Full-cycle hypothesis of blockchain evolution

Foreword: Can blockchains and decentralized networks reshape the operation of human institutions? If so, to what extent? The author of this paper proposes that although the blockchain will continue to reshape human organizations, it also has some social problems to be solved. These problems have existed in the past. For example, institutionalization, uneven distribution of power, cultural inertia, social embeddedness, etc. How do you see this problem? The author Mario Laul is translated by the "SIEN" of the "Blue Fox Notes" community.

There is a problem that has been lingering. It is the extent of blockchains and decentralized networks. To what extent is it necessary to innovate the structure and operation of human institutions. I am not saying that quantification is done by improving efficiency, geographical arrival, or automation, but by categorizing the old hierarchy and empowering new forms of empowerment, tolerance, and autonomy.

On the one hand, the overall premise of these networks is decentralized, open, unlicensed, difficult to review, and programmable. They are fundamentally different from the past organizational model. Therefore, they are often touted as a preferred alternative to existing models.

On the other hand, as I pointed out before, the social and political dynamics in a decentralized network are very similar to any other human system. The unequal distribution of network-specific resources inevitably leads to a power structure, while maintaining and challenging structures becomes the decisive function of network governance.

More difficult than critical analysis is predicting the future. But this is a possible situation. While the blockchain network will continue to reshape the organization (organizing management information and facilitating transactions related to that information), at the social level, the end result will be disturbingly familiar. I call this the full cycle hypothesis.

There are many reasons for taking this rather unsatisfactory prospect seriously, including but not limited to:

* Institutionalized systemic tendencies.

Institutions, including successful networks, represent solutions to the stability and persistence of recurring problems. However, they also contain control points and decision points. Therefore, they become the object of political and economic competition, leading to…

* Unequal distribution of wealth and influence.

Even if the system is designed to be the most inclusive, there will always be information and other asymmetries that trigger private interests and try to accumulate anything that is considered valuable.

* Past experience and cultural inertia.

Most of the problems of network governance, including those that seem to be unique for technical reasons, are in fact no different from the challenges faced by traditional institutions. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the new proposed governance mechanism is gradually becoming more experimental or testable. For example, concerns about voting indifference and demanding checks and balances are indicative of this.

* Path dependence and network effects.

Locking exists not only at the technical level but also at the organizational and cultural levels. Continuous learning, conversion and adaptation are very expensive and annoying. While technology is certainly conducive to increasing freedom of choice and action, in everyday practice it is always commensurate with the power of convenience, stability, and network effects.

* Social embedded.

Ultimately, everything that humans create is embedded and determined by existing social systems that encompass a range of cultural norms, prejudices, practices, and confrontations. To a certain extent, this explains the view that the core of every social transformation is the birth of power, which forces the society to move toward new and more complex forms of coercion and control.

Pushing to the extreme, this mode of thinking leads to a fate that is not only boring, but obviously not correct. Only by ignorance can one deny the previous technological wave and many social improvements brought about by social innovation. At the very least, this should also lead to considerable progress. But more optimistic is that experiments on chain consensus rules, mobile democracy, forecasting markets, secondary voting, adaptive arbitration bias, decentralized dispute resolution, and other new technologies that have not yet emerged can lead society more broadly. The era of positive transformation of governance.

Building a democratized data economy and achieving an unprecedented level of digital autonomy is a daunting task. Ensuring long-term governance challenges, such as agency capture, political exclusion, principal-agent problems, and gradual re-entry of corruption from the back door, make it even more challenging.

But what is said above only represents a partial mapping of key forces. It does not describe a predetermined or even possible forward path. For now, the complete loop hypothesis is just a hypothesis. Of course, the best way to leave a mark in the information age is to refute it.


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