Vitalik’s Second Entrepreneurship: Zuzalu’s Ethereum Sociological Experiment

Author: Shuyao Source: IOSG

I spent a month participating in Vitalik’s sociological experiment, and what you know about Zuzalu may not be entirely factual.

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Compared to a seaside crypto conference, Zuzalu is more like an ancient Greek city.

You may have heard of this gathering – an idea of Ethereum founder V God – where wealthy cryptocurrency bosses were also planning how to evade death. Of course, that’s not all that happened at Zuzalu.

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

Upon arriving at Zuzalu (a fictional word), I registered for the project using ZuBlockings and generated a “passport” with a QR code. This is a zero-knowledge proof identity verification system used to verify the identity of residents. This app was created by a Zuzalu resident, and the technical solution for this project was also supported by Zuzalu residents.

It doesn’t take long to become completely familiar with the important landscape of Zuzalu. It’s a beautiful bay, with green mountains dramatically extending down to touch the Adriatic Sea. Most of the participants (although 200 were said to be attending, there were actually 700) stayed in apartments rented by the core organizers, with only a small portion of the actual cost being paid by residents.

Students and others in need of financial assistance could apply for subsidies. I was happy to meet my friend Eric Annan, a founder from Ghana who established a Web3 talent protocol in Africa. It was also thanks to this subsidy that 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, coffee shops (the hazelnut 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 kindly provided free fruit when I was hungry.

My favorite place

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

A large room with rows of desks, chairs, and a big screen reminds me of the library I used to love in college. I love this place because it keeps me away from all social activities and allows me to truly focus on my work. I also love the friends who work with me, they are elites in various fields.

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

In addition to chatting about Crypto, the most common topics are “AI Alignment” (AI Alignment) or “X-risk”. As in other places, the focus of the debate is whether AGI is likely to become extremely powerful and keep humans away from labor.

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

Such moments make Zuzalu more like an ancient Greek city square than just a crypto conference held by the seaside.

You can certainly oppose the pursuit of eternal life

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

Even many people sing for occasional indulgence. For example, some community members have formed an anti-longevity group and held an event where they ate 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 there’s a problem when you simplify a diverse group and then support something.

Bing loves having longevity experts around him. One morning, I was eating a bunch of fruit and a yoga teacher walked by and told me that eating fruit before protein or vegetables can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar. The spike in blood sugar can lead to feeling more tired, moody, and lethargic throughout the rest of the day.

What started out as a conversation turned into a lesson on nutrition, which I still practice today (eat your veggies and protein first!). While we may not live forever, I plan to live my life on this beautiful earth with vitality!

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, having just finished lunch and about to go for a stroll with two other residents.

Vitalik played a critical role in Zuzalu’s success: he initiated many core projects, invited speakers and participants, and answered community questions at weekly town halls. But for most residents, despite being the founder of Ethereum and holding a prominent position, he seemed no different from other core organizers.

He went to breakfast like everyone else, hiked up the mountain like everyone else, participated in many salon-like discussions like everyone else, and even sang karaoke like everyone else. Additionally, he ate hotpot with the Chinese community, which made me very happy because I myself am the founder of the hotpot DAO.

As a member of the community, Vitalik made himself feel commonplace and egalitarian at Zuzalu, rather than the elitist that the media often portrays.

(Here, I also want to pay tribute to the core organizers: Nicole, Milos, Janice! They are responsible for daily planning, logistics, and security, and take care of people’s emotional needs.)

What is Zuzalu, anyway?

This is a difficult question to answer because Zuzalu is still young and hard to define. In the media’s descriptions, Zuzalu is a sexless Burning Man for crypto rich, an adult summer camp, or more bluntly, an endless conference.

But to me, Zuzalu is reminiscent of early Ethereum: raw and uncertain, but full of optimism and excitement for the future. It’s intentionally designed to be unfinished. Its existence should expand our imaginations and provide a new way of communal living — hopefully as an example of altruism. I hope more countries open up similar social experiments and let more curious people experience the magic of Zuzalu.

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

I don’t think I’ll ever really leave Zuzalu because it’s essentially always been an online community. Fortunately, Bing will continue to share his wisdom with other Zuzalu citizens until our next meeting, hopefully at Zuzalu v.2.

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