With over $830 billion in assets at its peak in January and an estimated 24,000 wallets each holding over $1 million worth of Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies are generating unimaginable wealth for the early players. Stories of overnight millionaires have ushered the blockchain revolution into the mainstream, bringing with it the potential to replace traditional financial markets and disrupt as many industries as the internet. This momentum includes a new crop of companies, projects and investments rushing to capitalize on this new market. But as we unlock this new potential in the time of #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and growing disillusionment with cultural power dynamics, one woman sees the blockchain as an opportunity to design a more equitable and inclusive system from the ground up.
Nyla Rodgers, the founder of Mama Hope, is a crypto-philosopher whose campaign, Satoshi is Female, challenges us to use the power of the blockchain to benefit humanity as a whole. The provocative slogan asks us to examine the nature of the blockchain itself when looking for the answer of who should lead the conversation. I sat down with Rodgers to hear more about the blockchain, cryptocurrencies and how to use this decentralized, global system to create a new paradigm of radical inclusion.
Emily Joffrion: Tell me about Satoshi is Female?
Nyla Rodgers: I believe that the blockchain is an inherently feminine way to move value across the world. And that’s because it’s collaborative, inclusive, values-driven and community-centered. It seems counterintuitive to assume that Satoshi, this unknown person (or persons) who wrote the Bitcoin white paper, is a man when the blockchain itself has so many characteristics that are feminine. And I feel like these feminine qualities represent a new way of operating in the world.
Understanding that the blockchain will likely be bigger than the internet itself, if we follow this premise, this is the first time in history that a woman is defining culture in a real, foundational way. This also means that the blockchain has different values than our current system.
Joffrion: How could blockchain support a more inclusive, equitable system?
Rodgers: I think it’s all in how we architect this new system. Right now, the people who have the most control, knowledge and access are those who benefit from the current financial system. Many see cryptocurrency as another way to make money without thinking about the real “Why” behind the blockchain’s design. For example, I see former hedge fund managers and financial analysts bringing the language of our current system into blockchain space so they can understand it. “Satoshi is Female” asks if this is the right approach given the current system doesn’t benefit most people in the world, particularly women. In other words, if we replicate the system we have now, we aren’t asking ourselves why we need a new economic system in the first place.
Joffrion: If the current systems are masculine, does that mean men should now be excluded from the conversation?
Rodgers: No. My main theory is that the new ecosystem cannot be solely architected by the people who benefit from the current one . It’s about decentralizing power. I want to see more women, people of color, and people from emerging markets brought in to discuss what the future blockchain sector will look like. But I want this new system to be completely inclusive of everybody — including men — because this conversation is about how to create this new world together. It is not about one gender coming out and dominating. It’s about recognizing that women have been excluded from building almost every other sector on the planet. It’s a call to make sure women are actively included in building this future.
Joffrion: How has this movement been received by the blockchain community?
Rodgers: Now that we’re gaining momentum, I’ve seen three different types of reactions from men in the blockchain community. The first group denies that women could have built the blockchain and some denounce women in crypto altogether. On the opposite side, I’ve seen men stand up and argue that including women and giving them access will change our world for the better. And then I see a lot of men who were stirred by #MeToo and want to show their support for building a totally new paradigm. They don’t know — or necessarily care — if Satoshi is a man or a woman. To them, it’s about making sure women are included in architecting this new culture because they recognize what we have isn’t working.
Joffrion: How do you see social good and the blockchain fitting together?
Rodgers: Some of the most interesting examples I’ve seen come from emerging markets where people have an urgency to figure out big problems — like online identity, trust, the unbanked — so they are using this technology in ways we would never think of.
Narra Coin, for example, is a token out of the Philippines designed to help women get access to capital because they can’t get bank accounts. I’ve even seen the Ethereum blockchain leveraged to report rape cases in China, where victims were censored by the government. Other women around Asia used the same strategy to write their own experiences into the blockchain where they couldn’t be censored. That’s what I mean when I say that the most interesting innovations are coming from underrepresented communities.
Joffrion: In the world of social good, what’s your advice for us as we think about building equitable and inclusive systems?
Rodgers: It’s not about anti-poverty, it’s about pro-prosperity. We need to see social good through a feminine lens which means thinking systematically and focusing on deep-touch work that nurtures communities. To truly make an impact, you must take into account all of the deep-seeded and integrated structural problems and ask how the projects that you fund give power and prosperity back. Just like the blockchain, we need power to be distributed and allow people to champion themselves.