This collection is made up of the ten finalists from the Decentralised Futures essay competition which Nesta ran. While readers might not agree with all of their conclusions, each of the finalists makes a compelling case and brings a fresh perspective to how we think about the future of decentralised organisations.

First place: The Last, Best Hope for Open Data

In our winning essay, Kevin Werbach argues that big tech platforms like Facebook, Google and Amazon will not be replaced by decentralised alternatives, because few people will accept significantly worse functionality or user experience in return for better privacy. Rather, he suggests, blockchain will see mass adoption ‘behind the scenes’ in the infrastructural foundations of digital identity and hardware, and big tech will participate in the new decentralised data economy because it provides benefits for them as well. Read the essay

Second place: DAO: Mismatch of Technology and Objectives

Our second prize winner, Grace (Rebecca) Rachmany, presents a slightly contrarian perspective, making the case that decentralisation is not a better way to run businesses and that many developers have been blinded by a naïve techno-optimism. Instead, she argues, the principles of decentralisation should be applied to areas such as climate change, preservation of cultures and cross-border disputes areas where centralised organisations are failing, where collective intelligence is needed and where everyone’s interest is at stake and therefore everyone should have a say. Read the essay

Third place: How DAOs Can Revive Local Communities

In our third prize winning essay, Rhian Lewis explores how decentralised technology can not only help global tech organisations, but also support the growth of local initiatives, such as community-owned pubs, shops and cafés. In this way, Lewis argues that decentralised digital organisations can craft a future where individuals can decide the shape of their own communities and build the lives they want, centred around vibrant high streets where everyone feels a sense of ownership and pride. Read the essay

The Web of Commons: Rethinking the Status Quo from the Data Up

In this essay, Karissa McKelvey draws parallels between the historical enclosures of common land and the gatekeeping of current knowledge commons, such as scientific papers. She then draws on Elinor Ostrom’s seminal work to describe a framework for what a fairer, more secure and more private web might look like and argues why blockchain is not the right tool for this. Read the essay

Cooperation Across Difference

Jack Henderson also explores the tragedy of the commons. He argues that if we want sustainably egalitarian decentralised societies, then the rules and mechanisms that govern them are as important as the data structures that enable them. He then highlights how some of the ideas put forward by the RadicalxChange movement are being applied in this space. Read the essay

How the Blockchain’s Internet of Transactions Can Insure a New Contract with Nature

Michel Bauwens takes a centuries-long historical view of systems of control and paradigm shifts in social models. He makes the case that we are currently undergoing another transitional phase of human history, from one stable system to another. He hypothesises about where we are heading, what changes we will make to get there, and what technologies and tools we might need to achieve such ends. Read the essay

The Illusion of Blockchain Democracy: One Coin Equals One Vote

In this essay, Dionysis Zindros argues why the consensus mechanisms used by current blockchains unavoidably favour the wealthy and are thus not the answer to more democratic corporations and governments. Read the essay

The Future is a Safe and Dark Web. This Is What It Will Look Like:

Joshua D. Tobkin asks how we can reconcile privacy preservation with the need to coordinate and exchange value with others, concluding that 'self-sovereign' distributed identity is the only way forward. He makes the case that over the next decade, increasing internet surveillance will drive us to encrypt everything and communicate online on a purely need-to-know basis. He discusses the role that blockchain will play in allowing us to coordinate and exchange value in such a world. Read the essay

Taking the Power Back

Ziri Rideaux and Brendan Miller offer a vision in which decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) replace both corporations and governments as the preferred type of human organisation. Like Bauwens, they see moderm representative democracy and nation states as being incapable of solving various problems, which instead require global collective action, and envisage what a global direct democracy platform might look like. Read the essay

Earth 2030

Primavera De Filippi and Tony Lai take a different tack, exploring a fictional post-COVID future through the eyes of Leia, whose community embraced decentralised technology following the crisis, as she talks to others from different communities which followed different paths. Read the essay


Jonathan Bone

Jonathan Bone

Jonathan Bone

Interim Mission Manager, A Healthy Life mission

Jonathan is the Interim Mission Manager for the A Healthy Life mission.

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Christopher Haley

Christopher Haley

Christopher Haley

Head of New Technology & Startup Research

Chris led Nesta's research interests into how startups and new technologies can drive economic growth, and what this means for businesses, intermediaries and for the government.

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