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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

AM22-PP8: The DAO, an organizational dream or nightmare—an alternative view of the future of work.

Parallel Papers Session 2
Friday 1 July 2.45pm-4:00pm (14.45-16.00) CEST
Paper Code: PP8
CE credits not available

The DAO, an organizational dream or nightmare—an alternative view of the future of work.

Presenter: Marc Maltz


A Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) was conceived as an alternative self managed system derived from blockchain technology. Simply put, work is managed communally on a transparent blockchain ledger. I commit to my peers to complete a piece of work and am paid in crypto currency for that work once accepted by the group. A DAO has no management and essentially no formal group, team, culture, etc. The DAO challenges our understanding of an organization and presents a “task” focused system for completing work. I am currently working with two organizations that are attempting to pioneer DAOs in their respective fields. One is an engineering development firm that builds underlying infrastructure and applications for the crypto world and the other has been pioneering blockchain technology for government, voting systems, board management, and so on.

Establishing functional self managed systems has always been a dream and a challenge taken up in numerous ways. Zappos attempted Holacracy, and Morning Star, Netflix, WL Gore, Patagonia, NuCor to name a few, are companies that employ some form of limited self/team management. The dream is to find a way in which the worker controls the work without the need for intervention “from above”, eliminating a hierarchy of decision making, bringing the decisions and accountability as close to the task as possible. To-date, most systems still employ some form of management oversight.

The psychodynamic realities of self managed systems are a significant challenge. The DAO is an alternative structure that has emerged from blockchain development (engineering) and appears to be an engineer’s dream for how to overcome the “normal” issues of getting things done. In addition, the DAO emerges from the beginnings of Web3.0, which is a semantic language network. Most blockchain applications are W3 and use open source code and applications in order to speed the accomplishment of tasks. Interestingly, W3 originates from the same roots as modern neuroscience in that they both originated from work at Bell Labs in extending Charles Osgood’s work on semantic language and the brain. In the 1980s, scientists at Bell Labs updated Osgood’s work to create “latent semantic analysis” which underlies most artificial intelligence and current fMRI-based brain processing research.

My paper will explore the evolution of the DAO thus far and pay particularly close attention to the psychodynamic issues raised in a transactional organization. I will bring the work with two clients, one an engineering firm deeply involved in the creation of W3 applications (crypto/blockchain) and the other a nonprofit pioneer in the DAO who are attempting to bring these technologies to create more transparent and accountable governance (governments, Boards, electoral processes, etc.). I will also explore some of the great and near DAO catastrophic failures. In all of these, psychodynamic issues of authority, accountability, culture, group and interpersonal relationships, to name a few, loom large as unresolved.

The future of organizations may very well be the DAO, its derivative or what follows.