2048: A Decentralised World
It’s 2048, and it’s hard to believe how much the world has changed over the past few decades. Thirty years ago the legislative and financial models that formed the fabric of global commerce were not just unsustainable but were driving humanity towards an economic crisis and social unrest on a global scale. In the early 2000’s as companies transitioned from human intelligence towards artificial intelligent decision making, the acceleration of automation dramatically drove down costs and increased revenues. Margins soared for those companies who adopted these technologies, making them attractive for the financial markets to feed them ever cheaper capital. The handful of companies who ‘got there first’ — known as Horsemen — began dominating; hoovering up consumers and talent. Every company that threatened the horsemen were either assimilated or crushed.
Driven by the blind expectation that a country’s success was determined by increased GDP, it was like the planet was an accelerating car with no one at the wheel. Corporate profits fuelled the inflation and — as the Horsemen became faster and smarter than the governments they once served — an unprecedented concentration of wealth and power grew amongst a small number of individuals. Whilst governments deliberated concepts such as UBI (Universal Basic Income), the Horsemen planned to pacify the masses with “dopamine regulation” using virtual reality and social gaming. Despite pressure to break-up these monopolies it was impossible to compete or regulate the Horsemen; they held all the cards.
The only solution was to change the rules of the game. But how do you compete with a company that doesn’t need to make a profit? You remove the need for a company.
Prior to 2020 if you wanted to create a product then you had to form a vehicle (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. Receiving funding and exiting was glorified in the media, creating entrepreneurial celebrities who enjoyed their wealth and status, and who others wanted to mimic. But this was just a smokescreen for the fiscal impulses of institutional shareholders who continued to benefit from the destructive economic machine. Governments took their cut of the transactions, but corporates and investors found more efficient ways to optimise jurisdictions to avoid regulation and paying taxes.
It’s hard to predict what the world would have become if it weren’t for a few visionaries who reimagined how to create a planet without borders. 2018 witnessed the birth that eventually lead to the death of the corporation and the dissolution of countries. Whilst many of these constructs still exist today, they are now just a residue of ideologies that persisted for centuries longer than they should have done. The solution was never likely to come from governments, it had to come from the people, like an anti-virus spreading through a terminally infected host. Ironically, it was the technologies that created the Horsemen that eventually crippled them. Blockchains gave the world a trusted data platform, and AI gave us the means to collaborate without friction.
In hindsight, the solution was obvious. The idea was to create a system — a DAO (decentralised autonomous organisation) — that allowed for truly decentralised and distributed open-organisations. These visionaries imagined a world in which anyone could ‘boot-up’ an idea — by deploying a DAO — that enabled contributions from anywhere in the world. Communications technology enabled frictionless on and off-boarding of distributed contributors to these 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 these ideas and contribute to their development. Work wasn’t provided for free or kudos — like in the open-source era — but fiscal remuneration was calculated from the quantity and quality of someone’s contribution. This meant that anyone could now contribute to an open-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 blockchain. The accumulation of these contributions built a trusted reputation that a person could carry with them from one project to another. A person’s reputation determined their remunerations rate, and each person developed different rates for each business skill. The reputation of their business skill also dynamically changed over time as a person’s contribution changed. Someone could carry one rate for software-engineering that was different to their marketing rate, and they would be remunerated according to what skill-type they gave to an open-project.
Many of these open-products used digital tokens as their economic model. As we moved towards 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 at which new innovations helped ensure almost 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, people — no matter where they were in the world — were remunerated without consideration of location; someone in Europe who contributed equally to an open-project as someone in India would be remunerated exactly the same. And because everyone had a fair opportunity to contribute to open-projects there was a rapid redistribution of wealth. People realised that they could work from anywhere they wanted, which caused mass migration. Governments, struggling to keep up, were forced to reassess their policies and innovate. As governments tried to make it more and more appealing to attract and retain corporations and talent (by reducing taxes, and relaxing employment laws) they began to homogenise, like a price-war with a race to the bottom.
One of the core 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 cancerous companies were starved of labour and customers. Efficient markets coupled with conscientious consumption spawned tens of thousands of new open organisations that produced positive products. Many existing companies were replaced by open versions. Uber was one of the first to dissolve. An open-Uber was created predominantly in backlash against Ubers questionable corporate practices. Without the need of a centralised company to coordinate resources open-Uber provided an efficient marketplace for the movement of people and goods. Strategists and innovators also contributed to the platform transitioning open-Uber to a force for good. For example, drivers were trained to spot signals of human trafficking and abuse, which could be reported to the relevant authorities.
The second biggest change was the emergence of open-Facebook, which started out with over 400 global contributors. Facebook’s interface was quickly imitated and innovated. Consumers were willing to migrate to the open-Facebook and pay $1 per year for a service they trusted and was ad-free. With almost four billion users open-Facebook now costs its users $0.01 per year (or token equivalent), which is enough to fund the 1000 strong development community and cover the energy costs. Some companies weren’t replaced by open equivalents. Many, such as Airbnb, decentralised themselves by migrating their codebases and operations to the DAO.
Removing the impulse to provide shareholder returns coupled with a frictionless free market lead to the commoditization of essential goods and services. Early on open-products had varying impacts on society. Some were positive — solving social problems — whereas some were negative and exploited the addictive nature of human beings. As individuals contributed more and more to open-projects the reputation they carried had a wonderful side effect. As each person developed a digital footprint their societal contribution could now be measured in terms of impact. This accelerated the creation of purposeful products, and we quickly saw innovative open-products that helped bring nutrition, healthcare and education (widely regarded as the three pillars of poverty-reduction) to everyone. As purposeful contribution became more transparent so naturally did purposeful consumption. A huge amount of education around social psychology and motivation had to be developed to help people understand how to best contribute as well as to ease any anxieties stemming from how they compare to others. In only a single generation the selection pressures for attractiveness shifted. Instead of pursuing predominantly material status, partners are now more likely to be selected based on their intellectual and artistic pursuits.
In the mid 2020’s there was a growing concern that an ‘ultra-gig economy’ — where no one belonged to a company — would negatively impact human social dynamics and interactions. People realised that they were more than capable of managing their own lives free of the constraints of an office, a boss, appraisals and timesheets. For some this offered an amazing freedom but others became fearful. Their fear lead to them to try to sabotage some of the projects in a desperate effort to maintain the status quo. Anti-open propaganda was funded largely by corporates, desperately trying to maintain their identity and power. But the opposite happened. People had more freedom to form and contribute to communities to fulfil their non-work needs.
The freedom to work anywhere resulted in a population redistribution which in turn resulted in the re-emergence of the community. People shared responsibility for growing their own food, harnessing natural energy sources and moving away from any mass produced or packaged solutions. The re-emergence of the community after years of isolated self-interest had huge impact upon the happiness of all age groups. More than ever before people realised that everyone benefited from collaboration, curiosity and kindness. Although there are still communities which prefer isolation, they do so out of choice and not necessity. Whilst we still have some corners of the planet to reach we now have a roadmap to end poverty, and are close to a world where everyone can satisfy their basic needs for freedom. The plethora of open-products (and now open-services) have formed the foundation to enable anyone to contribute to society how they wish, and to not be constrained by hunger, disability or lack of access to knowledge.
In the early 2000’s due to the rapid increase in AI technologies scholars predicted that the blind drive for company efficiency would result in the creation of ‘one algorithm for everything’. Many expected that this superintelligence would emerge around the middle of this century. The early AI philosophers feared that because of the state of the planet superintelligence would see humans as a threat. However, for the first time in history humans are cooperating for the betterment of the planet as a whole. The hope is that this will be recognised by any superintelligence, and that once it arrives we will learn to live with it harmoniously as we now do so as a species.