Hi! I’m Ethan Buchman. I grew up in Toronto, Canada, but spent many years in lovely Guelph.
I co-founded the Cosmos and Tendermint projects, which I still work on, as CEO of Informal Systems and President of the Interchain Foundation. Cosmos is a political economic philosophy emphasizing sovereignty and interoperability for the world’s communities. I care a lot about the structure of organizations and the power dynamics between capital and labour. Informal Systems is itself structured as a worker’s cooperative. For a summary of some of my political economic thinking, see my talks, A Brief History of Distributed State, and Stakeholders and Statemachines.
My master’s thesis provides a seminal introduction to Tendermint and Proof of Stake systems, and contextualizes the development of blockchain technology in the history of academic distributed systems research. Blockchains represent the natural evolution of database systems towards a multi-stakeholder context.
My undergraduate work focused on the biophysics of organisms, the origin of life, and the thermodynamics of sustainability. That work has heavily informed my political economic thinking. We live in a biophysical reality.
I’m also an associate at the Creative Destruction Lab.
I’m active on twitter, where I bill myself as an Internet BioPhysicist, Sustainability Existentialist, Monetary Localist, and PlainText Evangelist.
I have a quasi-maintained CV.
I explore a lot of my ideas in conference talks, podcasts, and interviews, which you can find on the Media page.
The following books/lectures (and their authors!) have had an outsized influence on my life (in order):
- The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
- Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening from the Alan Watts Audio Archives by Alan Watts
- Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
- The Rainbow and the Worm: The Physics of Organisms by Mae Wan Ho
- Creating Wealth: Growing Local Economies with Local Currencies by Gwendolyn Hallsmith and Bernard Lietaer
Some other major early influences include:
- Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion: Mircea Eliade, Carl Jung, Robert Anton Wilson, Terrence McKenna
- Media and Technology: Marshall McLuhan, Buckminster Fuller
- Economics: E.F. Schumacher, Jane Jacobs, Elinor Ostrom, Nassim Taleb, Friedrich Hayek.
For a more recent list of favorite economists (including classics like Robert Owen, Henry George, Silvio Gesell, and Karl Polanyi), see my tweet thread.
These days I’m studying monetary theory, history, and practice, guided by the work of folks like Perry Mehrling, George Selgin, and Jeffrey Snider, though I continue to pursue a more “localist” and “ecological” understanding. I’ve also found a rich source of knowledge in Karl Polanyi’s work (see my post, The Market Pattern), and have become somewhat enchanted by Modern Monetary Theory (though see my critique).
I’m on a mission to synthesize the various heterodox schools of economics to provide a basis for a more sustainable political economy. And yes, this means bridging the gap between the Left and the Right, which I believe can be done through open and honest dialogue (something sorely lacking today).
Some quotes I’m fond of:
“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.”
- Buckminster Fuller
“There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”
- Marshall McLuhan
“Human beings were invented by water as a device for transporting itself from one place to another.”
- Tom Robbins
“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”
- Douglas Adams
The profile picture is a super-resolution image of actin filaments in a kidney cell (Xu et al. Nature Methods 9: 185-188 (2012)). I believe that cellular biophysical mechanics (cytoskeleton, extra-cellular matrix, collagen networks, etc.) are perhaps more fundamental to understanding multi-cellular organisms than sequences of DNA. Your DNA wouldn’t even be able to replicate itself were it not for the microtubules.