The Promise of Impartiality
A contract, any contract, evolves through the wish of people to interact and exchange value.
For an agreement to be transformed into a contract, it must be governed by a set of rules which denote its inner logic, that can be redacted and implemented. The quest for impartial governance, with no goals other than oversight, ensuring contracts are conducted to the letter, is as ancient as the pursuit of justice.
The latest significant concept for an impartially-governed contract dates from the 18th century. This notion was responsible for the birth of the nation state, the corporate, the central bank, and many other derivative structures, which have proven robust enough to survive. They continue to serve humanity, almost unchanged.
As time goes by, as societies and civilisations evolve, their governing structures must adapt or fall out of step. Rather than point out cracks in the wall, the mission is to reimagine concepts and sketch solutions that regain impartiality where it is lacking, and to redesign coherent contracts where power and responsibility are decently apportioned.
New technologies, including blockchain, resurrect the hope of coherence. We dare to imagine a clearer alignment of purpose and power in our collective lives. But let’s be uncomfortably honest: compared with other technologies, blockchain does not offer efficiency or speed. Quite the contrary.
Should blockchain have any merit, it would be simply this: the promise to regain the impartiality of the governor of a contract. This is a dream of straightforwardness, a wish challenged time and again by governors who so humanly morph into middle men, each with a vision of his own, with human nature to oblige.
There is nothing bold about burning bridges to the past. True courage lies not only in challenging existing paradigms, but in our effort to reconcile innovation with reality, always confronting the risk of rapid displacement. We have much to be proud of, much to take strength from, in the labors of heart and soul that cement our current civilisation, forming the very ground beneath our feet. It is not the first time technology led the drive, nor will it be the last. Several hundred years ago, the printing press unleashed a rush of change, the impact of which radiates to this day. However, technology is no king, presiding over all. The novelies and shortcuts of brilliant engineering must be guided, harnessed to true social benefit, for them to become longstanding pillars of value.
Volatility, the shakiness that causes erratic troughs and peaks, is no mere technical bug. We cannot compute it out of existence. It is an incarnation of the diversity of perceived risk, a wavering echo that follows every call for dramatic change. How to tame volatility? By favouring evolution over revolution, temperance over bombast, by carefully counting the cost of change. To become truly stable, we must model trust.
We confront a fundamental choice. On the one hand we are presented with an approach that leverages technology to deny the mere possibility of government, a world of technological anarchism, unbridled freedom coupled to a grey void of social responsibility. The other path demands we put technology into perspective; a tool to be deployed in favour of gradual improvements in governance. This necessitates working hard within our current system, flawed as it may be, to bolster future contracts. We must choose the latter.
There are two stances for engaging this new technology. Understandably, those responsible for the greater good may be slower to adopt change. After all, they’ll be held to account for the consequences. Elsewhere, private initiative, unburdened by haughty concerns, is quick to respond, leaping at the promise of new solutions and models. To grasp the moment, to demonstrate value that will pertain over time, we must take inspiration from both camps. To balance the vibrant potential of the latter with the deeply felt responsibility of the former.
Saga is born in a startup climate. Whereas startups tend to address tangible goals in a linear trajectory, Saga borrows approaches from both the Republic of Letters, and the Republic itself. We discover in the humanities and sciences the tools, the method, to draft a Concept. Here we detect principles that — when threaded together — outline the contours of an uncharted territory. These will be ideas. Noble as they are, they have merit only when translated into value. There is the other face of Saga, the drive towards a Solution.
Working to a relentlessly practical timeline, focused on demonstrating value, we seize the ingredients at hand, labour brick-by-brick within established structures. Depth may be sacrificed at times, one dimension may be favoured over others, but the outcome will be tangible. The flow works both ways: concrete as Saga’s Solutions will be, they can only succeed when imbued with purpose. That comes with laborious interdisciplinary thought and analysis: each action in the Solution will be met by rigorous assessment at the Concept. We’ll continually test and push ourselves as we explore the outer reaches of this new social continent. The following posts will present the Saga proposal. As our project sits between a Concept and a Solution, so too will we jump between theory and the fine detail of practice, between the big picture and the daily news, between the wish and the reality. We consider both essential.
We invite you to join us for the ride.
For more information about Saga visit our website: www.saga.org