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How Gunnar Lovelace Is Trying to ‘Unf*ck’ the World

source-logo  coindesk.com 29 May 2024 16:33, UTC

There is a rumor going around Consensus 2024 that JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who reportedly had a recent religious experience on the substance, will be passing out ayahuasca while attending the conference in Austin, Texas.

That is obviously not true. And, Gunnar Lovelace, one of the minds behind the successful organic e-commerce retailer Thrive Markets, should know. He’s primarily the person behind “the rumor.”

The actual Dimon (a known crypto skeptic) likely won’t be in attendance this year (his loss). ButLovelace has arranged for several impersonators to walk around the convention center grounds and … repent for his sins.

Buckle up, because the backstory is about to get pretty weird. The full (fictional) story goes as so: Lovelace, who grew up on a hippie commune, introduced ayahuasca to Dimon, who had a spiritual awakening after getting slapped in the face with a dildo by a shaman. He is now looking for public penance.

To that end, Lovelace is paying multiple Dimon impersonators to wrestle anthropomorphized versions of meme coins and be paraded around Consensus by a dominatrix. The whole series of stunts is estimated to cost Agent Lovelace, as he prefers to be called, $25,000, including budget for labor, costumes and smoke bombs.

“There's a very particular flavor of anti-establishment ‘F you’ degeneracy in the cryptocurrency community that is a hotbed for what we're trying to do. There's really a lot of alignment there,” Lovelace said.

The meme coin matchups (which are being announced via Telegram here) are all part of an elaborate marketing effort timed ahead of the official launch of Lovelace’s latest effort, United for Kindness, a.k.a. UNFK (pronounced unf*cked), a kind of crowdsourcing application for civil disobedience.

As described on its website: “UNFK is a secret society to prank the world's largest corrupt corporations.”

“Our goal is to inspire millions of people to celebrate their power together, using comedy and pranks in a gamified ecosystem, online and offline that pressures large consumer brands that are profiting on lies and destruction,” Lovelace told CoinDesk in an interview.

The way UNFK intends to go about this isn’t just by staging what are essentially performance art mockeries starring fake Fortune 500 chief executives at various events, but by gamifying social action and collaboration. Next month, in mid-June, the team plans to release an app that has been under development for the better part of a year, which will function as a sort of central nervous system for Lovelace and his team’s grandest social experiments.

UNFK the app will feature an early version of what they’re calling the “Dong Game,” where users are prompted to throw dildos at corporate lawyers outside of big banks and the like. In true crypto fashion, users will be rewarded points as they play (which could one day be redeemed for tokens, though likely not in the U.S.).

Though unlike many blockchain-based games, UNFK fully intends to maintain a presence in meatspace. For instance, for every 50,000 dildos “flung” in the Dong Game, Lovelace has promised to deliver a dumpster truck full of dildos to JPMorgan’s corporate headquarters. Other even more ambitious efforts are also reportedly in the works.

See also: Robert Alice Made NFT History, Now He's Writing About It

“We’re stronger and better by embracing the cryptocurrency community and inviting them in to be the first members of a mass market movement that gamifies engagement,” Lovelace said. “If we succeed at inviting people in and building real community, we're going to be more successful long term."

The team has also partnered with Amplifier to offer $50,000 in rewards to artists creating parody advertisements calling out harmful corporate products and practices. Guest curators include luminaries like actors Daryl Hannah and Nat Kelley, environmentalists like StarHawk and Lori Ann Burd as well as activists like Charles X Michael and Noah Ssempijja.

Good money gone bad?

Serial entrepreneur Gunnar Lovelace has very humble beginnings. Both of his parents were political activists who were forced to flee dictatorships of their prospective countries – his mom from Argentina and father from Spain, Gunnar said. Although close to both, he described them as “free love libertarian hippies, who were swept up in the wild sex, drugs and rock and roll of the 60s.”

Lovelace, who says he is a distant relative of Ada Lovelace, largely considered to be the world’s first computer programmer (and inspiration for aspects of Cardano), says he grew up in poor, dire circumstances on a commune, where he suffered degrees of trauma and abuse. His mom and stepfather took him to his first ayahuasca at just 17.

“I always knew I wanted to make money,” Lovelace said, adding that he believed it was one of the few ways he could raise himself and his family out of the “out there” circumstances of his upbringing. He attended the University of California, Santa Cruz and dropped out in 1999 to found his first company during the initial dot com boom.

“I saw it as a really direct way of doing good in the world,” Lovelace, who described himself as hardcore capitalist, said. Like many, Lovelace said that we need to shift from the obscene accumulation of wealth that profits on destruction of our planet and making humans toxic. "If we don't do that we will hand our future children a very toxic and dirty world ruled by corrupt mega corporations."

That was essentially the driving force behind Thrive Market, which he co-founded in 2013 and has since grown to be one of the largest online retailers of organic food of its kind. As well as Good Money, which had a decidedly less successful fate.

Good Money started off as a blockchain-based app in early 2018, but quickly pivoted into what Lovelace called “a conscious banking solution” during the depths of that year’s crypto winter. The idea was to bridge the worlds of credit unions and fintech together, and create a banking product to better distribute ownership.

Although the platform found early traction and began to scale, a confluence of factors including middleware deals gone awry, a co-founder committing theft and Lovelace’s own self-described toxic management style eventually forced the team to wind down and return some investor funds after four years.

“The lack of clear thinking and strategy created downstream negative effects that the organization had to spend time trying to fix later on. There is a huge difference in the power of good strategic thinking that is 70% baked and 90% baked in terms of outcomes,” Lovelace wrote in a recent Medium post titled “Brutally humbling lessons from Good Money.”

“For me, this is a direct extension of not sleeping coupled with sometimes arrogant and borderline messianic behavior. Again such a tricky one, because when you have built a career defying people and society who told you no or that’s impossible, you start to believe your own kool-aid,” he also wrote.

After about a year of soul searching following the closure of Good Money, Lovelace came up with the idea for UNFK. While there is no direct link between Good Money and UNFK, Lovelace clarified, many of the two projects’ core team members are the same.

See also: The Burning Question Behind NFTs

“It was so clear that there was still the group of us – the most creative, talented folks that were at Good Money have all come in. In terms of the core team, there's six of us that were a part of the core creative side there that were also involved in earlier projects together,” Lovelace said. He says he’s learned a lot from the failure of Good Money, including minimizing the expectations of success.

“It's an art experiment,” he said when asked how Lovelace expects to make money. “We don’t think it will generate a lot of economic activity. Our goal is to inspire millions of people to celebrate their power together.”

Though, there are “rumors” of an “unaffiliated” UNFK token. “It’s completely insane to me that airdrops are illegal,” Lovelace said.

UNFK the world

Julia Landry, who leads UX and product design at UNF and is primarily responsible for building the app, has described the key design principle as “absurdity and humor and ridiculousness.” She is one of the transplants who came over from Good Money to join the 30+ person team at UNFK, to see if it could achieve its goals of pranking the world’s worst capitalists into submission.

“I will say it's one of the most unique experiences of my career,” Agent Landry said. “I am just hoping for a better word for a better world for my kids, as so many parents are. If we're setting the stage to upgrade capitalism from negative to positive externalities, then we've tried everything right? And now it's time to just like let loose and go out and just fling dongs for the kids.”