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From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond

I'm happy to announce that a new collection of essays that I've co-edited with John Clippinger, executive director of ID3, has been published. It's called From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond The fifteen essays in the book explore a new generation of digital technologies that are re-imagining the foundations of digital identity, governance, trust and social organization.

ID3 is a Boston-based nonprofit affiliated with the M.I.T. Media Lab, and was co-founded by Clippinger and social computing and data expert, Professor Pentland, who directs M.I.T.’s Human Dynamics Laboratory. 

The book is focused on the huge, untapped potential for self-organized, distributed governance on open platforms. There are many aspects to this challenge, but some of the more interesting prospects include evolvable digital contracts that could supplant conventional legal agreements; smartphone currencies that could help Africans meet their economic needs more effective; the growth of the commodity-backed Ven currency; and new types of “solar currencies” that borrow techniques from Bitcoin to enable more efficient, cost-effective solar generation and sharing by homeowners. 

A chapter on the 28-year history of Burning Man, the week-long encampment in the Nevada desert, traces the arc of experimentation and innovation in large communities devising new forms of self-governance.

I co-authored an essay in the book, "The Next Great Internet Disruption:  Authority and Governance," which appeared in an earlier form here.

The book is published by ID3 in association with Off the Common Books, and is available in print and ebook formats from Amazon.com and Off the Common Books. A free, downloadable pdf of the book is available at the ID3 website.  (The book is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.)

Among the contributors to From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond are Alex “Sandy” Pentland of the M.I.T. Human Dynamics Laboratory; former FCC Chairman Reed E. Hundt; long-time IBM strategist Irving Wladawksy-Berger; Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Hirshberg; monetary system expert Bernard Lietaer; journalist and author Jonathan Ledgard; and H-Farm cofounder Maurizio Rossi. 

 In addition to explorations of self-governance, From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond introduces the path-breaking software platform that ID3 has developed called “Open Mustard Seed,” or OMS.  The just-released open source program enables the rise of new types of trusted, self-healing digital institutions on open networks, which in turn will make possible new sorts of privacy-friendly social ecosystems.

“OMS is an integrated, open source package of programs that lets people collect and share personal information in secure, and transparent and accountable ways, enabling authentic, trusted social and economic relationships to flourish,” said John H. Clippinger, executive director of ID3. “The software builds individual privacy, security and trusted exchange into the very design of the system. In effect, OMS represents a new authentication, privacy and sharing layer for the Internet,” he said “– a new way to share personal information selectively and securely, without access by unauthorized third parties.”

This has obvious implications for the creation and maintenance of commons, which require that commoners be able to reliably allocate resources to other members of their commons, and that they be able to monitor for abuses of the community and its shared resources.  One chapter that may be of special interest is one by Jeremy Pitt and Ada Diaconescu on "The Algorithmic Governance of Common-Pool Resources."  The essay explains how Elinor Ostrom's design principles may be used in the design of collaboration-friendly software platforms.

Another fascinating chapter, by Mihaela Ulieru, explores the concept of "holonics" -- the study of nested, whole systems -- which has profound implications for how we structure governance in complex systems.  A chapter by renowned monetary expert Bermard Lietaer explains why complementary currencies are necessary to financial stability.  His explanations are based both on scientific evidence and a brilliant application of the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang. 

Many other great chapters, especially in digital currencies.  I hope you enjoy the book.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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