Skip to content

Instantly share code, notes, and snippets.

What would you like to do?
How to think an impossible thought?

On Blockchains - Postcapitalism - in response to: Postcapitalism by Jamie Dobson

An impossible thought?

But what do we want to think? I think many people want the same thing (see maslov pyramid of needs). But the ever interesting question in the history of humanity was: How to do that so that there exists an equilibrium between all humans (society) and the rest of the planet (nature). Personally I see post-capitalism as a part of a solution for that, but economy is only one thing that should change. To conceive such a complex balance is not a simple thing. Alan Kay often talks about how the internet has some biological ideas in it and yes I think to achieve that balance we need some kind of network organism where everyone is connected and heard. Even nature. So lets focus on that, the impossible thought: How can we live together in peace and prosperity with each other and nature? Sometimes, somehow this reminds me of the - our way to type 1, here is Michio Kaku on this .

How to get there

To get there we need to change some things quite a bit. I went in 2016 to JAX in mainz/germany. There was a blockchain keynote. I was exited to see such thing on a java conference. But the talk itself was quite disappointing it was (IMHO) a simple introduction talk delivered with not so much enthusiasm and potential. In a row behind me there were some programmers talking after the talk "this bitcoin thing, ... looks way to risky" :( Then I came across jamies talk at scala days and he has a more convincing style. Of course he does not mention blockchains but it is about the ideas of post-capitalism, like universal basic income. Also earlier I talked about a kind of networked structure that we would need to move fom type 0 to type 1. Jamie mentiones the book postcapitalism (it's good read it!) but also the book zero marginal cost society.In the video a connection between economic prosperity, technology and that earlier mentioned networked structure is formed. To think an impossible thought one would need new Ideas, new Tools and new Media. Since late 2014 I've been watching ethereum. At first I quite didn't understand a thing. Then I looked a bit in the coursera crypto MOOC and a bit more in the bitcoin mooc by princeton . After reading a lot of things on the ethereum reddit some things became more clear. Ethereum devcon1 in London fall last year really pushed my understand on another level. So again, blockchains and ethereum are software and you can do any thing with them. You could use it to think our impossible thought and experiment with post-capitalism for example.

From Above - unbalanced , From Below - more balanced

Many people today still think that technology is a seperate thing which impact is more or less indirect on people life or society in the big picture. But I think quite the opposite is happening. Let's quote Vitalik Buterin from here #blockchain are not just technologies, they are living and breathing social institutions I think this is important. Blockchains are not simply a technology you adopt or not they can change how society works. Let's look at some possible perspectives on how to use this or any therefore, technology.

From Above - unbalanced

Lets have a quick look what the big ones are doing with blockchains: apple, google, facebook, microsoft. Besides MS there is almost nothing. They use it at the moment a bit to push their cloud environment. Which is funny because when blockchains really work you don't need a cloud any more. The other three ignore the topic (to the best of my knowledge). But then I came across this . So google finally had someone give a talk about this . This talk is really interesting, even if it misses many important aspects of the technology and the speaker looks at blockchains solely as a tool for business and not broader society. One thing quite important he mentions: For blockchains really to work you need to act and innovate on three levels:

  1. Technological

  2. Business

  3. Legal

He says that banks currently only use 1. , of course they want to change as little as possible. This list doesn't even mention society. I would say that there is so little involvement from google, apple, facebook and ms because blockchains as a technology is the total antithesis to what their business and operational model is. So yes building large centralized coorparations which use network effects to build monopolies is actually a bad thing for society. Jaron Lanier (see: who owns the future here ) has a specific (made-up) term for what to call the big one: siren serves. They centralize and grow through network effects. If you look at google and how it works you can see that decentralization would be a catastrophe to their business model. Would something like IPFS - be deployed on a large scale you would not need "search engines" as they exist today. You could even implement micro payments for content and meta descriptions as jaraon lanier describes them (with reference to ted nelson). So yes you actually could build a web 3.0 with IPFS and other blockchains like ethereum. This by itself might be a big thought but let's move even further. It seems possible that one could for example create a hyper efficient M2M economy where many of today's jobs would not exist, but the benefits of this efficencies would be concentrated in the hands of the few. In the hands of a very few people. I hope you can now see why then there is so little value for society in their attempts.

From below - more balanced - How to do it for real

But there are also people want also build things and stuff but not for maximal profit in their ads but they can see that in a sense to make themselves happy, they try to increase prosperity for everyone. To reduce inequality (as jame said in his keynote) to improve society. So if we want to make it to Type 1 civilization and we want to use the from below approach, we could use blockchains as a tool to think about post-capitalism. Last year I came across a talk called foundations of a programmable society . I was very exited about it and tried to share it with many of my twitter fellows but the reception was underwhelming. The blending of blockchain/P2P Technology with legal innovations is an absolutely fascinating thought.

So how do we the people, the society then do it? Do we simply install a blockchain on all our private devices and that's just it? Well certainly not, it will be a lot of hard work, and it is still mostly about how people want to live. Let's remember that nice vision of an equilibirum between ourselves and nature from the beginning of this post.

Evgeny Morozov is someone who is talking quite a bit against how technologism and silicon valley are NOT helping to improve society and yet he participated in a blockchain workshop to rebuild and re-imagine democracy here . Legal, Business and Social innovations are in my opinion the key principles of blockchains/P2P Technology. Decentralized, uncensored discussion platforms which are not created by the drive to create ad revenue. THESE are the tools which become the media to think our impossible thought. Blockchain Technology is a social tool.

How to build a decentralized infrastructure, how to re-structure our health, education and economic system. We have to reflect more on the values that our society is built upon and I think to a certain degree tecnology can help here. You can see in the QA section of the Google blockchain talk that people where concerned about the ethereum DAO hack. But the presenter gave a good answer: Yes there will be drawbacks and failures. But you can only learn from failure, if you actually try and do something.

The amount of money put in the DAO can be also seen twofold IMO. On the one hand people who just want quick, very quick revenue. Or on the other hand people who want to experiment with distributed consensus to create distributed infrastructure in the real world for example. One interesting economic model which could serve as an alternative to the current one is: the circular economy. This talk by Dame Ellen MacArthur gives a good introduction . I was very exited and thought that it was not so much an coincidence to see circular economy and ethereum team up. - Open Data Systems for the Circular Economy

This is how the blockchain technology can provide value to society: as a plattform which enables us to experiment with political and economical alternatives in a save way.

Where will we go?

I'm very exited to see now more and more fellow programmers recognizing the problems of our current economic system. And maybe realizing that we as programmers, again, have some kind of special position we are in. Where we work, which open source projects we contribute to, it matters. A lot. We can build a more just society, a better world. Let's do it :)

Sign up for free to join this conversation on GitHub. Already have an account? Sign in to comment
You can’t perform that action at this time.