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Jurisdiction Zero


Some people see the internet as a real place, and others do not. The interchain is a wild west because most communities are too young to have worked out a social contract. When they do, they will form a jurisdiction equal to ‘traditional’ physical jurisdictions, for a limited part of peoples’ digital lives.

As Nick Merrill (elsehow) had it in the closing post of his series on the state of the interchain, Pockets of Liberation, the most common criticism of the interchain runs:

web3 is a grift. The whole thing’s a Ponzi scheme.

The thing is, when there are actual Ponzis in your ecosystem, that’s pretty hard to deny.

Nick goes on to make some very relevant points on where we are and where we can go - and we won’t repeat them here, you should read his post.

We’d like to talk about something else that seems foundational to why the interchain - and all of crypto - is so important, but also why it’s such a grey area for many.

There’s a moment in the documentary on The Pirate Bay, TPB AFK where Peter Sunde corrects a prosecutor’s use of the shorthand “IRL”:

We don’t use the expression IRL. We say “Away From Keyboard”. We think the internet is for real.

Watching that was a lightbulb moment. Some people, regardless of age, see the internet as real life, and some don’t.

What we’ve seen that unites almost everybody we’ve encountered in the space, is that regardless of political or ideological specifics, everybody who’s not a grifter or scammer is here because they believe the internet is a real place.

So to build on our last post, if you see the internet as real, then in what jurisdiction do things that happen there occur? They exist in Jurisdiction Zero - the abstract of cyberspace where we all increasingly interact.

Now, contrary to some criticisms, this isn’t us flying the flag for a no-rules libertarianism. We think it’s just sensible to acknowledge the limits of what will be reasonably enforceable, and to encourage people to think about which social contract applies.

This is why it’s a little bit of a slippery slope, however.

It’s easy to take this argument to an extreme and say that no physical nations or governments can have a say in the interchain - and maybe that’s true. However, meatspace is real, too - and the social contract there is important. As citizens we trade some freedoms in exchange for collective benefits. That’s the social contract.

So we’re not arguing the social contract (e.g. to pay your taxes) is null and void. Nor are we saying that you’re exempt from the law in the country in which you live. We simply argue that the one we share on the interchain can be just as valid, at least until you go AFK and go outside.

When you think about it, this kind of makes sense.

You have a multi-sig of anon and non-anon people, or a DAO with a treasury on-chain. Where does that live? Jurisdiction Zero.

It’s not like doing something as an individual on the interchain, because that DAO will never[0] collectively get up, leave their keyboard and go to the same place. They aren’t a scalar, singular entity in the way that a person is.

Especially as privacy tools in the interchain improve, it will become a practical impossibility to track these new social formations, and they will become a de-facto state of their own.

So, back to the social contract - does that mean we have no responsibilities here? Well, just like getting paid in cash, the onus is on the citizen to be honest about where it lands.

For us, as a company, if we were paid funds by a DAO, while the DAO is in Jurisdiction Zero, as soon as they land in our bank account… well, we’re a company registered in the United Kingdom, and we should pay tax. Fair enough.

It’s easy to map these responsibilities onto money and tokens - after all, what happens with foreign exchange and ex-pat taxes is pretty well understood. The internet is a state? Cool, we understand that model.

So what do we do about law breaking, about transgressing social boundaries? Addressing things like violence, racism, child abuse in these online spaces is an incredibly hard problem.

The fact is, solving this problem proved fractally complex on web2, and before that, it happened in closed circles, offline.

Again, it’s a slippery slope. For some people, ‘freedom’ is so sacrosanct that there should be no restrictions on speech or action. Obviously we don’t agree with that, and most societies don’t.

For most people, it isn’t that controversial that we refer to breaking common laws as a “problem”, and that shows there is some degree of social consensus there.

That said, it’s uncomfortable to consider the reality that if we’re not careful, we may be building better places for evil to flourish.

However, the fact that all DAOs are is a social construct makes it easier to see - there’s sort of nothing new here, in a sense. This is just a natively digital way of framing something that’s as old as human societies.

So yes - communities with horrible ideologies can spring up, just as they can in meatspace. However, most communities choose to abide by at least some threshold of mutual respect, and some set of shared rules.

Ultimately, it will come down to us building the communities we want to see. If we get to a point where security and privacy do make it possible to organise in whatever forms we see fit, then it’s important that we acknowledge diverse voices, seek to find compromise and exercise kindness and humility as we define the rules of these spaces together.

Because, after all, it’s not the governments we should be accountable to - it’s each other.

[0] Ok, is very unlikely to