Dave and I were reflecting on the buzz around DAO governance and low voter turnout. This came up, in part, after reading about CabinDAO's first proposal receiving ~15% member engagement (1). While there's some sensible thinking and modeling out there that validate this lower-level engagement (2), we got to thinking about the concept of voting in the first place (3).
As we talked, Dave recalled from his recent philosophical studies something Forrest Landry (4) mentioned during a dialogue (we're still reverse engineering to attempt to find the exact conversation, stay tuned!)--something along the lines of voting being a failure state in terms of collaboration. Reason being, voting doesn't encompass an active collaboration that results in finding an aligned direction for enacting next steps.
Instead, voting feels like a more cut-and-dry approach to collaboration, or shall we say voting seeks to define an objective answer as opposed to navigating towards a general direction (5). This is an open area of research for Dave and I, plumbing the depths of collective governance. But like most other heady topics, we like to first-principles our understanding before we're too heavily influenced by others' thinking (6).
This is stream-of-thought note that I wrote as Dave and I recently discussed alternatives to voting, through the lens of Buzzard. In other words, what might governance in a squad-based collective look like?
Notes on Notes
- All of the blue notes, the first part of our exploration, capture the beginning of our conversation. A warm-up of sorts where we constrained the thought-field to: consensus-making without voting, something more directional, explorative, and iterative. For good measure, threw in some details around perceived pros and cons of this style of governance.
- Some values emerged in this part of our convo, trends that we've seen in our thinking and in the Buzzard squad to-date
- The purple notes illustrate our thinking on the ecosystem of a squad-based community, and what kind of activity we want to incentivize in squads.
- In a nutshell: interaction within and between squads is premised on the concept of games. This is the essential method for prompting collaborative consensus-making
- Games beget NFTs, bespoke collaborative artifacts that can be divided loosely into public-goods and non-public-goods. Both types of NFTs are important to squad- and swarm-health
- The concept of the "swarm" comes up here: another name for the larger community. We don't know if this nomenclature will stick but it's what came up when we were flowing (7).
- The orange/yellow notes capture an approach to coordinating work within a swarm, across squads, and is based on a seasonal, macro, life cycle. Each macro cycle is comprised of a number of microcycles. We didn't get into the nitty-gritty here, but we believe an essential component which takes place at the end of each cycle (whether it's macro or micro) is to find a directionality for the next cycle.
- There's something inherently autopoeitic about this approach, in particular using web3 smart contracting, whereby a collective can encode a process for continued life (or death) of a swarm (and thereby its encompassed squads) at the conclusion of one cycle and leading into what's next.
- We envisioned some variables that can be programmed in both the macrocycle seasons and the microcycle life stages. These variables are highly contextual, allowing for bespoke approaches to how the swarm moves forward.
- On the topic of lifecycles, there's a parallel to draw here to taoism, or daoism that we look forward to exploring more in the future (8). There's a double entendre with the web3 DAO and daoism that appears to be fruitful.
- The final section in green and grey, is a broad look at the general patterning of what we are feeling into. These overlapping, fractal cycles of movement. This is a nod to the autopoietic design of this model of governance.
- We also unearth the basis for this collective governance approach as an inherent mix of computer-mediated governance in support of human autonomy.
- Need to do more thinking and exploration here to better explain the exact relationship between human-led endeavors supported by computers (e.g. software): in a nutshell, it appears that the humans encode (or offload into software) the protocol for the next lifecycle of the swarm, allowing the software to constrain and guide work, freeing up humans to do what we do best: get weird, get creative.
2 - Linked up in (1), haven't done further research into this just yet: https://twitter.com/fifthworldzach/status/1418286755728420866, which lead to exploring the Orbit Model: https://github.com/orbit-love/orbit-model
3 - More open ended research on voting, generally-speaking. Starting from brass tacks with a higher level overview on the types of voting from both a pragmatic and historical, philosophical perspective: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/voting-methods/
4 - Forrest Landry is a rad dude. His brain is amazing and he's working on a number of fascinating projects, of noted relevance to this post, the Ephemeral Group Process (EGP): https://mflb.com/egp_4/egp_index_out.html. Yet another open ended research project here... I'm telling you, this collective governance vein is RICH.
5 - Interestingly, we recently listened to a podcast from the Jim Rutt show featuring a neuroevolutionary scientist, Ken Stanley: https://www.jimruttshow.com/ken-stanley-2/. Relevant to this post and larger conversation around voting vs. other techniques to engage a community, is the concept of exploitation vs. exploration in the AI field - which Stanley does a great job of explaining in the episode. The long-and-short of it is exploitative is a kind of pursuit of something known (more akin to voting), whereas exploration is a pursuit into the unknown (other governance approaches). In the work we're doing with Buzzard and more broadly with relational software, we believe that there's a primacy in exploration-based action. There's a relationship here to machine learning and artificial intelligence tech, and queries.
6 - Dave and I have an active, ongoing process of doing this kind of work together. It's a bit unwieldy at times and we end up in territory, more often than not, where we have NO IDEA what we're even talking about. But it's worth noting that we seem to be able to find existing patterns that exist in the universe when we open these [[dia logos]] style conversations between the two of us. What's nice is we get our heads wrapped around a topic, like collective governance, from a first-principles perspective, and then we can go out into the world and continue our research. It makes research more interesting and fun because we've already imprinted, in a way, our own unique understanding. Research then becomes a fascinating exploration in how other people are seeing the same pattern.
7 - If went go down this rabbit hole, we run into stigmergy, a form of collective intelligence first seen in social insects. Won't delve deeper here but do plan to share research notes on the topic soon. As usual, Wikipedia isn't a bad jumping off point to grok the basics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stigmergy
8 - This is a big one to unpack, however for the sake of brevity, daoism or taoism is a spiritual and philosophical understanding of being with a basis on natural cycles. In essence: a cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. This specific cycle is borrowed from kundalini yoga which isn't inherently taoist but closely aligns - the mantra sa-ta-na-ma is common in kundalini practices and translates loosely to birth, life, death, and rebirth. This maps onto a fractal pattern within the macro- and micro-cycles of governance we're feeling into.