Manufacturing Communities with Imagined Consent

Welcome to my techno-communitarian utopia arc!

Trevor Chow

🛑 Epistemic Warning: More than most posts, this smörgåsbord is one where “strong opinions, weakly held” applies. It’s rather eclectic and I have mixed feelings on how much I buy it all.

This is a story in 5 posts:

一. Biblical game theory and the case for communities

The postlapsarian state of nature is characterised by competition and conflict between humans. If modelled game theoretically, we find that the repeated interactions with other humans allow us to support cooperative outcomes. But to converge to these positive sum equilibria, we need societal trust.

二. Citadel, market and altar: the three monuments of society

Historically, there have been three important ways to evolve common knowledge of trust: exclusionary national identities, credit-backed money and mass religions. Each corresponds to a monument of society: the citadel where borders are demarcated, the market where money is exchanged and the altar upon which sacredness is defined.

三. Death of God and the fall of civic religion

God is dead. Civic religion is dead. And liberalism killed it. The free movement of goods, people and ideas has immeasurably improved human prosperity, but it has also left “society” devoid of form or function. Whatever we build next needs to grapple with the fact that trust is an argument in the societal production function, and we are sorely lacking it.

四. The hitchhiker’s guide to winning elections

One way of reshaping society is through politics. But how can we win over the particularist and ideologically inconsistent median voter? And how can we get things done in a pessimistic and low-trust world? These are hard questions. Perhaps the best we can do is simply to pledge popular stuff, deliver on our promises and devolve power to local communities.

五. The arc of history is long but it bends towards web3

The other way of reshaping society is through technology. After all, our societal problems are endogenous to technology i.e. the scarcity of resources and the difficulty of scaling trust past Dunbar’s number. It was technical innovations that took us from the clusters of parochial tribes to the hierarchical institutions of nationstates, the competitive models of markets and collaborative networks of religions. One next step in this long line of innovation is web3, and the trustless decentralisation it offers. Another is a renewed agenda for economic abudance. But these aren’t just going to manifest themselves; we need to fight for them!