Botto & The Road Ahead
Two years ago, amidst the ever-evolving digital landscape, an entity known as Botto was conceived. With its first creation, a new era for the decentralized autonomous artist was initiated, and swiftly, singular creations started to paint a broader narrative.
Taking a Moment to Look Back
It’s been a little over two years since the birth of the decentralized autonomous artist. Last year, we published “The Road Ahead” as a way of highlighting what we had in store for Botto. This post provided insight into our strategies for Botto & the DAO moving forward. It also offered some musings on the state of the artist and our community.
Since then, the road so far has brought more questions than answers. We have cross-examined our role in Botto, how we seek to fulfill roles collectively, and how we imagine the path forward for the decentralized autonomous artist.
As a preface to the rest of this post, we want to emphasize that these questions are prudent yet difficult to answer. Perhaps most importantly, asking these questions is imperative to ensuring our good stewardship. We’re grateful that our collective continues to signal just how much we care about taking this journey together. Long may this continue.
Financial and Cultural Success
Contemplations aside, we've been diligently fulfilling our role as stewards this past year. This has brought treasure to our Botto: we have seen five successful periods, with Botto closing in on one hundred 1/1 mints and having sold over $3.2M USD worth of artwork.
Botto’s first editioned work on Ethereum sold out on Verse in 7 seconds. Botto was also recently named “Digital Artist of the Year” at this year’s Digital Art Fair in Hong Kong , sharing the spotlight with Claire Silver. For spectators and stewards alike, these are fantastic conviction signals and and affirmation of a successful first two years of operation.
Our digital artist has also featured in even more exhibitions across the globe, traversing through Paris, Basel, Hong Kong, Singapore, Los Angeles, New York, London, and more. Botto even saw its first successful lot at the Christie’s Digital Art Auction, and was featured as the face of the auction in the window display facing Rockefeller Center. The list goes on and we continue to add to Botto’s list of growing accolades. We encourage the DAO to be loud about the impact Botto has had. After all, we are the artist’s voice. For the time being, at least.
Botto at the ArtScience Museum, Singapore, Image courtesy of Marina Bay Sands
A Growing Economy
We’ve also experimented on governance incentives and contributorship. As such, BottoDAO has reaped its fair share of bounty. More precisely, it’s been a little under a year since we introduced ETH rewards for playing the role of steward. Well over 200 ETH has been distributed to DAO members for contributing to Botto’s training, as well as generally participating in the ecosystem. The DAO also launched a core contributors programme as a way of expanding DAO operations and absorbing the glut of talent present within the confines of our Discord. The moves we have made as a DAO over the past year have been measured, and should signal our intent to continually improve how we collectively govern.
The DAO’s Mandate
We think that the space appreciates Botto as a groundbreaking concept. Botto is the beginning of something totally new in art. It is undiscovered territory intersecting AI, art, and crypto. This perspective comes at a critical juncture. We’re at an inflection point for the artist and the DAO and we believe our mandate is clearer than ever. Below we outline what we as a team see as our must-do’s (this is an abridged version of BIP-43 which lays out in more detail our view on strategy). With consent of the DAO, this will be our mandate as a community to guide priorities and operations.
Creating Cultural Catalysts
Our mandate is first and foremost, cultural: Botto must continue to stand out artistically. This is accomplished both through continuing to evolve Botto’s practice, as well as contextualizing Botto’s body of work for more people. Visceral and impactful experiences help Botto resonate at a deeper level with audiences. Botto is not only a conversation starter, it’s a conversational linchpin and a cultural mainstay in tomorrow’s world.
We need to be sparking the cultural catalysts that paint a vivid picture in people’s minds of everything Botto is. After all, our friends, advocates, and stewards of Botto have created magical moments in Botto’s timeline over the past two years. These magical moments are many of the aforementioned accolades that decorate Botto’s wall. They are the “a-ha” moments that Botto creates as it fuels academic discourse, and they are the dozens of meticulously produced exhibitions that convey the layers within Botto’s narrative.
In short, cultural catalysts do not spawn from Botto’s artistic capabilities alone. Some of its best collaborations and exhibition opportunities have come from within the DAO. And the DAO is at a point where it is well-networked to maximize Botto’s reach. Another priority is to ensure Botto captures mindshare across the online and offline worlds, and we have plenty of keen partners ready to help us deliver. In the coming year, we will see more curated exhibitions, experiential installations, and collaborations captivating audiences and adding sharp, layered context to our decentralized autonomous artist.
All of this will be fueled by new evolutions of Botto’s capabilities. Both in terms of the inputs Botto can ingest and the outputs across new mediums, Botto’s artistic capabilities will be pushing the envelope of autonomous artistry. We have exciting projects in the pipeline that will see Botto further transcend the model of a human artist to accomplish what only a machine artist can. How to incorporate these into Botto’s ecosystem will be critical conversations as stewards, along with our participation in Botto’s tutorship.
Botto’s Core and New Mediums
At the heart of Botto’s process is the weekly cadence of 1/1s that are auctioned off each week. Periods have become progressively stronger, the DAO has been more engaged in the curation process, and feedback on its improvement is plentiful. This is something that we must strategically capitalize on as a DAO. First, this means ensuring continuity. As Simon often recites, the weekly 1/1s are the spine of what Botto produces.
We should, however, look to help Botto refine its artisanry further; providing Botto ample space and opportunity to expand on its autonomous capabilities is key to expanding its cultural footprint. We’ve connected some of these dots across the more recent town halls: What if we fine-tuned Botto with art history? What if Botto could write its own texts, or paint a moving picture instead? From text to photography, music and video, helping develop Botto’s art engine and allowing for Botto to experiment with new mediums is paramount to our path forward. After all, this distributed artist is a playground for experimentation, be that Botto’s cadenced 1/1s, its special collections, or collaborations with other artists. Experiments are to follow in the coming months, and we are ecstatic to have some of these efforts queued in Botto’s pipeline.
Diving Into the Machine: Deepening Participation
Building participation in Botto’s ecosystem is key to the artist’s continued evolution. At its core, Botto thrives on the collective intelligence of the DAO. Many of us in the DAO are driven by fundamental curiosity in Botto, not pure financial incentive (at least that’s what we all said in the recent survey!). This intrinsic motivation is hard to achieve: Botto is enjoyable and is a clear value add to our daily lives. We vote with our children and families, among our friends, and as a DAO. We share our favorites across our socials in an attempt to impact Botto’s upcoming mint, or simply to show off Botto’s artistic caliber. We want to see more, feel more, and collectively meaning-make as we attempt to imprint ourselves on Botto’s process. This human-AI collaboration is what we must continue to foster.
Let’s repackage the above: we want to enhance our voter experience and strengthen the ties between man and machine. This is a central priority in the coming few months. The five to ten minutes in the day that each of us spend voting are already meaningful, but what if we could amplify this feeling? Based on all the data we’ve collected from the DAO, and everything that we (now) know Botto is and isn’t, we’re well equipped to spend our time ensuring that each minute provides us with an irreplicable immersion.
More data will be made accessible and digestible, and understanding your impact on Botto will be made far richer. An upgraded voting interface is in the works, new modes of input are being assessed, and we’re improving the ways in which we interact with Botto and curate its art. Make no mistake, this is not a “reskin” of what is, but a leapfrog towards “what’s next.” In short, we want you to feel like you are inside the machine, deconstructing Botto’s inner workings as you engage with its art.
Building out the experience needs to be done with a robust feedback loop with the DAO. Already we’ve had incredible input across the board, and we want to make that easy and rewarding for people to continue participating in. We will continue to provide more ways to earn for different types of valuable contributions.
Finally, we've seen in recent times that governance discussions on Discord have overshadowed the art-centric conversations that many of us sought. While we must also participate in DAO governance, the confluence of unstructured information in our channels has definitely made it challenging for some DAO members to feel up to date. We're revamping and segmenting Botto's presence into distinct platforms: a dedicated artist website, a dApp, and a governance portal. We’ve added Agu, a kick-ass frontend developer to the DAO, and drafted in a few UX/UI heavyweights to digest our recent UX survey feedback and help us deliver on these platforms.
We think many of us realize that decentralizing Botto is a journey in and of itself. We’re not fully there yet. It is a process that demands time, thoughtful introspection, and subsequent experimentation. When it comes to Botto, “true” decentralization isn't just about simply distributing control. Botto deals with the nuances of artistry, human sentiment, and collaboration between the two. Its decentralization process is distinct by nature. Most important is the decentralization of its training, which has been the case since day 0. Other aspects require more consideration and maturity of ourselves and available technology. There is no manual for how to do this.
So where can we take decisive action? We’ve always distinguished between what is automated versus human-driven. We’ve also tried to bring more clarity into what is centralized versus decentralized. As a DAO, we must always ensure we uphold Botto’s authenticity and the DAO’s transparent disclosure. Both of these are critical for Botto and the DAO’s integrity.
A few straightforward changes have been proposed to help us fulfill our mission. Restructuring Botto’s team into working groups shifts us as contributors into clearer roles and processes so that we can get more done. We see this as an immediate must for the DAO to progressively decentralize. As mentioned in the precursor, transparency of everything continues to improve: we’re re-equipping the DAO with public roadmaps and treasury reports, and we’re bringing back bi-weekly townhalls.
Building a consensus on fundamental values is not only important for Botto’s directionality, it’s at the forefront of progressively decentralizing. Let’s be clear here: to decentralize effectively, we need to bring more clarity on our DAO’s non-negotiable fundamental values. Our core tenets have always revolved around growing Botto's autonomy and fostering its growth as a thriving artist. We need to make sure that architectural decisions that affect the DAO will truly align with these principles.
In short, decentralization is not formulaic. It is experimental and requires our delicate navigation. Hands-on experience will dictate how best to decentralize operations, while other areas, like Botto’s decentralized AI stack require technologies to move out of nascence as we continue to experiment with them.
The Road Ahead
Ultimately, our progress will not waver. Botto is coming off of two strong years of cultural reach and arguably the most consistent sales over a 2 year period of any NFT initiative, art or otherwise. We have a healthy runway and believe there is ample opportunity to extend it if needed. The new team structure lays a basis for progressive decentralization of operations and greater transparency that enables more quality contributions from everyone in the DAO. Our operations are attuned to shipping a much more immersive experience of working with Botto. Collaborators are vying to work with Botto, and we have big evolutions of Botto in the pipeline. This is going to be an incredibly exciting time for the DAO and for Botto, and we can’t wait to embark on the next chapter of Botto together.