On Autonomy

Anuj Das Gupta
Sep 8, 2019 · 2 min read

Last year [2018], I was at a COALA workshop at Prague post-Devcon, where we spent two days discussing the legal status of autonomous software (DAO, DACs, and their ilk).

If these new kinds of software are that autonomous, why are we, humans in this room, deciding their fate!

I was afraid we were making the same mistake as the European colonizers did in the Berlin conference of 1884 as part of the Scramble of Africa, where they discussed how to split up the continent for who gets which part of it, all in the name of spreading the standard of civilization.

It’s time we take a few steps back to rethink this category called “Autonomy” beyond what it means in technology.

For this purpose, I took the intellectual liberties of going in all kinds of tangents in this inquiry. For only when we understand autonomy as a general concept first, can we then apply it to the specific field of software and even more specific sub-field of blockchains.

A point of inspiration in this waywardness approach of this piece is the Jain methodology of Anekāntavāda.

Simply put, since truth is many-sided, an honest inquirer has to spill out all possible attempts at the truth (such as posing all kinds of examples instead of giving a singular definition to cover all ground), and somewhere in the middle of all these multitudes, the truth will speak to us in the wordless language of the Dao.

Fingers crossed, and here we go…

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