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"The future of work" is a phrase that became very popular among venture capitalists during the latter half of the 2010s. With new tools created for each function, gone were the days when companies relied exclusively on Microsoft Office Suite and G Suite for everything. Slack replaces much of email, while Zoom has made it easier than ever to host conference calls.
While most of the recent innovation has enabled "job success," we're now seeing an influx of companies focused on helping workers with "job discovery."
For the past 10-15 years, Linkedin has been the primary platform for workers, especially white-collar ones, to network and find new jobs. In recent years, new start-ups have emerged looking to position themselves as alternatives to LinkedIn. White-collar workers go to university to specialize in a career they'll remain in for the rest of their lives. A monolithic career is a role where the position's primary function remains the same despite any changes in external factors such as time or geographic location. One example would be a defense lawyer, whose primary responsibility is to prove that their client is innocent. This has been the case for decades and remains true regardless of whether the lawyer is based in the U.S., China, or elsewhere. White-collar workers have relied on a single income stream for most of the modern economy. However, this is quickly starting to change. The internet has made it easier for workers to boost their earnings via passive income, and the monolithic career is beginning to fade.
The emergence of new online platforms in the past decade has led to the creation of digital native positions such as TikToker, Discord community manager, and Roblox game developer. These are roles that are easy to scale and have zero marginal costs. The internet has expanded economic opportunities by eliminating geographic constraints and ensuring workers can find jobs regardless of where they live. This trend will only continue as new platforms are launched and new industries are created, resulting in more roles that didn't exist 5-10 years ago.
Digital native jobs have enabled white- and blue-collar workers to create additional income streams. While these jobs aren't designed to replace their primary career or income, with inflation at its highest levels in 41 years and gas prices setting new records, they've provided workers with an opportunity to earn extra money. As new platforms are created this decade, passive income opportunities will only rise. 70% of Gen Z said they have a second job, of which 34% said they work a minimum of 20 hours each week in a Jan. 2022 study. One thing that is clear: the monolithic career is in its final days.
Decentralized platforms and community-owned networks are superior to centralized ones. Content distribution is predicated on factors such as reputation and expertise instead of a rigged algorithm, making it more equal. Governance is overseen by the entire community instead of a small group of wealthy and influential insiders.
The most important principle of the web2 movement in the early-to-mid 2000s was "open API," as platforms could leverage network effects to create a more substantial user experience. The belief was that the best media would become the best companies and offer the most value to community members.
However, this wasn't a scalable strategy as bad actors would inevitably try to exploit loopholes to their advantage. An example would be fake reviews on Amazon designed to benefit or hurt a company's product. Another issue is that as web2 companies began to scale, their priorities shifted from promoting "open API" to algorithm-driven newsfeeds and features such as likes and followers that made their platforms more addictive for users.
In web3, a creator's social status and reputation are portable and owned, unlike in web2, where they're forced to give a portion of their earnings to each platform they operate on. Web3 provides creators with more control over the distribution and usage rights of their IP.
Web3 enables unlimited development since permission is connected to each person's reputation. This ensures contributors work together and build off the progress made by their predecessors. In terms of governance, individuals with tokens will have more decision-making power in their respective organizations.
The number of global decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) has risen from 10 in 2018 to 4,000 in 2022. These DAOs collectively hold tens of billions of dollars in value.
What separates DAOs from companies is that they provide ownership to all contributors, including users, vendors, and community members. This has led to creating a networked model, making it easier for contributors to coordinate as the DAO grows.
One of the most significant advantages of DAOs is the shared upside. Crypto tokens provide multiple benefits, such as governance and status, but none might be as important as value capture. In start-ups, the only people who stand to profit from their success are typically the co-founders, investors, and early employees. Crypto tokens expand the number of participants who benefit financially from a DAO's success to include other stakeholders, such as freelancers and customers. While token prices have gone up as DAOs increase in popularity, it's worth noting they're trying to fix this issue using grant programs and fellowships.
In his 1937 essay, “The Nature of the Firm,” Ronald Coase explains that two realities are theoretically possible:
Today, with 100 companies controlling roughly ~35% of the global market cap, we are tracking much closer to option 1. Companies allowed humans to coordinate capital and labor at scale while reducing the costs associated with purely market-driven production. Without their invention, there would probably be no iPhones, internet, or cars. For centuries, we have enjoyed the fruits of this method of highly efficient coordination of resources, but not without cost. The majority of producers within these companies do so without ownership. Companies control our time and our well-being. Smart contracts and DAOs could offer a way to amass the individual benefits of market-driven production with the efficiency and coordination of companies.
We believe that, in the future, resources will be coordinated not by companies, but by socially and economically aligned collectives of individuals.