The Value of Anonymity in a World Built Around Identity
The world has become obsessed with identity. We see and respond to each other based on each other’s labels: our job, what school we went to, our political party, our race, gender, age, social status, background, history, etc. Have we ever asked if this is harmful?
The world has become obsessed with identity. We see and respond to each other based on each other’s labels: our job, what school we went to, our political party, our race, gender, age, social status, background, history, etc. In some ways these identifiers are helpful, ‘My name is _____, and I am this old. Here are examples of what I’m good at and what I’m not good at so we may help each other. Here is what I like and don’t like so we may see what we have in common.’ The resume, once an introduction to a person, has overtaken the working world as documentation of worth. You must have the best schooling, grades, and experience — every identifier that shows value and merit, to even be considered Of course it’s helpful to get an idea of what people have done and where their skills lie, yet we’ve put all the meaning on the identifiers, and in the process, they’ve lost all their meaning. Schooling used to show a hunger for knowledge and the desire to learn new skills. Now it is a box that must be checked to get to your destination of a career. An Ivy school is used as an identifier that you are intelligent, but isn’t also being able to master skills on your own just as important of an identifier? Despite a few outliers, we’ve come to an agreement on what should be valued and what shouldn’t in our personal and professional relationships, and in the process lost the humanity and discernment needed to find the best talent and most driven people in today’s world. In crypto, we’ve taken a new approach, and it starts with anonymity.
To give a brief background (without doxing myself), I’ve worked in both the corporate and artistic/literary world. Both are plagued with, what I will call, identity syndrome. In the corporate world, I started at a small company. As a newcomer, they did — to their credit — hire me despite not being a traditional fit for the job having a literary arts degree. That said, it was a (poorly paid) internship where I gained full-time employment after proving my ability. The company was inefficient and run by an autocrat of sorts. I remember, despite being the most junior person employed, offering suggestions, thoughts, and contrarian ideas to the owner at times who would find some reason why none of them would ever work and instead carry on with the plans of his own making. I often thought I was the only one who had concerns with his ideas because only I would voice those concerns or offer other ideas, yet the second we would leave the meeting my bosses would complain about how bad his ideas were. Not only did they not voice concerns, but they would actively agree with the owner and discredit others’ ideas as well when he was in the room. I thought I was going crazy. But it was much simpler. I was known as the writer and my job was to write things, create content, and do whatever random tasks no one else wanted to do. I was also the junior one, the young guy, the fresh out of college person who didn’t yet know how the working world works, as the owner loved to remind me. Granted, I doubt all of my ideas were great, but the identity that was created for me precluded me from any additional contributions to the company. I remember at one point the owner hired outside consultants who had fancy degrees to tell him how to improve the company, and they said some of what I had said and a lot of nonsense about further corporatization that would only further solidify and add to the company’s ridiculous autocracy and bureaucracy. They were the ones with the identifiers to be able to say what should and shouldn’t be done. I was not. And while this might seem like a specific anecdote, the most common complaint I hear from friends and family is poor upper management who thinks their shit doesn’t stink because they’ve been grandfathered into the top. There are exceptions, of course, yet we live in a corporate world where the industry of consulting is the biggest it has ever been, yet the ability to move up in companies is the tightest.
You might be wondering how anonymity changes this. In some ways, it doesn’t. But anonymity does create an opportunity. When I first entered the Alchemix Discord, I was an anon that literally no one knew. This created some challenges. I wanted to contribute, but I didn’t know what I could contribute (as I didn’t write code), nor how to be seen as worthy to contribute. I quickly found the latter to be non-existent. The community welcomed me for my jokes, love of the protocol, and desire to see it succeed. I wasn’t asked to contribute at first, but I learned there was a mutually beneficial relationship to me contributing what I can and what I enjoyed. I started making stupid memes and art, which the community enjoyed and the team pumped because it brought more eyes and hype to the project. But they didn’t try to pigeonhole me as ‘the artist’ or ‘the meme guy.’ I started throwing out ideas and having long talks with the team about how we could improve upon the protocol. I had a voice as a token holder yes, but even more so as a community member who wanted to see the project reach its full potential. Rather than saying, “Who the fuck are you? What are your credentials? This is not your company to run.” These multi-million dollar protocol developers had open and active conversations with me and other anons who enjoyed thinking through the problems and possibilities of their project. It was my ideas they valued, not the degree or past experience that signified that I was smart. Wherever I could show potential with contributions, they were happy to gauge my ability and offer discussion, recourses, or whatever they could to help me help them. It was a symbiotic relationship that I always felt was sorely lacking in the traditional working world. The more ability I was able to show the more I was trusted with and rewarded with as well. It was a huge breath of fresh air. I was finally being assessed based on my actual thoughts, ideas, and work rather than the grades of a random test or my ability to suck off the boss while making it look like I had contributed something to whatever ideas he wanted to push it. In all the time I worked with and for Alchemix, never once did they ask for my credentials or past. They did ask me to prove what I was saying I could do, and that’s all I ever wanted: the opportunity to show the value I could bring.
Of course, total anonymity isn’t always only beneficial. If you need someone to code a contract that is going to hold billions of dollars, then it is often wise to ask what their background is and how they can show their ability here. Anonymity can make people say things or not think through the things they say or do as thoroughly as if their name is attached. Sometimes this is a good thing in the case of shitposting or being able to investigate others with a layer of protection like ZachXBT. It can be bad when it causes people to say harmful or dangerous things they would think twice about if their name was attached. Though as we have found with the internet, people will put their name right next to their batshit thoughts as well. Overall, I do believe everyone has a right to anonymity in this space. Many have claimed that anonymity is merely a cover for scammers to hide behind. While anonymity can make it easier to scam people in some ways, you only need to scroll through ZachXBT’s Twitter for about 10 seconds to recognize many scammers are not only doxed but are well-known people in crypto and the world at large. People like Kim Kardashian and famous athletes are getting accused or sued left and right for shilling garbage, being a part of NFT projects that rugged, and other shady, if not illegal, activities in crypto. If you look at the biggest frauds and scammers of this cycle, they were in fact all doxed: Su Zhu, Kyle Davis, SBF, etc. Clearly these people had no problem using their real name and identity to steal of fraud out billions. While it can be easier at times to convict people who have done illegal activity when they are doxed, I do believe in the necessity for anyone in crypto — anon or not — to be charged criminally for their crimes. That said, there are countless examples of anons getting caught and doxed people getting away with scams, and it more often has to do with wealth and status rather than the crime — which I would argue we see in the regular world often as well. Shouldn’t we be pushing for greater accountability in the space, anon or not, rather than an end to doxing? While you may choose not to invest in a project with an anon founder, I do believe in the right of founders to prove their honesty and protect themselves, their families, and their users’ funds (in some cases) through being anon.
I also want to take a moment to discuss my work in the literary field. Coming from the background of being a fiction writer, I was lucky enough to get some writing published and to work in publishing for a bit. While the arts are normally known for employing the rebellious, those who want to live outside the establishment or through uniqueness and creativity, the literary field had just as bad of an identity issue as the corporate world. It’s no secret that most of the literature written over the past 500 years was written by white men and upper-class white men at that. It is clearly overdue that literature was truly opened up for the voices of all races, genders, demographics, classes, etc. As an avid reader, I loved literature written by people with vastly different life experiences or backgrounds than me. But what started as a right notion, has, in my opinion, turned into a field where race, gender, publishing history, and background matter just as much as the writing itself. I remember being in the editor’s room talking with other editors about what stories would move on to the next round of our writing competition and the lead editor basically said we want this many people of color, this many women, this many people of X background. They also pointed out notable writers and how we should give an extra careful eye to their stories. Of course, it looks better if you publish well-known writers.
All of this was wild to me. It was not about what story they had written or the new perspectives being shared or a plain ranking of the quality of each writer’s work, it quickly got very political. As a writer, I very much saw and felt this across the industry. I saw writers of not quite as good quality but more in-vogue identities getting published before other better writers. There was a notable example of a poet who couldn’t get his poem published until he used a pen name that made it sound like he was of an ethnic background. When he used the pen name in a contest, he won it for that very same poem. All of this stood in opposition of what writing and art were supposed to truly be in my opinion. Writing was supposed to transcend the writer; art was supposed to live outside the bounds of what fancy degree you had, which teacher you learned from, and what publishing you’ve done in the past. I was yet again confronted with a world where I didn’t think people saw the work for what it was. They were still looking at who our signifiers said we were. Again, I found myself in a world where writers loved to hold each other up based on their identifiers more than their work. Though, I do want to qualify that this isn’t universal, just as in the working world. There are many publishers and advocates that do great work and that encourage anonymity in publishing, yet it is not the norm. I do love the much larger quantity of diverse stories and voices we can read today, but the goal has been detached from the means in my opinion. This was also a field where I excelled much more, but still felt uneasy surrounded by this identity syndrome.
Again, I was pleasantly surprised that it was the opposite when it came to crypto. After I found some amazing friends in the Alchemix discord, we came together and memed about being a VC — Yunt Capital we called ourselves. This started off as a joke, though we were serious about our desire to help projects we felt strongly about and add value to the space. All of us were fully anon, and we had never even met each other in real life. People in the space started to take notice of us though, and the deal flow began to pour in. We were dumbfounded at first. Of course, we believed in our skills, yet we had just started, had no big name to headline our meme VC, and were very new on the crowded scene of crypto VCs. What we heard from project founders time and time again was that they were looking for investors like us, ones who wanted to do more than write a check but work side by side with the project to help them in any way we could. To my astonishment, we were being chosen over some of the biggest names in the space on rounds. Coming from a world where who you are and who you know were the biggest drivers of success, we created something awesome from nothing without either of those things. We are far from perfect as an organization, and we are always striving to be better for each other and our partners, but what we have achieved so far through our work, energy, sticking around, and not being brain-dead has been remarkable to me. Again, the value of anonymity here was that no one cared who we were before crypto or what our schooling or race/gender/sex was, they cared about what we could bring to the table. If we were all forced to dox, you wouldn’t see the value we could bring based on our past compared to what we’ve actually done now. This is not to say that building relationships in the space and having good people to vouch for our work wasn’t important, because as in anything humans do, the relationships you build are deeply important. But our relationships came from who we were as people and what we did, not our big names, money, or identifiers. This space and the acceptance of anonymity created an opportunity for me and the yunts that is incredibly rare to find in any other field, and I’m deeply grateful for that.
Anonymity is not the solution to all of our problems, but it does create unique opportunities in a world full of gatekeepers. We’ve seen people of all ages, races, genders, countries of origin, etc succeed in crypto through the ability to step into the space with an identity of their making and prove what they can do and want to do. While a new identity can be used as a tool of disguise at times for those with nefarious intentions, a self-created identity with accountability in the real world is, in my opinion, an opportunity everyone should be given. If crypto had never found anonymity, I doubt we would have the same level of opportunity, success, hentai, and fun as we have in this space. Crypto is built on the ideals of everyone having an equal part in an open and secure financial system, and anonymity is a valuable piece on the social side of this equation. If this space does lose anonymity over time, I fear it would devolve into the typical social identity games of choosing which social, race, economic, gender, etc. groups are placed above others. Of course, we still have troubled with financial hierarchies, social hierarchies, and accountability in this space, yet in the real world we have tried the games of choosing rich over poor, this race of people over that one, this gender instead of that one, this group and not that group — and time and time again it leads to the same inequalities we don’t want to see in the world. The real opportunity crypto offers is the chance to recreate or reimagine our financial system, one that is better for all who use it. At the same time, I see anonymity as offering a similar social opportunity, one that should be explored to its full potential so we may create a more just and fair social system as well.
Any views expressed in the below are the personal views of the author and should not form the basis for making investment decisions, nor be construed as a recommendation or advice to engage in investment transactions. As always, please do your own research. This is not financial advice. Every strategy is not for everyone. Each investor needs to understand what is right for them.
RogueItachi is a young and ambitious entrepreneur who has made a name for himself in the world of decentralized finance and cryptocurrency. As the host of the popular "Good Will Yunting" podcast, he offers his insights and analysis on the latest developments in this rapidly evolving field. Despite his success, Rogue has also earned a reputation as one of the most disappointing people under 30, according to Forbes.