In addressing the shift towards “#decentralisation”, it is important to define nomenclature and context. For example, the question for clarification is: what is meant by “decentralisation” in comparison to “#distributed” and “peer-to-peer” constructs Distributed within the context of organisations has been the topic of a body of research specifically around the study of organisation computing. The underlying network and IT applications facilitate collaborative communications. The peer-to-peer or P2P architecture refers to the foundational network of nodes where the clients do not share any of their resources such as storage capacity, computing power, network connection, bandwidth and content. Decentralisation may assume the use of distributed and P2P capabilities. At a societal level, the shift towards decentralisation has various sources such as the financial crisis of 2008, the numerous breaches of citizen data in the form of hacks and the lack of privacy by design. The thesis is that the centralisation of citizen #data is subject to abuse. This #centralisation can take the form of government and commercial entities where the governance model is questionable due to these abuses. The exhortation that “data is the new oil” only amplifies the value of citizen data and
the interpretation that such data is indeed a #tokenised asset.
The Satoshi Nakamoto white paper describing Bitcoin as a “P2P Electronic Cash System” is a manifestation of decentralisation at a societal level that offers a frictionless exchange of value. This notion of decentralisation goes further to include the creation of “Decentralised Autonomous Organisations” or #DAOs where smart contracts create business and organisation logic as to provide governance in the absence of #centralisation. A smart contract is a computer program code that is capable of facilitating, executing and enforcing the negotiation or performance of an agreement using blockchain technology. The first experiments with DAOs and smart contracts clearly showed that these solutions function in an arena that is almost entirely unregulated. We explore the evolution of DAOs and their basic constructs at length in a recently launched course (https://www.catena.mba/online-course). Whilst technology possesses no agency and therefore cannot prevent miscreant actors from exploiting its intentional use, there is a chasm developing between intentional/unintentional surveillance by central authorities and the balance of what may be best for society. This observation begs the question as to how this chasm may be resolved and by which entities. What kind of social contract is required for the digital world we share? How is trust defined, and what is the role of trust towards decentralisation?
Social contract theory can be best defined as shaping policy consensus between designated authorities, e.g., government entities and citizens. There is an implication that values and ethics are shared. In the 21st Century, fostered by the use of social media and the Internet, social contracts have been evolving to identity politics and the notion of multiple identities especially when referring to #IoT and to the Internet of Everything and Everyone. Dignity and the struggle for recognition are provoking the requirement for a new social contract that can function in a digital world. Given the pattern of decentralisation or a hybrid therein, a novel and relevant social contract must put the citizen in the centre of the digital universe as an active player. A citizen can be defined as an individual who selectively and knowingly asserts his/her rights in a digitally-driven world. Therefore, a citizen does not necessarily mean an individual who belongs to a particular nation state, nor is a world citizen implied here. A digital citizen whose data is valuable must be the source of the social contract between he/she and the entities that he/she “trusts” preferably in decentralised modalities. This is a new assertion given that 21st Century social contracts have been evolving to include universal basic income to the right of guaranteed employment under Industry 4.0.
There is still a dependency on government entities where social contracts involve the instrument of taxation that is required to provide a “collective welfare” for nation-state citizens. Who creates the rules and how such rules are implemented may be a function of a societal smart contract that is developed by the digital citizen. Blockchain technology has been evolving over the past 10 years to include adoption by enterprises and in some cases governments. However, the missing link has been a digital citizen-driven social and smart contract. There is an assumption that the digital citizen possesses a priori knowledge in both the development and use of these emerging mechanisms that foster the creation of a new social contract. This assertion may be true; therefore, further exploration on the type of training and education and by which entities is recommended.