#18 Cabin: A Network City for Online Creators

Season 2 of Campfire has spoken with many organizations about their visions for cities for the future. But what about Cabin itself? As it enters a new season soon, Cabin City Council Members Jon Hillis and Phil Levin join for an episode to talk about Cabin’s goal of building a Network City. In this episode, Jon and Phil talk about the evolution of Cabin in its short history, the new Coliving Pass, Cabin’s core values, and Import Replacement Theory.

Want to get the latest on Cabin’s plans and progress? Check out our litepaper. You’ll also get our email newsletter packed with Cabin news and ways to get involved with the community.

Topics Covered:

  • Board Game Preferences of Future of Cities Enthusiasts — (1:40)

  • Cabin’s Change from a “Decentralized City” to a “Network City”  —  (4:15)

  • Why Network Cities are Important Now — (6:38)

  • The Cabin Lingo — (10:08)

  • The “Chapters” of Cabin — (12:37)

  • Problems Cabin Faced Early On — (14:51)

  • The Cabin Coliving Pass — (17:40)

  • Neighborhood Zero Expansion — (20:30)

  • DIY Building for People That Aren’t Builders — (23:04)

  • Consistent Values Across Cabin Neighborhoods — (23:55)

  • The Ideal Cabin Neighborhood and Squad Purchases — (27:20)

  • Jane Jacobs and Import Replacement Theory — (32:47)

  • Whole Earth Catalog — (36:46)

  • Bear Market Advice — (39:20)

Want to learn more about what new technologies are waiting to be released? Follow us on Twitter or join ourDiscord to find out what's in store for us and how we make use of Web3 in both digital and physical space. See you at the next Campfire 🏕️🔥.

*Whole Earth Catalog *by Stewart Brand

Episode Credit:

Hosted by @JacksonSteger

Sound Engineering by @Prodcolin

Videos and Clips by @McdonnellCallum 

Produced by @PhilippeIze

Distribution by  @Alisonclaire and  @PhilippeIze


[00:00:00] Jackson Steger: Good afternoon, everyone. This is Jackson Steger. I hope that your AirPods are fully charged. You're listening to Season 2 of Campfire. 

[00:00:09] This season of Campfire seeks to understand how to build new cities. Each week we are joined by experts and practitioners from different startup cities who will share the stories and the lessons that they have learned from experimenting with radical new models of living. Cabin is building its own network city, which you can learn more about by visiting www.creatorcabins.com or by following us on Twitter @CreatorCabins. You can also listen to this episode. 

[00:00:34] This week, we're reintroducing Cabin as a network city for online creators. Past guests of the show, Jon Hillis and Phil Levin, returned to Campfire to share our new coliving pass for nomad and creators and walk through our plan on how we intend to scale our current handful of neighborhoods into hundreds based off an updated, much more detailed roadmap than we've had before that goes all the way until the year 2525.

[00:01:00] Quick note on my sound. My mic was turned off for the first 5 minutes or so of recording, so you have just my subpar computer audio for the first 300-ish seconds. Once I realized, I turned on the nice mic. So, thanks for your understanding, and let's get it.

[00:01:22] All right. Jon Hillis, Phil Levin, welcome back to Campfire. How are you guys doing? 

[00:01:27] Jon Hillis: Thanks for having us. Great to be back around the fire with you, Jackson.

[00:01:31] Jackson Steger: Yes. You both know how this works, and I've got a ton of questions that build off both of our previous conversations. But first, I tweeted this morning about how I've noticed a lot of people in our space have this sort of inclination towards a certain kind of boardgame, like Settlers of Catan or Risk or Civilization, which is a video game. Either of you grew up playing games like these or still play games like these?

[00:01:57] Jon Hillis: Yeah. These have always been my favorite games as well, and I saw and appreciated your tweet. One that doesn't hit the nail quite on the head but was a big one that I liked during my childhood was RollerCoaster Tycoon, which is similarly like a building game but has a little bit more of a corporate angle to it, where you're also trying to build this theme park that makes money. There's another one that's a card game, where it's like stages of sort of the evolution of society, but I can't think of the name of it.

[00:02:24] Jackson Steger: The Dominion? 

[00:02:25] Jon Hillis: Dominion is a great game, but that's not the one I was thinking of. 

[00:02:28] Phil Levin: Yeah, I played Civilization. I think what I liked about Civilization was a lot of those other games were very military focused, and Civilization says, we have the military, but we also have these scientific advancements, and we also have these cultural advancements, and governance advancements. And it's sort of like meshing of all those concepts into one giant complex board of interactions. I really loved it. And I think if we're going to draw an analogy to the sort of things that like Jon and I like about Cabin, I think it's like the meshing of technology and culture and aesthetic. We don't have a military yet, but maybe one day all at once. 

[00:03:00] Jackson Steger: I was a huge Civilization nerd. So, I agree your point, Phil, about not having the military be the dominant part of the game was really awesome. There's a big import replacement piece to Civilization, choosing the productions of your cities. 

[00:03:15] Alright, cool. I just wanted to start us off with a fun question. But before I ask some of the more serious stuff, I want to preamble for a little bit to make sure that we're weaving the right threads of the Cabin story together today, kind of setting the table for the conversation. A lot of what I'll pull is from the white paper, so it's not going to be too surprising. But one advantage that we are afforded by having our own media, with both the mirror posts and with this podcast, is that we own our narrative, and we own our story. Cabin is the fourth early-stage tech organization that I've worked closely with. And what I've noticed the, the reason why I think owning our own story is an advantage, is because orgs at our stage need to be able to change directions quickly, if necessary. And most of the time, these changes are slight, if there are even any changes. But even a small change has large ripple effects with time. And one change that we've made in our story recently is that we've stopped saying we're building a decentralized city, and we're now building a network city for online creators.

[00:04:17] Jon, I want to start with you. Can you reintroduce Cabin to the audience and define a network city? Maybe highlight why we're using that language intentionally instead of decentralized city, or alternatively a network state, as made popular by Balaji’s recent book.

[00:04:32] Jon Hillis: Yeah. I think words are really important and can create path dependency for people and for organizations because the words that you use end up generating the mental models in your head that generate the things that you build and you do. And so, we try to use words very carefully at Cabin. 

[00:04:52] Decentralized city was a term that I originally coined in a blog post maybe 18 months ago to talk about this new idea of a city that didn't have to be all in one place. And I was actually using that language before Cabin was a DAO. And so, it was much more about the physical decentralization than any other kind of connotations of decentralization. 

[00:05:16] I think what we've seen is, as I've used that phrase and I've tried to explain what Cabin is to people, the word decentralized just has a lot of baggage now that has developed in the last 18 months. And people mean very different things when they use the word ‘decentralized’ and everybody thinks that they are using the word in a way that everyone else understands, but there's actually a lot of forms of decentralization. And I think one of our biggest learnings as we have become a DAO is that decentralization maximalism is not, in and of itself, good, that most of the world today is organizationally structured in ways that are very centralized and taking steps to make them more decentralized across a number of dimensions is often a good idea, but decentralization is not the goal in and of itself. 

[00:06:09] And so, particularly with the more broad use over the last few months of some of Balaji’s terminology around network state, and given some of the confusion that we've encountered around our use of the word ‘decentralized’, I think what I've found is that just when explaining what we're building, it's a little bit easier to talk about it as a network city than a decentralized city.

[00:06:33] Jackson Steger: Sure. We talked about this a little bit in our first episode, Jon. What are the confluence of trends that Cabin sits at? Why do network cities matter now? 

[00:06:43] Jon Hillis: Yeah. One thing that often include in the pitch, and if you've listened to some of our content, you may have heard me say before, is that cities are built around the dominant technology at the era, for the past century, the cities were largely built around cars, and we believe that in the next century, they're going to be built around the internet and blockchains, which are inherently network technologies. So, that's an important piece of it. 

[00:07:07] But if you actually take a step back and think not just about the technology change but about the whole set of changes happening across civilization, there's a pretty good framework that was developed by Stewart Brand, and it's called Pace Layers. And he talks about the ways in which civilizations evolve across a number of different layers at different speeds. And there's a great diagram of this if you want to look up Pace Layering. And the idea is that fashion tends to move very quickly. Commerce moves pretty quickly.

[00:07:39] Then you start getting into slower layers, like infrastructure, governance, and then ultimately the really slow layers to change, culture and nature. And all of these things are connected to each other, but they move at different speeds. And I think what we're seeing right now is that Cabin is tapping into a sort of change that's happening simultaneously across all of these pace layers. But you see this, yeah, the fashion layer with things like Cottagecore and Van Life and Cabin Porn on Instagram. That's like the fashion layer of the instantiation of this change. But you can actually keep going down and looking at these other layers. 

[00:08:19] From a commerce perspective, we've seen the explosion of the creator economy, the growth of digital nomads, the infrastructure layer. You start to see some of these technology changes, the ability to put up solar panels anywhere, a much better internet access in rural locations through things like Starlink, and eventually the way that self-driving cars are going to continue to expand out, the traveling distance from city centers transportation technologies always have.

[00:08:46] When you keep going down to the governance layer, you get the rewriting of these social smart contracts, and what we've been talking about as the blockchain Leviathan, opening up these new opportunities for governance. So, even further down in the culture layer, you start to see the way in which people are now meeting online more frequently than they are meeting in person for things like online dating, the ways in which squads are starting to form squad wealth together, some of the emerging cultural ideas around solar punks. 

[00:09:19] And then all of that really ties into the nature layer, where we have actually started massively accelerating the speed of the nature layer as a civilization. And a lot of these new tools, and a lot of what Cabin is excited about, is the ways in which we can use these other layers to help support the nature layer and make it more regenerative. So, how we can start to create places where we're practicing regenerative agriculture and building sustainable communities that can help combat climate change. 

[00:09:50] Jackson Steger: So, Phil, I want to ground a lot of what Jon just said in the real tangible aspects of Cabin. And I think that there's a lot of language we've been developing over the course of our first few seasons and phases of being a DAO and being a network city. I want to help define that language because, Jon just said, words are so important. 

[00:10:13] So, in the context of what Cabin is doing, so Cabin is building a global network city for online creators, these location flexible knowledge workers who make a living online. In that context, we have neighborhoods, we have caretakers, we have residents, we have contributors. Can you just go through those one by one and help us understand what each of those mean? 

[00:10:34] Phil Levin: Yeah. Let's run through the Cabin lexicon. And as Jon said, words matter. And so, we will try to be careful about how we use these words in our context. The first to talk about is neighborhoods. So, neighborhoods are the physical properties in the real world where people spend time in real life as part of the Cabin community. And so, we have neighborhoods throughout the country, I'll probably assume throughout the world, and these are the physical places. And so, you can imagine if you take all these neighborhoods, spread everywhere, and put them together, they collectively are our city, but the neighborhoods are just spread out to different places geographically. 

[00:11:04] Then we have caretakers. Caretakers are vital to Cabin. They are the people that own and/or operate the neighborhoods. And when we look at who might become a good neighborhood, the very first thing we look at and the thing we put the most weight on is who is the caretaker, who is the person that's making that place what it is culturally, who is the person that is going to make people at Cabin feel welcome to be there, who is the person that is making that space a unique, memorable experience that is different than anything else you can find on Airbnb or elsewhere. And so, the first thing we look for is caretakers as being like a sort of an essential part of the neighborhood that’s not mostly about the property itself. 

[00:11:41] So, then we have residents. Residents are people that spend time in Cabin. They can spend time URL or they can spend time IRL. So, we have communities on Discord, on Telegram as part of the Cabin ecosystem, and people spend time there. They are Cabin residents. We hope and we want that the people will also spend time in the physical neighborhoods, and while they're doing that, they are residents of Cabin, the Neighborhood.

[00:12:03] As an organization, we want to be like a pretty thin and light organization. We want most of the action taking place with the neighborhoods and with the caretakers and with the residents there. But there is some administrative overhead to making all that work. And so, we have a small group of people that sort of take care of that, and we call them the contributors. You can think about them as the employees of Cabin, more or less. And there's something called the city council, which is governed by Cabin's token holders who decide who the contributors are and how they govern and how they work and what sort of resources they get allocated to do the work they need.

[00:12:33] Jackson Steger: Great. Our story, Jon, like any, has a beginning, a middle, an end, and evolving characters. So, how do you think about the chapters of our story so far? And can you talk about how Cabin's super specific who has evolved from season to season or phase to phase, and also what do I mean when I say super specific who? 

[00:12:56] Jon Hillis: Yeah, so one thing that's interesting about DAOs and that I think will help make DAOs uniquely suited as organizations compared to more traditional corporate structures is their flexibility. And Cabin has really leaned into this via our seasonal structure, where we try to make sure that each season, we are evolving how we operate to best suit the opportunities that lay ahead of us. 

[00:13:25] And so, that's meant that we've been able to iterate pretty rapidly as an organization. And so, I tend to think about the evolution of Cabin as an evolution across our seasons. So, our first season, we started out as a creator of residency program, and that was really all we originally launched our token for, was as a way for all of the contributors to come together and collectively govern who got to come out for these residencies. So, we ran that for a while, and then we realized, oh wow, there's a lot of excitement about this organization and about this long-term vision of building a network city. We need to expand beyond just this residency program. And what we learned from the residency program was that while it was great, what we really wanted to do was have more of a multiplayer mode approach.

[00:14:17] And so, for our next season, we started bringing on official contributors that made these role proposals to the DAO. That was when myself and Zach and Phil and others became officially paid contributors to the DAO. And we launched our retreats and residencies, and we started bringing out groups of people, many of whom had some prior relationship or were operating in a similar space, and we started to try to make as many interactions between those people as we could.

[00:14:50] And that went really well. It was a very effective way for us to continue to grow as an organization. But we ran into two problems. One was an organizational problem, and one was a product market fit problem. The organizational problem was that we started to, and I think this is a trap many DAOs fall into, we started to get to Navel-gazing and internally focused on our own operations. And we started to lose a little bit of sight of the fact that the DAO was not about us as contributors, it was about the neighborhoods, and the caretakers, and the network that we were building for those neighborhoods. 

[00:15:31] And then from a product market fit perspective, we transitioned from a bull market where there were a whole lot of people who wanted to do retreats and residencies and bring together their own DAOs in the organization and also had some more disposable on-chain income for those sorts of things. And we realized that while that had served us very well as an organization, that started to dry up a little bit with the transition to the bear market. And it was actually a good forcing function because we also realized that in order to accomplish our long-term goal of building this network city, we really always had intended to start getting towards more permanent residence, people who were going to stay at properties for longer than just a few weeks and who were going to be able to contribute to the culture of those properties.

[00:16:26] And so, that brought us to our current season, where we've now really leaned into both of those transitions. We simplified some of our governance, rolled out a quest-based system, which allows small groups to collectively apply to the DAO for funds. It's how, for instance, this podcast was funded, and Jackson is the leader of that quest and the steward and facilitator of it, was able to apply for the DAO for funds and then can operate pretty independently with his team to produce the podcast. So structurally, we were able to refocus on our core mission of neighborhoods and neighborhood development and spend less time in overhead on the governance. 

[00:17:07] And then, from an output perspective, we transitioned from our focus on retreats and residencies towards our focus on coliving and co-buying. And that's really where we're focused now is on how can we help enable, not just the sort of bootstrapping of these shorter-term opportunities that are a great way to get a new property started, but how can we help create the conditions for coliving with more semi-permanent residents at properties, and then how can we also help squads come together and buy new properties themselves to bring into the Cabin network. 

[00:17:43] Jackson Steger: Great. Tee up, Jon. Phil, right over to you. With all of that as context, we just announced a Cabin Coliving Pass. Who is the Cabin Coliving Pass for, and also what is the Cabin Coliving Pass?

[00:17:57] Phil Levin: Yeah. The Cabin Coliving Pass is the first time we're offering people the ability to more or less live in the Cabin network at the Cabin neighborhoods. And we're going to be starting off with one neighborhood, Neighborhood Zero, Cabin's very first neighborhood, and this is the neighborhood that's operated by the DAO. And so, it holds a very special place in Cabin's heart. We've done a lot of events there. It's a beautiful 28-acre property in Texas, 45 minutes outside of Austin, but every single night you can see every star in the sky, hear every sound in the forest, you feel like you're really out in the middle of nowhere despite being not that far from a city, and it is a great place to go and remove yourself from the hustle and bustle and just focus on whatever you want to focus on, yourself, a project, or your work. What we found is that people tend to want to do these things not by themselves for long periods of time, but in community. And so, we're going to build a coliving community at Neighborhood Zero, medium- and long-term residents, and people that want to live the rural, but not too far from urban life there.

[00:18:55] And so, we've just opened up applications for that. You can find that on our Twitter, on our Discord. And so, that's the first location. And then over the year, we plan to add more locations, and we want to make it easy for people to spend some time in Neighborhood Zero and then some other time at the next place. And so, we call it their Cabin Coliving Pass, and people that sign up for this essentially get like a free year of the Cabin Coliving Pass, and they can go, they are first in line when it comes to other spots that open up elsewhere. We've tried to price this very affordably. Rent will be between $1250 to $1500 to live in Neighborhood Zero, and that includes utilities, that includes cleaning of the communal spaces, and internet, and all the communal facilities, like the sauna and the fire pit and everything else we have there. 

[00:19:35] Jon Hillis: Phil has talked about this idea of turning the middle of nowhere into the middle of somewhere, and I think that's really what this Coliving Pass is all about, is how do we take these beautiful locations outside of city centers that have access to nature, still have strong internet, and build the type of community at them that you could normally only get by living in San Francisco or Brooklyn, or something like that.

[00:20:02] Phil Levin: Yeah. I've got friends that have gone off and tried to do like the Walden Pond, the Henry Thoreau thing, and it's very romantic for the first week, and then they realize they live in a city for a reason. And then they want social contact, they want community, they want support structures, they want people to help them with the dishes. And so, we're trying to have the best of both of those worlds. 

[00:20:20] Jackson Steger: When you think about community, you need a certain scale of people in order to really have that. When I was last at the Cabins, there were four spots for different people to sleep, but that has since expanded. Can you talk about how we're expanding capacity, at least at Neighborhood Zero, and maybe that will serve as a blueprint for how we expand capacity elsewhere?

[00:20:43] Phil Levin: Yeah. So, we're going to have eight bedrooms available at Neighborhood Zero. And we're actually trying a new fun experiment. So, Neighborhood Zero at Cabin is like experimental ground, where we get to try our crazy ideas. There's a crazy idea we're trying there, which is we want to solve the problem of like why is housing so goddamn expensive? And it just does not need to be that way. 

[00:21:02] And so, the challenge we’re taking on at Cabin is what is the least expensive but comfortable long term like unit of housing we can build on the property there in Texas. And so, we have a brilliant young builder, named Charlie, coming out there, and what he's going to try to do is take an off-the-shelf shed, which costs like $10,000, and basically fix it up into a thing that you'd want to live in. And so, we're adding a kitchen, we're adding water, we're adding some heating and cooling that’s in Texas. If you need a bed, there’s some really interesting sort of designs of furniture, and the goal is can we make one of these work on shed rooms into a place that somebody could comfortably live over the long term? This only works if you are in a place that has like other communal facilities. There's the full kitchen in the container home in Texas. And so, we don't need the full stock kitchen in each of these shed rooms. And so, the goal is to see if for $20,000 or $30,000 we can build a unit of housing. As a point of comparison, we're trying to build a unit of housing on my property in Oakland right now, and we're getting away on the low end of it, which is $400,000.

[00:22:04] So, we want like an order of magnitude difference in the cost of housing, and we think we can only get away with this if you live in community with like broader communal facilities on the same property. And so, the shed rooms are a property and an experiment we’re trying. And if it works out, we're going to try to sort of ship that IP over to all of the other Cabin neighborhoods and see if we can expand the supply of affordable housing at these properties.

[00:22:25] Jon Hillis: And Phil said all of Neighborhood Zero is really a set of experiments in how we build for communities. So, the first house on the property, the original Cabin, was a kit home. A new Cabin that we built, I was talking about two years ago now, was a shipping container home that was prefabricated. And then this third example is sort of a hybrid where it's some offsite prefabrication of outer shell combined with onsite customization and build out of the living space. And so, I think we're just going to keep experimenting with these things and keep developing a toolkit and a set of options that can be affordably built hopefully anywhere in the world. 

[00:23:11] Phil Levin: And something that I think is very much part of the Cabin ethos is DIY building, and DIY building for people that are not builders. And so, something that we've done a couple times at Neighborhood Zero is we've shipped out a bunch of Cabin people to just go wild for a week and build things on the property. We built a pergola, we built a sauna, we built a patio, we built a whole outdoor lighting system. And so, I think this is not required of people that go spend time at Neighborhood Zero, but if anyone has any inclination to watch some YouTube videos, grab a hammer and a drill, and just see what you can do, and that's the sort of place that we invite that sort of thing to happen, and something that makes like at Neighborhood at Cabin very different than the Airbnb, where you're definitely not allowed to make renovations and additions to the property.

[00:23:50] Jackson Steger: I want to talk about one of the other ways where we might be seen as different from an Airbnb or Selina or Wander, or lots of other common different places tinkering with coliving. And in Balaji’s book, The Network State, he talks about how these new online, first land, last organizations need to have a moral innovation. We have privately discussed, like the legitimacy of that claim, if they need to really have one single moral innovation or if they can rather have more of a blended commandment of the sort of characteristics and values that are accurately reflective of an organization. What are the values and characteristics that will be consistent across neighborhoods for us because there's bound to be variants? And how does that actually manifest in the properties and communities themselves? 

[00:24:42] Jon Hillis: Yeah. Definitely, we're big fans of Balaji’s work. I think this is, one, the area where we would put a slight tweak on it, as you alluded to, Jackson, which is that rather than saying we have one commandment as Cabin, I think what we really have is a couple things that are really core to our culture, and those things combined makeup the core of what we hope all Cabin neighborhoods will have.

[00:25:05] And the version of this that we've been talking about as a community recently really boils down to three words. And those are conserve, colive, create. And this is actually an idea that traces its lineage back to some other great thinkers and movements. When we were talking about pace layering from Stewart Brand, he was the founder of an organization in the 60’s, called The Whole Earth Catalog. And in some ways, I think we can trace that cultural lineage back to The Whole Earth Catalog, and maybe even further back to folks, like what Henry David Thoreau was doing when he wrote Walden. 

[00:25:42] That really boiled down to these three ideas. The first one being going out into nature, building regenerative systems, building sustainable ways of living that are very close to and in conjunction with the natural world. That's the conserve piece. The next is coliving, and I think there's a great saying that maybe Phil can touch on a little bit more, that is a core tenant of Radish, one of the communities that he's built, that we are really our best versions of ourselves when we're surrounded by other great people. And that's what coliving is all about, is coming together with groups of people and being surrounded by them in a way that causes us all to become better humans.

[00:26:27] And then what that allows us to do is then create to have both communal intersection of ideas and the personal time and space to build things. And as Phil also alluded to, something we care a lot about at Cabin is not just big ideas but actually putting them into practice, actually constructing things, actually trying to change the way that the world operates at a very local scale to match our grand ambitions. And so, we think that those three words, conserve, colive and create, represent what we're all about and what we hope that future Cabin neighborhoods will be about. 

[00:27:07] Jackson Steger: Great answer. Phil, when you came on the show, you talked about Radish, which Jon just mentioned, which has a confluence of owners. You've also bought a separate property with 13 others. As we think about prospective neighborhoods to join the Coliving Pass at the Cabin network, I think of two questions here. One, what is the kind of property? I know you mentioned the importance of the caretaker. But what does the ideal property look like that we might want to add to the network? And then, also, how does one successfully co-buy property with others?

[00:27:43] Phil Levin: Yeah. The ideal Cabin property is a place that is unique and remarkable, but approachable. And so, it's not walking into like your grandmother's dining room with all the Fine China, but you can't touch. That's the opposite of the vibe. It's something that you can get your hands on, and it's probably even created with a lot of hands.

[00:27:58] And so, we looked for places, a) to our coliving ambitions, we looked for places that can just like fit enough people, to start off with, but we want a place where the people who go there can shape the experience and can probably shape the space itself in some ways. So, we're not looking for places that are finished, we're looking for places that are organic and ongoing as projects. 

[00:28:17] And on our like co-buying ambitions, I have a like fortune to be able to participate in a few projects where groups of friends have co-bought property and shared property together. It is difficult, I will not deny that, but it's one of the most rewarding and enriching things I think you can do with the group of people that you respect and admire.

[00:28:34] And so, at Cabin we want to have more people do this, a) because it fits our values to have decentralized groups of strong culture popping up in different places, but also we want these places to become Cabin neighborhoods one day. And we think groups coming together with their own culture, their squad, to create a place is exactly the sort of sauce that's going to create an eventual strong Cabin.

[00:28:54] And so, we are actively going to support these groups coming together. We've assembled a really crack advisory squad, composed of people that have done projects like this before. So, we have people that have done off-grid building. We have people that know about legal structures and process. We have people that have just done projects with different groups on their own. And we are going to be offering up all this expertise that people that want to go through the process. And so, we call it your squad buys a property with Cabin. And to sort of further put our money where our mouth is, we're going to give small grants to these groups to go out and defer some of the costs of actually going look for property and do the initial stages. And you can find out more about that on our blog and on our Discord. So, that's going to be sort of upcoming question. 

[00:29:32] Jon Hillis: In some ways, I think that this idea of co-buying property and starting to form squad wealth with your crew is the natural evolution of where the internet is going and where DAOs are going. We have lived in a world now for a couple decades where we've been able to meet other people online, and only very recently have we now gotten the tools not only to communicate with those people but to coordinate resources with those people. And this is really what I think the DAO movement is about, and I think what we want to help people do is take that next step of now you've met your crew, you've gathered your squad online, you've been hanging out on a Telegram group or a Discord or whatever, you have your own memes and cultures starting to develop, the very natural next step here is to start to bring together shared resources and put them towards building a place in the physical world for your squad to live. And that's what we're here to help you do. 

[00:30:43] Phil Levin: Yes. And if anyone on this podcast is listening to this podcast, then there's an essay that was published just a couple years ago, called Squad Wealth, which is one of my favorite things I've read. I'm sure we can toss that, and I know it's going to ask this question, which I think everyone here should do when they stop listening to this, go through every group chat on your phone and ask the question, could this group own property together one day? And my guess is that the group chats are the top of the funnel for eventual communities that will form around property. So, go look on your group chats and say, do I want to actually live in the physical world or share property or share community with these people? And we're going to try to help you take the next step towards making that a reality. 

[00:31:21] Jackson Steger: So, I've done a miniature version of this. We haven't co-bought, but we definitely had a very formalized process around where this group of friends wanted to rent for a year in Los Angeles. It's a group of people that was all nomading before, and now we've signed the year lease. So, we call ourselves the, this group chat is called The Castle of Digital Slomads. So, I figure you two might appreciate that.

[00:31:45] Phil Levin: Are there any memes that represent The Castle of Digital Slomads? 

[00:31:49] Jackson Steger: I don't have a good answer to this question off the top of my head, but it's a great question.

[00:31:52] Jon Hillis: I have a question for the group, which is following up on The Castle of Digital Slomads. I'll share and would love to hear from you, Phil. The best group chat name you have that may be particularly relevant for co-buying, I have in one of my groups of my closest college buddies who was actually looking at the idea during the pandemic of buying a property around Tahoe, and our group chat is still called High Country Prospectors from our time doing that. 

[00:32:22] Phil Levin: You’ve got it. Though one that comes to mind is Radish’s group chat that’s called OSOs, which stands for Other Significant Others. 

[00:32:30] Jackson Steger: That's great. And they think emblematic of how the strong community at Radish can form. This season of the podcast has been focused on tactics for city building in line with our shifting focus on cities as opposed to being an embassy for DAO. And I have a few just tactical questions for you two on how you think about building the city. 

[00:32:52] Jon, I know you're a huge Jane Jacobs fan. Could you explain briefly what import replacement theory is and why that's relevant for Cabin? And what does Cabin produce that is replacing that import? 

[00:33:09] Jon Hillis: Yeah. So, I am a huge Jane Jacobs fan and would highly recommend her work to anybody interested in city building. There's her classic Life and Death of Great American Cities. But she has a deeper cannon, and Cities and Their Economies is one of her other great slightly more academic books that talks a lot about this idea of import replacement theory as the core growth loop of cities. And so, I come from a product background. We talk a lot about growth loops, and it was a very natural connection in my mind to take her idea of import replacement and think of it in the context of how products grow by creating feedback loops. 

[00:33:48] So, the rough idea of import replacement theory is that the way that cities grow and the way that economies grow, and Jane Jacobs would make the case that this is, in fact, the only way that cities and economies really grow, is through this process of import replacement. And I'll provide an example that she uses in the book from Japan. So, when Japan was trying to bootstrap its economy, they were importing bicycles, and they did not have the capability initially to build bicycles themselves. They didn't have factories for bicycles. 

[00:34:19] And so, what they did was they imported fully built bicycles. And then as a result of having bicycles in the country, a bunch of repair shops started popping up and specializing. And so, you had people who specialized on repairing bicycle chains or tires, or whatever other parts. And then these people who were repairing these bicycles started realizing that they could actually produce those parts of the bicycles. They could produce the chains or the pedals or the tires or whatever. And then some other enterprising people came along and realized, oh, we can now stitch together all these pieces that are being built internally, and we can actually now create our own bicycles. And instead of having to import bicycles, we're now bicycle exporters And so, that's import replacement.

[00:35:05] And so, the way that I think this applies to Cabin is manyfold, but I'll provide a specific example around housing because I think that's one of the areas where we're most tangibly trying to innovate on construction. And when we first started, the original property at Neighborhood Zero had an existing Cabin, this kit home that I described. We then moved to a prefabricated structure for our next build, which was mostly imported. It was probably 80% done offsite and then imported in, and we did some of the infrastructure work, finishing work onsite ourselves. 

[00:35:42] And now, for the shed room, we're taking another step towards import replacement. So now we're not importing an 80% complete unit and finishing onsite, we've developed, over the course of our build weeks, our own additional capabilities for construction in-house. And so now we're importing maybe 20% of the finished product and completing the rest of it ourselves. And what that allows you to do is create this feedback loop where, now, not only are you recycling more of the skills and more of the economic total value of the project back into your own ecosystem as an emerging city, you then can also now take those skills that you've developed internally and start providing them to other people. 

[00:36:29] And that's exactly what we're trying to do at Cabin. These shed rooms that Phil mentioned are built on top of essentially a foundational structure that is pretty easy to get anywhere in the United States via these prefabricated sheds. And then we're building all of the internal skills to be able to develop those into really nice living spaces that we can now go out and share with other neighborhoods.

[00:36:52] Phil Levin: And if I have to look ahead to like where these go, Jon mentioned Stewart Brand earlier in the call. So, you think of the Whole Earth Catalog, which was his thing. It was like giant ecosystem of import replaced things in his universe, which is, here's how you live off-grid in a regenerative way and here's all the suppliers of the things. Here's all the experts of the things that will help you do that. I sort of foresee Cabin, over time, developing some analog of the Whole Earth Catalog, maybe call it the Network City Catalog, which is all the ways that you can create a decentralized city of neighborhoods, of physical places, and all the things you need to input into that successfully. And so, we want to develop this ecosystem over time and have the ecosystem serve the needs of the community within itself. 

[00:37:32] Jon Hillis: So, a big part of what Jane Jacobs talks about in cities and their economies is actually how hard the cold start problem is here, because this import replacement theory relies on the existence of other cities to be able to import things from and then replace with your own skillset. And so, a huge part of that book is actually about what is largely what I think academically considered to be the first city and how they went through a very slow process of bootstrapping. And then how once that existed, it was much easier for other cities to proliferate via import replacement. 

[00:38:05] And so, a big part of what we're doing is trying to create the conditions under which we can do the hard work of kind of cold starting a network city. And then through methods, like the catalog that Phil just described, we'll be able to make it much easier for other neighborhoods to pop up in this network city.

[00:38:25] Phil Levin: Jon, what's the next thing you think we should import replace at Neighborhood Zero?

[00:38:28] Jon Hillis: For one of our previous build weeks, we brought in about 25 tons of raw rock to build things with, including some of the patio, firepit, pergola that Phil mentioned earlier. I think we learned a lot from that experience about how you can build really cool long-term things out of rock. And so, I would love to see us do more local importing of materials, like rock, which can't be transported very far, that we can then do a lot of creative building with on top of the base materials. 

[00:39:01] Phil Levin: Yes, the Cabin quarry. We’re going to need some more power tools though. 

[00:39:06] Jon Hillis: Yes. 

[00:39:07] Jackson Steger: I'm glad you mentioned the long-term view. I have two last questions. One is a bit shorter, then one a bit longer. Our roadmap goes to the year 2525, which is part of the longer question. But in order to last that long as an organization, we need funds, and we recently completed another treasury diversification. Just briefly, Jon, again, coming from this tactical lens, we're in a bear market right now, what advice do you have for other leaders who might be fundraising for cities or network states? 

[00:39:38] Jon Hillis: It's a pretty challenging environment out there for any form of capital formation versus where we were maybe six months ago, and I think that everybody is returning to fundamentals, and we feel very grateful that we were able to find some really long-term strategic partners who are excited to support Cabin as an unincorporated nonprofit association. 

[00:40:04] So, I wouldn't say that our path is a traditional path or one that is necessarily a fit for people looking to do more traditional fundraising, but I do also advise a lot of companies looking to go down some of those more traditional paths right now, and I think that we all got a little bit maybe pie in the sky in the bull market, and it's very easy to make big dreams and big ideas for the future in bull markets, and bear markets are really times for building and for demonstrating tangible traction and for keeping burn low and for making sure that you can build an organization that is in and of itself sustainable and does not require large amounts of capital to continue to be poured on it to exist. I think all of those things are just generally good practices to follow and things that DAOs and other non-traditional organizations got away from during the bull market while we were all dreaming our big dreams. And it's important to be able to do both – to dream the big dreams and to make sure these are tied to ultimately sustainable. 

[00:41:17] Jackson Steger: Great. And a lot of how we frame this conversation is in the context of Cabin story. All good stories have an end. Currently, our end is pegged somewhere in the year 2525. Once we've scaled past these first few neighborhoods that we have, and then the tens of neighborhoods, and then we're in the hundreds of neighborhoods, or thousands of neighborhoods, how does one city structured like Cabin become a confederation of cities? And I suppose the real spirit of the question is, what does the distant future of Cabin look like? If you have any idea.

[00:41:52] Jon Hillis: Yeah. Jackson, one thing I love about you is you always push for clearer answers on our longer time horizons, and my default answer is always that this is something that we treat as emergent, and that the community will obviously play a huge role in shaping over time. But I do think it's important for us to set a vision for what that distant future can look like. 

[00:42:13] And there's this great section of some of Rousseau’s writing on The Social Contract, where he basically adds this footnote, and he says, actually, there's this thing called a confederation, that is the ultimate political structure. But then that’s a footnote that he feels like he spent a long time trying to write about what that looks like and failed to successfully produce an essay about it before he died. So, I think he a bit of an open book there that certainly there have been some attempts by groups, like the Founding Fathers of the United States, to create these confederated structures.

[00:42:47] But ultimately what I think that looks like for us is a fractal structure where we are able to continue to maintain these small autonomous units that we call neighborhoods, that then have overlapping tight-knit clusters and more loosely connected clusters across the network that actually allow us to transition to a protocol that can be used to build these neighborhoods within kind of battle tested way of expressing what counts as inside or outside of a given cluster or city, and allows us to maintain a lot of autonomy and independence of those neighborhoods while still having the ability for people to travel across the different neighborhoods within clusters and participate in a broad economy of neighborhood developing goods and services across those neighborhoods. And I think there's really no sense in trying to predict in a whole lot of detail what the world looks like in 500 years. Other than that, it feels pretty clear that these sort of networked neighborhoods forming these confederations of cities at a high level at least feel to me like an inevitability.

[00:44:07] Jackson Steger: Thank you both so much for joining. I'll include all of our call to action in the introduction. You'll catch us in MCON in a few weeks. Anything that folks should look out for while they're there?

[00:44:18] Jon Hillis: Yeah, we're one of the lead sponsors of MCON, and we will be hosting a big space on the first floor of the conference, where we'll be offering coherence and connection sessions for folks, as well as opportunities to learn more about co-buying opportunities, forming squad wealth. We'll be doing private consultations. We'll also be offering people the first dibs on those Coliving Passes that give you access to come colive at Neighborhood Zero. And I believe we've even got some merch that will be dropping at the event. So, come say hi and check it out.

[00:44:57] Jackson Steger: All right, great. Thanks to you all. Have a safe flight, Jon. 

[00:45:00] Phil Levin: Thanks, Jackson. 

[00:45:01] Jon Hillis: Awesome. Thank you, Jackson.


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