Deodands: DACs for natural systems

Hi, everybody. I'm jumping in with both feet on a subject I've written about in several recent stories. "Deodand," which was part of the Hugo-nominated second Metatropolis audiobook, for instance, is about the idea of autonomous natural systems that operate in their own interest through net-based legal and AI systems. ("Deodand" is an old English word referring to a physical object that has been granted personhood in order to be litigated against--eg., the ox-cart that fell on somebody and killed them and is now being charged with murder.) The rather simple question underlying this idea is, why stop at corporations as persons? Several nations have already enshrined or are in the process of enshrining rights for natural systems. Rivers, watersheds, coral reefs, mountain biomes, all could be represented by DACs, and the goods and services they provided defined in their charter. Might this be a better way to protect and promote the interests of natural systems and other species, rather than tying political actions to antagonistic ideological human-based movements? This is not "save the whales," it's "give the whales the tools to save themselves."

Do you think DACs could be used by our non-human ecosystem service providers?

Comments

  • w0bb1yBit5w0bb1yBit5 Member Posts: 17
    I am thinking of setting up a legal system in which plaintiffs, defendants and judges are nyms representing Ethereum addresses. We allow both direct addresses (representing secret keys), and contracts (scripts) before the court. Storage on some contracts could represent whales, organized as a DAC. This would (indirectly) give whales standing to sue (or be sued). All court proceedings are conducted transparently on the blockchain. Of course, since it is distributed and anonymous and extraterritorial, the judgements of the court are simply "recommendations". Otherwise known as "hot air". In response to a famous U.S. Supreme Court Decision, President Jackson is reputed to have exclaimed, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" In fact, Jackson went on to forcibly remove the Cherokee Nation in its entirety from their ancestral lands -- the abominable "Trail of Tears". I'm not sure deodands in cyberspace is an idea with any legs. It is not clear how the Court of Ethereum would prevent a factory ship fleet from harpooning the last several thousand whales and rendering (sic) the question moot.
  • Karl_SchroederKarl_Schroeder Member Posts: 37 ✭✭
    You're absolutely right! The take-away is that we can change the way that we talk all we want, but actual leverage (power on the ground) still has to exist for things to change. I've just finished a story for Neal Stephenson's Hieroglyph anthology that talks about other elements of new governance, including modern dispute resolution and consensus-building processes, voting, tools for short-circuiting our inbuilt cognitive biases and so on. The creation of a deodand by itself is not sufficient to cause a natural system to become an active actor. But this is precisely where things get interesting, because of all the other possibilities that are opened up when you add other systems and methods to that foundation.

    You could just say that giving natural systems representation is better than having them simply dismissed as "externalities." But I think we can go farther than that; it just involves considering the block chain to be one element of a larger power structure.
  • Karl_SchroederKarl_Schroeder Member Posts: 37 ✭✭
    On reflection, I'm. wondering how your objection does not also apply to any DAC, not just those representing natural systems. For instance, take the 1600 square kilometer region north of Toronto known as the Oak Ridges Moraine. It provides a set of ecosystem services that can be precisely defined and quantified. For instance, the moraine provides what's known as a regulating service: it filters water and provides freshwater for approximately 6 million people. You can put a price tag on this service by asking how much it would cost to replace the moraine with artificial systems. If the moraine has a DAC, you can value the shares that it issues and people can invest. So, in what way is this different from a nonhuman machine DAC that provides some other service, say, namespace registration? Arguably, the moraine is a far better investment; it has a degree of stability to it that modern corporations, for instance, cannot claim. If I'm a pension fund, I'd invest in the moraine, but not in Blackberry.

    As to who protects the moraine, the answer is the same as it would be for any other DAC: the investors. They have a stake in the moraine, so they will act to protect their investment.
  • Karl_SchroederKarl_Schroeder Member Posts: 37 ✭✭
    I think the question we're converging on is, "What entities could NOT be represented by a DAC?"
  • FreddyFenderFreddyFender Member Posts: 39
    @Karl_Schroeder I think the DAC environment will be a large group of contracts that seek equilibrium and be challenged by ever more DACs vying to supplant the functionality and transparency of the previous' iterations and innovation. Each specific grouping will find common ground with other grouping as the logic shared between disparate fields of economy/study/society/etc are discovered to be fractal and homomorphic by nature. I think this thread will continue to gather steam as the, "What ifs?" are slowly replaced by the, "We could..."
    Or, I could be completely off topic!
  • ranfordranford Member Posts: 25 ✭✭
    Karl I totally agree with your thinking, Ive only just seen your thread, thankyou for raising it, it is a shame it peered out. I think that the emergence of blockchain systems that allow monetization of shared resources and of DACs is still massively underestimated and yes I believe that the biggest transformation will be in the re valuation of natural systems". Effectively DACs via blockchain type tech allows their inherent value to be connected to the human monetary system of value. So the oak ridges morraine, the amazon rainforests and much of mother nature finally is valued - literally, and paid for its enormous life giving services, that will em-power it to pay for services to protect and enhance itself and all its constituents. Id like to see us as part of an interconnected biosphere - part of the natural systems not as something separate from it. Id be very happy to explore these ideas further. Some food for further thought - much talk about the emergence of some kind of AI in terms of us versus the machines, termininator / matrix futures etc, but what if the natural systems were effectively the body / embodiment of the ai that emerged, what if the AI was the brain for DACs that literally represented mother nature?
  • Karl_SchroederKarl_Schroeder Member Posts: 37 ✭✭
    Yes, @max, I've written a couple of novellas about the idea of natural systems as the "bodies" of AIs, and the idea also figured prominently in my recent novel "Ashes of Candesce." At the time I was writing these (several years ago) there was a howling silence in response; people just didn't get it. Maybe that's changing.

    @FreddyFender Yes, a bit off-topic, but an interesting topic nonetheless. Granted that all models are imperfect, all DACs are doomed to fail if they don't constantly adapt/update their core model of what they are and who they're serving. I'll probably start a thread on viable systems at some point, if nobody else does, as that's the discipline that studies these things.
  • StephanTualStephanTual London, EnglandMember, Moderator Posts: 1,282 mod
    edited March 2014
    Absolutely fascinating conversation and idea! A weak AI mapped to a physical object, natural resource or even a group of animals, recognizing their contribution to the environment and enabling it to 'communicate' and interact with the rest of the world.

    Mind=blown.
  • giannidalertagiannidalerta Miami, FLMember Posts: 76 ✭✭✭
    This opens up another side to things. As we will need more of this natural data that cannot be gathered by machines but by humans. Students interested in nature studies and science maybe more incentivised to follow their passion. As their contributions would not just be from grants and institutions but from actual businesses/entities needing this data. For example a student interested in insects in the amazonian forests could be contributing data that could be fed into the grander scheme that DAO could use. These students (future scientists) could have other sources of income for the utility of their contribution.
  • Karl_SchroederKarl_Schroeder Member Posts: 37 ✭✭
    Excellent idea! Because we're looking at alternative currencies the discussion naturally blends into the subject of non-monetary incentives and goals. It's not just students and professionals who could contribute, however. I wrote a piece for Intel two summers ago about projected interfaces; one of the ideas involved adapting facial recognition technology to allow us to recognize the individual animals who live in our neighbourhoods. Maybe you have a family of racoons near you, but do you know them as individuals? Well, you could. Also the crows, sparrows, squirrels and pigeons that are part of your local community. The analogy to human "un-persons" is direct, of course; the point is bring into your awareness real agents and agencies who are currently invisible. Imagine an old woman who has a Google Glass-type interface that lets her get to know the local animals. Since they are now literally part of her community she can speak on their behalf. She doesn't need a Ph.D. to do this, and her reward could be as simple as a sense of greater participation and belonging in her own community.

    I was watching a hawk outside my office window this morning. I'm right downtown in central Toronto, but there he was. Does he live around here? What role does he play in the local ecology? I don't know. But I could. And that knowledge could empower both of us.
  • giannidalertagiannidalerta Miami, FLMember Posts: 76 ✭✭✭
    The location, size, picture of the hawk, time of appearance, could be recorded and tracked. Anyone can do this. Even if you do not know the individual animal.
  • agentptagentpt Member Posts: 10
    edited March 2014
    This idea matches the systems/processes of permaculture, all natural systems with inputs, outputs and characteristics...and each with natural intrinsic value. Have a look at permacredits.com i.e. a beehive, a vegetable patch could be defined/constrained in DAC's..
    Post edited by agentpt on
  • vethervether Member Posts: 21
    DNews
    Massive thalient currency flow to the DAC of Whales after the result of the vote on the interspecies-internet pool.
    - 30 -

    @vitalik is working on this, POC 42 if i remember well ;)
  • Karl_SchroederKarl_Schroeder Member Posts: 37 ✭✭
    Yes. Thalience is my idea of the negotiation of self-identity and group identity by distributed intelligences (internet of things thingees). It refers to the question of whether distributed but at least partially embodied AIs will "naturally" select the same boundaries for Self and for objects in the environment as we humans would. We could hard-code those boundaries, but if IoT objects explore their own environment they have at least the potential of making different conceptual cuts across it. These (and the different shape of the resulting Venn diagrams) are what I call thalient categories. This idea's somewhat influenced by Brian Cantwell Smith's notion of registration, from his book On the Origin of Objects.
  • vaXvaX Austin, TXMember Posts: 78 ✭✭✭

    The rather simple question underlying this idea is, why stop at corporations as persons? Several nations have already enshrined or are in the process of enshrining rights for natural systems. Rivers, watersheds, coral reefs, mountain biomes, all could be represented by DACs, and the goods and services they provided defined in their charter. Might this be a better way to protect and promote the interests of natural systems and other species, rather than tying political actions to antagonistic ideological human-based movements? This is not "save the whales," it's "give the whales the tools to save themselves."

    I was watching a hawk outside my office window this morning. I'm right downtown in central Toronto, but there he was. Does he live around here? What role does he play in the local ecology? I don't know. But I could. And that knowledge could empower both of us.

    it just involves considering the block chain to be one element of a larger power structure.

    I am thinking of setting up a legal system in which plaintiffs, defendants and judges are nyms representing Ethereum addresses. . . . This would (indirectly) give whales standing to sue (or be sued). All court proceedings are conducted transparently on the blockchain.

    AI mapped to a physical object, natural resource or even a group of animals, recognizing their contribution to the environment and enabling it to 'communicate' and interact with the rest of the world.

    Granted that all models are imperfect, all DACs are doomed to fail if they don't constantly adapt/update their core model of what they are and who they're serving.

    I think the question we're converging on is, "What entities could NOT be represented by a DAC?"

    thinking about DACs in terms of a human + machine economy is still way too limiting. . . . The full participation of natural systems in the economy may be the best solution to environmental causes that have not been resolvable from "within the human sphere." You want explosive economic transformation, forget the machines. Look to the aquifers.

    I find it interesting that this forum thread petered out, because it's been my experience that the greatest opportunities reside in the space where a proposal is met with baffled silence.

    this thread will continue to gather steam as the, "What ifs?" are slowly replaced by the, "We could..."

    ((bvmp))
  • vaXvaX Austin, TXMember Posts: 78 ✭✭✭
    This article talks about California Blue Whales and the recent successes of their advocacy group's efforts. Seems inline with what we are discussing in this thread. http://earthsky.org/earth/california-blue-whales-rebound-from-whaling
  • arkbg1arkbg1 Louisville, KentuckyMember Posts: 3
    Well... Hmmm... Isn't that a curious concept. So... Like... The ocean could sue BP for harming it?
  • vaXvaX Austin, TXMember Posts: 78 ✭✭✭
    arkbg1 said:

    The ocean could sue BP for harming it?

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    All land is ϟacred, but here's an example ov a HIStorical landmark seeKing protectZ☰N:
    http://www.powwows.com/2013/07/11/depp-wants-to-buy-historical-native-american-landmark/
  • eaglgenes101eaglgenes101 Member Posts: 43
    If we're going to have contracts act on behalf of animals, would it be possible to get input from the animals themselves?
  • vaXvaX Austin, TXMember Posts: 78 ✭✭✭

    input from the animals

    Nature/Animals are already trying to get our attention, the question is - will we, as humans, listen?

    How we listen, and the technologies that we deploy to listen with, are verticals/spheres for crypto-environmentalists to invest their T.E.A.R.S. (Time, Energy, Attention, Resources, Skills and $cores) towards.

    What we humans actually do with the input that we receive from the animals will transcend hardware and software development, cryptophilosophically speaking.
  • eaglgenes101eaglgenes101 Member Posts: 43
    edited September 2014
    To make my point clearer: A dolphin living in the Pacific Ocean, a dolphin living near a harbor, a dolphin living in a nature reserve, a dolphin living near a seaside resort, and a dolphin living in Sea World probably have very different ideas about humans and the availability of food. You can't just assign one-size-fits-all contract to each dolphin any more than you can assign stereotypes to certain races.
    The preferred method of determining what a person wants is to ask the person him/herself. It should be similar for other animals (at least those that are intelligent enough to make long-term decisions).
  • ranfordranford Member Posts: 25 ✭✭
    .. @karlSchroeder : ...gather steam as the, "What ifs?" are slowly replaced by the, "We could..."

    Well we could start an experiment to create a DAC for some endangered species. Im hoping to wrap up some co-working space shortly in Bali and am ready to commit work space and very basic accommodation towards supporting a person to work on this from the work space for free, along with a number of hours per week of my own time, if we could get some funds to support a person interested to do this.

    Im thinking a stipend of 1K USD per month for 3 months renewable. Actually Im happy to go further and help start some form of Deodand incubator, if there are other interested parties. Im sure World Wildlife fund and other organizations may find this interesting. Something like Swarm for deodands but focused on the incubation more than the crowdfunding.

    At the end of the day I see it more like an experiment and research activity, Karl, are there any researchers/academic institutions starting to look at this area that you are aware of or is it still firmly in the sci-fi writers court?
  • KarlSchroederKarlSchroeder Member Posts: 10
    Hi, everybody. Been busy with related work and traveling a lot; last week I was testifying before the White House Office of Science and Technology in Washington, and a couple weeks ago was at UCLA for the Future of Online Payments conference. Both illuminating experiences.

    ranford, I think we could run such an experiment and probably should. At the moment I know of nobody who's seriously thinking about it in the terms we've put it here; on the other hand ecologists think about this stuff all the time, just not in the same terms.

    Several points: with regard to communicating with/asking dolphins etc. about their needs, we have to be careful not to anthropomorphize. We can't literally ask an animal or plant what it wants; what we can do is monitor its behaviour and environment to determine what the likely optimum conditions for its thriving are.

    Mary Robinette Kowal and I did some work on this idea for the "Metatropolis: Green Space" anthology. You can't merely seek to maximize the happiness of individuals in such a situation; if you seek only to maximize the happiness of wolves on an individual basis, for instance, you let them run down all the deer, but that obliterates the deer and then the wolves starve. You might recognize this problem from other contexts, for instance as "the tragedy of the commons."

    The answer to the problem lies in ecology/cybernetics, which both understand the importance of feedback loops, boundaries, and nested systems. A given system (whether it be an individual dolphin or a whole forest) has "bounded freedom" within a larger system; that is to say, it can do whatever it wants until its actions threaten the higher-level system (which, if it is out of wack, will threaten our lower-level system too). Homeostasis in nested systems, in other words. We have to be able to measure this, determine the limits that maximize the health of all levels and the whole, and use that as the basis for "decisions" made by the actors at different levels (mouse populations, forest floor, forest, watershed). It's far from impossible to do this, but you'll note that such category- and boundary-setting can never be freed entirely from politics, a point I made in my first novel, Ventus, in 2000. In that novel, natural systems are politicized, but this is far from a bad thing.
  • patconpatcon Member Posts: 16
    Oh hey, saw this recent EconTalk podcast and it made me think of this thread. Haven't had a chance to listen yet though.

    EconTalk: Terry Anderson on the Environment and Property Rights
    http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2014/08/terry_anderson.html

    for the record, it's been on my todo list to read your stuff Karl. I really respect the approach of writing fiction to make theory more tangible. Wish I had the drive to do more of that myself :)
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