Smart Contract Summit 2021: Governance Theory Panel

SCRF has been invited to host an independent research track as part of the 2021 Smart Contract Summit. We’ve chosen to present five panel discussions that touch on some of the most timely issues facing the blockchain space: “Identity and Reputation”, “Governance Theory”, “Governance Implementation”, “Privacy and SNARKS”, and “CBDCs and Blockchain”.

In this series of threads, we will be providing some deeper insight into the panel topics, the participants, and where interested viewers can find their most relevant works.

What is SCRF

The Smart Contract Research Forum (SCRF) is where academics, researchers, and industry leaders from all over the world come together to discuss research, solicit thoughtful peer review, and find new projects on which to collaborate. You can find additional information about our programs, grants, and initiatives in our repo; or feel free to join us in our chat.

About the Governance Theory Panel

What are the challenges in decentralizing a hierarchical organization? This panel brings together a group of academics who explore collective decision-making related questions from different perspectives to discuss some of the theoretical aspects of governance.

Full Video

Panelist Bios and Relevant Works

Ellie Rennie

Ellie is a Professor and ARC Future Fellow at RMIT University working across RMIT’s Blockchain Innovation Hub, the Digital Ethnography Research Centre, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society. Her current research is looking at capabilities arising from the use of blockchain technologies. Prior to commencing her Future Fellowship, Ellie’s research was focused on digital inclusion and how cultural norms influence privacy and safety online. She has also worked extensively with NGOs, community and Indigenous organisations on outcomes-based funding models and social innovation evaluation (including the Trust Alliance, a network of humanitarian organisations using blockchain-enabled verifiable credentials). She has published five books.

Some of Ellie’s work:

Relevant links for Ellie:

Joshua Tan

Josh is a mathematician and computer scientist @ Oxford, Stanford, and the Metagovernance Project.

Some of Josh’s work:

Relevant links for Josh:

Michael Zargham

Zargham is the founder of engineering research and design firm BlockScience, which specializes in estimation, decision, control and governance of social and economic infrastructures. He is affiliated with the Vienna University of Economics and Business in the Interdisciplinary Institute for Cryptoeconomics. He earned his PhD in Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in 2014 where he developed novel methods for decentralized dynamic resource allocation in networked systems.

Some of Zargham’s work:

Relevant links for Zargham:

Quinn DuPont

Quinn is an Assistant Professor in the School of Business at University College Dublin. He has a PhD in Information Science from University of Toronto and was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at University of Washington.

He is the author of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains (Polity), Associate Editor Frontiers in Blockchains, Education Chair IEEE Blockchain Initiative, Research Fellow at University College London’s Center for Blockchain Technologies, Founder and Editor in Chief Blockchain Research Network, Affiliate of The Future of Money Research Collaborative, Member of UCD’s Center for Innovation, Technology and Organisation (CITO), and Member of UCD’s Center for Digital Policy. Previously, he held visiting research positions at Leuphana University and the University of Victoria and was a Senior Information Specialist at IBM.

Some of Quinn’s work:

Relevant links for Quinn

Key Questions for our Panelists

Some of the questions we’ll explore during the panel include:

  • What does governance entail?
  • There are definitions of DAO’s ranging from anything that uses smart contracts to coops that use blockchain to organizations that run without people. In your opinion, what is a DAO?
  • How to avoid the mistakes of the past?
  • Do you think DAOs that focus on non-financial incentives will fare better or worse than those focusing on financial incentives?
  • Is standardization of governance models possible? Is it something we should be shooting for?
  • Are plutocracies OK?
  • What things need to be factored into decentralized governance in order to maximize the chance of building a successful community run system?
  • What is “Designing for Resilience”?
  • What challenges does anonymity pose for governance?
  • Can we coordinate at scale?
  • What is a reasonable amount of agency people are willing to take on?

Watching the Panel

The Summit is taking place virtually from August 5-7. You can find the most up-to-date schedule and get your free tickets here.

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This was a fascinating panel, thank you Ellie, Quinn, Michael, Joshua, and Rich for coming together and doing this. Is there much overlap between the study of DAOs (particularly the ethical considerations) and efforts to develop data science as a standalone academic discipline? Seems like there are similar ethical issues involving data collection, pattern discovery and decision making, particularly for the more autonomous flavors of DAO. I liked the idea of employing professional ethical guidelines the way that engineers are taught, but I wonder whether without the weight of hundreds of years of bridge-building or the risk of losing a professional license those standards would have much power.

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This is an interesting point. I wrote this piece (on general blockchain) ethics which emphasizes the importance of clarifying responsibility, accountability, and recourse (see: A Provocation on Privacy & Ethics in Blockchain-Based Systems: An Invitation by Kelsie Nabben :: SSRN). The recent “DAO Model Law” guidelines by COALA delineate the need for internal arbitration (between DAO members), and external arbitration (between DAO and external entities), which is one way of breaking down who is responsible for what, at lease so people know what they are signing up for, regardless of how automated the DAO (I list the model law principles here: Experiments in algorithmic governance continue - by Kelsie Nabben - Kelsie - on the cataclysmia of digital infrastructure)

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Thanks for the link to your work, Kelsie. In my exploration of blockchain ethics I don’t discuss privacy issues very much, so it’s nice to see a complementary approach.

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One of the questions that run at the core of the conversation: When is a DAO considered a DAO?

The mere use of smart contracts is not an assurance even at a very high automation level. It is also possible to decide on collective actions without smart contracts.

Thus it should be wise to measure DAO effectiveness on a spectrum with room for debate. Otherwise, we set ourselves at risk of identifying the wrong as the ideal.

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Great question! This complementary discussion tackles this question directly: Smart Contract Summit 2021: Governance Implementation Panel

(Not much agreement there either; token platform with decentralized governance?)

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It’s a really interesting and meaningful conversation. I love the notion of creating reciprocal relationships. It can provide extrinsic motivation, which gives people incentives to participate in and develop it, and intrinsic motivation, which facilitates its self-growth within the community. I like the thought of thinking it from the perspective of rigidity and elasticity, which makes its development more resilient. The reason for people to turn contracts toward building a firm, that is internalization of external cost, is very enlightening as well when we thinking about governance on blockchain and how does it interact with other entities or internet services. These make me feel DAOs are more like organisms.

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For practical purposes, maybe it could be worthwhile to discuss DAOs or governance on chains from a legal analysis perspective as well. I’d like to share that NTU law school professor Wen-Yeu Wang has a book “Exploring Economic Foundations of Contracts and Organizations” (ISBN:9789575110956) is talking about how the resilience of contracts and organizations performs in different commercial scenarios. It mentioned DAOs as well. It preliminarily concludes that business trust may be a better legal framework for a DAO rather than a partnership or LLC. Meanwhile, it remains space for more discussion.

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It’s an excellent panel discussion! This is an interesting point to learn about the development of the government process. And Ellie pointed out that automation is only good with a high degree of capacity. It’s why the DAO encourages more people to get involved with the community.

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I was just listening with a podcast featuring Dr. Michael Zargham and figured I’d post it here as it’s relevant to the overall topic. Palladium Podcast 62: Michael Zargham on Society As a Complex System. In this episode, Zargham spoke about the diversity of time scales that are important to think through with complex systems. This also made me think of something that came up in conversation with one of the panelists, Joshua Tan. Specifically, we got on the topic of looking at governance across different scales in a system (say the protocol, network, and data layers).

Bringing these two ideas together, the time scales at the different levels can vary greatly. At the protocol layer, the time scale should arguably be a longer one than at the data layer. When I think of something like resilience, I start thinking long time scales. When I think of ethics (or harm minimization as it was referred to in this panel), I think of an endless series of decision on very short time scales that keep building up over time.

Understanding which factors at which layer need to have the ability to be fast moving (removing bureaucracy) vs where there should be more space for longer-tail conversations and even adding measures to slow down decision making (potentially adding bureaucracy) is also an important facet to consider when trying to think through and design governance. Especially considering there’s the added complexity that there will be points when a decision needs to be made at, say, the protocol layer that needs to happen quickly but might have long lasting implications.

Trying to think the temporality of different decisions and their implications is an interesting exercise. If anyone knows of any literature on this topic, please share!

Citations:

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While saying governance should be non-hierarchical or flat might get you applause, Dr. Michael Zargham points out that it’s actually terrible advice when it comes to coordinating communities and getting things done.

I’m reminded of The Tyranny of Structurelessness by Jo Freeman, a 1970s paper that explores structural problems facing groups (insights grounded in the women’s liberation movement but widely applicable). Freeman argues that “structurelessness” is organizationally impossible. It doesn’t prevent the formation of informal structures, only formal ones. In fact, structurelessness becomes a way of masking power, because as long as the structure of a group is informal, rules of how decisions are made are gate-kept by a select “in” group.

Given that “non-hierarchical” might not be best, what are other options? In Humanocracy, Gary Hamel says "on any issue some colleagues will have a bigger say than others will, depending on their expertise and willingness to help. These are hierarchies of influence, not position, and they’re built from the bottom up.” Instead of a single hierarchy, Hamel describes the need for many evolving, overlapping ones, based on passions, strengths, and expertise.

How might we create fluid hierarchies of influence in DAOs? Knowing someone’s track record for good decision-making, their “on-chain resume” in the community might help. And things like vote delegation certainly enables communities to identify which members might have more expertise in a certain topic, and put more weight behind their perspective.

I think a helpful first step will be to help people unlink non-hierarchical/flat/horizontal and applause. The default answer that governance is “non-hierarchical” actually doesn’t tell us anything new and simply serves as an excuse to avoid uncomfortable conversations about power.

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Though we can’t avoid informal hierarchical power structure in the DAO, I think DAO may provide more transparency for its members to monitor the power they have delegated and a more accessible and easy way for its members to take back their power. These are what they may be pretty hard to achieve in a traditional organization.

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Governance Theory Panel

“You start off simple and collective and DAO-y. And then you realize that there’s complexity, there’s decision-making, there’s time considerations, time challenges. So you add complexity, you add sophistication, you assign leadership and ownership and you split off into smaller groups. At what point does the thing that you have now (the DAO), at what point is it indistinguishable from the thing that you were trying to hide from in the first place?”
–Richard Brown

In this panel, moderated by Smart Contracts Research Forum (SCRF) Ops Lead Eugene Leventhal, we hear from four experts on the field of governance theory, decentralized theory and the role of Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs).

Joshua Tan is a Computer Science Ph.D. student at Oxford University who also helps run Metagov, an organization that conducts research on developing standards and protocols for online communities and online organisations both on and off the blockchain.

Michael Zargham is the CEO of BlockScience, a firm that designs and implements algorithms for social and economic platforms on and off of the blockchain. He is also the chief engineer of The Commons Stack, where he focuses on designing sustainable ecosystems for different types of communities, including DAOs.

Quinn DuPont is an assistant professor at the School of Business at the University College Dublin, and is the author of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains, an accessible, broad introduction to the use-cases, investment opportunities and social, political and legal applications of blockchain technologies.

Ellie Rennie is a researcher at the RMIT University in Australia, where she is involved in the university’s Digital Ethnography Research Centre and its Blockchain Innovation efforts. Specifically, she focuses on researching the role of individuals in blockchain systems, and understanding the interactions between human and software agents.

What exactly is Governance in the context of Smart Contracts?

o Different ways to define it: Inherently contentious, more than just semantic terms, this may also change depending on social and cultural norms in different regions where DAOs are used. (And by extension answers to questions like the interaction between humans and DAOs, what is a good structure for a DAO, what is too much control/autonomy etc will also differ.)
o What exactly is governance?
§ Governance at a higher-level view can be seen as “rules of conduct”, which a DAO gives structure to, with the purpose of aiding in decision making and collective action
§ At a micro level, governance could boil down to deciding input-output behaviors in the system or different actions
o Beyond this, it’s also important not to forget informal governance. “The types of social coordination that go beyond rules and how important they are within these systems. To me that is also governance, but that is more how the rules that we create, influence what we do and don’t do even outside of that formal structure.” Ellie Rennie

How do we define a DAO? What constitutes a DAO?

o Aaron Wright’s definition of DAO: Code forms a cohesive network of hard-to-change rules that establish the standards and procedures of anyone interacting with or taking part in the DAO. (5:22)
o Which is more DAO-like: An organization with the technical characteristics we typically tend to associate with a DAO: i.e., a number of smart contracts and tools for administration, but with its power decentralized over only a small number of individuals, where “less crucial” members have little to no control OR an organization that possesses little to no technical characteristics of a DAO, i.e., ew or no smart contracts, but using conversation channels like Discord to encourage discourse and involve members in a highly democratic decision-making process.
o Nested DAOs: essentially DAOs within DAOs, where participants can vote on a subset of issues.
o Concepts such as nested DAOs, or having a smaller group of individuals exercise control over many DAOs reduces autonomy across the system as a whole: One cannot assume that using DAOs is a simple proxy to enforcing autonomy in place of non-DAO systems.
§ This automation as a means of governance is only ideal with a large amount of capacity: i.e. when the power to both develop the rules, encode the rules, and interact with the rules is spread over multiple people. (9:15)

The role of bureaucracy and automation

o Bureaucracy is not an inherently negative trait of organizations. The low-pass filtering or slowing action which, although it acts as a damper to quick decision making, can have positive benefits too. It keeps them from unnecessary, volatile swings in decisions and actions.
o However, the automation afforded by DAOs overcomes this bureaucratic sloth by enabling near-real time decision making. Although the benefit of this is time saved, we might also consider how this could potentially result in systems that act in a manner that is “unnatural” or volatile in the short term. This is important because a key factor to consider is not just the DAOs’ relationship with people, but also the people’s relationship with the DAO, and people would presumably tend to expect (or hope for) some level of consistency in how a system acts.
o Splitting power between people is desirable, and a DAO is an effective way to do so.
§ Something as simple as an anime fan site could potentially be a DAO, where people with common interests assign responsibilities between individuals, providing receiving value in return.

Democracy in DAOs (Good, Bad or something in between?)

o Should DAOs be democratic? Fundamentally depends on the purpose of the DAO:
§ An investment DAO, or a DAO with the aim of being used to develop tradable securities, should probably be less democratic (with power in the hands of professionals) than one used to raise and voice public issues (11:28)
§ Is this something that ought to be decided once the DAO is developed? Or are there possibly instances where a DAO’s ultimate goal could move across the democratic-autocratic spectrum over time? If so, is using a DAO inherently detrimental, as rules that are encoded can be challenging, or often impossible to change?
§ As Rennie discusses, perhaps the need for democracy in a DAO could be mainly for “monetary” purposes, Iike to ensure that any autonomy afforded to certain individuals by the DAO is not misused.
o Interestingly, as Zargham points out, democracy in DAOs need not necessarily involve voting, but could potentially be more in the form of individuals having the ability to input feedback back into the system (and where systems could potentially recognize this and adapt)

Please click here to watch the full panel discussion

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Smart Contract 2021: Governance Theory Panel

Summary of key points by all participants

(This is an attempt to add additional value to a video panel discussion. It’s not a transcription or a summary, but something in between.)

Ellie Rennie

  • What is governance? Foucault: “To govern is to structure the field of action available to others.”
  • The actors in this field are people and software systems.
  • The role of smart contracts in contemporary DAOs is important and inescapable.
  • Automation is only good when there is high capacity.
  • In a decentralized system the tendency will be towards “monitory” democracy.
  • When we think about DAOs we have to think about the interaction of many DAOs within a broader system.

Michael Zargham

  • In terms of democracy, we want to think about a strong feedback loop between the governed and the decision-making that governs or structures the fields.
  • When we think about it in feedback-loop terms, the monitoring component becomes critical.
  • The feedback loop can be ineffectual or biased toward a certain subgroup like a plutocracy.
  • Democracy is going to require some way of feeding back information into the system in which you are participating. This is different than merely voting; sometimes you have voting and it doesn’t feel especially democratic.

Quinn DuPont

  • Foucault says that governance leads to a paradox:
    • In the liberal west we assume that liberalism asserts the sovereignty of the free individual
    • But government insists that individual behavior be regulated or modified.
  • I conceptualize governance in organizational terms. It’s a form of decision-making for collective action problems.
  • Good governance has the opportunity to chart the waters between simple markets and centralized government with all the problems both of those present. Instead we want sophisticated markets.

Joshua Tan

  • The idea of DAOs as a form of administration strikes me as a little bit off.
    • In my interaction with DAOs I perceive them as a barrier to proper administration.
    • In very few cases does the technical DAO infrastructure, the smart contract (which is just a piece of technology for collectively administering some sort of wallet), actually comes into play in the administration.

Ellie Rennie

  • What’s the thing that’s being automated when we use DAOs? We’re human beings not machines. We’re performing well-rehearsed historical roles within DAOs.
    • Yes, they require more coordination because we’re doing them online, across borders, and often without identity which makes it really hard.
  • For me it’s more about the software actors and what we’re hoping these things are for in the long run in a system of governance.

Michael Zargham

  • The effects of bureaucracy are not all bad. Bureaucracy provides a low-pass filter or slowing action that increases sustainability by preventing the field of play (for others) from changing too fast.
    • If things changed too fast the field of play would lose most of its value for those being governed.
    • On a systems scale, that slowing down or impedance is arguably an evolutionary trait of organizations that keeps them from thrashing themselves out of existence.
  • On the other hand, automation provides the “fast” equivalent. If something is sufficiently automated then it’s also reliable in near real-time and you have a high expectation of its execution according to the intended protocol or process.
    • They’re on opposite ends of the temporal spectrum—very fast and very slow—but the both provide the same effect on your lived experience, which is about expectation of consistency when you interact with something greater than yourself.
    • If we think of DAOs as organizations that are greater than the sum of their parts, one of the most important attributes of people’s relationships to organizations is some level of trust or consistency in that relationship.

Rich Brown

  • One of the challenges is that the word DAO is a euphemism and everybody brings their own definition to the table.
  • When we say DAO are we talking about
    • A slow committee
    • A cooperative
    • An organization of individuals with some form of treasury management, polling mechanism for decisions, and some form of communication channel
    • Or are we talking about something more aspirational with rules, regs and guidelines that have been coded into a contract that speak to the mission of the organization

Michael Zargham

  • For an DAO, you’re talking about an organization where the power doesn’t reside in a single group; it’s spread out among the political actors, which is the power relations within it.
  • The autonomy describes its power relation with others.

Ellie Rennie

  • There’s a spectrum of what’s considered a DAO.
  • But any DAO is a system of inputs

Quinn DuPont

  • There’s a continuum from idealism to realism
  • This includes positions on transparency and granularity
    • There’s no reason for a DAO to be transparent, but we tend to expect insight into how it functions and that people can control it
    • Granularity [how formal or informal an organization’s structure is] is a classic challenge for everything from direct democracies to organizational structures ranging from flat to hierarchical.

Eugene Leventhal

  • At what point does a group of people working with smart contracts become a DAO?

Michael Zargham

  • An example
    • One organization calls it self a DAO but does it largely for regulatory/arbitrage reasons. They may have a multi SIG, but the power is clearly centralized.
    • Another org has very little tooling, maybe doesn’t have a multi SIG, and may not call itself a DAO for those reasons, but it’s clearly more decentralized than the first organization.
    • In this example, the first one looks decentralized but it’s not, and the second one looks centralized, but it’s not.
    • The raw data cannot tell you that much unless it has been complemented by ethnographic work.

Quinn DuPont

  • That’s why hierarchical structure is not a good metric for deciding if an organization is a DAO.
    • You can have open source software governance under the tagline “rough consensus and running code.” That structure is frequently run by a benevolent dictator and doesn’t look like a DAO at all.
    • At the other extreme we have corporate governance; how a typical firm makes an IT change.

Eugene Leventhal

  • What are you thinking when you use the term governance? What is your working definition of the term?

Quinn DuPont

  • “Conduct of conduct” to use Foucault’s term. Specifically it has to with decision making for collective action. Governance is not about one person.

Ellie Rennie

  • Is corporate governance all we need for this new form of organization? For many kinds of DAOs it probably is sufficient.
  • But then there’s “informal governance” and the types of social coordination that go beyond rules, and how important they are in blockchain communities where expertise becomes important.
  • How do we encourage that where it works?
  • And how do we shed light on other processes that are less ideal, I.e., where decisions are occurring behind closed doors in private Zoom calls and then pretending to be brought to the forums democratically in a less than spontaneous way.

Joshua Tan

  • Governance writ small is about control, i.e., changing the behavior of systems.
    • It’s really about the input-output behavior of systems.
  • Governance writ large is collective action.
    • It’s really about the local to global properties of systems.

Michael Zhargam

  • Starting with Foucault’s definition of “structuring the field of play,” I like to go up a level and see governance as the full lifecycle. There’s a feedback loop running around the whole structure. I think about governance as the adaptive capacity of the whole field of play.
    • It has rigid and elastic components. In order to be a healthy it needs to be able to stand up and not change in the face of some perturbations or attacks
    • But it also needs to adapt and change in the face of slow, steady pressure.

Rich Brown

  • First identify what outcome you’re trying to maximize for and then build backwards from there.
  • From a tech and protocol perspective in the crypto space, what governance looks like to me is …
    • You have a protocol
    • You have an outcome you’re maximizing for
    • You have a pool of resources which can contribute to that outcome
    • Then you need a reciprocal relationship where you design systems that allow value to flow back down to stakeholders
    • Therefore assembling the governance primitives that allow that relationship to flourish in a healthy and productive way.

Michael Zargham

  • Who is the “you” in that model?

Rich Brown

  • There are different types of DAOs
    • There are engagement DAOs that are branding exercises, essentially. They want to create a sense of community, they want people to feel heard, and in return they provide excitement and engagement.
    • In others, the stakeholders are now the custodians of that environment or mission. They receive value in return for informing themselves.

Quinn DuPont

  • Are we governing blockchains, or are we using blockchains to govern?

Ellie Rennie

  • The urge to become a DAO seems very related to “how do we give people more stake?”
    • This value is often financial via distribution of tokens, and the cynical will say “this is all people are in it for.”
  • The utility of DAOs is something that will continue to increase.
  • It’s about people being able to do what they want to do.

Michael Zargham

  • The challenge of organizations that grow beyond a certain scale.
  • Core team members/founders are suddenly faced with the operational overhead that came about as a result of your success.
    • You may have very little interest in that.
    • If you’re not interested in going in a more traditional corporate mode, what do you do? Just stop? Create a new structure?

Rich Brown

  • MakerDAO recently famously decentralized by identifying the 27 departments that made it up and creating 27 different DAOs.
  • Does this group believe that there is an upper limit to scalability in the DAO space?

Michael Zargham

  • In theory, no.
  • In practice, yes.
    • More organizations will break down rather than succeed by going through that transitions.

Quinn DuPont

  • This is why you have a firm in the first place, to reduce transaction costs within it.
    • Otherwise you have all these externalities and it becomes very expensive.
  • Many DAOs are closer to a club model.

Ellie Rennie

  • MakerDAO was a stablecoin
    • Stablecoins are a notorious area for observing automation vs. human direction.
  • The idea of nested DAOs is incredibly important.
  • Automation can be a very beneficial aspect of DAOs.
    • Humans need to learn how to work with that.
    • This is what the DAO experiment is illustrating: how to deal with automation.

Eugene Leventhal

  • What are the major roadblocks to developing these organizations?
  • Formal organizations
    • Anything codified by rules and procedures written down somewhere
  • Informal organizations
    • Much more socio-cultural concepts passed along mimetically

Michael Zargham

  • Many people entered the crypto or DAO space in a kind of reactionary way
    • They had bad experiences with corporate or government or academic structures
    • There was a great opportunity posed by these new Web 3-based spaces
    • But the tendency seems to start flat and to “nuke structure,” but this can lead to a tyranny of structurelessness.
    • They can’t scale in that mode.
    • What Maker did is interesting
      • They said, “There are functions within Maker. If they’re not fulfilled, Maker goes away.”
      • A big flat organization wasn’t going to work. They needed structure.
      • But the structure wasn’t necessarily “I’m in charge and you’re not.”
      • It made sense to do a fractal structure of teams of teams of teams.
      • It is still flat, but contains authority and responsibility across key functions
      • These kinds of patterns are still structure
    • I think some of the perceived boundaries to growth can be artificial and “in our heads”
    • Disliking structures you encountered in the world doesn’t mean that structure itself is bad
    • If you refuse all structure you’re going to hit the wall sooner or later

Rich Brown

  • But at what point does the thing you end up creating become indistinguishable from the thing you were trying to avoid in the first place?
  • How do you NOT just recreate a firm at that point?
  • Everybody wants the second way. Is it leading back to the thing we had?

Michael Zargham

  • The main difference between what I said and recreating the firm:
    • There is no shared shell
    • There is no meta-organization, just social networks between them
    • We avoid what you’re talking about by not pretending that anything we’ve spawned belongs to a meta-entity

Joshua Tan

  • A hard-nosed focus on efficiency and cost of DAOs vs. firms misses the point
  • The ideological satisfaction of participating in a community oriented venture vs. one that’s about a profit-making enterprise that benefits mostly the leadership
    • Of course DAOs are not going to be “as efficient.”
    • But efficiency isn’t the be-all and end-all of all organizations.

Eugene Leventhal

  • What is the main research question you’d like to see investigated?

Ellie Rennie

  • What is ethics in DAOs?
    • How do we minimize harm.
    • How do we get to “can’t be evil”?
    • How do we let users understand what they’re interacting with?
  • In a podcast recently, Vitalik said it was about “armoring the shape rather than hunting the wolves.”
    • It’s about much more than usability
    • It’s about robust trusted infrastructures

Michael Zargham

  • In a DAO, you’re ideally acting in the interest of the public good
    • This transcends even the firm you’re working for, where fiduciary responsibilities rule
    • It’s much closer to governing and maintaining core societal physical infrastructure

Joshua Tan

  • There are a lot of discussions of interoperability, including DAO to DAO interop or chain to chain interop
  • What sorts of standards would we build to support that kind of entity to entity growth?

Quinn DuPont

  • I’m also animated by social responsibility and big collective action problems
  • But are we talking about governance or governmentality?
    • Govermentality is a classic Foucault term. He describes it as having:
      • Population as its target
      • Political economy as its major form of knowledge
      • Apparatus and security as its major technical instrument
    • That sounds to me like a description of blockchain.
    • Foucault does not describe this as bad or evil.
    • But he does say that it’s “dangerous.”
  • We’re dealing with powerful and dangerous technologies here.

[end of summary]

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