Novelty search engine: DAO

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This article introduces the special ability of DAOs due to their organizational structure, which can help organizations grow better as a new search tool. And expounds the advantages and disadvantages of the company hierarchy, and compares it with the DAO organization, showing the advantages and particularities of the DAO more vividly.

The full text is 5455 words and is expected to be read for 14 minutes. It is recommended to read it after collecting it.

The DAO, as a collaborative network , is likely to demonstrate its unique role in the future. To determine its role, you need to think outside the box. Like a toddler taking his first steps, today’s DAOs are immature, unstable, and likely to stumble.

While it’s tempting to touch on them, especially in the “serious” field of innovation, their structure does give them a unique ability to serve as a vehicle for exploring and discovering new things. We will briefly describe its structure and complete the following points:

DAO, as a brand new search engine, enables many collaborating teams to collect and integrate fundamental information to explore the search space more efficiently .

The search for novelty—another paradigm of discovery

Imagine yourself at the lake now, you try to reach the other side, and have to do so by jumping over the stepping stones on the ground. However, the fog was so thick that you could only see the nearest stepping stones at your feet. The shore fades behind you as you step on the stepping stones.

Along the way, a fork appears in front of your eyes, and you will make a decision. Which way is the best? Even though the fog prevents you from seeing where either road will lead, you have to make a choice.

Novelty search engine: DAO

Stanley and Lehman (2015) compare the above case to search discovery. Lakes represent abstract spaces of all possibilities , while stepping stones represent navigation strategies . Your journey is a constant exploration of this space full of possibilities. The problem is how do you move forward when you don’t know the road ahead.

We can redefine this by thinking of the space of all possibilities as a room . Now imagine yourself as a painter and try to be the next Monet in the room. As a search space, our rare diamond is already there. Your purpose is to bypass numerous pointless dead ends and find it.

When you create, you search the room. Whenever you visit a room, your work will be partially influenced by those rooms . If you spend time studying modernism, chances are you will be influenced by it. Without going to watercolor corners, you are unlikely to invent them. The lake problem is here again. How to be Monet? Where will the stepping stones lead us?

We can think of all complex domains in this way. We know that as long as we reach the other side, there will be new discoveries. Unfortunately, we can only see the stepping stones under our feet, and beyond that, we cannot see anything.

Vacuum tubes, for example, no one knew they would enable the first computers. Only after the discovery of the vacuum tube and associated computation did it gradually emerge that a computer could be enabled using a vacuum tube so that someone could tie it all together. If you’d been making computers in the 1800s (as Charles Babbage did), you’re unlikely to get this kind of insight.

We tend to set intermediate steps as small goals to reach the end, and use these small goals as stepping stones to reach the end. However, these little goals can get us into trouble when we don’t know what we’re in.

It is entirely possible that moving closer to the goal does not actually increase the value of the objective function, even if the move brings us closer to the goal. 

“Why Greatness Can’t Be Planned” — Stanley & Lehman (2015)

To take another example of education, we measure educational progress based on test scores, assuming that higher test scores mean we are getting smarter. “Math scores improved! That’s good, right?” Wrong. Optimizing math performance by evaluation forces us to focus on things that improve performance in the short term, but prevents us from exploring the larger search space.

So are there other options? Of course, novelty search is a non-objective form of search. Rather than stepping on stepping stones that seem to lead to an end, simply collect stepping stones that lead to interesting directions. Focus on new things wherever it takes you.

Because eventually you have to acquire some kind of new knowledge to continue innovating, which means that novelty search is an accumulation of information about the world in which it occurs . The longer the search goes on, the more information about the world is eventually accumulated. 

“Why Greatness Can’t Be Planned” — Stanley & Lehman (2015)

Every stepping stone you collect opens up new possibilities. New ideas often come from a combination of existing ideas : combining different stepping stones together. Every now and then, a certain combination throws you into a whole new environment.

The more stepping stones you collect, the more interesting combinations you can create. You can’t predict where they’ll take you, but you can predict that if you stick with it, you’ll end up somewhere interesting.

Focus and expand

Neither the company nor the DAO can simply describe it. However, their core structures have different organizational characteristics that make them play different roles in future innovation.

Companies are convergent vehicles for a single vision

Great ideas often come from the collection and synthesis of an unusual set of stepping stones of individual ideas.

The company employs a hierarchy and is led by a single person who is ultimately responsible for decision-making. Companies are the ideal structure to implement ideas that require the strength of many people, because leaders have the power to optimize resources to pursue their vision.

It’s a feature, not a bug, that makes a company strong, but it can also make it vulnerable. A strong leader with a vision can lead a company to incredible achievements; a weak leader with short-sightedness cannot achieve much and can actually do harm to the company.

In any case, the company’s focus is to unite everyone to achieve a specific goal , to make everyone work toward a common goal. This is “combination of powers”, where everyone works together to achieve a convergent outcome.

Leaders distill their vision into something comprehensible and call it a goal, and the rest of the team, in their own right, all work together toward that goal. Absent such a goal, a strong vision can be diluted into a mosaic .

Novelty search engine: DAO

Companies use goals to pursue convergent outcomes

The advantage of hierarchy is that it allows the collective to pursue a single vision set forth by the leader, and to coordinate the work of individuals to achieve a common goal . To do this, companies must maintain a high level of focus by carefully defining the problem they want to solve and measuring overall progress by breaking down goals.

However, companies don’t try to step into stepping stones that don’t align with their goals , thus reducing the odds a lot . This further deprives the company of portfolio possibilities.

DAO is an extension tool for exploring the realm

A DAO is a network defined by nodes and links, corresponding to people and relationships .

The network has a flexible topology that can be flexibly changed according to changes, and the adopted shape will be updated over time. Leadership is assigned on a case-by-case basis, and individuals have the power to make meaningful decisions that can change the structure of the organization without the need for permission or consensus. We can call this capability self-organizing capability.

Imagine laying out a large network like a democracy. A nation is made up of many individuals and organizations that contribute to its growth and improvement. However, the complexity of a country is such that no single entity can appreciate it as a whole, not even the president .

Instead, each entity is embedded in its own context, such as a local community, business, or social circle, and understands the country in its own way to make decisions that affect its environment . As they make decisions, such as starting a business, voting on government, or forging new relationships, the structure of the network changes meaningfully accordingly.

Likewise, in a mature DAO, individuals can understand parts of the network, but they cannot understand it as a whole. Individuals will understand the DAO in their own way and can explore directions that can affect their environment without having to consider the overall environment. As they make decisions, the structure of the network will self-organize accordingly .

The network has an information advantage due to this mechanism. Everyone knows themselves better than anyone else and decides for themselves how they can best contribute.

It’s clear that all aspects of an individual’s effort – talent, motivation, workload and focus – fluctuate in small increments over the course of each person’s entire day, let alone months, making them impossible to regulate and price . Organizations that adopt hierarchies are a lost medium . All information that might be relevant to the decision of each factor of production, but not introduced in a form or in a location that would entitle it to “count” the agent’s decision is lost.

Penguins of Kos – Yochai Benkler (2002)

The network also distributes members more efficiently because anyone can play any role and the network benefits from the best combination.

For any given set of programs, even without changing resources and collaborators, the productivity of different people will be different and highly volatile. Peer production has advantages over companies and markets because it allows larger groups of individuals to scour larger resources for materials, projects, collaborations and combinations.

Penguins of Kos – Yochai Benkler (2002)

At the same time, the token creates a mechanism of “weak alignment” where everyone in the network is motivated to add value to the network. However, the manner in which this value is realized is unclear.

Therefore, DAOs are not suitable for pursuing a single vision . They are optimized for exploring many different visions simultaneously, and individuals can make different decisions based on their own circumstances. This is a feature (not a bug) that will be the powerhouse of the future of the web.

Some people are not comfortable with the idea, “No one to lead!”, “No roadmap!”. Rather, that’s precisely the point. Members are autonomous, and autonomy comes not only from smart contract logic, but also from a continuous process of distributed self-organization.

The DAO is a container for many weakly aligned teams

DAOs and corporations have different organizational characteristics due to different core structures. However, this does not mean that they are mutually exclusive, quite the contrary, DAOs can be viewed as containers of many weakly aligned hierarchies .

Great ideas often come from individual minds, and leadership is necessary for effective human collaboration. The hierarchy is optimized to enable strong leaders to achieve great results. DAOs cannot bypass this fact. Hierarchy works because it enables the leader to combine the contributions of the team.

Leaders with different ideas will naturally appear in the crowd, and people will naturally follow the leaders and causes they believe in. Rather than replacing hierarchies, DAOs create a mechanism by which a single organization can allow teams of multiple hierarchies to explore different directions simultaneously.

Novelty search engine: DAO

Local alignment of actions, from globally heterogeneous to locally homogeneous. We can observe this pattern everywhere, from magnetism to human society.

Problems often arise in hierarchies due to groupthink: the gradual inability to consider other viewpoints .

Homogeneous groups are good at doing what they are good at, but they gradually lose the ability to research alternatives.

Wisdom of the Crowd – James Surowiecki

In a network arrangement, each team understands its own direction on its own terms and contributes what they think will add value to it, not necessarily limited to a single vision or narrative. There is no need for consensus or compromise, as each group has the right to self-organize .

The best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and competition, not consensus or compromise.

Wisdom of the Crowd – James Surowiecki

In this way, a single DAO can be viewed as a multi-organizational network . In the past, these structures have struggled to exist due to a lack of technology required for coordination. Now, the weak consistency of programmable tokens gives every team an incentive to collaborate and share information, and open blockchains make information sharing easier and easier.

Its key principle is heterogeneous (or, to use another term, “panarchic”) collaboration among members scattered across multiple (usually small organizations) or part of an organization . Network design has existed throughout history, but multi-organizational design structures are now able to gain strength and mature as new communication technologies enable small, decentralized, autonomous groups to communicate over greater distances and in more places than ever before. Consultation, coordination and joint action in problem areas.

Tribes, Institutions, Markets, and Networks – David Ronfeldt (1996)

Future DAOs will benefit from the best of both worlds. A strong, unified hierarchy that achieves convergent outcomes on a local scale, while exploring many different directions to work together to improve the state of the whole.

Novelty search engine: DAO

DAOs enable many weakly aligned teams to explore the search space cooperatively

tools for exploration

Let’s go back to the process of finding Monet. We know it’s somewhere, we just need to find it.

Novelty search engine: DAO

San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk, Claude Monet, 1908

As we’ve established, goals aren’t much use when we don’t understand what context we’re in. Instead, we should collect stepping stones that lead in interesting directions when we don’t know where to stop.

Companies help us jump between single stepping stones by using hierarchies to pursue a single vision. However, it is difficult for companies to get beyond that vision, as the same mechanism prevents exploration of the broader search space.

The magic of a DAO is that it enables many collaborating teams to gather different stepping stones to embrace complexity . These stepping stones can be shared, reused, and combined in new contexts, leading organizations in new directions.

DAO is a system that explores and generates discoveries, with people and information as its components.

A build system…is a package of parts with rules about how those parts should be combined. Almost every “monolithic system” is generated by a “generating system”. If we want to make things that work as a “whole”, we have to invent generative systems to create them.

System Generation Systems – Christopher Alexander (1968)

Therefore, DAO is an open evolutionary mechanism . In other words, evolution is open: not only can solutions be generated for current directions, but new directions can be gradually developed.

Rather than seeing openness as existing conditions or properties of evolutionary systems, we see them as a consequence of evolution itself.

Evolutionary Openness, Not Openness to Evolution—Pattee & Sayama (2019)

So the core of the argument is: DAOs are novelty search engines that explore a search space more efficiently by having many collaborating teams collect and integrate stepping stones.

This ability suggests a unique and interesting role in future innovation. Our final results are unpredictable, but predictable, and the results are interesting.

Translator’s Notes :

DAOs are still in their infancy, still immature, and poorly understood, but their core structure and operation are full of endless possibilities. The autonomous attribute of DAO allows members to explore in different directions according to their interests. Multiple individuals and organizations with different visions can create more paths for the organization. Therefore, DAO is inherently characterized by embracing complexity, and the more complexity , the more combinations that can be created, the higher the probability of generating innovations. Good leaders are formed in organizations that share the same hobbies and interests within a DAO. Leaders can exercise their leadership and unite members toward a common vision, so DAOs can benefit from the best of both organizations. . DAO incentivizes members through the token economy, so as to bring members together to form a “weakly aligned” organization, and hobbies and incentives will jointly strengthen the structure and relationship of the organization, and everyone can make the most according to their own situation. Contribution of value, contributing from the bottom up can avoid sabotage and perfunctory situations, so the contribution will be more valuable.

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