On Tuesday evening, Argentinian entrepreneur and founder of the Democracy Earth foundation Santiago Siri spoke to students about the future of cryptocurrency and democracy in a talk, titled “Crypto-Politics: Beyond the Nation-State,” organized by the Cryptocurrency Club of Boston College.
As he began the event, Siri explained that today, we have a perfect way of measuring the United States economy on not only political or financial terms, but also a scientific one: the use of energy.
“The fact that the name of the game is being able to be good at accounting energy is actually very good news for Bitcoin,” he said. “We had last year all these headlines that … blockchains are consuming an increasing amount of energy, and they’re a risk for our natural resources. … The news about that is we have that resolution: For the first time, we have an economic system that lets us have perfect understanding on how energy is being spent on the planet. The U.S. dollar is unable to have that kind of precise resolution.”
Siri explained that in recent years the U.S. dollar has begun to lose some of its historical dominance as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis and the world’s changing energy markets—Russia and China, for example, have begun using renminbi in their energy deals.
Other governments, he said, have begun using cryptocurrencies as a means of evading sanctions imposed by the U.S. dollar: The Venezuelan government, led by—in Siri’s words—the “tyrannical” President Nicolás Maduro, has just this year created its own cryptocurrency called the “petro,” which is purportedly backed by the country’s oil reserves.
According to Siri, in the year before announcing the petro, the Venezuelan government launched a war against Bitcoin—sending the secret police after Bitcoin miners across the country, violently attacking them and confiscating their mining hardware.
“Venezuela is the first state to actually fight a war with violent means against Bitcoiners, against people like us, against just nerds using technology to empower themselves, their society, their community through the means of innovation,” he said. “This is a very sad reality that we need to face and that we need to address if we are really up to the task of making a world that is able to bring a better future for everyone.”
According to Siri, Democracy Earth—the foundation he founded in 2015—intends to fight back.
“This is a big battle, and this is not an easy battle, but at Democracy Earth, we are in the middle of these two worlds—in the middle of the universe related to all things crypto and in the middle of the universe of politics and digital politics and civic tech—and we try to look at this as our call to action,” he said.
The origins of Democracy Earth can be traced back to 2012, when Siri and a group of his friends and colleagues started a political party in Argentina—the “Partido de la Red”—whose representatives would vote according to what citizens decided online. Although the party couldn’t garner enough votes in the 2013 elections to get a candidate elected to Congress, the group’s efforts nevertheless allowed it to connect with like-minded “hacktivists,” as well as begin spreading these types of political ideas through Latin America.
“There’s no millennials and Generation Y, X, Z—it’s really the online generation and the offline generation, and we’re in the middle of those two worlds,” he said. “But we were able to meet the new generation in Latin American politics.”
After receiving a grant from Y Combinator in 2015, Siri founded the Democracy Earth foundation. Ever since, the group has been researching and developing means to create crypto networks that will allow “personal sovereignty” among their participants.
“The actual main interaction that happens on the web on a daily basis is voting—we call it likes on Facebook, we call it retweets on Twitter or upvotes on Reddit or hearts on Instagram,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is to tokenize the kind of voting that happens.”
Democracy Earth seeks to create a type of token-based, or “liquid,” democracy that allows participants to vote directly on the issues they care about or delegate that vote to someone they know and trust. Today, Democracy Earth is working with dissidents in Venezuela to try to “replace the State with Bitcoin.”
“If we are able to turn the ‘like’ into a like that actually triggers cryptocurrency transactions, into a like that is actually owned in a sovereign way by the user … we will effectively be turning a like, which means nothing, into an actual vote … that can actually trigger institutional change, that can actually push human behavior to new outcomes,” Siri said. “I really think that these technologies can have a very profound impact [on] the nature of democracy.”
Featured Image by Abby Hunt / Copy Editor