Szabo’s Law, Crypto-Libertarianism, Techno-Utopias, & Decentralized Governance Part 1

  • Not too long before that Ethereum’s Vlad Zamfir wrote a blog post launching similar critique against the idea of passive “code is law” governance seeking to replace the agora and political processes of human decision-making with autonomous instances of pre-programmed self-executing recipes and feedback mechanisms on top of a protocol that is “set in stone”.
  • As a technological medium in a way co-extensive with our central nervous system, the hyper-connected domain of cyberspace has always been, due to its nature, problematic to integrate within existing legal frameworks and jurisdictions, as well as slippery when it comes to negotiating agreements and rules governing relationships and behaviors of all the various involved entities and actors in this essentially open, rhizomatic and smooth (to use the Deleuzian vocabulary) space.
  • Contrary to Szabo’s libertarian-leaning and, according to Zamfir, “aggressive legal posture” and “anti-social behavior”, Vlad sees distributed crypto-institutions not as something so fundamentally or radically different from the already instituted ones, but rather an attempt and an opportunity to re-build institutions anew, bottom-up and do our best to prevent them from becoming corrupted from within or captured by interests that don’t align with those of the communities that have worked to build them or the public whose confidence
  • Additionally, software is never bug-free, exploitable vulnerabilities are a fact of life and there’s never a guarantee that what seems to work today will not be obsolete just a year later – therefore, things like “smart contracts” and dApps, irreversible and immutable by definition and designed to secure and handle large sums of value, should be scrutinized much more carefully by many more eyes from many different angles of expertise and kinds of exposure.
  • As such, the DAO fork that split the chain in two in order to reverse the hack is considered to have been a violation of the immutability principle by some and a case of intervention under circumstances critical enough to constitute a “state of exception”, a potential existential risk, by others.
  • It could be said exemplifies the above in the context of governance and law – a shift from the usual, commonplace parliamentary democracy (for example) to sudden emergency mode “state of exception” where decisions need be taken and executed fast, unhindered by the usual (democratic) political processes.

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