Decentralized Society: Finding Web3's Soul

37 Pages Posted: 11 May 2022 Last revised: 6 Feb 2024

See all articles by Puja Ohlhaver

Puja Ohlhaver

Independent Researcher

E. Glen Weyl

Plural Technology Collaboratory, Microsoft Research Special Projects; Plurality Institute; GETTING-Plurality Research Network

Vitalik Buterin

Ethereum Foundation

Date Written: May 10, 2022

Abstract

Web3 today centers around expressing transferable, financialized assets, rather than encoding social relationships of trust. Yet many core economic activities—such as uncollateralized lending and building personal brands—are built on persistent, non-transferable relationships. In this paper, we illustrate how non-transferable “soulbound” tokens (SBTs) representing the commitments, credentials, and affiliations of “Souls” can encode the trust networks of the real economy to establish provenance and reputation. More importantly, SBTs enable other applications of increasing ambition, such as community wallet recovery, sybil-resistant governance, mechanisms for decentralization, and novel markets with decomposable, shared rights. We call this richer, pluralistic ecosystem “Decentralized Society” (DeSoc)—a co-determined sociality, where Souls and communities come together bottom-up, as emergent properties of each other to co-create plural network goods and intelligences, at a range of scales. Key to this sociality is decomposable property rights and enhanced governance mechanisms—such as quadratic funding discounted by correlation scores—that reward trust and cooperation while protecting networks from capture, extraction, and domination. With such augmented sociality, web3 can eschew today’s hyper-financialization in favor of a more transformative, pluralist future of increasing returns across social distance.

Keywords: Web3, pluralism, blockchains, soulbound tokens, NFTs

JEL Classification: D43, D62, D63, K11, P48, D82

Suggested Citation

Ohlhaver, Puja and Weyl, Eric Glen and Buterin, Vitalik, Decentralized Society: Finding Web3's Soul (May 10, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4105763 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4105763

Puja Ohlhaver

Independent Researcher ( email )

Eric Glen Weyl (Contact Author)

Plural Technology Collaboratory, Microsoft Research Special Projects ( email )

11 Ellsworth Ave, #2
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
8579984513 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.glenweyl.com

Plurality Institute ( email )

GETTING-Plurality Research Network ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Vitalik Buterin

Ethereum Foundation ( email )

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