Ethereum was the next iteration or next major iteration of blockchain, and that then recently has upgraded to this new mechanism that all of the other major blockchains are now using called Proof of Stake, which is is just so minimally electricity consuming that it’s not worth talking about because we can we operate on the Internet that consumes just as much electricity as blockchain networks will do. And so the technology has moved on to the point where it’s actually very, very efficient in terms of energy use. And part of the whole refi space that I’m a part of is is making sure that we are directly measuring the the carbon and electricity impact of these networks and of other Internet protocols and trying to obviously minimise that as a base layer, but also creating regenerative blockchains. So one of the interesting blockchains that I’m a huge fan of is called Celo. And Celo is, is a carbon negative blockchain, Cielo and Celo blockchain, and it’s a carbon negative Ethereum compatible blockchain. So with every transaction that is submitted on the network, the carbon impact is actually negative. So you’re actually removing carbon from the atmosphere just from you. So imagine every time you’re browsing the web, carbon is being absorbed into the earth, right?
Manda: Instead of being the equivalent of driving from here to Glasgow and back, which pretty much every every search on, on Google’s enormous services, right?
Monty: Every email you send, for example, imagine every email you send is actually reducing carbon in the world.
Manda: How does Celo do this?
Monty: So so they were one of the pioneers of proof of stake, this incredibly energy efficient blockchain architecture. But they also have always embraced refi protocols, projects, initiatives. And so the majority of of projects building on their chain are refi regenerative aligned and essentially how blockchains work is in order to maintain the validity of the network and verify all of the different things going on. And there’s a very small transaction fee that is charged on each kind of transaction on the network fractions of a penny, but the sum of that over the entire network creates a form of economic machine that then that can then be utilised to then build more public goods for the network. So in this sense, there we will reinvest that money into building more tech infrastructure that benefits the entire network of projects that are building on that. And so a portion of that recurring kind of stuff is going towards the regenerative initiatives that are utilising celo’s technology. So carbon credits, ecological credits, these kind of things. So that actually just by operating within that chain, you are having a positive impact. And so that’s a pretty foundational innovation in my view.
Manda: Yeah, totally. And I’ve just found celo blockchain and I will put it in the show notes for people. So this is fascinating. I would really like to go further down the rabbit hole of of how proof of stake works, but I’m also aware that that’s probably not interesting to the majority of listeners. So let’s take ourselves back up a level. Assume that this does work, that some very bright people, including you, have really thought about this and it’s going somewhere. So you have refi Dao. What does it do? How does it do it and how is it working? And where are the edge points where it contacts the real world? Answer any of those in any order you like. Yeah.
Monty: Absolutely. So I think maybe it makes sense to just go back to the beginning of Dao a little bit. And so I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast that there was this moment when the kind of refi space was born and it really happened. I think at this point where there was some initial refi protocols called Toucan Protocol and Kalima Dao and which essentially created this way for onboarding carbon credits and which are there’s, there’s today an existing market for carbon where you can buy and retire carbon credits to offset your impact or basically provide funding for projects that are sequestering carbon across the globe. And so this exists in a legacy and we can talk about that because it’s a very interesting market of which, you know, there’s a there’s a lot of nuance there. But but essentially what happened is there was this moment when they created the infrastructure to bring this legacy carbon market that existed on chain and the mechanisms that they created they thought would, okay, maybe a couple thousand credits will be bridged. What ended up happening is in the tens of millions of credits were bridged in the first few months. Billions of dollars worth of volume of these traditional carbon credits came on chain. And suddenly these legacy institutions, Verra gold standard, who were operating these carbon markets were like, Holy crap, Like, they’ve suddenly created this mechanism and they’re sweeping all of these carbon credits and bringing them on chain.
Monty: And and there was this mass of interest from people all over the globe who were like, Wow, suddenly this this protocol has created this global disruption to this legacy market that was frankly failing to deliver the impact that that is promised. And, you know, it’s not to say that actually the the new system that was instantly created by Toucan and Kalima solved the problems. But what it did do is is definitely go a lot of cord a lot of people’s attention to and highlighted shone a torch on some of the problems of these legacy markets and began the conversation and the emergence of this refi ecosystem of and a whole array of different people projects, founders, investors, builders who were starting to come towards this and go, okay, what does it mean to build regenerative systems, to redesign these systems in a way that’s actually going to create positive impact, that’s going to have greater transparency, accountability and within these systems and try and re-orientate them in that direction. So that’s that’s that was the start of this refi journey.
Manda: Okay. And this feels like we might be about to create a whole new podcast and that we could go now on for many more hours than I thought. But as briefly as you can, can we unpick a little bit about the carbon credits? Because carbon credits in my world are, are evidence of greenwash. They’re, they’re big companies going, it’s okay, we can continue to sell you the plastic tat that you don’t really need because hey, we ploughed up some prime farm land in North Shropshire and planted, you know, rows of Sitka spruce and the ploughing alone released more CO2 than the trees will ever actually sequester. But it’s okay because somebody somewhere gave us a tick in a box. And now we can say that we’re all green. Yes, I am guessing that you guys are way beyond that. So first of all, I would like to unpick a little bit about carbon credits as a concept, but also how does shifting them from the world of legacy finance, where basically people are just pouring billions into polishing up their halos? How does shifting that onto the blockchain help it to become regenerative?
Monty: Yes. Okay. There’s a there’s definitely a lot to unpack here, but I can give my best high level summation of my thoughts around this, this concept. So I think one of the interesting ways of looking at it is imagine I own a plot of land. Say it’s a forest plot of land, right? My my choices are currently economically, we need to survive. You know, we need to have our needs met. And and there is a kind of economic incentive is okay, I can I need how can I make this land productive? I’m going to chop down the trees, sell the lumber extract from it. I’m going to maybe do some intensive agriculture on there. I’m going to do any way I can to extract value from this piece of land. And so our current economic systems are completely geared towards the extractive capabilities we can gather from the land. And unless, in my view, unless we flip those incentives so that the actual natural capital, the trees, the biodiversity, the soil health, the air quality actually has value, not just intersubjective value, but actually our economic systems are starting to recognise that value and reward the local land stewards who are looking after that land and things like that. Then then that’s where we can really scale this regenerative paradigm to a network of people all over the globe who are who are actually doing the. Lack of regeneration on the ground, stewarding the land, protecting it, regenerating it. They need to be compensated, frankly. And for me, if designed in the right ways, carbon credits and other forms of ecological assets going beyond just carbon, but looking at air, soil, water, biodiversity, even equity and social considerations.
Monty: All of that can be considered in the creation of new financial assets that are actually getting more financial value to people on the ground who are stewarding and regenerating. But the current legacy of those markets are extremely broken and the authenticity, i.e. how can you actually verify the impact that’s happening is the transparency has been terrible and there’s been lots of fraud and scams and the impact just actually isn’t happening on the ground in a lot of cases and is questionable methodologies. So that side, there’s a whole lot of innovation going on within this refi space about how do we actually accurately measure, report and verify the impact that’s happening. And then on the market side, it’s like, okay, well, if we actually the legacy problem has been these credits are too cheap and and you have these abundance of poor quality credits for super cheap and then big corporates are just scooping up large amounts of cheap credits and then claiming to be carbon neutral. Of course, that’s totally broken and backward and that needs to be fixed. And so Reifies exploration is okay. How can we redesign these markets in a way that they are actually a positive force on the environment? They are creating economic incentives for companies to actually change rather than just greenwash. And at the same time, they’re providing financial support for land stewards and people on the ground and communities that are that are actually doing the work of regeneration.
Manda: I’m saying this repeatedly. I’m beginning to sound like a parrot, but this is genuinely, really exciting. And the fact that this is presumably happening at scale with super bright people. Is is fascinating. How do you get to the point where let’s assume that we’re talking to a global. I’m trying to be careful and not get us shut down. A global purveyor of carbonated sugar water that happens to be dark brown. And there are two of those at least, which are identical. And in the conversation with them, in my world, the conversation goes, guys, you need not to be selling carbonated sugar water. It’s not good for anybody. And there is not a single way that you could ever make this actually a regenerative product. It is, by its nature, destroying people’s health in in their consumption of it and destroying the planet in your production of it. Or we could talk to a giant multinational that is is buying up huge carbon credits around here in order to grow chickens in the chicken equivalent of Auschwitz, where life is hell from the moment they hatch out of the egg to the moment when they’re slaughtered. But and produces huge amounts of of effluent that is destroying the rivers. There is no model in which this company any of these companies their. End product needs to be in the world. They need to cease to exist or they need to be producing something very different. How do we how do we bridge that gap? Maybe it’s a gap too far. Yeah.
Monty: So so for me, I think they’re separate issues. Okay. I think one is an issue, like you say, of should these companies be operating? They’re not having a positive impact on society. Et cetera. Et cetera. And the other one is saying, okay, well, can we create a financial system that is creating the incentives that they are forced to to change and do better? And and that it’s redirecting some of their, you know, and rechanneling resources and wealth into regenerative systems. And so for an example, if carbon credits didn’t cost $2 a ton but cost $200 a ton and companies had to accurately report and verify on their carbon emissions and pay for the negative impact of those carbon emissions are having. You can bet your bottom dollar that they’re going to think, Oh damn, now we actually need to innovate and move away from the current systems that we’re operating because we’re not going to be we’re not going to be able to survive. If not. And so suddenly you’ve created this giant global incentive for companies all over the globe to shift how they’re operating. And and and then all of the money that that also generates can be then channelled into regenerative projects. And you again, you have this chance to try and shift the paradigm without doing it in the way of saying, I’m not going to. Okay.
Manda: Carbonated sugar water.
Monty: You suck. You know, everything you do is bad. And we need we need to destroy you. And they’re just going to go cool. We’re willy nilly. Exactly. Yes, yes, yes.
Manda: You don’t you don’t change by assaulting the existing system. You change by creating the new one that makes it obsolete. So this is in the realm of carbon credits, and yet we know we’re in the middle of a meta crisis. And it’s not all just about the carbon. There are a whole other bunch of things, social and web of life related that we need to measure. Are those gaining a similar level of global impact and are there people looking at how do we measure the complexity of things? Because it seems if we’re not careful, carbon becomes a linear lever in in a hyper complex system. And and that’s never worked well and it isn’t going to work well now. Are there ways of addressing this at a systemic level so that we’re looking at complex feedback loops?
Monty: Absolutely. Yeah. So this is a topic of great interest to me. We have this model called the Carbon Tunnel vision, which is exactly as described. Everyone’s laser focussed on carbon and ignoring the interconnected web of challenges that it’s related to and is deeply connected to. And we can’t just focus on carbon. We need to have this more holistic picture. And so one of the really promising initiatives that I’m a part of that actually is just emerging publicly now is called the Ecological Benefits Framework. So I’ve been part of an activator. It’s run by a non-profit called The Lexicon. The activator itself has has been funded by Google and the World Health Organisation and has serious high level alignment. And basically the activators process was to bring together people in diverse sectors and disciplines from carbon markets, from ESG, from refi, from payment for ecosystem services, from all of these different sectors, and actually try and realign this framework towards an ecological benefits framework that isn’t just carbon, but is actually looking at biodiversity, air quality, water quality, soil equity and carbon. And those six kind of ecological benefits are really at the root of any environmental project or impact initiative that you can really think of. And I will challenge anyone to think of a of a positive impact initiative or project that you couldn’t express its impact in those six factors because that’s what you get when you get to the core.
Monty: The real core of everything is those six ecological benefits of impact on the planet. And so if we can realign and create frameworks that actually account for that and measure that and create interoperability between those, that really allows us to re-orientate these markets, these systems, positive impact ESG towards this next level kind of understanding. And for me, the way I’m the way I’m sitting and the way I’m looking at it, I really think that this is going to be the lexicon and the methodologies that replace the current dominant paradigms around ESG, which are deeply flawed, and carbon markets, again, deeply flawed. I think we’re going to be hearing a lot more about the ecological benefits framework in the coming years. And and the carbon markets are very primed for this to happen because they’ve collapsed since the Guardian article and other kind of discrediting their validity. Like rightly so, they were broken and that’s been very much aired now. And so the markets are very much in search of what is. Going to be next. And there’s a lot of energy around biodiversity credits. Now, but actually, I think the next step is this holistic look of ecological benefits as a whole and redesigning and reorientating around that.
Manda: Right on the assumption that the equity part is equity for the human and more than human world and the generations yet unborn, I am assuming. Yes. Wow. Yes. So much I want to cover Monte and I’m aware of the time we.
Monty: Might need to get to Refied out because we’ve been. Yeah, okay.
Manda: But I have one question before we do which is hidden in amongst there was companies will be required legally required to report on on whatever it is that we’re measuring that requires a legislative framework and that requires political change. And at the moment we now exist in the best democracy money can buy, which is a kleptocracy which is run by people who definitely don’t want legislation of this sort coming forward. Is that an edge at which you guys are? You seem to be working at every other edge. Are you working at this edge, too?
Monty: Yes. I mean, I totally agree with you. It’s a very difficult challenge to make that leap from, okay, we’ve developed these really interesting ideas and are starting to operate them to, okay, we can actually flip the dominant paradigm and and, you know, change things in that way. And so, you know, the way we’re looking at it and approaching it is is trying to form bridges with that with that conventional world. And so having the conversation with municipalities, with lawmakers, with, you know, founders, CEOs, you know, high impact people and starting to have these conversations and bring them towards this new paradigm. Because for me, that feels like the only way we can start to actually get them on side so that we actually have a force of people who are who have a connection to that conventional world but are actually also change agents. And so that’s why we’re talking about doing events where we bring different peoples together and explore these concepts. And I think refi is quite an open term to explore that where you can actually start to speak their language of finance and of these conventional systems, but just show them how the dominant models that are being operated are just not sustainable for anyone. They’re going to destroy a lot of things, even for for that group of people.
Manda: So there is no profit to be made in a dead world, but.
Monty: Well, exactly.
Manda: There we go. That seems to be a step beyond their comprehension. Okay, so now we’re getting to the question that I asked you nearly an hour ago, which is what is refund out and how does it work? So tell us about what you’re doing in the world, Monty, because this feels like the cutting edge.
Monty: Yes. So so refi Dao really. Like I say, it emerged during this time when a whole bunch of interest momentum founders, investors, builders were coming into this space called refi and and we really needed I think there was a real need for for a way of bringing that community together and fostering a sense of of culture and community and, and, and support for that ecosystem. And so one of the first things we did was founder circles and bringing groups of clusters together that maybe there was a circular economy circle and a renewable energy circle, a carbon market circle who are experimenting and thinking about these new tools and how to create new systems that re-orientated towards this regenerative system. And so that emerged with then a podcast and a blog and an online community of people connecting a network of events across the globe with our Reef Spring did 70 events across the globe in these communities all over the place to start to have the refi conversation and speak to people on the ground who are ultimately going to be using and interacting with these protocols. If you’re a farmer in Kenya, you need to understand how you can use refi to make a living regenerating the soil or doing regenerative agriculture or whatever activity you’re doing. And so we actually need communities of support within local places all over the globe. And so with this realisation, Reef Dao evolved into becoming this kind of network society, a a society of societies in a way.
Monty: So we have this global online community that is the reef ecosystem made up of all of these different people, founders, builders who are experimenting with and implementing these reef solutions. And then we have this network of local communities, we call them local nodes who are operating all over the globe and who are trying to implement these solutions on the ground and and create communities of support to implement regenerative and reef solutions. So, you know, we have Reef Lisbon, Reef, Berlin Reef, New York Reef, Bangalore reef nodes all over Africa, all over South America. We have about 30 to 40 of these nodes. Now, the boundary of them is is quite fluid. But yeah, about 30 or 40 of these nodes in communities all across the globe that are starting to to gather regularly. Have meetups, events and form a community of people who are interested and building towards this regenerative future. And yeah, we’re the real thesis of bringing together a diverse group of people on the ground in that locality that can start to implement these solutions on the ground. And then at the same time having this global coordination layer that is the refi Dao that is able to share resources among that network to support in various ways, produce educational resources, source funding for various parts of the network and produce tools and services that are going to help the network thrive. And so, yeah, that’s, that’s a bit of an overview of where we’re currently at and how we’re operating, but.
Manda: And people can join this.
Monty: Yeah, absolutely.
Manda: Do you have to be blockchain literate to join this?
Monty: So our current community is quite focussed on how we’re using these advanced technologies and tools to, you know, create the change, right? But you don’t need to be necessarily in that realm because one of our explicit things we’re trying to do is, is bring those kind of slightly more techie orientated people in partnership with the people on the ground, with people from other disciplines and diverse kind of thoughts, and bring those together so that actually you can co-create the systems with this diversity of perspectives, of skills, of knowledge, of resources. So the person who’s doing regenerative agriculture, the person who’s a sustainability professional, who’s X, Y, Z, if you bring all those group together and have these facilitated structured communities, that can actually start to leverage these advanced technologies, but do it in a way that is actually with the people and with a diversity of viewpoints for how best to to utilise and implement that. Then that, I think, is where the real value lies is breaking out of this techie crypto refi web3 bubble and, and doing it, you know, having conversations with, with real people I guess.
Manda: Different different.
Monty: People, different.
Manda: People and, and bringing them on board so that the web3 refi bubble doesn’t seem as alien, I guess. Yes. These seem at the moment quite geographically labelled. You gave us geographical locations. One of the things that I’ve begun to understand and perhaps wrong about Daos is that they’re not specifically oriented towards physical nation state boundaries, that there is a sense of creating communities that are of purpose and passion rather than necessarily just of place. Is that accurate?
Monty: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s all bound into creating global networks of communities of people who identify and gather around a concept and a vision and a value set. In our sense, it’s the diverse, holistic value set of regeneration in all of its forms that people are resonating with. Maybe have a have a deep sense of identity with that goes beyond their maybe individualistic national identities. And I personally feel a deep sense of identity and recognition of of this global community, of people who are who are thinking in this way and wanting to build solutions for a better future. And I think that goes beyond the traditional boundaries of a state and a nation that we traditionally think of. And in a sense, it’s almost like building a new nation of people all over the globe who share a sense of national identity, of culture, of mission, of purpose, of vision. And but then, but then having unique localised expressions of that in their locality. So a local founder in in Nairobi is building a community that’s connected to these ideas of regeneration that being propagated at the global level, but implementing that locally on the ground in whatever way that looks like to them and their context, whether it’s a redesigning their local waste systems, you know, acquiring land to regenerate the land and plant biodiverse forests and and at the same time be able to interact with defi protocols that allow him to create a living by doing that. And so, yeah, that’s I think this this real sense that we’re we’re creating a kind of network nation in some ways a coordination is emerging. So that’s something of deep interest to me as well.
Manda: And it’s a regenerative network nation because up until now the sense I had of interconnected web based. Globalisation, if you like, was that it had a very libertarian, not terribly regenerative focus. And yet it feels to me if we go back into human history, you know, 300,000 years of human evolution was not based on linear boundaries that you drew on a map and different patriarchal forces choosing to line their tanks up on either side of those boundaries and and defend them to the death of lots of people who generally weren’t the people making the decision. That’s a very new way of humanity, organising what is us and what is them. And what I’m hearing from you is that there is a regenerative way of breaking the traditional Hobbesian nation state boundaries such that they really don’t matter anymore, and instead we can have localised units of regeneration with our perhaps Dunbar number of people, which is 150. For those listening ish, thereabouts, the number of people with whom you can create personal local within walking distance connections, but that these Dunbar units are then connected on a global scale, which feels much more what our what we evolved to connect with a global world where where we can connect with the web of life in a way that feels like we’re part of a much larger whole. And what you are creating, it seems to me, is an electronic web that potentially could mirror or perhaps mimic or it won’t ever be as hyper complex as the actual web of life, but it’s going to be incredibly complex. Is is that a vision that you hold, or am I just projecting my own ideas onto it?
Monty: No, that’s absolutely it. It’s this cosmological network of people that are yeah, like you say, operating locally, but part of this global community. And yeah, I think we could we could very briefly I know we’re running up at the end touch on go for it on on this big topic of of nation states and network states and and just just a very high level overview of of the kind of dominant paradigm of this Westphalian nation state that we know of backed up by the monopoly of violence, the sovereignty of nation states, the kind of structures that we operate in on that level that have been built up over many years and become this dominant paradigm. And recently there’s there’s been this kind of book called The Network State by Baloji and Sorensen. I can’t remember his surname, I can’t pronounce it even. But this idea of a network state that was beyond physical boundaries and it was actually this highly aligned online community that has a capacity for collective action that crowdfunds territory around the world and eventually gains diplomatic recognition from pre-existing states as a state operating alongside these Westphalian nation states, but in a new form. But his conception of network states is deeply problematic. In many ways. It is rooted in libertarian, techno, dystopian kind of ideology and is is yeah, is really a replication of many of the problems that we already have on steroids. Yeah. And so it’s actually quite scary in a lot of ways. But the model that we’re exploring and there is an emerging kind of body of work around is this creation of new network sovereignties or these coordination like structures that are exactly as you mentioned, they’re a network of people who are meeting in their local communities but actually feel part of this global network and are starting to create institutional and institutional structures that are interweaving and inter lapping with other networks, communities, organisations and implementing these, you know, doing collective action on the ground.
Monty: So a kind of quick definition of this term that’s being introduced by Primavera and and others from Blockchain Gov, which is a research organisation in this space. And they, they have defined this term of a coordination as a as an alternative to biology’s network state and to the West Indian nation states that we’re used to. And so they define coordinations as voluntary, interwoven networks of communities with aligned values and a shared identity. So we have maybe a community here in France and a community here in Africa that actually are very aligned in their maybe in their values and their identity and their culture and in some ways, and they choose to voluntarily into interwove and interconnect their networks and share mutualised resources, support one another and engage in collective action together. And so, yeah, and then you imagine what we’re building this network of these communities all over the globe, in countries, in every continent and in countries, in every continent. And these are communicating and have a shared culture and alignment, and they’re then ultimately neutralising resources to redistribute them within the network to. Engage in collective action through participatory governance and have a form of interdependency between all of these global communities in a way that allows them to coordinate that actually hopefully creates a huge positive impact. So yeah, that that’s our, that’s our vision and, and yeah.
Manda: Gosh, there are so many doors opening. I think we do have to stop. I have I have one last question. Well, I have several, but on particularly, I love the idea of coordination, but we discussed this with Grace Rahmani on the podcast last spring in a little detail, and I’ve thought about it since. The nature of this is that if there are. Usually alt right, racist, neo fascist communities. They too can form their little networks. I guess it feels a little bit like being on Mastodon, which I guess in your world is probably ancient technology, but it feels quite new to me where I’m on a server that is linked to lots of other servers with similar values and they just block the alt right servers. We never get to hear them. There is no sense of being trolled like there is on Twitter because we just don’t talk to them and we don’t know they exist, which is nice and makes my ecosystem as in echo chamber and ecosystem, feel good. But I have no idea what they’re talking about. And it might be really difficult and it might be. It seems to me that in your world you’re making real efforts to bridge across communities in the coordination space. How does that work?
Monty: Yeah, it’s a really good point, and I think that’s very much the difference as well between network states and this concept of coordination that is being proposed. Network states are very much like claim our territory. I only want to not only just communicate but actually live and work with only people who think similarly to me and will actually just acquire land and live in our isolated echo chamber. So bringing that echo chamber.
Manda: Machine gun towers to all the corners and drones around the outside.
Monty: Right, exactly. So it’s it’s that kind of vibe. Whereas these coordinations are going, okay, how can we create overlapping sovereignties? Can we create how do we how do we fit within the prevailing institutions and how can we use our coordination capacity to to exercise voice as opposed to exit? So instead of trying to just exit from all of the nation based structures that we currently have and say, I’m going to form my own one, it’s okay. How can we actually coordinate in a way that allows us to use our voice effectively to create the change within these systems? And so for me, that’s really exciting because if you think about if you’re looking back at the kind of history of of these alternative hippy alternative economics and sustainability movements, you kind of have these almost quite isolated pockets of people who have really radical, interesting ideas about how they’re going to change the world and implement these new things. But they’re they’re too isolated and fragmented and to the point where they don’t actually have the impact that they want because they aren’t connected in a way that allows them to exert enough political, economic, social pressure in a way or influence that allows them to enact that change. Whereas now with the technologies that we have and the tools that we have, and with these new organisational structures of a coordination, we can hopefully align all of these people all around the world and coordinate in a way that allows us to interconnect and yeah, actually exert the power and the influence and the change in this direction that we want to see. And of course that is a double edged sword because you’re right, people can use that same model and start to exert that power and influence in a negative direction. But of course, that’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re here to build the regenerative paradigm.
Manda: No, but that’s the nature of allowing people to be people. You can’t tell them they can’t. Or we just turn into another iteration of the old paradigm that tries to nail people to the ground. Okay. A final, final question really is the final one. It seems it feels to me that at the edges of this and let me take a step back, it feels to me that one of the reasons why denial and despair are people’s default modes is because we are the pretend nothing is changing. Or we say, Well, it’s way too late, we’re all going to die anyway, is because they’re not being offered routes to a regenerative future and that this does offer a route through that is plausible. It doesn’t say we’re going to switch off the death cult and we’re going to grow something new the next microsecond. So don’t worry, guys, you’re not going to fall off the cliff. It says you who have the billions sitting around that you want to do stuff here is something that you two could get on board with and it would be okay. Which which is exactly what we need. Are you seeing perhaps not the household names yet, but the the one step back from the household names of people who are sitting on their dragons hoards beginning to look at this and go, yeah, my kids would actually like me if I was involved in what you’re doing. Is is that a thing?
Monty: Yes. Well, we’re we’re potentially opening a whole big can of worms here because there’s been a huge debate recently because institutional corporations have started to engage with the refi space. And and there’s been this very controversial move that happened, which is Shell have been investing heavily in web3 and refi and starting to to put money towards it. And, yeah, it’s been a hugely controversial debate as to like how we engage with these kind of actors. What happens, you know, should we accept the money, what in what terms and what ways? And and so yeah, Shell provided a match funding sponsorship to this protocol called Gitcoin, which is like a crowdfunding platform for many different web3 refi protocols. And so it’s a very difficult question and everyone has a different take on the boundaries and the kind of ways of. Doing that. But yeah, I don’t think we can get too deep into the weeds there. But basically that’s at the very controversial end. But then there’s obviously this much more middle ground where we’re okay engaging with political actors and stuff in a way that is aligned, that is bringing them with us, that is kind of trying to re-orientate some of that capital, some of that power, some of that intellectual capacity towards this regenerative paradigm. But it’s a very contextual kind of thing that looks different and everyone has their own lines as to what that should look like and how it is enacted. But I think it is essential because the only way we can do this.
Manda: Yeah, because if you don’t get Shell and Exxon and Musk and the others on board, we are. This isn’t just conceptual and philosophical. We’re hitting hard geophysical boundaries. And if they can, you know, if it were the case and I’m guessing this was probably under Van Biden rather than the new CEO. But anyway, you know, there was a point when the guy who headed Shell at least thought of himself as being part of the solution. Whether we agree with him or not is an entirely other question.
Monty: There are great people within these corporations and these organisations. It’s easy to think of them as one giant homogenous entity that is totally evil.
Manda: No, no, absolutely.
Monty: And that’s very, very understandable view. But of course there are within those those organisations, there are genuine people who want to enact change and who, who have really good intentions. So yeah.
Manda: And, and if you could reorient, we’re just picking shell because it’s there, but reorient the whole of something that is to the rest of us. So obviously an integral part of the problem that the theory of change which allows that to happen is is striking and astonishing and potentially might veer the bus away from the edge of the cliff in time. So I can see. But but the other half of me is going, no, no, don’t touch Shell’s money. It’s dirty. Just don’t because they’re going to try and take us over and destroy everything. So yeah.
Monty: And also, as long as we’re not being used as a vehicle to further enact their greenwash and they’re throwing us some pennies to then say to their shareholders, Look, we aren’t having this negative impact. Look, our.
Manda: Halo is sparkly. Yeah, right, exactly. And very likely both are happening. Yes. I mean, that’s the thing. There are good people in Shell and there are completely venal people in Shell. Both are true. And and it’s possible that the same event is polished two different ways by them. So. Exactly. Wow. Okay. Let’s not go too deep into the weeds, Monty. This has been genuinely, enormously inspiring and I want to stop everything else that I’m doing and immerse myself in this more. Is there anything else you would like to say to people for whom this is probably genuinely the first time they’ve heard any of this? Is there anything else you want in finishing?
Monty: Yeah, I think I’d just invite anyone listening who found this conversation interesting too, to check out some of the resources and the stuff online that you can learn more if that’s what’s interesting to you. So we have a podcast called the Refi Podcast where we bring on some of the leading thought leaders and founders and and people within this space to discuss all of these concepts in much more detail. We have a blog, blog, refi, dotcom, and we have a website that starts to map some of our network and our community and the organisations, the people, the events, the content in this space. And so yeah, there’s a bunch of resources online to help to, to go on this journey together. And, and yeah, we’d really love to see how we can make this a really diverse, inclusive movement with people from all sectors, industries, disciplines, thinking about how they can bring their, their piece of the puzzle to this regenerative symphony that we’re trying to trying to create together.
Manda: Brilliant. Monte That has been genuinely very inspiring. I’m sorry. I do sound like a broken record, but it’s because it’s true. Thank you for taking the time to come on. I will put all of your links to all of the resources into the show notes, and if we have time, we will have another conversation probably halfway through next year sometime and just see where it’s getting to, because it seems to me that things are changing very, very fast in this space and you have an almost unique capacity to take things that are enormously complex and render them comprehensible. So thank you for everything and for having the connectedness and the empathy and the hugeness of heart to make this happen.
Monty: Oh, thank you, Manda It’s been a it’s been an absolute pleasure. I love talking about this stuff, so I’m always, always happy to come and jam with you. But yeah, very, very much looking forward to staying connected with you and your community of people as well. So magic. Yeah, Lots of love. Thank you.
Manda: So there we go. That’s it for another week. Wasn’t that inspiring. That was really inspiring. Enormous thanks to Monty. For being part of founding refi Dao. For being part of the conversations that really need to happen at the cutting edge of what is going to change our world. There is no stepping back from this edge and knowing that there are people with Montes emotional and spiritual literacy and his capacity for intellectual engagement with this in the conversations that are happening. Initiating them. Engaging with them, pushing them forward. This is what gives me hope that emergence into a regenerative system might yet happen. So I have put a load of links in the show notes to everything that Monty mentioned. Please do go and engage. Listen to the refi podcast. Go to the website, find out how you can bring whatever it is that you are good at to this conversation, because each of us can do something really well and can do it in ways that only we can do it. And if we can create the web of connections that allows each of us to be what we can best be, what we can only be in the way that we can be it best. And bring that into connection with everybody else doing the same.
Manda: Then we have the possibility of real emergent change. So that’s your homework for this week. Head off. Find the links. Engage with them. Be part of the solution. It’s the best that we can do and it is urgent now. Nothing else matters as much as this now. So that is it for this week. We’ll be back next week with another different conversation. In the meantime, enormous thanks to karaoke for the music at the head and foot. Unto her unto Alleyne for producing the podcasts. Thanks to Ann Thomas for the transcripts. To Faith Tillery for the website and the long, long conversations that help us shape how we can make Accidental Gods be part of the solution. And as ever, an enormous thanks to you for being part of our community, for listening, for engaging, for shaping the world that we want to step into. If you know of anybody else who wants to be part of that world, who wants to understand how the web and our interaction with it can be part of a regenerative future, then please do send them this link. And that’s it for now. See you next week. Thank you and goodbye.
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