Making predictions is a hard thing. No one ever likes to be arrogant, or even worse, wrong. Yet on reflection, my Web3 2022 predictions weren’t too bad. Thus, I’d like to muse out loud about 2023 and think ahead on what the year could look like.
Web3 predictions, the year in review
My 2022 predictions focused on crypto crackdowns, governance, data marketplaces, open hardware, and algorithmic governance. It turns out, these weren’t too bad.
The thing I didn’t predict was the repeated, seismic crises that have commanded regulatory responses. Most interestingly, some of these have been related to centralised platforms (such as FTX), rather than decentralised ones, causing a migration to decentralised alternatives.
Governance has become a sought after area of multidisciplinary research, with decentralised organisations and governance groups teaming up to coin a new field of ‘DAO Science’. Today, DAOs continue to proliferate, even in mainstream settings (such as UkraineDAO).
Data governance frameworks have become pertinent, with the continuation of Ocean Protocol’s data marketplace development, Filecoin’s announcement of a ‘Compute Over Data’ vision and working group, and projects like ‘Delphia’ that seek to reward data contributors coming soon.
Open hardware has been a huge one, given the announcement of Facebook as ‘Meta’ and the decentralised communities lack of surprise and irritation that Facebook is trying to claim another Web3 idea as their own. In response, Web3 projects are continuing to build open frameworks for digital-physical crypto experiences, such as ‘Kong’.
2023 and beyond
Based on these insights, my Web3 predictions for 2023 include several broad themes.
The maturation of DAOs
We will likely see more DAO projects drawing on existing governance principles and practices – from online communities, cooperatives, commons, institutions, cybernetics, you name it – to design sensical systems.
I hate to say it but the algorithms are coming for us. Everyone is fascinated by OpenAI’s ChatGPT language model and the ongoing emphasis by some Web3 proponents for ‘governance automation’, ‘governance minimisation’ and ‘algorithmic governance’.
We haven’t seen DAOs with AI agents participating in DAO labour or governance yet, but it will come. At its most reductionist and technologically deterministic, the idea that infrastructure can be designed, operated, or maintained without human input or oversight scares me. If you’re keen to go deeper on algorithmic governance and DAOs, I outlined some of my thoughts in a video last year.
I expect to see greater linkages between digital and physical assets and experiences, as people use hardware, NFTs, NFC phone readers, microchips, and wearables for metaverse experiences that are open source, interoperable, and designed by those that want to use them.
This year saw a broadening of the space. It went from blockchain communities and decentralised finance ‘DeFi, ‘Degenerates’ (or Degens), to ‘Decentralised Science’ and Regenerative Finance, welcoming new subcultures to come and build in their own corner of Web3 in cyberspace and utilise decentralised tooling and infrastructure for new use cases.
More meaningful engagement with the notion of ‘ethics’ in Web3
In anticipation of and reaction to automation, comes a line of thinking about what it means to be a responsible builder. Who are we responsible to? And what about the broader, societal implications of these decentralised tools?
This needs to look different in Web3 to the “self regulation” of big tech. There is an opportunity to bake rules of responsibility into the protocols and rules of the systems themselves. This falls neatly within the realm of ‘self-infrastructuring’, a topic I’ve written about.
“‘Self-infrastructuring’ is when people are able to participate in designing, owning, operating, governing, and/or maintaining their own infrastructure for resilience.”
Personally, I’m interested in the various ways decentralised communities are regulated and how they can regulate themselves – thus, I am willing this one into existence.