E62 -

Finn Brunton is on the show today to talk about why cryptocurrency has emerged as more than science fiction in the last decade.

Paul Matzko
Tech & Innovation Editor

Finn Brunton is assistant professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. He is the author of Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet and the coauthor of Communication and Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest. He has written for the Guardian, Artforum, and Radical Philosophy, among many other publications.

Cryptocurrency is, ultimately, science fiction. That isn’t an insult. It is science fiction in the sense that decades before you could set up a cold wallet, trade crypto, or hodler Bitcoin, the idea that one day there would exist a vast, distributed digital currency as an alternative to fiat money was a fiction, a thing that existed only in the imaginations of a handful of geeks, programmers, and weirdos. And it is science inasmuch as those same people, through generations of trial and error, actually made that fiction reality.

Professor Finn Brunton joins our show to discuss his latest book, Digital Cash, which is about those innovators—anarchists, socialists, libertarians, and everything in between—and the stories that they told, stories powerful enough to fabricate something worth billions of dollars out of nothing and, possibly, permanently transform the future of money for good or for ill.

How is digital data valuable? How do you find ways that can limit the ways that data can circulate? What does ‘passing current’ mean? What role does trust play in the exchange of currency?

Further Reading:

Digital Cash: The Unknown History of the Anarchists, Utopians, and Technologists Who Created Cryptocurrency, published by Princeton University Press & written by Finn Burton.

Digital Cash: The Unknown History of the Anarchists, Utopians, and Technologists Who Created Cryptocurrency, written by Finn Brunton

Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution, written by Rebecca L. Spang

The Future of Banking, written by Pascal Hügli

What’s in Your (Crypto) Wallet?, Building Tomorrow Podcast

Facebook Friends Libra, Building Tomorrow Podcast



00:05 Paul Matzko: Welcome to Building Tomorrow, a podcast about the ways tech and innovation are building a better future. Now, to use a word that I learned from our special guest today, Building Tomorrow is basically a cosmogram, but more on that in a few minutes. But first let me introduce Finn Brunton, Associate Professor of Media Culture and Communication at NYU and author of Digital Cash: The Unknown History of the Anarchists, Technologists, and Utopians Who Created Cryptocurrency. Welcome to the show, Finn.

00:33 Finn Brunton: Thank you for having me.

00:35 Paul Matzko: Now when people read your title, I think they’re going to immediately think it’s about Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and that’s not inappropriate, there’s lots of that in the book. But at the start, you say you’re describing something even broader. You say that the story of digital cash is inextricably intertwined in the challenge of making digital data valuable. What does that mean? With digital cash digital data valuable, what is that?

01:01 Finn Brunton: Well, that was my way of trying to solve a problem that I’d started to run into as I was working on the early days of the book ’cause it took many years to write. And initially I thought, in a way, in a funny way, the book recreates my own experience of trying to work in it ’cause I thought, “Oh, I’m working on a book about Bitcoin.” And then I suddenly realized like, “Wait. To explain what happened with Bitcoin, I need to explain who these earlier people and precedent things were.” And then it slowly dawned on me that a lot of the underlying technologies and tools and ideas didn’t necessarily come from people who thought they were making money. They came from people who were trying to figure out why something which could be… Why data which could be seamlessly and effectively, I’m hesitating ’cause I don’t wanna say this, yeah, but effectively free.

01:55 Finn Brunton: That could be effectively freely copied, that could be duplicated an effectively infinite number of times at effectively no cost, how do you make that valuable, or what does value mean in that case? And so I started to find that a lot of the earliest people who built the things that ended up becoming the underlying infrastructure for digital cash, they were concerned about things like sharing music. They were concerned about things like building information marketplaces. They were all wrangling with this question of, “If sending an email is effectively free, how do you make email just expensive enough that people don’t spam each other?” There were all these different projects that all circled around this idea of how do you find ways to, as perverse this sounds, to limit the ways that data can circulate.

02:45 Paul Matzko: One of the other big themes to touch on before we get to the specifics, you make in the intro, is that digital cash is a way of “telling stories about the future.” And I think eventually this leads through the discussion of cosmograms. What does that mean, what does it mean that digital cash tells a story, and what is a cosmogram?

03:07 Finn Brunton: What I realized early on was that it’s really interesting to work on the history of digital cash because, for a lot of that history, there’s a lot of work on digital cash and not a lot of digital cash. A lot of people writing code, or writing manifestos, or writing science fiction and they’re serious about it. They’re absolutely serious about getting this off the ground. But what they all understand in various ways is that for people to actually adopt a monetary technology you have to be able to effectively tell a story about the future.

03:46 Finn Brunton: And I mean that in a really concrete way because we accept cash, we accept money, any form of money, any kind of monetary token or vehicle, we accept it because we believe that in the future it will be accepted from us. Unless we are numismatists, people who work with historical coinage and financial systems and we’re collectors, what have you. Every other case is a case where we take something because we think its value will hold into the future, because we think it will be accepted from us and received for payment of taxes, for goods or services, what have you.

04:23 Finn Brunton: So that means that when you are trying to create something new and you don’t have the inherent authority of a national government or of the Visa Corporation or of Starbucks gift cards, or whatever, if you don’t have that kind of incumbent power, you need to have a potent fantasy. And I don’t mean fantasy in a negative way. The story of digital cash, in large part, until Bitcoin really starts to take off is a story about people telling stories, is a story that people creating fantasy visions. And that ties into the cosmogram idea which was an idea that I took from a wonderful historian of science named John Tresch, whose work I really recommend, but he was trying to understand how there were… If you go back and look at the science of Belle Époque in France, that he was working on science of the enlightenment, in fact, science through many eras, you will often see that people create these really weird objects where they are cultural things that help explain our place in the universe.

05:29 Finn Brunton: So they will often tell a story about the future, they will have some kind of rituals or activities connected with them that will help us of understand how it relates to us, and so on. And I started to realize, cosmograms are a really useful way to look at the kinds of platforms people were building around digital cash, especially in the early days, because these were never just like, “Here’s a new transaction system,” ‘Cause it’s like, “Who cares? Visa is way better at new transaction systems than 10 smart dudes on the West Coast of California.” But instead what they had to do was build a system in which transacting this cash was part of your commitment to a different way of life. It was part of your commitment to a vision of how we could be, how our society could be organized. They had to stitch the day‐​to‐​day workings of money technologies into a whole ideological and fantasy apparatus. And that turned out to be tremendously effective.


06:36 Paul Matzko: The other aspect you talked about is buttressed by cosmogram’s visions of the future or stories about the future, but mainly also is passing current. That’s the phrase, passing current. What does that mean? I take it that’s true of all money not just digital cash.

06:51 Finn Brunton: Yeah, yeah. And “passing current” is a phrase that I actually adopted from the work‐​a‐​day world of Treasury Departments and especially treasury enforcement because one of the challenges is to manage what passes as money within the borders of a state, for instance. And so how do you describe when something is edging out of being coupons, or casino chips, or script, or points, or all of the other things that have money‐​like properties? How do you clamp down when something is starting to replace the currency and create the various kinds of potential instability that that creates.

07:35 Finn Brunton: Well, you identify when it has become passing current. Because passing current, which is such a beautiful poetic phrase, but it’s also really, really literal applied concept, a passing current token means that it’s money that people accept in the assurance that they will be able to pass it on with the same universal properties that state‐​issued money has. So in the same way like we… That’s where we get the phrase like “legal tender for all debts public and private.” Like if I owe you money, I can pay you back in US dollars, and you can’t say, you can’t pay me back on this. I demand payment in…

08:19 Paul Matzko: Casino chips. [chuckle]

08:20 Finn Brunton: Laundry detergent or Euros, yeah, or casino chips, or what have you. And so, this interest in borderline is passed where money starts to ease into something that acts like money, and when it’s really acting like money is when it becomes something that is passing current money. I take it, I know that other people will accept it, or I trust that they will accept it in the same way that they will accept Central Bank‐​issued notes. But you’re absolutely right, that’s another area where we see these larger stories. And I would love to just recommend one of my absolute favorite books about money, which is historian Rebecca Spang’s book, Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution, where she is looking at how do you essentially invent a wholesale new currency in the middle of a giant revolutionary, chaotic situation. And she does a really good job of capturing that a lot of the experience of money is the experience of what she calls “trust cemented by repetition into faith.” That if something keeps happening often enough, then it would never even cross your mind that this wouldn’t hold its value over time or that someone would refuse it in the future. And that is part of a very kind of powerful cosmogramic structure that we inhabit that constrains our sense of what the future will hold.

09:49 Paul Matzko: I do find that interesting where you talking here with some of the early origins of paper currency are, I forgot what they’re called, exchange notes or bank notes, or not even bank notes.

10:02 Finn Brunton: Oh yeah, bills of exchange?

10:03 Paul Matzko: Bills of exchange. One merchant says, “Hey, I’m going to pay you for this. Here’s an IOU.” Well then the second merchant, they can sign that over to a third merchant and they can sign it to a fourth and so on, and the value of that is predicated on the trust that people have in every member of that chain.

10:24 Finn Brunton: Yeah.

10:25 Paul Matzko: Which gets to the idea of this as a chain of trust created by ritual and repetition. So if a merchant has a reputation for welshing on their IOU, well, people aren’t gonna pull a lot of stock in that bill of exchange. It’s gonna be worthless because it’s less certain that he’ll pay. But if you’re someone who you’ve done a lot of these IOUs and you keep passing that bill of exchange on and you’re good for it, well, that’s the repetition, the ritual of signing that bill of exchange, all that cements trust in that currency in a sense.

11:00 Finn Brunton: Yeah, yeah, no exactly. And the paradox of the old school bills of exchange, which were that the more people who had bought and sold one of them, like basically, you’d be getting at a more and more on a discounted rate, the more people there were in line. But also the more you could trust it. Because the more you can be like, “Well that means that all of the rest of these merchants have evaluated this. And maybe, I know some of them myself, and the more of us… And also it means that if someone defaults on this, we have a pretty substantial posse that we can put together to try to sort the situation out and get made whole.” And so it creates a… You can see the… You can look at almost every form of monetary asset, every form of that kind of vehicle of exchange, as sort of holding within it one or another model of trust, whether it’s trust in the extended network of other merchants, or trust in the nation state, or trust in a particular bank or what have you.

12:06 Paul Matzko: And this is, in theory, the goal that, with digital cash and particular contemporary cryptocurrencies are trying to… They’re trying to make them trust less. Which is very radical in that sense because most alternatives you have to trust someone in this respect. I suppose there is still trust even in crypto and contemporary crypto where there’s trust in the process, but the goal in theory is to remove that necessity of trust.

12:34 Finn Brunton: Yeah, no, absolutely. Although that also raises what, for me, really jumps out is one of the paradoxes of cryptocurrency, which is that there’s actually two different kinds of trust involved, and there’s a weird, little, I feel like almost sleight of hand, that sometimes happens in how we talk about cryptocurrency where there’s… Because when we usually talk about trusting money, trusting cash, we usually talk about being able to trust that it’s real, that it hasn’t been forged, it hasn’t been duplicated. But we’re also talking about the other kind of trust, which is trust that someone else will take it from us, that it will be exchangeable. And so one of the interesting things with Bitcoin is that talking of, Bitcoin and lots of and all of the others, related currencies, is that when we talk about it as trust‐​less, we are usually technically talking about the fact that you don’t need… You can trust that the rights to trade a bitcoin token have not been duplicated and that more of it has not been produced, it’s all still working on schedule, but people often use that to mean trust us in the sense that this thing has its value because math. This thing has its value because of the properties of prime members or what have you, when in fact it has its value because of the fact that other people also remain equally sure that it will continue to be exchangeable over time.

13:58 Finn Brunton: And I say that because I find myself talking to people, especially people who are outside the crypto world, who I realize they think that somehow the hashing algorithm challenges that Bitcoin has guaranteed that it will remain valuable when, in fact, they only guarantee that it will remain scarce. And so, the trick that you run into there is, as you’re building a crypto currency, you also wanna make sure that you aren’t accidentally building the next Dogecoin, right? Where it’s like the algorithm still holds, but now no one cares about it. No one is going to be willing to receive it from you. So it’s interesting to think about how do you guarantee that larger social trust once you build the technical trust.


14:50 Paul Matzko: It is digital cash and we spend a lot of time talking about what is money. And one of the things that struck me while reading… And we go back, I mean we go really far briefly, but a larger story starts in the 1920s and ‘30s, the Howard Scott the Technocrats, those kind of folks, David Chaum in the 70s. So these are ideas that have been around for decades, half a century or more. And so I’m struck. It’s a voice striking where, look, these are ideas that were spoken into existence. You have all these white papers and manifestos. And who would have thought that it would actually become something? It really is again back… It’s the striking power of the cosmogram of this cosmological thinking and evoking new futures, and drawing them forth in the reality. But I was curious, so what was it, was it the technological limitations of the ‘1970s and ‘80s that prevented these ideas from becoming a reality as opposed to the Bitcoin in the 2000s, obviously the last decade has been a fruitful time, these ideas that become real. Why now? Why not 40 years ago?

16:02 Finn Brunton: That’s a fantastic question. And I think the… It’s really, honestly, it’s also a very, very painful thing to look back on. You go back through all of this work where people were building stuff that was really functional, stuff for being able to produce unique authentic‐​able, electronic notes that could pass as money, but would not generate any records about who spent them, like mechanisms that would have created amazing micro‐​payments architectures so that we could have basically side‐​stepped the whole nightmare that online advertising, digital tracking, and malware and so on, all became all these tools, and none of them ever quite gel. None of them ever quite make it. And I think.

16:53 Paul Matzko: You can see the present in them, looking darkly through me, or you can see winkles of what would become true but just not yet. It’s really frustrating, yeah?

17:02 Finn Brunton: Yeah, yeah, exactly, and the answer that I arrived at is that you can definitely find some kind of case by case reasons why particular projects, most notably Chaum’s DigiCash for instance, which were like really, really close to wide implementation, never took off. And a lot of those have to do with the vagaries of management in particular, companies and in‐​fighting and blah, blah, blah. But I think there was a larger reason why the great bulk of them never quite made it, and it was that they were trying to create a framework which was going to be either widely adopted or not at all. And therein lay the challenge.

17:54 Finn Brunton: And this is what kind of brings us back to one of the things that makes money unique in some ways as a human process which is that we have great email encryption, and a lot of the people who are working on email encryption were also working on digital cash. But email encryption only needs two people: Someone with the crypto software on their account and someone with the crypto software on their account to decrypt the message that they receive. But to actually get up to the kind of critical mass that it takes for something to begin functioning in a monetary way, you either need large‐​scale institutional buy‐​in, or you need large scale social buy‐​in.

18:37 Finn Brunton: And so what you end up seeing is this kind of tragedy of people trying to get up to escape velocity over and over again. And trying repeatedly to identify who are the parties who are sufficiently interested that they could help us carry this to the stage where you start to know… Where you start to get out of the kind of trap that Bitcoin was in in the early days, where it’s like the only people who would accept Bitcoin were people who were really into Bitcoin, and so therefore there was not a hell of a lot that you could actually buy with it. So how do you get up to the stage where you can actually have these kinds of wide ordinary passing current kinds of interactions? So you could see the two moves in this regard. One was, “We will appeal to some kind of major corporation, and they will step in.” Chaum was really… He was trying to do deals with big banks, with Visa, with Microsoft.

19:37 Finn Brunton: And then one by one, all of those fell through, for various reasons, partially in some cases because the value proposition was actually against their own incentives, these big companies. They were like, “Wait a second. We’re gonna sacrifice all of this… All of this incredibly rich real‐​time data? We’re going to get rid of the largest order book in existence so we can guarantee people’s privacy?” But the other challenge which is very pertinent in some ways to Bitcoin, and what became of Bitcoin, was how do you get ordinary people into a place where they would actually be willing to accept this? And that’s where you start to see one of my favorite things that this book… Working on this book revealed to me, which was that even in the ‘90s, the early ‘90s, the people who are building digital cash were like drugs. Illegal drugs, black markets.

20:28 Finn Brunton: These are areas where you have whole populations who are like, “Yeah, we will totally accept this as money because of the fact that this will actually… This is a place where there’s something to buy that you can’t get any other way.” And so they started casting around for these proto‐​silk road sorts of set‐​ups but… And this is how I’ll end this thought, but you can see the danger that that creates, right? Which is that it also means that you’re producing a kind of self‐​marginalizing currency. It’s going to create a situation where instead of having the robustness of ordinary transactions, you’re going to have something that is immediately identified as Bitcoin once for a while. It’s like to think that you can only use to buy like drugs and guns.


21:15 Paul Matzko: Now, I’m also struck too by the dates involved. So David Chaum, digital cash I think it was 1975, so we’re right at the tail end of the greatest shakeup of trust in institutional authority. Trust in government had just gone through the ringer. Pentagon papers, government lied to us about Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, Nixon’s been… ’75 is a real earthquake… The end of an earthquake moment in American trust institutions. And so it makes it a matter of sense that’s the moment that’s the moment when Chaum, “People don’t trust the money they currently use, so maybe more people are willing to imagine and trust in this thing that I’m offering them.” But Bitcoin itself is on the… It’s right at the… In the midst of the financial crash in 2007–2008. Where do you see that… What’s the role that that plays? The timing, the historical moment of these things.

22:22 Finn Brunton: Oh, it’s one of the greatest acts of luck that could ever possibly have happened to getting a project like that off the ground. No, because… So Chaum does a lot of his formal announcements in the early ‘80s, but by ‘1975 is when you’re seeing… Which is very early days for a lot of crypto people, but you’re already starting to see them realizing what’s coming and start… But they’re realizing what’s coming, but they’re not able to explain how widespread computers are going to be. Right? They’re not able… The American populace is more than ready to understand that they face real threats from out‐​of‐​control state surveillance and from many kinds of potential long‐​term dangers, but how does that apply to buying and selling stuff over computers? Have you ever seen a computer outside of a magazine? Have you ever touched one? But people like Paul Armer, John McCarthy, they’re already talking about the home information terminal and they’re already like six steps ahead into the threat that is going to be posed by doing more and more of our buying and selling online. Now, by 2008, by contrast, now you have… Everyone understands the platforms that we’re all now using.

23:47 Finn Brunton: Now we have that context where it has become so normalized that you can suddenly really find it plausible that you would be able to engage in these kinds of transactions over a smartphone, over all the different mechanisms that we have, and then you combine that with a massive global credit crisis. So that’s why I think that’s one of the things that was more or less a historical accident in a lot of ways. Like all of these different projects have been floating around, as many people know, but it’s in the book, I really kind of spell out in detail, you can see things that were more or less Bitcoin with a few small changes running back, appearing in multiple different contexts year over year. Now, suddenly, this thing comes into play at the exact moment that you’re witnessing a wholesale meltdown of the sort of central bank managed economic apparatus. So that really is something where now, instead of a crisis of privacy but no available technology as we had in the 1970s, now we have ubiquitous technology and a major emergency that demands some kind of solution.

24:55 Paul Matzko: It makes sense that in the 1970s, most Americans in the ‘70s don’t have even credit cards; most people still pay with cash. Only very wealthy people have credit cards in the 1970s, very small percentage of people. They’re used to paying with a physical thing. So the idea that… To skip past, first, the credit card, then online payment, your PayPal kind of systems, you’re asking people to jump three or four developmental steps ahead. They’re just not ready for that, ordinary people. They can’t even imagine. It’s hard to get them to jump one step head, let alone skip over a couple, three or four steps. So that makes perfect sense. Now, I’m also interested here in some of these groups, and we don’t have time to go in great detail through all of them, but they’re odd people, right? So what’s that milieu like in the ‘80s and ‘90s and early odds? Who are these people, what do they believe, what draws them together to try to build these grand cosmological visions of the future?

25:58 Finn Brunton: Well, yeah, you’re absolutely right. They’re deeply odd people. And likewise, I say that not as an insult but kind of out of love because they were people who, if there’s one thing that unites them, they were people who deliberately wanted to be living those, like, three or four technological generations ahead, right? They wanted to anticipate not just the next wave of what was coming, but the consequences of that and the consequences of that, and then live in that extrapolation in advance and help to accelerate its advent. That’s kind of the other theme that unites them, which I find especially fascinating and compelling to go back and revisit, is that these were all groups that wanted to live in that future. They didn’t just want to build industries or start businesses or affect policy; they wanted to actually create a munch… In many ways, a much weirder and kind of more interesting world in which they could live.

27:00 Finn Brunton: So we have, just to outline a couple of them, we have the… And they all overlapped in a lot of ways. They all kind of knew each other, they were all kind of closely related. The cypherpunk community who were both engaged in the practical process of trying to bring military grade encryption to the civilian population to prevent the sort of prospect of total surveillance that the digital age was going to bring, but who also wanted to imagine what that society would look like. What a society would look like where everything that we did took advantage of powerful encryption technologies. And they developed these really kind of extraordinary visions, some of which ended up shaping things like the Silk Road, some of which ended up shaping things like WikiLeaks, and many of which have not yet been realized but I think it’s well worth going back and looking at their work and being like, “Okay, they were right about this and right about that. What else were they predicting?”

27:56 Finn Brunton: But then their kind of sister group which I just adore, the Extropians, and the Extropians were philosophically committed to the, as their name would suggest, the opposite of entropy. They wanted to build a society and an economy that would generate more information, more life, more complexity, more energy. Basically, more of everything. And how is this for the ambitions for a technological sub‐​culture? They wanted to build an economy, including a new monetary system based on digital cash, that would so accelerate innovation that they would be immortal, that we would have the breakthroughs that would be necessary for them to live forever within their lifetimes.

28:43 Paul Matzko: Now this is that tie to the cryonics and future. So when you say they want to see the products of these innovations, and the innovations based off of those innovations, and the third generation after that, you meant that literally. They wanted to see it, so they would freeze their brains. Is that correct?

29:01 Finn Brunton: Yes, yes yeah, exactly. They wanted… ‘Cause when you think about it, if you are kind of building the motor of extraordinary technological breakthroughs and you believe that those are going to happen, and a key thing that will make those breakthroughs possible is the proliferation of new kinds of digital cash that can be used as investment vehicles as things that will be able to accelerate change, then you wanna make sure that… ‘Cause what could possibly be worse than building this whole system and then dying like six months before the singularity that will upload your brain into a satellite and shoot you off into space? So, yes, so they would have themselves frozen. And in fact when you go back to even very early days, someone I became fascinated with, Philip Sallon, who was a sort of economist who also got into the private space flight industry in the ‘80s and tried to build an information marketplace, he died unfortunately very young. And one of the things that he talked with, he cypherpunk figure about, was how do we build digital monetary systems that will enable us to protect our assets through the period that we’re dead into our eventual technological resurrection? And that became one of the kind of threads that eventually fed into Bitcoin.


30:24 Paul Matzko: This phase from the mid‐​70s to the mid‐​90s, in particular, and continuing on… This is a very anarchist, libertarian‐​ish kind of moment. A lot of these guys are… Yeah, they’re giving this kind of radical, free markets, free money, free banking. They’re trying to flesh that world out, trying to draw that imagined world into being. Both phases, it was clear that these kind of radical thinkers trying to imagine impossible seeming futures through rituals, through their cosmograms, that was vitally important in both of these kind of waves of innovation and imagination. Why is this one so kind of libertarian‐​y right wing, in a sense, and the other is very kind of left‐​wing progressive?

31:13 Finn Brunton: In a lot of ways it’s because there was actually a bigger shift in how technologists thought about what they were working on. Where the models that define the world that people including, just as you said, like major inventors, technologists, huge figures in industry, policy makers, economists, intellectuals, the world that defined them before World War II was a model of technology that was based on a framework of, for lack of a better way of putting it, big infrastructure. Like huge systems, dams, air strips, like a whole apparatus of technology that predicated like massive coordination. And it’s easy to forget in the subsequent decades how much part of the premise and fear/​hope for the early Soviet Union was that here, finally, was going to be a country that was going to be able to fully realize what technology and industry were capable of because they had no democracy slowing them down. And one of the interesting takeaways from that for us is to see just how pervasive that model was.

32:38 Finn Brunton: It’s a very forwardist model, right? It reflects the idea that the way that you achieve technological gains is through top‐​down control, through scientifically measuring and managing people. And then essentially bullying them, whether by wave slips or at bayonet point, into following the optimal way of doing things. So that’s why you end up with this… I’ll put it way more strongly than you. That’s why you end up with this kind of really tyrannical approach. It’s chilling reading a lot of the stuff that was being written by very prominent figures at the time who totally expected that the future was going to be happy, healthy, and prosperous then you were going to have to just submit all power to some cabal of scientists with stop watches who would dominate everything. And then now, one of the things that I think we’re living through at this moment, is the kind of long of un‐​rolling of the huge technological scientific and social shift that happened in the 1960s and ‘70s towards decentralization, towards the idea that emergent systems, decentralized systems models that were not centrally coordinated or centrally planned were the models of the future. And they became the models of industry, and they spilled out into the culture in a variety of different ways.

34:00 Finn Brunton: So part of what you can actually see is two different universes that we got to live through in the 20th century, and we’re kind of at the tail end of one of them. And for me, a really interesting question to think about for the future is is there a new emergent sort of vision as it were that is going to unite these things and guide the steps of these, as you say, these extremists these outliers, these inventors for the next half century?


34:33 Paul Matzko: A quick note: We are moving Building Tomorrow to a bi‐​weekly schedule. This way, we can really double down on giving you in‐​depth interviews and layered conversations about tech and innovation and what the future holds. So continue to look for Building Tomorrow wherever you get your podcasts. And to all of our regular listeners, as always, be well.