Can decentralized decision-making and accountability be a life choice?
And the question on everyone’s lips is – of course – what would Benjamin Franklin have made of the Metaverse! Yes, that polymath – philosopher, linguist, scientist, postmaster, inventor (but never actually President); what would he have made of decentralized decision-making and deep immersion?
I was first intrigued by Franklin when I lived in Paris where his legacy is so tangible; amongst other things, he was formerly the US Ambassador to France. While stationed there, he discovered the concept of electrical earth – the shortest path that current will naturally flow – inventing the lightening rod, of all things. His experiments with a kite in a storm are faithfully documented in the Museé Carnavalet.
I’m certain that he would have been an early Web 3 adopter if he had been born 250 years later!
Anyway, another of his works makes this presumption more compelling, particularly with respect to DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations). If the Blockchain provides the mechanism through which decisions can be upheld, transactions fulfilled and policies implemented without recourse to a central arbiter, then DAOs are the collective, often public, agreements based on the same.
DAOs represent an alternative to traditional, centralized governance such as corporate boards or elected committees through adherence to a set of rules written down in code and enforced through so-called ‘smart contracts’ by the network of computers via Blockchain (exactly the same process that validates crypto transfers, or NFT rights). In essence, DAOs represent a proven mechanism through which individuals can trade and collaborate directly (ie. on a ‘peer-to-peer’ basis) without dependence on a central authority to mediate or validate. Linking the DAO to value (ie crypto currencies) users can be invited and incentivised to participate in the decision-making process.
And so where does Franklin come in? Published in 1791, Franklin’s ‘13 Virtues’ was a personal moral code designed to help him avoid the various temptations of a high-influential, successful public life. His list included temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility.
13 was a practical choice; Franklin could dedicate himself to a particular virtue for a week, repeating the cycle every 13 weeks for four cycles to complete the year (13 multiplied by four equals 52 (weeks)).
The virtues (or otherwise) of Franklin’s list can be debated, but it lends itself perfectly to a DAO. A type of ‘life DAO’ that could be published (or open to subscription) as a commitment to a particular lifestyle and behavior. Life-minded people could sign up and commit to the same; there could even be a voting mechanism to help them resolve the dilemmas and difficult choices they face. As ever, members would be incentivized to participate, while the actual voting mechanism would be distributed and anonymous.
The ‘life DAO’ could be a very compelling concept, either as an individual choice or part of a collective with shared goals and principles (a ‘Franklin Life DAO’, for example). Perhaps Franklin’s list of virtues could be updated or personalized – to include environmental considerations, for instance – but the idea of committing your life logic to a blockchain, that is constantly validated (or otherwise) by thousands of similarly committed people (who in turn, are DAO’ing their own life journeys) is incredibly intriguing.
The same principles are already being applied to charities raising funds for a specific purpose, or research projects looking for participants to solve a particular problem . . . One brilliant example of the power of the DAO is an organization called Friends with Benefits, grouping like (and unlike!)-minded individuals to harness the potential of Web3. Members are incentivized to participate through the group’s NFT token, $FWB, in accordance with its objectives and principles, all embedded in a DAO.
The DAO can be static (a set of unwavering principles to be adhered to) or more dynamic (rules constantly being refined or updated as a response to events). My guess is that Franklin’s ‘life DAO’ would be more of the former; but the mechanism remains valid.
The beauty of the DAO is its transparency; it really does reduce participation to a form of transaction. If you contribute, you will be recognized . . . If you participate, you will be rewarded . . . It couldn’t be simpler!
Are you ready to link your life choices to a smart contract? I’m not sure, personally (I’m still figuring out my 13 virtues!); but everything I’ve heard about Benjamin Franklin suggests that – if he were around today – he’d be ‘DAO’ing’ his virtues quicker than you could say ‘FrankCoin’!