In brief

  • A blockchain fratority will pay its next member around $3000 if they get a tattoo representing Kusama.
  • Kusama is an experimental version of blockchain network Polkadot.
  • We speak to a member who got a tattoo.

The sociological definition of a cult can best be derived from studying the Kusama Human Blockchain Project, which—should a proposal on the cusp of acceptance pass—will pay the next new member who gets a tattoo of the network’s logo a little over $3,000 worth of the platform’s native token, KSM.

Getting a tattoo could sway the admissions committee of the project, also known as “Kappa Sigma Mu (KΣM): The Kusama Fratority,” a society built upon Kusama, which is an early, unaudited, and experimental release of blockchain network Polkadot. 

The tattoo must be of the Kusama network’s canary symbol; its typography; the full logo; or the Kusama genesis hash. The tattoo must be permanent, fit into a circle of at least 2.54cm; and be on the body. 

Would Kusama's canary logo make for a good tattoo? Image: Kusama.

The tattoo must also contain the identifying information of the head of the society at the time of the tattoo, such as an index account or a binary account ID. Members will be periodically required to show proof of the tattoo.

The premise, Decrypt imagines, is to mimic the same consensus mechanism of regular blockchains. On the Bitcoin proof-of-work blockchain, Bitcoin's worth is tied to the miners sacrifice their computing power and electricity for it. With the Kusama Fratority, the pledge is skin-space and dignity, and the reward is membership, and, for the next member, money.

But a description of the fraternity, which was founded in December, does not explain the benefits of joining it, if any. It currently has three members, and an interview with its second member, self-described “kusamanetwork superfan,” 23-year old Joshua Mir, didn’t do much to elucidate the matter. 

Mir, a soft-spoken technical support engineer for Parity—which builds Polkadot—in Berlin, got Kusama’s canary logo emblazoned on his chest in indelible ink when he joined the fratority a few weeks ago. For Mir, the fratority is a tech demo that “demonstrates the kinds of coordination you can build around a system like a blockchain,” and sees himself as a “human oracle,” who has “skin in the game, literally speaking.” 

But he struggled to come up with a unifying aim for the group. When pressed, he said that members would use treasury funds to vote on initiatives to further the development of the network. “We want to see Kusama succeed. We're getting Kusama tattoos, right? Why [else] would we get tattoos on ourselves?” he said.

So far, none of them have received any money for joining. If Decrypt were to join today, it’d get 15 KSM, currently worth about $45. The $3,000 investment would come from the 13-strong Kusama council. As of February 25, the fratority must convince five more members to pass the proposal. 

Kusama launched in September, and its coin has tripled in value this month, from around $1 to $3. But since records began on data metrics site CoinMarketCap in mid-December, trading daily volume has fallen from peaks of $10.5 million to around $1.5 million.

But for Mir, it’s not about the money, anyway. He’d been itching to get a tattoo for years, he said, and he found his excuse in the fratority. Should Kusama fail, the tattoo will always commemorate “this period of my life, where I'm just kind of like throwing myself into a community that I had no connection to beforehand.”

If you’re thinking of joining, perhaps find a back-up reason for your tattoo, too—the members of the fratority can vote to reject applicants. And if just one member of the fratority rejects your admission, the voting system will randomly decide whether you’re allowed to join the group, proportional to the vote. 

But with Kusama’s daily trading volume in the gutter, a tattoo would ensure the dream never dies.