(Update: This essay has been chosen as one of the winning submissions.🏆 )
These are my thoughts after reading Balaji’s post. Read that first, and then come back to read this.
I’ll first talk about online communities, what makes them special and what we can do to make our network unions more immersive than traditional communities using the power of technology, mainly smart contracts and algorithms to create a superior form of social media that’s hard to conceive of right now.
We are all familiar with online communities. Everyone of us is in one. The internet has made it easier than ever to build online communities around varying interests since its inception. The true power of these communities is not when they form around mainstream interests like sports, or political parties, but when they form around the most niche interests that one thinks no one else would be interested in. Reddit is currently the go-to place for finding such communities.
Whatever it is that you enjoy, whatever your hobbies are, there’s a community built around that on reddit. These communities are called subreddits and each such subreddit is started by people like you and me.
Let’s say you like binge watching netflix. You can join r/netflix, or r/television and discuss what you’re watching. Or, you can find the subreddit of that specific show and carry your discussion, episode by episode, with people who are watching the same. 90% of the time, whatever you’re watching, has a community of it on reddit.
And it’s not just for netflix shows.
There’s a subreddit for people starting new Youtube channels, there’s a subreddit for people who enjoy buying mechanical keyboards, a subreddit for people who enjoy spinning a pen on their fingers, and a subreddit for discovering free games on Steam.
If you spend some time looking for obscure subreddits, you’ll find many subreddits that make absolutely no sense.
For example, this is a community of people who just love counting to large numbers. They have over 24 thousand members, and at the time of writing this post, they have managed to count to 4.3 million just by each member commenting a number and the next member commenting the next.
All of these niche communities makes you appreciate how different everyone is, how unique their interests are and how they develop in that short life that we all share, but even in that short while, humans are always seeking out other humans who share a common interest or goal.
It used to be obscure forums on sites like tapatalk, then orkut forums, then(and still) facebook groups but reddit made such communities easier to find and engage in. Most reddit subreddits contain a discord link these days, and on discord, the community finds new mediums where everyone can talk via voice chat or even stream to each other.
But all of these communities are based on common interests. If you are interested in pen spinning, you will join r/penspinning without a single thought when I send you the link.
But why would you join a network union?
Here we need to explore what those common interests are. Assuming the network union would be decentralized and based on a blockchain based network with smart contracts and ERC-20 tokens, this new community becomes more enticing as a ‘community of the future’.
If a deflationary currency exists in such a network union, wealth becomes a common interest and the early adopters will be rewarded for joining, holding the currency and inviting others to join as well.
I’ve found a secret society(well, it’s not so secret now, is it?) built on a blockchain that seems to function without any message boards, or messengers. Polkadot’s wilder cousin, Kusama, has a society called Kappa Sigma Mu on its parachain, but from what I can see on the surface, they have no purpose other than members joining and leaving and the individual members have no purpose other than voting on new members and kicking existing ones out. To join, you have to get a tattoo of a canary (Kusama network’s symbol) on your body (and even then, membership isn’t guaranteed), and bid a certain amount of KSM that you would get if you join.
So it is certainly possible right now to build a network union on the blockchain, but just the financial incentive shouldn’t be enough for our network union. Every new member must feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. The added wealth should be the icing on the cake, but for the network union to be relevant, we need to look past and actively avoid incentivizing members with just a financial motive.
The goal of our network union should be growth and to foster the community under different common purposes that tend to everyone’s needs. These can range from arranging remote work for someone that needs it, supporting each other’s businesses, mentoring and being mentors for those who need that, finding partners for users based on recommendations of fellow union members, etc.
For this to happen correctly, it is essential that not just existing friends communicate with each other but new members form relationships with other members.
But how do we ensure this happens?
Here’s my solution.
We reward everyone in the network union for fostering relationships with members that joined without their referral using in-union karma points instead of ERC-20 tokens. Those with higher in-union karma get to be at the center of the social graph, or top of the social tree, thereby making fostering connections the default way of building social capital. Governance tokens can be a reward for those at higher tiers of the social tree, but then again, introducing governance tokens gets in the way of true decentralization. Anyway…
We maintain a ledger to make sure no one cheats and smart contracts to ensure everyone follows through with this, otherwise it’d just end up being a decentralized LinkedIn. That’s not what we want, and smart contracts will help with that.
We require every member to communicate with a new member based on a specific time frame dictated by an Ebbinghaus Curve algorithm and we base our messenger smart contracts on that.
This is the same algorithm used in flashcard applications like Anki and it is the most efficient way to remember information for long intervals of time using the least amount of cognitive effort.
Here’s how this should ideally work-
Member A talks to Member N.
Both members have to talk to each other on the second day.
Both members have to talk to each other on the sixth/seventh day as dictated by the algorithm.
Both members have to talk to each other a week from then. Then 2 weeks from then. Then 3 months from then. And so on.
5 years later, both Member A and Member N will develop a deep enough relationship that feels like they know each other for a long time, and it all happened because of 7-10 conversations prompted by the algorithm.
If a member skips a conversation, it would work the same way as what happens when you mis-remember a flashcard. The curve would adequately reset and set your next prompt accordingly.
Having such a system in place, which should be possible now thanks to smart contracts, would ensure that close relationships develop among vast numbers of people in the most efficient way possible. Everyone will get a chance to know every other member deeply and foster meaningful connections with each other.
Attaching a financial incentive like rewarding such conversations, or penalizing skipping such conversations is not necessary. Simple in-union public karma points would be deemed as important as everyone would get to see who is following the rules, and who is not.
Celebrities, famous people, when they join the union, have to follow the same rules or have their karma affected. No one would want that, and no one would want others to see that they consider themselves above human conversations with other people.
Thus this blockchain-based network union using Ebbinghaus Curve based smart contracts on it’s messenger application would foster the deepest, and closest community over time where every member knows every other member. That will be more powerful than what we can now even imagine.
Like every great idea, this idea of mine has it’s problems.
If I’m a bad actor and I join this system, I should know what to do to game the system. Such people will always exist, and before deploying such an union we need to carefully think three steps ahead of them.
So, what are the loopholes in this memory-based blockchain union?
1. Two members can just agree to type gibberish in the chat box and upvote each other’s conversation to bypass the compulsory conversation requirement. To make sure this doesn’t happen, we either make the compulsory conversations public(as opposed to other private conversations that members can have at any time with each other) and open to moderation by governance token holders so that relevant bad actors can be booted. This will hurt privacy but it will also ensure that no one games the system and gains undeserved karma points. If this is not an option, we can ensure that compulsory conversations remain open for a longer time(1 hour) and a certain limit of messages have been exchanged. Those messages would also need to be monitored by another smart contract algorithm and flagged when gibberish is being typed. I think the former solution is better but worse for decentralization, but I’m sure we can think of something better too.
2. Once the network union keeps growing, despite the efficiency of the algorithm in serving compulsory conversation prompts at the exact right moment, the number of conversations with the number of members would keep growing. That is a problem that would occur as the network scales and it would require a few years to be a prominent problem. To counter this, we can cap users to follow a minimum compulsory limit. Like, the compulsory prompt doesn’t exist when they’ve communicated with a minimum of 150 members (Dunbar’s Number).
3. Some members will prematurely leave the network union as it grows, and the memory curve smart contract shouldn’t punish their respective partners when it happens. A system has to be in place to prevent the karma of existing members from being affected if their partners end up leaving.
Despite the above problems (which does have solutions), this new form of network union using superior technology could become the stepping stone towards decentralized network states with even superior technology. Close relationships between every member would ensure everyone’s needs are met and goals are furthered by the community at large.
We don’t know whether Facebook or Reddit would exist in 10 years, or whether something else would come around and disrupt them. But better technology can be built and as I’ve demonstrated in this post, it can serve a purpose far greater than what we can imagine. Such a network union would be far superior to all existing social media that exist right now, and we all know where the market goes once you have a better product.
In the end, when the final goal is to become a network state, such a network union would succeed in being the perfect step- one that is decentralized, one with superior technology, better motives than harvesting user data for ad revenue, and a common purpose of building connections and helping each other out.
If you’re an ambitious developer who wants to build this, I’m always a DM away, and I’d love to join the team.
If Zuck or Jeff or [Insert billionaire here] is reading this and decide to build something like this, don’t forget to send 500 BTC my way.