The Future of DAOs 2035 is a foresight report that provides an understanding of the current state of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (aka DAOs), explores a range of plausible future scenarios for DAOs, and considers how corporations might leverage, interact, adapt, communicate, be impacted by, or even operate as(!) DAOs in the future.
This report is the product of a months long futures research effort; and exists as something between an “introduction to” and a “future of” report to help people working at corporations big & small wrap their heads around the phenomenon of DAOs.
Also, in an attempt to present the report in way that is compelling, unique, and authentic to DAOs, The Future of DAOs 2035 report is presented as a discord server.
The above link will take you to full report experience (that’s right, report experience!); but, if you want a little more background on the report, feel free to keep reading.
Oh, before we go any further, and in case you’re wondering how to say it – DAO rhymes with cow. 🐄
If you don’t know what a Decentralized Autonomous Organization is, perfect. You’re in the right spot.
Put aside all your notions & biases about cryptocurrencies, blockchain technologies, and web3 for a few moments. First, let’s talk about what a DAO is.
While there are plenty of pithy explanations being tossed around (i.e. "a group chat with a bank account"), the truth is there's no singular agreed upon definition of what a DAO is or isn’t.
A quick search will yield a variety of explanations but a succinct definition that I like comes from the Ethereum foundation (one of the technological-engines powering many DAOs):
"A DAO is a collectively-owned, blockchain-governed organization working towards a shared mission."
At first thought, DAOs might feel familiar to many organizing structures we already know. “Robo-corporations, right?”
I was right there with you.
But, the more you research, you realize that while they might feel like this or that; they’re not like anything at all. I found a great twitter thread containing 13 hot takes on what DAOs resemble…but, still, no singular analogy is quite complete. What is important is that DAOs are fundamentally different from any organizing structure people have ever been able to form in the past. This is directly a result of the web3 technologies enabling these communities to form.
Community. You’ll see that word a lot in this report. And that’s because at the core, that’s what makes up a DAO!
When I started this research I thought I was going to be diving deep into some pretty esoteric technical discussions in blockchain enthusiast groups, but that is not at all what I found. Instead, I found communities of passionate, creative, and aspirational people who are organizing around common goals and being the change they want to see in the world, as corny as that might sound. (note: there are, in fact, very esoteric technical discussions happening with blockchain enthusiasts in some of these DAOs. Some, but not anything close to all.)
There are DAO communities for everything right now. You may have already heard of the DAO that was famously trying to buy the constitution; or maybe the DAO that actually owns a professional basketball team. There’s DAOs trying to provide an alternative to venture funding and there are even DAOs building tools for DAOs. DAOs DAOs DAOs. After all this, I’m sick of typing it too!
I could go on and on, but the key is that DAOs are cropping up left and right. As of December 1, 2022 the total holdings of DAO treasuries is the equivalent of over $9 Billion USD; and despite being in the middle of a crypto winter, the enthusiasm behind DAOs, and their communities, isn’t waning.
If this feels like I’m hyping DAOs it’s because I believe DAOs, as an organizing structure for communities, people, and businesses have the potential to be one of the most significant agents and drivers of change in the future.
This the point where I put on my consultant pants and say “Hey, _________ corporation! You would do well to get DAOs on your radar! Start thinking about how they might be impacting the future and your future. You don’t want to miss the boat on ‘the internet’ all over again.”
But, how does one explore the future, you might be thinking?
If you don’t know what foresight is, perfect. You’re in the right spot.
If corporations should have learned any lesson from COVID-19 – it’s that it’s never been more pertinent to prepare for the future, because literally anything can happen. Anything, like…say… a global pandemic that shuts down international travel, closes most all places of business, and forces everyone into quarantining at home for months and months. I know what you’re thinking - how is anyone supposed to plan for that?
Well, have I got news for you. There’s a whole field of academic study & industry devoted to the systematic study of the future, it’s called Foresight.
Here’s a great textbook definition from Andy Hines, Program Coordinator for the University of Houston’s Graduate Program in Foresight:
Foresight is the study of change that uses a systematic methodology to explore the future in order to make better decisions today by helping us move us toward the futures we want and avoid those we don’t, and to ultimately build confidence in the future by building our capacity to avoid surprise!
Typically, the Foresight process scans the world for signals of change in the present that indicate what the world might look like tomorrow. Using a variety of research methods, tools, and frameworks; these signals of change are synthesized into a range of plausible future scenarios. These scenarios can be used by organizations for a variety of purposes; but, they’re often used to test how current strategies might fair in those future worlds and develop new strategies that are more resilient.
If you take away one nugget from foresight, it’s this: Foresight is not about predicting a singular future, it’s about anticipating the range of possible futures, and planning & acting accordingly.
Also, speaking of academics and the University of Houston, this research was conducted as part of my fall 2022 semester “Futures Research” class in pursuit of a master’s degree in Foresight.
I followed a process known as Framework Foresight that was developed at the University of Houston (and is always being tweaked and refined) by Andy Hines & Peter Bishop. Andy Hines was also my professor for this particular class, so you know, this process had to be by the book. And the book is great, I assure you.
I won’t delve too deep into the nuts & bolts of the research process here, but there is a section in the Future of DAOs 2035 report experience that covers the whole process in more detail.
Report Experience…there’s that phrase again….
If you don’t know what Discord is, perfect. You’re in the right spot.
I’ve reached a point in my career where it pains me to think about all the good thinking & great work that gets done then promptly lost in Powerpoints. And one exciting thing I experienced diving into the world of DAOs is that there’s not a lot of spreadsheets & powerpoints being shared back & forth via email or Teams.
Instead, DAOs are using Discord, the group chat app known for being popular with gaming groups, to act as the communication & interaction hubs for their communities. When they do use productivity tools to get work done, they’re using Notion, Miro, Airtable, and the plethora of other modern tools that allow integrated thinking & collaborative working. (note: I have seen a couple spreadsheets & slide decks in DAO communities, but they’re not the default.)
The more I learned about & experienced DAOs, I realized two crucial characteristics of Discord that enable DAOs to operate: the ability to simultaneously enable synchronous & asynchronous communication and its malleability via Bots. The basic functions of Discord and the integrations being built for web3 services via Bots allow organizations of people from all over the world to very quickly come together and create infrastructure that rivals that of companies I’ve worked with (and I’ve worked with a lot of companies over the years).
Part of the fun & challenge of scenario work is getting people in the present (often corporate stakeholders) to really feel what a given future world might be like. Foresight practitioners often use written narratives to describe the future world of their scenarios. Some more creative folks will go so far as making mockups of objects or environments to make the scenarios feel especially tangible. When it came time to consider the most effective way of reporting the findings of this research, I initially had the idea to create mockups of discord chats and present those as “artifacts” from these future scenarios to help them come alive. I desperately want to be considered one of those creative folks, you know?
But, then it hit me, why bother taking screenshots of fake Discord chats when I could just make the report a discord server? So that’s what I did.
Yes, the Future of DAOs 2035 report is presented entirely as a discord server.
There are three sections of the report, one for the research, one for the future scenarios, and one for the implications for organizations today. Each section has channels full of content devoted to parts of the research, with the information presented as a discussion between myself and a discord bot named DAO-Bot.
There is no shortage of informative links from a plethora of sources. Most of the sources are credible and there’s nothing too crypto-bro-y. I guarantee that 20-30 minutes of exploring the discord will leave you with days worth of open tabs you swear you’ll get around to reading.
Speaking of hyperlinks, there’s lots of little messages from DAO-Bot in each channel to help new Discord users navigate the report. I promise you’ll get the hang of it.
Speaking of navigation the report was meant to give non-DAO-experienced readers a glimpse at what it’s like to be a member of a DAO. One joy (or for many, deterrence) about joining a DAO is learning to navigate their discord. Part of my goal with using Discord as the medium for delivery of the report was to help get people over the initial barrier of entry to many web3 & DAO communities by simulating the experience.
In addition to the report contents itself, there are three 💬 discussion channels 💬 in the report, one for each section. These discussion channels are designed to give you a place to ask me (and each other!) questions, discuss ideas & inspirations, and share their own information, thoughts, perspectives, and links. The “discuss-the-future” channel even lets you try out the Midjourney AI-powered text-to-image generator that you may have heard so much about in the news. I encourage you to leave comments & thoughts in the 💬 discussion channels 💬 as well as (respectfully) interact with other people in the discord!
Just some logistics – You will need to create a Discord account with your email to experience the report, but creating an account is free. Also just a note, it might take a few minutes before you’ll be able to see anything at all in Discord, this is a security thing on Discord’s part. Just give it a few minutes, then start by reading the only channel you should see called “🚦start here.” The report should take about 45-60 minutes depending on your pace.
To recap – If you’re new to DAOs & the web3 world, this report is for you. If you’re new to foresight, this report is for you. If you’re new to Discord, this report is for you.
And if you’re familiar with all those things, I still think this report is for you and will challenge your assumptions about the future of DAOs.
This report was envisioned to be a guided path down the rabbit hole, but one that still allows a fair amount of meandering and exploration; and, also provoke some futures thinking via the scenarios & implications.
So, without further ado – here’s a the link again to the Future of DAOs 2035 foresight report experience and explore the Future of DAOs:
🐇🕳️ Good luck, and I look forward to seeing your thoughts & comments in the 💬 discussion 💬 channels!
P.S. – If you see me in the “🗣️ Public Voice Chat channel, feel free to pop in and say hello! I’m also happy to give you a guided tour of the Discord, just DM me on Discord.