> Everything you can imagine is real.<div style="text-align: right"> Pablo Picasso</div>
The past two centuries have brought us incredible advances. Powered by the values of The Enlightenment, we’ve made scientific breakthroughs and started to understand our place in the universe. We’ve broken the shackles of our ignorance and gained newfound freedoms. We’ve leveraged our mastery over technology to lift the majority of humanity from abject poverty.
Most of us don't suffer the same problems as our ancestors. We do not go to bed hungry. We do not live in abject poverty. Our ancestors lived under the power of absolute monarchs for the majority of recorded history. We now live more comfortably than the richest of those monarchs and have the power as individuals to decide how to live our lives.
Yet of course, all is not well.
What started as a liberating force with The Industrial Revolution has turned into soul-crushing 9-to-5 work and automaton generating education systems. We spend most of our lives feeling imprisoned in our workplaces, watching the clock tick so we can get paid. Our children fare no better; suffering the abuse of education systems that treat them like the cogs of a machine, producing parts to fit into a neatly designed, hierarchical structure of society fit for the 20th century.
While imprisoning ourselves in these outdated systems, our insatiable appetite for progress and greed were at work creating problems. The gains of our progress have come in an increasingly unequal manner, leading to societal and global divides. Standards of living in some parts of the world are closer to our ancestors' than in developed countries. While the rewards of our progress are shared unevenly, the problems are shared between all. Humanity faces a century full of challenges, including existential ones like the climate crisis.
Good thing we have responsible adults in charge who understand the complexities of governing 8 billion people within the context of exponential technological growth. Right? Right???
The reality is even if we had the best intending, most brilliant of leaders to guide us, we would not be able to solve these problems using our existing systems.
Our governing systems are outdated, bureaucratic messes. Trust in institutions is at all-time lows. Governments work not to advance the quality of life of their citizens, to bring social justice and happiness; but to protect the interests of those in power. The media does the same, serving private interests rather than the public’s. Our leaders do more to divide than to unite us. Society sometimes feels like it’s being pulled in opposing directions, ready to snap.
Capital and power have concentrated in the hands of the few. Benefiting from low-cost access to resources and global logistics networks, large corporations have been monopolizing entire industries. Large accumulations of capital diminish the possibility of fair competition for small businesses and individuals. Geographical distance, limitations to fund transfers and miscommunication handicaps interaction. Everyone else is left to play by the rules of the powerful, or be eaten.
> Big fish eat little fish -- always have, ~~always will.~~<div style="text-align: right"> Allan Dare Pearce</div>
These are the symptoms of the same fundamental problem. The way we organize our societies results in power structures that are highly concentrated among a small percentage of the population. This small percentage acts in their best, often misguided, interests. Public good is foregone. The people are left feeling powerless against the combined might of politicians, media, and capital.
Although many individuals are passionate about fighting climate change, income inequality, censorship and poverty while maintaining peace, they can’t coordinate effective solutions to these problems. What hope do individuals have to affect change when powerful institutions act against them? Is there any chance each can take meaningful small steps and have a grand total effect?
A decade ago, this was a dream. With blockchains, it’s a hopeful future that is just around the corner. With blockchains we rewrite the transactional layer. How does value exchange hands? What gets paid? How? We can embed incentives directly at the point of payment to incentivize certain actions while disincentivizing others. We have the tools to experiment in new models of organization emerging from the transactions we design. We can take a holistic approach using token networks to align individual goals with public good. We can build better functioning organizations, communities, and societies.
Next: [[2- The Digital and Beyond]]