Genius of encryption sets off again: Vitalik and the Ethereum sociological experiment of Zuzalu citizens

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Compared to the seaside crypto conference, Zuzalu is more like an ancient Greek city. You may have heard that this gathering – the brainchild of Ethereum founder V God – is where the rich crypto circle bosses plan how to escape death. Of course, that’s not all that happens at Zuzalu.

I spent a month at Zuzalu, participating in a two-month temporary city project in Montenegro’s Lustica Bay, and had the privilege of being with some of the smartest people in the world. The high concentration of talent is Zuzalu’s killer feature!

Upon arriving at Zuzalu (a fictional word), I registered for the project with ZuBlockingss and generated a “passport” via a QR code, which is an identity verification system that uses zero-knowledge proofs to verify residents’ identities. This app was actually developed by a Zuzalu resident, and the technical solution for this project was also supported by Zuzalu residents.

You don’t need too much time to get familiar with Zuzalu’s important landscapes. It’s a beautiful bay, with green mountains dramatically extending down to touch the Adriatic Sea. Most participants (although claimed to be 200 people, there were actually 700 people) lived in apartments rented by the organizers, and the cost was only a small part of the actual payment.

Students and others who need financial assistance can apply for subsidies. I was happy to meet my friend Eric Annan, a founder from Ghana who established a Web3 talent protocol in Africa. Thanks to this subsidy, Eric was able to come to Zuzalu.

The bay is owned and developed by an Egyptian real estate company, and almost everything you need is available nearby: restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, cafes (the happy nut-flavored ice cream is delicious), pharmacies, children’s playgrounds, and clothing stores.

During this month, I became friends with the local bosses. They knew what coffee I liked and always offered free fruit when I was hungry.

My favorite place

My favorite place at Zuzalu is actually the co-working space. You can hold lectures, group discussions, and hackathons here, and they also provide free food.

A large room with rows of tables, chairs, and a big screen reminds me of the library, my favorite place when I was in school. I love this place because it keeps me away from all social activities and allows me to focus on my work. I also love the friends who work with me, they are the elite talents in various fields.

From smart contract developers to cryptographers, from security experts to network status advocates, “borderless collaboration” enthusiasts, AI elites, and even Elon Musk’s ex-wife Grimes – walking around Zuzalu, you have the opportunity to communicate with the top talents in different industries. The cooperation achieved at Zuzalu surpasses that of most crypto gatherings.

In addition to the chat about Crypto, the most common topics are “Aligning with Artificial Intelligence” (AI Alignment) or “X-risk”. Here and elsewhere, the focus of debate is whether AGI can become extremely powerful and take humans away from labor.

Flashbot is a project famous for building MEV protocols and tools, and the entire discussion is hosted by them. People hold different positions and have intense debates at Zuzalu at night.

Moments like this make Zuzalu more like an ancient Greek city square than just a crypto conference held on the beach.

Of course you can oppose the pursuit of immortality

The media describes Zuzalu as a gathering of crypto tycoons who hope to pursue immortality through technology, but is that really the case? Indeed, some people soak in cold water, fast, and monitor their blood sugar constantly to extend their lifespan. But most of them, like Bing, are just trying to live a healthy life.

Even many people will indulge occasionally. For example, some community members formed an anti-longevity group and held an event to eat pancakes with very high sugar content.

One member even added an “anti-longevity club emoji” next to their name: I don’t think many people are against longevity, but if you simplify a diverse group and support something, there will be problems.

Bing really likes having longevity experts around him. One morning, I was eating a bunch of fruit and a yoga teacher came over and told me that eating fruit before protein or vegetables can cause a sharp rise in blood sugar. The surge in blood sugar can lead to feeling more tired, moody, and lethargic throughout the day.

This conversation turned into a nutrition education, and I’m still practicing it (vegetables and protein first!). Although we can’t live forever, I will live my life on this beautiful earth with vigor!

No, Vitalik is not the CEO

On my first day at Zuzalu, I met Vitalik, who was sitting next to a mutual friend of ours, just finishing lunch and planning to hang out with two other residents.

Vitalik played a crucial role in Zuzalu’s success: he initiated many core projects, invited speakers and participants, and answered community questions at the weekly town hall. But for most residents, even though he is the founder of Ethereum and occupies an important position, he seems to have no significant difference from other core organizers.

He went to breakfast like everyone else, went hiking on the mountain like everyone else, participated in many salon-like discussions like everyone else, and even sang karaoke like everyone else. In addition, he also ate hot pot with the Chinese community, which made me very satisfied because I am the founder of Hot Pot DAO.

As a member of the community, Vitalik made people feel that he became ordinary and equal at Zuzalu, rather than elitist as the media often evaluated.

What is Zuzalu?

This is a difficult question to answer because Zuzalu is still young and difficult to define. In media descriptions, Zuzalu is a sexless Burning Man, an adult summer camp for crypto-rich, or more directly, an endless meeting.

But to me, Zuzalu is very similar to the early days of Ethereum: primitive and uncertain, but full of optimism and excitement for the future. It is intentionally designed to be unfinished. Its existence should expand our imagination and provide a new way of life together – I hope this can become an altruistic example. I hope more countries will open up similar social experiments and let more curious people experience the magic of Zuzalu.

Leaving this place is very ceremonial, just like the last day of graduate school, with many heartfelt goodbyes. Will I come back to Zuzalu v.2? Of course I will. Will I ever live in Zuzalu forever? Will anyone ever live in Zuzalu forever? I asked myself this question in Zuzalu’s Telegram channel (I got fasting tips there! So I can eat hot pot forever!)

I don’t think I will ever really leave Zuzalu, because it has essentially been an online community. It is pleasing that, before the next meeting, Bing will continue to share his wisdom with other Zuzalu citizens, and we hope to meet again at the next Zuzalu v.2.

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