Musings on the AA

Conflict of Interest Disclosure: I have applied for the Ops role at the AA, and Louis and I have already spoken.

Over the past couple weeks, I have been thinking about the role the AA plays in the Aragon ecosystem and the general community sentiment around their responsibilities. The conclusion I have arrived to is that the AA should bear more responsibilities in playing a supporting role while offloading its governance powers. This will support the viability of decentralized governance by reducing coordination costs.

Before delving further, I’d like to make an important dichotomy that can easily become tangled: Governance vs Support. There is a healthy caution around what responsibilities the AA should have to avoid centralization of power. However, if we can separate the network governance role from the support function, then the AA becomes a body that facilitates better decision making within the network. Let me give a concrete example. One of the AA’s primary responsibilities is to vet Flock teams and approve candidacy for the next ANV. This is an important task for the Network, as vetting a Flock prospect for cultural fit, product viability, success prospects, and team, would be a long and messy process if left up to forum conversations alone. But the AA also retains its governing ability if it can accept or reject Flock submissions unilaterally before the network ever has a say. This is undoubtedly centralization. A potential method to decouple these two functions is to (1) Create a FlockDAO where Flock teams can appeal directly to ANT voters and (2) Task the AA with delivering a written report to the Network on its evaluation of the Flock applications. This will give ANT holders the knowledge to make informed decisions while cutting much of the overhead cost of doing so. Other examples of supporting functions would include financial reporting, data collection, ops, organizing community events, and a slew of other possibilities.

A natural skepticism here would be to question whether the supporting functions themselves could be corrupted. My response is twofold. Louis mentioned the important of accountability through transparency, and I believe this logic holds here as well. By identifying measurable and repeatable disclosures (basically an amped up transparency.aragon.org), the AA would have an extremely strong tether to the Network to ensure aligned cooperation. Second is determining who gets tasked with these responsibilities. These members of the AA should be elected based on proper alignment with the Aragon Network and the skills to provide high quality support functions. With these two mechanisms, ANT holders can hold AA members accountable to their tasks and have recourse when changes must be made. (This sounds similar to a Flock team, no?)

As an aside, I want to point out that while Aragon is the next generation of decentralized organizing, but it’s not the first. Historically, we’ve seen flat organizations effectively make consensual decisions to great success. In this way, Aragon structurally echoes open source projects and the AA echoes the non-profit organizations that focus them, like The Linux Foundation or Free Software Foundation. It plays a fundamental role overseeing many of the supporting functions that lets small and agile teams ship quickly without the overhead of coordination costs: Bookkeeping and financial reporting, rapid onboarding and offloading, and having legally recognized powers. I do not think this position constitutes a central point of power.

For my own personal reasons, I think the Aragon Network is a crucial experiment for tech-enabled and trustless governance. But I do not want Aragon to fall intro the trap that many other decentralized projects have already: decentralizing too quickly and too early. Designed properly, there is a way for the AA to be given important and exclusive responsibilities without violating our collective ideals of a community run ecosystem.

The suggestions I’ve voiced here are just a starting point for perhaps a greater conversation. Thanks for listening. I would love to hear all your thoughts.

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I deeply agree with this statement. I think we learned a lot this last year, and we know have the experience and resources to engineer a better set of processes that work well for the project and will eventually lead to decentralization.