A Vision for A Pluralistic Civilizational Scale Infrastructure for funding Public Goods

Hey Kevin, great post. I have a lot of thoughts about what you’ve shared, but I think before I get into them, since I’m new here, it’s worth mentioning that I’m a Musician and Film maker first and foremost who just happens to have a deep passion for the ideas of decentralization. Right now, I find myself agreeing with everything you’ve outlined in your vision here, but I do think you shouldn’t be too quick to write off NFTs in the art portions of the crypto space. Reason being, is that part of me believes that there is some potential in combining what they’re bringing to the table, with what you’re bringing to the table.

Because of this belief, the idea of DAO alliances is something that I find really compelling and have actually already been thinking about lately, though, mostly from the opposite perspective. AKA- How to kickstart an art DAO that generates enough revenue so that it can send royalties to projects like Gitcoin or other DAOs that are similarly focused on funding Public Goods.

Art DAOs are obviously very very fresh to this world of Crypto and are inspiring an immense amount of hype (as well as money). But, I think what they currently lack is the proper infrastructure tools to become extremely large and more than that, I think they’re lacking some sort of tangible externally facing goods that could potentially bring in a very decent amount of revenue.

Right now, I’m working with a small group of people to kickstart a DAO (which I will leave unnamed since I’m more-so here to bounce ideas), and I am currently stewing on this idea representing memberships via Harberger Taxed NFTs. Otherwise known as SALSA/Cost. My theory is that if an ArtDAO manages to build out some of the tooling/infrastructure where access to the community and community resources is token gated via Harberger Taxed NFTs, the DAO can potentially drive a tremendous amount of revenue to their treasury.

This treasury then going on to fund more art which increases it’s asset pool by which it can then create a demand with and drive NFT taxed Memberships. What I find more interesting in this idea, is that like software, art is limitless and it’s a thing that people are creating endlessly for free already. So by building a community and collectivizing the ownership of the art, whether it be film, music, paintings, writings, you are creating a giant pile of assets that will generate royalties for as long as there are people to consume it.

I’ll even go as far as to say that, maybe art is a public good and should be treated as such. When you do that, you can potentially flip your Keynesian beauty contest on its head and raise funds through a multitude of ArtDAOs that are streaming revenue to the larger alliance of ImpactDAOs.

Make the fun stuff and let that fun stuff drive the funding for deeper public works? If this is something that seems possible, it needs to happen as soon as possible so a cultural precedent can be set that furthers this movement of Public Goods Funding mechanisms.

note- if this is super in the wrong lane, let me know. But I do believe that in the same way there is interdependence with people there is also interdependence in markets.

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hey, thanks for stopping by and writing the thoughtful response you did.

to be clear, i dont “write off” art daos, its just not an area of focus for me. i’ve been watching the NFT movement from the outside in ( well actually, we have been playing with some NFT launches here at gitcoindao a la this and this), and i think its extremely cool that artists have a new vessel to capture some of the value they create.

good luck with your art dao! harberger is a cool mechanism.

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Gotcha, sorry for misinterpretation on the art bit. Either way, I whole heartedly agree with your vision and am hoping that future DAOs are able to redirect some treasury funds into the “Alliance”. I very much appreciate all the hard work Gitcoin is doing because you all are really laying the groundwork to inspire and facilitate future projects in the space!

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Just wanted to double click on this portfion of the post in case it was passed over.

In the past, trust flowed in local communities.
In the present, trust flows in niche online communities.

Niches are the new nation states. Ergo, public & social good funding will flow outward via niches as the aqueduct that carries the liquidity to the people/projects that need/deserve it.

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I envisioned it as a sort of Amazon-type of flywheel except its that funding project building public goods > positive externalities > more people can work on public goods > more funding > funding project building public goods

so it seems what’s sort of missing is that the positive externalities need to translate into more people being able to work in public goods vs creating more OSS that other people can use to make profit off. I guess that falls into the idea of regenerative economics, how can OSS capture some of that $2trillion in value + showing more people that you CAN work in public goods and not have to starve.

Don’t Starve Together: Regen Economics Edition

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a combination of:

“the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”

and

“positive-sum game”

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Kevin,
There’s a lot to love about your vision and obviously I am a huge fan of it. I hope GitCoin will become one of the most important models in the world for coordination and I hope to be there right along side you helping you figure it out.
In that spirit of supporting you all, I think there are some key things about the best (most socially beneficial, most scalable and most profitable) business model for GitCoin that this post doesn’t do a great job of capturing. It runs to the core of the post, because it relates to the way that it misses the essence of plurality and what it means to relate as a part of a plural infrastructure. I think this arises from falling into certain conceptual traps that are very common in the blockchain world and that I hope you can move beyond to achieve your ambitions.
Let me start by trying to illustrate why I don’t think the vision literally as you sketched is realistic or desirable. Then I’ll turn to a trajectory that makes more sense and try to sketch how the technology and business strategy needs to evolve to follow that trajectory.
Let’s imagine that we tried to run QF/GitCoin on a truly global scale based on an open PoH identity system. Let’s divide how this could play out into a few cases:

  1. You manage to get a large chunk (let’s say 50%) of the world population actively participating. In this case, it seems very likely that there will be at least public good (say related to climate) that will get at least a $1 contribution from at least (say) a billion people, given that even without matching some disasters have elicited responses of this magnitude. QF “wants” to match this will a quintillion (10^18) dollars, so even if you had a constrained multiplier of 1/10,000, you’d still need to raise more money than all of global GDP to do this, and in the process you’d end up with a multiplier that made matching basically useless to any normal cause. In short, a global QF process is simply infeasible.
    Furthermore, even if you managed to somehow make the math compute and get control of most of the world’s resources (neither of which seems desirable or feasible), the allocation of these resources would almost certainly be decided by which existing organizations in the world have the greatest combination of coercive power and internalized solidarity…China, for example, which has much higher social cohesion that liberal democracies and more surveillance powers would almost certainly manage to an order of magnitude more contributors and an order of magnitude higher contributions to any cause it favored, capturing essentially all matching funds. Now, in principle one could imagine policing such “collusion”, and I’ll return to this below, but given the sheer array of potentially “colluding” groups in the world, doing this by hand rather than by basic changes to the architecture of QF would force GitCoin to become precisely the kind of centralized surveillance state it abhors. And hoping for a world without organizations of solidarity other than through QF seems both entirely vain and deeply contrary to a spirit of pluralism that seeks to build on the accomplishment of existing means of coordination, not replace all of them.
  2. You don’t managed to get a large chunk participating (say less than 1%). In this case, Proof of Humanity is of almost no use in deterring Sybil attacks. While it ensures each person gets only one vote, 99% of the planet is available to be recruited by an actual participant to create an effective fake account for them. One would then be stuck with either a ridiculously small matching pool that wouldn’t attract such attacks or being sucked dry by Sybil attacks.
  3. You’re in the 1-50% range. In this intermediate range you’d end up with a mix of the first two problems.
    In short, the basic set up of QF/GitCoin cannot and should not scale in an open, PoH based way globally. This doesn’t mean there isn’t something awesome going on here that should scale, and I’ll return to it soon. But it does mean something quite a bit stronger than the first reaction a lot of the audience here is likely to have:
  4. These issues are not a result of a flaw in QF as a solution to the decentralized public goods framed as coordinating individual self-interest towards common goods. QF is the optimal solution here and anything else based on the same open, PoH, individualistic thinking is going to run into the same mix of problems: either it will be too weak to do much, be open to Sybil attacks or eat up the whole world/be controlled by existing coordination mechanisms.
  5. In fact, these issues apply, albeit in somewhat less extreme forms, to other applications of PoH. Let me give two examples. If you try to do validation by PoH, either you are going to need like 50% of the world running validation nodes, which seems wildly unrealistic, or you’re going to be open to Sybil attacks by people recruiting large numbers of those who aren’t currently running nodes. If you try to do UBI by PoH, either you’re going to need a large chunk of global GDP and/or the payments are going to be so small they will only make a difference in the lives of the poorest people on earth, who anyway are extremely likely to be subject to some form of coercion or unable to access their PoH-based account in the first place. The open PoH approach makes it impossible to, as other UBI studies have done, target some local community with large UBIs without requiring control over a large fraction of global resources.
    What’s going wrong here and what does it tell us about how to do things better? Fundamentally, the framing of the problem is missing a key element. It assumes that it finds individuals in an atomized state, caring only about their individual self-interest, without any institutions that can help solve free rider/public goods problems. It then provides incentives to overcome these. Yet, if we really lived in a world like this, civilization would pretty much not exist and we’d be in a Hobbesian war of each against all. Thankfully we don’t; there are a range of institutions (yes, I used that taboo word) at a range of scales, both formal (like governments, unions, corporations, etc.) and informal (like feelings of patriotism, altruism, kin ties, racial solidarity, etc.) that avoid this outcome, and there always have been from the dawn of humanity. Because these institutions exist, the problem of coordinating a billion people is not really a million times harder than the problem of coordinating a thousand people, as the atomized QF approach assumes. It is probably closer to being on logarithmic scale (say 6 times harder).
    Now you can think what you will of these institutions and how well they perform their assigned roles and I know that most in this community will tend to dismiss them out of hand. But even if you don’t love them, you cannot ignore them for three reasons:
  6. Practical: Even if you don’t like these institutions, there’s little to no chance they are going to completely disappear soon enough that GitCoin and other things in the Web 3 space can safely ignore the impacts they have on behavior. If you do, you are simply solving the wrong problem, potentially with catastrophic effects as noted above.
  7. Ethical: It would be the height of arrogance to imagine that we are confident QF or any other Web 3 mechanism will always and everywhere lead to better coordination than these existing institutions without even experimenting with them significantly. Thus, we should not want to wipe out these other institutions, if ever, at least until we’ve had a chance to play with these mechanisms in a range of setting of increasing ambition. But as we do, we had also better hope these existing institutions don’t collapse, or we’ll end up in Mad Max along the way. Thus, we must plan to coexist and even cooperate with them, not for the world after they disappear. And if you really believe in pluralism like you suggest, that pluralism should be far broader than just “other stuff floating around the blockchain ecosystem”…there are more things in Heven and Earth, Kevin, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
  8. Stability: Even if, somehow, you did end up in a world where all other institutions disappeared and QF ran everything, you wouldn’t stay there long. The whole point of QF is to form cooperative communities. And one of the most reliable features of human social psychology is the tendency to form bons of affection and solidarity with those you engage in a common project with. So the minute you start running QF, you will see “institutions” form, as a result of the mechanism itself, and these will then undermine the operation of QF as noted above.
    Ok, so, Mr. Gloomy Face, riddle me this: how has QF/GitCoin not turned into a disaster so far? And is there any path to scaling it successfully?
    I would submit that the success of GitCoin so far has been largely due to the mismatch between the way this post imagines GitCoin and the way it operates in practice. It is not really a global open system. Instead, it has operates in specific communities, of similar scales, that roughly approximate the members thereof having nearly symmetrical social distance and the administrator having sufficient knowledge of the community structure to use various bespoke mechanisms to police “collusion” (viz. solidarity outside the mechanism), as well as potential Sybil attacks not just in terms of non-humans, but also people who don’t belong in the community and are being roped in just to help someone win.
    But while this closes one avenue for growth for GitCoin, I think it opens another that is even more exciting. All around the world there are organizations and institutions like those mentioned above that a) want to see a better, more responsive and dynamic provision of public goods within them, b) lack information about which goods have the greatest value and c) know quite a bit about social structure internally which would allow them to police the way GitCoin has in the domains it knows. A natural business model is to create a 3-sided market between donors, sponsors and projects within a range of these institutions to strengthen them rather than replace them. For example, most companies have major problems with different divisions with diverse objectives and KPIs failing to provide common infrastructure that supports the company wholistically (my office at Microsoft largely exists for this reason). If QF could be thoughtfully applied, say, to representatives of these divisions, it could surface the needs for shared infrastructure.
    Does any of this require or even comport very well with a blockchain? Not particularly. Given that the intention is not to have something that is global or open even in the PoH sense, where identity is deeply bound to community and most naturally to accounts that the company has already, the overhead associated with blockchains doesn’t seem to be a very good fit. But, at some level, who cares: you have a great business model that can do all kinds of good. Don’t get overly committed to a particular tech stack.
    Now, eventually, you should want to go beyond these specific applications to specific communities if you can get them to work; you should seek, say, local or state governments that want to subsidize the creation of public goods across local communities, companies, etc. within the locality or state. These somewhat larger entities will have some read on community structure, but probably a not to easily directly police issues around collusion, participation, fake accounts etc. So, you will want algorithmic structure to help do all this.
    But the basics of QF won’t even come close to getting you there. First, PoH won’t do much to police the boundaries of participants, as the community will be a tiny fraction of the world and you’ll need some “proof of community/membership/authority”. Second and even more importantly, membership of that community won’t be the primary thing you want to track anyway…you’ll want to be able to reduce matching for common projects between those who already are coordinating: those in the same companies, same ethnic group, same religion, etc. But even with PoH or something of that sort, you’re not going to get rich community information like that and algorithms to run on it. That’s a big step from where we are. I have an essay (“Why I am a Pluralist”) coming out soon about how it might all work in open standards, and my piece on the RxC blog on Intersectional Social Data hints at it. But it would certainly be as big a break from the current “Web 3 ecosystem” as that is from Web 1, Web 2 or perhaps even pre-internet world.
    Perhaps this all sounds a bit daunting…perhaps it is. But it is also exciting and suggests that GitCoin and the space it is cracking the door of is even more important and ambitious than you suspect. I truly believe this type of thinking can transform and empower every person and organization on the planet, that it is core to our future and that we’ve just started to imagine how it might all work. Think, for example, of how we can do QF over time with those alive now, those that have died and those that will live in the future to address the long-term future of humanity?
    You’ve got the Apple IIc. It portends a revolution. But not far down the road are the GUI, the internet, mobile computing, etc. Keep and open mind. Not all the answers are even imaginable now. But if you do, GitCoin has a real chance to change the world.

Best,
Glen

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So in short we should focus on applying QF to a wide range of communities as opposed to taking a global approach.

Perhaps ultimately such a network would evolve into a global coordination network organically as communities effectively using QF internally spread?

Do you see a role for quadratic voting amongst representatives from stakeholder groups and within those groups in such a scenario?

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i’m confident that decentralized identity (DID, a.k.a PoH in your terms) can function as a measure of impact much better than any social heuristic we have as humans in the web. not everyone needs to “run a node” for PoH to be valid… in fact, sybil seeds are much easier to detect in practice than you might think (so long as the data is available). point is, not all sybil scores need to be globalized — some forms of verification are more valuable to certain contexts. think about it — if you show up to a SWE interview with a resume for botany, of course it’s going to look impressive… but it means nothing to the interviewer unless you can prove you can code. so that sheet of paper is really only useful for you to get in the door maybe. and a great looking fraudulent resume would get them to take you more seriously — but if you don’t have the skillz to back it up… it will be very evident (to keen eyes).

a good example of a contextual DID; github profiles paired with technical interviews. how are humans recruited for fully remote tech companies? …reputation & validation (ignoring that gpt3 can beat most coding interviews, that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms). bring this github profile to a construction job and they’re gonna say “i don’t care, do you know how to use a hammer?”.

also the problems you illustrate as a composite of collusion, sybil accounts and coordination/mob-mantality voting policies, can be addressed by the funding infrastructure/methods our squad in FDD (matrix) is working on building/simulating:

we’re still actively researching (and just these 2 links doesn’t sum it all up), but it does hit most of the marks you’re pointing out with pragmatism.

side note — quadratic funding of pooled resources when 1 billion people donate >$1 to a single project doesn’t mean that $1B+ squared needs to be funded to that project. something like a matching cap has been introduced by gitcoin to combat this type of problem. it’s not a perfect solution, but in this circumstance that public good gets an extreme amount of funding… $1B + some change (the amount from the pool)… still VERY significant (come on, $1B unmatched is a dream…), and leaves a ton more room for other grants to get a slice of the pie. it’s not ideal, but iteratively solveable. this is exactly why kevin calls for a diversity of funding mechanisms, he even says that not all communities should use QF… there’s value in diversity.

UBI also might not be universal to all identity holders (at least not in the level of compensation). i think context here is also massively important. UBI payouts from a pool of money for something specific (like FDD in gitcoin) and relative to those who contribute the most (with a fair measure) only makes sense. but that’s why opt-in communities is where this type of thing will find its home — it will emerge. not be forced as a “here’s a perfect solution, now use it” (ie. what non-opt-in systems like governments/municipalities/etc. provide).

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In short, yes. I think what you’re saying is the right direction of travel. Much more specificity will require much greater length and research…hope to be churning that out with colleagues in coming months and years.

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I don’t entirely disagree…almost any paradigm, however mismatching the reality it tries to model, can be kludged to fit it and get by. That’s not really the point. The point is that paradigms are successful and impactful to the extent they match reality and don’t have to be twisted seventeen ways to avoid collapse. Let’s make some fundamental progress to get QF there and let’s focus on communities until we do.

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haha good point, i definitely missed the mark.

we are also working to re-evaluate the definition of optimality the paper cites at the end of section 3.3 (since that’s what the assumption the paper relies entirely upon).

is this in essence what you mean?

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A part but not all. The whole framework is limited. Blog post coming soon and will discuss at Schelling.

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Thanks for coming by to comment Glen! Thankful to you for the original QF paper + the continued dialogue about its implemented + excited to read your critique :slight_smile:

Right now we are using Pairwise QF which scales O(n^2). We are already having scaling issues with computing it. cc @gdixon

it is an interesting, if depressing, point that at this type of scale, collusion is basically impossible to deter.

id’ be curious what you think the optimal sybil resistence tool is.

one idea we’ve been toying with at Gitcoin is not betting too hard on one sybil resistence tool, instead trying to aggregate many of them - which allows for a pluralism of sybil resistence tools (and possibly force multiplication for users who verify with multiple mechanisms)

this actually reminds me, and apologies, this is unrelated to your point in any way, but the grants rounds are actually already consolidating towards the top grants. this excellent graph by @Snowdot shows the trendline:


i am curious what you think of this trendline, and ways the mechanism could be tweaked to change it if it is undesirable.

I would agree that we are not in this state in the physical world; but I’d be curious for your perspective on if the digital world looks like this in any way. my own take: I dont see things like national pride, civic cuty, or common sense of awe & stewardship for humanity in the digital realm (yet), and i see lots of small scale warfare on social media, to large scale misinformation/hacking campaigns. our digital institutions (FAANG companies, standards bodies like the w3c) are relative immature relative to our physical ones IMHO.

i know that i am seen as a crypto person, and crypto people are famously soveirgn-individual-style bearish on institutions, but i should be explicitly clear that i do not view QF as a replacing existing institutions - only augmenting them. in the digital world where there are less global public goods funding mechanisms, there is more blue ocean for Gitcoin Grants to grow. and it is there that is our primary focus for the time being…

This is a great point. Pluralism should extend not only to many web3-era mechanisms, but to many other types of institutions. I know that you and I are both very inspired by what Audrey Tang, the digital minister of Taiwan is up to. Perhaps that is a tangible example of this – though there are likely many others.

It is interesting to think of QF as a self-terminating system in this way. eg. once it creates enough cooperation, the that cooperation naturally ossifies, and it turns to collusion.

this reminds me, the theory of social distance you told me about ~ 6 months ago with respect to QF is fascinating, i bet the audience here (especially the Fraud Defense workstream) would get a kick out of it too.

What a fascinating insight. So in this world, we would be doing data analysis on the say, Ethereum ecosystem, and delivering insights back to the ecosystem steward (in this case, the Ethereum foundation) on the social structures of it’s ecosystem? cc @annika @kyle @lthrift - this reinforces my view that analytics is an underinvested area for us

Blasphemy! :slight_smile: /s

yes, we are already experimenting with graph analysis tools in order to understand these social graphs. cc @danlessa

:robot: :heart:

interesting TLDR @M0nkeyFl0wer :slight_smile:

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I basically agree with everything you said in response. Happy to talk more if it helps and am writing up a post to come out soon on Pluralism that is about the next directions I see on all this.

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could you link your new post here once it’s uploaded? also, i was totally unaware you were an author on the QF paper. I’m very interested to see what this other framework looks like.

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For a preview email me at glen@radicalxchange.org

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Glen just published his excellent essay Why I am a Pluralist.

Highly recommend it!

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We need to be careful not to have simultaneous global trust networks that are simply echo chambers of opinion, like we see springing up and doing damage in the media space, i.e. corporate, social or public niche media. While the influence of the nation state may or may not decline, we need to try and keep social mechanisms alive to make sure balanced narratives are created and acted upon. I don’t for a minute mean by that traditional political centrist narratives that end up being so slow, that they don’t meet the urgency of the problems we need to solve. We need open deliberation models driven by proven facts, and not opinion… aka citizens’ assemblies

I’ve often thought of this argument as a “make room for god” principle, or more technically, a rule of parsimony in crypto economics, with the injunction to be thoughtful about the implications of this technology were it to truly scale. Early conception of this: should crypto protocols strive to be “net-zero” when it comes to trustlessness?; that is, strive to deploy trustlessness globally if and only if, in a symmetrical way, it secures and protects high trust relationships locally? (feedback on this point welcome)