The current Web3 has not yet achieved true fairness, and Rawls’s theory of justice may provide ideas for improvement.
One of the most persuasive narratives around Web3 is that it’s a movement toward a better, fairer Internet. Specifically, Web3 proponents envision that users can wrest power back from a handful of centralized institutions, and every user can participate in building on a level playing field.
Web2 initially had a similar promise to empower individual creators and eliminate intermediaries, but that promise didn’t materialize. Now, standing on the precipice of a new era, we should ask ourselves: Has Web3 really democratized opportunity? If not, how can we better design platforms and improve systems to promote fairness?
In 1971, sociologist and philosopher John Rawls proposed a thought experiment called the ” veil of ignorance ” in his influential book A Theory of Justice that provided a useful framework for these questions. Rawls argues that in laying the groundwork for an ideal society, we should imagine that we would fall into it without knowing it—that is, we should wear a veil of ignorance. A just society is a place where “if you know it well, you’ll want to be in it in a random place”. Rawls adds: “One of the basic features of this situation is that no one knows his social status, class status, nor his wealth, intelligence, power, etc. in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, and it can even be assumed that Clients do not know their conception of the good or their particular psychological dispositions.
Rawls’ thought experiment has special significance now because we are standing at the kind of inflection point imagined by the veil of ignorance. Web3 offers the opportunity to build a whole new Internet (in fact, a whole new economy) from the ground up. The question then becomes: what kind of internet should we create?
One could argue that Web3 is still in its early stages and that these issues will resolve themselves over time. However, in the design of Web2, problems with externalities are too late to be resolved, with consequences ranging from election manipulation to widespread misinformation. There are some signs that the early designs of Web3 are replicating or exacerbating real-world inequalities in the Web2 era.
If we want Web3 to deliver on its promise that it can materially improve the situation of everyone in the ecosystem, not just a few high-level people, then it needs to be designed according to principles that will make it happen.
How do we define “fairness”?
For centuries, philosophers and thinkers have debated how best to allocate resources among the actors in society. The body of thought devoted to answering these questions is called “distributive justice,” and there are different schools of thought in the discipline:
- Strict egalitarians believe that the only fair system is one in which resources are distributed absolutely equally, in other words, everyone should have the same amount of material goods. This principle believes that everyone is morally equal and therefore should have equal access to goods and services.
- Lucky egalitarians argue that what matters is equality in the starting position, and that any inequality that arises after that can be justified by differences in value.
- Liberals believe that individual liberty should be the only consideration, and that any reallocation of resources violates that liberty.
- Utilitarians argue that the most just system is the one that maximizes the total well-being of all participants. Under utilitarianism, wealth redistribution is desirable because each additional dollar does more to improve the well-being of the poor than the rich.
What these theories of justice have in common is the question of how to balance two equally important but often opposing values: liberty and equality. A society in which all actors are completely free can lead to severe inequality, as individuals have different motivations to pursue wealth and act in ways that promote their own interests. Conversely, a perfectly egalitarian society inhibits freedom because individuals cannot act in any way that results in inequality with others, even if the outcome of such inequality is “acquired” through hard work or skill.
Using “veil of ignorance” reasoning, Rawls introduced his own theory of distributive justice, known as “justice as fairness.” It has two parts: the principle of maximum equality and freedom and the principle of difference. The principle of maximum equality and freedom grants all citizens the maximum degree of equal rights and freedoms, and justice requires everyone to enjoy equal rights.
The difference principle says that any social or economic inequality that does exist in a society should satisfy two conditions.
First, under the conditions of fairness and equality of opportunity, all can compete for positions. For example, jobs should be open to everyone and distributed on merit. In other words, a person’s prospects for success should reflect their level of talent and willingness to use it, not their social class or background. Second, any inequality that does exist should maximize the benefits of the least well-off. Therefore, it is acceptable for physicians to earn more than their janitors, as this pay differential motivates physicians to pursue their careers and ensures that janitors (and everyone else) are better served when they are sick.
Rawls’ theory is valid, and it is unique in balancing the central contradiction between freedom and equality. By requiring inequality to benefit the most disadvantaged groups, Rawls wants a natural correction to the widespread inequality that would otherwise foster a system that puts liberty above everything else.
Given its effectiveness in balancing freedom and equality, Rawls’ theory became the philosophical framework for the Internet. It leaves room for rewards for builders’ contributions, which can motivate bright, aspiring people to build in the ecosystem. At the same time, it puts pressure on those early builders to seek progress, because disadvantaged players can create fair opportunities to participate in construction.
Evaluate the current Internet from the perspective of fairness and justice
To what extent does the current Internet adhere to Rawls’ principles? In many ways, the Web2 Internet brings opportunities to a wide range of people, and is more in line with Rawls’ principle of difference than a world without the Internet. Before the advent of the Internet, a handful of oligarchs, from movie studios to music labels, limited opportunities to participate in the industry. The Internet and social media platforms allowed anyone to participate in content creation and distribution, allowing more creators to be successful.
But the Web2 Internet also has many flaws . To name just a few examples, how Web2 platforms inhibit equality and violate the principle of difference: gig economy platforms bring in billions of dollars in revenue, while front-line workers providing services earn poverty wages and are excluded from decisions that affect their lives. In addition; social media companies and media platforms earn billions of dollars in advertising revenue from algorithms that harm vulnerable communities; platforms’ creator funds typically reward creators with the most views and engagement, thereby This has resulted in a concentration of income on those who already have ample sources of income, while failing to create opportunities for aspiring creators who are less affluent. We’ve also written before about Internet platforms exploiting user-created value for wealth and driving advertising business models in the Web2 economy.
Not only is the Web2 platform failing to meet Rawls’ standards of justice, but the current Web3 is exacerbating this inequality . Web3 projects usually issue encrypted tokens as a manifestation of value. Early token distributions resulted in an unsustainable ecology where speculators were rewarded rather than those who added value to the network through actual usage. Some P2E games implement dual-token systems in which users earn income rather than governance rights, thereby replicating the fairness risk in the current economy where workers earn wages rather than fairness, exacerbating wealth inequality. Business writer Evan Armstrong points out that there are strong similarities between some current NFT projects and the multi-level marketing model. Limited by system design, late entrants to the ecosystem cannot achieve the same level of success as early builders.
How to ensure fairness and justice in Web3?
We have seen that neither the Web2 Internet nor the early Web3s have ensured a free and level playing field in favor of the most disadvantaged. So what is a Rawls-compliant Internet? We need to do the following:
- Don’t build a system that only benefits the rich. To be able to think from the standpoint of the poor;
- Don’t build a system where first movers are overly dominant. Later but equally hard-working participants deserve to be respected;
- Don’t build a system that requires a very high threshold of technical knowledge. What if you don’t have the skills or resources to learn these skills?
Using these counter-principles as a guide, builders and participants of the Web3 ecosystem can do three things to ensure that it complies with Rawls’ vision of the Principles of Freedom, Equality, and Difference: first, promote autonomous decision-making and agency; second, Reward participation, not just capital; and third, include initiatives that benefit disadvantaged groups.
Promote autonomous decision-making and agency mechanisms
One of the main principles of Web3 is the idea of self-determination: unlike the Web2 platform (where a cadre of founders, executives, and shareholders hold all power), the Web3 community is controlled by its members. This is consistent with economist Albert O. Hirschman’s “Exit-Voice-Loyalty” model, which describes the choices individuals make when they are dissatisfied with the organization and the state. Ideally, users can express concerns on the Web3 platform and try to change their situation; quit looking for a new platform; or, out of loyalty, wait for the situation to be resolved.
But today’s situation is more complicated. The early governance structures largely established token-weighted voting, and the result was plutocratic rule that wasn’t much different from boards in the Web2 era. Whether it’s on a board of directors or a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) Discord channel, the problem with the rule of the rich is that those in power inevitably have their own interests in mind.
As a first step toward aligning the future of Web3 with Rawls’ principles of justice, participants and builders of the Web3 ecosystem need to promote democratic governance systems where all members have a voice, not just the few. In the system they participate in, everyone should have equal rights to vote, and other systems of governance that prevent the rule of the rich.
- Reputation-based governance: Delegating greater governance power to those with higher reputations.
- Delegation: Enables community members to nominate others to vote on their behalf.
- Pods/subDAOs: Smaller groups within an organization whose scope of governance is limited by their mandate.
Mirror’s WRITE token airdrop is an example of an intentional diversification of its membership base. To get the airdrop, you need to register a custom subdomain on the platform and participate in governance in the future. At the same time, in order to expand the user base that can influence governance, tokens are distributed according to an algorithm that maximizes different social clusters. According to the Mirror, the airdrop “further democratized the selection process and broadened the entry criteria…”
To date, the growth of the Mirror community has depended on those who played the most important role in forming it.
In addition to members being free to make community suggestions and people can change the platform from within through governance, participants also need a viable exit path. The Web2 platform enforces user loyalty through network effects and closed data, and exiting the platform leaves creators inaccessible to their audience or content. Web3 offers an opportunity to build new systems that secure user rights through true digital ownership, open data, and networks built on open source software.
Incentivize participation, not just return capital
The core principle of Web3 is that there are more ways to provide value to the ecosystem than just through capital. Also, value should be able to be acquired, not just purchased. This is a sharp departure from the existing structure, in which people with capital earn more through investing than people earn through work, leading to a widening wealth gap over time.
Assigning ownership to participants is also a major shift in how existing platforms are built. The actual ownership of the existing platform goes to employees and investors, but does not include users who actually create value for the platform.
An important step in integrating Web3 with the principle of justice as fairness is to ensure that everyone is on an equal footing and can receive positions of power or reward through their own credit and contributions. The reality is that some people can increase their wealth through tactics such as speculatively creating multiple accounts (known as a “sybil attack”) to receive additional token airdrops. While the early distribution of tokens often perversely incentivizes short-term hiring behavior, such as participating in token purchases or staking, and then exiting after a few days in search of higher yields, there are opportunities to iterate and improve the processes and processes that support long-term retention of the network. Sustainability. One way is to gain ownership through ongoing participation in the network, not just capital investment. Examples of projects working to expand ownership include RabbitHole, Layer3, Gitcoin, BanklessDAO, and FWB.
protect vulnerable groups
The difference principle is based on the fact that inequality itself is equally beneficial to network construction. Presupposes fair equality of opportunity, inequality remains an inevitable consequence of people’s natural abilities, desire to earn money, and level of effort. But when inequality does arise, do these measures benefit the disadvantaged in society?
In today’s technological context, this is a challenging principle. But try this thought exercise: Are current social network recommendation algorithms maximizing benefits for the least well-off? For platform creator funds that pay content creators based on views and engagement, would this unequal payment maximize the benefits of the least affluent among users? The answer is likely no. While top creators have multiple ways to monetize, they can maintain their creations regardless of how much the creator fund pays, but the least affluent may not even be able to participate in content creation due to funding constraints.
The principle of difference is important to the democratization of Web3 , as participants will enter the ecosystem at different times, with a wide variety of backgrounds, incomes, skill levels, and access rights. There are already a number of projects leveraging crypto to maximize the well-being of the poor. For example, SuperHi, a for-profit creative education platform, plans to devolve ownership to its members and instructors. The platform tested a basic income package with the goal of expanding opportunities for creative careers. Projects such as Proof of Humanity and ImpactMarket seek to use blockchain technology as a foundation to provide basic income to those in need. Communities such as LaborDAO are leveraging blockchain technology to build worker power, while others such as she256, We3, and Komorebi Collective are focused on increasing the diversity of blockchain technology applications.
In addition to projects with a clear mission of social good, all Web3 networks should be incentivized to abide by the principle of difference, maximizing the benefits to the poor, as this approach maximizes the attraction of new players, further driving network effects.
A fair and just Internet is not just empty talk
Web3 offers an opportunity to make up for what Web2 failed to deliver: an opportunity to reimagine the Internet and build a new platform from first principles . First, we need to agree on what these principles should be and why. Rawls’ principles of justice provide a good starting point, and our goal should be to design a new system that is fair and beneficial to all.
Posted by:CoinYuppie，Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/talking-about-the-distributive-justice-trend-of-thinking-how-does-web3-achieve-a-fairer-internet/
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