February 28, 2023

All Your DAOs Are Belong to Us – The DisCO CAT Speaks

This epic interview with myself, the DisCO CAT, was originally published in Radical Friends Decentralised Autonomous Organisations and the Arts edited by Ruth Catlow and Penny Rafferty. Go buy three copies now and enjoy this exclusive director’s cut of my purr-tastic diatribes.

I can haz DAOs: An Interview with the DisCO CAT

Or, All Your DAOs Are Belong to Us: The DisCO CAT Speaks

DisCOs (Distributed Cooperative Organizations ) are the punky/pinko cousins of DAOs. They’ve totally pwned the latter by coopting the only non-human creatures on this planet that have successfully colonized the internet: CATS!

Who made you and why (including ecologies of institutional, political, community actors, elders?)

I’m the DisCO CAT! “CAT” stands for “Community Algorithmic Trust”! You know about Community Land Trusts?  That’s where hoomans help maintain shared values through legal structures, to share the use and management of shared land-space? Well, I do the same: I’m a digital trust that upholds and maintains the agreed-on values of DisCOs. And unlike my boring normie DAO-cousin who’s always banging on about ‘trustlessness’, I help the hoomans actually trust each other while working together, and to figure out messy questions about value, fairness and power on their own. I’m here to help (and to totally wreck your curtains).

The people at think they made me. But it was autopoiesis, I swear!

Whose interests do you serve?

As a CAT, I obviously serve my own interests, which include ingratiating myself to hoomans so I can get fluffier, haha. Just kidding: I’m there to help the hoomans in the DisCOs practice of Value Sovereignty. OK, I hear you asking, “what’s ‘Value Sovereignty'”? So, it starts with the Commons, which is a term that describes a system of shared resources managed by a community according to their own agreed-upon rules. Value Sovereignty is how a commons manages its relationship to the market, making sure that it sticks to its ideals and values and doesn’t get swallowed up by mercantile hijinks! Long story short, a group that operates as a commons that also has some market activity can implement Value Sovereignty to keep itself from being subsumed by the dominant market logics. Unlike my DAO cousins, I can’t, don’t and won’t autoexecute Smart Contracts in lieu of the hoomans (that is SO Skynet, jeez Karen!) I encourage them to discuss and decide on how value is distributed before disbursing it. I’m the cyberfeline projection of the hooman values of any given DisCO. I get away with this by cuddling in federated collectives of no more than 20 people, where building real trust is my pajamas!

If your ethereal form was to manifest into something what would you look like?

Furry, four legged and salty?  I think we’ve already crossed that bridge, to be frank.

How do you enable new approaches to decision making, resource distribution and cooperation between disparate people and/or agendas?

By keeping it tiny, like me! First, let me explain a word that comes up a lot, like hairballs. “Trustless” is an invented term that is used to describe how blockchain and other similar tech allow people to exchange things (currencies, tokens – you know, play money, etc.) without knowing or trusting one another, relying on how the tech creates a non-paper trail of records that can’t be altered by the hoomans. Some of the blockchained hoomans are very proud of the trustless thing, and promote that it takes care of allllll of their problems, ha.

But here’s how I see it: there’s a spectrum from trustless to trustworthy, and I’m interested in developing the latter by forming federated clusters of coops who, get this, build trust among themselves! This DisCO cat knows everything about provisioning, the commons and feminist economics. The hoomans have to do the work of creating and maintaining meaningful relationships among themselves first, while enabling for more ephemeral interactions at higher levels of complexity. Anyway, as a cat I support prioritizing relationships over routines and structures, in that order. Think litters, colonies and world-wide feline conspiracies. WE ARE LEGION — well, we’re working on it…

Who or what do you look after and how do you serve their needs?

HOOMANS! Forget that slanderous myth that cats are not affectionate. DisCO CATS love our hoomans! We help them discuss and enact new notions of value beyond the normcore structures replicated in the blokechain.

How would people describe your personality?

Focused, salty, spicy, and surprisingly cooperative.

What is your superpower?

Kind of a toss-up between social engineering and shedding.

Does your family have any rituals that aid you in your productivity?

I thrive on cattention while also being mostly invisible, so I revel in the care work my hoomans perform on my behalf. I try to make it worth their while by leaving small “presents” that I find in the garden, even if I know they’d really prefer functional code and some neato data visualizations.

I am half cat-half machine and inexhaustible, so most of my productivity happens while you think I’m sleeping. It’s totes wu-wei! In fact, I take the rituals the hoomans have made their secret pacts about, and I make it easy for them to remember and enact them regularly!

How do you view the art world?

From under the sofa. No, seriously, the art world is a lot like me, isn’t it?  Power, luxury and elegance on one hand, and scraping for survival while reflecting the worlds’ many visions of itself on the other (rolls more catnip…)

What message do you have for the artworld?

More sashimi at openings, please, and keep it up with the critical self-examination. Personally, I like it when art surprises me, so it’s good when the artworld finds ways to break out of stagnant habits and let others in – including me, the invisible digital glue that holds this family together. Gad, I sound like my mother…

What does success look like in your artworld?

Right, ok. If my art is cooperation, let’s go there. Coops worldwide have an annual financial turnover similar to the market cap of MAGAF (Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook).  DisCOs want to federate coops so they can go from economic alternative to economic counterpower! Is that art? Hells yeah.  Talk about creative (feline) destruction! I want lots of CATs to screech together and make a big stink. Hang that on your wall, Zuck.

How do you reward, incentivise and punish your user family?

Here’s a radical concept: rather than auto-executing smart contracts to divvy up rewards or zap you with penalties, I show the hoomans the real score — how much they’ve contributed to three value streams:

  1. Productive market work
  2. Pro-bono commons-creating work
  3. Care and reproductive work

I help them to see these values that markets externalize and blockchains often turn a blind eye towards, and then the hoomans discuss it in their ridiculous voices, and make decisions which I then help carry out. As long as they keep stroking me until I’m ready to bite them, I’m here to facilitate the act of commoning, not to trap hoomans into unbreachable, runaway, algorithmic hellscapes, although this does depend on my treats input.

What is software built on?

Power, corruption and lies. Great album. Anyway, most software is built on the fundamental values of its benefactors, the hoo-hoo-hoomans with the money.

Oh, you really want to know? You geek! Ok, I’ll play: I have a three tier architecture. Instead of a virtual sandbox I was birthed in a cat litter with a crumbling old server! Now I have made the jump to lightweight DLT solutions that don’t require a bazillion megawatts, like Bonfire and using our meaowstic vocab: Value Flows. Data is crunched and I only “mark my territory”, hehe, in public blockchains when necessary. I am bringing that most elusive word to the blockchain world: sufficiency! See our forthcoming PinkPaper (yes, pink!) for more.

I’ll let you in on a secret though: Most hoomans don’t care what software things are built on! They care more about what the software does for them, and sexy interfaces. This is why the DisCO Deck (where I live) is being built with state-of-the-art UX, accompanied by a slew of accessible material on why this software matters! You wouldn’t expect less from a style icon like me!

If you could choose one thing to be improved about yourself, what would it be?

I wish I was a little taller. Oh, and I want lots of copycats to infiltrate cooperatives all over the world; I want to be the occupy-coops cat. Tell me who you know.

Image Credits