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Many people are aware that Big Tech monopolies, like Facebook, also monopolize our data for their own monetary gain. There is ample evidence to demonstrate the harmful or controversial impacts of such monopolies. This includes U.S. Congressional hearings into social media data harvesting to influence elections, the power social media monopolies exercise to decide who can use their platforms, and what people can say.
The trade-off is that Big Tech provides sophisticated digital services that allow us to connect and interact with the world. That’s a big draw, which is why so many of us accept the deal even though it leaves us with a sinking feeling.
But this trade-off is no longer necessary. Web2, the current, centralized iteration of the internet, puts power in the hands of tech monopolies. By contrast, the new and upcoming version of the internet, Web3, will be built on blockchain technology. A blockchain is a distributed ledger that hands data ownership back to the individual.
Blockchains can be viewed as databases of authenticity, decentralized across multiple computers (or nodes). All the data points directly to its owner, who retains full control over their assets. No one can tamper with or delete entries from the record, and everything is fair, transparent and accessible to all.
Web3 offers the same connectivity as its predecessor but adds to this the opportunity to reclaim our digital voices and personal identities. But only if the correct foundations are laid. The key component of this shift to Web3 is replacing centralized monopolies with people-driven democratic structures called decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs).
DAOs will democratize the internet
What does this obscure terminology actually mean? Put simply, a DAO is a decentralized governance tool that allows anyone to vote on a proposed decision. Using blockchain technology, DAOs give every member of a given organization the power to vote, and then to see the outcome of that vote in a completely transparent way. There is no question of tampering or interference. The popular vote of the community is undeniable and logged into the immutable ledger.
The rules of participation in a DAO are enshrined in digital code, known as smart contracts, that set the parameters and automate the activities of the group. On top of this, the code is open-source and freely available for anyone to audit before they decide to join the group.
DAOs are purely digital, truly global, and don’t need presidents and secretaries to function. No grandiose titles, no pomp and ceremony, no relying on certain individuals to pull the strings to make things happen.
To take part, people simply need to acquire digital tokens — blockchain-based crypto coins – that define an individual’s stake in the DAO. These tokens are issued through the DAO in question and are as transparent and decentralized as the voting process itself.
DAOs fit hand-in-glove with the philosophy of Web3. Anyone who uses the internet today will be able to plug into Web3 tomorrow and use it in the same way. Social interactions, running a business, personal finance – the list is both familiar and endless. The applications we use every day, currently based on Web2 architecture and controlled by centralized authorities, will be adapted and replaced by blockchain-based Web3 applications, performing all of the same functions, with unprecedented transparency, fairness, and user control.
You get the idea – both DAOs and Web3 are expressly configured to defend the collective integrity of the crowd against monopolistic forces that act against the interests of individuals.
When centralized authorities take choice away from us, strange things happen. People in one country can only praise their leader lavishly online, while a social media giant based in another country allows people to issue death threats against the same person. The users of these digital services are never consulted on the running of these networks or applications, with all decisions being made at the very top.
Web3 and DAOs: Taking back control
Big Tech has woken up and smelled the coffee with Web3. For example, the likes of Facebook and Microsoft see profit in the metaverse — the shared virtual world that’s taking the tech world by storm. That’s why Facebook has renamed its parent company ‘Meta’ and Microsoft bought video games company Activison Blizzard.
The metaverse is an experimental computer-generated world populated by avatar versions of ourselves. The rules of the game are also being freshly drawn up on the hoof.
Big Tech seems to think it should monopolize the rules of the metaverse, just as it does today in social media. We disagree. The idea of Facebook and other such companies owning the metaverse and having centralized control of this shared digital world puts the entire ethos of Web3 in danger.
Many people might wonder — if Big Tech doesn’t build and control the internet, who will?
The answer is all of us.
It would be unacceptable for governments to make decisions for communities while denying people the power to vote officials in or out of office, or to air their views in a meaningful way. The thought of a large corporation in your town shoving others aside to write the rulebook for themselves is even less palatable.
DAOs could also address the frustrations felt by many employees who feel their company is headed in the wrong direction and feel powerless to help change its course. Questionnaires and staff surveys from management are a poor and untransparent substitute for a robust platform that continuously feeds through innovative ideas and gives everyone a say. With Web3, there is an opportunity for this to be standard.
Web3 is dawning and everyone has the opportunity, right now, to set the foundations for it to operate in the way they want. The alternative is to sit back and once again allow profit-oriented monopolies to make these decisions, to our detriment.
The great news is that the tools that allow anyone to participate are already in place. You don’t have to be a software engineer or programmer. If you can operate a smartphone, you can employ your voice in Web3. This is not a revolution, in the sense of people tearing up the cobblestones and taking to the barricades. We’re simply talking about restoring the natural functioning of individuals within societies.
Max Kordek is CEO and cofounder of Lisk.
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