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AraCon 2019: Autark wants to decentralize space exploration

In a previous post I covered the progress of Aragon, a container and a digital jurisdiction for Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) powered by Ethereum smart contracts. In this post I zoom on Autark, an Aragon eagle that is flexing its wings in the nest and preparing to reach for the Moon and beyond.

Following a community vote, the Autark project has been approved by Aragon Network Token (ANT) holders for funding with 390,000 DAI (which is $390,000, since DAI is a stablecoin pegged to the USD).

Arthur Lunn and Yalda Mousavinia at AraCon 2019.

At the Aragon Conference AraCon in Berlin (January 29–30, 2019), Autark project lead Yalda Mousavinia and technical lead Arthur Lunn demoed That Planning Suite, an Autark precursor that was previously funded by the Aragon Nest grants program.

The talk starts at about 1h:18 in the AraCon 2019 — Day 1 video. Watch also the preceding panel “New Types of Organizations,” with Yalda, and the following talk on the Aragon SDK by Arthur.

Autark “has a vision of equipping the Aragon ecosystem with tools that enable DAOs to collaborate more seamlessly,” Yalda explains in an Autark project summary, “by building discussion tools that are integrated with voting, rich user profiles, and expanding governance models to provide support for reputation-based organizations.”

Autark may seem yet another software development project, kind of boring and unrelated to the lofty aspirations mentioned above. How can collaboration software take us to the Moon and beyond?

The thing is, collaboration software holds decentralized teams together and fuels their growth. To build large and efficient DAOs able to successfully tackle ambitious projects like space exploration, we need powerful software that works well and is easy to use.

Now, most existing decentralized software tools don’t work that well, and aren’t that easy to use. They almost work, but “almost works” is not good enough for operational use.

Transforming “almost works” into “works well and is easy to use” is very challenging, time-consuming, and costly. They say that, to estimate software development time and costs, you should take your worst case estimate and multiply by two, but my (long and hard-won) experience tells me that it’s more like three.

Thanks to Aragon and the ANT holders who voted, Autark now has the resources to start buiding powerful DAO software that is fully operational and works well, with a simple and intuitive user interface. The goal of the Autark project is:

“We are passionate about building toward a world where progress is accelerated by making it easier and more fair to coordinate on shared visions of the future. To accomplish this, we commit to creating Aragon applications that allow human autonomy to flourish and enable open source mega-projects.”

To the Moon and beyond, for real

The key word is “mega-projects.” Yalda is a co-founder of Space Cooperative, a worker-owned aerospace cooperative, which is the original organization spearheading the establishment of Space Decentral, a DAO for creating a global space agency.

I am a space DAO enthusiast, and I joined Space Cooperative and Space Decentral in 2017.

With its flagship program Coral, Space Decentral wants to demonstrate additive manufacturing (3D printing) on the lunar surface, using construction material available on the Moon, just like Cory Doctorow describes in his delicious novella “The Man Who Sold The Moon.” Eventually, Coral wants to enable large scale lunar infrastructure for human settlement.

Sounds more than mega to me — this is giga-tera-ultrasuper cool. Moon, here we come back permanently, the open decentralized way! And then the planets, and beyond. In the meantime, participation in Coral is open to all Space Decentral members, and participation in Space Decentral is open to everyone. This means you (yes YOU) can be part of this. No task is too small, or too big.

But inadequate software could severely limit the ability of large teams to collaborate efficiently on big tasks.

This is the problem that Autark wants to solve, and the applications developed by the team will be integral components of Space Decentral, which will transition to an Aragon DAO within six months. Yalda explains:

“Autark will develop common building blocks for the Aragon ecosystem that will power the future of work. Many of the traditional companies of today lack the focus of building toward a life of leisure for all their workers — where leisure is waking up and being able to work on whatever it is you dream of.

What if we enabled people to wake up and work on designing a city on Mars? Or coordinating with thousands to develop strategies to deflect that killer asteroid?

I hope that with the tools we build, we can help people feel more alive, that we can inspire those who may have mundane jobs to contribute to something exciting on their evenings or weekends.

No organization in the world has truly tried to tap into the aspect of humanity that has an evolutionary drive to expand. One reason is because we haven’t yet had the tools to attempt this. I don’t know if this will work, but it’s an experiment worth trying.

At the end of the day, all we have is each other. Solving human collaboration and coordination is what will open up the pathways to a world of more hope, to a world where we are exploring beyond our solar system.”

Cover picture from Pixnio, screenshot from AraCon 2019 video.



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Giulio Prisco

Writer, futurist, sometime philosopher. Author of “Tales of the Turing Church” and “Futurist spaceflight meditations.”