In Defense of Apeism

When the first apes appeared, we ignored them. When they procreated at the speed of mice, we called it a fad. When the bored early hominids became zombies, got stoned, and brought along their dogs and other friends, furry or not, hilarious or gruesome, or well, just bored, we said: that’s not going to last. 

Then serious acquaintances changed their Twitter — or worse, their Linkedin — profile pic to some form of comic figure (the writer still struggles to call them “art”). And then Andreessen Horowitz got involved, and Yuga Labs became a proper company, and Apecoin launched (and got hacked) and on the favorite simian (hominid, actually) playground all sorts of — sometimes rather impressive, and truly deserving the label ‘art’ appeared. 

And then, one sleepless night, your writer tried to find a particular person on Linkedin, found him (or rather his monkish self) and next to it where it has become popular to add ones gender identity (as in He/His, They/Them) there were the unmistakable pronouns “Ape/Virtual”. And it was there your writer had an epiphany. 

Those silly cartoon creatures are not, as we were led to believe, signs of the infantilization of the world. They were not the atrocious outcrops of puerile, intoxicated minds. Nor were they the art of the disenfranchised or the “art of web3” as many a pundit has called them. They were something else. 

The entire art movement is an expression of self and in an age where the self seems to shrink even more before the giants of technology, discovery, and infinity (truly so, in the metaverse) possibilities. 

Where once we had one village, one farm, one church, and one self to relate to some deity, wife, children, clan, we then became citizens in nation states, and just another piece of paper in the ballot box. The Internet came, and in an instant we swam in a sea of people and opinions. We handled this by locking our digital selves into echo chambers, apps, and secret societies online. And now, at last, the metaverse has arrived: a wonderful world of endless possibilities, or a dystopian nightmare, destroying the last vestige of what it means to be human. We were lost, and more than ever, we needed a sense of belonging. 

The well-heeled, those with cushy jobs, large family clans, or just a lot of money: they belonged. The jobless twenty-some year old still living with her parents and in sole possession of a few crypto coins and a mobile phone: she was drifting. She was not the Hollywood actress on the cover of a glamour magazine, oh no! She was not a Lady Gaga. She was invisible. 

Worse perhaps for the male of species: he must feed the family but has no means to do so; he has other males threatening to take his place. He is also engaged in a battle for alpha dominance, and adoring Elon Musk is just no longer enough, is it? And the superhero movies are just, well — they are getting worse with every iteration. 

So, abandoning our disillusioned selves in the sea of metaverse experiences, in which “to be human” no longer had meaning, we abandoned all pretense of being human, and became — by pure chance, one feels at first compelled to add — apes. We could have also become snakes, dragons, lizards or lions. No, not lions. Lions lead and dominate, and that is what our insignificant collection of bytes in the metaverse cannot. The age of heroes has passed. 

And thus the Apes were born. They were mostly bored, but one day, one day for sure, they would make it, with dogecoin, or shiba, or any other meme nonsense, and have enough money to belong to a yacht club. 

This is, your writer thinks, the true mystery behind the success of BAYC, and not the backing of a major VC clan, or the chaos of crypto. 

And thus there are lessons to be drawn here for any marketer or any product, lessons in marketing psychology; lesson, we think, that will be essential in any metaverse project, fungible or not 

First an foremost, the vastness of the universe, or metaverse, the mass of people, apes, and creatures inhabiting them, leaves us with a desire to stand out. You don’t want to be a number in an army, you want to have an identity, a unique sales proposition, a special sense of self. IRL (in real life, as it were) it was enough to single like Adele, or have the looks of Ryan Gosling. In the metaverse, anything goes. (Incidentally, once there are too many apes, their value and price will plummet.) 

Secondly, we are truly lost not just in our world, in the universe, but in the unimaginable possibilities of the metaverse. Carl Sagan said the universe was vast. Try infinite meta verses. So we want to belong somewhere. It was the clan at first and then the family. It became the nation state and the movement.  Now it’s the yacht club. (Observe the large number of families, armies, societies and clubs in the crypto space.)  Young men in particular have this in common: they grow up, leave the family, and are forever in search of new home. That can be a wife and children, but increasingly it will be some form of virtual abode. 

And lastly, we don’t live by facts and figures, we live in dreams and aspirations. We don’t go to school to enjoy school, we go to ‘make something of us,’ on the way to another home. We don’t take a job because of what the job offers, but what it could bring in the future (career or money-wise). And we don’t join the universe to sit under a virtual apple tree, but to explore our very self, and see what we could make of it. 

This is why the first step in the metaverse evolution is the ape. After all, hominids started with apes, or that form at least is the earliest one we feel we can relate to. And at the start of our journey we were bored. 

The name Bored Ape Yacht Club, it seems, was not a flippant joke, but a prescient expression of great — or dismal — things to come. 

Published by Dr Martin Hiesboeck

Futurist and Policy Advisor for Companies, governments and NGOs on digital future, blockchain and digitization Head of Research at Uphold and CEO of Alpine Blockchain Consultants

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