Human civilisation is, in large part, a story about human organisation. From hunter-gatherer bands to nation states, our societies have been fundamentally shaped by the organisational forms we have adopted; whether that be democratic government or dictatorship, army battalion or resistance movement, worker cooperative or multinational corporation. Organisational structures have typically developed as a means of tackling specific problems, such as speeding up decision-making or ensuring resources are distributed fairly among group members; however, it is clear that those we have developed to date are inadequate when managing common-pool resources like our environment. Our future will thus be determined, to a great extent, by how effectively we can design organisational forms which deal with the challenges ahead.
This collection of essays discusses new organisational forms which are emerging, enabled by digital technologies like blockchain. These organisations are allowing people to self-organise and collaborate as part of decentralised networks. Such decentralised networks have several novel features, perhaps the most important of which is that, unlike many organisations, they are designed to function without the need to trust other members of the group – that is, with trust in people replaced by a different kind of trust, in the technology itself. This has the potential to radically change what people think an organisation can be and what it means to work for one.
In addition, by providing lower-friction ways of bringing people together, enabling their input and rewarding their effort, these organisational forms present novel means of value creation and – potentially more efficient – resource distribution. They may also enable more flexible forms of governance, offering a solution to some of the numerous ‘problems of the commons’ which afflict humankind.
These are grand ideas which this collection is intended to illustrate and explain. The featured essays expand on how decentralised technology will affect society, organisations and people, and they explore decentralisation through many different lenses – from what it means for democracy to how it could help transform our relationship with nature. The writers include a diverse range of people: academics, lawyers, developers, entrepreneurs, activists and artists; and while the essays are intended to illustrate the potential of blockchain and other decentralising technologies, the report also includes several contrarian views.
We hope the collection will be of interest to innovators, policymakers, investors and anyone else who is interested in how technology will shape our future. It is intended to help demystify some of the complex ideas being discussed in this space while also giving a glimpse into how, over the coming decades, decentralised digital organisations could change every aspect of how we live and work.