In one of the last weekly reports, we added a quite different section than the usual ones, called “Permanent transparency”. There, we pledged to try to push over some entrenched mindsets in the quest for finding answers to a question as simple as “what does Arweave do?”. It represented only a prologue to the following.
Answering the “why?”
I wrote some months ago about how Arweave, and to the broader extent, Web3, is in the middle of a scientific paradigm shift that will challenge some already established “truths”. This paradigm shift will not happen smoothly, in fact, it could not happen at all if we do not manage to address the issue at hand adequately.
Who do I think of when I use the term “we”? We, the Arweavers. This small tribe should be the spearhead of the entire Web3 ecosystem in this fight to impose the new paradigm. Why? Because Arweave represents one of the most meaningful implementations when it comes to blockchains. Arweave alone could be the missing link that brings together a decentralised protocol and a centralised institution. And when I say centralised institution, I’m not referring to a mere hedge fund or another type of financial apparatus that wants to squeeze some bucks from the hype, I’m talking about private or public institutions that have an actual purpose in the social construct: universities, private or public archives, etc. If presented in a way that can be relatable to them, the notion of permanent storage will make way more sense than many other Web3 pitches.
But why should we want to approach the states, are they not the enemy?
I’m not a Bitcoin maxi, so I’ll be blunt and say that, at least from my point of view, states, particularly democracies, are not at all the enemy. The very apparition of Arweave could be interpreted as an act to safeguard democracies by fighting the fake news phenomenon.
The modern democratic state is a rather new concept, considering the scale of history. It is still very fragile and is not at all as irreversible and powerful as some cyberpunks are afraid of. Actually, (are you sitting? because it comes to a very, very hot take), I would say that blockchain is not meant to enforce individual liberty, democratic states are. Blockchain is meant to safeguard the rights of an individual in a rather free society or to pass those rights through a hazardous period that weakens the democratic values of that state. Of course, blockchains can be used to fight for freedom, but only in the above-mentioned logic. The bottom line is that public blockchains and democratic states are actually in a symbiotic relationship and this fact is not really acknowledged by the states or by us. Let me put it this way: the adoption of a public blockchain by a state will only strengthen its democratic traits, and it will make it more resilient to interior and exterior pressures. At the same time, a public blockchain can thrive only if there are democratic structures that will grant its citizens the liberty to operate freely. Imagine what will happen if suddenly all the world bans crypto-related operations. Thanks to democracies, this will never happen. Indeed, they will enforce some rules, and different stakeholders from different mediums will try to gain the upper hand — the system is not perfect, but nevertheless, they can’t deny the existence of a rising minority of their citizens who demand their right to use this technology. And what is the most important, they are bounded by their own rules to enter a dialogue. So, let’s enter in this dialogue, I say.
How do we get there? Prologue
Simply by taking the first step and hoping that we’ll meet in the middle. What does this mean? We have to cater in our ranks, besides the vital cohorts of developers, a new breed of arweaver — oldie but goldie (ObG in short): law practitioners, scholars from different academic branches, political scientists — individuals that should represent lighthouses that will help Arweave to navigate the shores of politics and policies around the world.
Some time ago, Twitter user @ZwigoZwitscher posted the following call to action:
Long story short, he found a proposal made by an NGO for updating the German freedom of information act, and he added some suggestions to the draft: the need to store the information provided by the Ferman state to a tamper-proof, permanent medium.
In this case, his initiative alone is worth more than the potential outcome. At least, for me, it was an eye-opener that led me to raise a series of questions:
Globally, how many individuals involved in digital data law-making initiatives know about Arweave? How many know about decentralised storage in general?
How many companies or state institutions dealing with digital data storage are aware of decentralised storage?
How knowledgeable are Arweave’s Web3 projects when it comes to regulatory frameworks from around the world?
The truth is that we don’t know; however, common sense would say that in the case of the first two questions, maybe, just maybe, some people know about the notion of decentralised storage, and a thin fraction of those are also aware of Arweave. Take a close look at this project because we’ll come back to it. Everything could have been done through Arweave. Should we ask the University of Oldenburg if they knew about Arweave in the first place?
Still, how do we get there?
Imagine an NGO as the liaison with the “old world”. Call it the advisory department of Arweave. We know that DevRel is vital, but what about “OldRel”? As already stated, Arweave, more than any other Web3 network, should create a bridge between the two worlds. If not for the reasons already mentioned, then just because a huge chunk of the potential demand for permanent and immutable storage exists outside of Web3. Individuals like @ZwigoZwitscher, who, by the way, comes after teaching students political sciences for more than five years, who are already accustomed to Arweave and with a firm footing in one of the fields described above, represent the ideal member model for this DAO.
I think all of us can grasp why such an NGO is important for our community, but let’s think about the responsibilities of such an institution:
- mapping the existent legislative package regarding digital storage throughout industries and countries;
- facilitating “first contacts” with industry representatives for the ecosystem and Arweave projects;
- following new policymaking initiatives regarding decentralised storage initiatives and participating as stakeholders whenever possible;
- teaming up with Arweave dev teams in order to create interdisciplinary squads that could tackle complex issues like engaging a new industry;
- offering product-market fit counsel for Arweave projects;
Each of the above items could easily be expanded on, however, what is more vital is understanding that all of these should be conducted in a cohesive manner, hence the importance of a unitary mandate for an organisation.
The mechanics of such an NGO should be discussed thoroughly, but the initial idea is to assume time-based mandates with clear and comprehensible objectives.
The organisational structure would present its results regularly, and all the resulting materials should be made public. If an Arweave-based project desires certain research or any other type of service that is too specific or is not present in the current mandate, they can finance it as a side quest and the organisational structure would be responsible for assisting the project team.
Besides the members of the organisational structure, the NGO should engage with external experts/institutions on a contract or volunteer basis. Additionally, the organisation could have a hackathon-like approach awarding the best research and studies that offer insights into how Arweave could function in different industries, think of it as an OpenWebFoundry for other kinds of projects — heck, even the current OWF could expand in this direction.
As for the funding of the NGO, it could come both from Arweave’s prominent stakeholders and from everyday normal arweavers alike. Obviously, there will be no direct financial gains for those who will contribute, only the indirect gain of creating more awareness about Arweave outside Web3 and a much better understanding of what lies outside the crypto space for Arweave projects. Anyway, these represent only some random thoughts to create a vague idea of what this new potential venture would look like.
Instead of an epilogue
How many project founders on Arweave are aware of the Gaia-X initiative? How about the European Alliance for Industrial Data, Edge and Cloud? But what about the power dynamics between those two? Again, I don’t know; I do know that Gaia-X’s members complain that Web2 industry leaders are tearing down initiatives like these from the inside out.
Let’s take the case of Gaia-X and see why it is vital to have an in-depth understanding of what’s happening outside the Web3 sphere and why Arweave should also be there:
Let’s not dive too deep into what they are, how where they formed, and stuff like this — we’ll have a dedicated article where we’ll try to analyse this venture in detail. Simply put, they want to represent a federated, decentralised, cloud infrastructure and services that aim to ensure the digital sovereignty of Europe. Why is this important for Arweave? Well, it was considered essential for at least 300 organisations around the globe that obtained membership. If this project succeeds, it will represent the frame that ultimately will dictate how the European cloud will look like. If we don’t get involved now, we’ll probably end up creating Gaia-X compliant frameworks for the Permaweb anyway, but without any saying in Gaia-X’s design. How well is Web3 represented in Gaia-X? Until this moment, I clearly identified IOTA and Ocean Procotol, as being part of the initiative, so, no, the centralised boogeyman is not necessarily opposing the idea of public blockchains. By the way, remember the example about the University of Oldenburg? They were using a combination of IOTA and IPFS to power their project. It could be just a coincidence that IOTA is involved in the European future cloud construct and the choice of the University of Oldenburg for their project, but doesn’t this potential coincidence raise a question in the case of Arweave? Is there currently a direct link between Arweave and academia?
What about between Arweave and national archives or institutions and NGOs involved in heritage preservation? Is there a single point of convergence where these kinds of actors are present, and Arweave is represented? How many museums, archives, and historic sites are aware of this phrase that can be found on arweave.org:
Looking for storage for your archives? Look no further. Museums, archives, historic sites, and online libraries can apply to the archival grants program to receive free storage and assistance from the Arweave team.
We can continue with the rhetorical questions on and on, but that’s not the idea. What is important to understand is that in addition to the continuous building that is happening on Arweave, in addition to the ability to share news about the ecosystem and Web3, we need to consider a structure that can reach the institutions that need Arweave, but who are not aware of its existence.
To be totally honest, every time I read this, I’m inclined to open a new paragraph and digress even further, so I’ll stop here. Take it as it is, a call for dialogue, first between us and then, hopefully, with the world.