Web 3 101

How Blockchain is Democratizing Science with Sarah Hamburg from Opscientia

Oct 01, 2021

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HOST:  Hey everybody, welcome back to the Unstoppable Podcast.  I’m your host, Diana Chen, and I’m here today with our guests Sarah Hamburg, co-founder of Opscientia, which is a community owned open science ecosystem that unlocks data silos, revolutionizes collaboration and democratizes funding.

So essentially, this is an open science DAO and I’m super excited to talk to Sarah more about what DCI, is what Opscientia does; where this name came from.  Thank you so much for joining me today, Sarah.

SARAH HAMBURG:  Thank you for having me.  I’m so excited.  This is my first time on a podcast; I’m really excited to be there.

HOST:  Wow.  I’m honored that you came on my podcast for the first one.  Thank you.  Thank you.  So before we dive into Opscientia, which I may not be pronouncing that correctly, and we’ll get to that as well.  But I’d love to hear a little bit about your background.  I know you’re a PhD in something sciency (sic).  So tell me about that journey, and then at what point did you come across crypto and what was it about crypto that was that’s interesting to you?

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yeah.  I think that’s a good place to start.  So I studied neurosciences at my undergrad, and then I wanted to transition into working more with people.  So I did psychology master’s; experimental psychology.  I was quite interested in brain imaging, and I did eye tracking as well.

And then my PhD, is it’s kind of the intersection between, I guess neuroscience and psychology; it’s cognitive neuroscience, so it’s almost like a software of the brain.  But you’ll do a lot of all kinds of neuroscience, still in any kind of neuroscience PhD.

So I was looking at brain imaging, I was doing EEG studies, which is where you put electrodes on people’s heads.  And I was measuring what’s called resting state brain activity, which is what the brain is doing when it’s not doing anything in particular, so when it’s just like idling alone. 

And I was really interested in that because it’s kind of always been a bit of the underdog, it’s a bit overlooked, and I’m always interested in those things a bit more.  And I was looking at it in people with down-syndrome, people with intellectual disability, and looking at relationships between that and cognitive ability.  It’s just a really interesting area that I was working on at the time.  I was actually a researcher at the university—at University College London, at the time, and I did my PhD part time, because I had to see mark in the stack, you could just like register for PhDs.  So I kind of did it as a hobby alongside my job.

And then I got to the end of my PhD, and I absolutely loved my PhD, I feel like I’m one of earlier academics on that - - really say I really did love my PhD, but it’s less academia, because I got really interested in technology, I got really interested in blockchain.  I got the bug, and I wanted to just work as me completely different for a while and then I still loved neuroscience.  And I always thought I’d like to do a bit of a leap and come back to science, and I feel like finally I’ve done that because I went off into industry and I worked in the FinTech consulting, and I now worked with JP Morgan.  I would say a year but it was two years because I lost a year due like COVID, it’s actually two years I was at JP Morgan.

And then, now I’m here in Barcelona, working with Opscientia, and you did say it very well.  As I mentioned before, there’s no—its Latin so it’s the ops stands for open, and scientia is Latin for science.  And I think everyone says it slightly differently.  I always say there’s no right way of saying it and I just call it ob-sci and that’s always a lot easier.

Yeah.  So I got really interested in technology and crypto through my brother, because he’s a cryptocurrency writer and around sort of 2017, I was coming towards the end to my PhD and I wasn’t really sure which direction I wanted to go in, and he told me about Ethereum and I got deep in the rabbit hole.  Many Reddit forums when I should have probably been doing my PhD, and here we are today.

HOST:  Wow, what a journey.  So when you first started learning about blockchain and crypto like from your brother, what thought process did you have to go through in order to understand it?  Because I think most people when they’re first exposed to this new technology, they sort of, you know, just goes over their head or maybe they’re skeptical and they don’t think this is going to work, they think maybe it’s a scam, it’s a black market.  So like at what point did it click for you, and like how did you make it click?

SARAH HAMBURG:  It’s a really interesting question.  So I’ve always been interested in cryptocurrency before, I remember hearing about Bitcoin before that and I wanted to buy some bitcoin, but I was so naive that when I Googled it, it was like, what price of one Bitcoin was more than I wanted to sell it.  I was like, Oh, I can’t I don’t I won’t buy any Bitcoin and like it didn’t even occur to you could buy part of a Bitcoin like it just hadn’t crossed my mind and I suppose as someone outside why would it—why would you think you could buy probably Bitcoin.

So it’s always been—and then that obviously Bitcoin shop and I was like, oh, I should have looked into that a bit more.  And then when my brother mentioned about Ethereum, and he was like, oh, it’s kind of like Bitcoin, but you can build on top of that, and there’s whole industries being built on top of that, and I remembered that I’d always been interested in Bitcoin, and I kind of then went and researched it.  And I’m really lucky that I had my brother kind of to ask all those stupid questions off and I think that’s really important when you’re learning to have somebody in your life, you can just text any random link to that mentioned something about blockchain and be like, what does this mean?  Or what are these words?  You know, I think as far as like, just the most stupid questions probably, but not stupid, but just as a novice coming into the area.

So that was really important, but yeah, in terms of like, how I understood the technology, I think I always got it like it was a new—as a revolutionary tool.  It was it was going to change everything, and maybe it’s just representative of his skills and communicating technology, but I just thought it instantly that it was something that was going to be very, very important.  And I guess because I knew he’d been involved in finance for a while, and when he told me this, it’s coming along, it’s a trusted source those as well.

So yeah, in case anyone’s wondering, my brother’s called Harry Hamburg, and he does write very good works on crypto. He’s got a particularly good one which is Everything You Ever Need To Know About Crypto, and I always direct people to that, because I think when you get into crypto you have loads people in your life just start randomly asking you about all the time and I just ping on this article.  You should read my brother’s article.  And like everyone starts reading my brother’s articles like my friend’s parents start reading them and asking me about what’s your brother writing about next.

HOST:  Dose does he write for a publication or for himself?  Like where can people find his…

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yeah.  He used to write for several different publications over the years, and pointing to various facets now, because I don’t remember the name of the particular ones he’s writing for now; it’s a big American thing.  But he does his own which is what I read, so it’s called Coin Confidential, but he’s called Harry Hamburg.  So if you Google Harry Hamburg; you’re not going to forget that name, I’m sure you’ll find him.

HOST:  Harry Hamburg, yeah, that has a ring to it.  Like the alliteration names.  Okay, cool.  So you got into it from, you know, your brother was a big help.  I think that it definitely helps like so many people I’ve talked to on the podcast, said they had a trusted person in their life, whether it was a family member or just a really good friend, who they were able to, you know, just text all the basic questions to and really learn from and know that they’re getting trusted information and not getting scammed.


HOST:  So that’s super helpful.  And then at what point did you connect, you know, like blockchain technology with science and combine these two worlds?

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yeah.  I think it’s really interesting, because over the years, I’ve always texted my brother like why don’t dive into science, why not dive into neuroscience?  And the answer was kind of goes live from him, maybe they weren’t, I didn’t know about it.  But it was around this time last year and me and Alex is also the co-founder and Alexandra, she’s the software engineer.  She’s a good friend of mine and I worked with her in Fintech consultancy.  

We were in Edinburgh, and we just sat in a cafe and I’ve been scoping out some ideas, for—I’m really passionate about newer technology.  So as I said, I did my PhD with EEG, which is where you measure the brain activity on people’s heads. We’re at this point in history where we now have the ability to anyone can image their own brain at home with a headset of headphones that look just like this, like this could literally just have some electrodes in which can read my brain activity, and sends it off, and some algorithms can pull out loads of different metrics around concentration and attention and stress, and you can even program like mental commands so I could command a drone to fly if I want. I think YouTube is full of like those kinds of spectacle examples.

But yes, I was interested in brain wearables, and I’m very concerned about the future of brain wearables.  And, I mean, obviously, the most notable of these is Neuralink, which is Elon Musk’s company, and that’s an invasive neuro tech.  It’s not really a wearable, it’s invasive neuro-tech device.  It’s not like headphones.  But that’s just one example.  So there’s these companies springing up all over and we are in the future going to be given our brain data over to lots of companies and I’m very concerned about the centralization of that data, I mean, not necessarily even because you can read anything into it immediately, but if people saw that data, who knows what you can read and sign in decades time.

And it concerns me quite a lot in terms of like in neuro-ethics and quite in neuro-ethics and who owns that data and what they use it for.  And why are consumers giving it over so willingly?  But also, I want people to be able to wear these cool wearables and like interact with their computers with like, just with my thoughts, how cool is that?  So I want this future, but also I’m kind of torn because I worry very much about what that future looks like from an ethical point of view.  

And I will start with Alex in cafe in Edinburgh, and we were talking about how we should build this back end BCIs and how you could maybe use crypto; you could use Web 3.0 to store the data securely, and permission the data in certain ways. And we started sketching it out, like how you could have a back end for BCIs essentially.

So that kind of became this thing that we were interested in; we use to talk about it a lot, and then it wasn’t until earlier this year, in 2021—it was not until earlier this spring that I wanted to try and see if there was anyone else out there who’s doing something similar.  I’d always Googled it, but not found anything and then I posted on—I was a member of NeuroTechX; we’re a really good community of stuff like neuro hackers, neuro tech enthusiasts, and I posted on there anyone was working with blockchain and neuro-tech.  El Shady, who is the founder of Opscientia; he answered the call.  He’s like, oh, hey, I’m working on that; we should connect.

So we connected and we have several calls, and we really just shared the vision of what we want to do.  They looked like complimentary, so he’s coming at it from very much an academic point of view.  So around the same time he was finishing PhD.  And with COVID coming along, there was problems with near sharing of these big data sets; labs were kind of shutting down, the students were going home, but they couldn’t access to their data.  And so he’d seen firsthand the poor infrastructure that we have for science and the impact it’s having on science underground.  

And I definitely shared those values and similar experiences even before COVID, academia and data sharing, but also from, I guess from more of a consumer wearable point of view as well, is what I’m interested in too.  - - sort of products that are coming out of the space, so we’re kind of quite complimentary with our vision.

And Alex is really interested in data ownership and sort of ethics, and how people can have ownership and autonomy and using kind of crypto in those ways.  So yeah, we’re kind of on the same page.  It was really quite magical, it felt like— and then we did Kernel together, so he said, I’m - - like, you guys want to come along?  We didn’t know who might really at this point.  And we didn’t know what Kernel was; we kept looking what Kernel was and we were still like, it looks really cool.  Like we should probably do that.  Yeah, we should probably do.

And yeah, we did and it was absolutely fantastic, and we really bonded as a team.  And we built our prototype, and we have some fellows working with us, so peoples and upgrade fellows and students in India who are part of our team, and they helped us; they’ve been doing a lot of work in the back-end.  And we went some Hackathons with our prototype and, and then we - - landed, we all came to Barcelona, and here I am now your podcast.

HOST:  Wow, what a story; very serendipitous as many things are in the crypto world.  A lot of that science and tech overlap reminds me of black mirror a lot, like it gets me really excited like you were saying like, you know, you’re really bullish on it, but also kind of scared at the same time.


HOST:  Okay.  So then you get together with this shared vision, and then tell me more about how Opscientia has developed since then, and then more about what it is?  I know I sort of like did a brief intro, Opscientia is this like open science DAO, but like, I’d love to hear more about what that means.

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yeah.  So I guess we developed—we were on the same page about what we wanted to do in terms of the problems in science that we wanted to try and address.  So I think it’s probably easy if I just kind of go over those a bit first and talk about where we come in, so.

Science, it’s not been modernized, you know, it has many problems in it and I don’t want to start ranting about science, but replication quiet prices is quite familiar to many people are the fact like lots of studies don’t replicate and part of the problem which contributes to that is, you know, we have a lot of science which goes unpublished so people aren’t incentivized; incentive structures are all wrong, essentially.  So you’re not really incentivized to publish negative results.  You’re not incentivized to replicate other people’s studies, ‘cause why would you want to kind of go out into your own exciting thing, you don’t understand why it’s replicated, someone else’s study.  If you get a negative result, you don’t spend weeks writing that off.

It’s just not that exciting.  And that tends to lead to bad science, because there’s no incentive to spend your very valuable time as scientists always very stretch on publishing those types of research.  And we also have this publish or perish culture in science, so if you’re not publishing in high impact journals, if you really can’t craft the kind of energy you’re not going to keep winning your grants to carry on with your research, which is exacerbated by the fact people don’t really have permanent positions in science.  It’s all temporary contracts.  You have to keep winning your job essentially, and proving that you are valuable, like making valuable contributions, and one of the ways of doing that is through sort of, you know, big bang publishing and that does lead to some bad problems in science in terms of like, maybe not going for the subjects or the reputation, et cetera, that people should be spending time on.

There’s also a lot of unpaid work in science.  So you spend a lot of your time peer reviewing people’s papers, and it’s all—it’s all entirely anonymous.  It’s just part of the burden of science that falls on the shoulders of scientists is unpaid work.  And it’s because you need to contribute to the ecosystem and make sure people are doing good science, but you’re not really incentivized to spend your time doing that, it’s just you know you should, but there’s still no incentives to do so.  Unpaid work in terms of training.

So there’s a lot of poor incentive structures which lead to poor practices in science, because of the publisher perish mentality, you don’t have data sharing, open data sharing as you should do, which is a problem as well.  So there’s more of an adversarial working culture rather than a collaborative working culture.  I think people outside of science are quite surprised by that, but anyone who’s worked, maybe understands that it comes from this pressure to publish essentially.

The funding model designs are another issue; is not very transparent why some people get funded, it’s not very democratic.  The profits from science don’t actually flow back to scientists.  So COVID vaccines are making millions for pharmaceutical companies; for all those people who spent years doing that basic bench research, what will they see on there, but just not what will they see?  It’s just science is almost like a welfare model of public institutions and charity spend billions over the years on things like vaccine research and there’s a broken link that that is not going to flow back into basic research.  And what could we achieve as, you know, what could humanity achieve if it didn’t fall back? What could we be doing?  And what could be discovering?  So I think that’s really interesting.

And also as well, like I think there’s a lot of bottlenecks in science.  So you get a lot of people leaving like kind of I left science, because of a lot of the negative aspects of it.  But science isn’t all bad if I could just rant about how that scientist, but this is bringing me to why what we’re doing with Opscientia. 

So we want to unlock the data silos as you said, so that means instead of people working in silos with their data, and maybe keeping it very close, maybe not sharing it not necessary, because they don’t want to but it’s very hard with the infrastructure that we have.  We don’t have infrastructure to easily share huge datasets and we’re getting bigger and bigger datasets all the time in science.  I’ve been doing user research and scientists for weeks now speaking scientists every day and they all have similar problems of this very important infrastructure.  

So we want to try and build an infrastructure to enable peer-to-peer sharing of files.  So it’s just as easy as dragging and dropping, you can do all in the browser.  You can have computed data, so you don’t like it just makes things a lot easier, especially, you know, it’s privacy preserving computation and human data, or computer data.

Changing incentive structures.  So the great thing about crypto is it lets us kind of change value systems so we can recreate value systems to be around knowledge rather than necessarily, you know, financial rewards and communities can create knowledge, and that’s where the community is valuable, and we can incentivize people to then create more knowledge and contribute to the community that way so.

And also the funding; democratizing funding.  Kind of similar to how Bitcoin does it, I suppose, I mean, we’re exploring lots of different methods of funding.  We have a funding working group and our DAO, but this idea of kind of unlocking the wisdom of the crowd is really interesting when it comes to science and making sure everything’s transparent.  

So we’re essentially an ecosystem; a modern ecosystem of scientific tools, which are refereed scientific tools to you know, unlock data and coordinate collaboration, and ultimately, democratize funding as well.  So I think that’s explains it clearly.

HOST:  Yeah, that was an excellent explanation.  I think a lot of that was surprising for me to hear.  Like being someone not in the science space.  It’s—yeah, it just seems like you know, scientists are working towards a greater human good. They’re trying to help make our lives better, I think and so it is surprising to hear that it’s so adversarial and not collaborative, because you would hope that people working towards such a big goal—a big vision would put their heads together and build something together.  So that was surprising to hear, yeah.

SARAH HAMBURG:  It’s not always that bad, and people are getting—it’s a lot better than I think it—used to be sometimes, but generally, that tends to be a sentiment which is kind of across science.  But different fields of science will have their own special kind of like cultures within them as well, so.

HOST:  For sure, yeah.  So how do you envision people participating in Opscientia or using Opscientia in the future?  Do you envision all of these scientists coming together and sort of, you know, like spending all of their time pulling their research together in Opscientia and getting paid through Opscientia?  Because obviously, there’s, you know, like, the publish or perish vibe that’s like part of the scientists world, I think scientists probably will be scared to share their research and their findings unless they know that it’s a safe place where they can get paid for it.  And sharing doesn’t mean that they’re going to, you know, lose out in the long run and like not get the funding or not win the grounds.

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yeah, and it’s very important that we make sure that the scientists feel comfortable to use the platform, and that’s why we’re doing a lot of user research right now to find out people’s needs, to find out their attitudes towards open science, towards data sharing.  I mean, I would like to say every scientist I spoke to loves the idea of open science, which is logistics that are difficult, and not necessarily because of the culture, but because of the infrastructure, as well that.  So yeah, we’re doing lots of user research to try and work out the best systems for that.  

And also, I do want to note as well, it’s not just individual scientific data, it’s a huge open source scientific datasets already out there, which scientists have spent years of their lives contributing to, but they’re just sometimes difficult to access as well.  So it’s about putting those into file storage, as well.

HOST:  Yeah.  How many scientists are part of Opscientia right now?

SARAH HAMBURG:  So I think all communities probably around about 150, I would say, but they’re not all scientists.  They have a lot of techies, business people, and we’ve only just started so in the resources - -, I guess in Kernel a months ago. But I think as well what’s really interesting is when you unlock the silos, you then unleash collaboration between different fields of science, which is something that I feel really passionately about.  

So one of the hindrances of science is that everyone works in silos not just because of their data, but just silos of thought as well, because maybe you’re not interacting with different kinds of scientists from completely different fields.  And what I’m really excited about with up Opscientia, we’ve created DeFi - -, which is kind of part of this DAO affiliate program, we started with other science DAOs where we’re bringing other organizations not just ours just like you know, virtual labs that have been out there doing these open science, ways of working for years, and we’re bringing them on board and we’re getting everybody together and we’re sharing best practices about doing science in essentially a decentralized way.  So which means outside of traditional institutions, not so because we don’t think they’re useful, we think they are extremely useful, but it’s just always good to have an alternative system as well.

So I’m really excited about when you unlock the data silos and you bring all the greatest minds together working in different disciplines and the crossovers of science.  And a lot of the problems that we’re facing; humanity is facing in the future are these multidisciplinary problems that humanity faces, and we need scientists of all different kinds to work together on the big problems like climate change, et cetera.

So we’re bringing together lots of different kinds of scientists, as well in the hope that they can collaborate and share ideas, and we can share best practices for how to do decentralized science, because this is new.  People have been working in this way, I guess through COVID, It’s definitely exacerbated and accelerated the trends, but it’s something which we still lack the infrastructure for, and that’s what we’re trying to build.

HOST:  Yeah.  Do you see the DAO functioning as sort of just a way to pay people for their research?  Or to actually fund it almost like in a crowd fund setting where you know, if you have an idea and you want to carry on your research, but you don’t have the money to conduct the research right now, the DAO can put out a vote and say yes, we really want to know the results to this like here’s some money go and do this?

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yeah, definitely.  We want it to be self-sustaining ultimately, we want to create our own rent schemes.  So we’re looking at different ways of doing that.  So we have some NFTs or science ideas for that, but ultimately, we want it to be the self-sustaining way we can administer grants to people and they can—as well, like the idea of the community is so important for science and everyone knows that peer review is important, but what does that mean?  And at the moment, it means you submit a paper and maybe two or three people comment on your paper - -, or say no.  But when we have a hole down the community you can embed peer review like never before, you can embed sort of that wasn’t the crowd throughout the whole process.  

So right away from pre-registration, so I can come up with an idea for experiment.  I can pre-register it, which is something else I’m not sure if I mentioned, but this idea of pre-registration is extremely important, because it means that everything is then transparent right from the start, and you’re not going to then get people not publishing negative results because they’ve already kind of pre-registered that they’re going to do this experiment.

So you can have crowd peer review right away from the beginning through hypothesis and checking your code, and checking that you’ve got the right ethics in place to do the type of research that you want to do.  And then the traditional—more traditional peer review with publishing papers, as well.

But yeah, in terms of like the payment, we would really love it if we can administer science grants through the platform, and that’s definitely something we’re looking at and we have working groups around that at the moment looking into ways of doing that.

HOST:  Yeah, very cool.  And then where do you hope to see Opscientia in the long term or like what’s your grand long term vision for the impact that Opscientia can have?

SARAH HAMBURG:  What I’m really excited about is with science now, it’s like—I think if aliens were to visit our planet, and say like where’s your science?  Like, oh, well, you can go to this journal to read about this and that journal to read about that, and everything’s in a different format and everything’s all over the place.  

I’m really excited about just having like, a linked list of science and it’s all ordered, and it’s essentially machine readable like what I want is machine and not just like - - essentially want is machine readable science in terms of the data, in terms of the findings.  So that we can have science ready for AI to come along.  And by AI, I don’t mean you know, like artificial general intelligence in decade’s time, I just mean kind of like algorithms that optimize, search processes that optimize analysis, optimize, creating papers.  And almost you can have their self-sustaining—I guess, we might call it knowledge generation factories.

So semi-automated, self-sustaining knowledge generation factories that are creating this knowledge by running on smart contracts with semi-automation fill in.  And that’s what we’re really excited about, because when you do have science in this kind of ordered way on Web 3.0, it’s all linked together, and you do make it essentially machine readable.  And we can start automating simple things and free up sort of that human intelligence or maybe the more creative types of science or interdisciplinary research, et cetera.

So, yeah, that’s kind of the long term goal.  We have these sort of self-sustaining virtual labs and the idea being without infrastructure, anybody anywhere in the world, citizen scientist are powered; anyone can be a citizen scientist, like you don’t have to be PhD like as long as you can do good research, because the community will determine that you can spring up your own life.  You can download some data, you can run some algorithms, and you can find something really cool and like maybe the center of automated publishing can help you publish that and the peer review embedded throughout the community can ensure sanity check it all.

And it reminds me of—where I’m from London, and this art shop called Cass Art is really good.  And they have these bags and the slogan on the bags is let’s fill this town with artists.  And I always think like, I kind of in my head, like, push it out and like let’s fill this world with scientists.  Like I think anybody can be a scientist as long as they’re given the right tools.  And I’m really excited about our ability to do that, because science can be quite elitist.  You have to be privileged enough to live near big institute or be able to travel and get these big institutions et cetera.  

And I think there’s a lot of people in the world who could be contributing to science, but because of bottlenecks—arbitrary bottlenecks that we have created from history, they’re not doing so.  And I think using Web 3.0 tools to change the infrastructure of science will allow more people to participate, which is what I’m excited about because then you get much more diversity of thought and much more creativity in science which is incredibly important.

HOST:  I think hearing you say all that it just like clicked for me why it’s called DCI.  It’s after the same goal as DeFi like the whole thesis behind DeFi is leveling the playing field and democratizing access to finance for all groups, and you’re basically trying to do the same thing with science, science.  Like democratizing access to science.  You know, both from a scientist perspective and from like a consumer perspective for all people. 

So I think yeah, that that just like clicked for me the way that you said it.

SARAH HAMBURG:  Right.  I feel like I’ve done—I do this a lot.  I feel like I’ve done a whole podcast backwards, I should have made this the last of it.  But it’s also similar to the creative economy way like with people trying to solve problems in social media of like ownership and the value flowing back to the creating’s in social media; it’s the same thing.  It’s just scientists are creating knowledge instead of viral videos, maybe some scientists create viral videos as well.

HOST:  Yeah.  No, I actually had that same thought about like content creators too, as you’re saying all of that.  And then a few things that you talked about too, with like incentive structures.  I’m wondering if you, like what your thinking is right now with in regards to DAOs in general, or even the crypto ecosystem at large.

What do you see as some of the problems or the things that we still need to work on with regard to like incentivizing people to do the things that we want them to do?  Because I think like, drawing another parallel to UPSI with the larger DAO or crypto ecosystem is that we really lack the infrastructure that we need to scale what we’re trying to do. And yeah, so I’m just curious to hear your thoughts on like, where DAO still need some work?  Where you think things are going well, and where you think things are going not so well?

SARAH HAMBURG:  It’s a really good questions; very difficult one to answer. So think why things aren’t going well, I mean, I guess it’s just hard—everyone’s on different timescales and everyone can contribute different hours and, you know, maybe it’d be good if we all took a step back from just the discord, names and avatars.  And we kind of took the time to know people’s situation a bit more in terms of what their interests are.

Everyone needs to have some level of autonomy in a DAO, and be self-directed, and I think people will find a way into DAO to be like that anyway, at the moment.  But we need to for me, so I kind of managed to - - side of managing the community a lot, and I personally feel like I would love to be able to understand more about who is in my DAO. 

Like what are their interests, what are their commitments, what time zone do they prefer to work in?  You know, they’re working on this project, but are they really interested in this project?  Or maybe there’s another project that they have an idea for that, you know, they don’t feel that there’s a necessary form for, because they’re so busy with this thing.  I think time is an issue like everyone’s so time poor and understanding more about who’s in your community to work with them about how they can best enjoy being a part of that community and add value would be quite good.  And there might be tools for this, I don’t know.  But I just - - the best thing that sometimes is always just being human and just scheduling time with people and just getting to know who they are, and we’re quite lucky that our DAO is quiet small, but as scale I imagine, I’ll still want to know, like more about people than I’ll be able to know.  So maybe just some kind of standard signifies some peoples profiles or just not, many people spending more time filling in bios like - - but it will be quite useful. 

And DAO to DAO collaborations is something I think is really important and it’s something that we’re finding there aren’t really tools for yet, and I think it’s going to becoming increasingly important.  And Alex, our software engineer, she suggested something to discord on Twitter the other day and a lot of people were like oh, that’s a great idea and it’s about you know, maybe having channels which are visible across different DAO, and - - from each DAO about - - channel.

So maybe more tools like that would be quite useful.  Yeah, it’s a really difficult question to answer, and I don’t think I have an answer yet.  I think I need to be in the DAO world for a very long time to grow a lot more time to come up with maybe something more useful than that.

HOST:  Well, I think that’s a really good point.  I actually just saw Big Sky post a tweet thread on like, exactly what you just said.  I just pulled it, but he says, basically, “My biggest worry around DAO and decentralized protocols is that we’re not building the infrastructure to ensure that individuals do not fall through the cracks.”  And then he says, “Crypto and DeFi projects are made up of thousands of real people with real human emotions and concerns.  We have zero safety structure in place right now to ensure that people are doing okay and being taken care of.”  And sort of like this whole thread about that, and that’s you know, sort of the point you hit on too and I think it’s a tough challenge to solve for, because on one hand, I think people really appreciate that they can be a nun in this world and that that’s not a taboo and that that’s okay.  And, you know, they sort of don’t have to be judged by how they look or by their background or where they’re from, or any of these things.  I think there’s something beautiful about that.

But at the same time that does make it really hard to build personal relationships and connections and to really get to know people and understand people and what they want, and you know, where they come from and be able to, you know, I think, you know, like in our normal human interactions too, with people that we don’t get along with so well, maybe if we take the time to understand their background and where they’re, the context of like, why they’re doing or saying the things that they are help us to sympathize a lot more.  And so we’re sort of missing that in DAOs and in crypto—in the crypto space in general right now.  So I don’t really know what the solution to that is.

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yeah.  I think we all may be too quick to jump to tech solutions, because we all love tech, but sometimes that should just paying people and having a chat with them and getting to know the favorite songs and you know, just something about that and that build cohesion among teams. When you know personal details about each other which actually brings me to another point I was singing a lot about.  How organizational psychology is a huge field, and I don’t really know organizational psychology courses know that DAO exist yet.  And we should get more people studying—more people who study organizations psychology to actually start specializing in DAO, because we’re not going to have all the answers yet, and we’re not going to have all the answers for a while.  But just looking at different structures, different ways of communication, different ways of working in different fields would be really useful from an academic point of view. And I think that will be yeah, that would be really useful, and we should have that embedded in psychology.

Which brings me to another point which I wanted to make about like, you know, I think in terms of the space like what it is now, more than anything is education, from the wider community about Web 3.0, and I know everyone talks about this all the times and I know agrees its needed.  But in terms of how I think we should be approaching this is, we should be all banging on the doors of universities and saying like, why don’t you have a token economics module in your economics classes?  Why don’t you have a module on minting NFTs on your art degrees?  Like why aren’t business studies courses doing modules and DAOs?  And psychology courses doing modules, when we talk about group behavior about the online community? 

I think academia is maybe a bit slow to catch up with what’s been happening on the ground here, and we almost need them now to be like can you guys like study this?  Can you tell these young 18 year-old students that this thing exists so we can all start and be more on board with what it all means and progressing and learning maybe in those ways, as well as through the usual channels that we all learn through like Reddit and white papers and things.

HOST:  Yeah, for sure.  I almost think it would be really cool to, I mean, because that’s like the area that I focus my work in.  Is just like crypto education to the masses.  And you know that is like my goal to reach everybody with Web 3.0 and onboard them on the Web 3.0.  I also think it would be cool to have like create DAO of sorts where you just reach out to people in all different fields.  It can even be like you know, PhD students or even university students who are studying psychology, that are studying economics, studying organizational studies or all of these different things.  And give them an opportunity to do some research and do some work outside of their class work, which doesn’t include any of this stuff yet, and be able to contribute their learning and you know, sort of apply the things that they’re learning in school to something that’s a lot more practical and exciting.

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yeah, definitely.  I think it’s needed, and especially when you think about like art degrees and things like that.  They should be teaching them about how to mint and everything like that, definitely.

HOST:  Yeah, for sure.  I love all those thoughts.  I’m curious too, like are there any other rabbit holes that you’ve been going down recently in crypto outside of science?

SARAH HAMBURG:  Oh, gosh.  Oh, I feel like I’ve been living down the rabbit hole since 2017, in a rapid war, and I can’t live underground a rabbit hole, and it’s like, um.


HOST:  You’re so deep down the tunnel, you can’t even get back out.

SARAH HAMBURG:  Oh.  No, I think the NFT space is just as fascinating this year.  I think we’ve all felt it.  Just really interesting stuff coming out all the time, I feel like I can’t keep up with what’s going on.  And yeah the NFT side of it in terms of the artworks and I’m so inspired by this idea and - - of creating funding for artists you know.  We almost have a welfare model of arts, where like artists beg for money from the grants, yet they generate enormous profits when you think about what they do, you know, maybe in a gallery and it gentrifying the area, and the property prices go up and the value; they create the culture and tourism and the value they create just not just monetary value, but the quality of life and we have this current welfare model for arts, where people have to beg for funding, and I’m so excited that artists can get paid for their work now.  And it’s not perfect, it’s new, but I’m really excited that people are building on it and iterating on it and making it constantly more exciting and better.

Yeah, I just love all the NTF; the NFT arts coming out, it’s fascinating.

HOST:  Yeah, yeah.  I love that you can be an artist and not be a starving artist.  I think that’s super exciting to me, and it’s been fascinating to try and understand why certain NFT projects end up exploding and others don’t and so many elements that go into that, right?

SARAH HAMBURG:  Oh, yeah, 100%.  So we’re looking into—I think I mentioned some NFTs in science.  We’re doing this really exciting science project, because we want to give a nod to those scientists who have been forgotten through history because their work has been written out of history or misappropriated by others, because maybe they’re from a minority group.  So we’re doing this science project and we have pitched through NFT DAO, who formed Kernel, because it’s a public good domain like if we can help people to build these NFTs projects and get them off the ground.  It’s really exciting with the DAO, like helping giving grants to project like ours.  So we - - like we need scientists story and we need like artists and things like that.  So yeah, it’s a really exciting time and I think I’ve been probably going down the rabbit hole a lot more, because I know that we want to use some NFTs for science, and as you say, is really exciting time because I keep saying that over and over.  But as you say, you don’t have to be a starving artist anymore.  And I can’t think of a time in history when you didn’t have to a starving artist, apart from when you used to get paid by the church, but obviously, - - what you want to.  And now it’s freedom—its freedom and funding which is incredibly exciting.

HOST:  Yeah, absolutely.  Awesome.  Okay.  Well, before we wrap up, Sarah, I just have a couple of tweets that I’m going to give you a chance to explain.  I end every podcast episode with this Explain Your Tweet Segment.  So I’ve got two for you here.  The first on is from September 24th 2021.  You said, “Tools are in the hands of excluded groups drives innovation with the 77, and why blackout kids looted DJ equipment and hip hop was born.  80s Dundee was full of computers from a factory and there, kids learned to build games and GTA was born.  What happens when more people have science tools?” 

So I know we’ve sort of talked about this a little bit, but I’m curious.  I don’t know If people understand those references that you said there so I would love a little history lesson here.

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yeah.  So I stole this - - from one of my friends on Instagram, but then I changed it to DeFi, so full disclosure.  So there’s this idea that in history if look at the 77 blackout was in New York, and what happens was young people who can’t afford, I guess DJ equipment, things like microphones and turntables, they’ve been excluded from that, they looted them instead.  And its touted as like the birth of hip hop because then suddenly, all these young people who weren’t at all lacking in creativity, they were just lacking in tools, suddenly have tools and they all—they created this whole new genre of music which has inspired cooperate harmonious genres of music. 

And whether or not you’re a hip hop fan or not, I sound like a grandma, it doesn’t matter because it’s culture at the end of the day, and it wouldn’t have happened.  It might have happened, but more slowly, et cetera.  And the Dundee reference was during a parallel to that, because Dundee in the 80s was a very poor area.  A lot of people were on the dole welfare benefits, and there was computer factory and not all the computers made it out of factory on to the market. Some of them just made it into a community and UNs and the town was, it was said to be awash with this simply kind of computer consoles.  And so kids were equipped with these computer consoles and they learned to code their own games, and that’s how there was these a very poor area of UK and but kids were building their own computer games and that’s how the Grand Theft Auto—that eventually birthed the whole Grand Theft Auto and spies and lots of other, I mean, Lemmings as well - - as I’m showing my age now that Lemmings is great, and I believe that also came out of Dundee.

So it’s just this idea that we live in a world where we think that people who create things are the only people who can create things, and until everyone has tools, we never know what’s possible.  And I’m so excited by having a world where anybody can do science, because you don’t need a PhD.  You just need a community around you to teach you and so you can learn from um, and I hate elitism.  I absolutely hate elitism that comes along science.  And there’s good reason you study for so many years that you don’t—I think there’s any need to study so many years in sort of these old fashioned institutions when a lot of science is actually now—a lot of good science and modern science is a collaborative and online.  And I think we can generate—I’m just so excited what we could generate if everybody who wants to be a scientist can be a scientist. 

Can you imagine if we had a world full of that where there wasn’t any there wasn’t a bottleneck that exist now?  And I think the parallels I was drawing there was you just don’t know what was happening.  We literally don’t know what people will be looking at, but it will be a lot less grimy and we’ll be looking at a lot more diverse issues that affect a lot more different populations of people in regions of the world and I think that’s would be a fantastic thing.

HOST:  Yeah, totally agree.  That was so uplifting. I must want to end there.  I feel like this tweet I have is going to like - - little bit.

SARAH HAMBURG:   Is it the meme?  Is it the meme that me and Alex made?  It might be meme.


HOST:  It’s not a meme, but okay, here we go.  The other one I have is from September 1st 2021.  You said, “As someone who’s always had a very vivid nightmares, I’d be so intrigued to create a crowd source anonymous one-of-one scenes from my nightmares NFT series.  I’m sure tonight I’ll now have a nightmare and that I do this and we’re all seeing the same things.”

So I thought this was interesting, because I’m also a nightmare person.  I don’t know like if you know the science behind it, I would love to like have a cure to not have it. But also, I was going to say like you should, like figure out a way to do it.  I think Matt Condon’s working on like a sort of similar sleep projects, not with nightmares, but like with like more like sleep talking, and so really like anything you can dream of - - can do.

SARAH HAMBURG:  Interesting.  What if everyone is saying the same thing in their sleep?  That’s terrifying.

HOST:  Oh my gosh.                             

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yeah, I did have a lot of nightmares.  I feel like there are a few basis for nightmares.  I think there’s a few different theories about maybe the depth of sleep, that you going in and out. Or maybe the stress or pain while you’re asleep.  But yeah, I have very vivid nightmares.  I remember that night, it was very horrible. 

But yeah, I’m always just coming up with an NFT, not necessarily NFT ideas.  I used to be all ideas, and I guess now I just call them NFT, because I’m using the NFT interchangeably, and I probably shouldn’t do.  But it’s just interesting how my language has changed, because that shows that for me, piece of art is now synonymous with an NFT and how did that happen in my brain as.  That’s quite fascinating.

HOST:  Well, I think for the next generation, they’re going to be confused when you tell them that you used to, you know, buy art from the store and hang it on your wall or something.  I think that’s going to be totally synonymous for them.

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yeah.  I did have another tweet actually, I thought you were going to bring up which was, “If I ever have kids, I expect them to ask me like who owns all the JPEGs?  And so the only way to buy anything was government money.  What you mean?”  I really expect that.

HOST:  Yeah, I remember seeing that tweet too.  That was a good one. I think that’s totally true, I mean, it’s funny for us to think about right now.  But I think in the future that’s just going to be how it is.

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yeah.  It’s almost like we all have mobile phones and the idea of what used to call a building to speak to someone; you call the building and not the person?  Like it’s the things which seem so normal, because we live through them and then technology comes along the way just like, wow.

HOST:  Yeah, or like writing letters.  Like, can you imagine what writing letter to people is going to feel like in the future, I mean already now, you know?  Can’t remember the last time I wrote a letter.

SARAH HAMBURG:  It’s true.  I’m really obsessed with the whole like analog to digital thing, and I think this is because I’ve lived through like this computer revolution; I’m showing my age now, but I’m 35.  And I remember what it was like before computers and before I grew up, we had a computer at my house, but not always, and like I’m obsessed with this analog to digital.  And I do—I really into like photography and I’m really excited, because I’m going to get this camera which takes—so I’m going off on one now, but out a few long.  It takes 30 seconds silent movies, but with film, and then you can digitize and then you could NFT it if you want to was the next thought I had.  So you’re going right away from into, you know, an NFT; a digital film and then NFT.

Yeah, I’m obsessed with this analog to digital thing.  And I think it is because I’m at the timeline I - - is going from analog to digital for many things.  I find it really interesting.

HOST:  I love that idea, I love that.  Awesome.  Before you go, Sarah, tell people where they can find you if they want to connect with you; if they have their follow up questions with you, and then also where people can go to learn more about Opscientia?

SARAH HAMBURG:  Yes, definitely.  So please, please visit our website which is opscien.io, so you don’t need to have to spell Opscientia to go to our website.  We also have a Twitter as well, but yeah, if you visit our website we’ve got all our links in there.  And please, if you’re interested in DeFi, if you’re interested in any of the things I’ve spoken about, we’d love it if you join our discord and take part in the conversations happening out there; take part in our working groups, and the discord link is on our website which is opscien.io.  Thank you so much for having me.

HOST:  Amazing.  Thank you so much for taking the time, Sarah.  I’m so glad you came on.  Thank you everybody for tuning in as always, and we’ll be back again soon with another episode of the Unstoppable Podcast.