Reaching consensus — the essential process for safety, creativity and civilisation — Part 1 the money system
Even a cursory look at the last 13 000 years of ‘civilisation’ will reveal that history has been a a continual search for more effective ways to co-ordinate individual human activity with a group. In our search we have tried Slavery, Monarchy, Religious Autocracy, Empires, Colonies, Totalitarianism and most recently Democracy. All of these have been somewhat successful for a time but all have eventually collapsed and been replaced. The overthrow of the previous mechanism has always been associated with the advent of a new technology language, writing, steel, boats, guns, printing presses, industrial machines.
There has been a problem with each of these systems and that is that they have always relied on a ‘Trusted’ authority a person or group of people. A leader of a revolution, a leader ordained by God, a royal born leader, an elected leader, an actor/athlete, the founder of a company, your manager. The problem with all of these systems is that excessive rewards accrue to the ‘Trusted’ authority as a result of their authority. No matter how the system starts the ‘trusted’ authority eventually aligns him/herself increasingly with their own power and the liberators become the next autocrats (The pigs in animal farm). The autocrats begin to protect their new positions and are thus inclined to crush the very creativity that brought them into power. Eventually some people usually on the fringes supported by a new technology begin to challenge the legacy system and its powers, soon after that the endemic violence that was always hidden in the legacy system is revealed. I believe that we are at such a point in human history. The legacy financial systems, governance systems, health systems, education systems which have so clearly been leading to a financial and ecological crises are crumbling and the violence and structural unfairness imbedded in them is finally being revealed for all to see. In the past this type of structural inequality has usually but not necessarily been overthrown by violence in the form of war and revolutions. Each revolution has had a period where human creativity has flourished in a renaissance a fresh belief in a new an better possibility and each time it has been crushed by the reality that the new authority is at best almost as bad as the previous one.
Can this time be different do we finally have a technology that allows us to create consensus and co-ordination amongst small and large groups of people without power accruing to any small group of individuals? Can human creativity finally flourish and nourish all participants in the system without undue rewards being captured by force by any particular party. Can we finally be free of the shackles that have kept us enslaved in a system doing work we dislike working for a boss we hate in a company whose products we don’t care about. Can we finally have a system where we can contribute our creativity, our individual talents and be recognised and rewarded fully for our true contributions. Can we create systems where capital and human creativity flow freely to the most exciting interesting world changing projects that we are most excited and passionate about, where every individual can find their unique niche where they can contribute as much and as often as they please and be rewarded accordingly.
I believe the answer is yes but before we look any further we need to take a brief look at history. We need to look at the systems that have never been changed by any revolution, the systems that underlie all forms of governance and management, the systems that have given rise to one despotic system after another. This system is the system of money, in the now famous statement by Rothschild : “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws”.
Now do not get me wrong money was an incredible invention. It was separately invented by so many disparate people and has allowed us to move away from the inefficiencies of the barter system. Paper money was even more efficient than previous forms of money and digital money even better. The fact that paper and digital money have now replaced every form of money on the entire earth show that even with they manipulations, distortions and inefficiencies they are still better than cowrie shells, silver and gold. Issued money like paper and digital money however have always been plagued by one simple problem, the payer and payee have always had to trust a third party, assumedly a trustworthy person like the Rothchilds that the money will have value in the future and will not be manipulated for their own gain. History has shown that the temptation to skim a little (or a lot) of the top has been too tempting and has always eventually resulted in the crashing of one particular instance of a monetary system after another. Regardless of these crashes and wars, the fundamental underlying system of a central ‘trusted’ authority that controls money has never changed in these revolutions we have simply changed who the trusted authority is (and often not even that).
It is clear by now that we cannot build a society that remains fair and equitable while it is being built on a money system that is inherently unfair and manipulatable by a ‘Trusted’ authorities. Our history shows that all trusted authorities eventually betray the trust bestowed on them. Up until now we have simply had no other way to manage issuing and transferring paper or digital money so the best we have been able to do is when an authority becomes too greedy and the system becomes too skewed, we overthrow them (or we are invaded) and replace the distorted systems with a new one which hopefully begins more fairly and the cycle starts all over again. Ray Daglio describes these 70–80 year cycles beautifully.
So what has changed why after years of living on the fringes of the financial and technological systems, after years of exploring alternate ways of living including living with Hunter gatherer tribes in the Congo jungle and bartering economies in the amazon, why am I stepping back in now.
For me it is simple I believe that we are at one of those unique points in time where humanities trajectory can be fundamentally changed. I believe that changing this trajectory is the true potential of decentralised trustless applications like Blockchain. Decentralised applications are applications where no centralised authority can capture and extract more value from the system as a result of their authority position or power than what they contribute. Even when these people are the creators or inventors of the application.
Most everyone knows by now that this evolution started with Bitcoin, in a monumental act of insight and innovation Satoshi solved a problem that cyberpunks have been trying to solve for decades. The problem of how a decentralised application could run in a permissionless way without them being subject to ‘attacks’ by any single party. An attack would simply mean when someone would have enough power to subvert the interests of all other parties so as to gain unfair advantage for themselves. Satoshi solved this by bringing the disparate threads of cryptography, game theory and gamification together to create a system for reaching absolute consensus on valid financial transactions. With bitcoin people could, for the first time in the history of mankind, transact and exchange value digitally without anyone putting their faith in any external Trusted Authority.
If you care to dive into bitcoin you will find that the programmatically enforced rules governing bitcoin are beautifully designed to continually balance and counterbalance each other, continually bringing the system back into equilibrium and preventing any person or group from reaching undue dominance. I am a student and practitioner of systems theory, chaos theory, regenerative agriculture, biomimicry and self organising systems. I have been an operations manager for manufacturing company and a founder of software development companies, a hippy living in ‘sustainable’ communities and in all these explorations I have been spent my life looking for ways that the machine operators, software developers, hippies could form self organising systems, systems that continually adapt and change. Systems that continually optimise the whole by ensuring that all participants are being fairly rewarded for their creative contributions, systems that don’t require bosses, systems where the true potential of all humans in the system are allowed to emerge.
When I finally went into a deep exploration of bitcoin in 2016 I realised that bitcoin was showing us a new possibility but also that bitcoin would and could only ever be a part of the total solution. From my perspective a critical part maybe the most critical part but still a only a small part.
Coordinating human activity goes far far beyond simply financial transactions. In fact I would go so far as to say that while having secure decentralised trustless financial transactions is absolutely essential to creating the fair and equitable society that so many of us dream is possible it is necessary but not sufficient. In other words being able to store value and exchange value fairly, securely and with absolute certainty is absolutely essential to building this society but the really interesting part is how do we create this value in the first place. How do groups of human being come together and create value in a way that rewards all participants fairly. How do these groups co-ordinate their activities without central authorities without authoritarian bosses. How can we create systems where people and capital can move freely between projects and teams that they most resonate with and where their unique gifts are most needed and hence rewarded. How can the system self adjust and adapt so that when new or different skills are required because the project or system is in a different phase of its life cycle so that the new skills required are attracted and rewarded. How can this be done in a way that includes and involves all participants who are being rewarded when the entire ecosystem grows.
Despite the incredible promise of decentralised algorithms coordinating human activity via a set of agreed upon ‘rules’ that ensure that all parties interests are aligned for the greater good of all participants I had until recently not found any solutions that gave me the promise of building the future that so many have dreamed was possible.
In 2020 I finally dived deeper into Ethereum. I had dipped my toe in in 2017 and consulted for a few ICO’s so I was pretty familiar with Ethereum but for me Ethereum only began to show its true potential in 2020 when a bunch of cleverly compossible Dapps proved that they could (at least in concept) replace the centralised legacy financial system in its entirety. I explored and used every part of Defi, liquidity mining borrowing, lending, staking, investing, exchanging, voting on governance. It became pretty clear pretty fast that we were at early minimal viable product stage of development, the endless hacks, the scammers, the gas fees, the pain near impossibility of interchain anything and general unusability of Defi in etherium as it is today is impossible to ignore.
As a natural born rebel, an seeker, an innovator, an XP software developer, accountant, business analyst, founder, lean startup advocate, system theorist and all the other hats I have worn in my years I dived in and began to plot out what this new system could look like where it was likely to go and how it would need to evolve to get there.
Then I discovered PolkaDot and found that a group of people led by Gavin Wood had been designing and implementing a solution to all of these problems for years. Ever since I have spent all my available time exploring and investigating the various aspects of Polkadot, the polkadot community and the Polkadot ecosystem.
In part 2 I will describe how and why PolkaDot promises to solve the problems described above and how in most cases the solutions are even more elegant than the ones I was dreaming up. I will also describe how and why Polkadot is the ecosystem that has the highest probability of not only bringing the promise of Defi (Decentralised Finance) to reality but more importantly facilitating the transformation of the entire economic system which governs how we collaborate and create together.
Who I am. I am a facilitator working deeply with the individual and group nervous systems, I help individuals and groups integrate personal, collective and ancestral traumas. Unintegrated traumas lead to a sense of unsafety in the world, this unsafety leads to separation from other humans, earth, nature and universal intelligence. These unintegrated traumas lead us away from the sense of well being and equanimity that allows us to come to peace within and thus truly respond to each situation from our own deep knowing and center. The traumas are often so entrenched and familiar within and in our society that we do not notice them, unseen and unintegrated they lead to us reacting to emotionally charged events from a place of fear, lack and scarcity, these reactions are sub optimal for our health, our relationships and our finances as well as the health and well being of our society and planet. My background as a technologist, software developer, startup founder and investor in startups leaves me in a unique position to work with startups at a deep nervous system level allowing the startups to nurture and grow the full creative potential of all the participants. I have a particular interest in technologies that provide the possibility for creating a self organising, learning global nervous system free from centralised manipulation and control. As participants in this global nervous system all humans are free to participate equally without barriers (race, sex, nationality, finances or power). I believe that this is the possibility that decentralised computing is ushering in. We have all seen the possibility that social media brings for co-ordinated human action Arab spring and now WallStreetBets the most recent example. We have also seen how any form of central authority and control results in censorship, exclusion and the extraction of value to the few. If you would like to connect or become part of a group exploring this then you can join us on https://t.me/ChannelingUnicorns