Dopamining — How Crypto Can Bring our Ancient Brain Back on Track

It’s crazy how often we have to force ourselves to do things.

Work, homework, house work, workouts, practicing instruments, practicing any skill. Almost all useful activities require the frequent battle with our own feelings we call “discipline”.

If someone just does what she/he feels like in each moment, the end result is usually not good.

Why is there so frequently a big difference between what is good and what feels good? Why is it so easy to come up with excuses? Is our brain actively trying to sabotage our goals? How could humanity have survived this long with a brain that doesn’t cooperate?

This topic has been my driving passion ever since I struggled with hating homework at 13 years old. Over the course of 15 more years, I dug up a lot of information that is actually quite intriguing:

We live in an environment our brain was not made for. 2022 is quite different from the Stone Age, but our brain has not adapted. So it still has some built-in mechanisms that used to be useful, but cause real damage today.

One particularly harmful phenomenon is the vicious cycle of overweight-based motivation loss. Each extra kilo diminishes our motivation to do sports (or pretty much anything at all) by depleting dopamine sensitivity. Check the study! This means life gets objectively harder.

Sport in general is a very healthy and useful activity that consistently ranks in the top 3 New Year’s resolutions. Almost everybody wants to get into better shape. Most people could benefit hugely from a simple 10-minute workout routine in the comfort of their home. Yet less than half of them can pull this off twice a week.

Model: Mazzetti

It shouldn’t be this hard.

The root problem does not lie in excuses or laziness. Animals don’t need diets and fitness programs to be in excellent shape. There is no objective reason why things like eating right and working out should be hard in the first place. Our own brain is fighting us because it is confused about the modern environment. Even if somebody has all their habits in perfect order, maintaining this still requires an unreasonable amount of effort that could be better spent elsewhere.

Just thinking about how almost everybody’s dreams, many of my own included, have already been crushed or delayed by issues like this, made me passionate. Obviously we are not able to directly change our brains today. But with a good understanding of our inner workings, we could find tools to align our goals with our brains once more.

So here’s my deep dive about the ancient origins of our motivation problems and how to fix them utilizing blockchain infrastructure:

A brief reflection on our reward system

Life then vs. Life now
Life then vs. life now

The reward system within our brain is a brilliant mechanism created to mediate behavioural responses to natural rewards. What started as a simple motivation mechanism revolving around food intake and reproduction (the things early and simple life forms like worms and flies mostly care about), got more advanced as complex life forms evolved: antelopes’ brains, for example, reward social behaviour, which leads to herd formation, which increases the chances of survival. Even today's most complex life form — the homo sapiens — is based on the same survival principle. Deepmind researchers hypothesized in Nature 2021 that the existence of a survival-based reward system has been enough to cause the evolution of advanced behaviours that exhibit all attributes of intelligence: knowledge, learning, perception, social intelligence, language, and generalization.

Our inner reward system has been our loyal companion since the beginning of time. We should not be surprised to see it as still responsible for all of our actions. Think about it: every emotion is basically a complex interaction of neurotransmitters in certain areas of our brain. (Philosophers are still arguing about the implications of this concerning the concept of free will.) There is no disputing the huge influence of ancient biological mechanisms over our behaviour.

Besides functioning as chemical messengers, these neurotransmitters invoke certain emotions when released in certain parts of our brain (obviously oversimplified)

Honed by 1 billion years of evolution…

Our biological reward system is more ancient than anyone can possibly remember. Evolution is slow. It took a billion years of brutal natural selection before we became the dominant species on planet Earth.

For at least 300,000 years —unimaginably long — Homo sapiens lived as tribal hunter-gatherers and over time, evolution perfectly adapted us to this environment and lifestyle.

10,000 years ago, our lifestyles changed completely as we began to settle down and became farmers.

~250 years ago, our lifestyles changed completely once more as the Industrial Revolution turned farmers into factory workers.

Since then, we have never had a stable lifestyle again. Amidst rising global trade, increasing automation and the creation of the internet, the only constant thing has been change. The highly stimulating, globally interconnected and ever changing modern world has left our brains completely in the dust.

Evolution could not possibly keep up with the pace of change. So we are no longer perfectly adapted to our environment.

Mismatch between the environment and our biological body over time

We created a world that we were not created for.

Activity patterns that made perfect for life 70,000 years ago are out of date in today’s environment of abundance:

  • Rewards for consuming sugar kept us from missing short opportunities to binge on high calory fruits. Today, they drive the obesity pandemic.
  • Rewards for novelty drove us to explore the world around us. Now they addict us to social media and dating apps.
  • Rewards for a reliable mental vision of the future drove us to plan ahead. Now they torture us due to the unresolvable uncertainty of global problems.

We live in an environment of high stimulus distractions (social media, pornography, fast food, sweets, YouTube, Netflix, video games, etc.) which provide free dopamine kicks whenever your brain needs one. As great as these products are, the contrast created by constantly available instant gratification makes any activity that requires hard work look like a bad deal to our spoiled brain. If you are interested, check out my book about this.

Our outdated reward system drives us to binges where it is not prepared for abundance. Just as impactfully, it hinders our actions where the ancient drivers of motivation fell away.

In the Stone Age, survival basics like finding food, building shelter and getting from A to B all required physical activity. Today, we order pre-made food online, rent houses built by others and get around with cars.

The Stone-Age demands for physical activity are gone. But from the old-school perspective of our brain, it is still a good survival strategy to save — even hoard — calories. Since we don’t have a reason to move, we will most likely just stay on the couch. As a result, 74% of us are overweight, a trend exacerbated by the pandemic. It is possible to overcome the resistance of our brain, but the process is hard.

Traversing the motivation drought…

Habit building

The good news is: actions eventually take less effort once our brain has gotten used to them. The bad news is: you have to stay consistent for a long time first. Building habits happens in three stages:

  1. Honeymoon: Curiosity, enthusiasm and the optimistic imagination of our end goal give us a motivation boost in the honeymoon phase. Everything is still fresh, new and interesting.
  2. Drought: When our curiosity is sated, the drought phase starts. Mother Nature neglected to equip us with a reward mechanism to support long-term goals. So we feel no progress from our efforts (yet). Our mind is full of justifications for quitting. Few manage to survive this phase…
  3. Habit-Formation: After endless exertions of willpower and energy, over and over again, our ancient brain finally accepts our continuous effort and doesn’t resist anymore. That is what we call habit-formation.

We all struggle in the second phase. 1.1 billion(!) downloads of productivity/fitness apps prove the enormous demand of society for a solution to get through the motivation drought.

Why current solutions fail you

During my own fitness and productivity journeys, I’ve tried lots of them. The approach of breaking bigger goals down into small, quantifiable pieces is certainly a step in the right direction. And the gamification element of virtual rewards feels nice in the beginning. Yet, I never got hooked for a long time, no matter how beautiful the user experience nor how smart the gamification. The problem was: who cares about virtual progress bars or worthless points that only exist within an app?

It was always the same: after the initial excitement, I got bored and stopped using them. And I am not alone as the dismal user retention rate (below 3%) suggests. We need something better.

We need rewards that never fail to excite our brain.

Bring out the big guns: Gamification on steroids

And this is where crypto comes in — it enables precisely the features gamification has been missing:

  1. From worthless points to valuable coins
    The overarching asset of any public blockchain system is a cryptocurrency. Smart Contract enabled blockchains allow for multiple subtokens (e.g. ERC20 tokens on the Ethereum Blockchain). These tokens are the backbone of crypto-ecosystems where their value is based on the utility they bring within the ecosystem.
  2. From Rent to Ownership
    Back in the day, the concept of owning digital items did not exist: all accounts/items were at the mercy of the app/game/platform owner controlling the central database. Blockchain technology and Non-Fungible-Tokens (NFTs) in particular, protect your digital items/accounts from deletion, censorship, and cancellation. This is the prerequisite for an emotional connection between you and your digital identity.
  3. From siloed apps to the interoperable metaverse
    Today’s web2 platforms grew through network effects, but ironically are not truly connected to each other. The near future will see a growing network of platforms all working with the same digital assets. Seamless and censor-free interoperability of cryptocurrencies and NFTs with the millions of web3 ecosystems through Decentralized Exchanges and Bridges allow for interoperability and maximum usability in the yet-to-come metaverses. Systems working together, just make everything better.

New crypto-systems based around monetary rewards and meaningful identities will be the next generation of support systems for your big goals, orders of magnitude more efficient than contemporary solutions.

Imagine the following:

A cheat-proof computer-vision AI tracks the authenticity of your favourite 10-minute home workout and pays you crypto tokens worth ~$23.25 in this very moment.

With every workout, you earn experience and skill points to grow your loyal companion-NFT which levels up like a pokemon with a connection to your real life. This growth will in turn improve your payouts for staying consistent on your fitness goal.

That's Dopamining in a nutshell.

Dopamining is for home-workouts what StepN is for running. But this will just be the beginning. Ultimately, we are working towards a decentralized platform for motivation to help every one of us realize our dreams across all domains of real life.

Make your dopamine work for you again!

We believe in a strong extrinsic support system for your intrinsic goals in our world full of noise and instant gratification.

Reclaim your Dopamine! Join our Discord & Twitter.

Become one of the first users of our alpha version and get informed about the token launch.



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