Blockchain and Democracy
On November 29, I had the opportunity to be part of the roundtable titled "Reinventing Democracy – Can Blockchain Unveil a New Type of Democracy?" at the European Blockchain Convention. This is a summary of my speech.
The blockchain technology allows empowering its users. This empowerment process comes mainly from the removal of intermediaries and the embedded trust among parties. It seems rational then to think that the blockchain is a suitable technology to enhance our democracies. Some initiatives try to change the system using the blockchain at the technological core of the system. Bitnation, Aragon, Democracy Earth, Origin, Backfeed, Swarm City, District0x, Colony, and others, are all suggesting and experimenting with new methods of governance.
What do we need to change?
Today, democracy is under attack. The rise of inequality, the corporate political power, the lack of anti-trust regulations and the resulting concentration of markets powered by technology, the lack of citizenship being influential on passing new laws, the lack of commitment with political programs, the spread of a wild liberalism under the umbrella of a globalization that doesn't take into account the local communities and the social agenda, and the corruption, are only some of the causes of the decline of the quality of our democracies. The consequences are a rise of the populism, far-right movements, the authoritarianism, the lack of trust on institutions, and a growing dissatisfaction on democracy, that reaches 47% in the U.K., 51% in the USA, and 65% in France. The appearance of new blockchain-based organizations that promise to provide a different system of governance is also a consequence of this global dissatisfaction.
What can the blockchain do for the democracy?
In my opinion, the blockchain has the potential to fuel the regeneration of our democratic system. However, the blockchain is only a tool. To use it, we also need the wish to do it. So here is where I think that the approaches from Bitnation or Aragon are extreme. I think the change needs to be incremental, and not radical. Instead of suggesting new systems to replace the existing ones, we need to act from inside the system to transform it. The first step for this "inside of the system" means implementing blockchain-based parties. The blockchain community needs to show to people that it is possible to manage democracy differently. Flux in Australia, "El Partido de la red" in Argentina, the Pirate Party at different locations, and ADN in Romania, are infant examples of it.
A final remark
And let me finish with an observation. Several groups all over the world are developing, as said, the implementation of several systems of governance, most of them for managing distributed communities. However, who is building those systems? Are they programmers? Is this the right way to do it? Do we need to invite other roles? What are the politics and the ethics behind those systems? Do we need to be worried about the lack of presence of women in the blockchain community? Does it make sense that if we are designing the technology that is going to transform the world during decades, only half of the population is involved in this design?
Moreover, we live now with the threat of an electronic world based on algorithms that govern our lives. We need the blockchain to be a source of equality and democracy, not a tool for helping the authoritarianism and the citizen control to broaden.
Don't let the blockchain being colluder of a dystopian future!