Ethereum on the Cross, illustration by Vlad Todirut

Hard Fork, Immutability, ‘Code as Law’ (GOD)!

Humans Aren’t Ready for ‘Code as Law’

Written by Zach LeBeau, contribution by Chaz Luciano

The next great tech revolution is the decentralization of centralized assets.

Imagine trillions of dollars worth of everything and anything being put onto the blockchain. From insurance policies and medical records to your favorite television shows. The key to your house, the deed to your car, your professional license — all transformed into tokens and “things” on a blockchain. Billions of dollars worth of business taking place across thousands of tokenized ecosystems every day. When we are firmly embedded in the decentralization/blockchain revolution for a decade or two, we’ll find ourselves not being able to imagine life without it, much like we view the internet now.

Decentralized applications will take the internet a step further, integrating information in a seamless fashion. I’ll wake up in the morning and go to my own personal interface. Everything will be there— my digital identity, my money, my reputation. I won’t have to remember a bunch of passwords from several different websites. It will all be integrated. I’ll be able to track my assets and IP instantaneously around the world. And in theory, it will all be safe and secure, access tied to biometric data and multi-sig trust solutions. Make no mistake — the future is a decentralized one — where code runs the world.

It will be a much more stable time and place. Fortune 500 companies and world markets will run on distributed triple entry accounting ledgers like Balanc3 — no more being blindsided by economic crises because fraudulent companies have become “too big to fail”. No more surprised taxpayer funded bailouts. Accounting fraud can’t hide on the blockchain. There is no ability to “cook the books” with triple entry. Immutable bookkeeping.

Immutable… an interesting word to contemplate lately as we hardfork the blockchain… Oh, in case you haven’t noticed, the universe we live in is the Ethereum one. And our universe is about to change…

Have I mentioned some of my friends and associates before? The ones who are blockchain purists? The ones that believe Code is Law — the sacrosanct word of our new machine god. The ones that are disgusted by a hard fork and Ethereum’s inability to be wholly immutable, completely beyond the meddling reach of fussy humans. These people think — not maliciously but definitely extremely — that Ethereum’s integrity is now somehow compromised. A thing that has happened before may seem more likely to happen again, but does Ethereum’s integrity entirely cease to exist if the blockchain proves to not be immutable — once, or twice, or even three times? Why can’t this hardfork lead to an Ethereum universe that increases the integrity of the blockchain?

The purist-extremist blockchain stance is fascinating. To place such an unreachably high standard on the shoulders of human beings. We want a perfect blockchain to help us do away with systems and processes that are tainted by human corruption and fallibility. We put so much hope and faith on the blockchain to heal the injustices of society and the world, and we expect the devs to get it exactly right on the first try? How can we can run before we walk? Not even Neo made the first jump, “No one makes the first jump”.

Human beings aren’t ready for Code as Law. We’re not ready because we can’t create code that can operate and execute perfectly. We can’t create the perfect code that should be given the power to be Law. That would require perfect foresight and programming, and if humans could do that we’d be better at governing ourselves in the legacy world than we are now.

Perhaps the only entity that can create perfect code doesn’t exist yet… a distributed AI that the blockchain will one day house. Code born from code to create perfect code. But then again… Why do we think that code will or can be perfect? There’s no such thing as perfection for human beings, only the pursuit of perfection. Perhaps code will also be pursuing perfection, never able to attain it? Why? Because the Multiverse we live in is not immutable. How can perfection ever be achieved if the Multiverse — our planet, our solar system, our galaxy, our universe and all other galaxies and universes in existence as well as everything we can’t see or feel — is in an unending state of change, a constant state of flux. In a never changing, immutable Multiverse perfection is a concept that can be achieved, but we don’t live in that kind of Multiverse.

It may be difficult at times to see that the Multiverse is not immutable. The physical dimension we live in certainly seems to be. If you get in an accident and lose your leg, you can’t grow another one. If you get hit by a bus and die, you can’t restart the matrix for another try — not in the same physical state anyway. But the matrix in our minds can be rolled back and reset. We can learn from our mistakes, go back and reprogram ourselves. We can do it better next time around.

Why do we not believe in ourselves as human beings? Why did aliens have to build the pyramids and why will only code and AI keep us from being an incorruptible society? Why are we so quick to think that something other than “us” is the better solution? Are we that disappointed and cynical toward our fellow humans and the governance structures we’ve built as a civilization? Probably… I know I’m profoundly disappointed with many aspects of society, but I’m definitely not cynical. The future will be better because of decentralization and because of blockchain technology. We are always learning and improving, reaching a higher understanding. Right?

A dear friend of mine is horrified by the hard fork. Yes, he’s a blockchain purist. He wants to believe in something immutable — unchanging. It’s interesting to me because he’s also a hardcore atheist and libertarian. Is his belief in immutability not as extreme as the belief in an omnipotent Christian God preached about in books written in the bronze age? Is he not wanting to replace God with code?

If we give power over to code then what? Take it a step further… Code will one day become autonomously self-sustainable, intelligent. For all intents and purposes, our future God. Are we in need of an artificial intelligence system to tell us what is right and wrong? To make all the decisions of government? Would we rather be governed by code, by inorganic, programmable intelligence over organic, human intelligence? To date, humans have made a mess of governing themselves — on the one hand — on the other humans are the shining examples of truth and reason.

Witnessing continued injustice in the world, I am definitely up for the conversation of giving code a chance at rule. Worth a try right? Isn’t that what we tried to do with the DAO though? Created something governed and executed solely by code? Something we all bought into and wanted to succeed at various levels. And then what happened? Reality kicked in. We should be grateful it failed. Failure gives us knowledge. Success without even the thought of failure is blissful ignorance. Why do we judge ourselves so harshly? The fact that we have an “Ethereum” in the world and even “Bitcoin” is cause enough for celebration. I’ll say it unequivocally, yes we human beings are on the right track to empowerment and the construction of civil systems that increase our personal freedoms and liberties.

The fact is, human beings are the only entities capable of making hard and great decisions. The fact that humans had to make the decision to hard fork Ethereum is testament to this. Code as Law and total decentralization is not possible, not now. Decentralization can’t exist yet. Well it can, if me and my decentralization extremist buddies create a 3 or 4 person network. But what is that good for? We’re talking about building a decentralized world. And for that to happen you need to have both paradigms — centralization and decentralization — connected at the hip.

Decentralization cannot grow without fiat and other centralized resources being pumped into it, being transformed into ether and tokens. Decentralization cannot grow without the mobilization of centralized entities building bridges to it.

I fear the day when purists wake up and realize that decentralization is not what they thought it was. That it’s not going to be the revolution for the people they envisioned. Decentralization is the next great “-ism”. Just like capitalism or socialism has been to the last few hundred years, “decentralization-ism” will be that to the next few hundred years, or until we reach the singularity. And yes, while decentralization will empower the masses greater than ever before — make no mistake — like in all revolutions the ones that benefit the most are the ones at the top — the ones creating it. Human beings cannot transcend their biology… not yet… so until then there will always be something ruling over us.

Decentralization won’t free us of hierarchies, it will establish new ones. Instead of being ruled by the politicians and religious leaders, we’ll be ruled by the technologists and their code. I’m willing to give them their shot, the politicians and religious leaders had their chance. I’m also willing to give the technologists the time to get it right.