Former Augur CEO Matt Liston forms blockchain religion

Matt Liston, the founder of a blockchain-based religion. Liston has refuted the claim that he is a Cryptprophet.

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Matt Liston would like to publicly refute the claim that he is a “Cryptprophet.” He’d also like to clarify that he is not the “Cryptsiah” or the “CryptChrist.” (“I grew up Jewish,” he points out.)

Despite being the originator of what may be the first blockchain-based religion, Liston is but a humble developer, and doesn’t suggest to possess divine knowledge.

“It makes me uncomfortable to think about that,” says Liston. “It seems inappropriate. If I’m claiming to start a religion, it’s probably disingenuous if I claimed not to be a figure within the religion. But I don’t like the sound of that.”

Liston, who recently left his position as CEO of the blockchain project Augur amid a cloud of controversy, has spent the afternoon in Bodega Bay developing what he describes as “mechanisms for worship” for his new religious order, called 0xΩ (Liston pronounces this as “Zero Ex Omega”). The religion, which he unveiled along with artist Avery Singer at New York’s New Museum last month, will present both a blockchain system for pre-established religions, and a new faith-based order of its own.

Singer has joined Liston to create the religious iconography for the project. At the New Museum, Singer presented a CGI art piece that she hopes will be used as 0xΩ’s first sacred object. The circulation of this object, Singer suggested, might someday be used as “a form of prayer.”

“We have this avatar I’ve created who is a narwhal with a doge head, a beret, tattoos, an infinity tail, an ethereum logo,” Singer said at the New Museum as she muffled down laughter.”There’s tokens surrounding it. Anyways…”

Avery Singer and Matt Liston at the New Museum in May.

Ryan Duffin

Ask Liston what 0xΩ is about, or what this blockchain-based belief system plans to worship, and his answers range from rambling to slightly enigmatic.

“We’re incentivizing mindsharing, and eventually mind upload to use consensus to form a structure of collective consciousness,” he says. “And then, we’ll elevate an individual interaction with a religious structure as a group participation in a collective consciousness where the structure itself is god.”

A religious icon in the form of a narwhal. The piece is based off of a short animation created by artist Avery Singer.

Ryan Duffin

Is Liston trolling us? Maybe.

“People are wondering, ‘What the fuck is this?” Liston said.”We’re very self-aware of the how ridiculous the crypto industry is, and the fact that we’ve created the most out-there project possible. There’s a little bit of self-referential mocking.”

Singer, too, admitted that the project has invited skepticism from its potential acolytes.

“People seem to think it’s a humorous project,” Singer told me, her voice serious. “They’re confused, and rightly so.”

Liston said the similarities between religious belief and the evangelical fervor associated with cryptocurrencies inspired him to create a blockchain-based spiritual system.

“The store value of cryptocurrencies is solely dependent on how much other people believe they should have value,” Liston said. “It’s in this feedback loop of belief that operates like a religious system.”

At the core, the project is centered on a use of the blockchain that Liston hopes will spearhead the technology’s potential to enable artists. Liston envisions 0xΩ commissioning art through the blockchain similarly to the way the Catholic church has overseen ambitious artworks in the past.

“We want to bring in new types of thinking and push the boundaries for what the technologies can be used for,” said Liston. “I’m obsessed and very driven by what these technologies can do, but I’m bored with it being a space that’s dominated by engineers and finance people.”