Of DAOs and CEOs
THE NEXT GREAT WAVE IN THE WORLD OF ENTERPRISE?
Back when Bitcoin was first released, few people realised the significance of the blockchain protocol that enables the technology. The blockchain means that there is no need for a trusted third party in a transaction.
This property is now being applied in other areas such as smart contracts. A smart contract can automatically release a payment once a good or service has been delivered.
No more escrow, no more lawyers, no more chasing debts. That‘s going to shake up a lot of industries. But where it gets really interesting is once you add some AI to the mix.
Smart Contracts with AI atop can make something called a Distributed Autonomous Organisation. This is essentially a business that has the capability run itself. It’s an AI business can conduct trades and even hire humans to do work for it (first you hire one HR professional to hire the rest).
This is a total game-changer. In the past we've seen machine eat working class labor, and middle class clerks. Now it’s coming for middle management and the C-suite.
We have entered the age of the iCEO, and it’s going to cause a cambrian explosion of commerce, with AI-controlled ventures competing to provide services in perfect competition.
Executing on an idea is about to become an order of magnitude more simple. One can feasibly go from a crazy idea to a global profit-making venture in less than a day. This means that disruptive innovations are going to hit the market even more rapidly.
HOW CAN WE BEST PREPARE FOR THESE CHANGES?
I think that one of the most precious skills of the 21st century will be lifelong learning. The world is moving so quickly that knowledge has a use-by date. Google is hiring not for what people know, but what they have the ability to learn, and relearn.
There’s also so much content and code and data out there that the being able to pull together a bunch of different elements from different places to syncretise something new will be a key skill. That kind of creativity will never go out of fashion.
That creativity is a great advantage with regards to AIs also. We mustn’t think of humans and AIs or intelligent agents as enemies or rivals. It’s by combining the best elements of machines and humans that we have the very best of the logical and creative aspects of work.
Of course, for a partnership to work we also have to teach the machines to better understand human values.
These DAOs have huge promise. Because they are autonomous, they can run a charity for free, for example. We’re going to see a lot of mutual insurance funds sprout up that basically run themselves. Any area that has a low profit margin that typically isn't of interest to human-led organisations will be championed.
DAOs might also provide a kind of alternative welfare system, since they can pay dividends to humans. No government required, all in the free market.
But there’s another side to it. DAOs are like Pandora’s Box. Because they are distributed, they may be very difficult to shut down. They can pay for their own hosting for example. And, if you tell a business to ‘go and make some money’, we have no idea what that could lead to. With so many of the world’s markets now automated, also using machines to trade stocks, DAOs could have the capacity to cause a market crash, or trade in really nasty material with a high margin, that may not be in the best interests of society.
This is why we need new technology that can enable business ethics for machines. Intelligent machines cannot participate in our society until they understand the rules of a civilized society. Computational ethics is an enabling technology that unlocks that capability.