Links

Chapter 8: Superalignment

Unless we create effective feedback loops for negative externalities, we're not going to get far in dealing with the crises we face or in changing our trajectory. Nor will we be much closer to creating a true abundance economy. The question then is, what can the Abundance Protocol do to counteract negative externalities? If it can create effective feedback loops for public goods, can it do the same for externalities?
To understand how the protocol can counteract externalities, we first need to have a sense of the dynamics it creates more broadly. This is particularly important because the Abundance Protocol creates new dynamics that were never possible before. It allows people, for the first time ever, to work directly for the public interest.
Why public interest, and not just community interest or ecosystem interest? Imagine you have several different abundance ecosystems, each running the protocol independent of each other. You’d think that if you wanted to be a public goods contributor you’d go to one ecosystem, create a public good that benefits that ecosystem, go through the validation process and get rewarded for the public good in that ecosystem’s native currency.
Sure, that would work. But why limit yourself? If you want to maximize your reward, you’d create a public good that has maximal impact, not just in one ecosystem but everywhere. You can then make a proposal for your project in each of the ecosystems. Each of them would then evaluate the impact of your public good on that ecosystem, and reward you accordingly as the impact is realized.
Now suppose some communities and regions participate in ecosystems while other regions have not launched their ecosystem yet. A contributor would still want to create public goods that have the most impact even where no ecosystem exists. Because when the ecosystem is launched the contributor would be able to receive a reward from it retroactively.
Notice the intriguing dynamics here: the interest of contributors is to maximize their reward, which means maximizing their impact everywhere. Contributors are not tied to any particular ecosystem. Rather, they are self-employed free agents. Yet, their economic self-interest is aligned with the public interest, as well as the interest of every ecosystem they participate in.
Meanwhile, the various ecosystems are not rivals. Obviously each ecosystem wants to attract high-caliber contributors. But the only way to do so is by more effectively valuing impact. For that, ecosystems want to attract validators who review projects accurately. There is no benefit to overvalue or undervalue projects, since that only motivates participants to exit the ecosystem, which devalues the currency. But proper valuation creates trust in the ecosystem and attracts more participants. Participants and contributors join ecosystems because of the economic opportunities they provide.
Ecosystems also need to experiment with various mechanisms and strategies, and develop AI capabilities to improve their impact valuation. Even then they don't compete over the tech or the mechanisms. They can't. Because the consensus mechanism has to be transparent for it to be trustworthy, all the code it runs has to be open source. And if it's all open sourced, other ecosystems can easily copy everything.
And yet, developers aren’t concerned that others will copy their work — they look forward to it. If other abundance ecosystems use the code then the developers have an impact on those ecosystems as well, which means that they can get compensated for their work there. Contributors therefore always have the incentive to maximize their impact and aren’t worried if others use their work.
Ecosystems want to grow, so they need to maintain trust and improve their effectiveness at impact valuation to do so. Abundance ecosystems aren’t rivals, they benefit from the success of others, and others benefit from their success.
This whole process is mediated by the native currencies of the ecosystems. When contributors grow the ecosystem’s economic capacity, they are compensated for their impact through currency inflation. This process ensures that the value of the currency remains stable in relation to other ecosystems. By maintaining currency stability, participants in the ecosystem have the incentive to use the currency as an economic, rather than a financial, instrument.
Why is this distinction important? It all has to do with alignment. When used as a financial speculative tool, the currency, and by extension the ecosystem itself, produces the same dynamics we’ve seen with the Musical Chairs analogy — it creates adversarial relations. Speculators want the value of their coins to go up, so they’d want to promote greater demand for their currency and greater sell pressure for other currencies. And they would promote their currency whether there is merit to it or not. Now their economic interests are misaligned with the other ecosystems — if others lose, they win (and vice versa). Would they want to collaborate on public goods projects that benefit other ecosystems then? Unlikely. They might even want to work on projects that may harm other ecosystems, since that would benefit their bottom line. These are the dynamics we’re all too familiar with in the Scarcity Paradigm.
But if the currency maintains stability in relation with other ecosystems, the adversarial dynamics go away. Then participants use the currency because they want goods and services that the ecosystem provides, and not for speculation. Participants have no interest in driving demand for or away from the currency or the ecosystem. They therefore have no interest in misrepresenting the merits of the currency or the ecosystem, but would rather be transparent about them. Participants would also prefer to have thriving ecosystems so they can benefit from their products and enjoy the economic opportunities they provide. They also benefit from ecosystems collaborating on mutually beneficial projects.
The currency stability mechanism of abundance ecosystems creates a state of superalignment — an alignment between the interests of all participants in an ecosystem, alignment between all ecosystems, and elimination of adversarial dynamics throughout.
The term also reflects the dynamic created by launching the Abundance Protocol within existing rivalrous ecosystems. Suppose you have two blockchains. Like all blockchains, these two compete over attracting high caliber developers, active users, and ultimately over the price of their cryptocurrency — forming two warring digital tribes. But what happens if the Abundance Protocol is launched on both ecosystems?
Suddenly the blockchains don't need to compete over developers anymore. Developers would always want to solve the biggest issues facing both blockchains. That's how they can maximize their impact — and their compensation — through the abundance ecosystems on both blockchains. Thus the protocol superimposes a layer of alignment between previously rivalrous communities. It allows both communities to flourish together, and use scarce labor much more efficiently.
This superalignment dynamic would work similarly not just for blockchains but for any number of presently competing crypto projects, companies, universities or towns. Wherever there is an opportunity to produce common or public goods more effectively, the Abundance Paradigm can be the difference between senseless tribalism and thriving.
So now we have a better sense of the dynamics of ecosystems, but what does any of this have to do with negative externalities? As we shall see, these ecosystem dynamics will affect those producing negative externalities at three different tiers: first, it would change the media environment, so that offenders are exposed and the public’s sensemaking ability is restored. Second, it would create incentives for contributors to create technological and other solutions to negative externalities. Third, as ecosystems grow, offenders would have a disincentive to produce externalities, since doing so would inhibit them from participating, benefiting from, or having influence in abundance economies. The combined effect of these dynamics can create effective feedback loops to disincentivize the production of externalities while promoting solutions to address existing conditions.
Let’s then take a closer look at each of the tiers, starting with the effect on sensemaking. Imagine how a journalist would go about maximizing their impact in abundance ecosystems. Instead of focusing on just one ecosystem, they could make a greater impact by focusing on the public interest. Then each ecosystem could reward them based on their impact within that community. And now that their economic interest is aligned with the public interest, they no longer need to look for stories that drive outrage or clicks. Rather, they would want to investigate the cases and events that have the most impact in people’s lives.
This also changes the public’s attitude toward these journalists. The people know that the journalists earn money based on the impact they make, and know that the journalists work for the public interest. They would trust such journalists over anyone who claims to work for the public while earning money from polarizing and sensationalist content in the attention economy.
The ecosystems also create dynamics where journalists can openly collaborate with others on the stories they work on, without fear that others would take credit for their work. Anyone can build on the work of others and everyone will get compensated based on their contribution.
So what happens when news organizations no longer have to work in silos and be secretive over their sources? What happens when all the information can be shared publicly and everyone’s contribution adds greater perspective to news events? And what happens when everyone is focused on providing accurate information, since providing misleading information leads to loss in credibility and earnings?
Suddenly the public gets a line of defense against those producing negative externalities. Not only can people trust the work of journalists who work for the public interest, but journalists have the incentive to expose those who do the most harm — such investigative journalism has a great impact on society.
These effects are strengthened as ecosystems grow. Larger ecosystems would have more journalists collaborating, and more experts verifying the credibility of news reports. The ecosystem would also be able to provide more compensation for exposing externalities, thus incentivizing more contributors to become investigative journalists. This in fact is the exact opposite dynamic we see in newsrooms today. Currently, investigative journalists are now effectively an endangered species. There is no economic incentive in the attention economy to produce hard-hitting news or challenging centers of power, so no reason to pay for investigative journalists.
In abundance ecosystems however, impact is what drives compensation. If journalists expose offenders who harm the ecosystem they are rewarded accordingly. But they are only rewarded after a comprehensive process that determines the credibility of the claims. The larger the ecosystem, the more robust the process would be, and therefore the public can have more trust in the work of the journalists.
Those accused of producing negative externalities are equally free to present their position to the ecosystem, and the value consensus mechanism must review it impartially. In fact, everyone in the ecosystem has the incentive to review each claim fairly. Failing to do so would lead to participants losing trust and leaving the ecosystem. And if participants (or contributors) leave the ecosystem it devalues the currency and financially harms all remaining participants. It is precisely because of the incentive structure of abundance ecosystems to review all content impartially that this process can have public trust.
This means that those who produce the most externalities can no longer rely on a polarized public that cannot make sense of the world around them. Instead, those who produce externalities are exposed for the harm they cause.
What worked for these offenders before in the Digital Age will no longer work in the Abundance Age. Any tactic they may employ to discredit journalists that work for the public interest is unlikely to be effective. This again is not because journalists are infallible, but because for their work to be rewarded in an ecosystem it has to go through a rigorous validation process. For journalists, this means corroborating evidence and verifying the credibility of claims. In essence, unless the accusers produce credible evidence against a journalist, their claims will have little merit.
Meanwhile, those who use traditional social media to attack public interest journalists are standing on a shaky foundation. On the one hand you have people who earn a living by working for the public interest — transparently and credibly. Their track record is visible to all on-chain, and their reports are corroborated by other reputable sources. On the other hand you have people who make money not from benefiting society, but from how much attention they bring to themselves. Who is the public more likely to trust in such a dispute?
Those who work for the public have a structural advantage here. That is, as long as they keep their integrity. If they resort to the same unscrupulous tactics as content creators in traditional social media, they’d lose their credibility very quickly in the abundance ecosystem. This is yet another feedback loop that helps keep journalists honest in the ecosystem.
So abundance ecosystems can help restore our sensemaking ability, and effectively resist malicious attempts to discredit principled journalists. At the same time they incentivize journalists to expose those who produce negative externalities, and prioritize exposing those who create the most harm.
Abundance ecosystems set a new standard for information to be credible: if claims undergo the rigorous validation process of value consensus, where they are corroborated (or challenged), then they’re credible and the public can trust them. Otherwise, anyone can make absolutely any unsubstantiated claims they want, but such claims will have little credibility in the public eye.
The effect is that offenders can no longer effectively spread misinformation exponentially and create mistrust and polarization in the public. Of course, they (and anyone else) are still free to post whatever misinformation they want. The difference is that since such information is not validated and corroborated on-chain, it would have no credibility.
What’s more, since now users have an alternative to the attention economy in the form of an abundance economy, they have much less of an incentive to spread unverified claims online. They also have an economic incentive to produce content that benefits the public interest. The shift in economic incentives from producing externalities to producing public goods is only going to accelerate as abundance ecosystems grow, and become more effective at valuing impact.
The Digital Age created a dynamic where negative externalities can spread exponentially. Now abundance ecosystems can degrade the effect of the spread by creating a standard for credible digital information. With this new standard the public can finally differentiate between reliable content and unsubstantiated claims, thus reestablishing its sensemaking ability.
Abundance economies also put offenders on the defensive, as investigative journalists have an economic incentive to expose their harm to communities. While these effects on externalities producers are consequential, they are still mostly in the realm of increasing social and reputational cost, and don’t amount to an effective feedback loop.
The second tier of effects created by abundance ecosystems has to do with mitigating the damage caused by externalities. Since contributors are rewarded based on the impact they create, some of the greatest impact could be in the form of reversing the damage caused by offenders. Contributors can look for the sources that cause the most harm to ecosystems and work on solutions to reduce or eliminate that harm. If they come up with a technological solution, that can be considered as a public good for the ecosystem. If the work of contributors mitigates the damage, such as a beach cleanup operation for example, that can be considered as a common good that an ecosystem would need to balance out in its fund issuance.
The ecosystem effects in this tier are unlikely to move the needle on creating effective feedback loops for negative externalities. Yet, they are likely to have a substantive impact on communities who wouldn’t suffer as much from externalities. This dynamic is likely to attract both contributors and participants to ecosystems. Participants would want a system that works to protect them from harm. At the same time, contributors would see it as an opportunity to work on meaningful projects that benefit the common good while offering material compensation.
The third tier of abundance ecosystems effects is the one that’s most likely to create effective feedback loops for negative externalities. The concept here is that individuals and organizations who already have products or services can get funds from ecosystems for the public or common goods that they produce. The process here would be the same as any project proposal to the ecosystem; these contributors can gain both funds and expertise scores in the ecosystems, giving them influence within each ecosystem in proportion to their contribution.
As ecosystems grow, companies would also have an economic incentive to put their patents in the public domain and open sourcing their software. Providing these as public goods would likely generate a lot more income for the business than keeping rights to patents and proprietary code.
While businesses would be able to greatly prosper from abundance ecosystems, the same cannot be said if these businesses produce negative externalities. That is because any evaluation of the impact that these businesses produce would also have to take into account the harm they produce as well. If a business has products or services that have great impact on communities, yet it is also producing negative externalities, these are likely to cancel each other out. If the externalities outweigh the positive impact the business will get no benefit from the impact.
This dynamic has a secondary effect as well. Even if a company doesn’t care about any benefits they may gain from the abundance economy, its business partners and customers may care. Which means that they’re less likely to want to do business with a company that produces negative externalities.
Offenders are unlikely to get away with harming communities, since ecosystems have strong incentives to expose those who do harm. Ecosystems also have effective mechanisms to defend their sensemaking institutions from those who try to delegitimize or discredit them.
The result is an effective feedback loop for negative externalities. Now every individual and company has an incentive to produce public goods and avoid producing externalities. Meanwhile, those who currently produce externalities have the economic incentive to eliminate or reduce those as much as possible. By reducing externalities a company would benefit more in the abundance economy. Those companies that don’t want to participate in the abundance economy would still want to reduce externalities so others would want to do business with them.
Once we have effective feedback loops for both public goods and negative externalities, we can have a true individual–public interest alignment, and the emergence of an Abundance Paradigm. With those in place we can effectively tackle the multitude of crises we face and put ourselves on a path to economic abundance.