DAOs and digital nomads

Blockchain technology provides the possibility of restructuring the way things work not only in finance, but also in many other sectors that have direct or indirect relations with it. “Decentralized Autonomous Organizations”, powered by the working principle of blockchain network, have the potential to reshape working life and have a direct impact on current business dynamics.

Let’s take a look at the definition of decentralized autonomous organizations before talking about the possible effects of these organizations on the way of doing business in the future. Decentralized autonomous organizations are run without the need for a central authority, controlled by their members via smart contracts (defined later on) built on a blockchain, open source software that can be viewed by anyone. I will refer to these organizastions as “DAO” from now on to keep it short.

In order to better understand DAOs, the existing traditional organizations can be compared to board games while DAOs to computer games. The rule set of board games can be stretched or disrupted according to the circumstances, whereas the rules of video games are determined in an inviolable way by codes. For example, it’s common to argue over rules when playing Monopoly with friends, and players need to keep an eye on each other to make sure they abide by the rules. However, when playing a video game, we don’t have a chance to argue and bend them, so we don’t need supervision. If the ghosts in Pacman capture a player, that player loses. No questions about it. Pacman’s computer code not only determines the rules of the game, but also implements them strictly. Similarly, public codes and smart contracts can be seen as laws in DAOs.

According to Forbes, which defines DAOs as the management of communities, companies or any collective organization without a central leadership thanks to the possibilities of blockchain, Uniswap is among the most successful examples of DAO in 2022. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, Uniswap is a decentralized crypto exchange platform. Trading on this platform is not based on an order book or acceptance by a central authority but based on smart contracts. Anyone holding a UNI token is a part of this entity and can vote on the way the organization is run. Another successful DAO example is Decentraland. Decentraland is a blockchain-based metaverse application. In this virtual world, a large number of players can interact with each other online and Decentraland residents with MANA tokens can buy and sell landings via NFT. In addition, in this virtual universe, members can perform various jobs and earn crypto money in return.

Working patterns in DAOs

DAOs offer a revolutionary new type of employment: a mix of ownership, traditional employment, self-employment and volunteering. In these organizations, each member is both boss and worker at the same time and is free to contribute to the system whenever and wherever they see fit. DAOs represent a radical rethinking of how organizations can be structured and run, including changes in ownership, governance, decision-making, and income distribution. We do not see hierarchical occupational positioning in DAOs. Members can contribute to a management or executive function, like a boss, by submitting proposals and making decisions for DAO activities. On the other hand, like a worker, one can be an implementer, contributing to the completion of approved tasks. In DAOs, each member is free to decide how much time to spend working, voting, and participating in discussions. Members decide how much labor they want to supply to a DAO and under what conditions, from freelance micro work to standard full-time work week and beyond. Also, one can be a member of more than one DAO and determine how much time and effort to spend on each. Due to its remote and asynchronous nature, DAO employment offers significant working flexibility in terms of overall labor supply, working hours and various tasks. Aside from this flexible nature, we must mention reputation which is also key in in DAOs. Each member must devote significant time and effort to contribute to the DAO community by participating in discussions to gain reputation within the organization.

Eliminating the hierarchical order in the DAOs minimizes conflicts among members, enabling a democratic working order with less friction and greater agility, where “work flows to talents and skills”. Jesuthasan and Bondreau (2022) express the relationship between talent, roles and work with four different models from past to present. The first model is for the employee to bring their skills to life in a fixed role. This pattern is mostly seen in traditional workplaces and refers to talents dedicated to a particular business group. People working in this model put their skills into practice only if their role demands it. The second model is that skills can be used in flexible roles. In this category, employees can take part in different roles and positions within the organization they work for, in line with their abilities. In this way, one has the opportunity to use her talents in different areas and roles as much as possible. The third model expresses the flow of talent to work as the first step of an approach that goes against the traditional type of work. In this type of work, the talent of the employee is essential and the employee takes part in the relevant tasks and projects according to her skills. This model, which can generally be ideal for short-term jobs, is quite suitable for freelance work. Last but not least, a model where work flows to talent is added to the literature through DAOs. In this way of working, the job that needs to be done finds the employee according to their abilities and skills. Thus, the “Work without Jobs” approach, which also gives its name to Jesuthasan and Bondreau’s book, emerges.

In decentralized organizations there is a high flexibility of working which allows the employee to make a profit in this direction by spending the preferred amount of effort. In some cases, the effort made by the employee can only be voluntary, which means it does not bring an income directly. On the other hand, employees/employers who gain a reputation by spending enough effort and time can earn high income. All this balance works under the guarantee of smart contracts. Smart contracts work by writing the rules between buyer and seller directly into lines of code located on a decentralized blockchain network. Thanks to smart contracts; without the need for a central authority, legal system or external enforcement mechanism, secure transactions and agreements can be made between anonymous parties. Thanks to these contracts, a fair distribution of incomebased on effort spent is made possible.

Location independent working and digital nomadism as a lifestyle

Location independent working has turned  into a lifestyle, attracting people from many sectors. Employees are embracing the idea of ​​stretching the boundaries between business and private life and questioning that business life is a phenomenon that requires compromising one’s own private life. Today, many employees no longer have to be physically present in fixed places such as offices to fulfill their duties in the workplace. If there are basic requirements such as electrical connection and stable internet, one has the opportunity to work wherever she/he feels ready and motivated to work. This, in turn, allows employees to build their lifestyles on this business model. Digital nomads can be defined as groups of people who continue their business life without interruption, regardless of location, and aim to live a permanent traveler’s life. The experience of working independently of the location makes it possible for them to live as travelers with the requirement of establishing a balance between their work life and daily life. Today, any individual who has the opportunity to work remotely can partially put this lifestyle into practice, however, working conditions need to be as flexible as possible for fully implementing digital nomadism.

At this point, flexible working conditions in DAOs that we mentioned at the beginning of the article come to mind. So, how can the working models in DAOs contribute to the viability of digital nomadism? At what point can the existence and sustainability of DAOs inspire the experience of working independently from the location?

Working flexibility

The most distinctive feature of DAOs that can inspire the remote working experience may be the flexible working conditions they offer. A DAO participant can complete their tasks not only independent of the venue, but also independent of parameters such as time and amount of work. While for digital nomads there is only the flexibility to be independent of location for now, the time spent on work and the amount of work done often do not show the same flexibility. At this point, more flexible business models can be offered for digital nomads by applying the fair income distribution model made possible by smart contracts in. Thus, digital nomads can earn the financial income they desire by working as much as they need, when they need it.

Fair and individual earnings

It can clearly be deduced that individuality is at the forefront for DAO members, who can make financial gains to the extent that they work hard and gain reputation in this direction. That is, DAO members work for individual gain in exchange of their own efforts, not for a specific authority. However, in the current system, remote working experience is also included in formations with many central authorities and hierarchical orders. This causes the employee to put the sense of responsibility (towards the upper management or her/his own manager) before the motivation of individual gain and independent life. Although it’s not easy to envision for the time being, can organizations that will be nourished and strengthened by employees’ prioritizing their individual happiness emerge, backed by innovative business models? As Zarkadakis (2020) mentions in his book Cyber ​​Republic, as DAOs become widely adopted, new types of businesses that are similar to cooperatives and less visible than corporations will come to life. In such decentralized organizations, leadership will embrace moderate power and empathy, using culture and shared values ​​to align the interests of different stakeholders towards a common mission and purpose.

To summarize

In this article, we have touched upon where decentralized autonomous organizations can inspire the experience of remote work; with the transparent, democratic and flexible working practices they provide. It can be said that the flexibility of work and the opportunity for individual fair earnings are important ideas that decentralized autonomous organizations can offer to digital nomads who have adopted a lifestyle of remote working. In order for these possibilities to be fully implemented, it is important that the game is played according to the rules and that it is transparent in order to encourage participation, just like in smart contracts.


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