As governance becomes more and more prevalent in discussions around consensus protocols, it is clear that Satoshi Nakamoto’s original vision of “one-CPU-one-vote” shaped the entire crypto industry into thinking governance centered around machines, not people.
But if artificial intelligence (AI) is indeed a threat to humanity as Elon Musk and Sam Altman frequently warn, why are we risking giving AI the political power of distributed networks?
Guaranteeing a fundamental right to privacy bent early blockchain design toward anonymity. While that approach helps fight financial corruption (political corruption is exploiting the internet in ways that can also be fought back with decentralized computation), the menace of AI is less abstract than it seems. The fact that social algorithms thrive on memes helps explain today’s political reality.
However, AI is leading us to even deeper questions and challenges. The most salient fact from contemporaneous politics is the growing shadow of doubt cast over the democratic process in the U.S.: did foreign influence win the most expensive election on the planet? Since the Peace of Westphalia in the 17th Century, nation-states have been a political construction based on the idea of non-domestic intervention.
Today, Tomorrow and the Future
At Democracy Earth, we are designing our consensus protocol using ERC-20 tokens with staking logic designed to validate Turing-impossible proofs. When the score for a given hash reaches the consensus threshold, a check on the claim “Are you Human?” is issued for a provided ERC-725 identity.
These open specifications allow the quick prototyping and deploying of these ideas on top of any EVM-compatible blockchain. Recent research and new protocols, such as the work by David Chaum of DigiCash on randomized voting, and AlgoRand led by zero-knowledge proof co-inventor Silvio Micalli, signal the relevance of cryptographic lotteries in keeping governance fair.
In our initial work implementing web-based digital democracies it became clear that whoever controls the registry of voters can manipulate the outcome of an election. Providing a decentralized consensus on human rights can replace this point of failure also present in traditional elections.
Why not simply use the legacy reputation of established institutions for human identities?
According to the World Bank there are 1.1 billion people in the planet lacking identity and the International Rescue Committee has identified over 65 million refugees. In Latin America, I have personally met with organizations of excluded workers that estimate 10 to 15 percent of their members lack an identity because their parents never registered them or have been abandoned during childhood.
Human consensus over the internet should be able to be deployed anywhere and provide tools able to measure the inclusive capacities of blockchain economies. If a consensus for human nodes gets widespread adoption, social applications that range from borderless democracies to encrypted peer to peer lending to Universal Basic Income can become a reality.
When John Perry Barlow wrote “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” in 1996, he ended his plead asking for a “…more humane and fair civilization of the mind.”
Here, humane is a powerful word, one being used to describe the aspirations of an age giving rise to digital governance. Decentralizing democracy matters as the nation-state keeps failing a growing global society. It is worth remembering the last words published by Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi: