“The Tao is the secret of all things, the treasure of good people, and the protection of bad people”
– “Lao Tzu” Chapter 62
“Decentralized Society: Finding the Soul of Web3” is the latest paper by Vitalik et al. This paper describes how to achieve a richer and more diverse ecosystem through soul-bound tokens, namely “Decentralized Society (DeSoc) and Critical Decomposable Property Rights and Enhanced Governance Mechanisms in a Decentralized Society”. Therefore, the DAOrayaki community translated this article and organized multiple Podcasts for in-depth analysis. Because the full text is too long, we will distribute it in three parts: first, middle and second.
Today, Web3 is more about expressing transferable, financialized assets than an encoding of social trust relationships. However, many core economic activities, such as unsecured lending and building personal brands, are built on lasting, non-transferable relationships. In this paper, we illustrate how non-transferable “soulbound” tokens (SBTs) representing “soul” commitments, certificates and relationships encode the real economy’s web of trust to establish provenance and reputation. More importantly, SBTs can enable other and more application scenarios, such as community wallet recovery, anti-virus governance, decentralized mechanisms, and new markets with decomposable, shared rights.
We call this richer, more diverse ecosystem a “decentralized society” (DeSoc) – a co-determined sociality in which “souls” and communities come together bottom-up as Emerging attributes of each other, co-create complex network goods and knowledge at different levels. Key to this sociality are decomposable property rights and enhanced governance mechanisms—such as quadratic funding discounted by relevance scores—that reward trust and cooperation while protecting the network from capture, extraction, and control. With this enhanced sociality, Web3 across social distancing can ditch today’s hyper-financialization in favor of a more transformative, diverse future, one that is constantly evolving.
§ Chapter 1 Introduction
In less than a decade, Web3 shocked the world by creating a unique and flexible parallel financial system never seen before. Fundamental elements of cryptography and economics, such as public key cryptography, smart contracts, proof-of-work, and proof-of-stake, bring a complex and open ecosystem to financial transactions.
However, the economic value of financial transactions is generated by humans and their relationships. Since Web3 lacks the foundational elements that represent this social identity, it is fundamentally dependent on the centralized Web2 structure that it seeks to transcend, thus replicating its limitations.
This dependency is reflected in:
- Most NFT artists rely on centralized platforms like OpenSea and Twitter to promise scarcity and initial provenance.
- DAOs trying to go beyond simple token voting often rely on Web2 infrastructure, such as social media accounts, to resist Sybil attacks.
- Many Web3 participants rely on custodial wallets managed by centralized entities such as Coinbase or Binance. A decentralized key management system is not friendly enough for anyone but a few geeks.
Furthermore, due to the lack of native Web3 identities, today’s DeFi ecosystem cannot support activities that are ubiquitous in the real economy, such as undercollateralized loans, or simple contracts like apartment rentals. In this article, we demonstrate that even a small step toward representing social identity with “soul-bound” tokens can overcome these limitations and move the entire ecosystem toward re-establishing a Web3 world that reflects native human relationships market has taken a big step forward.
Going a step further, we point out that native Web3 social identities, because of their rich social composability, can make great progress on broader long-term issues in Web3 around wealth concentration and governance vulnerability to financial attacks, while stimulating innovation. Cambrian explosion of political, economic and social applications. We refer to these use cases and the richer diverse ecosystems they enable as the “Decentralized Society” (DeSoc).
§ Chapter 2 Outline
We begin by explaining the basic elements of DeSoc, which revolve around accounts (or wallets) holding non-transferable (initially public) “soul-bound” tokens (SBTs), representing commitments, credentials, and relationships. This token is like an extended resume, issued by other wallets that can attest to these social connections.
We then describe a “ladder” of increasingly powerful applications implemented in the social stack by these basic elements of DeSoc, including:
- establish provenance
- Unlocking the under-collateralized lending market through creditworthiness
- Implement decentralized key management
- Frustrating and counteracting coordinated strategic behavior
- Measuring decentralization
- Create new types of marketplaces with decomposable, shared rights and permissions
The culmination of this description is the vision of DeSoc – a co-determined sociality in which “souls” and communities come together bottom-up, as emerging attributes of each other, at different levels together to create composite network products, including composite intelligence.
Finally, we answer several possible concerns and objections and compare to other identity paradigms familiar in the Web3 space, acknowledging that our vision is only a first step, but still an advance in programmable privacy and communication. We then consider technical pathways to guide our imagined vision. On this basis, we look to a more philosophical point of view that DeSoc has the potential to redirect Web3 to a more profound, legitimate and transformative path.
§ Chapter 3 “Soul”
The key foundational element we’re talking about is an account, or wallet, that holds publicly visible, non-transferable (but possibly revoked by issuer) tokens. We refer to accounts as “souls” and the tokens held by them as “soul tokens” (SBTs). Despite our strong interest in privacy, we initially assumed publicity because, as a concept, it was technically easier to verify, even if limited by the types of tokens people were willing to share publicly. Later in this paper, we introduce the concept of “programmable privacy” for richer use cases.
Imagine a world where most participants have “souls” that store SBTs, corresponding to a series of relationships, memberships, and credentials. For example, a person might have a “soul” that stores SBTs, representing educational credentials, employment history, or a string of hashes representing their writings or works of art. In their simplest form, these SBTs are “self-documenting,” similar to how we share information about ourselves in a resume. But the real power of this mechanism arises when SBTs held by one “soul” can be issued or attested by other “souls” who are counterparties to these relationships. These counterparty “souls” can be individuals, companies or institutions. For example, the Ethereum Foundation could be a “soul” that issues SBTs to “souls” attending developer conferences. A university can be a “soul” that issues SBTs to graduates. A stadium can be a “soul” that hands out SBTs to longtime Dodgers fans.
Note that there is no requirement that a “soul” must be associated with a legitimate name, nor is there any protocol-level attempt to ensure “one soul per person”. “Soul” can be a long-used pseudonym with a series of SBTs that is not easily linked to a real person. Nor do we assume that “souls” are not transferable between humans. Instead, we try to illustrate how these properties emerge naturally from the design itself when needed.
§ Chapter 4 The Ladder to a Decentralized Society
4.1 Art and “Soul”
“Soul” is a natural way for an artist to stake his prestige in his work. When issuing tradable NFTs, artists can issue NFTs from their “soul”. The more SBTs an artist’s “soul” carries, the easier it is for buyers to identify that the “soul” belongs to the artist, and thus determine the legitimacy of the NFT. Artists can go a step further and post a linked SBT in their “soul” certifying that an NFT is a member of that “collection” and vouching for any scarcity limits the artist wishes to set. As such, Soul will create a reliable, on-chain way to stake and build reputation on an object’s provenance and scarcity.
The scope of applicability extends beyond art to services, rentals and any market built on scarcity, reputation or authenticity. An example of the latter is verifying the authenticity of so-called factual records, such as photos and videos. As deepfake technology advances, direct inspection by humans and algorithms will become less and less able to detect authenticity. While the addition of blockchain allows us to track when a particular work was made, SBTs will allow us to track social provenance, providing us with a rich social context that allows us to understand the “soul” of the published work – their membership, A combination of relationships, credentials—and their social distance from the work. “High imitations” can be easily identified because these artworks are not produced in the corresponding temporal and social context, while credible artworks (such as photographs) are attested by well-known photographers. Whereas current technology decontextualizes cultural products (like pictures) and exposes them to uncontrolled viral attacks in the absence of social context, SBTs can recontextualize these objects and make the “soul” “Being able to leverage the trust relationships that already exist within the community as a meaningful backstop for protecting reputation.
4.2 “Soul” lending
Perhaps the greatest financial value built directly on reputation is credit and unsecured loans. Currently, the Web3 ecosystem cannot replicate even a simple form of unsecured lending, as all assets are transferable and marketable, and thus can only be a simple form of collateral. The “traditional” financial ecosystem supports many forms of unsecured lending, but relies on centralized credit scores to measure borrowers’ creditworthiness, with little incentive for borrowers to share their credit history information. This score has many flaws. At their best, they weight and de-weight factors related to creditworthiness in an opaque way and bias against those who haven’t accumulated enough data — mostly minorities and the poor. At worst, they can manipulate Black Mirror-like “social credit” systems and reinforce discrimination.
An ecosystem of SBTs could create a censorship-resistant, bottom-up alternative to the top-down commercialized “social” credit system. SBTs representing educational credentials, employment histories, and lease contracts can be durably recorded as credit-related histories, allowing “souls” to pledge a good reputation to avoid collateral requirements and obtain loans. Loans and lines of credit can be represented as non-transferable but revocable SBTs, so they are nested within other SBTs of the “soul” – an indivisible collateral for reputation – until they are repaid and subsequently destroyed; or Better yet, replace it with proof of repayment. SBTs offer helpful security properties: non-transferability prevents transferring or hiding outstanding loans, while a rich SBTs ecosystem ensures that borrowers trying to evade a loan (perhaps by creating a new “soul”) will lack SBTs to meaningfully stake their reputation.
The ease with which SBTs can be used to calculate public debt will make lending markets more open. New correlations will emerge between SBTs and repayment risk, giving rise to better lending algorithms for predicting creditworthiness, reducing reliance on a centralized, opaque credit scoring infrastructure. Also, borrowing can happen in social connections. In particular, SBTs will be the basis for community lending practices similar to those pioneered by Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, where members of a social network agree to support each other’s debts. Since all SBTs of a “soul” represent membership in different social groups, participants can easily discover other “souls” who will become important co-participants of the group lending program. Commercial lending is a “borrow and forget” repayment model, while community lending may take a “borrow and help” approach—combining working capital with human capital for a higher rate of return.
How does unsecured community lending come to fruition? In the beginning, we wanted “souls” to only carry SBTs with information they were willing to share publicly, such as information on a resume. Although limited in scope, this may be sufficient for intra-community lending experiments, especially if SBTs are issued by reputable institutions. For example, a combination of SBTs showing certain programming credentials, having attended several conferences and working experience may be an advantage for “souls” to get venture capital (or raise seed money) for them. Such credentials and social ties have informally played an important but opaque role in the allocation of capital such as venture capital.
4.3 Don’t lose your “soul”
The non-transferability of some important SBTs – such as one-time educational certificates – raises an important question: How do you avoid losing your “soul”? Today’s recovery methods, such as multi-sign recovery or mnemonics, have different tradeoffs in terms of mental load, ease of transaction, and security. Social recovery is an emerging alternative that relies on a person’s trusting relationship. SBTs allow for a similar, but broader paradigm: community recovery, where the “soul” is the cross-voting of its social network.
Social recovery is a good starting point for safety, but has several drawbacks in terms of safety and usability. A user curates a group of “guardians” and empowers them through the majority to change the keys to their wallets. Guardians can be a combination of individuals, institutions or other wallets. The problem is that users have to find a balance between having a relatively large number of guardians and ensuring that guardians are from unrelated social circles to avoid collusion. Additionally, guardians may die, relationships go sour, or simply lose touch, resulting in frequent, attention-consuming updates. While social recovery avoids a single point of failure, successful recovery depends on planning and maintaining a trusting relationship with the majority of guardians.
A stronger solution would be to tie Soul recovery to Soul membership in the community, without curating but maximizing broad real-time relationships for security. To recap, SBTs represent membership in different communities. Some of these communities – such as employers, clubs, colleges or churches – may be more off-chain in nature, while others – such as participating in protocol governance or DAOs – may be more on-chain in nature. In the community recovery model, restoring the soul’s private key requires the consent of a majority of members from the “soul” community (a random subset).
Like social recovery, we assume that “souls” have access to secure off-chain communication channels where “authentication” can take place – through conversations, face-to-face or sharing secrets. Such communication channels require greater bandwidth (theoretically the ability to carry richer “information entropy”) than the computation of on-chain bots or SBTs themselves. In fact, we can think of SBTs as fundamentally representing participation or access to this real (i.e. high bandwidth) communication channel.
Actionable details require experimentation. For example, how guardians are selected and how many guardians’ consent is required are key safety parameters that require further research. However, with such a rich repository of information, community recovery should be computationally possible, with increased security as “souls” join more diverse communities and form more meaningful relationships.
Community recovery as a safety mechanism embodies the identity theory proposed by the early 20th century sociologist and founder of social network theory, Georg Simmel, that individual identities emerge from the intersection of social groups, as Social groups emerge from the intersection of individuals as well. Maintenance and restoration of cryptoassets to Soul requires the consent of the Soul network. By embedding security in sociality, souls can always regenerate their keys through community restoration, which prevents the theft (or sale) of “souls”: since the seller needs to prove that the sale is a restoration relationship, any sale of “souls” Attempts lack credibility.
So far, we’ve explained how “souls” represent individuals and re-emerge their unique traits and group identities when they acquire SBTs, and thus their relationships, memberships, and credentials. Such personalization helps souls build reputation, establish provenance, enter unsecured lending markets, and protect reputation and identity. But the reverse is also true; SBTs also enable communities to be called together at unique intersections of “souls”. So far, Web3 has relied heavily on token sales or airdrops to rally new communities with little accuracy or precision. Airdrops, where tokens are algorithmically distributed for free to a set of wallet addresses, mostly fall into some combination of existing token holders and wallets, are vulnerable to sybil attacks, and encourage strategic behavior and Matthew effect. SBTs have a radical improvement on this, which we call the “Soul” airdrop.
“Soul” airdrops are airdrops calculated based on SBTs and other tokens within “Soul”. For example, a DAO that wants to convene a community within a particular Layer 1 protocol could airdrop to developers holding SBTs with 3 attendances from the past 5 conferences, or other tokens representing attendance such as POAPs. The protocol can also programmatically weight the placement of tokens in various combinations of SBTs. We could imagine a nonprofit with a mission to plant trees throwing governance tokens into “souls” holding a combination of environmental action SBTs, gardening SBTs, and carbon sequestration tokens—perhaps to carbon sequestration token holders more tokens.
“Soul” airdrops can also introduce new incentives to encourage community participation. Airdropped SBTs can be designed to be “soul” bound for a period of time, but ultimately “vested” as transferable tokens over time. vice versa. Transferable tokens held for a period of time unlock the rights to SBTs, giving the protocol further governance rights. SBTs open up a wealth of possibilities to experiment with different mechanisms to maximize community engagement and other goals such as decentralization. We discuss further below.
4.5 DAO composed of “souls”
Distributed Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are virtual communities brought together around a common purpose, coordinated through smart contract voting on a public blockchain. While DAOs have great potential for coordinating global communities, they are vulnerable to sybil attacks, where a user can have multiple wallets to accumulate voting power, or in less sophisticated one-coin-one-vote governance, simply hoard Tokens to accrue 51% of voting rights and deprive the other 49% of their holders.
DAOs can mitigate Sybil attacks by SBTs in several ways, namely:
- Counting a collection of “souls” of SBTs to distinguish unique souls from possible droids, and denying a suspected witch “soul” any voting rights.
- Give more voting rights to those “souls” with more prestigious SBTs – such as work or education certificates, licenses or certifications.
- Issue specialized “proof-of-personhood” SBTs, which can help other DAOs deploy more resistance against witches.
- Check the correlation between the SBTs held by “souls” who support a particular vote, and apply lower vote weights to voters who are highly correlated.
The last idea of correlation checking is particularly promising and innovative. A vote supported by many “souls” who share the same SBTs is more likely to be a witch attack, even if it is not a witch attack, such a vote is more likely to be made by a group of “souls” who have made the same mistakes in judgment or have the same prejudices, Therefore, it should be reasonably weighted compared to votes with the same amount of support but from a more diverse set of participants.
We explore this idea in more detail mathematically in the appendix, where we introduce a new foundational element called the “Relevance Score”. This concept of correlation discounts can be extended to structured prudential talks. For example, DAOs that are easily captured by the majority can calculate SBTs to maximize the grouping of diverse members in talks, ensuring that the voices of the minority are heard.
DAOs can also rely on SBTs to prevent some strategic behaviors such as “vampire attacks”. In this type of attack, a DAO—usually a related DeFi protocol with economic value—copied another DAO’s open source code, plagiarized other people’s R&D results, and then used tokens to lure users’ liquidity into it. The DAO could do this by first creating a norm around “soul” airdrops (perhaps holding specific SBTs), only airdropping “souls” that might resist Sybil attacks and providing liquidity, and then withholding those who divert their liquidity in a vampire attack Airdrop of “Soul”. The same mechanism does not work for wallet airdrops, as holders can spread liquidity across many wallets to obfuscate their liquidity traces.
DAOs can also use SBTs to enable leadership and governance to respond programmatically to their communities. Leadership roles can change dynamically as the composition of the community changes – this is reflected in the changing distribution of SBTs among members’ “souls”. A subset of members can be promoted to potential management roles based on their intersectionality and reach across multiple communities within the DAO. Protocols that value community cohesion can use SBTs to keep the “soul” at the center of the layer across the circle. In addition, DAOs can choose to make certain combinations of characteristics have a higher probability of entering the governance layer than others, such as diversity in zip codes or DAOs that span more diverse interests.
4.6 Measure decentralization from the perspective of Pluralism
When analyzing real-world ecosystems, it is best to measure how decentralized the ecosystem is. To what extent is the ecosystem truly decentralized, and to what extent is it “fake” and in fact dominated by a single person or a small group of common actors?
Two popular indicators of decentralization are the Nakamoto coefficient proposed by Balaji Srinivasan, which measures how many different entities need to combine to collect 51% of resources; and the Herfindahl-Hirschman index. – Hirschman index), a measure of market concentration in antitrust, calculated by summing the squares of market participants’ market shares. However, none of these approaches address the key questions of what is the right measurement resource, how to deal with partial coordination, and how to deal with the formation of a “discernable entity” grey area.
For example, nominally independent companies may have many common major shareholders, have directors who are friends with each other, or be regulated by the same government. In the context of token protocols, measuring the decentralization of token holdings by looking at on-chain wallets is highly inaccurate, as many people have multiple wallets, and some wallets (such as exchanges) represent many people . Furthermore, even if addresses can be traced back to unique individuals, these individuals may be socially related groups prone to accidental coordination (best case) or deliberate collusion (worst case). A better measure of decentralization should be able to capture social dependencies, weak ties, and strong identities.
Miners and mining pool operators, who make up 90 % of all Bitcoin , sit together for meetings.
SBTs support a different way of measuring the level of decentralization (or diversification) in a DAO, protocol or network.
- As a first step, the protocol could limit token voting to “souls” that are better resistant to Sybil attacks (or have more abundant SBTs).
- In the second step, the protocol can check the correlation between the SBTs held by different “souls”, and if the “souls” share a large number of SBTs, discount their votes (to pool them and distinguish them individually). (We explore the latter idea in more detail mathematically in Appendix A, where we introduce a new underlying element called the “Relevance Score”).
- As a third step, to amplify and understand the decentralization of the entire network, we can measure the correlation of SBTs held by “souls” at different levels of the network stack – measuring voting, token ownership, governance related communication, and even control over computing resources.
SBTs allow us to begin to measure the degree of decentralization of an interoperable and layered ecosystem, which is very difficult to measure today. There’s also the big question of what formulas best capture what we want to measure and are the least likely to be manipulated. We will have many questions about how to check the relationship between SBTs – giving some SBTs more weight than others, discounting nested SBTs, or taking into account the composition of transferable tokens within a “soul” . However, with a rich ecosystem of “souls” and SBTs, there will be more data to perform these calculations and move towards meaningful decentralization.
4.7 Compound Assets
DAOs typically own assets, or are organized around owning an asset, both in the virtual and physical worlds. So far, the scope of Web3 has been largely limited to a small class of property where all rights are fully transferable: tokens, NFTs, artwork, first editions or rare manuscripts like the U.S. Constitution, etc. But the emphasis on transferability works against Web3, making it unable to represent and support some of the simplest and most common property contracts today, such as apartment rentals. In the Roman legal tradition, property rights were considered to consist of rights to use (“usus”), consume or destroy (“abusus”), and gain (“fructus”). All of these rights are rarely jointly owned by the same owner. For example, an apartment lease grants the lessor a limited right of use (“usus”), but not the unfettered right to destroy the apartment (“abusus”), sell the apartment (“fructus”), or even assign the right of use (sublease). . Rights to immovable property (land) are usually subject to a series of restrictions on private use, the grant of public use rights, restrictions on the right to sell, or even the right to purchase through eminent domain. They are also often secured by a mortgage that transfers some financial value to the lender.
Future asset innovations are unlikely to be built on fully transferable private property as imagined so far. Instead, innovation will depend on the ability to decompose property rights to match the characteristics of existing property systems and to encode richer constructions. Companies and other organizational forms have evolved precisely to restructure property rights in more creative ways—for example, allowing employees to use proprietary facilities (“usus”), but reserving managers the right to alter or damage assets (“abusus” ) while paying shareholders the most financial benefit (“fructus”). SBTs have the flexibility to represent and extend this nuanced property rights to physical and virtual assets, while encouraging new experimentation. Here are a few use cases:
- Allow access to privately or publicly controlled resources (eg, homes, cars, museums, parks, and virtual equivalents). Transferable NFTs don’t capture this use case well, as access is often conditional and non-transferable: if I trust you to come into my backyard and use it as an entertainment space, it doesn’t mean I trust you to Sublicense this license to others.
- Data cooperatives, in which SBTs grant access to data to researchers, while instantiating (perhaps through quadratic voting) the rights of members to grant access, and bargain for economic rights to discoveries and intellectual property arising from research. We’ll explore this further in Chapter 5, “Plural Sensemaking.”
- Experiment with local currencies and make rules that make the currency held and spent by “souls” residing in a particular region or belonging to a particular community of higher value.
- Experiments in engagement, SBTs create a sustainable base for lesser background “souls” (eg immigrants, teens) to gain influence in new and wider networks. Such souls will start with confined SBTs, connecting them with their families or local communities. As their relationships gradually diversify, they will gain access to wider SBTs, thereby gaining voting power to influence a wider network – the spirit of Danielle Allen’s idea of multinationalism – a process currently governed by arbitrary age and The division of residence is resolved.
- Experiments designed by markets, such as Harberger taxation and SALSA (Self-Assessment License in Auction), in which asset holders publish a self-assessed price from which anyone else can buy the asset, And a tax proportional to that self-assessed price must be paid periodically to maintain control. SBTs can be used to create more nuanced versions of SALSA—for example, participation rights are approved by the community to reduce strategic behavior from within or outside the community.
- Experiment with the design of democratic mechanisms, such as quadratic voting. Holders of SBTs, which represent community membership, can vote quadratically on parameters such as incentives and tax rates. At the end of the day, ‘market’ and ‘politics’ are not separate design spaces; SBTs can become a major part of a tech stack, allowing the entire space where these two categories intertwine to be explored. Another such intersection is the provision of public goods through quadratic fundraising, for example.
Of course, some utopian scenarios can also be considered. The immigration system can use immigrant SBTs for licensing. Regulatory capture can be achieved by nesting community tokens, where homeowners have a disproportionate number of votes the right to obstruct housing construction. SBTs can automatically redline. As we discuss further below, these situations should be considered in the context of currently opaque top-down licensing and discrimination. SBTs will make discrimination more transparent and therefore potentially questionable.
We thank Audrey Tang, Phil Daian, Danielle Allen, Leon Erichsen, Matthew Prewitt, Divya Siddarth, Jaron Lanier and Robert Miller for their thoughtful feedback and comments. All errors and opinions are our own responsibility.
Microsoft Corporation & RadicalXChange Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org. Glen vinicula este documento a su Alma.
Flashbots Ltd., email@example.com. Puja gave this text to his grandmother Satya, whose love and light will continue to shine on countless souls
Ethereum Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org.
We chose this set of properties not because they are obviously the most desirable set of features, but because they are easy to implement in the current environment and support a lot of functionality. We will discuss programmable private SBTs in Section 5.3.
Note, however, that in principle de jure names can be represented as SBTs: a family name would be a member SBT of a family group, and a given name could be an SBT given to a child by parents. In fact, a richer name concept would be easily represented if other family members or related persons gifted a member SBT to a new child.
https://twitter.com/VitalikButerin/status/1264948490834247681 and https://twitter.com/VitalikButerin/status/1265252184813420544 For informal twitter surveys, evidence suggests that people have come to think of the idea of diversity in decision-making mechanisms is intuitive.
Social Recovery: https://vitalik.ca/general/2021/01/11/recovery.html
Matthew Effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_effect
Data Cooperative: https://www.noemamag.com/a-view-of-the-future-of-our-data/
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