Can Labor Be Decentralized?

Labor is as economically necessary as currency, but the market for labor is far less efficient. No currency suffers from the sort of information imbalance, geographical limitations, and exposure to centralized parties that the average worker contends with while “selling” their skill and intelligence.

The workforce is trying to adapt. The internet age has attempted to tear down informational and geographical inefficiencies in the job market. “Gig economy” platforms like Uber or Fiverr have increased the availability of flexible work¹, and social networks like “LinkedIn” have increased the information and opportunities available to prospective workers. Employment has become increasingly fluid².

This fluidity has not necessarily benefited all workers. Increased connectivity and access to flexible workers has allowed employers to outsource or eliminate positions and reduce compensation. And while employers and workers are better connected than ever, the workers themselves remain separated from one another. Labor organization has fallen dramatically in recent decades³, leaving workers poorly protected.

These changes have been largely half-measures, targeting individual pain points without addressing structural weaknesses. Fundamentally, the model of labor has been largely static. To create a truly decentralized labor market will require fundamental disruption of this model.

Work and Inefficiency

When an employer compensates an employee for their time, it’s not necessarily what the employer is actually interested in. What they care about is the value the worker creates for them. But a worker is rarely aware of the true value they create for their employer, and this information imbalance provides a major disadvantage in compensation negotiations.

To make matters worse, human labor is an inherently inefficient process. Workers often spend less time creating value than they do integrating their work (performing other tasks that makes this work useful to their employer). To the employee, that leads to distraction and the dreaded “corporate grind.” To an employer, it is pure inefficiency.

The standard corporate playbook is centered around reducing the cost of labor, so companies either outsource or automate work. Outsourcing does not solve the inefficiency, but simply accesses less expensive labor where the inefficiency creates less financial drag. Automation creates a 100% efficient process, where work can be designed to require no integration at all, but is limited to tasks that require no human input.

Einstein reportedly said that a problem cannot be solved by the same level of thought that created it. The example set by automation can inform a solution to the employment problem, but to truly solve the productivity crisis caused by the corporate model, we must stretch outside the standard corporate playbook.

Innovation on Workers’ Behalf

Workers also pay a price for work inefficiency; it reduces not only their value to the company, but also what the company is willing to pay them. If compensation is directly based on output, which in an efficient market it should be, an increase in output should come with an increase in pay. If a worker spends 60% of their time on integration, then their income is based solely on that 40% of actual output they create. Removing the integration either gifts them free time, or additional time to earn.

Such a solution isn’t necessarily economically attractive to existing corporations, because on an output-per-dollar basis, they receive no immediate benefit. But an “automation-like,” “no-integration” solution for human labor would have drastic benefits for the growth of new businesses, and create efficiencies not so immediately translatable into dollars.

The fastest growing companies in the world are nearly fully automated. Technology permits the creation of highly sophisticated and complex businesses managed entirely by computers. High-growth industries have emerged wherever business logic can be managed entirely programmatically.

Harmonizing human work with programmatic logic could create this same growth in fields reliant on human intelligence and skill. It could create new, dynamic solutions for static, inefficient processes in the business world, in any industry where speed, flexibility and quality are prized.

We can create such a solution through a decentralized organization of workers, and with smart contracts we can empower it with fair and transparent rules to create a truly decentralized, efficient market for human skill and intelligence.

The Solution

Imagine a system where businesses source human skill and intelligence tasks not from numerous individually contracted employees, but an entire “workforce” of agents. Through differentiation of agents solely based on their proven history of skill, a truly meritocratic system with reward based on performance alone can be created.

This new framework enables human skill and intelligence to be efficiently injected into modern, flexible business solutions and processes. It will allow a new form of business, where the bulk of management and process control is handled programmatically, creating flexible scale while also positioning workers to capture more of the value being created.

We’re currently hard at work on making this happen. Subscribe at mentat.org to follow our journey and learn more about what we’re building.


  1. 47% of millennials and 36% of all US workers freelance, according to a 2017 study by the Freelancer’s Union.
  2. LinkedIn’s study of its user data supports the idea that “job hopping” and employment changes are more important today than in past generations.
  3. Only 10.7% of workers belonging to a labor organization according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, down from over 20% in 1983, likely partially due to the aforementioned desire for flexibility.

We’re currently hard at work on making this happen. Subscribe at mentat.org to follow our journey and learn more about what we’re building.