Marketplaces: Unveiling the math behind society and what to do about it — with James Currier

BOUNDARYLESS CONVERSATIONS PODCAST — SEASON 1 EP #2

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BOUNDARYLESS CONVERSATIONS PODCAST — SEASON 1 EP #2

Marketplaces: Unveiling the math behind society and what to do about it — with James Currier

James Currier says that where entrepreneurship and non-zero-sum game mindsets are celebrated, there will be the winners of the coming decades. The transition towards a world organized in marketplaces and networks is not going to be swift though: bureaucracies will fight back, society will hold on as networks disclose the math that powers the economy, power laws that make the fittest fit better and the others fall in the background. Big changes are needed and leaders must show up.

Podcast Notes

In this episode, we have a boundaryless conversation with Arthur Brock, chief architect of Holochain. Holochain is an alternative to blockchain for running fully Peer-to-Peer distributed applications and is shaping the social dynamics of our emerging post-industrial economy.

In the show we widely cover the concept of Unenclosable carriers and how new technologies that are more inherently contextual and agent centred — instead of universal and global consensus-based — may open up new possibilities for coordination and organising, enabling governance through feedback loops.

Here are some important links from the conversation:

Key Insights

1. Designing and developing new kinds of Organizations depends on new technological tools that may have a different affordance, and therefore lend themselves to a different type of organising

2. Holochain — through its advocacy for local state (vs. global consensus) and agent-centric models (vs. data-centric) provides somewhat a counterbalance to the universalising nature of technology. If Blockchain could be seen as a monoculture, Holochian might be seen as the ecology of technology-enabled, decentralised organising.

3. According to Arthur little energy and time will need to be invested in incumbents and how they adapt to the transition: they will be inherently slow. Instead, energy should be put into figuring out the question of social coherence through the protocols that coordination through “unenclosable carriers” enable.

4. Arthur pictures technological tools and consciousness develop in tandem, using the analogue of a ladder: “one side of the ladder is consciousness, and you know, the story, the vision, the mythos, the ways that you think and the other is the embodied practical physical tools”.

Boundaryless Conversations Podcast is about exploring the future of large scale organising by leveraging on technology, network effects and shaping narratives. We explore how platforms can help us play with a world in turmoil, change, and transformation: a world that is at the same time more interconnected and interdependent than ever but also more conflictual and rivalrous.

This podcast is also available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, Google Podcasts, SoundcloudStitcherCastBoxRadioPublic, and other major podcasting platforms.

Transcript

This episode is hosted by Boundaryless Conversation Podcast host Simone Cicero with co-host, Stina Heikkilä.

The following is a semi-automatically generated transcript which has not been thoroughly revised by the podcast host or by the guest. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.

Simone Cicero:
Hello everyone, Simone here, together with Stina Heikkila today, we are co-hosting an interview with Arthur Brock. Arthur is the chief architect of Holochain. Holochain is an alternative to blockchain for running fully peer-to-peer distributed applications and is shaping the social dynamics of our emerging post-industrial economy. Arthur has created more than 100 designs for multi-currency systems, and his software company, has built and deployed dozens of those systems. Committed to bringing intelligence to social architectures, Arthur began to unlock the social DNA by which groups operate and uncovered the critical role of currencies are carriers of their social DNA. In our conversation, we dig deeper into the notion of unenclosable carriers as a central concept of the Holochain perspective that describes communication patterns and coordination capacity, where intermediaries are unable to enclose the information have by carriers. Unenclosable carriers open up new possibilities for coordination and organising, enabling agent centric models and governance through feedback loops. These communication systems have the potential to be more centred around the local context and local agents contributing to radically new ways of organising. Hope you enjoy the show. Don’t forget to check out the links in the show notes. Here we go with the first episode. So as a first start of the conversation, I would give the floor to Arthur basically to explain us briefly why it’s really important to understand technology as a language and why it’s very important to understand that this idea of uncloseable carriers that they are, that is so central to the Holochain perspective.

Arthur Brock:
Thank you, Simone. Yeah, it’s easy to talk about technology and get lost in sort of the fascination and complexity of all of the kind of technology that we’ve built. But I would like to kind of boil the conversation down back to some more basic concepts, like language itself is a form of technology that we use to coordinate with each other. Writing is a form of technology. We’re not talking about massive supercomputers, we’re actually just talking about the basic dynamics of communication and coordination. And all of this comes down to some very basic patterns, which is essentially that we encode meaning or messages or signals onto carriers that carry that information to others. Right. Right now I am speaking I’m pushing air through my vocal cords. And if you are in the same area as me, there’s nothing that somebody could do to stop my words from reaching somebody else’s ears. But right now I’m, you know, pushing air through my vocal cords vibrating, sent making vibrations in the air and they’re being captured by a microphone that is now going over, you know a website’s software to record things and that kind of stuff. And there’s many intermediaries who could control the message that’s happening right now. They could intercept it that could shut it off, you know, you’re going to end up with a stored copy of this recording and who knows how you might edit it to change the meaning of what I said, for example. I’m not suggesting you will, it’s just that it’s actually possible. And I think this is a very simple dynamic that we don’t have words for in a shared space and for me, it’s a very core concept of this idea of the unenclosability of a carrier or the enclosability of the carrier itself, the means by which we communicate or coordinate. And, you know, we’ll probably talk about this more but part of what we’re working on right now, with Holochain is really the means to have unenclosable carriers at all scales. Because right now, we’re boxed in by certain power dynamics of enclosed carriers. And it’s even hard to see those because they’re kind of overt and, sorry, covert and hidden power dynamics.

Simone Cicero:
Can you, let’s say explain better these dynamics that are hard get: the dynamics of enclosability that all our systems are subject to.

Arthur Brock:
Sure. So, on the most basic level, but like I was giving the example of, you know, for hundreds of thousands of years, people really only had the carrier of sound waves in terms of language and coordination, communication. Also light waves, you could signal each other give hand signals, that sort of thing. But fundamentally, the power dynamics of those were that, like I was saying, you couldn’t stop a message from reaching somebody else’s ears. If you were gathered together at a, you know, council fire. The only way to stop somebody from being heard was to use some very overt ways of, you know, shutting them up or shouting over them or things like that. And thet use of power becomes very visible to everyone else, or maybe you could say that abuse of power. But, when we as soon as we take that communication and we change the carrier, for example, we write it down. Now, that becomes an enclosure. If we want to, you know, send orders to our generals in the field because we’re coordinating some big Empire, well that message can be intercepted. It can be changed because it can be enclosed. Right? And where it just changes the dynamics of things a lot. If I carve it into the cave wall, now somebody can stand guard at the entrance of the cave and, and decide who can see it. And it’s really important stuff in terms of the evolution of our coordinative capacity as humans, right? A lot of our earliest sort of primal tribal imprinting is on the dynamics of this completely democratic, if you will, unenclosable carrier of sound waves. But then there’s a limitation to this to our ability to scale right? If you’re not there when I said it, then you didn’t hear it. Right? So we have a time bound issue and there’s only so loud that I can speak to reach so many people, right. So we have a sort of a space bound issue as well. And inventions of things like writing actually, let us cross those those boundaries of time and space. And they let us operate on different scales. You couldn’t have empires and, and governments and, you know, that type of thing, operating on only oral communication. And so, while we’ve solved those problems of scale, we’ve introduced other dynamics, even with just, you know, originally just the evolution of writing itself and who had access to literacy and the sort of power dynamics there; who had access to knowledge and books and that kind of thing. Well, those things have carried forward in other ways who has access to, you know, the medium by which they can broadcast their message. And part of what we’ve seen with the internet, for example, is a change in some of those power dynamics. Because again, the internet, by part of its design was supposed to be a way to have a network resilient to attack and shut down. Right. So the idea was, it was very hard to stop messages from flowing because there’s no central point that they have to go through. And so, the internet has, in many ways, given us a glimpse of what it is in modern times to have an unenclosable carrier, except it’s only partially that way, at the moment, right, because there are still points of enclosure of domain names and and root servers for DNS resolution and IP addresses and, you know, the and a semi monopoly of telecom companies that you have to go through to get access to the end. And things like that there’s still many points of enclosure, even when we try to do things that are very peered and democratic. And so there’s still a gap for us to fill to really get to the kinds of means that somebody cannot shut down without a very overt use of power that becomes very evident.

Simone Cicero:
Just offering a reflection here so that we can explore more of this space. So this conversation about, you know, it’s a conversation at the end about trust no, and essentially trust somehow towards the managers of the caveats, let’s say. So, for example, if we talk about the internet, there is a certain amount of trust that we, as users and companies entrust, let’s say, to authorities that govern the communication system. So for example, I don’t know the name domain name resolvers or, you know, other types of authorities even the carriers themselves. And also, we know that there are dynamics in the market for which essentially, at some point, you derogate a function, like the function of creating and maintaining the infrastructure for compensation to these third parties, in exchange somehow for their capability to run the communication space in a way that is cheap, accessible and ubiquitous. So somehow, we trust our carriers or Internet Service Providers enough for the service that they provide us to a certain cost, let’s say. So, we also know that today the blockchain, for example, the traditional blockchain system have been trying to address this idea of untrusted spaces. So what is the difference in how Holochain and the Holochain perspective addresses this topic?

Arthur Brock:
Yeah. I think it’s a really crucial issue that you point to around trust because I’m not suggesting that just because a carrier is enclosable, that the people who control the carrier are evil. However, there is a tendency when you have systems that concentrate power to have those power concentrations eventually become corrupted, even if they didn’t start out that way. And so, yeah, the blockchain is an example of a an attempt to try to address this in an architectural approach where you are trying to achieve what they call trustlessness. But really, I think that’s a kind of confusing word. I think the point is that you don’t have to have a central party intermediary, right? You’re still trusting in various things. You’re trusting in math and cryptography and, you know, computer communications and, you know, the algorithms and different things like that. It’s not actually that there’s trustlessness. What there is, is the ability to kind of push that power out to the edges and not have a central party that you’re forced to trust, even if you don’t have a personal trust in them. And so that’s, I think, one of the kind of very engaging myths around blockchain is an opportunity to take the corporations that are, you know, basically selling us to address advertisers and, you know, performing various forms of surveillance, you know, making their money off of various forms of surveillance of us and being able to take them out of the middle. Being able to take governments out of the middle of our money systems and other types of things. You know, I think that’s that’s part of the myths that’s so engaging around blockchain. And the question is, and I think this question is really vital to the work that you do around platform design is about scale. And for me, blockchain has repeated some of the patterns of centralising carriers without really thinking about it, with enenclosing carriers without really thinking about it. And I would say one of those things actually has to do with the concept of consensus: global consensus and the need to do distributed computing or decentralised computing around global consensus. I would assert is actually a form of enclosure. And so all the patterns of doing blockchain computing that require global consensus have extreme limitations to scale, right? Like part of the beauty of some of the patterns that we can learn from in nature and physics, biology, that kind of thing is that there is no global consensus. There is high degree of autonomy and diversity happening, but they actually scale. You have trillions of cells in your body working together, to do the dance that you do, right, to move your hands to move your mouth, to take you to work, you know. And it isn’t a power hierarchy. There’s not like a boss, a cell that’s in charge of all of the others. It’s actually a complex coordination through a whole bunch of different carriers have coordination and communication between the cells. And for me, I think there’s so much that we can learn from nature and from even the cells in our body, like we tend to have a bit of an arrogant view of our status in, the place of that evolution. And we sort of view ourselves as so intelligent and yet, there are things that the cells in our body accomplish, far better than we do, right. Like, you know, we build a city and get stuck in traffic jams just trying to get to work, you know, to and from work every day and whatever. Like that we tend to build architectures, not optimised for coordination, at scale, collaboratively, and yet the cells in our body are optimised for that. So there’s a lot we can learn about those kinds of patterns, especially when we’re trying to do something like the goals of blockchain, right, to be able to operate without central authority on other scales. And that’s why we’ve built Holochain as an alternative to this that actually uses the patterns that we find in nature to essentially provide the ability to have an unenclosable carrier at all of these scales, so that we can build applications, we can share data, we can coordinate, we can engage governance, you know, any of these different types of things. It’s not just about currency or cryptocurrencies.

Simone Cicero:
That’s very interesting. I think that there’s one one thing that comes to my mind, that is somehow you know, when you think about all the chain and this difference between, you know, going beyond this idea of the need to achieve global consensus. Somehow you’re saying: okay, when we get over this idea that we need to achieve this goal. consensus what kind of ideas came up, okay, what new different organisations we design based on this idea that we don’t want to achieve a global consensus. So basically inherently starting to think about something that is more local and more centred around the agent as Holochain apparently is. So I have two questions, let’s say hanging on at this moment and I would like to start from one. On basically these two questions one is more into you know, what kind of organisations we can see, we can imagine, we can we can think about when we start from these different principles and important starting points. And on the other hand, how do you achieve this change, you know, this transformation starting from addressing the technological problem. So, why starting from creating a new technology instead of starting to create, for example, new capabilities or a new vision or a new narrative or new, whatever.

Arthur Brock :
Yeah, I think there’s there’s a really beautiful question behind what you’re saying there. There are beautiful ideas behind the question about why are we spending our time creating a new technology? There’s a bunch of levels to this answer, which I want to say I’m not some kind of techno utopian that thinks that somehow technology will magically solve our problems. And yet, again, in this larger use of the word technology, or even language as a technology, obviously it’s very fundamental to our coordination. And I think that there’s a tendency to look at alternatives to this like, as if we can just raise people’s consciousness and, you know, that will shift our problems, solve our problems or, you know, we can just educate people or we could just share a vision, for example, that would, change the game. Well, the the difficulty for me is that when I look at our planetary situation, I think we are bumping into planetary boundaries and we are having breakdowns at a planetary scale. What I mean by that is, think about it this way: what’s the difference between getting an answer wrong on a math test or having a heart attack? Right, there’s a breakdown of the physical living system that you want to intervene with in the case of a heart attack. In the case of getting an answer wrong on the math test, there’s a conceptual issue that you’re trying to address and you want to correct a way of thinking. And I think the problem that we’re having right now is not just problems in our ways of thinking, there are certainly some problems in our ways of thinking. But what we have is actual embodied physical systemic problems, you know, whether we’re looking at you know, ocean acidification and radiation levels and topsoil depletion and climate change, and, you know, loss of rain forests and co2 levels — and we can go down a large list of things — but we’re actually having breakdowns in living systems. And in order to address them those breakdowns, we actually have to be able to change our patterns of behaviour at collective scale. And while sharing visions and ideas can be inspiring, they don’t tend to change our collective patterns, right. For example, if the fundamental of our economy at the moment relies on converting natural resources to numbers in the bank account. You know, are we really going to be able to shift patterns by inspiring people, when meanwhile to pay the rent, they still have to, you know, mine the coal or chop down the trees or, you know, when fundamentally we have an economy that’s built on on top of these physical systems. I think that what is required, the only alternative is to have new ways of coordinating on scale. And with those new ways of coordinating will be new visions. Some of them will require new visions to engage with new stories, new myths, but they also have to be able to be embodied in practical usable tools that people can use to alter their behaviour and then we will see new ways of coordinating and we already are, right. Like, even though I contrast blockchain and Holochain, right, we’re seeing all kinds of activity in the blockchain space that shows some new patterns of coordinating. Now, a lot of that stuff is still stuck in kind of the speculative gambling of the, you know, financial economy. So the derivatives on top of the real economy, if you will, but there’s the possibility of tying it in to real economies, real productive economy type stuff, which is part of what we’re trying to do with the currencies we’re building on top of Holochain. Holochain doesn’t have a currency built in. But like we’re building one that’s backed by hosting power. We have some partnerships emerging for currencies backed by energy, food, transportation. I don’t have one lined up for housing yet, but I’d like to, so where you can have currencies backed by real human needs, which is very different than the kind of speculative gambling currencies that we’re seeing, you know, and initially emerge on blockchain. And that gives us again, different possibilities of coordinating on scale and different foundation to build an economy on. So, I hope that that answers the question. I guess I have this picture of, of a ladder, where one side of the ladder, the rail, one rail of the ladder is consciousness, and you know, the story, the vision, the mythos, the ways that you think and the other is the embodied practical physical tools. And you have to be able to kind of build up both sides of the ladder at once, right, you know, on par with each other. And then you can build have rungs that go across in the form of practical projects that embody both a changed consciousness as well as a new set of capacities embodied in the tools. What tends to happen if you don’t bring up both sides of the ladder at the same time is you change people’s consciousness but then if what they do on a day to day basis is still all the old things, they just fall back into the previous patterns of thinking. Whereas if you give people new tools that can give you new capacities, and you don’t change their consciousness, then they just use the new tools to do the old things, and they don’t change how they’re doing things. So you actually need both at the same time and I feel like this whole concept of unencloseable carriers is a little bit subtle and strange and there’s not people that have their eyes on the same dynamics that we do. So we’re trying to provide some alternatives that we think allow for these different patterns and don’t accidentally carry forward a legacy of some of the broken patterns of control that we’re trying to create alternatives to.

Simone Cicero:
No, I think one very interesting point that that comes to my mind when we’re having this conversation is this idea of technological affordability, you know. So one new technology has a certain affordability, it lends itself to be used in a certain way. And so I got your point whenyou say, you know, we don’t just need to do the new narratives and new stories, but we also need to create maybe tools that somehow lend themselves to be used to design different systems. So I totally get this idea. And I think it’s very interesting, you know, because we know that technology and systems and organisations are really, I would say, that they are connected in this way that, you know, Marshall McLuhan explained very well that you know, a new technology makes a new organisation possible and a new organisation makes a new technology possible. So, you know, somehow I get this point, one thing that I would like to explore with you is: I get to this idea that Holochain lends itself to be used to design systems that are inherently more local and more centred around the agents and the players that design and play with the system. So, for me, this resonates very much with this idea that we are very clear now that we need to overcome this universalizing idea of technology that makes it possible to think about how we live, you know, just in this very monocultural way. So can you explain and explore a little bit why you believed that a new local and more contextual way to create organisations can be, or should have been, empowered and that’s why you you’re building Holochain.

Arthur Brock:
Yes. So I was talking before about global consensus and part of the need for global consensus has to do with thinking in terms of global state instead of local state. And you’ll hear us talk sometimes about the difference between Holochain and other decentralised computational systems such as blockchain is a difference between agent-centric and data-centric. And so Holochain is what we call agent-centric: it really is focused on that you can only change your state, your local state, and you’re the only one who can change your local state. And then what we have is a way for that state information to propagate throughout the system based on a shared set of rules, so every Holochain application has a set of rules for we call it the DNA actually, a set of rules that all of the cells in that order organism, if you will, the nodes on that network, run that set of rules. And we know that they have that set of rules because we literally hash the code, right? So we know we can, you can confirm that you have an identical set of rules as anybody else. And this is very similar to what the body does with DNA, right, the body has all kinds of mechanisms for doing error correction and making sure that the DNA is copied accurately. So that every cell starts off with the same instruction set with the same set of rules. And now, different cells may express some of those instructions differently: they may become a bone cell versus a brain cell or a liver cell. But they all have that rule set and you could say that they mutually enforce that rule set, they have an immune system, to be able to detect rule breakers and get rid of rule breakers, if you will. Well, that’s very much the design of Holochain. It’s mutually enforced rules on this DNA. And each cell, each agent, each node can only change its local state. And then we publish those changes to a distributed hash table, or DHT, which is the same kind of technology that BitTorrent uses, like for file sharing and that kind of stuff. So it’s been around for quite a while. But it’s a way of having a shared database, if you will, where everybody doesn’t have to hold all of the data. But you can have a way of finding the data across all of the nodes. So you don’t have to have a global ledger, a global state that everybody has to have a copy of and keep in sync. Because that requires massive computation and — frankly — doesn’t scale as you add more nodes becomes x, you get exponentially increasing overhead. Were with Holochain, as you add more nodes, once you’ve passed your redundancy, your target redundancy threshold, if that’s 20 copies of the data, or 50 copies of the data, once you’ve passed 20 nodes or 50 nodes, then the workload at that point doesn’t increase per node. They’re just carrying their portion of their little shared piece and dividing up the work. And then you do mutual validation according to the DNA rules. I changed my state locally and then I published that information, but all the other nodes have the same DNA, they can check whether my state change was valid, and you only propagate valid state changes. And you can flag invalid ones. And anybody can trust just their own copy of the DNA to confirm whether that action was valid or invalid. And then people can block malicious agents that are doing invalid things because you know that their DNA is corrupted. So it’s, in some ways, what I’m saying is very simple. I mean, I’m using biological language and doesn’t have to be as complex as we have made some of the really sophisticated systems around blockchain like, you know, a theorems Patricia trees and all the things that they’re doing to try to make global state scale. There’s a lot of sophistication in there. But it may be kind of barking up the wrong tree, it may be focused on that the data has independent existence independent truth. That makes it data centric, right? And we’re suggesting that actually, data doesn’t have independent truth. It doesn’t have first order existence. Data is always an assertion by an agent. It always came from somewhere. Somebody said this was true. And in Holochain, we just keep the data tied to that model, right. We actually know who said what and was that a valid thing to say according to the rules. And then that allows us to have each application function as its own peer-to-peer network where everybody enforces, you know, mutually enforcing the rules that are embedded in that DNA and that application’s DNA. So, yes, local state comes first, local agency comes first: the ability to always change yourself. But then there’s also this shared set of agreements, right, the protocols DNA about what is it we’re doing together that allow us to accept people’s local state changes or not, as a part of the game we’re coordinating together.

Simone Cicero:
I see a lot of these overlap with, you know, this mimicking nature somehow and so when we were talking, I had this type of thinking in mind where I was comparing a blockchain into a monoculture, and Holochain mode into this idea of an ecology, where somehow you mentioned that data is a science and it’s only valid in a context. So you cannot have absolute data, absolute meaning in data. It always needs to be filtered through these local context. Okay, so, so that’s very exciting I believe because somehow I think when you were also describing the vision, behind the Holochain, I always I also got this feeling of an idea that embeds the idea of limits. So you don’t want to create these ultra scalable, exponentially scalable systems, you just just want to design something that embeds an idea of limits of localness of, you know, certain meaning that kind of scale everywhere no, so it’s really resonating with this idea of overcoming globalising and overcoming universalizing technologies or approaches that I think we started to recognise as one of the crises of modernity. So I’m really really intrigued intellectually, what I would like to explore with you maybe as as we approach the last part of our conversation: really, what kind of organising — either you are seeing being explored or you believe it will be explored — for which Holochain is the perfect fit and what kind of new types of organisations are going to be about how are they going to be managing and govern. In what ways are these new types of organisations and new ways of organising, connected with and differ from what we have now? And also, for example, these large scale global platforms or traditional incumbent institutions, you know, what is going to be the new space of organising that Holochain is going to enable?

Arthur Brock:
I think the what we’re going to see is the sort of low hanging fruit because it’s familiar to us. So, for example, we have web 2.0 kinds of concepts. We have social networks and, you know, basically the kinds of places that content is contributed by user to the value comes from the users. I think we’re going to see very quickly, those are the easiest things to switch over to more of like a web 3.0 kind of format, where you can just take the centralised entity right out of the middle. So, for example, you have things like I don’t know, like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and eBay and even Wikipedia, right? All of these things are coming from, the value comes from individuals. And yet, we’re basically all giving our data over to some centralised corporation that tends to make its money off of selling our information to advertisers, and targeting us in ways that we may not want to be targeted, potentially even compromising our data to who knows intelligence agencies, or actually, who knows where. If you actually look into how many groups our data gets shared with it can be a little scary. So those I think are some of the earliest things that we see moving over to Holochain as purely distributed apps where we can operate in a peer-to-peer manner without the without the, you know, surveillance in the middle, if you will. But I think there’s a whole layer of things that come behind that, that we barely can even see coming, like you’re talking about in terms of patterns of organising, and governance and, what I’m really hoping for, like what I envision or want from Holochain is for it to be able to function as kind of a carrier for new social DNA. Like when, DNA showed up on the planet, that was a big change for the planet, the ability to, you know, encode cellular instructions, if you will, into patterns of amino acids, you know, what was kind of a big deal, and there was a Cambrian explosion of life forms and a big diversity have experiments emerged. And some of those experiments failed. But a lot of the biodiversity that we have today still stems from that sort of explosion of creativity. And I’m hoping for a similar kind of explosion of creativity of social DNA of ways of organising with each other on all scales. And I think that the some of those experiments will be bad experiments will fail, not turn out to be working patterns, but that there can be an explosion of new patterns that we haven’t been able to see before. Because we’ve only been able to operate in kind of enclosed carriers when we’ve had that centralised trust. And so it’s hard for me to even imagine all of the possibilities, but I’m excited about them.

Simone Cicero:
So definitely I see this idea that somehow, you know, you are into this journey of creating new tools, so that these kind of non-linear and a very, you know, different and very, I would say, you know, known monolithic organisations are going to be appearing and been tried out by people. So somehow I feel like that is this idea that if we created these tools, we will see a possibility for new experiments to flourish. So, it’s really an experimental approach that we are that I see you guys are taking to enable new forms of organising. You know, as a final reflection to this conversation of love. If you can add maybe some reflections on, you know, this idea that sometimes we are naive about governance and we tend to look into governance as a power structure. And instead in some previous conversation you said, you know, I see governance more as, as a feedback loop for systems to improve. So maybe we can end the conversation with a note on this reflection and how this is somehow embodied by by Holochain.

Arthur Brock:
Sure. One of my most popular blog posts was called “The Future of Governance is not Governments”. And it starts to sort of take apart some of how we think of governance and really looking at it more like what is the governance involved in living systems, right, like there’s kind of two main drivers here. One is the being able to move toward things we want: steer well toward things that we want, and to steer away from dangers or to be able to kind of hold coherence of patterns that we’ve found that work. So one is inherently a little bit progressive moving toward progress towards something new. And the other is a little bit inherently conservative, like conserving what we know works. And we tend to like fracture our politics around those two things as if they’re opposed instead of that they’re always present, we actually need both. We need to keep moving forward, the things that are working, but we also need to move forward toward the things that we want and be able to respond to change and especially a rapidly changing world. You know, you’re in Italy right now. So you’re responding very quickly. Right now to, you know, COVID-19, the spread of Corona virus, this is going to test our limits. I think to respond to change quickly, right, I think we’re already seeing we’re not perfectly well organised for that, and we’ll see how we do. But there’s just starting to play out now, right. But we tend to think of decision-making as this highly sort of rational linear process and who are the decision makers and, you know, how do you go about making decisions properly. But I think a lot of the times decision-making is much sloppier than that. I mean, we think about it like, okay, you get out of bed and, you know, stumble to the shower and brush your teeth and put on some clothes and, you know, then you get in your car and you’re like, “Okay, now which route am I going to take to work” and you notice in that moment that you’re making a decision, and yet, you’ve just made millions of little decisions. Before that moment, right, like you were being driven maybe by a lot by habit by pattern you weren’t consciously thinking about every footstep. You were doing this really complex dance of balancing while throwing yourself forward and staying upright and, you know. To a baby, each footstep is more of a decision: how far should I be stepping what you know, like they’re, they’re learning all of that. And I think in some ways, good decision-making should kind of be like that where it gets pushed, the patterns that work gets pushed almost to a subconscious level. And we’re only doing kind of conscious governance on the edge where we’re having to navigate things that are unfamiliar, that either moving in responding to change or moving toward goals strategically. And even then, a lot of the times we don’t even know what the boundaries of a decision are and what the interconnectedness of our choices are. You know, the idea is we can write a piece of legislation and vote on it or, you know, write a policy and have everybody agree to it. But everything is far more interconnected to that. And I guess what I would wish for is for us to think about decision-making less as an over wielding of power and in more like a an organic, building of patterns of habits that actually allow us to steer. I think we would end up with better decision-making infrastructure if we stopped turning it into a power game and political conflict. If we were to understand that this need to conserve and to progress are always present and instead of like acting like one is right and the other is wrong, then polarising our politics around it, I think we would be moving toward very different patterns on large scale. And again, this is the kind of stuff that I’m hoping that things like Holochain can enable, where governance becomes a little bit more maybe like reading your Facebook feed, like social feed or some sort where you are responding to things that you’re interested in. you’re liking things you’re commenting and your expertise and interest is being tapped into for the collective whole for the wisdom of the collective whole. But it isn’t about the overt wielding of power. It’s about the feedback loops for wiser steering.

Simone Cicero:
And do you — and then I will hand this to Stina who I think also has a question — I have a last small point on this conversation that we just had. So how do you see, you know, you mentioned, we need to both keep the things that are working and somehow experiment with new things. And how do you see this transformation and this evolution between the current power structure based decision making into this more fluid and organic decision making when we talk and when we think about existing incumbents, but I would say public institutions or even private ones. So, how do you see that evolution playing out when you think about existing institutions? So, if I can say, how can you I would you see, for example, a local government or a corporation to embed Holochain inside its own ways of working and ways of relating to the market and the world.

Arthur Brock:
It’s a great question, because I think change is coming faster than we realise that we’re in a process right now of exponential acceleration. And there’s a lot of, again, kind of political polarisation around change and how do we get the incumbents out of power and that kind of thing. And I think, in many ways, what we’re dealing with is a more fundamental existential thing which has to do with what things can adapt to the accelerating rate of change, and what things can’t. So, for example, I think we are watching the unravelling right now of industrial age, business and finance and governance, actually governments, if you will. That those worked for the rate of change of an industrial age, but they don’t work, the structures and patterns don’t work for the rate of change at an information age. And so, to me very little energy needs to be invested in fighting against those systems. What our energy needs to be invested in is how do we organise in more rapidly responsive evolving ways? Because if we cannot coordinate with each other, at the speed of which we need to be responding to changing events, and we have, like I was saying earlier, planetary scale changing events we need to be responding to then, you know, we eliminate ourselves in this process, right, there’s big changes that can happen environmentally and so we have to be able to respond. And I think what we’re going to see is that, if you think just in use the technology analogy for a moment, as language is a technology, right? Governance is also a technology, right? our judicial system is a technology for resolving problems and conflicts, right? But if you think about that, at what speed can legislators write new laws, and what speed can these laws be propagated? And then patterns of behaviour change from these laws? And what speed can the courts resolve the conflicts around these laws? We’re looking at a very slow CPU, a very slow processor, right? Not very much bandwidth can go through they’re not compared to the rate of change that’s happening like you’re just starting to see, you know, countries — mainstream countries — are starting to have laws to respond to blockchain, right? It’s now been in existence for approaching, you know, what we’ve got 11–12 years, something like that. And we’re just now starting to have governments realise that they may have to do something about this. But meanwhile, by the time they can enact laws about blockchain, there’s probably going to be the next generation of technology beyond blockchain. And they’ll make a bunch of laws that are targeting the wrong thing and the wrong constraints and the wrong problems, because the community would have solved these problems faster than a government could respond to them, right? And so when I look at how do we deal with the incumbent powers, I think, although they certainly control a lot of information and assets, I think what we’re going to see is that when we have the ability to coordinate, unenclosably on all scales, they’re kind of just going to get left behind, we’re going to move faster than they can. And that creates new patterns of emergence of new kinds of assets and wealth and resources. And I think that starts to tip the power scale. So I think very little energy needs to be invested in kind of fighting against the incumbents, and far more energy just needs to be focused on creating coherence, social coherence, which is challenging, it’s hard to do. But when as we do that, then we replace the patterns that are broken.

Simone Cicero:
Definitely. Stina you have a question, right, that you wanted to add?

Stina Heikkila:
Yes. So yeah, a lot of interesting response and I think you already fore came the answers to the reflection and the question that I had, but I was very interested in this last bit when we talked about this sort of going from this idea of a global consensus to more diverse sort of subjectivities and the local state of the agent-centric. Inevitably, one wonders: who are the agents behind this and what is needed for people and local subjectivities to be able to sort of participate in this. I still have a feeling that there is some kind of language barrier and maybe similar to when we moved from sort of more into an industrial economy to a knowledge economy. Now things are happening very fast, so there’s some kind of literacy that will also be nuanced depending on the local, physical, local context. So I would be very curious to hear about that participation and by whom and how, in a way.

Arthur Brock:
Yeah, there’s certainly a kind of literacy in the early stages of this, where there there is a kind of barrier to participation and it is a little bit of a, you know, a techno elite barrier, if you will. In that, you know, right now, to build Holochain Apps, you have to be a developer, a coder, you know, to build smart contracts to build, you know, applications on blockchain. You know, you have to be a coder. And, you know, we’re working on building some RAD tools, rapid application development tools to make the process simpler involve less coding. But you still have to be able to kind of think that way of what rules are you encoding in the system? You know, but I think we’ll see this evolve over time where that hurdle gets lowered and there’s an opportunity for more people to participate in the creation and invention process. And I think, even within things that get created and invented, there’s going to be governance within these applications, if you will, that can engage people in what are the changes that you need to see happening to the rules that we’re operating by. And then, you know, forms of governance and feedback from the community itself get incorporated into the next iteration, the next generation of the application DNA. And part of the beauty of it being an unenclosable carrier is if the community wants to go one way, and the original developers want to go another way. Well, as an agent centric system, agents are still in control of their data and their identity. And they can choose which version of software they adopt and they can fork. And you can have part of the community go one way and then part of the community go another way. And I think that is also a part of setting up an environment for healthy evolution. But yeah, who are the agents part of what we’re trying to do with Holochain is have, you know, the technology be so lightweight that you can be running it on your cell phone, you don’t have to have some special mining gear, you know, having shelves of servers and burning lots of electricity and that kind of stuff. It’s the kind of thing where you could be running dozens of different peer-to-peer apps on your cell phone. And so that barrier, obviously, I mean, strangely enough cell phone usage, smartphone usage, has really kind of breached that digital divide, issue and gotten far more people connected. So if we can have full peers, full agents on cell phones, then I think we have the ability to reach, you know, anywhere that really the internet is reaching. But it’s that initial kind of creativity that’s shaping the space where you have to be a little bit of a technologist or coder and be able to build some of those things. But, but I think of it like a DVD player: almost anybody can use a DVD player, very few people can build one, right? But what it takes to know how to build one is a little bit different. And so I’m hoping that we can lower the threshold of what it takes to build peer to peer apps, but everybody should be able to use them.

Simone Cicero:
That sounds like a very good note to end the conversation on, really on this note of trying to develop tools to democratise access to design and development of these some of these technologies, seeing them as overlapped with new ways of organising. So I would like to really thank you for this conversation Arthur. I think, I hope we also gave a good overall coverage on on the very ideas and the very concepts that are behind your quest to build a new technology for new ways of organising. It was super interesting conversation for me and I would like to thank you again for this time.

Arthur Brock:
Thank you so much.