Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has penned a joint statement with Microsoft researcher and political theorist Glen Weyl on their emerging collaboration. Together they hope that blockchain can combine with Weyl’s “Radical Markets” technologies to break up “the most oppressive forms of corporate, government and technical power” and build a “more free, open and cooperative world in the 21st century.”

The co-written statement identifies a “growing crisis of confidence in established authorities” in the developed world and a “populist backlash” caused by increasing wealth inequality, political corruption and sluggish economies.

Though they say they “share and are driven by these feelings of discontent”, they are concerned that the solutions suggested most often, i.e. “a retreat from technology, markets and international cooperation”, will in fact “destroy much of what we treasure” while at the same time “worsening the problems they seek to solve.

Buterin and Weyl have each come to recognise that the other is focused on the same issues, but from a different approach. Buterin characterises his work with Ethereum as a response to the “increasingly centralized control” established by “powerful monopolies in the digital economy and financial spheres.” Weyl is more of a political and economic theorist who has worked on designing games and structures which would reduce “reduce the need for concentrated centralized authority”.

Mutual Reservations

Despite the similarity of their concerns, both parties have some reservations about the other’s work. Weyl is worried about cryptocurrencies’ propensities to bubble, while Buterin insists that any changes in social structure need to be made gradually to minimise unintended consequences. Nevertheless, they “see many opportunities to collaborate” and are even “actively working to foster connections between our respective communities”.

Of particular interest to Buterin is Weyl’s “Quadratic Voting” system, which he suggests may be a potential route through the thorny problems raised by blockchain governance. Neither party is sure how this collaboration is going to turn out, though both are “hopeful” that “some combination of blockchain and Radical Markets technologies can make an important contribution.

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