Beyond Blockchain: Emerging Paradigms in a Time of Crisis
There’s no need to cling to crumbling structures once you glimpse a new paradigm emerging. The modern concepts of decentralization, autonomous organizations, data sovereignty, and peer-to-peer collaborations first emerged through Blockchain as a response to centralized corruption and domination. Below we will explore why Blockchain was a revolution in the way we think about decentralized systems for collaboration, governance, value exchange, and data security. We will also take an honest look at Blockchain’s many weaknesses while highlighting other emerging platforms, technologies, and models that will scale better and outperform it moving forward.
Thanks to Blockchain we now know that transparency can also mean security and that peer-to-peer cooperation can be more powerful than top-down competition. The pyramid, top-down, centralized model has been a ruling system based on exploitation of labor and resources since the dawn of feudalism over a thousand years ago. Today we see it crumbling from the inside-out, eroding from greed, corruption, arbitrage, dwindling resources and other issues.
Blockchain Isn’t the Answer but it pointed us in the right direction. It is important to understand the promise and pitfalls of Blockchain. This is a backdrop for understanding the opportunity that stands before us.
Everyone is talking about Blockchain but not all the talk has been good… enormous energy consumption, fraudulent ICO’s, and unscrupulous mining cartels have also cast doubt on the Blockchain Industry. Blockchain created a revolution in thinking because it transformed our ideas about systems from centralized to distributed networks. People often conflate distributed ledger technology with Blockchain yet they are distinct from each other. Blockchain is just one kind of distributed ledger technology and there are alternatives that are more scalable and less energy intensive.
A New Way to Think About Systems: There are centralized, top-down, pyramid systems, and there are circular, fractal, decentralized, peer-to-peer ways to organize social, economic, and data networks. Blockchain gave us a model for the latter decentralized model and this is actually the system that most of nature thrives on. This decentralized system that mimics the ways nature works has untold potential in changing the way we see and structure the world. It can also give us a template for addressing global issues like poverty, homelessness, climate change and others outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals.
This recent Forbes article shows some of the initial excitement and promise of how these new ways to approach systems can help us all create a sustainable future. Blockchain and distributed systems can assist small businesses and impact investors which are crucial to innovation and a healthy economy. As an early evangelist for this new paradigm I wrote a very popular piece called Blockchain and a Renaissance of the Social Commons.
Moving Beyond Blockchain: The basic premise of these early ideas is completely solid yet the concepts need to be applied broadly to distributed, peer-to-peer networks rather than specifically to Blockchain. Though we can celebrate its positive contributions, it is time to evolve past Blockchain. In order for this movement to take the necessary leaps forward we need to have an honest accounting of Blockchain’s shortcomings.
- Energy Consumption: To anyone that is genuinely concerned with the planet, any new technology that uses an enormous amount of electricity will set off red-flags. Is the electricity coming from coal, nuclear, dams? These questions are important to consider, and many great thinkers have written about this at length. The ever-expanding racks of processors used by miners that consume as much electricity as a small city have been a real problem. For background information please read, Feeding the Blockchain Beast by Peter Fairley of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Mining Cartels: The reward of crypto currencies for validating blocks boils down to a simple equation — whoever has the most electricity and computing power wins. Mining cartels have been opening decommissioned coal plants and utilizing other environmentally destructive practices in the race to consume more electricity. This also includes nations providing “free” electricity to miners as well as miners taking over rural areas where electricity is cheap. You can learn more by reading, Bitcoin Mining Turns Electricity Into Money, by Alexis C. Madrigal or Mining 101: An Introduction To Cryptocurrency Mining by Jason Evangelho.
- The Cryptocurrency Ecosystem: An ecology where a small handful of miners own the currency and become gatekeepers for validating transactions puts us right back into a centralized model of control. As people engage in old-paradigm economic models like pump and dump, boom and bust, or artificially creating scarcity to raise cryptocurrency values, trading in futures, and treating crypto currencies as securities they inevitably draw attention from federal regulatory agencies. If the promise of Blockchain is in self-verifying, peer-to-peer, distributed networks then it falls short unless this problem can be remedied. Also, at the end of the day the value of crypto currencies is measured in fiat US Dollars so they are not exactly an alternative to a failing economic system. Some people made millions on cryptos and others lost their asses in this highly volatile market.
Decentralizing Social Relationships and Distribution Channels: The real value in a community is networks of trust. No trust, no commerce. So society and our monetary system is built on establishing trusted networks for exchange. This has set up a system of gate-keepers that create an endless amount of usury and arbitrage. This clogs up the system, corrupts it, and makes it very inefficient when delivered through the top-down, traditional, centralized pyramid model. This can all be averted through peer-to-peer relationships that allow for the lateral exchange of ideas, goods, and services.
Centralized systems create centralized wealth and power, decentralized systems have the power to distribute resources and wealth more efficiently. Many people argue that centralization literally incentivizes corruption because humans are not able to responsibly handle that much power. Greed and corruption are usually attracted to power like a moth to the flame. The more unbearable it becomes to survive in a society, the more authoritarian measures will be needed to maintain the status quo. We can easily see that the consolidation of wealth and power leads to poverty and authoritarianism as the few gain at the expense of the masses.
The distribution of ideas is almost as important as the distribution of goods and services. Top-down centralized corporate models as expressed in Google and popular social networks like Facebook inhibit this free-flow of information because they are corrupted by the agendas and financial interests of a few. We have seen this through shadow-banning, censorship, de-platforming, and the efforts to promote certain ideas while obscuring others. When private interests own the network (the carrier of data, communication, and information) they are able to control the narrative.
“The printing press gave rise to the editors, publishers, and booksellers who determined which books were published or promoted. Broadcast media gave rise to the media empires who today exert preferences over what is broadcast. The ability to control the carrier results in the ability to control the message.” -taken from Unenclosable Carriers and the Future of Communication by Arthur Brock and Josh Zemel
Peer to peer models for personal data and shared ideas allow for much more autonomy and freedom from this kind of top-down corruption of information networks. In the article Peer-to-Peer Diplomacy I explore how social nodes can assert great influence in global affairs. Data is an expression of our unique, individual sovereignty as discussed in A Declaration of Digital Independence, the People’s Web which also introduces the revolutionary concept of Meta-Social. There are better systems for handling personal data than what we are currently experiencing with corporate and state-driven data mining.
Who Controls the Narrative? There is a battle over the narrative raging right now. We have large governments and corporations attempting to define the world in their terms in order to benefit their agendas. We need a narrative that emerges from the collective, one that honors the sacredness of life, the perennial value of our environment, and the dignity of all people.
Indigenous Wisdom and Technology: We don’t need to create this narrative we need to remember it. It has been kept by our indigenous wisdom-keepers. It is perennial and lives deep in our own DNA. We know that we are at a crossroads between creating a nightmarish Orwellian future or making a quantum paradigm shift into something better than our ancestors could have ever dreamed possible.
This is that choice-point, the crossroads that has always been inevitable. Now we have the ability to weave it all together in mutual balance and respect between modern technology and the natural systems that sustain all life. This is popularly known as the Eagle and Condor Prophecy by the ancient tribes of the Americas. We can build technologies and networks that mimic natural systems rather than destroy them.
Human Consciousness Must Keep Up With Technology: Our human mindsets, core-beliefs, and guiding ethos must also evolve to meet the possibilities inherent in our technology. These innovations and ideas are literally born of our dreams. It’s as if they emerged from our very DNA as a species. We must trust this process yet we must steward it with great heart and responsibility for all life or our technology will most certainly destroy us.
The Holoverse: Holochain creates unenclosable carriers through a distributed hash table. This system works in a similar way to a BitTorrent that allows for secure peer-to-peer validation and data sovereignty that will greatly enhance society. In short we are talking about creating systems for transparency and trust within a global communication network that does not require gatekeepers or centralized authorities that can burden the system, slow it down, exploit it, or corrupt it. There is a lively discussion of all things Holochain happening at this link.
Governance: The applications for decentralized networks in addressing governance are truly profound and you can learn more about this idea by reading The Dawning of Democracy 2.0. Simultaneously we have co-governance models also emerging from the Holochain Community. We are re-imagining social systems and economic systems that serve the larger collective rather than a few people at the top of the pyramid.
CoGov is a proposal for an ecosystem of startups, with each startup modeling its operations to be infused with Loving Kindness and Vulnerable Transparency, which is also omni-win and anti-rivalrous. Keys to accomplishing this goal include the implementation of a common, shared cryptocurrency and protocol.love. -CoGov Website
A Smart Economy: Just as the systems that operate the governments of the world were developed when we traveled on horseback, our economic systems are built on a foundation of feudalism, slavery, and exploitation. It simply does not need to be this way anymore. If we don’t change it soon the compounding math and economic inequality of our current system will lead us to ruin very soon. This is a revolution in the way we think as a people that is more cooperative and less competitive, more inclusive and less exclusive.
The Smart Economy Project is an epiphany in how our monetary system works. Borrowing from traditional economic theory and Modern Monetary Theory, the Smart Economy gives the world a whole new perspective on how our fiat systems could be used to assist us in our next socio-economic evolution. I urge you to get on this mailing list so you can pick up a copy of the forthcoming Smart Economy books here.
The Time is Now! We are standing at a historic moment in human history where our whole understanding of relationships is about to shift. In many ways our technology is bringing back an ancient understanding of trust within community and showing us different ways to organize systems. We are not some small prehistoric village anymore. We are a global community with a common desire to create a better future for all.
As hierarchical power structures are battling for dominance, an old paradigm crumbles like sand castles meeting a crashing wave. A collective movement based on transparency, security, and peer-to-peer exchanges powered by decentralized networks is emerging. The wave is cresting and castles of the past are slipping into the sea. Fear not, a better future awaits!