Things happen: I do not have to spell out what happens – you know what I mean. We have to deal with it. Dealing with things happening, let us call that: governance. It is what the Board does in a firm, what managers in all kinds of organisations do, what the government does in a country, and what each of us does at home. Humans need to cooperate, and cooperation needs to be governed.
This can be complex, so fortunately we have rules for that. Law, corporate rules, contracts, standards, regulations, policies, rules-of-the-house: all rules. They provide guidance, clarity, directions. But rules cannot solve everything just by themselves. Rules may need interpretation, application, enforcement, and of course first and foremost being acknowledged and respected. They somehow come into being, can perhaps be adapted and changed, and may end their existence by being abolished, forgotten, annulled, withdrawn. Disputes may arise that need to be settled. And sure, all of this may be subject to rules too: rules of procedure, secondary rules, meta-rules: rules about rules. But just as the rules they apply to, meta-rules may need interpretation, application, enforcement, etc. Indeed, a loop emerges. Who guards the guards, who supervises the supervisors? What we need is governance!
Recently a new way to organize cooperation gained popularity, that allows people who may not know each other and may not have a reason to trust each other to cooperate, transact, or do business with each other. In a decentralized, peer-to-peer network, decision making is consensual, single points of failure are eliminated, and incentives of all participants are aligned. A public blockchain: an immutable ledger of past transactions, validated by a clever consensus mechanism, that all the members of the peer-to-peer network can trust and build upon.
The big question is: could the governance needed for cooperation that is organized in this way also be decentralized, left to the network? Issues like deciding on changing the rules, taking a certain course of action, solving a dispute, being accountability all need attention. Just extrapolate this to citizens in a true democracy, stakeholders in a company, members of a family, donors of a foundation? Can they govern themselves? Or is, at the end of the day, a central authority like a president, a CEO, director, or materfamilias needed to take responsibility and settle things? And be accountable and liable?
A rather fundamental question, which may very well be decisive for the viability of blockchains, cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, DAOs and such.
Decentralized governance: a contradiction-in-terminis or the way forward? Can we design it? If yes: how? If not: why not? What insights can we get from law, philosophy, management, corporate governance, psychology, sociology, computer science, or even evolutionary biology and doubtless many others? Please, scholars from all such disciplines: let us join forces to discuss, challenge each other and develop thoughts and theories, models, solutions – and then question, debunk and rebuild them again!
Co-located with CBI 2022, the VU Faculties of Law and Computer Science organize together the first IEEE International Workshop towards Decentralized Governance Design (TDGD), on June 15, 2022 in Amsterdam. So save the date and come visit us in Amsterdam. And: Please put your thoughts on paper and submit to our workshop! Quickly, before the 5th of April. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
- Computational Governance
- Smart Contracts
- Conceptual Modelling
- Formalization, Ontological Representation
- Role of Law & Trust
- Political and Philosophical views
- Comparison with existing Governance models.
The page limit is 4 to 8 pages. Papers should be prepared using IEEE two-column template. Author Guidelines are available at: Manuscript Templates for Conference Proceedings. All papers accepted for this workshop are peer-reviewed and are to be published in the conference proceedings by the Conference Publishing Service (CPS). Papers should be submitted in a pdf format via the EasyChair submission system. And see our workshop website for further details about the workshop, such as our program committee and keynote speaker.