Calling All Writers: Learn What the Opt-Out Writing Contest is All About From The 膧ut Labs' Team

13 Mar 2024
In this AMA, we discuss the ongoing writing contest, Opt Out, and the three main topics for the HackerNoon writer community: Autonomy, Identity and Self-Sovereignty.
Autonomy in Web3, from Decentralized Systems, Collectives, and DAOs, autonomy in art, technology, and activism to autonomy in the workplace, role-specific or collective Autonomy;

Identity in the Digital Space, collective or on-chain, the evolution of identity in decentralized societies and the history of identity;

as well as Self-sovereignty, such as the essence of self-sovereignty, self-sovereignty in action, balancing self-sovereignty and collective responsibility, self-sovereignty in financial systems, to Sybil or not to Sybil.

See the writing prompts here and share your story to win from $9000!
Aut labs invites all writers to join their brand new channel in their Discord sever for the #OptOut writing contest! Share a submission, bounce around ideas for an entry or just chat about Autonomy, Identity & other self-sovereign things! 馃槑 Join here:
Meet our guests - Alex P. and Libby P.!

Alex is an Italian polymath, writer, world-traveler, and Experience Designer - with expertise in Collaborative Economics and Game Theory.
Before founding @opt_aut, he successfully ventured into multiple things - spanning from chess to poetry reading and commodity trading.
Since 2016 he has dedicated entirely to his passion for Web3, Self-Sovereign [Organizations / Identities / Cities] and collective autonomy.

Libby Porteous serves as 膧ut Labs' marketing and DAO operations lead. Bringing her experience from her time as a Web3 co-founder and her contributions to various publications, Libby has dedicated the last two years to working with the team on implementing autonomy and personal freedom at a systemic level.
This Slogging thread by M贸nica Freitas, Sheharyar Khan, Alex P., Asher Umerie, Libby P., John T., Valentine Enedah, Jose Hernandez and Sidra occurred in slogging's official #amas channel, and has been edited for readability.
M贸nica FreitasMar 7, 2024, 1:01 PM
Hi Alex P. and Libby P.! Thanks for joining us!
I'd like to start by asking you to tell us a bit about yourselves: your experience in tech and web3, why autonomy is so important to you, how your life experiences changed the way you view tech, etc
Sheharyar KhanMar 7, 2024, 1:03 PM
Hey, you two! Thanks for taking out the time for this AMA. Can you tell us what motivated you to start Aut Labs? Are you first-time founders? And what has the journey been like so far?
Alex P.Mar 7, 2024, 1:07 PM
Hi M贸nica Freitas and Sheharyar Khan, thank you for having us.
Personally, I've always been interested in meritocratic systems - and since my teenage, I've been actively working on collectives, collaborative autonomy, non-profits, etc.

Mainly, my work has been around modeling non-monetary economic systems, and ways to capture value - as in, if we could measure fairly the value that everyone adds to a small group/community and the society at large, we wouldn't need the "mediation" of money to reward individuals, and let everyone the freedom to express themselves.

So a few years later - I came to the conclusion that this could be solved through Reputation.

A global, self-sovereign reputation (= not assigned by others, but gained through one's own actions and weighted through a meritocratic, math-based system) can unlock incredible things, and bring human society 10 steps forward.

Things such as profit-sharing, credit score, mutual credit, UBI (Universal Basic Income), workers' comp (in case of injury), retirement plans, etc. would be as easy as multiplying every contributor's/participant's premium for their GR coefficient.

So I'm passionate about it, cause of its potential to disrupt central power structures, and bring humanity, and human collaboration, to the next level of freedom and collaborative autonomy.
Sheharyar KhanMar 7, 2024, 1:09 PM
That's interesting Alex. You wouldn't happen to be a fan (or player!) of tabletop roleplaying games? Reputation plays heavily in those kinds of games and I'm wondering whether that's where your idea of a global, self-sovereign reputation is influenced by?
Alex P.Mar 7, 2024, 1:17 PM
Sheharyar Khan
Well, probably "fan" is the right word, as I'm not an expert - but I might have played most of them with friends over the years.

Mostly, I like the structure of games - I think most of modeling (in math, social networks, community development, etc.) is loosely based on game theory, and of that (game theory) I've been a fan for almost 2 decades now 馃槃
Libby P.Mar 7, 2024, 1:19 PM
Hey M贸nica Freitas, Sheharyar Khan

Great to be here!

Since I very first discovered blockchain, I well & truly fell down the rabbit hole. I could instantly see so many use-cases which could change many of our current societal systems for the better!

Autonomy is important as it allows us to take back control from those who have too much. It gives us the opportunity to come together, collaborate & make real impact in a much, much fairer way!
M贸nica FreitasMar 7, 2024, 1:15 PM
Interesting point, Alex P.... Do you think that tying income to meritocracy would solve the undeniable systemic differences that we have amongst our population, or would it exacerbate them?
Alex P.Mar 7, 2024, 1:25 PM
M贸nica Freitas
Nice question. The simple answer is "Yes, tying income to meritocracy would solve the undeniable systemic differences" - but that's not so simple.

Meaning that if you see things in a way like:
  1. we have a pot with all the money in the world
  2. this pot would iteratively (i.e.: every month) and automatically (without a "human intervention") distribute shares of this money based on people's reputation
Then, yes, that would solve inequality.

The main design space and complexity arise when you think about "how is this reputation acquired" - that inevitably brings you to questions such as
  • "where actions come from"
  • "can people choose how to act, or would they do it within someone else's given scheme in order to gain their reputation?"
  • consequentially, "how autonomous one can be in a group"
  • so that the center of the governance problem becomes, "who is responsible, who is accountable - and how?"
  • and eventually "what identity even is, in the first place?"

"We are working on Reputation" is a very simplistic statement that way too many people give.

The truth is that Reputation is just the tip of the iceberg - the ideal vision for a more equitable future.

In reality, we at 膧ut Labs took about 3 years to solve these problems, and we are not done yet - so it's real work 馃檪
Asher UmerieMar 7, 2024, 1:18 PM
Alex P. Great insights so far. I鈥檓 interested in understanding your mindset a little bit more. Do you remember when you first became disenfranchised with the status quo? What was your awakening, so to speak?
M贸nica FreitasMar 7, 2024, 1:23 PM
Libby P. how can we bring autonomy to everyday life? How is 膧ut Labs' fostering this?
Libby P.Mar 7, 2024, 1:36 PM
M贸nica Freitas Well I think Alex P. gave quite a nice insight there. Bringing into everyday life? Join a DAO! I think once you鈥檝e had the experience of your first DAO you really realize the power of Autonomy 馃槑鉁 And ofc, DAOs can be any kind of group of people with a common goal so bringing it into your everyday life is just a matter of how you collaborate with people day-to-day 鉁
Asher UmerieMar 7, 2024, 1:27 PM
Libby P. what insights can you share about the landscape of DAO operations? Specifically, I鈥檓 interested in hearing about the unique challenges, core trends, and your vision for an ideal future, along with viable paths toward actualization.
Libby P.Mar 7, 2024, 2:11 PM
Asher Umerie I think the main issues we're experiencing in the DAO Landscape/Ops is ensuring everyone is awarded appropriately for the value they put in & also tracking that value so you can take it with you elsewhere & be trusted by any new communities you might fancy joining.

Here's a line we like to use a lot at 膧ut Labs: If there is hope, it lies in the Roles.

Bringing Roles on-chain has the potential to solve these issues. Which is exactly what we've done 鉁

In our communities, when you first join one, you claim an 膧utID (which is an SBT) which holds all of your roles and acts as a DAO-bound to every community you're in. It also keeps track of all your contributions in those communities, so alongside your Rep which Alex P. has beautifully introduced you too, it's much simpler to award value & you now hold a verifiable trustworthy proof of your individual contributions to any new communities!
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Sheharyar KhanMar 7, 2024, 1:38 PM
Hey Alex P. - in one of the prompts for the Opt Out writing contest, we encourage authors to talk about identity in the digital space and discuss a minimum viable tech stack. Do you foresee a future where that tech stack could include hardware or a physical manifestation?
Alex P.Mar 7, 2024, 1:41 PM
Sheharyar Khan
I believe we already have all we need from hardware/real-world perspective.
All you need is a phone with encryption and a QR-code to scan/be scanned to validate something or verify yourself 馃檪

The most important thing here is to make sure what "pseudonymous identity" means - and what "self-sovereign identity" means.

Both are a weapon of resistance against exploitative practices such as KYC, KYB, and other authoritative abuses - and both 膧ut Labs and the Opt Out contest as a whole stand strongly against such practices.
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Sheharyar KhanMar 7, 2024, 1:45 PM
Thanks, Alex P.! Out of curiosity: doesn't this create a bit of a paradox with what you said earlier about a reputation-based system? Let's say such a system were to be implemented at a mass scale, wouldn't somehow establishing the identity of an individual/user be paramount? I guess what I'm wondering is, where do we draw the line between anonymity and self-identity if that makes sense?
Alex P.Mar 7, 2024, 1:48 PM
I don't believe it does.
The important thing is that people are identifiable by their actions, uniqueness, and unique value brought into a group.

This doesn't relate to a name and a surname/family name.
It relates to action and intentionality.
That's why Decentralized Technologies are difficult 馃檪
For example, we built the 膧utID standard.
It's self-sovereign (= all data come from the holder) and it's non-transferable - meaning that whoever owns it cannot sell it for profit, or modify their reputation (which is assigned mathematically, based on an individual's participation in the DAOs they are part of).

If something cannot be sold/deleted or modified/manipulated, isn't it a verifiable source of truth? 馃檪

Also, other than most of "decentralized" identity providers in our space - we do not charge people to get their ID.

Identity is a human right - and you should run away from people who try to sell it to you 馃檪
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Asher UmerieMar 7, 2024, 1:51 PM
Libby P. One of the prompts for the Opt Out contest centers on the concept of collective autonomy. How would you approach a resolution to this apparent paradox; 鈥榗ollective鈥 & 鈥榓utonomy鈥?
Libby P.Mar 7, 2024, 2:24 PM
Asher Umerie to put it simply, You are yourself, Your community is your collective self. It's the members within a community that shape it so IMO collective autonomy refers to a community's freedom to define their own rules & social identity without interference from any other groups.

I would love to see someone take up the prompt. The other Prompt I'm dying to see someone use is:

Autonomy in the Workplace: Tell us a story on how a 鈥渨orkplace of the future鈥 may look like. Are we aiming towards a dystopian, whole-state surveillance, or towards the highest level of individual autonomy and collective productivity that humankind has ever seen? Anything worse? Anything in between? Reshape the future workplace and work culture, especially imagining a world where decentralized organizations actually made it.

Seeing the potential for some 1984 Winston Smith vibes. Perhaps with a happy ending 馃槒
M贸nica FreitasMar 7, 2024, 2:33 PM
Great points, Alex P. and Libby P.! 膧ut Labs is very keen on protecting and fostering autonomy, identity, and self-sovereignty. How do you nurture these traits within 膧ut Labs, and connecting to the writing contest you're currently hosting here on HackerNoon, why do you feel it's so important to bring other people's perspectives on these?
Alex P.Mar 9, 2024, 7:03 PM
M贸nica Freitas Thank you, that's a nice question.
I believe our main goal is to use (decentralized) technology to set the ground for a fairer, more open world.
Simply put: maximize human freedom, and minimize hyper-surveillance.

That's it, that's our job, that's 膧ut Labs' job. We don't have (alas!) a cookbook of how freedom should look like, or what is right and wrong.
What people - individuals and collectives alike - do with that freedom is not up to us.

There are infinite ways to interpret freedom, to use it, to enjoy it, to struggle with it. I believe this contest is about that.
About individuals diving deeper into those concepts, into those interpretations - starting with the linguistic aspect.
  • What is individuality in the first place?
  • How can I be free within a collective, in a society?
  • What limits me (= externalities) and what control do I exercise over myself (= my values) in order to live in harmony with others?
  • Do I really need a digital or analog master who surveils me at all time, in order to control my impulses?
  • And if I don't, if I'm already free - then what could a society look like, for others to realize their potential as well?
  • And how would we be able to ensure that is equitable, and verifiable, so that it wouldn't eventually fall prey to re-centralization and autocratic power once again?

The Opt Out contest is about these questions, and everybody's answer is different.
We are just building the tools needed for these questions to be answered, and we are inviting people to do so - starting with writers 馃檪
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Asher UmerieMar 8, 2024, 11:08 AM
Very nicely put Libby P. Building on that, I would like to pick your brain on the topic of self-sovereignty, one of the sub-themes for the first round of the Opt Out writing contest鈥攅specially in the context of digital identity and data management.

One argument against this is the complexity of that responsibility. While it鈥檚 a noble goal, many people don鈥檛 actually understand data management and selective disclosure, they just want to use their devices and stay connected to a rapidly expanding digital landscape as seamlessly as possible.

How, then, do we position/communicate the solution that is self-sovereignty to a people who may not even recognize the problem in the first place?
Libby P.Mar 9, 2024, 8:17 PM
Great question Asher Umerie 馃檹

I think the importance of communicating this is all within the approach. It must be one which develops a narrative that not only educates individuals, but also empowers them to recognize and embrace their digital autonomy as an intuitive part of their online interactions.

I believe once self-sovereignty is performed, we can begin to feel this power shift over platforms where it鈥檚 not. It could be considered as the very first step towards shifting vertical distributions of power towards fairer, more horizontal ways of co-existing. A place where not only do you control your identity, you own it too.

I reckon once this becomes evident, the empowerment of owning/controlling your own identity will be just as important as brushing your teeth :tooth:

The great thing about the Opt Out contest is that it鈥檚 an opportunity to collect multiple perspectives and viewpoints on how this narrative can be framed in a way which both educates and empowers individuals! :call_me_hand:
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Jose HernandezMar 8, 2024, 5:43 PM
Hey guys! With personal privacy seemingly dwindling down year by year, how important is it to protect your identity, and how can people take steps to do so?
Alex P.Mar 9, 2024, 10:25 PM
Nice touch, thank you Libby P.
As for Jose Hernandez's question - it's not an easy topic. But probably it's best to do some personal research about this, and find custom ways to protect your privacy, based on your circumstances and what you would like to achieve. is a good starting point for personal literacy.

In the long term, I believe the only way to go is to tackle the elephant in the room --> KYC.
As long as people are forced to reveal sensitive information any time they have any kind of online activity - hyper-surveillance will never stop.
KYC is one of the core systemic flaws we are trying to fix - if not the main one.
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M贸nica FreitasMar 11, 2024, 10:25 AM
Alex P. Are there any particular topics you're most excited to read? Any advice for our contestants?
Alex P.Mar 11, 2024, 11:49 AM
M贸nica Freitas oh yeah, I'd be happy to read some submissions about
it is under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, (...) exploited, (...) hoaxed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint - to be repressed (...) hunted down, abused, (...) judged, shot, deported, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, (...), outraged, dishonored.
That is government. That is its justice. That is its morality.
- Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, The General Idea of the Revolution

as well as "":
  • : Should we really be limited by old-world concepts such as 鈥1 person : 1 Identity/vote/seat鈥? Or meritocracy means that we should be able to enforce a self-sovereign right to multiplicity in the digital space, as long as we can handle our multifaceted selves?

In general, though, I'm curious to see any interpretations that our writers will give of these themes - I love to be surprised 馃檪
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M贸nica FreitasMar 11, 2024, 10:59 AM
Libby P. are there any perspectives you're looking forward to reading in the writing contest submissions?
Libby P.Mar 11, 2024, 12:12 PM
M贸nica Freitas Yes! There are so many prompts that are inspiring and I'd love to see them taken on but I'm specifically excited to see some very creative writing!

This prompt that Sidra nicely highlighted has a lot of potential for somebody to let their imagination run free:

Autonomy in the Workplace: Tell us a story on how a 鈥workplace of the future鈥 may look like. Are we aiming towards a dystopian, whole-state surveillance, or towards the highest level of individual autonomy and collective productivity that humankind has ever seen? Anything worse? Anything in between? Reshape the future workplace and work culture, especially imagining a world where decentralized organizations actually made it.
It'd be very cool to see an entry that takes this prompt to its creative limits 馃憖
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Asher UmerieMar 11, 2024, 10:54 AM
Well put Libby P. Building on that, what are your hopes for our collective future vis--vis opting out of the status quo/reinventing it altogether?
Libby P.Mar 11, 2024, 12:05 PM
Asher Umerie I hope our collective future will be one where we're liberated from systems that don't represent us and into ones where we experience a fairer, more horizontal, distribution of power 馃槒
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SidraMar 11, 2024, 11:37 AM
I am really enjoying this discussion, team! I鈥檓 deeply thankful to the team Aut Labs for sponsoring the Opt Out Writing contest for our community. Libby P. 鈥autonomy at work鈥 prompt is very close to my heart. A few years ago, I left, or what I must say 鈥榦pted out鈥 of the field of research and academia after experiencing extreme control, manipulation, gatekeeping, and toxicity in the field. It was very difficult for me to take the decision as my PhD. research had taken some shape by then, and I had no work experience outside of academia. I鈥檓 lucky that I鈥檝e found great people to work with and a new career path; however, I feel that there鈥檚 a need for a decentralized system in academia where the 鈥榓lmighty鈥 professors won鈥檛 be able to threaten the students that they can destroy their careers. A place where there鈥檚 no gender bias, control, or manipulation. I鈥檓 looking forward to seeing the discussions and solutions for that.

I would love to see more discussion on this prompt as well:

鈥淩ole-specific Autonomy: 50 shades of Autonomy. Is autonomy different for DeFi degens vs. artists & writers vs. political scientists & philosophers vs. governance vs. devs & mathematicians? Feel free to tackle them all at once, tell us a story about one of them - or create a role-based governance model that is going to take the future generations by storm.鈥

My question to Alex P. and Libby P. is what鈥檚 your take on this prompt? Do you think we can make a single role-based governance model to represent all major fields of work? Also, can role-based governance help in mitigating bias?
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Alex P.Mar 11, 2024, 12:15 PM
Sidra lovely story, thank you Sidra - this would be the kind of entry we'd like to see 馃檶
As for your question: yes, I believe role-based governance is the foundation for any democratic/meritocratic governance.
Not all people are experts in everything - and by forcing everyone to vote on decisions that are either irrelevant or unknown to them, you're just pushing your community/collective/group/network state/DAO/... toward paralysis/apathy (cause of the inability/lack of motivation to vote), or dysfunctionality (we wouldn't like the funniest of our standup comedy friends to be the doctor operating our leg - so why would we expect the same degree of expertise in any single topic, both from doctors and standup comedians?).

Any other form of governance descends from role-based governance - and can be built on top of it, de-facto giving freedom and "special statute" to each and every DAO.

As for the biases:
  • you choose your role
  • you choose your commitment
  • you are rewarded and "considered" based on your participation and reputation - which depend exclusively on you, your choices and the value you bring in.

I believe it completely crashes the very idea of bias, making it impossible by design :)
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Libby P.Mar 11, 2024, 12:23 PM
Sidra this has been very well said by Alex P.. Role-based governance leaves no room for bias for everything revolves around your participation and reputation. Both of which are derived from your own choices 馃檶
M贸nica FreitasMar 11, 2024, 12:12 PM
Awesome Alex P. For anyone wondering how autonomy and activism correlate, what would you tell them?
Alex P.Mar 11, 2024, 12:20 PM

They do not necessarily correlate. But, are you experiencing autonomy in your everyday life? With your bank? With your country's institutions? With your bureaucratic system? When you travel and just want to see the world, new cultures, new friends?

If you experience this autonomy, you are the lucky one who found ElDorado 馃槃

Otherwise, we need to be (h)ac(k)tivists - in order to fight, individually and together, and make autonomy a reality for everyone.
One may instinctively - at guts' level - realize the abnormality of our system, by just reflecting on how hard we need to fight, and struggle, just in order to "obtain" our birth-given rights.
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Asher UmerieMar 11, 2024, 12:25 PM
Alex P. I haven鈥檛 found El Dorado yet馃槀 Hopefully someone sends me a pin when they do.

As I鈥檓 sure you already know humanity, through time, always seems to repeat the same patterns across the board. New shiny technology, systems, religions, ways of life, and so forth, come up now and again to replace legacy systems. Only to go down a path that leads them to become the problems they tried to solve in the first place.

We can already see hints of centralization finding a foothold in the Web3 ecosystem.

How do we ensure that if/when we do change the world the collective doesn鈥檛 ultimately return to its old ways?

Surely, we can鈥檛 bet on human nature. History warns against it.
Alex P.Mar 11, 2024, 12:38 PM
Well said, Asher Umerie - I couldn't agree more.
Now, let's go step by step.
The "enforceability" aspect: Smart Contracts are immutable (at least, the structure of them - upgradability/proxies aside).
Also, any information and data appended to the blockchain, cannot be removed, changed, or deleted.

You can see how this is different from anything we've ever had in the history of humanity before us - where "history" was written as an Epic Fiction by the "winners" - usually after a bloodbath.

This is impossible with blockchain technology, and that's what we believe in - not "that people will make the right, selfless choice time and again" because certainly they won't. Our system is built around game theory and selfish actors 馃檪

As for the "other actors" involved in our space - we are much more worried.
Most of the "decentralized/self-sovereign ID providers" in the space tend to sell you an ID. Do you see the paradox in that? You sell someone an identity.
And you sell it because it has the value of being "decentralized & self-sovereign" - therefore, independent from a central provider.
And yet, you charge them money - in order to provide them with this service.

In a fair and meritocratic world, these would would be considered scammers, and ostracized from a civilized society.

We are strongly against any "web3 project" (especially in the DeFi space) cooperating with institutions.
Institutions, banks, nation states - are incompatible with decentralization, and they are the enemy to fight, not someone to please just to get a quick buck.

The old world will win and turn us into slaves till the end of time - if we allow them to use the blockchain to inscribe their autocratic rules on the internet, and make them immutable and self-enforcing forever.

Do you see why this contest is urgent? Why do people need to be informed, and speak up?

I believe this is the fight of our generation - and no other generation will be in such a position ever again.
Therefore, we have the responsibility to act, and fight - or we will have no one else to blame.
Not to conclude on "doomeristic tones" tho, here's we shared a few weeks ago - expressing our vision about "the state of Web3" 馃槃
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Asher UmerieMar 11, 2024, 12:43 PM
Alex P., very nicely put. Thank you!
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M贸nica FreitasMar 11, 2024, 12:42 PM
Are there any resources you'd advise to writers who want to take a stab at topics like on-chain identities or role-specific autonomy? Alex P.
Alex P.Mar 11, 2024, 12:45 PM

As for role-based governance, no. For the good or the bad, we are the only ones who are seriously working on this solution - so any narrative and sources would be 膧ut Labs.

As for on-chain identities, yes - the literature is endless. I'd do more damage than good if I started to share "my favorite sources" - I'd rather prompt our writers to do their own research, as writers should always do 馃檪
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M贸nica FreitasMar 11, 2024, 12:48 PM
Great tip! For those curious about 膧ut Labs perspectives, can you share where they can consult them? Alex P.
Alex P.Mar 11, 2024, 12:49 PM
Thank you, Monica!
We have quite a few channels, but probably is the most accessible one - we share very highly-crafted content there, and all relevant links to other platforms 馃檪
M贸nica FreitasMar 11, 2024, 12:48 PM
And before we go, what would be the main takeaway you would like people to get from this AMA and your contest? Libby P. Alex P.
Alex P.Mar 11, 2024, 12:50 PM
M贸nica Freitas And before we go, what would be the main takeaway you would like people to get from this AMA and your contest?

We are creating a more free and open world. Feel free to be part of it.
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Libby P.Mar 11, 2024, 12:55 PM
M贸nica Freitas Thank you for the lovely chat! 馃檶

If anybody reading this vibes with 膧ut & the contest themes and you have something to say, say it! Let's challenge the status quo, together :)
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M贸nica FreitasMar 11, 2024, 1:00 PM
And that's a wrap for this AMA. Thank you, Alex P. and Libby P., for your time and thoughtful answers! Looking forward to seeing what you'll do next! And for our writers at HackerNoon, jump into the Opt Out train and submit your stories on autonomy, identity, and self-sovereignty! 鉁嶐煍
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