Thus far there has been a great deal of a discussion about how the protocol works, but there has been less conversation about the purpose behind this undertaking. I would like for this post to be the starting point for a discussion which will allow us to agree upon and codify a set of goals and to clearly define the DAO’s mission.
As a tool for blockchain scaling and privacy, Phonon’s applications are apparent, but I’d like to share more about why I believe this project to be uniquely important in this space.
The physical cash economy is shrinking around the world and this is a net negative for personal freedom. I live a fairly typical and unremarkable life in the U.S., but in a post-Snowden world in which the governments’ easy reach into our extensive digital footprint is demonstrable I feel increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of ceding my personal and financial privacy outright. Cash is convenient and not reliant on third party digital systems in order to be useful and, additionally, yields privacy benefits we often take for granted.
Prior to the pandemic I’ve spent a lot of my adult life travelling through China – it’s a place I love and have a deep personal connection to, as well as one that illustrates just how rapid and stark this shift away from cash is.
About four years ago I visited a massive new shopping mall in Dalian with my family and used its parking garage. As we entered the garage, there was no gate and we didn’t need to take a ticket so we thought “Nice! Free city center parking!”
When exiting the garage, we found ourselves at a closed gate with no booth to pay a toll to exit. We quickly discovered that they only way to exit was by paying via the popular messaging service, WeChat. How was the length of our stay in the garage determined? Scanning our license plate on entry.
Over my past few visits, I quickly discovered that even street vendors were rarely using cash – trying to get change when not paying the exact amount often proved to be a pain.
Digital payments can be convenient, but China and other governments’ push towards acceptance of digital cash is rooted in the fact that it provides unprecedented detail on an individual’s finances and activities.
How does this anecdote relate to Phonon DAO? I see the merit in continuing to retain cash as an option – and broad deployment of Phonon or similar protocols makes this option unstoppable.
I believe the DAO’s mandate should be to nurture this nascent technology and help it get a foothold. In the earliest stages that means collaborating on incentive structures that will make this effort self-sustaining. Later, operating more as a grants organization which allocates funding to help the Phonon ecosystem grow and thrive.
It’s a sign of this space’s growing maturity that a lot of people are asking about generating sustainable revenue on day one while the protocol is still in alpha. DAOs are a framework for coordination in a common goal and I think mutual alignment behind the value of this undertaking combined with the demonstrable success of the protocol’s working alpha is reason enough to begin laying the groundwork.
If people can rally around a DAO to buy a copy of the U.S. Constitution or a blimp, then nurturing a working protocol with the potential to solve cross-chain and scaling chokepoints as well as create a new toolkit for personal financial freedom is absolutely worth doing.
For Phonon to take hold we need a lot more talented people involved than just five developers. Their focus has been on making this idea a reality, but to support these efforts and have this tech get traction we need to build an organization capable of funding long-term core development, incentivizing usage, encouraging development of applications leveraging Phonon, as well as compensating all of those making this possible. It is important for the DAO to collaborate on how to make this effort self-sustaining and to reward those that make lasting long-term contributions. The protocol devs have not focused on the token or building the DAO itself, and that’s where we can all have a major impact and shape the trajectory of Phonon based on our own perspectives and values.
To cite a cliché, it’s a bit of a chicken vs. egg scenario. For Phonon to achieve the impact and utility I am certain it is capable of, we need to engage in these efforts now to clear the path for technical development and attract more talent of all stripes.
Right now we all share the opportunity to take working technology with the capability to meaningfully impact personal freedom and privacy in the digital age (as well as serve a host of other utilitarian purposes) and get rewarded if we are successful in this endeavor. Phonon has value in both financial terms and its capability to have a positive impact aligned with my personal values – making this technology ubiquitous is a win-win in those terms and I believe it to be enough to attract other like-minded individuals to help Phonon DAO flourish.