This is something that I have been thinking about for a long time. When Bitcoin was launched in 2008, it provided us with the base technology necessary to make the process of maintaining a ledger of transactions in a distributed and trustless way. It was revolutionary, and one doesn't need to look any further than the industry's growth to see that. But, if you're a reader of mine, or have been in the crypto game for longer than a day, you know the benefits of having a distributed ledger. But trustless? Through all the "Lambos", "Moons" and "decentralized" business buzzwords you hear, one you don't hear nearly as often is Trustless. What exactly does that mean? Lets trudge though a bit of "dry" explanation here:
The Blockchain As A "Trusted Third Party".
Blockchain requires two major things: public key cryptography and consensus. The Cryptography is the fun part; blocks of transactions are "chained" together by fun little incomprehensible strings that can only be "translated" by a special key. These lock down the chains of transactions in such a way that makes it incredibly difficult to crack. Meaning, when the chain of transactions is established, it is practically impossible to change it... Today. In the future with the emergence of quantum computing, this cryptography might be easily broken, but for now it's pretty tight. This is also the reason that people say cryptocurrencies are effectively impossible to counterfeit.
Consensus is basically the idea that everyone needs to agree that the ledger is exactly what it says it is. If there's no consensus, the ledger could be anything you want it to be! That's a problem because that means bad actors could swoop right in and say, I don't know, say they had twenty dollars, spend the twenty dollars on goods and services, and then turn around and say they still got that twenty dollars and spend it again! This is known (obviously) as the double spending problem and it is something that blockchain technology solves pretty well. In effect, a distributed blockchain ledger is a "third party" that mediates transactions between two people.
So, how is that any different from say, a bank? Well, a bank does the same thing superfically. The major difference here is that the ledger of transactions is centralized and controlled by the bank in question. You technically gotta place a lot of trust in the bank that they are adding and subtracting funds from your account and reliably sending it to the people you want it sent to. A distributed ledger is different in that you don't place the trust in a single monolithic organization to ensure that your transactions are good to go. You're placing it in multiple organizations, who must all agree on the ledger in order to proceed.
So, maybe while the system is theoretically "trustless" by some formal definition, the trust is more... spread out over a whole bunch of players instead of just one big player. But, this is a good thing and I'll explain why in a moment.
I know that there might be some superdy-duper blockchain aficionados who will come in here and say "You Ginger Bastard, you're chock full of shit today. That's not exactly how it works!" You're probably right, but for the purposes of the discussion I'm hoping this will be sufficient to reslistically make my point. I double checked my "ins" and "outs" with a couple sources for your convenience, which you can find HERE and HERE.
The Smart Contract
A fun little bit of technological wizardry is the centerpiece of Ethereum; the smart contract. A smart contract is basically a little bit of code that can be submitted to the blockchain that has particular rules and stipulations that are put in place. If one particular stipulation is met, then the contract is triggered and performs some other action. In much the same way that transactions are secured and "trustless" on a blockchain, smart contracts enjoy the same benefits. This is really, really nice for several reasons. First, it's a semi-automated, hands off piece of tech that does things for you ONLY if other things are done in return, based on the rules laid out. The contract and associated transactions are confirmed on the network, and by the same mechanisms of consensus (which there are many, more on that in a minute), it minimizes the possibility of abuse. Now, nothing is perfect of course, but it is something that has taken the Crypto Space by storm and for good reason; it is fucking useful as hell!
But the major interesting thing to emerge from smart contract technology is the Decentralized Autonomous Organization, or DAO. A DAO is a 21st century remix on the "Traditional Corporation" that has a hierarchy of players form the CEO to the Mail Room. The DAO uses automation and decentralization to carry out decision making and infrastructure tasks. Why have some big shot, overpaid (and most importantly, human and fallible) CEO call the shots when you can have a NETWORK make those decisions in a manner that is able to take in information and weigh options far better (and more "honestly")? That's what I think the dream is of a DAO, and if realized in conjunction to a couple other emerging technological advances, can be the single most influential technology since the internet, and until the Holodeck.
What Happens on The Holodeck, Stays on The Holodeck...
Whew, I was afraid for a moment I'd go too far into this piece without a joke. Any case...
A "Decentralized Autonomous Government"
Those of you in the know might have heard of a guy running for president this year named Andrew Yang. Now, I'm not gonna get "all political" on you and such, but what I will say is that some of his ideas REALLY got me thinking about a lot of stuff. Automation is without a doubt on the rise and for good reason: you don't have to pay a robot or a piece of software to do something. Get some sufficiently advanced software and hardware, and you got yourself anything from a janitor to an accountant. This is no joke; Roombas and Online Taxes exist now and are run by a LOT of complex technology.
When you think about it, every labor saving device is in one way or another "automating" a particular task. Don't wanna grind grain into flour yourself? Domesticate a horse to do it for you. Don't wanna have a horse to take care of? Set up a water wheel at a running river. Wanna do it faster and easier? Make complex electromotive machines to grind it, run that on automated software instructions.
Automation is inevitable as long as there remains a cohesive civilization looking to make things easier and more cost effective. However, there is one thing where we have made changes philosophically, but not technologically; the running and policy making of a government. A natural next step in the ever increasing desire to save time and energy and make things more efficient is to someday introduce "Trustless Politics" through what I have called a "Decentralized Autonomous Government" or DAG (not to be confused with Directed Acyclic Graphs, a blockchain alternative).
Imagine for a moment that we consider the United States Constiution. In essence, this is a contract that binds and obligates all citizens of the United States (public or private), as well as provides freedoms of action. Associated law notwithstanding, I imagine with enough work, one could take the Constitution and make it a centerpiece of a DAG though a series of smart contracts. Of course, the initial reaction would probably be dreadful, since interpretation and amending the constitution is something that is "built into" it and people would accuse you of leaving these things to the cold calculation of a computer. While understandable, remember that this is merely a starting point; there would have to be a lot of changes made in order to make something like this work. The three branches of government would have to be systematically formalized and the DAG would have to allow for democracy.
That's where you integrate the DAG with something similar to a PoS (Proof of Stake) system. Let's call it a "Proof of Citizenship" PoC governance system. Essentially, In much the same way changes are made to blockchains in a PoS system, changes to a DAG could be made. For example, if there's a new amendment that must be made, people can "vote" on this change directly though the DAG, and consensus would make these changes.
Of course, having unanimous consensus in anything government related (besides the election of George Washington - that was unanimous) would be a herculean task. It would do our hypothetical government no good "Hard Fork" once disagreements were made (See the American Civil War for more information on why that would be bad). In response, stipulations would have to be built into our PoC system where reaching consensus is for all intents and purposes the same as reaching some sort of majority vote.
Besides the nuts and bolts of voting and amending, a DAG would be instrumental in carrying out the functions of government in a more efficient manner. With a sufficiently advanced DAG, you could effectively prevent everything from filibustering and Pork Barrel projects to high crimes and misdemeanors based on Laws not being followed. No Lobbyists. No Career Politicians. Just Efficiency for the People. I think that this integrated with a liberal use of advanced AI could make (lol) Make Government Great. I'd say "Again" but that would suggest that it ever was. We are terribly bad at logical thinking as a species, and by association we are terribly bad at governing ourselves. We could make that better.
Now I know this part had a ridiculous amount of handwaving, and I assure you that if it didn't, I'd probably have Nobel Prize or be really close friends with Elon Musk or something. This is just a patented opinion from your friendly neighborhood Internet Asshole™. Take it or leave it, but have a good time in the process while thinking about it. And for Chrissakes, wash your damn hands.
Thanks you SO SO much for reading, I REALLY appreciate it. If you like what you read, please consider reading some of my other stuff! Also...
SHILL OF THE WEEK!
So, I'm a bit of a designer. I like making fun little tshirts and other things of value on Redbubble. SO, I made a shirt that I'm EXCLUSIVELY ONLY shilling on Publish0x:
You Too Can Look Like This Sexy Bastard.
Wanna be cool in front of all your nerdy Blockchain friends? YOU NEED THIS. Go to the LINK RIGHT HERE to have a look. I got stickers too. Put that shit on your car/bike/dog/QT3.14gf/whatever.
Until next time, keep your eye on the markets and make your governments smart.