2048 — Tao of DAO (A Decentralised World)
It’s easy to forget how much the world has changed over past few decades. Thirty years ago our legislative and financial models were unsustainable, and heading towards a global economic and social crisis. In the early 2020’s decision-making within companies began to pass from humans to machines, slashing costs and boosting revenues. Margins soared for the companies that were able to deploy these technologies, and the financial markets fed them ever-cheaper capital. The handful of companies who got there first — known as the Horsemen — became dominant, hoovering up consumers and talent. Any company that threatened the Horsemen was either assimilated or crushed. Resistance was futile.
Driven by the blind belief that a country’s success was determined by GDP growth, the global economy was an accelerating car with no one at the wheel. Corporate profits fueled the inflation and as the Horsemen became more powerful than the governments that supposedly regulated them, unprecedented levels of wealth concentrated in the hands of a few individuals. Whilst governments discussed UBI (Universal Basic Income) and other potential solutions, the Horsemen drew up plans to pacify the masses with “dopamine regulation”, using virtual reality and social gaming. Despite pressure to break-up these monopolies it was impossible to regulate the Horsemen; they held all the cards. The only solution was to change the rules of the game. How do you compete with a company that doesn’t need to make a profit? You have to remove the need for a company.
Prior to 2020 if you wanted to create a product then you had to form a company to employ people and manage the financial transactions. The misguided perceived pinnacle of entrepreneurial success was to raise as much investment as possible then “grow, grow, grow”. Exiting was glorified in the media, creating entrepreneurial celebrities who enjoyed their wealth and status, and who millions yearned to mimic. Institutional investors continued to benefit from the destructive economic machine, and although governments took a cut of the transactions, the mechanism for sharing the benefits was enfeebled as corporates and investors found ever more efficient ways to avoid paying taxes.
We will never know where all this would have ended without the intervention of a few visionaries who dared to imagine a planet without borders, the death of corporations, and the dissolution of countries. The solution was never going to come from governments; it had to come from the people, like an anti-virus spreading through its host. Ironically, it was the same technologies that gave the Horsemen dominance that eventually destroyed them. Blockchain technology gave the world a trusted data platform, and AI provided the means to collaborate without friction.
In hindsight, the solution was obvious: create a system — a DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation) — that allowed for truly decentralised and distributed decisions and actions. The visionaries imagined a world whereby anyone could boot up a project by launching a DAO that enabled contributions from anywhere in the world. Communications technology enabled frictionless on- and off-boarding of distributed contributors to a DAO’s open projects.
It was similar to the open-source movement, but in this new paradigm, anyone — software engineers, designers, marketers, accountants and even strategists — could rally around an idea and contribute to its development. Work wasn’t provided for free or kudos, as in the open-source model: instead, fiscal remuneration was determined by the quantity and quality of the contribution. This meant that anyone could contribute to a project, even just for a few hours, and they would be rewarded fairly for their work.
As people worked on these open projects, the DAO captured their contribution on a public blockchain. These contributions accumulated to form a reputation that determined the rate of remuneration on future projects. People developed different rates for different skills, and the rate evolved dynamically over time. You would be paid a different rate for marketing work than for software development, depending on your relative skill in each.
Many of these open projects used digital tokens as their economic model. As we moved beyond 2020 a Cambrian explosion of funding models appeared, such as ICOs (initial coin offerings) and other types of token sales. Selling tokens gave open projects the capital to get started. Although it took over two decades, by reducing the waste and friction we reached a point whereby new innovations helped ensure that everyone’s basic needs were met. Giving everyone seamless access to healthcare, nutrition and education meant that people had the freedom to create and contribute to open projects without the need for initial funding.
Since digital tokens have no jurisdiction, contributors from anywhere in the world were remunerated with the same currency. Someone in Europe who contributed the same value to an open project as someone in India would receive the same remuneration. And because everyone had a fair opportunity to contribute to open projects, there was a rapid redistribution of wealth.
One of the founding principles of the DAO is that all products are open source. The creation of a completely frictionless free market, where the cheapest and best-placed people could contribute meant that toxic companies were starved of labour and customers. Efficient markets coupled with conscientious consumption to spawn tens of thousands of new organisations whose products and services were developed to meet real needs and provide real benefits.
Many existing companies were replaced by open versions. Uber was one of the first to dissolve, when Open-Uber was founded as a protest against Uber’s questionable corporate practices. Without the need of a central company to coordinate resources, Open-Uber provided a fair and efficient marketplace for the movement of people and goods. Strategists and innovators helped Open-Uber to become a positive agent beyond its core transportation service: for example, drivers were shown how to spot human trafficking and abuse, and report it to the relevant authorities.
A pivotal moment was the emergence of Open-Facebook, an open project launched by 400 global contributors. Facebook’s interface was emulated, and quickly innovated on. Consumers migrated to Open-Facebook in huge numbers, paying $1 per year for a service that was trusted, and ad-free. With almost four billion users, Open-Facebook now costs its users $0.01 per year, which is enough to fund the 2,000-strong development community and cover the energy costs. Some companies, like Airbnb, anticipated this fate and decentralised themselves by migrating their codebases and operations to a DAO.
Removing the incentive to provide shareholder returns coupled with a frictionless free market led to the commoditization of essential goods and services. Early instances of open products had varying impacts on society. Some were positive, solving a range of social problems, but others were negative, exploiting and amplifying addictions. But as more and more people contributed to more and more open projects, the reputation scores had a wonderful side-effect. Each person’s digital footprint meant their societal contribution could be measured and was public.
In the mid 2020s there were fears that the “ultra-gig economy”, where no one belonged to a company, would damage societies by reducing the level of human interactions. Instead, it turned out that people are more than capable of managing healthy, active social lives without the infrastructure of an office, a boss, appraisals and timesheets. But for a while, fears about social isolation led a few people to sabotage open projects in an effort to maintain the status quo. In addition, anti-open propaganda and smear campaigns were funded by several corporates, desperately trying to maintain their identity and power. These efforts quickly failed as the fears proved illusory.
Throughout the 2030’s people realised that they could work anywhere they wanted, which caused mass migration. Digital nomads forced governments to reassess and innovate their policies. As they sought to attract and retain corporations and talent by reducing taxes, and slackening employment laws, they began to homogenise, like a price war with a race to the bottom.
Increasingly, the global community of entrepreneurs focused on purposeful products, which helped to bring free nutrition, healthcare and education (widely regarded as the three pillars to end poverty) to everyone. And as the appetite for purposeful contribution grew, so did the appetite for purposeful consumption. People sought and found information about how best to contribute, and educated themselves in psychology and motivation.
The freedom to work anywhere caused substantial population shifts, and re-energised communities, with people growing their own food, harnessing natural energy sources, and turning away from mass-produced or packaged solutions. This re-emergence of community after years of isolated self-interest had a huge impact on happiness levels of all age groups. More than ever before, people remembered that everyone benefits from collaboration and kindness. Finally, we have a roadmap to end poverty, and we are close to having a world where everyone’s basic needs are satisfied. Open products and open services enable everyone to contribute to society however they wish, unconstrained by hunger, disability, or access to knowledge.
Experts still predict that a superintelligence will emerge around the middle of this century. This used to be seen as a cause for concern: would this powerful new entity view humans as a threat? The dramatically positive changed to our civilisation over the past 30 years now mean that virtually all humans are co-operating. We are confident that when superintelligence arrives, we will learn to live with it in the same harmony that we now enjoy as a species.