Unitalk with Luis Cuende of Aragon: Fight for Freedom
Originally posted on 11, Jan. 2019.
Cutting-edge innovations will determine the destiny of mankind. Innovative technologies either bring humanity to a more free, open, and fair society, or they will strengthen control, regulation, and oppression.
The birth of the Internet has opened the door to freedom: global collaboration, cross-border communication emerged… and blockchain technology will open the door to more people.
Fight for freedom — this is Aragon’s vision.
Aragon is a project that aims to disintermediate the creation and maintenance of organizational structures by using blockchain technology. They want to empower people across the world to easily and securely manage their organizations. By making it possible for everyone in the world to organize, they are enabling a borderless, permissionless and more efficient creation of value.
Hi Luis. Nice having you with us. Can you introduce yourself and your background first?
Luis: Sure! My name is Luis and I currently live in Switzerland. I have been working on crypto since 2011, and cofounded multiple companies like stampery.com. I’m also a Forbes 30 Under 30 and MIT TR35. On November 2016 I co-founded the Aragon project, and have been focused on decentralized organizations ever since.
What are the main components of Aragon and how do they work?
Luis: There are two main components that form the Aragon project.
One is the Aragon client, a software to freely organize without borders or intermediaries. It’s on the Ethereum mainnet and you can try it out on https://mainnet.aragon.org.
The second one is the Aragon Network, a digital jurisdiction built on the blockchain. It will provide services very similar to the ones a traditional jurisdiction provides, like arbitration and dispute resolution. The Aragon Network will also govern the Aragon project. Actually, we are running a vote in two weeks that enables any ANT token holder to vote on important proposals that shape the project. For example, whether or not development teams get funding to work on the project.
What are the steps to creat a decentralized organization on Aragon?
Luis: It is very simple!
1) Use an Ethereum wallet like MetaMask
2) Go to https://mainnet.aragon.org
3) Tweak all the parameters to customize the organization however you want
4) Create it and wait around 30 seconds for the transactions to confirm
5) Add new members by creating new tokens for them, create votes to democratically decide, or change the permissions to customize the organization even more!
It is that simple.
Comparing to building a centralized organization, what are your advantages and disadvantages？
Luis: Of course, not all organizations can be decentralized, or it is efficient for them to be. For example, if your business deals with a lot of traditional bureaucracy and the traditional world (e.g. a physical store) it may be hard.
But if you run a remote company with people from different places, then it becomes very easy and it makes your life easier by 10x.
Also if you want to create a new kind of organization, such as a crypto protocol or network, where participants can come in and work and get some tokens in exchange.
Traditional jurisdictions give you only a few options: A company, a non-profit, an association… with Aragon, you can tweak all the parameters and create new types of organizations we haven’t even dreamed about before.
Aragon is also great for small organizations. For example, you can create an organization to fundraise money to go to vacations with your friends. But it is also great for big organizations. For example, we are conducting Aragon’s governance by using Aragon, and then 20,000 people can vote and coordinate with ease.
Is it possible to switch a centralized organization into a decentralized one via Aragon instead of creating a new one from the scratch? If yes, how does work?
Luis: It is indeed hard but possible. If you can start decentralized, definitely do so. But if you want to transition a centralized organization into Aragon, there are to ways:
1) You can keep your legal structure, and then automate a lot of the tasks using Aragon. For example, instead of having someone wire money to do payroll, you can use our Payroll app to automatically send money to employees each month.
2) You can make your legal entity very lean, and just use it to have a bank account, and do everything else using Aragon. That way you can control membership using our Tokens app, take decisions using our Voting app, etc.
What’s your solution in the case of disputes?
Luis: The Aragon Network will resolve disputes by implementing a decentralized court. It will work this way:
1) You create an agreement with your counterparty, and establish a smart contract and a human readable contract too
2）Both parties stake ANT as a deposit. This creates limited liability, similar to the corporate world
3) If there is a breach of contract (either the smart contract, for example having a bug, or the human readable contract), one party can open a case in the court
4) The court smart contract automatically assigns 5 random judges, who vote who is right and who is not
5) If one of the parties doesn’t like the result, they can appeal. Appeals are more and more costly because they involve more judges, until they involve all judges in the Network.
It is very similar to the court system in the traditional world. But in the Aragon Network, everyone will be able to participate if they stake tokens. That way, judges that work well are rewarded, and the ones that don’t work well are slashed. It’s like a court, but faster, more transparent, and pseudonymous.
What is ANT and what’s its role in the decentralized court system?
Luis: ANT stands for Aragon Network Token. It is the native token of the network, that enables mainly two things:
Governance over the project. We are trying to decentralize the project so the community has total control over what it does. We did the first voting a few months ago, and another one is coming up in two weeks https://blog.aragon.org/final-results-from-the-agp-1-vote/
Access to dispute resolution in the Aragon Network court. If you want to sleep well knowing that someone you are interacting with will not rip you off, or that a smart contract will not have a bug and lose all your money, then you need ANT
More info about ANT and the court system can be found at https://github.com/aragon/whitepaper.
Without surveillance or censorship, decentralized govornance is super disruptive and innovative, but will there be problems as well?
Luis: For sure, there are many possible issues that could arise with any new technology.
For example, decentralized organizations enable great coordination for people to do great things, such as non-profit fundraising. But they may also enable coordination for other uses that are not as good.
I think one of the most important risks (but also advantages) is that you don’t know if a machine or a human is voting.
And we may end up with systems in which a personal AI votes for you, so it’s very important that the code is properly audited and open source.
I learnt that Agragon 0.6 — Apla went on mainnet last October. How many organizations have been created since then? How’s it going overall?
Luis: Right now, 240 decentralized organizations have been created since the 1st of November! You can check the full list at https://daolist.io
We are seeing more than 20% week to week growth. It’s really great.
What’s your expectations to the upcoming Constantinople hardfork?
Luis: I think it will only mean good for Ethereum. Our next Aragon vote was set to happen the day after and we had to postpone it, since there may be some network instability. But fortunately it will go well. I think Ethereum keeps being the most innovatite blockchain, coming up with new enhancements every few months.
What’s the difference between freedom in a decentralized world and the freedom in a centralized world?
Luis: I think freedom in the decentralized world is more meaningful than in the centralized one. In the centralized one, someone decides the boundaries of your freedom. In a decentralized one, you decide it.
Does Aragon support automatic updating?
Luis: Yes! That’s one of our very core features. Both smart contracts and the webapp can be upgraded very easily, to fix bugs or enhance features.
Why would people want to creat a DAO via Aragon instead of putting it on Ethereum directly?
Luis: Aragon DAOs are on Ethereum, it’s just the best way of creating them. The other alternative is coding it directly, which may work if you are a programmer, but not if you don’t know all the inners of Solidity.
How do you make your product accessible to non-technical users?
Luis: By making it extremely easy! Creating a decentralized organization on Aragon takes just a few clicks, and about $5. User experience has always been our focus.
There is also tons of communication that need to be improved for the user not to have to know about private keys, Ethereum, etc. and we are working on it.
What’s the story behind Aragon?Why did you name your project Aragon?
Luis: Aragon is a region of Spain where anarchism thrived the most. That’s why it is called that way (you can read more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchism_in_Spain)
The story is that my cofounder Jorge and me were working on a company to kill the patent system, because it hurts innovation. But we realized that we cannot fix the game if it’s the rules of the game are broken. So we figured out that governance (and democracy) were failing, and wanted to provide an alternative. Around the same time Donald Trump won the elections, and we were living in the US, so that also was a sign for us to start Aragon.
Aragon is a region of Spain where anarchism thrived the most. That’s why it is called that way (you can read more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchism_in_Spain)
Is Aragon mainly working with applications instead of protocols? Why?
Luis: I have never liked the division between applications and protocols, because the lines are very blurred.
For example, the Aragon Network is a protocol, but it is also an application of Ethereum. The Aragon client is totally an application, so we are really building both an app and a protocol.
I read that you started to write software at the age of 12. It’s amazing. How did you do that?
Luis: With a lot of time and passion haha. I got into free software and it blown my mind. People just writing software and sharing it with the rest of the world, without expecting any return whatsoever… it was just amazing to think about a paralel society where people help each other.
In terms of the Payroll app you have mentioned before, how does it work?
Luis: It is very easy, you can see the designs here https://github.com/aragon/design/issues/2
It will be ready to use by anyone in like a month.
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