Experiments in Algorithmic Governance: A history and ethnography of “The DAO,” a failed Decentralized Autonomous Organization
University of Toronto
This chapter describes an emerging form of algorithmic governance, using the case study of “The DAO,” a short-lived attempt to create a decentralized autonomous organization on the Ethereum blockchain platform. In June, 2016, The DAO launched and raised an unprecedented $250m USD in investment. Within days of its launch, however, The DAO was exploited and drained of nearly 3.7m Ethereum tokens. This study traces the rise and fall of this emerging technology, and details the governance structures that were promised and hoped for, and those that were actually observed in its discourses. Through 2016-2017, these discourses were collected from online discussions and subsequently analysed. Using computer-assisted, qualitative analysis and coding, I traced the discursive strategies of the developers and the community of investors, identifying: 1) questions of legal authority, 2) tensions in practical governance, and 3) admissions of the inherent complexity of bringing to life an algorithmic and experimental organizational model.
DAO, Smart contracts, Governance