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A Digital Yggdrasil: Education as a Public Good

Hum Qing Ze 9 78

Via Medium

A Digital Yggdrasil: Education as a Public Good

We need to develop a system that onboards people to Web3 in meaningful ways enabling them to contribute as their best selves while forging their own narratives. One of the most glaring challenges in…

TL;DR:

Web3 moves fast. We need our educational efforts to move faster in order to sustain the ecosystem and for newcomers to contribute meaningfully. Web3 might be the one chance to finally transform education from an underconsumed and underprovided merit good into a new digital public good.

“Education” as generated by DALL-E mini by huggingface

Web3’s Shared Challenge: Growing Our Own Timber

We need to develop a system that onboards people to Web3 in meaningful ways enabling them to contribute as their best selves while forging their own narratives.

One of the most glaring challenges in Web3 is its talent gap, evinced by job openings in Web3. A report by Electric Capital published in 2020 states that the entire crypto ecosystem comprises around 8,500 developers only. This is far from the roughly 25 million developers (Statista). Internships tend to be fairly ad hoc too, with a short survey by Trent on Twitter yielding Indexcoop’s structured internship program only.

Another area of concern is the adoption gap. A tremendous amount of pre-reading is required before users gain the confidence to step into Web3, exacerbated by unfamiliar user flows such as signing in with web wallets. These barriers to entry should not exist because Web3 ought to be designed for accessibility and usability.

The pace of innovation is blisteringly fast too. First, we mostly rely on amazing curators such as bankless, CIA Officer’s crypto research base, antiprosynthesis.eth ⟠’s grant for aggregating ethereum knowledge, and different education projects. Second, DAOs are constantly evolving with proposals being put up daily. Each DAO has its own norms and priorities too, further complicating the process of getting acquainted with the Web3 space. Third, the nature of most of the content produced revolves around just keeping the community up to date through newsletters, podcasts, meetups, and publications.

Education Must Become a Public Good

Education is historically not scalable because it ultimately relies on teacher-to-student ratios and limited class sizes, limiting it to being a merit good. However, this could be changed with Web3, as activities can become publicly accessible and participatory.

Education is generally agreed to be a merit good. Merit goods have positive externalities when consumed but tend to be underconsumed and underprovided. In the real world, education is prohibitively expensive and kept exclusive to many. In the digital world, we are still beholden to some of these paradigms but this does not have to be the case anymore.

There exists great blockchain education resources, such as:

However, there are also negative examples such as the endless advertisements on trading, and biased education efforts such as Binance Academy where the focus is on users to become motivated to trade.

In order to argue that education be transformed into a public good, we must first delineate the two core characteristics of public goods. First, it has to be non-rivalrous, meaning that it has to be accessible to everybody and one person’s use of the good does not impact its availability to others. Second, it has to be non-excludable, meaning that it should be impossible to exclude anybody from using the good.

Current Web3 educational content does not fulfil the two necessary criteria. It is rivalrous as many current Web3 education efforts are in the form of classes or bootcamps with small cohorts and upfront costs, thus a limited number of people can benefit at each time. This format is inherently rivalrous, as including too many people in these classes or bootcamps leads to a decrease in the quality of interactions. Web3 educational content is excludable, because one generally needs to be a token holder in order to participate and learn from the ecosystem. Web3’s token-based philosophies mean that people need to put up an upfront cost to participate, such as through completing bounties or buying crypto.

Currently, most of us stumble upon educational content. But can we build our own Yggdrasil that takes root and aggregates information throughout Web3? (yes!)

Develop Positive Externalities

We can carry out activities that create benefits for parties that were not directly involved by making Web3’s resources understandable, searchable, and accessible.

Each idea is meant to help fulfill the mission of helping Web3 grow our own timber while being reasonably executable without an outsized burden on our individual Web3 communities. We begin by improving current resources before starting on closing gaps between learning and application through a meta DAO to coordinate these efforts.

First, we can make Web3 resources understandable by:

  • Developing translations for projects, and supporting a pool of translators who can accurately capture the nuances of Web3 to ensure global inclusivity.
  • Providing a metadata of current resources to map dependencies before a reader can understand the content. This is similar to CIA Officer’s defi developer roadmap or OpenNodes’ blockchain roadmap.
  • Creating “portals” couched in Web2 language so that people unfamiliar with the space can envision how they might be enter Web3 with their current skill sets and contribute.
  • Potentially standardizing skill sets needed in Web3 through a common framework to allow for the exchange of talents between DAOs.

Second, Web3 resources can become searchable by:

  • Curating an indexed public library of knowledge and resources for all of Web3 — not only the technical and academic aspects of it, but also its culture, ideas, governance, background, and history.
  • Developing a subscription model for curators using EIP-1337 to provide continuous support, and as a means of signalling the types of knowledge people value. This could also be adapted as a stream similar to buidl guidl.
  • Incentivizing pioneers who are pushing the forefronts of Web3 to generate content by setting up commitments to compensate if they do, much like Ghost Knowledge.

Third, we can create accessible Web3 resources by:

  • Creating testnet versions of popular apps, so that people new to Web3 can use this as a way to get comfortable and develop confidence.
  • Developing a collective talent incubation program much like kernel where we aggregate educational needs across Web3 but we run programs asynchronously instead. Content should be delivered in a self-serve format while allowing learners to self-organise.
  • Mapping individuals to skill sets such that they can identify opportunities to contribute according to each individual’s needs, much like skills mapping.
  • Offering fellowships to support projects that show promise and can scale education across Web3, such as rabbithole.gg, which provides on-chain credentials based on activity.

We can also create benefits with talent-matching, which can be accomplished through:

  • Encouraging candidates to fill in skills gap analysis surveys to find their best roles in Web3 after the “portals” couched in Web2 language are developed.
  • Suggest a finder’s fee for candidates who complete the guided incubation programs to fund future initiatives.

Throughout this process, the activities carried out should embody the cultural norms and behaviours in Web3 through our mechanisms for the development, selection, and execution of initiatives.

Taking a leaf out of Matt Stephenson’s piece on incentivising public goods provision, we should try to move the payoff matrix towards that of a coordination game. This can be achieved through increasing the incentive to cooperate or decreasing the incentive to defect. In this case, defecting entails free-riding on the educational resources provided. However, we must not set up paywalls or gated content as education should be free and open source. Thus, we will have to rely on improving the incentives to participate, as decreasing the incentive to defect is antithetical to the culture of Web3. People that help teach the programs or generate community content might receive incentives (such as Gitcoin’s mini CLR) or create NFTs of articles that people can buy as a form of support (much like rabbithole’s tutorials).

Incentivise Collective Support

If governments have budgets for education and corporations have training budgets, why not DAOs?

We can improve the incentives to participate by:

  • Providing dKudos and mini CLR from Gitcoin to people that participate and contribute. Further support and education funding might be weighted against a user’s current amount of dKudos.
  • Utilising the participation in activities as part of anti-fraud detection for DAOs throughout the ecosystem.
  • Encouraging curriculum and content designers to post their work as NFTs, so that they can obtain royalties when their content is licensed.

All these initiatives build the legitimacy of the programs and initiatives of the meta DAO, while rewarding contributions to its efforts.

However, there is presently a grant funding gap. $400,000 in grants have been disbursed for the lifetime funding of education resources. Conversely, the infra tech funding for DAppNode, Prysm by Prysmatic Labs, and ethers.js has already exceeded $400,000 in grants.

Now, consider this: if DAOs were willing to commit 0.1% of their treasury for education proposals, we could set up a meta DAO that would help fulfil their talent needs. The meta DAO would also be accountable to token holders who belong to other DAOs, ensuring that their needs will be represented.

In order to accomplish this, we need to demonstrate the collective benefit of education. The key focus will thus be on building legitimacy around the educational efforts and maintaining the utmost quality. Developing a framework to evaluate impact (much like Google’s report on the ROI of DevOps Transformation) is also paramount. These metrics can be established with the token holders who make up the DAO, and re-evaluated regularly according to the changing Web3 landscape and need for skills.

Financial sustainability is key to any initiative. In this case, the answer is to make the DAO generate revenue. The meta DAO can explore subscriptions, talent-matching services, licensing courses for the Web2 world, and publishing. Indirect paths of revenue may consist of setting up an alumni contribution fund for talents that benefitted from programs, building up an endowment fund that potentially invests in fixed-income products such as 88mph or indexcoop’s products, and providing access to talent for consulting services like GLG.

Conclusion

Web3 enables us to tweak incentives to make education a sustainable digital public good for the first time in human history through decentralised credentials and coordination. We do not have to leave education as a merit good in Web3, underconsumed and underproduced, as we can overcome these physical limitations.

Yggdrasil is the world tree in Norse mythology. Yggdrasil holds up the heavens and the nine realms. Much like Yggdrasil, a meta DAO could hold up other DAOs and support their mission as we grow our own timber together.