Will you join my digital tribe?
Scientists estimate that our planet is roughly 4,54 billion years old. We, mankind, have inhabited this world for roughly 0.01% of the Earth’s life. For an even smaller percentage of ‘earthlife’ we have been able to live on a whole new planet, a virtual one: the internet. People have always created things, objects, tools, art. Archaeologists study the people from the past through their material remains. To reconstruct the immaterial world of thoughts, ideas and concepts they have to rely on physical traces that are left behind in the material world.
A key-concept that is almost as old as mankind itself is property. We could argue that other species share this concept, when defending or marking territory for example, but humans are as far as we know the only species that see property as a transferable entity. As far back as prehistory we can find objects that can be connected to land ownership, like markers in the landscape or burial mounds that appear to connect land to specific families or clans. Often there was a form of trust-based reciprocal economy, where abundant resources were distributed via trading.
As exchange networks grew, trading on trust became increasingly complicated.
With a more complex social organization rose the need to minimize transaction costs. And with great power comes great responsibility of course. A growing population induces the need for organization, and institutionalized control. We can see the rise of temple and palace-economies, highly organized loci of trade-power. There grew a need for media of exchange, whether in the shape of a lump of bronze, an ore of grain or even a cow. The Latin word for money, pecunia, actually stems from the word pecus, which means cattle. Here we witness the birth of bureaucracy, and we encounter the long-term effects of that invention on a daily basis.
Although mankind does show the tendency not to learn from past mistakes, and history does repeat itself quite often, it’s not too late! Our physical world is obviously still work in progress and not over (yet). But we have another one, not limited to and by the restrictions of the material world. What if we try to use the lessons learned from our physical world to improve the digital world?
We are able to create our own free tribe in this fairly new virtual world, where proximity and kinship is based on sharing the same values and not limited by geography, time, political background or family-ties. The dream of a digital world where all transactions are free and can take place without the interference of a centralized authority. We can be part of our own virtual tribe!