Who are the believers? Investors, innovators, fans, builders, founders. Believers are those who play with web3 unhesitatingly.
It is early in the technology lifecycle of web3. Believers represent the first cohorts of users, the early adopters preceding mainstream inlets. They don’t necessarily know what precise problem is this technology solving for them. But something in web3 aligns with them, it sparks their interest, and that’s enough to commit time or resources.
As customers, believers just buy.
For some of the early adopters, their main reason for being in this ecosystem is to “make money.” These are not believers. For believers, making money is not the main motivation.
What is their function?
Believers in web3 function as evangelists.
Some define the “true believers” of web3 to be the “Bitcoiners” or the “Monero people.” Typically, “Bitcoiners” means people who view web3 as primarily a vehicle for decentralized money.
This definition which hinges on money is a good start, but incomplete in my opinion. Believers are a broader class. They are not just focusing on sound decentralized money. Instead, I would find it more useful to hinge on psychology for a definition.
I think believers are those who don’t question.
Believers take some value of web3 to be unquestionable. For them, some part of our world is in need of repair, and somewhere in the tangle of web3 is the solution. To dig deeper, we can contrast believers to followers.
Believers versus followers
We can think of any social movement as comprising two types of adopters.
First, there are those who identify with that movement at an instinctive level. Their way of understanding the world resonates with the movement.
Second, there are those who treat the movement as one of the many ebbs and flows of life, with no specific importance, urgency, or relevancy.
The first are the believers. The movement adapts to them. They pull the world around them to model it to their own understanding. They can’t help but believe, can’t help but pull. Some of them are the helm (leaders, founders), but not necessarily. If the world progresses as a receding darkness, then believers would be those holding lanterns.
The second are followers, those who have some other priority in life. They adapt to the movement only as much as they need to.
The role of believers in this sense is simply to push things forward. Nothing mind-blowing here.
Believers versus builders
One primary way in which web3 believers push this movement forward is by building. There is a significant overlap between builders and believers.
Some builders are skeptics (i.e., opposite of believers) and hold a cautious or skeptical estimate of the value of web3 technologies. I also mentioned builder skeptics in the first part of this series.
Few believers are non-technical (i.e., non-builders). Artists or collectors are a good example. They are contributing to the emergence of a creator-centric economy, so we can consider them believers. Other examples would be journalists, lawyers, regulators, or those who dabble in the theoretical underbelly of web3 – researchers and academics.
The general pattern is that builders are over-represented among web3 believers. This correlates with web3 having insufficient anchoring points in our society to attract non-technical believers. Like I wrote before, the pool of web3 talent is quite uniform.
It’s likely that web3 would benefit immensely from non-tech folks. Why would it be of help to have more non-technical believers? It goes back to how believers function as evangelists.
The role of believers towards effective adoption
Effective adoption of a new technology requires two basic ingredients:
- (a) perseverance and strength of belief in the value of the new technology;
- (b) the willingness to meet the rest of the world where it is right now.
Believers help primarily with (a). Lifting the movement off the ground, they spread the word. But if most evangelists are of a narrow stripe, then the spread is slow and is recycled among the same circles of people.
For effective adoption, web3 needs evangelists that are not only builders, but also doctors, baristas, farmers, priests, postmen, firefighters, and so on.
This brings us to point (b).
Believers are necessary but insufficient
Believers are necessary but insufficient to mature a technology.
Part (b) entails openness to feedback, towards fixing the major weaknesses and limitations of the current iteration in that technology, to adapt to the needs of others. Outsiders, skeptics, impartial parties are some of those best positioned to articulate these needs or shortcomings. They understand other angles of reality that need to feed into the ergonomics and assumptions of that technology.
It’s true that the viewpoint of skeptics is usually distorted towards criticism, sometimes unfairly so. Similarly, exuberant believers have distorted views towards positive sides of web3. The truth is in the middle.
Believers and their community
This is the last observation I'll make. For better or for worse, believers are representative of their community.
The mix of people who adopt web3 is an interesting one. The financial element of web3 attracts grifters: Like I said earlier, people who are in web3 primarily for making money are not believers. But from the outside of this ecosystem, there is no difference between “real believers” and “bad seeds”. What matters are actions and associations.
It's very important that early adopters do not misuse a new technology. (In general, it's always preferable not to misuse a technology.) Otherwise it signals to the outside world that this technology is "all bad." For financial technologies, this is even more important. Early adopters function as evangelists within and for their community, which both attract (when they model behavior and thinking that is beneficial) and repel (when they act irresponsibly).
A small chunk of believers are founders. This is where the distinction leader vs. follower is clearest. One of the most obvious ways to explain why believers should act responsibly is by giving founders as examples. The difference between the behavior of SBF and Vitalik Buterin, for instance, is stark. A misbehaving leader/founder is the Achilles’ heel of a nascent technology.
I'll recap the major points I tried to make:
- Believers evangelize the technology, they don’t question, they just buy.
- Many believers are builders – technical people – but the two roles don’t entirely overlap.
- For a more effective adoption, two ideas: (1) Since there is an over-representation of technical people, Web3 would benefit from more non-tech believers. (2) Believers are necessary but insufficient, skeptic views are actually useful.
- Believers hold influence over the community and show the way. Also, believers are representative of their community. Because of this (and not only), web3 believers should use this technology responsibly.