This is the first of a series of posts in which I will look at how social norms will change into the future, under he pressure of our blockchain enabled life.
The Evolution of Social Norms
Back in the early days of the internet it was all about anonymity. My skype handle to this day is a succession of random characters (which makes for awkward moments when doing business on Skype, as one sadly still does). In those days your online identity was carefully separated from your real identity. Your friends in real life did not know your online identity and your online friends did not know your real life persona.
Breaching this simple principle was kind of against the etiquette. The idea that people in the future would create online profiles using their real names/ location and that they would voluntarily post pictures or personal information online was cringe-worthy at best. Trusting random websites with your credit card? Order their groceries on the internet? Get outta here. Dating online? Only for desperate creeps. Few people in those days would have bet money that this is the direction in which the world will be going with the internet.
So here we are again. We are in the early days of the Blockchain and it all feels familiar. The exotic technology. The excitement. The nay-sayers. On reddit and in telegram channels I partake in conversations that are not unlike those IRC chats we used to have back in the day. Between all the memes and shills and the FUD, there are people there proposing versions of the future enabled by this new innovation. Some are more radical than others. Which way will it go? What thing that we cannot imagine today will be the norm tomorrow. And can we do things better this time around?
These versions of the future are many — and most of them are probably wrong. Most certainly our visions of the future are not ambitious enough, rather than too ambitious. Also, I am convinced, stuff will go down faster than any of us thinks. Within a few short years, we’ll find things acceptable that we couldn’t dare to imagine now and we’ll take exception from things we find acceptable today.
I am particularly excited by the ways in which our social norms and expectations — our etiquette — will evolve and change. I started this series of articles to explore some of the things that will be expected from any decent person in the future, and I’ll start with:
In the future you will be expected to tip your farmer.
Today, if you enjoy a cup of coffee in a nice place it is kind of expected to tip the staff. In some cultures the tip is understood to be a minimum percentage of the bill and it is unacceptable not to tip.
The blockchain will enable full transparency into commodities supply chains. Which means that in the future not only will it be possible to see where your coffee/ bananas/ potatoes/ meat are coming from — and the conditions in which they were produced— but it will be unacceptable to not make that information public, on a decentralized, immutable ledger. No funny business.
Once we — as buyers — know the source of the raw materials in the product that we buy, and once it is possible to make a global payment at any amount, at zero cost in a fraction of a second, the obvious next step would be to make it easy to tip the farmers and the producers of the raw materials.
Soon, in some cultures, this tip will be expected to be a certain percentage and, for your convenience, it will be added to the bill at checkout. Producers will become sensitive to the market prices of the final products and will have access to capital to drive quality up.
Soon enough, someone will come up with a more radical idea. If we know the whole supply chain and if we understand where the biggest values add are, why don’t we structure the whole price differently?
Why don’t we apply royalty principles to commodities, they’ll say, like they do with copyrights.
Out of the market price of any product, a minimum micro-payment will go to the producer(s), triggered by smart contract at the moment of purchase.
Buyers will love that because they were always a bit uncomfortable with the idea of tipping. Producers will love it because they perceive these micro-payments as a fair payment for their work, rather than an act of goodwill from a stranger. Incentives are there for everyone to drive quality up.
Do you think this will become the norm? In what other ways will social etiquette change?
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