Welcome to the Intelligent Voluntary Cooperation group!

The Purpose of This Group

  • This group will meet monthly to hear keynote presentations based on chapters of a book being written by Allison, Mark, and Christine called Voluntary Intelligent Cooperation and to discuss the topics.
  • We hope to invite those who work on decentralized technologies for cooperation to learn, share ideas, and receive support both moral and material.


This meeting is part of the Intelligent Cooperation Group and accompanying book draft.


Broad Strokes of the Year


Christine Peterson’s status update:

  • Let’s start with the good stuff: the private space and longevity industries are taking off, AI is progressing, the developing world is getting connected to the internet bringing education and employment. Environment problems are getting tackled, robotics and drone technology is better and better. Neuroscience is poised for a period of major advancment and our command of biology is more complete everyday.
  • But there is bad stuff: declining freedom and privacy through surveillance and social control abounds, those same techonooglies we’re excited about can be used for ill.
  • Cryptocurrencies and encryption promise freedom for bits, but we need freedom for bits AND atoms!


Mark Miller’s status update:

  • Global violence has decreased and cooperation has ramped up and allowed for amazing growth, but we need better infrastructure to support these global complex cooperative arrangements.
  • Centralizing and decentralizing forces are in play in the world that aid and impede agreements. While nation-states centralize power, the Internet makes geographic governance less and less relevant to cyber activities.
  • On the web we face centralizing dynamics from internet giants, while cryptography and decentralized technologies have come onto the scene to help decentralize our digital infrastructure.
  • We face Collective Action Problems! We’d all like to go one way, but we don’t know how. Smart Contracts can help us navigate these Collective Action Problems.
  • Everyone, always: “If only it worked THIS way things would be better!” But it’s hard to test. Blockchain technology allows us to experiment with digital governance at much lower cost than physical governance experiments (which often cost many lives).
  • Most governance experiments in the digital realm will fail as with evolution, but there will be some gems that survive, thrive, and become important tools for cooperative society moving forward.


Now, what problems are we running into?

  • Christine Peterson’s foreboding bit:
    • Dystopian fictions are seeming more like handbooks than warnings…
    • The ability to monitor and control populations is getting cheaper and easier, so freedom movements can be nipped in the bud. In the relatively free countries we see disinformation campaigns and mass psychological manipulation.
    • It’s very hard for individuals to hold any private information, most of which is entrusted to companies with terrible information security ripe for predation by independent and state-affiliated threat actors.
  • Mark Miller’s foreboding bit:
    • The software infrastructure of the world is not just insecure, it’s insecurable. We know HOW to build secure systems, we have since the 1970s, but markets aren’t rewarding security, only functionality.
    • The economics at play here will be changing. The SolarWinds Attack highlights this vulnerability, but fortunately these big attacks have been used to spy by nations, not disrupt things… so far.
    • We’ll soon have automated AI hacking software in the wild constantly stress-testing all systems to a degree we haven’t even approached yet.
    • Because of the Darwinism of the cryptosphere, the systems that survive will be the most secure, and the feedback loops are tight so things die fast. This sets us up to have some really secure systems built quite rapidly.


Ok: what can we hope for?

  • On intelligiziing cooperation: the way in which AI is actually being pursued in the world is quite different than the normal framing of AI risk. We’re building many intelligent systems for doing very particular tasks that are embedded in a society that is coevolving with theses systems to cooperate with them.
  • As these things become more and more intelligent, they’ll find themselves in the same situation we do: attempting to accomplish our goals in an environment that is largely shaped by other agents working toward their own goals.


What about this?

  • No, that


How do smart contracts and AI dance?


Lots of individualism in the tone of the discussion so far… How do democratic and identity systems play with these market-driven dynamics discussed?

  • This is true, there’s been a lotta market talk so far. The problem: our current tech is undermining Democracy.
  • Enter ~ polycentrism ~. Different decisions affect different ranges of folks. Big central decision-making systems for lots of people to decide together were needed.
  • On the other end of the spectrum is the evolution of language, the most decentralized of coordination mechanisms.
  • These decentralized technologies push governance evolution toward language evolution in terms of many experiments and many generations of constant change.


Is the Internet inherently non-violent?

  • … is it? IoT etc could mean internet enabled physical harm.
  • Right, we have to constrain what we’re talking about to the “digital” realm to use the often useful approximation of non-violence.


What are the downsides to smart contracts and digital governance?

  • We don’t know where it will go. And miners have a lot of power over what transactions get included and how they are ordered.


How are information security and misinformation related?

  • All communication now is filtered through computational systems. The amount of spam harassment and threats is outpacing our ability to filter them.
  • What is and is not censorship? Moderating this zoom call is obviously not, but big central systems don’t always have obvious consistent ways to moderate.
  • “Networks of Consent”


Where are the smart contracts in the wild?

  • DeFi is poppin’, NFTs and collectibles, not much else… yet.




Seminar summary by James Risberg.