The world doesn’t stand still. A time traveler from 1994 would be amazed by what we did with the Internet. That was the year I and my co-founder David Rowe
launched Europe’s first consumer internet provider - EasyNet. Only 27 years later the entire world of smartphones, tablets, streaming TV, podcasts, live audio rooms, and global money flows rests on top of it.
And sitting here in 2021 it seems clear that 27 years from now, in 2048, we too would be similarly amazed. The pace of change is accelerating, not slowing. Foreign Affairs
magazine has been debating whether the future might be one in which software-based decentralized protocols might replace legal systems and nations. By Parag Khanna
, the founder and managing partner of FutureMap, and Balaji S. Srinivasan
, an angel investor and entrepreneur wrote Great Protocol Politics (see below)
The 21st century belongs not to China or the United States—nor to tech companies as traditionally understood. It belongs to the internet.
This is true for many reasons, of which perhaps the most important is the rise of decentralized protocols like Bitcoin and Ethereum that are controlled by neither states nor companies. …
But technology’s challenge to traditional geopolitics goes beyond crypto protocols, tech companies, and even digital space itself, as it has begun reshaping the physical world.
The writers were responding to Ian Bremmer
- The Technopolar Moment
- and Stephen M. Walt
- Big Tech Won’t Remake the Global Order -
also from Foreign Affairs.
What is important here is that they are discussing the topic of how the future world will be run. Implied is that it will not be run as it is today. And that is right. Global protocols like HTTPS and SMTP are now joined by stable coins like UST and USDC and USDC on blockchains like ethereum and bitcoin. New protocols are being built on top of them every day. And more and more users are using them. Governments are powerless to control them. And large centralized corporations seem equally powerless. David Marcus leaving Meta last week was simply a reminder of that.
Governance is itself being redefined as a voting system, sitting on a protocol, inside of a DAO. If this sounds like a foreign language you are not alone. But it is real and happening.
Exactly how this evolution plays out - releasing the creative potential of mankind to self-govern - depends on human beings making real decisions. It seems clear that Palag and Balaji are right that Governments and Big Tech will not own the future (clear to me at least). But it is less clear how individual freedom, democracy, legal frameworks, monetary rewards, and flows will evolve in this new world order. The StarTrek utopian future where “Imagine there are no Nations it isn’t hard to do” needs to meet the real-world potential that technology promises to unlock. And no nation does not mean there will be no rules. Indeed, rules may be more under the control of people than ever, if we want that. The possibilities of modern protocols make any imaginable future possible. So, what you want to imagine matters. This is the time to have an opinion. Coinbase published a piece talking about the future (see below in the curated articles) of the metaverse that shines a light on one possible way of seeing this. Andreessen Horowitz did also - about using token incentives to help create new protocols and networks.
More in this week’s video.