Blockchain for an Integral Society


(Durwin Foster) #1

Hello there. This is my first post on this forum.
I am interested in the topic of how the blockchain – and the related aspects of crypto-currencies, ethereum and so on – can be leveraged for the creation of an integral society.

To get the conversation started on an application that might be relevant to this context, are folks familiar at all with Ascribe? I have registered a few of my modest digital creations on the blockchain in that way.

A technical feedback: I do not see where to pick an appropriate channel or topic, really, for this post (?)


(Marco V Morelli) #2

Hi @DurwinFoster, welcome! And thanks for posting. I’ve moved your post to the #commons channel, which seems like a good place for it, as the #readers-underground:gebser channel was dedicated our reading last year of Jean Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin.

Of course, your question wouldn’t necessarily be out of place there, given you’re asking about “integral society,” but I’m not sure if you meant to frame this relation to that particular book. If so, please feel free to edit the title of the post and move it back. I’ve noted that we’ll need clearer instructions for new members on where best to post new topics.

Regarding the substance of your query, I don’t know if we have any technically-minded folks who can understand the “blockchain” aspect, but that can be Googled. I’d be most curious to know what you mean by “integral society.”

There was some effort to disambiguate the meaning of the term “integral,” which might interest you, here:

Perhaps it serves as a starting point for expanding the concept to the collective, and then we can figure out where “blockchain” fits in and how the technology may or may not not enable such a society.


(Durwin Foster) #3

When I posted the platform only allowed me to select from three channels…


(Marco V Morelli) #4

Posting new topics to the #commons will be a perk of paying members, so wasn’t yet activated. But since you promised to pony up your $2, I gave you early access. :slight_smile:


(Durwin Foster) #5

I have a simple working definition for “integral society” as one in which people are ethically fearless and fearlessly ethical. I may not have the written sophistication or aesthetic appreciation u r looking for on this site. My focus has been as a therapist and a very frequent conversationalist via video conferencing. As I reflect I would say an integral society is also one that meshes individuals’ strengths in service of meeting people’s needs. The basic philosophy of my mother still resonates: “from each according to her ability, to each according to his needs”. The blockchain SEEMS to allow for disintermediation which could facilitate that, although it is a neutral technology so I imagine that such an outcome is not a foregone conclusion (!)


(Durwin Foster) #6

Ok for sure I will become a member. How to address the chilling effect of posting in a public forum…I.e. performance anxiety.


(Marco V Morelli) #7

Are you saying your mother was Karl Marx?! That’s amazing. :smile:

I do really like your definition of an integral society being “ethically fearless / fearlessly ethical” and “[meshing] individuals’ strengths in service of meeting people’s needs.”

At the same time, I can hear the scolding voices of libertarians (even some integral ones) who would find such notions repugnant and abhorrent, even abominable, insofar as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” would seem to subsume the purpose and value of an individual’s productive capacity to meeting the needs of others and the dreaded collective, even apparently bypassing the rewarding of an indvidual’s “just deserts” (i.e., profit).

This forum being a cooperative enterprise, I am of course sympathetic to your mother’s views, but I also feel that individuality is essential to an integral society—so how do we integrate the dimensions of individual/collective? Can blockchain “smart contracts” help? I’m curious to know what others think.

I’m sure you have what it takes to post here, @DurwinFoster. All I really ask is that people try to practice a certain honesty, decency, and mindfulness—it shouldn’t take any special erudition or literary flair to participate. But we’re all learning how to do this together, so mistakes will be made and that’s OK. I’m glad you’re taking the risk to put forth your voice, whatever axieties you may feel.


(Victor Matekole) #8

Thank you @madrush for inviting me to respond, and thank you @DurwinFoster for starting this conversation.

I am a software developer and ethical opensource entrepreneur based in Berlin. My mission (in part) is to bridge the blockchain and co-operative worlds. It is my view the two can be highly productive together and solve some of the problems that both face. Blockchain’s mission is disintermediation and open participation but it is caught up in extractive business structures. It has little experience/knowledge of co-operative governance but its stakeholders are required to co-operate as it is a decentralised structure. It suffers from lack of governance — the Bitcoin 1MB block size debate is great example of this.

On the other side — co-operatives have been on a mission of disintermediation for 2 centuries. Blockchain tech. can help the co-operative world further its mission by building co-operative business on decentralised infrastructure. As an engineer it makes no sense to me why a co-operative (or collaborative) economy would build itself on a financial system that is highly centralised and works against co-operative principles. Furthermore, in the co-operative world there is a lot of value created by volunteers and collaborators that isn’t captured. Tokenising this value on a blockchain, effectively unlocking it, can lead to strengthening the co-operative economy and ethically-driven business models.

In regards to Ascribe — I know the founders, Ascribe are based here in Berlin. I like their work — I see Ascribe’s mission, in part, in returning the internet to the ideas of Ted Nelson and the Xandu project — creating a web of bi-directional links so that provenance can be attributed.

Happy to continue the conversation. Thanks @DurwinFoster.


(Durwin Foster) #9

Your comments are very interesting, and I appreciate your validation of what was my intuition, but fleshed out with much more specific detail. I confess I don’t fully understand the difference between the current internet and an internet of bi-directional links. I think I need to make an object of awareness what a site like Ascribe is actually doing that is different from the status quo.


(Durwin Foster) #10

I have continued to explore what Ascribe actually is and does :). I have read how there is an inbuilt technology – apparently relying on machine learning – that will track a creation across the internet. This is what is meant by bi-directional, i.e. automagically “tracking back” to where something came from. I see that some of what I have “ascribed” has been given SPOOL details, and some not. The SPOOL details on the ascriptions that have them include two different blockchain addresses.


(Victor Matekole) #11

@DurwinFoster Read “Who Owns The Future” for further info — https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=obDsAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA245&lpg=PA245&dq=ted+nelson+provenance+jaron+lanier&source=bl&ots=IeoiBjMypX&sig=nuk298l8SJdB3Gl6-wSsDkYViYw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiAss737tbSAhWFchQKHTFuC5wQ6AEIKDAD#v=onepage&q=ted%20nelson%20provenance%20jaron%20lanier&f=false


(Durwin Foster) #12

@vmatekole Hashes are functions that return values that allow for better authentication of an ascription – is this correct? An attempt at social learning here, in a complex space :grinning:


(Caroline Savery) #13

Hi @DurwinFoster and @vmatekole – I am super pleased to meet you, glad y’all/we are having this conversation, and I applaud your diving in!

I am a cooperative organizational developer and consultant; I’ve been studying co-op and collective best practices and methods for going on 8 years now. While I lack any knowledge about blockchains and cryptocurrencies, really, beyond a basic awareness, the questions you are asking and your aspirations are crucial.

In developing the vision for the architecture and plans for Cosmos over the past six months, Marco and I distinctly came to the conclusion that without an internal currency designed around our purposes and ethics and founded in the regenerative value and power inherent in our community itself, we could never fully realize our objectives. To the extent we limit our interactions with the status quo systems, and develop protected space in which our members can innovate on specific, humane/integrative design principles, we will be able to move both forward and away from reliance on “legacy systems.”

We have given a fair amount of thought as to the design specifications of our internal currency (which gets referred to as LitCoin for brevity). That brainstorming is currently buried in our copious notes and meeting minutes leading up to our soft membership launch this week–but we do plan to shortly bust them out, dust them off, and situate them in the Cosmos tech-committee for further delving. That’s the great thing about big questions–they are innately enchanting, and they tend to generate additional questions even as they answer some–the endless looping playscape that is collaboratively solving for big problems!

Right now it’s just me and Marco trying to do everything, and we’re plodding along. Next phase is to distribute ownership of key development and problem/vision-grappling among members, but until then, I encourage you to be patient (regarding official development business) while also not hesitating to have crucial, vitalizing dialogues on whatever you want. Welcome.:slight_smile:


(Durwin Foster) #14

Thanks for all of this, @care_save. To give you a little bit more background on my lived experience, I was born and raised – the first 20 years of my life – in an intentional community where 110 people “eat, prayed and loved” (and worked) together. What my community-of-origin was not able to be clear about was “ownership”, and so I am excited to see the depths that you and Marco have plumbed in this area.


(Marco V Morelli) #15

Ownership is the key here. To my mind, it’s the leverage point underlying all ‘social’ issues, and therefore what gets camouflaged by everything else.

Of course, ultimately, metaphysically, on the axis of the absolute, nothing can be owned—not even our own bodies or selves. But in the practical world, on earth, stuff is owned by people. Ownership means control; it means “who gets to decide.”

I can’t imagine an integral society in which ownership is something only a few people get to have, especially when it comes to basic needs, services, and the platforms we rely on to conduct our social, cultural, and economic lives.

Ownership, however, is not just a privilege. There’s a reason we say, when someone messes something up, “you own it.” Ownership entails responsibility.

I’ve started reading the book that @vmatekole recommends, Who Owns the Future?, by Jaron Lanier. I hadn’t encountered the author’s ideas before; really interesting dude. His argument, in a nutshell, is that in our networked world, whoever owns the most powerful computers (as well as the data those computers crunch) is going to have the most power. He calls these “siren servers,” as in the sirens Odysseus encounters—and whose allure (i.e., whose ‘network effect’) he must resist—on his journey home to Ithaca.

But what’s most interesting to me about Jaron’s arguments (as I understand them so far; I’m only a couple chapters into the book), is that he says the unequal outcomes are by design. Not intentional design necessarily, but effects of programming; code. And it follows that systems can be redesigned to produce different outcomes; and he has some suggestions about how this can be accomplished by encoding the notion that people own their own data, and should be transparently compensated for the information gleaned from them that companies and governments use.

But there’s another book that’s wonderfully complementary to Lanier’s, which is called Owning Our Future, by Marjorie Kelly. What’s great about this book is that Kelly compares and contrasts two fundamentally different models of ownership, extractive vs. generative, and she traces real world case studies, starting with the banks behind the 2008 financial crash, but then looking at various cooperatives and worker-owned businesses, showing how the ownership design of an organization effects outcomes.

http://www.marjoriekelly.com/books/owning-our-future/

I think blockchain could be a really powerful tool for challenging entrenched ownership models, since ownership often positions itself as the intermediary between needs and wants and their fulfillment, and blockchain offers the possibility of creating disintermediated flows. However, we could just as easily bake in extractive economics using blockchain, which is why Wall Street is so interested in the technology. As far as I can tell, blockchain is not inherently generative or justice oriented.

This is why I think ownership design is one of the key features of Cosmos we’ll need to discuss, and figure out how to distribute power and responsibility (along with costs and rewards) in a way that creates the most desirable outcomes for all involved, whether we end up using blockhain or not to make this happen.


(Durwin Foster) #16

I agree with everything you have said here, Marco. I am reading Utopia for Realists by Bregman right now, on Universal Basic Income, which turns out to have been championed by the unlikely types of Milton Friedman and Richard Nixon, in the past. Bregman shows a chart of the relationship between income inequality and social problems/issues – they are highly correlated!! And the united States is at the top of both, among developed countries. Canada is kind of in the middle. Japan was the best: low inequality and low social problems.