@amphiboly.eth @lemp.eth and I have been burrowing into potential research topics for an extended research lab that Diamond DAO can support for the benefit of creators across Web3. We’ve discussed compensation and diversity as prospective topics, however, upon closer inspection, every topic we consider collides in one way or another with anonymity as it is embedded in the social ethos and technology of blockchain. I propose anonymity for our first season of research.
Further exploration of the topic area follows, discussion is welcome and encouraged!
Anonymity benefits & risks
Anonymity is a celebrated part of crypto culture because of the many perceived benefits.
Convenience in lieu of control
For example, with a crypto wallet address, a pseudonym, and an array of digitally encrypted tools, we are able to earn money, conduct business, and form relationships without ever revealing our real (or complete) identity.
Liberates personal freedom
Under the cloak of anonymity, we are free to make more radical choices that may reflect a truer, deeper identity that we cannot in other contexts. We escape assigned familial, civic, local, or other identifiers (and the pressures that come with them). We join DAOs with causes we are passionate about, connecting with new “tribes” online.
Prevents overt discrimination
When we join groups anonymously or pseudonymously, we can’t be overtly discriminated against due to skin color or gender. (A more complete perspective on exclusion shows that systems can discriminate en masse more effectively than humans.)
Anonymity helps protect assets from theft and token holders’ physical security.
Anonymity in the workplace can have harmful side effects regardless of positive intent.
Unequal representation arises unchecked
One of the most significant sacrifices due to anonymity is the blocking of pertinent demographic information that is vital to the social design of DAOs. For examples, facts about age, race, gender, education level, abilities, location, dependencies, household income, or languages spoken are critical information in creating accessible organizations. If you can’t measure representation, you cannot set up the appropriate scientific parameters to make interventions to help DAOs self-cultivate into diverse, equitable and inclusive communities.
Cannot locate accountability
In the governance context, anonymous voting makes it difficult to hold people accountable for their votes. It’s one thing to have anonymous voting in the civic context (1 person 1 vote), but generally in commercial context, when large sums of money are at stake, we ask for more transparency. A real world precedent is donations to political candidates or standard PACs are not anonymous. Anonymous voting for protocols that are supposed to represent public good doesn’t seem wise when people have unequal voting power.
Anonymity makes it hard to put people first
Anonymity is an obstacle to building trust with teammates or supporting each other. Studies show that seeing a person’s face, knowing where they live, and being privy to other personal details help managers organize work better and propose higher rewards. When work is done highly anonymously, it is much easier to avoid acknowledging if someone is struggling, wither because of circumstances caused by their involvement at the DAO or outside of it.
Blockchain data alone doesn’t tell the whole story
A convincing notion exists that DAOs operate with a high level of transparency because all transactions are on-chain. However, on-chain data separated from real world context (via anonymity) renders the bulk of transaction data irrelevant to understanding. Inequity arises unchecked without systems to create an intelligible reports. Anonymity blocks key characteristics, such as gender, that would be highly relevant to creating a report, for example, on compensation differences between men and women.