Reputation Risk and Personal Growth
Delip Rao,
Nov 12, 2021

I have been exploring DeFi, and what’s now broadly called Web3, for a while now. It’s difficult to describe my impressions fully, but as an AI researcher, I can see a 2010 deep learning-like tech wave happening all over again, but in entirely unrelated technologies.

In the early 2010s, working in public on deep learning (tweeting about it, for example) was a subject of ridicule. This was especially true among the NLP crowd, including myself, who held an extreme skepticism about claims that computer vision folks were having in DL, but that did not translate to NLP. Anyways, back then, if you were entrenched in the incumbent NLP community and wanted to work on DL in public, tweeted publicly about it, it inevitably led to alienation or at least tweets like: “This is X. You’ve invented X”, “Why can’t [Previous Technique] do this?”, “Is cramming things into a vector without understanding NLP?” etc.

If you were active in the NLP Twitter and wanted to grow your DL knowledge by working publicly, it meant suffering some reputation risk, as communities on Twitter can get pretty tribal. If you post a lot of content that’s not the norm in the in-group, you can expect to get muted or blocked.

As someone with a broad interest in things ranging from AI, mathematics, crypto, neuroscience, and a variety of deep technologies, I feel tweeting publicly about diverse topics can alienate you from your topic-specific community. Yet, paradoxically, the more you share publicly, the more exposure you have to the community, and the more you can learn from them.

But of all topics, crypto seems to be the most polarizing. Probably because, let’s face it, there were/are a lot of scams and huckstery going on there. Given the sketchy nature of ICO scams of the past, pump and dump schemes, the HODL bros shilling bitcoin, bitcoin maximalists overlapping with extreme libertarians and turning social issues into one-sided political issues, most of the typical researcher/academic friends I mutually follow seem to be turned off by anything crypto or blockchain-related. So if you regularly tweet some crypto stuff, and all your NLP friends mute you, then good luck trying to get their attention later when you want to talk about something NLP-related.

If I protect my reputation as an NLP researcher and don’t tweet much about other topics, my personal growth is at risk. This reputation risk is not only in social media but also professionally. Any time I spend on non-AI things is time not spent furthering my expertise in AI-related things. I don’t know how to solve this, but I am opting for personal growth over reputation and seeing what happens.

Coming back to Web3, a lot happened in the past few weeks as a learning experience, and I hope to share more publicly, as it has changed how I think about some things fundamentally.

Are you a crypto bro now?

Lol. Probably that’s a wrong question, and it’s holding you back from your personal growth? But, I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out what’s going on. That said, I’ve gone through a lot of growing pains with trying to understand this new wave of blockchain technologies, like getting my wallet phished, burning a bunch of gas fees without knowing how to do it better, and so on. I feel a lot of my learning could’ve been fast-tracked if I had worked in public. I intend to do that going forward.