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Part 2

I have written a 4 part series on how current governance networks can be scaled to create a single network which increases cooperation and reduces conflict. They follow in order so if you haven’t read part 1, it would flow better to start there.

Part 1 introduces trust networks and attempts to link the development of trust networks to human advancement as a species.

Part 2 looks at the various governance scaling technologies we have developed throughout human history and how each improves on our ability to achieve more scalable governance structures. Also looks at the limitations of our current governance solutions.

Part 3 looks at an example trustless ledger protocol solution to network governance.

Part 4 explores how such a solution may be implemented and what its limitations may be. Part 4 is the most exciting as it looks at what a seemingly inevitable future looks like for humans.

How we currently scale networks

To grow networks to larger numbers of peers we require scaling solutions. Along our history we have invented several scaling technologies which have enabled scaling solutions, each time a scaling technology is invented the result has been the formation of larger networks and an accompanying parabolic increase in human advancement. Sometimes new governance technologies are invented alone and other times existing governance technologies can be combined to create a new governance technology.

Various technologies which have allowed for governance scaling and are listed here in order of their occurrence.

  • Social behaviour. A technology developed through evolution. It involves direct communication with peers and organic memory. Each peer maintains an organic memory of other peers she has physically established channels of trust with and wishes to co-operate with.
  • Religion. A technology developed on top of the platform of imagination (an evolutionarily adapted trait). Religion establishes a commonality between larger numbers of peers who may not all have direct contact with one another. The commonality is established by each peer referring to a common shared inter-subjective reality. Each peer maintains an organic memory of the shared subjective reality and may ping another peer to check for commonality at which point a channel of trust and co-operation can be established. Extends network to all peers referring to common shared inter-subjective reality and removes the requirement for direct communication and the maintenance of an organic memory of each peer.
  • EDIT: Mechanical time: Timekeeping mechanisms allow each peer who believes in the same measuring mechanism and its current state to agree on and co-ordinate activity. A shared clock allows those sharing it to generally increase efficiency. But only if you join the network. A shared clock seems to be the only co-operation network that is shared globally. Perhaps because there is little conflict of interest or power struggles here. There is no advantage to any particular network which clock is used. And good luck to the person who attempts to go by their own clock!
Image taken from:
  • Writing/physical record keeping. While religion removed the requirement for organic memory to establish which peers belong to a network (and can therefore be trusted by other peers), the introduction of physical record keeping removed the organic memory requirement for maintaining the state of a peer in relation to others and in relation to the network. This allows for co-operation and the effecting of collaborative efforts which would have otherwise been limited by the extent to which peers can maintain a shared organic memory of the state. For example, a network leader may record the contributions of resources of each peer of the network, each peer may now benefit appropriately for contributions offered and the network may utilise each peer more effectively. Activities which require cross-subsidization of peers, such as the construction of a place of worship become possible. Furthermore, less violence is required to maintain structure in a network with a better record of the state of the network.
Inca Khipu on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (photo by Lynn Dombrowski/Flickr). The ancient Inca system of knots used for record keeping.

Currency. A common resource is used to account for commerce allowing for more efficient co-operation between peers.

Currency 2.0, like religion, requires a shared imagined truth. Such currency 2.0 allows value to be abstracted to more intangible symbols. These intangible symbols may be more easily transferred and stored enabling more efficient co-operation between peers of the network which believe in the inter-subjective reality where the currency 2.0 represents value.

Law. The creation of inter-subjective truths, such as human rights, which regulate behaviour. The invention of law is built upon the same platform of imagination. A network governed by law allows peers within the network to trust other peers as the law subjected to each peer forces certain behaviours. The creation of law removes the requirement for trust almost entirely by introducing a semi predictable violence response to regulate peer behaviour. However, violence is always required to reduce the trust requirement and behaviours are not guaranteed. For example, peer Alice can enter into a contract with peer Bob for the delivery of resources on payment of currency. If peer Bob does not deliver, peer Alice may enforce the network protocol of calling the police/a lawyer to effect the law and punish peer Bob (provided both peers are part of the same network, if they are not peer Alice would need to invoke more complicated internetwork law protocols). As can be seen, some level of trust is still needed, although significantly less than would be required if no law existed.

Trustless ledger protocols (e.g blockchain). Encoding of law and currency 2.0 into protocols with forced execution. This allows peers of a network to co-operate with other peers as behaviour of other peers is guaranteed. This guarantee is an improvement on the current law and currency 2.0 systems as trust requirement between peers has been completely removed from the network. A further benefit of trustless ledger protocols is that the behaviour is guaranteed using non-violent means. If peers no longer need to trust other peers in a network in order to co-operate with them, anonymous peers may co-ordinate efforts on a global scale. The removal of the requirement of violence to enforce the network laws allows the network to scale more readily as peers do not require monitoring and physical punishment to act according to the desired structure of the network. Trustless ledger protocols further resolve the issues of relying on a central party to record the state of currency, law and activities. This removes the centralization of power which would otherwise cause a power struggle as the network scales.

As can be observed, we finally have a technology stack which may enable a method of governance where we are able to scale a network globally without the requirement of violence or the requirement of one peer to trust another.

Limitations of current governance networks and how trustless ledger protocols can improve them

Present day formations of large networks make use of law and currency 2.0 and generally require hierarchical structures and centralization of power. The centralized power may then use violence to govern the peers of the network using protocols tied to law. The greater the power and use of violence, the better structured the network is. However, such structure becomes harder to maintain as the network scales. This results in more unstable networks with power struggles and an increased requirement for violence to maintain network structure. Observe empires as their expansion is followed by instability and network breakdown from a single large network into smaller networks.

Furthermore, as networks optimise for expansion its structure needs to be enforced more stringently which is generally enforced with greater violence in order to maintain co-operative peers. As a network imposes its structure on peers more forcefully it removes freedom and autonomy from the individual and removes heterogenicity from the planet. As each peer (human) is unique in their genetic makeup and experience, it is unreasonable to expect each human to adopt the same shared inter-subjective reality without experiencing internal conflict. The nation of China provides a good example of a highly unified and co-operative network with a large number of peers, however its peers sacrifice freedom and autonomy in order to maintain the network which is governed by centralization of power and a hierarchical structure.

On the other hand, a network which looks to optimise for peer freedom and autonomy does so at the expense of co-operation amongst peers of the network. Sub-networks of peers form where the sub-networks become only partially co-operative with the network as a whole. The result is network destabilization and a break down into a weaker network composed of sub-networks or a division in the network to form separate smaller networks. The nation of the United States provide good example where individual states (sub-networks) are somewhat separated from the network as a whole and where some sub-networks may look to form their own network (nation) (e.g California in the United States). In these nations it is also observed that individuals may freely oppose the centralized powers and less hierarchy is observed.

Left: A heterogenous crowd of French students march to protest against government austerity measures. Are we able to observe heterogenicity, autonomy and freedom of the individuals? The march is disordered, lacks structure, the efforts are less co-ordinated, less uniform. Are their efforts less effective and less efficient? Right: A group of marching soldiers. Clearly the level of heterogenicity, autonomy and freedom is restricted. They all even look the same. The soldiers are ordered, structured and uniform. Does such a structure allow for greater levels of effectiveness and efficiency? Image of British protesters taken from Image of British soldiers taken from

It seems we tend to form structures which optimise for either network size or freedom of peers. Where total mass co-operation allows for a well-structured and functional group with greater overall achievement at the detriment to individual well being, and where more freedom and autonomy would allow for slower progress and potential network breakdown. Or put differently, current governance networks require violence to scale.

Therefore, a solution to conflict between nations resides in the invention of a governance solution which is optimises for both individual freedom/autonomy and optimises for structured scaling. Or put differently, we need to identify a non-violent scaling solution for network governance. Such a network may increase in size by including more and more peers without destabilizing and may therefore increase to a point of encapsulating the entire human population of peers.

The story probably has more holes in it than a sponge but is a starting point for thought and new ideas. Please share your constructive opinions below. And continue to the next article in the series :)


Brilliant works whose ideas gave rise to the ideas presented in the article.

  • I have been influenced by the vision of Daniel Larimer to create solutions for ‘securing life, liberty and property for all’. The book ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari highlighted the importance of mass co-operation networks in the advancement of humans. Many of Larimer’s posts can be found here:
  • A 4 part series by Matthew Pirkowski entitled ‘Crypto Beyond Capitalism’ helped me to understand how governance optimised for either autonomy or greater structure.
  • A paper by Vitalik Buterin, Zoë Hitzig and E. Glen Weyl entitled ‘Liberal Radicalism: Formal Rules for a Society Neutral Among Communities’ formed a large piece of the puzzle as it shows how quadratic voting can be used for the provision of public goods and the formation of non-authoritarian rules that support collective self-organization of an ecosystem.
  • The Ontology whitepaper provided an excellent example of how blockchain technology can be used to aid in the governing of many aspects of life currently governed by traditional governance systems.

Just because it is, doesn't mean it should be

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