Unboxing No.4: SEEDS
Is it a 'regenerative cryptocurrency', or crypto speculation washed in spirituality?
A normal product unboxing on YouTube has two parts. Firstly, the person examines the box and the vision it presents. Secondly, they open the box to uncover the reality.
When I do unboxings of crypto-token systems, however, I face a unique challenge, because the founders often believe that the external packaging and marketing of their systems (the ‘box’, as it were) is crucial for turning the token system inside the box into a reality.
Indeed, if you ignore the external packaging of many crypto projects, you are often left with something that feels very empty. Imagine encountering Bitcoin tokens without first reading the name ‘Bitcoin’, or without seeing the imagery of coins or the logo, or without hearing the clamour of a community claiming that they were X, Y or Z. What would you encounter? Well, you’d just see a system for reassigning a limited amount of numbers between addresses (see I, Token for more on this).
This is not unique to Bitcoin. A significant number of crypto-token systems can be described as ‘a system for reassigning limited supply numbers between addresses’. Over the years crypto systems have got more complex, especially with the addition of smart contracts (programmes that can be hosted and triggered on the system), but often you find yourself holding blank tokens (a category I discuss in my Six Tokens piece), which in the digital realm are really just numerical nouns (see I, Token). Essentially you hold limited-edition numbers and call them ‘tokens’, but it’s hard to feel anything for them unless they are wrapped in a narrative and branded with colours, logos and ideas.
If I find a hunting knife, the mere act of playing with it will show me what it can do. It doesn’t need an external narrative, and it’s not going to stop doing what it does if a community doesn’t believe in its sharpness. Crypto-token projects, by contrast, often proceed under the assumption that their tokens need to be powered by some communal narrative, which is why they often compete as much on story as they do on technology. Some projects present aggressive or warlike visions, with token-holders encouraged to gouge each other to fight for a very limited supply of tokens, while others come packaged with a peaceful vision of striving for a better world. Regardless of the version, they all hope that the story will be picked up by a community who will project it into the tokens.
This tendency to believe that the ‘box’ around the tokens will contribute to their reality cannot be separated from the fact that many crypto projects have a commodity orientation to money, in which money is equated to a ‘substance of value’. They often imagine that a unit of digital money is a Positive Object (see The Five Dualisms of Money) that can be turned into a fictitious substance of value (see Money Through the Eyes of Mowgli) through a process of communal enchantment.
These attempts to wrap a story around blank crypto-tokens now occur all along the political spectrum. Faircoin, for example, was originally just a blank token wrapped in radical anti-capitalist branding, and I’ve visited left-wing communes where people try to use it in the belief that they can will it into a state of moneyness.
But beyond the question of whether it is even possible to use these blank tokens as the basis for a monetary system, there lies a dark side. Often they are sold to people for actual money (dollars, euros, pounds etc.) by the founders or managers of the project, who normally justify this by saying they will use the money to build out an infrastructure that will subsequently assist in turning the blank tokens into the money they are supposed to be. I really encourage you to read my last piece (The one concept crypto promoters are afraid to understand) to dive deeper into this.
But while the founders of many crypto projects all sell branded tokens to the public, the story they tell affects the amount of scrutiny they receive. In the case of aggressively libertarian crypto projects, everyone distrusts everyone, and this can create a type of discipline for the founders, who are constantly on the verge of being called scammers. In the case of utopian-tinged crypto projects, however, supporters are rallied under a banner of cooperation and community, and the hope they hold in their hearts for a better world can make them less critical towards the founders, allowing the latter far more leeway. Even if the token-holders are confused as to how the project will unfold, and what the tokens are, they hold on to good faith.
This is what I see when I watch the people taking part in SEEDS meetings.
I began to notice SEEDS over the last year because many of my hippy friends started mentioning it to me. I visited the SEEDS website and very quickly saw that they were selling a token (called SEEDS) to spiritually-inclined people who feel a sense of despair towards standard corporate capitalism, and who wish for a more ‘conscious’ society. SEEDS was marketing itself as a regenerative cryptocurrency that would help to stop environmental exploitation while supporting a ‘regenerative renaissance’. Glancing through the website I was told that the token was money and that the platform would also fund regenerative projects. I could immediately sense category errors, and I decided to unbox it. As I write this, SEEDS is still going strong, but is going through changes, so this Unboxing may have to be updated in due course. I’m going to start by looking at the ideological backdrop of the project, before going through the technicalities. Finally, I will discuss its problems, many of which apply to other crypto-token projects too.