The Courage to Innovate Without Permission

The Courage to Innovate Without Permission


You probably heard I’m an expert in Bitcoin.
I want to talk about something else completely: trust. The Dunbar number is defined as the maximum
number of people who can be in a community. We see this in nature among other social animals
like chimpanzees, wolves, or bonobo monkeys. About 150 members of a community can relate to each
other simply based on ties of family and acquaintance. You probably know about 150 people intimately.
Your brain is designed to have that limit. How do we exceed that limit? Exceeding that limit,
essentially, is the definition of civilization. For thousands of years, human beings have found
ways to gradually increase the number of people… they can relate to and organize, creating ties
between neighbouring communities. To do that, first we had to invent language.
But language was not enough, so we invented religion. Religion was not enough, so we invented money. Gradually, we kept making the
organisations we could build bigger. As these organisations got bigger, we started
building monuments to these achievements. The pyramids in Egypt are a demonstration that we can
collaborate and organise tens of thousands of people… over decades to build monuments that last. Our civilization has continued to
grow and build on this promise. The Industrial Revolution created new
models for us to organize, to collaborate. The primary model of the Industrial Revolution
is the bureaucratic hierarchy — the organisation, the institution, the corporation. A pyramid scheme, a system that looks like the Egyptian
pyramids, where actions are taken at the bottom, decisions are made at the top,
information must flow up and be concentrated. But there’s a problem with this scheme. The problem
is that power also flows up and is concentrated. At some point, once you make the organisation big
enough, the person or people making the decision… will have too much power and not enough information. They are far away from the place
where decisions are being acted on. They cannot see the consequences of those decisions. Power corrupts. The more you have, the more it corrupts. The organisations, through the scientific method and the
Industrial Revolution, brought us to this globalisation, to the internet, to all of the amazing
things we’ve built as a civilization. The fundamental units that help us decide,
collaborate, organise are failing to scale. We cannot make decisions on a global scale
about simple things or important things. We cannot solve the problems that we have enough
money to solve, like poverty or climate change. The reason we can’t is because our
fundamental organisational unit is failing to scale to the demands of a global planet. How do we fix this? On January 3rd 2009,
Satoshi Nakamoto invented Bitcoin. Most people think that this invention was about money,
but it wasn’t. It was fundamentally about trust. The internet has given us this fantastic opportunity
to be able to scale communication to a global level. We can now communicate effectively at numbers of
billions of people, all around the world, without barriers, without borders; blind to ethnicity, nationality, race,
religion, age, ability, or any of the other things… that confuse our communication. Yet many important things on
the internet are centralised. They still have the fundamental
construct of a bureaucratic hierarchy. Corporations that require decision-making at the top,
by unelected leaders who decide on social structures and the rules of our most important
applications and functions. Yet they are far distant from the users they serve. Organisations like Facebook and
Google, but so many others too. The internet has scaled communication,
but it cannot scale decision-making. The reason for that is trust. We didn’t have a platform to scale trust. We didn’t have a platform to create trusted
decision-making without hierarchy. Until January 3rd 2009. Once you understand what blockchain technology does,
you understand that this is not about currency. Currency is just the most obvious application. Once you can build a completely flat, non-hierarchical,
peer-to-peer network that allows you for the first time to take trust and move it from being a system
of institutions, bureaucracies, and hierarchies into becoming a protocol, a flat network, that allows you
to interact with others without an intermediary, without a corporation, without a hierarchy. We can make this technology scale so we can now have
trusted decisions and governance on a massive scale, without giving power to the few, without
creating these hierarchical organisations that have managed to get us this far
but cannot get us any further. This model of trust is gradually seeping
into the consciousness of the world. People are beginning to realize that we can do a lot
more than just currency with his technology. We can build voting systems. We can re-imagine
the corporation itself, create ad-hoc associations between people who come together to create
new projects and applications without leaders. In this system of trust, there are rules. These rules are
easy to determine and predictable in their outcomes. But there are no rulers. We have never before
in history had a system of rules without rulers. What happens when this technology is unleashed on the world? Governments rise up and say, “Thank you!” “This is the solution we’ve been looking for.
We no longer need to make hierarchical decisions.” “Finally we can scale.” No. They are saying, “This will only be used by
criminals and pornographers. For ransomware.” “It subverts the state. We cannot allow it. We must
regulate it. Who gave you permission to do this?” “You didn’t ask the regulator, the parliament,
to start organising on a massive global scale.” We did not ask for permission. And yet, here it is. It is happening on a massive scale
and it is growing exponentially. It will shake the world to its foundations. It is a system
of social organisation that delivers equality as a feature. Almost every important innovation in history
starts off being illegal or unregulated. All of the interesting things in technology were
started by people who forgot to ask for permission. The regulations and laws themselves
are written by hierarchical institutions to serve the incumbent corporations that need
those laws to protect themselves from competition. The model that we are disrupting is not finance.
It is hierarchy, and the rules were written by hierarchy. Of course, these systems break those rules. Well, guess what? Skype was [once] illegal and they
did it anyway. Uber was illegal, and they did it anyway. Airbnb was illegal and they did it anyway. Everything interesting in the
world starts of being “illegal.” Self-driving cars started rolling in California without
permission. They were illegal and they did it anyway. You are startup founders. When you decide how to
build your next application… Be bold, be brave. Break a few rules, [though] don’t do criminal things.
Think of morality first and rules second. Break the mold. Don’t ask for permission. Innovate faster than they can write the rules. Create the next world, the one
you want your children to live in. One that is free from hierarchy, that allows us
to collaborate across the world peer-to-peer. We can change the world, but in order to do that,
we must not ask for permission. We must be bold. Thank you. [Applause]

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