Article: Social Scalability Is Ethereum’s Real Promise


Sharing an ETHNews article that Alison Berreman wrote about my talk: She brought up Szabo’s politics, which I didn’t mention – I’m pretty sure I attributed the social scalability idea to him in my talk – but otherwise it’s a solid read. Here’s the core:

In his Devcon talk, Rettig argued that the nation state is, for the moment, perhaps the most effective technology for social scalability. This framework, developed only in the last few hundred years, has provided a mechanism for human coordination on a mass scale. Some countries, Rettig pointed out, have more than a billion people cooperating under this one system, and it has also provided a framework for international relationships and exchange. However, he also said that the nation state is starting to become outdated, using America’s low civic engagement and Donald Trump’s presidency as exemplary of this point. The crowd seemed to love it, though I think it’s worth stating that those particular examples are actually of the failure of American democracy, not the nation state as a concept.

He has a point, though: The nation state is a relatively new development in human history, and “it’s a mistake to presuppose that this system will, should, or could be with us forever.” And besides, even if the nation state has been successful in allowing for the extreme growth in human population and technology, it’s also allowed those billions of people to coordinate to use that advanced technology to destroy each other and the planet. Perhaps a different structure, one explicitly built around incentive mechanisms, might have better luck in facilitating coordination for the benefit of earthlings – plant, animal, or otherwise.

And this brought him back to his purpose: that Ethereum, or the Ethereum community and momentum behind it, might offer a valuable upgrade to a technology that one day may become outdated, and is already showing signs of wear. The online forum, he hopes, might act as a place for people to dig into questions about how to actualize that potential.