Mahesh Khatri - Network Union
An Essay On "The Network Union"
(For mobile devices, suggest viewing in landscape mode)
Balaji Srinivasan writes about The Network Union as a social graph organized in a tree-like structure with a leader, a purpose, a crypto-based financial and messaging system, and a daily call-to-action. Let us break down the above explanation of a network union into it's different components.
First, let us visualize a simple social graph.
Next is a tree-like structure like the simple Christmas tree drawn by me.
Our representation of a crypto-based system is shown as follows - Secured blocks of data chained together permanently :
Next in 'The Network Union' comes a leader, a purpose, a crypto-based financial and messaging system. Combining all of these, 'The Network Union' looks as follows : A purpose & leader at the top. A strong blockchain foundation at the bottom and across the trunk and branches. At the various branches of the tree hierarchy are the members with their individual social graphs interacting via the blockchain.
Purpose & Leader - An alignment of all the people in the network towards a common set of objectives. In this case, both the purpose and the leader can be the lodestar, towards which the network members look for guidance and direction.
Hierarchy - The visual above communicates a hierarchy. As mentioned in the essay, the earlier entrants who have got in have paid a lower price (by having undertaken a higher risk at the early stages of the network) as compared to the late comers who pay higher prices with lower commensurate risks when the network has become much stronger and larger.
Interactions - These are depicted by the two sided horizontal & vertical arrows above and denote data interactions of any assets on the network - Men / Women, Materials, Methods, Messages, Mortar-Brick, Machines, Money, Markets & More as shown below :
Blockchain Foundation - This is across the entire tree structure both horizontally and vertically. The tokens issued to the members live on this blockchain. We have shown only one network union tree above. It is quite possible that in the future, other network unions would be linked together via the foundation extending to the roots and joined together like this Harvard University's mention of Wood Wide Web.
Social Influence - The essay says "Backlinks allow us to quantify a leader's support base. Every leader has individuals that support them. Some of those individuals in turn have other individuals supporting them". Here is a simple visual that shows every individual's support network.
This support network linked to the individual's online presence along with his social graph is a powerful tool.
An individual's support backlinks acting in concert works as a cumulative force multiplier for enhancing the strength of the network union.
Rewards - Where is the Money ? During Christmas, I look forward to some gifts, where are they in the network union ?
Rewards are multiple, both tangible like tokens (access keys to exclusive rights) giving the ability to buy / sell / trade goods and services both within the network union and outside as well as intangible rewards like the quantification of a person's social capital over period of time. All these rewards are faciliated by the foundational blockchain as shown below.
Each individual along with his support network consisting of his family, associates, relatives, friends, acquaintances & neighbours is shown interacting with others via the blockchain transactions.
Observations on some points made in the essay :
Bowling alone, but posting together - For the same to happen, the purpose and alignment of members has to be very strong. Members perhaps have to be evangelists (like Bitcoin maximalists).
Also, cultural differences within and between different countries would need to be overcome. e.g. India is said to have it's head in the 21st century and tail in the 18th century. Young Indian millenials which are a huge number are 24 X 7 online only digital natives.
However, India also has a vast amalgam of different castes, religions, languages, etc across different socio-economic classes. A strong purpose or leader along with an effective structure is the key for common behaviours to evolve.
Blockchains change social technology - To the extent of introducing transparency within the network as well as quantification of a member's attributes and actions over a period of time, this would be helpful. Will the blockchain technology be available at reasonable costs to handle a large community that evolves rapidly ? That is a key question.
Also, jurisdictional clashes of virtual individual sovereignity with real world physical boundaries will need to be solved. As mentioned by Balaji Srinivasan in one of his writings, whether one is an Indian, American or Chinese, all trust the blockchain. So, global regulators will need to be brought on board a common network of blockchains. It helps that some of them have a common foe today in the form of large Internet giants like say Facebook & Twitter.
Collective action of a network union - As articulated in the essay, a series of collective actions will strengthen their power and utility. As they grow, it is a natural expectation that with power comes responsibility. Leadership and policies for the same need to be articulated for governance purposes in line within the geographic jurisdictions they operate in all over the world.
Degrees of Network & State Fusion - In one of his Network State Youtube talk, Balaji Srinivasan refers to Estonia & China respectively as examples of 'good' & 'bad' network state fusion already happening today. What about other countries say like India that are somewhere in between ? What is the degree of separation of a 'good' & 'bad' network state ? E.g. a bulk of India's poor would not mind sacrificing their personal data & privacy to the state for getting some additional online benefits. Would this classify as good or bad ?
Is crypto the only defining attribute for the network union ? - There are several large organizations led by a single leader & purpose with huge online communities working (without any crypto support currently). Some quick examples that come to mind are BNI - Business networking, JITO - Jain community business interactions, Rotary - social service and TIE - South East Asia entrepreneurship focussed organizations. So, what distinguishes these organizations from the network union ?
If in the future, if they adopt crypto mechansims, would they be also called as network unions ? Can existing organizations morph into network unions or do they need to be born from scatch ?
Also, the essay highlights call to actions and joint bargaining power of the network union. But doesn't the same already exist today with the organized labour unions ? Except for the crypto part, how would their functioning be different ?
Flirting with the law - At times, some of these large online organizations operate around gray legal boundaries. These are some examples in the religious, political & financial domains.
What about organized online mobs targetting businesses ? Are existing laws or judicial mechanisms equipped to handle these trangressions ?
Most of the global regulators have a dual challenge. First, understanding Online. Then, understanding cryptos. They need to be educated and brought on board.
What about the digital illiterates & the poor ? - Many digitally illiterate people (e.g most senior citizens in India) and the bulk of the poor do not have the ability to be fully online today. Can the network union take care of them ?
Balaji Srinivasan talks about positive migration (Vote with your feet). What about forced reverse migration ? E.g. During India's 1st Covid wave in 2020, one of the biggest human tragedy was millions of poor migrants walking back to their native places. Can network unions give these people an exclusive voice ?
Organizational Structure - The network union is positioned somewhere between 'online communities' and 'network states'. The essay talks of a tree like structure. With trees being of different shapes and sizes, organizational structure design is a challenge. Hence, needs to be thought out well.
Summary - The network union is a fast evolving being. Usage of cryptos for it's effective functioning as a distinguishing factor from today's online organizations will need to be tried out and scaled up successfully. Also, till cryptos themselves are legalized in many countries, it may take some more time for mainstream adoption. Once successful role models of network unions evolve, they will be replicated globally. Besides the digital natives, they will also have to satisfy the needs of the global have-nots. In conclusion, it is a a wonderful near term (in terms of the implementation time frame) thought provoking idea.
Created on 20th May 2021.
Updated on 23rd June 2021.