While I was working on my transfiguration of Joan of Arc, I realized she reminded me of a lady I knew who used to be called by media “the Joan of Arc of blockchain”…
I am speaking of Toni Lane Casserly, crypto pioneer and entrepreneur, a bright star of Bitcoin’s early days (among things, she co-founded Cointelegraph).
Her vision for crypto was deeply humanitarian: she saw it as the greatest opportunity to transform our societies, turning them into communities of self-sovereign individuals, letting go of centralized structures of power that exploit and corrupt all that is good in us.
She gave all she had for her vision, with extraordinary courage and determination. She died in April 2020, aged 29, for reasons that are not clearly specified (it has been reported that she has been “unwell” since the previous August).
I can’t say to have known Toni Lane Casserly well, I actually never met her in person. I have been in touch with her between April 2018 and March 2019 as I got involved (very marginally and sporadically) in her last and possibly more visionary project called cultu.re.
While I only had few (but intense) conversations with Toni, she left an everlasting impression on me and also inspired me this article.
After the initial reactions following her death (the most precious being 10 lessons Toni Lane Casserly taught the world, written by her friend Lucian Tarnowski) it appears her memory has vanished from media. No celebrations, not even mentions, even if she has been a prominent figure in the early crypto days who remarkably fitted the archetype of the empowered woman.
While Toni was very generous and kind, like all charismatic figures she was not always easy to deal with. Not all were fond of her, and certainly the establishment wouldn’t endorse her philosophy which foresees and promotes its dismantlement.
That’s perhaps the reason for the silence that fell around her, and that’s why I feel it’s good to do my little part in keeping her memory alive.
From my very limited and partial point of view, Toni was the most extraordinary woman I have ever come across. Her intelligence, charisma, and spiritual awareness were out of this world. I have never witnessed all of them combined in one person to that degree, and at such a young age.
Her leadership was very feminine, she reminded me more of a matriarch from traditional societies than a tech entrepreneur. Even if she was very modern, emancipated, and eccentric, I felt there was something ancient and sacred in her.
The time in which she shined is recent but seems to have happened ages ago. A time when crypto was full of dreamers and visionaries who wanted to change the world.
People like the mysterious philanthropist behind The Pinapple Fund, who in 2017 donated 5,057 BTC (equivalent to $241 million today) to humanitarian causes. If someone told me there was Toni behind that, I’d believe it. I think a similar action was in her chords, and as an early Bitcoin adopter and prominent figure she might have been able to accumulate that sum.
Today, only a few years later, people like Toni or this philanthropist seem to have disappeared from the crypto scene. As big money started to flow, crypto is getting colonized by corporate, media, and governmental power. The centralized oppressive world of greed and fear Toni was fighting against is taking over. You hardly hear of humanitarian projects anymore, at most some charitable initiative that serves some marketing purpose.
I believe Toni would greatly dislike recent developments, which I guess she saw coming. From an opportunity of liberation, crypto risks becoming a vehicle of unprecedented control and oppression. Nation States, whose dissolution Toni predicted, are investing big in their own blockchains which are obviously going to be centralized. The exact opposite of the dream of early crypto believers.
In this TedTalk Toni gave in Berlin back in 2017 she shared her vision on how blockchain can transform the world and empower people. We should never forget her words and these two pillars of the crypto revolution: decentralization and self-sovereignty. Our future depends on it.
It won’t be an easy journey, but I believe history will prove her right.
See you again, Toni. You may be gone but your spirit can never die. It has been a privilege to know you, I regret not having been more helpful. May your figure be remembered and keep inspiring people for generations to come 🙏