People think governance is hard. Which is correct - it's the most complex topic in Web 3. This is because, by virtue of complementary opposites, it is also the most simple. It is so obvious that everyone misses it. Lao Tzu explains best:
To give no trust
is to get no trust.
When the work’s done right,
with no fuss or boasting,
ordinary people say,
Oh, we did it.
The Cypherpunks were almost all anarchists. They believed that, if you build tools which give people the means to help themselves, then good governance at higher levels is the inevitable result. What are the means to help ourselves, though? Graeber and Wengrow provide an illuminating answer in their new book, The Dawn of Everything:
💡 mutual aid is the basis for individual autonomy.
Better tools are those which help us help each other more effectively: be it in education (mnemonic media and seeing spaces), any kind of care or service (for people, the more-than-human world, the planet itself), or politics and finance. In aiming to create tools that help us help each other, we can better strike the kind of balance spoken of by other, similarly nuanced, thinkers like Ivan Illich:
Institutions are functional when they promote a delicate balance between what people can do for themselves and what tools at the service of anonymous institutions can do for them. - Tools for Conviviality
Again, for emphasis, the aim is not to build better tools for governing; it is to build tools that help people help each other. As soon as I set out to help someone, the direction of that action always implies a patronizing power dynamic: "I have, you lack." However, when we help each other - when we can admit honestly that we both need help, always - then the environment is shifted towards reciprocity. This point about helping each other helps us illustrate a more nuanced understanding of quantum thought which we will discuss fully in Module 7. To wit:
💡 The complementary opposite of scarcity is not abundance, it is reciprocity.
Abundance can be co-opted to dismiss material reality. Reciprocity acknowledges limitation, but it uses that self-same limitation as the ground for true generosity. In this sense, reciprocity is opposed to scarcity as container to contained, or field to players. Reciprocating does not deny scarcity, but in the way it is acknowledged, it is simultaneously transcended. The most generous of actions is to give what you need, because if I give what I need and find that I can still survive, I am closer to that in me which is beyond need or satiation.
Perhaps our most serious cultural loss in recent centuries is the knowledge that some things, though limited, are inexhaustible. - Wendell Berry
We have the technological means to eradicate most social ills; what we need now is dedicated human beings capable of programming reciprocal incentive structures at scale. That is, to continue this part of the work until it is economically optimal for everyone to agree, "We are all Satoshi."
Q: The aim is not to build better tools for governing, but to build tools that help people do what?
A: Help each other.
Importantly, this is not about pulling down fences - something anarchists are often accused of wanting to do. Don't fight the system. Just abandon it is a more apt slogan. This has been occurring on increasingly larger scales across the mainstream since at least the 1960's; it's just that we now have the technological means of making it economically sustainable.Rough consensus¶
Anarchy does not mean the tyranny of structurelessness. To us, it means individuals collaborating of their own volition on projects they choose to undertake. It means emergent forms of organization that need not be permanent, because they're not premised on personal power, but rather arise as a response to the needs of a group in a particular moment. Being able to program incentives and the flow of value through society means we don't need to hold static popularity contests every four years, premised on partisan debates: we can govern dynamically by constantly modelling, assessing and updating our understanding of legitimacy.
The best example of this kind of internet age governance is, unsurprisingly, the IETF:
We reject: kings, presidents and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code.
Q: Don't fight the system. Just ...?
A: Abandon it.
Alegal systems are those which cannot be regulated after-the-fact. You can sue neither a storm nor a blockchain. Think back to what is valuable in this shared dream - the legal fiction of the firm (i.e. that it has a kind of personhood) allowed for orders of magnitude improvement in our organizational efficiency as a species. Alegal fictions are the next evolution. For the first time in history, we need not revolt against a system of violent legal enforcement. We can abandon it for openly verifiable mathematics, which we subscribe to by acts of our own volition.
💡 This is because, in the world wide web, running code is more powerful than holding elections.
In exactly the same way that we obviate the need to trust protocols by defining and encoding what it means to cheat; we can build systems that obviate the need to govern communities by incentivizing the collaborative care required for individual autonomy. We mean this literally: rather than formal freedom of movement, can we encode a substantive culture of hospitality which can actually set everyone free to go where they please?
This is what it really means to explore new kinds of interpersonal trust enabled by trustless protocols: if we engineer money to be a measure of care, do we trust ourselves to be respons-able? Lao Tzu did, and so do we.
What fifth feature of money might tools which help us help each other create?
Money as a measure of care.
To follow the way yourself is real power.
To follow it in the family is abundant power.
To follow it in the community is steady power.
To follow it in the whole country is lasting power.
To follow it in the world is universal power.
So in myself I see what self is,
in my household I see what family is,
in my town I see what community is
in my nation I see what a country is,
in the world I see what is under heaven.
How do I know the world is so?
-- Lao Tzu