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Web3 and the Trap of ‘For Good’

Web3 must make values integral to the architecture

On Feb. 2, 2022, World Wildlife Federation-UK set social media on fire by announcing “Tokens for Nature,” a fundraising campaign that would sell non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to ​support efforts to protect 13 of the world’s most endangered species. WWF-UK planned to run the campaign on a so-called layer two blockchain network called Polygon that they claimed was an “environmentally friendly” version of Ethereum. Only Polygon is no such thing: buying crypto-tokens to exchange for Polygon’s own currency means relying on the energy hungry infrastructure that surrounds and supports it. The backlash was so fierce that WWF-UK’s program went extinct in just 48 hours.

Tokens for Nature is just one of a rapidly growing group of “for good” projects or campaigns seeking to capitalize on the momentum of “Web3, an umbrella term for a panoply of decentralized models, protocols and technologies—from blockchains, DeFi (decentralized finance), NFTs, crypto coins and more—that has attracted both innovators and scam artists.

The mere mention of Web3 is enough to send a stock price up (or down, lately), so everyone from celebrities to central bankers is scrambling for a strategy. Its development is happening so fast that it can be difficult to take it all in; on any given day (and depending on the initiative du jour), it’s hard to decipher if Web3 is flourishing, scaling or metastasizing. People are building, using and exploiting its models, often without a clear understanding of the potentials and pitfalls, and certainly without a set of standards or models of accountability and governance.

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