Can we tokenize trust?
It feels like we are in a state of flux right now. Tokenisation and crypto are in their wild west phase. Projects are appearing everywhere trying to make a buck or legitimately move the usefulness of crypto forward. NFTs seem to have reached peak popularity due to how quickly it has become simple to create, mint, and sell NFTs through platforms like OpenSea. On the other hand, the projects seem to be rapidly converging, with most following the same pattern of 10,000 unique combinations of art assets with varying frequency. Much like the wave of trading cards that followed Pokemon in the nineties, one success creates a thousand replicas. Some will succeed. Others won't. Whatever the case, the public understanding of tokens and cryptocurrency is undoubtedly at an all-time high. Beyond art collection, a new phenomenon has begun to appear, the DAO. The decentralised autonomous organisation. They are run by the token holders, at least in theory, but rightly questioned, what happens when a DAO is run by a population susceptible to fake news and hidden behind anonymity?
Keeping in the theme of tokens raises the question of tokenising trust. Can web3, crypto or any other system give us a public, verifiable and trustworthy indication of reliable information? I am currently on the fence. On the one hand, the promise of distributed trust is the foundation of crypto. On the other, a system where reputation and finance are tightly coupled is a hotbed for corruption. Furthermore, do we want to hand over the responsibility of scepticism?
In Neal Stephenson's Anathem, there is a moment where the protagonist, a scholarly monk type character, talks with his sister. The conversation centres around a stove that is crudely assembled from simple parts. Erasmas, the protagonist, laments the missed opportunities to optimise and modernise the stove. Citing new technology that could improve efficiency and cost. His sister, Cord, responds that the cost of these improvements is a sacrifice of understanding the technology. The crude stove can be fixed, maintained and improved due to its simplicity. A newer stove would take specialist knowledge to fix and may require tools and parts beyond easy access. All of this is to say that, like the stove, perhaps trust and truth need to be kept crude. To be fixable, understandable and independently verifiable. Tokens, possibly, can assist in this process, but we need to remember the humans even in this technopunk future we are creating.