I was lucky enough to be asked to write a short opinion piece for an awesome zine and open experiment titled Open Letters to The Web 3.0 which was distributed at the 2018 Ethereal Summit in New York.
The question was: “What is something related to the blockchain space that either keeps you up at night or on the edge of your seat?”
For me it’s all the fear and uncertainty of the complexity that emerges from millions of monkeys building pieces of their own personal visions for a “decentralized future”. Just like any new tool at our disposal it can be used for the subjective “good” or “bad”. However with blockchains we’ve now added the consequences of “unintended” and “unstoppable”.
I see hundreds of highly-funded blockchain projects today with the best of intentions, but whose decentralized platforms could very easily emerge into unintended and unstoppable dystopias.
Cryptoeconomics is a god-like weapon for social engineering on a global scale. And while I’d much rather individuals have that power than central banks, we need to be extremely careful with what we tokenize and how these monkey-designed economic incentive networks evolve.
So while the future will lie somewhere on a bell curve, here’s three of the really bad and really good end-game scenarios I’ve been thinking about in the blockchain space…
Global crypto authoritarianism
The existing corporate and government institutions in our society decide to leverage blockchain technology to advance their own goals in ways which further entrench their power and control. Central banks issue and control their own sovereign cryptocurrencies pegged to their national currency.
Through mandating backend use by commercial banks, these cryptocurrencies are the first to reach mainstream “adoption”. Governments and companies upgrade to blockchain-based systems to consolidate surveillance, automate human labor and maximize profits before merging into a global corporatocracy.
Tokenized economic dystopia
The entirety of the Earth’s natural resources, human society and individual attributes have been tokenized and quantified into a single, comparative global economy. Despite the best intentions this has resulted in the commodification of the human species, hyperinflation of basic living costs and hyper-centralization of wealth.
Humans compete hopelessly with AI to regain control of their time and attention within decentralized marketplaces predicated on the tokenization of their gaze and labor time. A single digital avatar of a cat is valued at ten thousand times the value of one hour of any human labor.
Unstoppable criminal activities
With the advent of fully decentralized marketplaces and accurate oracles it becomes possible to operate global criminal activities permanently beyond the reach of the legal authorities.
Decentralized assassination marketplaces offer crowdfunded bounties, child porn networks can never be deleted, sex trafficking marketplaces have untraceable transactions, self-funded DAOs buy weapons to fuel never-ending wars, and decentralized autonomous AIs siphon funds from gaming the financial markets to offer never-ending bounties to manufacturers of paperclips.
Global networked P2P society
Having long-ago solved scaling and interoperability issues, the greatest machine humans have ever built becomes a single decentralized operating system for Earth. All data is open and semantically linked, all storage and computational resources are free, while a global meshnet connects everything and everyone.
All humans have full autonomy and self-sovereignty, freely joining dynamic service networks where power and wealth are impossible to amass. Void of any silos, competition becomes unnecessary and inefficient as modular solutions can be collaboratively built just once, and then run consistently forever.
Tokenized humanity and purpose
By enabling individuals to tokenize their own value metrics, skills, interests and passions, we broadcast self-awareness into the decentralized hivemind. With marketplaces of AI algorithms, individuals are instantly connected to the right content, service or peers to rapidly achieve daily tasks and personal goals.
Algorithms, plants, animals, objects and the entire biosphere become their own self-sovereign entities able to communicate and vote using the universal economic language of tokens. Collective governance, decision-making and resource allocation result in global shared wealth and purpose.
Unstoppable collective species
Unshackled from the exploitation of violent nation states, hierarchical power structures and competition silos, humanity becomes a fluid networked civilization capable of adapting to any existential threat. Having evolved beyond proof-of-stake we’ve designed decentralized operating systems for the Earth and Mars colonies which are capable of resisting 51% attacks from AGI.
And with the advent of advanced brain-computer interfaces we’ve successfully merged with the global decentralized hivemind to become the neurons in its prefrontal cortex.
Together as one, we pierce the singularity and expand inward.
Hopefully there were a few nuggets of novelty in there for you. After eight years in this space I’m still excited and terrified by everything that is happening at such an exponential pace.
For us to maximize the chances of a positive decentralized future it’s incredibly important that we make this a highly collaborative and diverse journey. We need more people in every corner of the planet building and sharing solutions to their own local problems for everyone to reuse.
If you can, please teach free workshops, produce free educational content and share your knowledge widely. Help newcomers and encourage people who aren’t developers to contribute their skills. And if you are a developer, build tools that make it easier for everyday people to build their own dapps and smart contracts. We’re in a unique period of human history where together we can #BUIDL a solution once and share that value, forever, to everyone.