The #NoFork Movement, OR The Real Reason Why We Need DAOs

Everyone knows that forking is risky, expensive, and potential destructive. But none of those problems are the real reason I’m obsessed with #nofork problems.

The real reason is that in most of the critical problems in life, forking is impossible. I don’t mean impractical, like divorce is expensive, inconvenient, and destructive. I mean like, even if you divorce, those children you made are still part of that entity called their other parent. The children’s well-being and your well-being are intertwined, there will be joint decisions and payments with that other person, and therefore… you can’t exactly have a hard fork and go off in your separate directions.

Take a deep breath

That’s a kind of trivial example. The less trivial example is air. Air. You can’t fork to another planet (yet) and, oddly enough people talk about living on the Moon or Mars, where there is no air. So logical! The earth may become uninhabitable because of what we are doing to the air and water, so let’s figure out how to live on planets with no air or water!

It should be obvious that, as bad as things are here, it’s still probably easier to solve the problems we have with air on earth than figure out how to solve the problems of air on the Moon or Mars. But I digress. The point is that when someone burns down the Amazonian rain forest, you don’t get to fork your breathing out to some other planet. That’s your air that’s getting degraded.

#Noforking your sense of belonging

Another #nofork problem is nationality. I happen to be writing from Barcelona. It is possible that Catalonia could fork from Spain, but either way, if you are from Barcelona, you get what you get. You get either Spanish Rule or Catalonian Rule. As an individual, you don’t get to fork.

Ah, but wait, you could move to another country! Unfortunately, this is just like the divorce problem. I personally moved to Slovenia, but guess what? My children still live in Israel and serve(d) in the Israeli military. Did I or didn’t I fork? If you consider that my son is one of the most important things to me, and he is now in a combat unit, it’s pretty easy to see that this fork thing is not particularly clean or crisp. It is hard, I give it that.

Ironically, yesterday I was sitting in a crypto-friendly coworking space and the person next to me cracked up when they overheard me on the phone saying”No, you can’t change your nationality,” to my daughter who was having trouble with online check-in to her flight as a dual-national.

The Catalonian dude next to me didn’t know who I was talking to or what the context was, but the sentence “no, you can’t change your nationality” pretty much sums up why #nofork is both technically true for most people and emotionally true for practically everyone. You *can* change your nationality, with great effort, money and time, but you can’t change the love you have for the place you came from, the language, culture, and the people who live there, even if your government sucks.

(More accurately, even though your government sucks, which is the #nofork problem DAO has potential to resolve. Either we find a superior replacement for representative democracy together as humans or we are stuck with the crapola governments we have now. The Arab Spring was a great illustration that if we overthrow the current system and we don’t have a new something to replace it, all you get is Animal Farm.)

#Nofork is more interesting

When I say that #nofork is more interesting than forking, I’m not talking about the coolness factor, but about the level at which the #nofork situations are interesting to humanity.

The most important, interesting, and critical problems that we are facing as humans simply cannot be solved through forking or any of the other derivatives of libertarian thought. Doing your own thing will not solve problems such as:

  • Global warming or other environmental concerns.
  • Legalizing or regulating blockchains
  • Creating interoperability standards
  • Reducing or eliminating human trafficking
  • Curing cancer
  • Ending an armed conflict
  • Creating new forms of currency that are more equitable
  • Creating forms of governance that can respond to the pace of change

If you want to solve problems like this, you need systems that are #nofork in nature. You need systems that take in the opinions and wisdom of as many of the affected people as possible. You need systems that measure the impacts of actions on complex systems. Forking will not carry the day.

While libertarian thought has a time and a place, it is fundamentally inaccurate. You cannot go off and do your own thing without affecting others. Whether you burn trees for warmth in your hermit life or simply stop calling your mom, someone somewhere is going to be affected by your libertarian hermitage. You can’t buy a garment or a phone without having affected someone somewhere. Not to mention, you can’t mine a bitcoin without affecting the air we all breathe.

I like libertarian thought. It sounds good and I wish it made sense, but it doesn’t. It’s delusional and sometimes a bit sociopathic. You can’t really be content in a world with so much misery. At best you can reduce your anxiety to a minimum by moving somewhere the poor and desperate people aren’t visible to you.

#nofork is why we need DAOs

The hope of decentralization is to create new systems, systems that can deal with the systemic problems we are having as human beings. We all know these problems exist and that our current forms of organization are not enabling us to tackle them effectively or quickly enough to save our air.

The idea of having a more equal and gentle society resounds within the general spirit of DAOs, Ethereum, decentralization and “bringing crypto to the masses”. Yet, it is in direct conflict with the concept of forking when something doesn’t suit you. Most of “the masses” will never get any opportunities to fork anything at any time. The only people who can think about forking are in privileged classes or on the high-end of the spectrum when it comes to bravery and willingness to endure risk.

DAO tech avoids the #nofork

Unfortunately, we don’t yet have much DAO tech that gives real thought to #nofork solutions. DAO technology today is focused on choosing a course of action, rather than the process that leads to choosing that course of action.

The process for #nofork situations asks questions like:

  • What is the source of the problem?
  • Who and what is affected by the problem?
  • Who should be involved in the deliberation process? Who are the experts? Who should lead the deliberation and proposal-making processes?
  • What data is relevant and what research is necessary before choosing the solution?
  • How can we define the problem to get the optimum solution?
  • How can we embrace as many perspectives as possible?
  • What proposal-making process will be fair and likely to get to the best solutions within the allocated time frame?
  • How do we mitigate any downsides?
  • What are the parameters within which the decision needs to be made (time, budget, principles, etc.)?
  • Is the group making the proposal the same group who should be executing the proposal?
  • How should we measure the effectiveness of the solutions we come up with?
  • How can we test this on a small scale and iterate, and use the data from the tests?
  • At what point do we decide we are going down the wrong path with the solution we chose and go back to deliberation?

The questions above are hard questions to answer, and even take some consideration to think of.

DAO and blockchain governance instead have been for asking inferior questions, such as:

  • What is the majority sentiment?
  • How do we give the right amount of influence to market-makers / tokenholders?
  • What’s the right amount of time to have a voting window?
  • How do we eliminate voter fatigue?
  • How do we prioritize the queue of proposals so the best ones get better visibility?
  • How do we stay within our budget?
  • How do we resolve disputes?
  • What is our manifesto/mission?

None of these are bad questions, but, except for the last one (which I’ll address below), you can see that they generally have a win/lose presumption built in. This puts the focus on power, voting, money, and conflict. The world is not intrinsically zero sum, win/lose, competitive or conflict-ridden, but the language being used by the DAOs, blockchains, and technology inside the DAOs is heavily biased towards that type of thinking.

If you ask shallow questions, you aren’t likely to get profound answers.

Now, regarding that last question, in the last few months Aragon and Genesis DAO (DAOstack) are talking about things like creating manifestos, missions, constitutions. They’re considering stipulating priorities and budgets in how they allocate funds.

I don’t want to say anything about this, because: what can you say about organizations that, a year into their operation, recognize that it would be good to have goals and priorities?

Better late than never is the best I can say, but if you live by the philosophy that code is law, and you’ve spent a year or two coding, and now you are wondering what your manifesto is… well…

Better late than never.


Never is my prediction of the stage at which we can expect voting and dispute resolution technology to be better than our current governments.

That should surprise no-one, because everyone knows that we have functional voting systems, but nothing good ever shows up on the ballot. We have elaborate dispute resolution systems, which suck increasing resources into litigation.

To truly develop better forms of governance, it’s imperative to think about everything that happens before voting. It’s our mandate to build resilient systems that ask the question: how do we resolve our problems that have the maximum benefit for everyone involved, such that, even if they could, nobody would ever need to fork?

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