Gavin Wood: I think the model for Web 2.0 was much the same as the model for society before the internet existed. If you go back 500 years, people basically just stuck to their little villages and townships. And they traded with people that they knew. And they relied on, broadly speaking, the social fabric, to ensure that expectations were credible, were likely to actually happen: These apples are not rotten, or this horseshoe doesn’t break after three weeks.
And that works reasonably well, because it’s difficult and very time-consuming and expensive to move between towns. So you have a reasonably high level of credibility that someone is going to stick around and they don’t want to be exiled.
But as society moved into something larger-scale, and we have cities and countries and international organizations, we moved on to this weird kind of brand reputation thing. We’ve created these powerful but regulated bodies, and the regulators, in principle, ensure that our expectations are met. There are certain statutory requirements that, to operate in a particular industry, you must fulfill.
This is not a great solution, for a few reasons. One of them is, it’s very hard to regulate new industries. The government is slow, it takes a while to catch up. Another is that regulators are imperfect. And especially when they work closely with the industry, oftentimes there’s a bit of a revolving door relationship between the industry and the regulator.
Another is simply a regulatory body has very limited firepower. It’s how much money the government puts into it. And so necessarily, regulation is going to be patchy. They will be able to regulate maybe the biggest offenders but they aren’t able to retain a really strong influence all the time everywhere. And of course, the regulators and the laws differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If you go somewhere in the EU, then Activity X is fine; if you go somewhere else, then it’s not fine. And as we become a very international society, this effectively means that your expectations are still not being met.
So we need to move beyond this. But unfortunately, Web 2.0 very much still exists in this very centralized model.
Are we really talking about a failure of technology? Or are we talking about a failure of governance and regulation and competition policy? It sounds like you’re saying: Yes, it’s a failure of regulation, but the answer isn’t better regulation; there needs to be a new layer of technology, because regulatory failures are inevitable. Am I characterizing your view correctly?
Yeah, absolutely. The model is broken.
So let’s talk about what should replace it. We’ve been talking about why Web 2.0 is not working. What’s your handy elevator definition of Web3?
“Less trust, more truth.”
What does “less trust” mean?
I have a particular meaning of trust that’s essentially faith. It’s the belief that something will happen, that the world will work in a certain way, without any real evidence or rational arguments as to why it will do that. So we want less of that, and we want more truth—which what I really mean is a greater reason to believe that our expectations will be met.