Re-Cycling Bike MOOP

Last year we brought you news of a program to do something useful that alsoaddresses the problem of hundreds thousands of Burner bikes that get dumped on the Playa each year.

Well, good news, Burners: it worked. They sold 400 bikes to Burners and have shipped a container full of bikes to Africa. It’s great to hear about a Burner-generated initiative that is actually making a difference in the world.

With a little more support, something lasting can now be created to support the bikes and the lifestyle they enable.

Burner Lily says:

Last year we sold 400 bikes to Burners, and now we successfully have sent a container of pre-loved Burner Loop Bikes to Namibia which is a huge achievement! But to make this a real success story we need to complete our last stage of the project by offering crucial on ground support and empowerment over in Namibia next month.
We have launched a crowd funding campaign recently to raise money to achieve some awesome bike related projects like turning the shipping container into a bike workshop, building a BMX track, working with communities to understand their needs and improve the Loop Bike, and making a documentary to expose the need for mobility in places like this.

You can check out the campaign here:https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/loop-cycles-bikes-empowerment-to-people-in-need/x/9466290#home

LOOP LOGOLOOP LOGOLOOP LOGO

loop bike

LOOP LOGO

 

Dream Big, Or Go Home

So far the most exciting announcement about Burning Man 2015 is not the $800 VIP tickets, or the “chumps and suckers” circus theme…it’s Big Imagination, who are going to bring a 747 Jumbo Jet as their art car.

747 cad drawing

This is surely the most ambitious project ever on the Playa. As we were packing up at the end of Cargo Cult, I heard a rumor that there was a plan to bring an art car that required 100 crew. I dismissed it at the time as bullshit – “what art car needs 100 crew? A cruise ship?” – but some rumors are indeed true, and this is very real.

3 stories tall, 4 buses wide, half a football field long, on 18 squishy wheels, able to carry more than 300 people. And it moves.

747Ken is one of the main instigators of the vision, and he’s someone who knows what he’s doing. He designed the very popular Charlie the Unicorn art car, and was part of the Robot Heart team.

I’m the knucklehead who dreamed up this crazy idea.

My Playa background was being a workerbee on Robot Heart from 2008-11, then I designed and built Charlie the Unicorn (with a lot of help). In the default world I have a varied background but experience in managing large, complex projects from aerospace to film.

Charlie The Unicorn. Image: Jun/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Charlie The Unicorn. Image: Jun/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Big Imagination Foundation is a arts and education non-profit. Specifically, the mission is to incubate and support projects that bold, inspiring, and visionary. We’re purposely trying to stay flexible on our first project.

As for why this big thing? I sketched this out on the Playa dust in 2009. I swore I would never do another art car after Charlie unless it was truly epic. When I found out we could get our hands on a scrap 747, welllll, it was just too good of a chance to pass up. Once in a lifetime, right? I’m not necessarily shooting for the “biggest” just because. We could do a plane-oriented project much easier with a smaller fuselage. However, the 747 is iconic, and that upper deck is spectacular. When this baby rolls down the playa, peoples minds are going to melt. [Source: Reddit]

Truly epic is right – my mind has melted already. If you have the resources, better to do something like this and share it with everyone, than sell exclusive hotel rooms with porcelain toilets to VIP guests who hand out a few popsicles.

The top of the plane will be cut open to make an outdoor lounge.

The latest design...the "mohawk look" is gone

The latest design…the “mohawk look” is gone

Despite what some Internet armchair pundits have speculated, they will not actually be flying a 747 onto the Playa. The aircraft will be chopped up and moved by truck from the Mojave Desert airplane boneyard. The route has already been surveyed for the length they are considering.

A couple of years ago, I stopped to get gas in Inglewood, Los Angeles. If you’re familiar with LA, or hip-hop music, you know that Inglewood is not exactly Beverly Hills. “The hood” would be one way to describe it. So when I saw 3 helicopters hovering above me, I was somewhat concerned. A crazed shooter on the loose, perhaps? Then I noticed thousands of people lining the freeway overpasses. What was going on? As it turned out, the Space Shuttle had been retired, and Endeavour was being towed through the streets to its resting place at the California Science Center. How did they get the Space Shuttle to LA? On the back of a 747. That’s how big this aircraft is, Space Shuttles ride on top of it.

Space Shuttle Endeavour being carried to LA on a 747. Image: Nasa HQ / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Space Shuttle Endeavour being carried to LA on a 747. Image: Nasa HQ / Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Space Shuttle caused quite a scene on the streets of LA. Image: J Jakobson/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Space Shuttle caused quite a scene on the streets of LA. Image: J Jakobson/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A full size Boeing 747 is 231 feet long, and its wings are 196 feet wide. Its fuselage is 32 feet high and the tail section reaches to 63.5 feet. The aircraft weighs just under 200 tons without fuel or passengers – more than enough to sink into the Playa.

This is not quite full size. They are not bringing the 4 engines, the wings, or the tail section – not to mention all the wiring, hydraulics and seats that will be removed. They will chop the Jumbo’s fuselage at 120 feet, about half the total length. In the future they may turn the tail section into another art car, able to move independently and perhaps “form like Voltron” when the 2 art cars get together at the same event. The cut-down Jumbo will weigh 55,000 lbs, which is about the same as a semi-trailer. The fuselage width is 21.3 feet, as opposed to a standard semi-trailer width of 8.5 feet and a road lane width of 12 feet. The 747 will take up 2 lanes of road for the nearly 500 mile journey between the Airplane Boneyard at the Mojave Air and Space Port (CA) to Black Rock City (NV). All care and consideration is being given to the necessary permits for transportation, and minimizing impact on the Playa. They have a moving company that has been “hauling big ass structures for years”.

A 747 dwarfs regular commercial airliners

A 747 dwarfs regular commercial airliners. Image: Airliners.Net (via Kampungkai)

Big Imagination are considering a variety of options for moving the thing around at Burning Man, including towing it behind an aircraft tug. One spokesperson for the DMV has said that the tug needs to be a mutant vehicle too, it can’t just be a stock airport vehicle. Safety third! It would be a shame if this wonderful project was green-lit by the BLM but got killed by BMOrg’s bureaucracy. Big Imagination have been speaking to the DMV and seem to have support at the right levels.

An airport tug is not exactly a small vehicle. Image: Christian Junker/Flickr (Creative Commons)

An airport tug is not exactly a small vehicle. Image: Christian Junker/Flickr (Creative Commons)

I have complete faith that these guys know what they’re doing and can pull this off. Hat’s off to Big Imagination: it will undoubtedly be the greatest thing Burning Man has ever seen, and will be the place to party at Carnival of Mirrors. Expect massive amounts of press coverage – it has started already, with stories in Mixmag, Gigwise, Bangin Beats,  Music Times, Cool Hunting, YourEDM, Dancing Astronaut, EDM Tunes, Less Than 3, EDM Nations, EDM SaucePulse RadioFestival Sherpa, Fest300…and skeptics at Airliners.Net and Yahoo Answers.

They are looking for volunteers in LA (and possiby Tucson) to help them out – that’s the “100 crew”. Get involved at bigimagination.org. Support the project with a donation.

The non-profit Big Imagination arts foundation has a broader vision than just a week’s partying in the desert:

YOU CAN CREATE ANYTHING IN YOUR MIND WITH YOUR IMAGINATION.  OUR QUESTION TO YOU IS WHAT HAVE YOU DREAMED OF?  WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BUILD?  HOW CAN YOU MAKE IT A REALITY?

WE BELIEVE YOU CAN. WE BELIEVE IN YOU! HUMANS ARE INCREDIBLE.

OUR MISSION IS TO INCUBATE AND SUPPORT PROJECTS THAT ARE BOLD, INSPIRING, AND VISIONARY. THESE PROJECTS INCLUDE A WIDE RANGE OF DISCIPLINES; FROM THE ARTS AND SCIENCES TO ENGINEERING AND HUMANITIES, AND SHOULD ALSO INCORPORATE COMPONENTS OF COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION AND EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY.

747 pic 3

Here are some further comments from Big Imagination about the project:

Zero wristbands…We are focused on “radically inclusive exclusivity”. Everything will be First Class and top shelf, and everyone is invited. No private events, no “hot chicks only”, no “we don’t know you”. Hey, we WANT to know you. As long as we’re safe and not too full, everyone is welcome. And we should have plenty of space…

I spoke with the BLM this morning.  They said there are zero restrictions on weight and as long as the DMV/BORG give us the green light, we’re fine…this plane has been completely gutted.  No seats, no hydraulics, lots of wiring out, I could go on and on.  The heaviest parts left are the wingbox and and the rear landing gear.  I’d be stunned if we tip the scales over 70,000 lbs. Just to give you an idea, when the front 80′ are scrapped (section 1200 forward, I believe), it comes out to about 30,000 lbs of aluminum and such.  We’re going to section 1480, which includes the wing box and gear.  

We won’t be leaving marks any more than anyone else…

We’re aiming to drive around deep playa but could come into closer to the space between center camp and the man if a single spire of each 3,6&9 o clock trail is removed. That way, we could have a path to drive into the circle…

The 747 is a substantial upgrade to previous aviation-themed art cars.

Black Rock Air Force F-15. Image: Fest300

Black Rock Air Force F-15. Image: Ranger Twilight/Fest300

 

Playa One. Image: Sick Dog/Facebook

Playa One. Image: Sick Dog/Facebook

Playa One at sunset. Image: James Santos/Facebook

Playa One at sunset. Image: James Santos/Facebook

Video

Awaken: A Story of Dreams [Update]

A new video documentary of Burning Man. Spot your friends!

We covered Project Dreambox earlier: St Art Ups Posing As Playa Art

You can read more about their Dreamus venture in Ever Widening Circles:

what if your “dream” isn’t that of an item to be sold or…put out into the world free of charge? That’s where Dreamus comes in. Dreamus.com allows their users to follow dreams they feel are important, add fellow dreamers to friendship lists for private communication, and comment on a users dream. On your own dream page you can also add any number of goals you hope to attain and check them off as they’re completed, giving viewers a clear of where you are in terms of your overall goal.

The Dreambox was the vision of Teddy Saunders, who created the popular “Oh The Places You’ll Go” Dr Seuss-themed viral video, which was blamed by BMOrg for causing the ticket lottery debacle. Saunders was happy to use the Burning Man connection to promote his startup in the media, saying this year to Daily Dot:

 “I think we’re one of the first art installations that gave birth to an online Web platform that reaches beyond the borders of the playa and connects Burning Man participants to the outside world in a timeless way that lasts after Burning Man.”

The Dreambox has been going to Burning Man since 2012, when it raised an initial $29,277 from Burners in a successful Kickstarter campaign. It has now been to Burning Man 3 times.  This year it received further funding in the form of an Art Honorarium grant from Burning Man Arts.

Despite all this, there are no dreams from Burning Man on their web site. Perhaps because these days even dreams need a license from Decommodification LLC…

You think I’m kidding, or being snarky? From Daily Dot:

“Our plan with DreamBox 3.0 was to put a satellite on the DreamBox so that people could immediately share dreams,” Saunders recalls. “However, at the last minute Burning Man’s media department put the brakes on us after their art department already gave us full support as an honorarium project. It’s pretty embarrassing actually. We’re saddened that they are hesitant to allow their participants to share such beautiful intentions.”

Saunders also says there are 12 short films he created about the Dreambox project that the media team won’t allow him to release because Dreamus features a donations option—and that this is an act of “commodifying” the festival.  

Is it really commodifying Burning Man, by sharing Burners’ dreams and helping them come true? Maybe the competition for donation dollars that might otherwise go to the Burning Man Project is the real reason for BMOrg’s media department putting the brakes on something their art department fully supported.

[Update 1/12/15 11:49am Australia]

Paola Baldion, who previously had spoken to us in relation to the Dreambox but asked for her comments to be confidential, has contacted us with this information:

Although (as my previous message states) I am not part of DreamBox anymore, Teddy and I were the creators of it. It was actually my original idea and vision and then Teddy joined me in the project… We both worked together really hard for a month and raised 29k on Kickstarted. Even in the Awaken video Teddy says that we created the Dreambox together. Just so in the future you can say that it was ‘teddy saunders and Paola Baldion’s vision’.

image: Ian Kennedy/Flickr (Creative Commons)

image: Ian Kennedy/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Gerlach School Community Garden

This Kickstarter seems like a good way for Burners to support our local community. Some of us might take fresh food for granted, but in Gerlach it’s 100 miles to the nearest school. All they want is water to get their garden back. There are 5 days to go and so far there’s been very little help – where’s the Burning Man Project when they’re needed?

Thanks to Burner MLewis for bringing this to our attention. Click here to support the project.

 


 

re-blogged from Kickstarter.com:

About this project

Gerlach Community School garden project.

Gerlach, Nevada is a small village situated next to the Black Rock desert (well known because of the Burning Man festival). At the turn of the century the town still inhabited up to 900 people, but when the nearby gypsum plant closed down in 2011 and economy went down in the region and people started to move away and presently the town inhabits 100 people. Eight years ago schoolteacher Elizabeth Jackson and her colleagues started an educational community school garden and greenhouse project in this barren environment. The management of the school acknowledged the importance and adopted the project as fresh vegetables are not widely available in this desert environment. The start of the project was promising and the school garden was so successful that even the town’s elderly benefited from the project as they were served the freshly grown vegetables from the garden during the town’s daily community center senior’s lunch.

Presently the number of children attending the Gerlach school is reduced down to only fourteen in 2014. As the number of kids reduced rapidly, the school board had to take the unfortunate decision to terminate the community garden project as funds were lacking and the water supply was cut off. Now the garden project has been abandoned and people have to travel over 90 miles in order to buy fresh produce at the nearest supermarket.


Why does the Gerlach School community garden need your help?
Fresh vegetables are becoming more and more important as part of our daily nutrition, especially for children and senior citizens. Through school gardens children are educated in how their food grows and what is needed to produce and maintain healthy fresh food on a small scale. But the project is not just educational, it’s also fun to see things grow from a tiny seed to something delicious and tasteful. In order to keep children healthy it’s essential to teach them that fresh vegetables are essential in your daily meals.

Role of the Laboratory for Microclimates:
Next to raising funds for the re-development of the school garden the Laboratory for Microclimates wants to explore alternative solutions concerning the collection of dew and rainwater. Nowadays there are different systems to collect dew water, however, the production process is expensive and can be done in a more sustainable way. Our water collection system consists of recycled PET bottles, grouped circle wise around a plant; the ‘Desert Flower’. A simple and gentle way to capture the maximum dew in the night and make it useful for irrigation of plants in dry regions like Black Rock Desert.
Goal: The Laboratory for Microclimates wants to raise enough money to revitalize the project and supply them with enough water to continue the project for the next five years. To increase the sustainability the Laboratory for Microclimates install desert-flower irrigation system to reduce the use of water.

Risks and challenges

The only risk in this project is that we don’t succeed in raising the money to fund the project, in that case people who invested in this project won’t be charged.
As we speak about the financial part, here’s what’s needed:
1: us$ 800 to jump-start the project the garden and greenhouse by having the gardens reconnected to the town’s water system.
2: US$ 100 for a period of 5 years for the payment of the monthly water bill.
3: US$ 800 to install a sustainable desert-flower hydration system by artist Annechien Meier of the Laboratory through which water-use will be reduced.
4: an additional 8% for the Kickstarter organization (5% to host this campaign and 3% for payment and processing fees).
In total this comes down to an amount of US$ 8,208.00
What will happen to your contribution?
1: Both connections to the town’s watersystem and desertflower irrigation system will be installed.
2: Through the Gerlach School a trust/bank account will be opened to facilitate the monthly payment for the water delivery.
3: A Facebook account will be initiated through which you can watch the progress of the project.
Initiative:
The project is initiated by the Laboratory for Microclimates, an art collective from the Netherlands. Through art and film projects they encourage people to change their own social and ecological environment; www.microclimates.nl. One of its members, filmmaker Gert-Jan Gerlach, visited the town of Gerlach this summer and decided that help was needed to revitalize the school’s project.

 

Decommodification, Decentralization and Direct Democracy

EndAllDisease has a lot of very interesting content, including this article about how Bitcoin is going to revolutionize all forms of electronic interaction. It is a societal change potentially as big as the Internet itself, one that contains the hope for a new type of transparent dialog between the rulers of our civilization and We the Burners. Whoever those rulers may be…

If all the mechanisms of a transaction are gone, so that it appears invisible, is it Decommodified? Did it happen on-Playa, or in cyberspace – a different place entirely?

Burning Man now accepts donations in Bitcoins and in 2014 sold its first ticket with Bitcoin.

CEO Marian Goodell said:

“Accepting Bitcoin for donations is an experimental first step. We plan to explore other possibilities in the future, including expanding Bitcoin to the ticket-buying process.”

There is a Camp Bitcoin, which was profiled as part of Re/Code’s excellent on-Playa coverage by Nellie Bowles. Peter Hirshberg, who was part of The Founders Speak event in New York, recently wrote a chapter on Burning Man in the book From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond: The Quest for Autonomy and Identity in a Digital Society.

 

 


 

re-blogged from: Endalldisease.com (emphasis ours):

Blockchain Technology’s Annihilation of Social Networks, Banks, Governments and The Coming Digital Anarchy

Bitcoin is giving banks a run for their money. Now the same technology threatens to eradicate social networks, stock markets, even national governments. Are we heading towards an anarchic future where centralized power of any kind will dissolve?

The rise and rise of Bitcoin has grabbed the world’s attention, yet its devastating potential still isn’t widely understood. Yes, we all know it’s a digital currency. But the developers who worked on Bitcoin believe that it represents a technological breakthrough that could sweep into obsolescence everything from social networks to stock markets… and even governments.

blockchain technology - endalldisease

In short, Bitcoin could be the gateway to a coming digital anarchy – “a catalyst for change that creates a new and different world,” to quote Jeff Garzik, one of Bitcoin’s most prolific developers.

It’s already beginning. We used to need banks to keep track of who owned what. Not any more. Bitcoin and its rivals have proved that banks can be replaced with software and clever mathematics.

And now programmers of a libertarian bent are starting to ask what else we don’t need.

Imagine driverless taxis roaming from city to city in search of the most lucrative fares; a sky dark with hovering drones delivering your shopping or illicit drugs. Digital anarchy could fill your lives and your nightmares with machines that answer to you, your employers, crime syndicates… or no one at all. Nearly every aspect of our lives will be uprooted.

To understand how, we need to grasp the power of the “blockchain” – a peer-to-peer ledger which creates and records agreement on contentious issues with the aid of cryptography.

A blockchain forms the beating heart of Bitcoin. In time, blockchains will power many radical, disruptive technologies that smart people are working on right now.

Until recently, we’ve needed central bodies – banks, stock markets, governments, police forces – to settle vital questions. Who owns this money? Who controls this company? Who has the right to vote in this election?

Now we have a small piece of pure, incorruptible mathematics enshrined in computer code that will allow people to solve the thorniest problems without reference to “the authorities”.

The benefits of decentralised systems will be huge: slashed overheads, improved security and (in many circumstances) the removal of the weakest link of all – greedy, corruptible, fallible humans.

But how far will disruptive effects reach? Are we rapidly approaching a singularity where, thanks to Bitcoin-like tools, centralised power of any kind will seem as archaic as the feudal system?

If the internet revolution has taught us anything, it’s that when change comes, it comes fast.

…Here’s an illustration. The University of Abertay in Dundee now offers a four-year BSc in “Ethical Hacking”. Abertay is a minor university and some of its other courses – eg, a BSc in “Performance Golf” – invite ridicule. So, on the face of it, does “Ethical Hacking”, which could mean anything.

Click through to details of the course, however, and you realise that it’s cleverly designed to address the growing anxieties of large organisations that live in fear of digital sabotage.

According to the prospectus, “the business world is seeing a rapid increase in the demand for ethical or white hat, hackers, employed by companies to find security holes before criminal, black hat, hackers do … Hackers are innately curious and want to pull things apart. They experiment and research. A hacker wants to learn and investigate. The aim is for you to arrive on this programme as a student and leave as an ethical hacker.”

Whether these ethical hackers will stay ethical is another question, however.

Social networks, search engines and online retailers have grown rich by soaking up our personal data and distilling it into valuable databases used to surgically target advertising.

As the adage goes: “If you’re not paying, then you’re the product”. You don’t pay a penny for Google’s search engine, email or calendar products. What you do provide, though, is data on every aspect of your life: who you know; where you go; what you enjoy eating, wearing, watching…

Behind the laid-back, let’s-play-table-football facade of Silicon Valley firms lies a sneakiness and paranoia that, critics say, verges on the sociopathic. This is hardly surprising. The giant dotcoms stand to lose billions of dollars and even kick-start a US recession if the internet becomes too unstable for them to manage. But, in addition, they need to take advantage of digital instability in order to shaft their rivals.

“These guys are control freaks who see themselves as ‘disruptive’, to quote one of their favourite words,” says a California-based analyst. “It’s a very combustible mixture particularly when you consider the endless, endless uncertainty they face every day.”…

Now we need to put our finger on a really important paradox that lies at the heart of the coming digital anarchy.

The hidden power of the Facebooks, Twitters and Googles of this world is inspiring digital anarchists to destroy the smug, jargon-infested giants of Silicon Valley. But who are these hackers? They’re unlikely to be career criminals who identify themselves by their black hats. On the contrary, they may well have picked up their techniques while working in Palo Alto.

In some cases, the very same people who helped create these mega-corporations are now working on “disruptive technologies” to replace them.

We think of Silicon Valley as peopled by “liberals”. But that’s misleading. They may be socially liberal, but their “libertarianism” is often predicated on very low taxes funding a very small government. They have a soft spot for the anti-tax Republican Rand Paul and the kill-or-be-killed ethos of the paranoid libertarian capitalist Ayn Rand (whom Mr Paul was not named after, though he’s had to spend his whole life denying it).

The digital utopias at the back of these people’s minds are often startlingly weird.

Consider, for example, Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal – ironically, one of the companies Bitcoin aims to blow out of the water. He has donated $1.25m to the SeaSteading Institute, a group which aims to create an autonomous nation in the ocean, away from existing sovereign laws and free of regulation.

At a conference in 2009 he said: “There are quite a lot of people who think it’s not possible. That’s a good thing. We don’t need to really worry about those people very much, because since they don’t think it’s possible they won’t take us very seriously. And they will not actually try to stop us until it’s too late.”

It’s difficult to generalise about motives when the membranes separating control and anarchy, creativity and disruption, greed and philanthropy have become so alarmingly thin. Remember that the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley and its many global franchises are usually young enough to be impressionable and excitable. Yes, some of them they may qualify as utopians – but, like utopians throughout history, they are ready to use destructive tactics to reach their goal…

The new digital anarchists – who are as likely to wear Gant chinos as hoodies, and wouldn’t be seen dead in an Anonymous mask – are in the mood to punish Facebook, Google, Twitter, PayPal, eBay, you name it, for their arrogance. Indeed, they may have encountered this arrogance close up by working for them. That’s enough of a motive for the great digital unravelling.

As for means and opportunity – well, they now have their weapon of choice: the blockchain.

…Bitcoin is a decentralised network designed to replace the financial system. Ethereum is a decentralised network designed to replace absolutely anything that can be described in code: business contracts, the legal system or, as some of Ethereum’s more evangelical backers believe, entire states.

Primavera De Filippi, a postdoctoral resreacher at CERSA/CNRS/Université Paris II, is one of Europe’s most intellectually dazzling experts on digital and civil rights in cyberspace. She’s currently at Harvard, exploring the legal challenges of decentralised digital architectures.

Ethereum, she says, is “really sophisticated, and if any of these platforms are going to take off, I believe it’s the one.

“It becomes a completely self-sufficient system, impossible to corrupt. It’s a disruptive technology, and society will adapt to it, but it will be a slow process.”

Liquid democracy

If you are looking to undermine centralised power, the biggest, most tempting target is government itself…

Denmark has decided to take a very liberal policy with crypto-currencies, declaring that all trades will be tax-free; profits will be untouched, but losses will be non-deductible. It’s no surprise, then, that this is one of the places it is being experimented with as an election tool.

The Liberal Alliance party, just seven years old, was founded on an ethos of economic liberalism – it supports a flat rate income tax of 40 per cent, for example – and has begun to use technology built on Ethereum for internal votes.

Party spokesman Mikkel Freltoft Krogsholm argued that it was an obvious choice for e-elections because it allows transparency and security and gives people the chance to “look under the hood” of the voting process. “From a liberal ideological point of view, it was an opportunity we just had to take,” he said.

The blockchain makes perfect sense for this application because all transactions (they can be thought of as votes in this scenario) are recorded in perpetuity for reference. It also provides transparency so that a person can check that his or her vote was actually counted. Otherwise, how can you ever really be sure that your paper ballot made it to the final count?

Eduardo Robles Elvira is working on a similar but larger-scale system which he calls Agora Voting. It was developed as a tool for the Internet Party in Spain, which has a policy that all citizens should be able to vote on all matters in constant referenda. Rather than keep the code private he works with any party that wants to apply it to e-elections.

It has already been successfully used in election primaries, with over 33,000 votes being cast.

The ultimate aim is “liquid democracy”: not to just elect representatives and let them get on with it, and not necessarily to have direct referenda on each tiny issue, but to offer a system so flexible that a happy medium can be struck for every citizen.

It can be best thought of as a social network designed not to help you share photographs, play games or communicate with your friends, but to run and manage your country.

If you want to cast your vote on every issue, fine, that’s possible. Or you can place your voting power in the hands of a career politician, as in the current system, or a knowledgeable friend or colleague.

And control could be infinitely fine: say you’re a cyclist, you could hand over voting power on all road safety matters to a cycling charity that pushes for better infrastructure, but retain votes on economic matters and leave everything else in the hands of your local Liberal Democrat office.

“The idea behind liquid democracy is not to remove representative democracy with direct democracy, but to let you choose your means of democracy. You don’t use an airplane to get to the street corner, and you don’t walk from London to Tokyo: depending on what you want to do, you choose the means of transport,” Robles told me.

“We might see in the future a shift from trusting a single entity to trusting a computerised democratic and verifiable system, the same way that we saw a shift from trusting our healers and priests in the Middle Ages to trusting the scientific method.

“It’s just a glimpse into the future. It’s like the first website: it doesn’t have animations, it’s not responsive, it may look now really basic, but still, it’s the base of what we use now everyday, twenty years later. Maybe we will have a system more similar to ancient Athens, but scalable, where elected leaders are not so important.”…

Andreas Antonopoulos is chief security officer at UK-based Blockchain.info, the world’s largest Bitcoin wallet provider with over 1.1m registered users…People think Bitcoin is just a better way to do PayPal, and it’s not. Just like the internet, it’s a platform, and on that platform you can now build an incredible variety of things.

“We can’t even imagine what things people are going to build. But just in the last year, from watching the startups in the space, I’ve been amazed at the range of innovation that occurs when you combine internet, the sharing economy and crypto-currencies.

“This allows forms of self-organisation that don’t depend on parties or representative government at all. Representative democracy was a solution to a scaling problem. The fact that you couldn’t get a message across Europe in anything less than a couple of weeks.

“Well, that issue of scale has now been solved. So the question is, why do you need representatives? If you ask people who were born with the internet they can’t understand why we need them. To a whole generation of people [the phasing out of represnetative democracy] this is already a normal and natural progression. And now we have the tools to do that.

“In my view, and this is probably why I call myself a ‘disruptarian’, centralised systems have one inevitable trajectory that has been validated throughout history, which is that as the people in the centre accumulate power and control they eventually corrupt the system entirely to serve their own needs, whether that’s a currency, a corporation, a nation.

“Decentralised institutions are far more resilient to that: there is no centre, they do not afford opportunities for corruption. I think that’s a natural progression of humanity.

“It’s an idea that has existed for centuries and has progressively become more and more prevalent. The essential basics of going from monarchies to democracies, from distributing information, knowledge, education and wealth to the middle class, and power to simple people, has been a trend that has lasted now for millennia.

“This is not some kind of libertarian manifesto, or anarchist manifesto, saying that we don’t need mechanisms for achieving social cohesion. It’s simply recognising that we can create better mechanisms as we solve problems of scale. That’s all. It’s not some kind of crazy ‘we don’t need governments’ manifesto. It’s simply that we can make better governments when we don’t concentrate power as much in the hands of a few people.

“As my ancestors in Greece figured out more than three thousand years ago, power corrupts. You can read about that in the writings of the ancient greek philosophers, and nothing really has changed – only that scale of power, and the scale of misery that can be created when that power is wielded to do bad things.”

Daniel Larimer, who is working on a tool called Bitshares to apply blockchain technology to banking, insurance and company shareholding, believes that this new breed of technologies will ultimately render government entirely obsolete.

“I envisage a situation where governments aren’t necessary. That the free market will be able to provide all the goods and services to secure your life, liberty and property without having to rely on coercion. That’s where this all ultimately leads,” he told me.

“The end result is that governments will have less power than free markets. Essentially, the free market will be able to provide justice more effectively and more efficiently than the government can. So, I see governments shrinking.

“If you think about it, what is the reason for government? It’s a way of reaching global consensus over the theory of right and wrong, global consensus over who’s guilty and who’s innocent, over who owns what.

“They’re going to be losing legitimacy as more open, transparent systems are able to provide that function without having to rely on force. That’s my mission in life.”

In his version of the future, identity and reputation will be the new currency. Laws and contracts will be laid down in code and, if broken, reparations will be sought mathematically rather than through law enforcement agencies, courts and prisons.

Those who cannot make good will be victim to “coordinated shunning” by the rest of the network – the whole of society. They will not be able to interact financially or in any other system running on the blockchain. They will be in an “economic prison”. This will extend beyond being unable to make money transfers, because the blockchain will be in control of voting, commerce and communications. Being banished from this system would make life all but impossible.

“There are ways that you can structure society to achieve justice and encourage people to settle their debts,” says Larimer. “There’s a way to give small-town reputation on a global scale. It is ultimate libertarianism.

Or anarchy, depending on your point of view.


Burnersxxx:

The whole article is very thought-provoking and worth reading in its entirety.

You can find out more about Ethereum at their web site and in this White Paper.