Lily Pads

Nicholas Ptacek
3 min readNov 21, 2021

Why it looks so different from inside the web3 pond

This is essay 6 of 7 for The Tech Progressive Writing Challenge. Check out build_ to join the conversation.

There’s a thought experiment involving lily pads that helps put the current web3 discourse into context.

It goes something like this:

There are some lily pads growing in a pond. Every day, the number of lily pads doubles. If it takes 30 days to fill the pond with lily pads, on what day is the pond half-full of lily pads?

You might be tempted to say day fifteen, which would be true if this were a case of linear growth, where the number of lily pads increased by one each day, but this is a case of exponential growth, where the number of lily pads doubles each day.

If the pond is full of lily pads on day 30, the pond is half-full of lily pads on day 29.

(If that answer still seems counter-intuitive, check the math for yourself!)

If you’re creating in the web3 pond, you’re surrounded by lily pads. In fact, you’re probably overwhelmed with the sheer number of projects happening in this space, a number which grows daily. It’s impossible to keep up with all the discords, telegrams, twitter threads and spaces. I’ve come to peace with the fact that I’ll never reach Discord Zero.

More lily pads appear as the web3 ecosystem grows and adapts, flourishing off of original ideas and the endless iterations that come after.

Every day that you build in this space, every day that you share knowledge and help others, you contribute to this growth.

But from the outside, it doesn’t look like much is happening yet, at least not compared to the internet as a whole. Growth seems slow, away from the energy and vibe of this space, at least to eyes unaccustomed to seeing things not as they are, but as they could be. Thus, critics are much more likely to unironically declare “probably nothing” and dismiss the whole thing.

Inside the pond, you understand that there’s nuance to the conversation that is lost upon the critics. Sometimes it can be frustrating, but it’s best to stay the course and just keep building, because this Cambrian explosion of innovation is what will drive the next tech supercycle.

One day, some people are messing around with these silly jpegs, the next, a financial flash mob coalesces and attempts to buy the Constitution.

A parting thought that I’d like to explore further in the future: Where as the growth of the software side of web3 most closely resembles our exponential lily pads, the human behavior most closely resembles a murmuration, as exhibited by the nimble agility with which ConstitutionDAO converged around a novel event, and just as quickly dispersed.

We’re still early.

Imagine what the pond could look like on day 30.

Until then, stay safe in the metaverse.

A murmuration of starlings