Game of Thrones and the Blockchain

Lord of Casterly Rock

My favorite character in Game of Thrones was Tywin Lannister, portrayed by the excellent Charles Dance. The main motif of this Shakespearean-like Westeros lord was his manner of authority. Tywin Lannister never tried to take the crown and declare himself king. However it is clear that during his lifetime he is the most powerful person in all Westeros.

An unforgettable scene is the one after word of the red wedding reaches King’s landing. After highly a charged exchange between King Joffrey and his uncle Tyrion, Joffrey tries to regain his dignity by shouting “I am the king!”. This is immediately followed by Tywin who shatters Joffreys’ self-respect, saying “Any man who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king”. Tywin sends his grandson, the king, to bed, exercising his authority without pulling ranks.

Alongside soft-porn-like scenes, graphic violence and amazing sets, what makes Game of Thrones a really great show is the story-line (based on George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ ), which epitome is embedded in Tywin’s manner of conduct.

In this world of Kings and lords, where titles seem most important, where hierarchal order should prevail, all possible (and impossible) forces are playing, resulting in a game of thrones. Money, family ties, military might, religion, magic, personal charisma as many other factors, spin the wheel of power, representing in fantasy terms our very real world and its social structures.

Most of us are working in companies whose social structures are represented by medieval order. We have CEOs instead of kings, middle management instead of lords and employees instead of subjects. Just like in Game of Thrones this rigid structure is only a façade to a power game. It is possible to produce endless prime-time TV shows on each and every corporation and the power struggles that are fought within its confines.

What truly happens in a company

Master of coins

One of the promises of the Blockchain is the possibility to create decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) as an alternative to the normal corporate world. DAOs according to Wikipedia are “decentralized networks of narrow-AI autonomous agents which perform an output-maximizing production functions and which divide their labor into computationally intractable tasks (which it incentives humans to do) and tasks which it performs itself.”

Behind this very complex definition there is a vision of corporations that run without any human involvement under the control of an open source algorithms. Each algorithm sets the business rules of the corporation and individuals become stakeholders by buying stock in the company or being paid stock to provide services to the company. The stock holders may be entitled to a share of the DAO capital and a say in how it is run.

Examples of Blockchain based corporations can be sharing economy platforms like Uber or Airbnb that are owned by the drivers or the hosts respectively. Those who contribute to the corporation, control it.

Breaker of chains

What Game of thrones sharpens is our understanding of the gap between the official, formal social structure and the real structure. The real structure is comprise of dynamic, changing and shifting powers. In the scene mentioned previously, Tywin says that he won the war for Joffrey and convey that he holds the power over the “official” king. Later in the series, Tywin is murdered by his son Tyrion while sitting on the toilet. In the bathroom, where Tywin was stripped from all his “armor”, was the perfect opportunity for tyrion to reshuffle the social order that put him below his father. Again an epitome of the dynamitic nature of social structures.

While it is the norm for a drama series, it is no surprise that millennials who are the main followers of Game of Thrones, are discontent with the corporate world. They ponder why such gap is required in real life? Why does a company take the form of a feudal kingdom? Why not to give the power to those who benefit the firm instead of those from earlier generations who reached executive positions more easily? Generation Y does not adhere to the current social structure, explaining maybe why Tyrion, the murderer of his father, is a loved hero. Tyrion actions represent the only way Generation Y thinks it can overcome the current structure.

Other popular figure is Daenarys Targarian who opposes the social structure or “the wheel” of power between the various houses of Westeros. She wish not to stop the wheel but break it all together. By braking the formal wheel she eliminates the gap so the value of each person is known and transparent. In a more particular manner, Daenarys is known as liberator of slaves. Breaking the slaves’ chains alludes the break of the hierarchy of the corporate world.

When talking about social structure, the promise of the Blockchain is the promise of Daenerys. The Blockchain enables to eliminate the gap between the formal structure of the corporation and the “real” one. It encompasses the possibility to quantify the benefit of each person to the corporation, providing means of control and rights for dividends to those who contributes.

No more Tywins and Joffreys, if you win the war you get the crown- The game will continue but it will be much more transparent and clear. Bad news for drama writers, good news for the rest of us.