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Can Humanity Cooperate To Build a Common Future?

The future of technology is beyond new products, services, and medicines.
Feb 5, 2020

Future of Collaboration
Future of Collaboration
Why, with all the technologies, are humanity’s problems getting worse? Unemployment, ecological problems, poverty, and political conflicts develop despite progress. Alexander Kuzin, a co-founder of the EVEN Foundation, spoke about the way to cooperate for a common future.

Society is organized so irrationally that even children notice its flaws. Most of us understand that households can produce less waste, public transport is more effective, and overconsumption is not good. In politics and economics, we notice management issues, unfair decisions, and unnecessary spending of resources. Economists, philosophers, and mathematicians have investigated the reasons why rational subjects fail to succeed in joint activities.

Prisoner’s Dilemma

Mathematicians have modeled a situation in which the only possible outcome for a rational subject is to make an unfavorable choice for himself and others.

The police arrested two criminals and offered each of them the same deal with the following conditions:

  • if one testifies against the other, and the other remains silent, the first is released for helping the investigation, and the second serves a maximum term of imprisonment (10 years);
  • if both remain silent, each of them is sentenced to six months in prison;
  • if both testify against each other, they get 2 years each.
  • Each prisoner chooses whether to remain silent or testify against the other. Neither of them knows what the other will do.

Collaboration is a better choice, but all parties must make it at the same time. Since each individual cannot influence the choice of others, everyone has to look for strategies with less risk, but also less benefit. Therefore, the only sensible move in this game is betrayal, which eliminates the worst result for the individual.

Let’s transfer this model to familiar realities. Businessmen can’t spend more money on waste disposal than their competitors, because in this case their products become more expensive and they lose. So they have to save on environmental costs, working conditions, and wages. As a result, each company and the whole industry does not get the best possible outcome. Why can’t companies cooperate for the benefit of all market participants? Let’s look at the next model.

The Tragedy Of The Commons

Community grazes their cattle on shared pasture. The resources of the pasture are limited, so it begins to deplete due to overuse. If grazing is not restricted, the entire community cannot use the pasture eventually. Everyone has a choice — whether to graze cattle on a shared pasture and get a profit or to limit the number of cattle and hence the income.

Let’s go back to companies. They decide to agree on environmental standards, working conditions and raise worker salaries. Following the “Tragedy of commons” theory, it would be beneficial for a businessman to violate agreements, while others would comply with them. Then the violator would have received more profit and win the competition.

In this model, we do not consider external regulators that would punish violators. We are looking for ways to self-regulation system, so that betrayal is too risky and unprofitable. The art of politicians, businessmen, and even schoolteachers is to create systems in which individual competition serves the benefit of the whole group. The parts of an ideal system would cooperate and help each other with the same motivation that individuals usually seek for personal gain. This can be achieved in team sports and sometimes in business management. But mostly such systems are unscalable.

Technology for Collaboration

11 years ago, a system that balances the interests of individuals without centralized regulators was launched. This is an open bitcoin network that consists of peer-to-peer connected nodes. Decentralized technologies proved to be stable and continued their development. Today, technologies can support not only alternative financial systems, but also expand the capabilities of any information systems.

Case: bitcoin consumes more electricity than in some countries. However, it is an effective system and the number of users is growing. Such a system would be uncompetitive if it is widely used as an IT infrastructure for businesses and users. Therefore, developers of decentralized technologies try to gain efficiency, scalability and reducing energy consumption. In particular, smartphones and IoT devices become efficient participants of the network.

Decentralized technologies aim to achieve free collaboration through the following principles.

Reduce to zero the risks of rules violation by participants. In a prisoner’s dilemma, participants benefit from cooperation with each other, but the risk of betrayal forces them to betray first. Consensus mechanisms in decentralized systems make it impossible to violate rules in certain operations. Motivate participants making a contribution that would be beneficial to the entire system, and vice versa, motivate them to refrain from actions that harm the system. Imagine if the damage to the common field from each shepherd was automatically assessed and debited from his account. In distributed systems, each participant’s contribution is rewarded accordingly from the total revenue of the system. Decentralized technologies do not serve as an external regulator. Each participant is equal and follows the rules, not being able to deceive others. The decision to participate in the system is made based on the market competitiveness of the system.

Can such principles make humanity cooperate for a common future? Yes, we believe. End-to-end tracking of all processes becomes possible: from the logistics of goods to the contribution of each employee to the final result. Shared information systems allow us to obtain a significant amount of data and accurately identify the impact of each individual on the result using technologies such as AI, Big Data, and Machine Learning. For example, distributed databases, the Internet of things, and data analysis already allow you to create efficient supply chains from multiple participants from different countries.

Economic and political systems are developing, growing and becoming more complex. Decentralized technologies will help them become more efficient, open and transparent. In other words, the future of technology is beyond new products, services, and medicines. Technologies help to achieve a balance between cooperation and competition that is beneficial for each individual and for society as a whole.

The original article on RBC (Russian) and Future Time (English)