DA(ctivism)O

Posted on December 10, 2021. Filed under: Uncategorized |

For the past 6 or 7 years, my primary interest in crypto has been bottoms-up self organization of people, work, and capital. Topdown institutions are flawed. Profit and political incentives don’t drive the organization of ALL behaviors and actions that have value to individuals, so there must be room for those individuals to drive such behaviors and actions themselves. The governance experimentation around self-assembled bodies and the economically enforced trust between strangers that ensured behavior consistent with the ideals of such bodies was always the most interesting surface area to me.

Activism is perhaps the most pure use case of such new capabilities. Definitionally, activism exist to change political or societal structures that have come to be organized as a result of top-down (powerful) forces exerting their will on the world. A group that feels disenfranchised, not represented, or otherwise suppressed will rise up, and that is how change happens. Historically, this group has been dependent on physical assembly as its primary form of coordination. If there was gonna be a march on Washington DC, you were meeting up in person and planning that shit and then spreading the word. Technology has consistently played a role in more deeply empowering that group to succeed. That’s not to say it hasn’t played a role in empowering top down institutions to compound their influence, because it has, but advances in telecommunications really changed the way an activist group or movement both organizes and distributes information related to its agenda. Encrypted messaging apps, for example, were instrumental in coordination during Arab Spring. Signal downloads spiked hard after the George Floyd murder. Social media, which may seem commonplace today, enabled the communication of activist messaging at a scale unfathomable during the days of MLK, for example.

I process DAOs as an enabling advance of activism on par with social media or encrypted messaging. In previous advances, the group rising up received better tooling to spread its message, amplify its voice, and even physically manifest its communities, but in a capitalist society, money talks. And historically these movements have not efficiently and effectively utilized capital as a weapon to advance their agenda. There’s an asymmetry when top down institutions like companies and government use capital as a tool to shape society, relative to individuals who must find ways to funnel and inherently dilute their capital through institutional proxies.

DAOs enable the individual members within a group-rising to collectively and trustlessly coordinate their capital in a way that is aligned with their shared agenda. Importantly, if designed well, DAOs also can enable such a group to agree upon what that shared agenda is, what actions are and are not consistent with it, and which people should and should not splinter off from the group (with their capital) based on misalignment with the whole.

If you read this blog regularly, I’ve been singing this song for a long time. Recently, however, I’ve noticed that the intersection of DAOs and activism is becoming more visible to others. A project like ClimateDAO directly exerts force against top down institutions that are putting profit before the environment by enabling members to pool resources, purchase equity in public companies, and then wage proxy battles to effect board level change at those companies. Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova streams on youtube with Vitalik, acknowledging that crypto feels like an instrument that can enable such a movement to be more effective. These early explorations aren’t perfect, but they are going to get more and more clear, and I expect them to influence the shape of society going forward.

Historically activism is not an endeavor that is economically rewarded in a capitalist society. It’s still frequent, nonetheless, because the ideology and intention behind an activist movement is strong enough to command people’s work without an economic incentive being necessary. That said, I think the experimentation happening within DAOs today will prove that activism can be economically rewarded in a capitalist society if people are given the ability to coordinate capital outside institutional channels. You don’t have to starve to save society.

At Pace we have been actively investing in and aligning our fund’s capital with that of DAO communities that inspire us. We are going to keep doing that, and my hope is that we can support DAOs with directly expressed activist intentions going forward. If you are an early contributor, dreaming something up in your head, or otherwise curious about this intersection…we’d love to support you: jordan@pacecapital.com

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    About

    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)

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