If you had the supernatural power to make a piece of text last forever, and there is no word limit, be it a sentence, a poem, an article or a book, what would it be?
What if you could even make a painting, a photograph or a film last forever? With countless great works of art in human history, what would you choose?
These are the questions that the core developers of LikeCoin wrestled with for the past six months.
After a year and a half of development and community testing, the proposal to upgrade the LikeCoin chain was finally approved, with 66% of the members voting in favour. Thanks to the synchronous online efforts of more than 30 validators, the LikeCoin chain was formally upgraded to the new version, codenamed FoTan, on 18 August at 8pm (GMT+8). The core feature of the LikeCoin chain FoTan is ISCN (International Standard Content Number), the basic infrastructure of decentralized publishing (DePub) which allows content to be published on the blockchain, guarded by validators around the world. Crucially, it cannot be deleted or tampered with.
When Bitcoin came into existence on 3 January 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto included the frontpage headline from The Times “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks” on the genesis block, hinting at the significance of Bitcoin in one sentence. LikeCoin chain FoTan’s first registered content has the same significance as Bitcoin’s genesis block, and so our core developers very carefully chose what to register first up, while they were also busy with coding, documentation, community coordination and promotion.
In the end, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace was the first to be registered on the ISCN and became the founding content of LikeCoin.
A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
On 8 February 1996, John Perry Barlow, a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, made his famous A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, defining in beautiful yet powerful words the nature and sovereignty of Cyberspace.
Three paragraphs in the Declaration read:
We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.
We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.
Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.
Barlow argues that governance in the conventional world lacks legitimacy by describing the matterless, borderless and non-discriminatory nature of the Cyberspace. He further argues that a new social contract should and is being organically formed in the Cyberspace.
Now, these 800 beautiful, timeless and meaningful words have been published on the LikeCoin chain through ISCN registration, giving them a unique and immutable identity in the Cyberspace: dLbKMa8EVO9RF4UmoWKk2ocUq7IsxMcnQL1_Ps5Vg80/1
As a freedom-loving techno-optimist, my life in the Cyberspace has been more important than in the physical world, and the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace is like a bible to me. However, has Cyberspace really followed the manifesto?
Not really, but it has gone further and further.
Over the past two decades or so, the Internet has been subject to increasing levels of surveillance, and in certain countries, it has even become an intranet. Not only are national governments suppressing the Internet, but tech giants are also turning their backs to Internet openness, either by building walled gardens or collaborating with governments, to stifle freedom in the Cyberspace out of business interests. When he was asked in 2004 if his ideals were too optimistic, Barlow gave a subtle reply: “We all get older and smarter.”
A declaration is a manifesto of attitude and belief. A declaration of facts like “1+1=2” is meaningless. When both ideals and reality are at risk, the significance and vision of the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace takes on ever greater importance.
The Republic of Liker Land
In 2018, 22 years after the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace was penned, LikeCoin was minted and launched on the Ethereum blockchain on 8 February, the same day the Declaration was made and a day after Barlow’s death, as if history had played a joke on us. However, LikeCoin was born in GMT+8, 16 hours ahead of Barlow’s GMT-8. This means the birth of LikeCoin and the passing of Barlow might have occurred on the same day. This coincidence has led me to believe without a single doubt that I have a mission to carry forward the spirit of the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.
If the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace was about defining and pioneering, the Republic of Liker Land is about deepening and realizing the Declaration. Over the course of more than 20 years, the Internet has gone from being seen as a toy to permeating every aspect of our lives. As Barlow predicted, cryptography is now pivotal to modern life. Blockchain, by leveraging cryptography, is reinterpreting the definition of money and assets. This has not only made the Cyberspace infrastructure more intact, but also compensated for the shortcomings of fiat money. When it comes to creating content and DePub, blockchain offers the opportunity to overcome the limitations of an increasingly closed and centralized Internet.
It is against this context that the LikeCoin community created the Republic of Liker Land, an alliance of media independent of the physical world, like an online European Union. As advocated in the Declaration, the Republic is permissionless. Any person is free to join. More than 1,600 media outlets and nearly 110,000 stakeholders have joined us and used LikeCoin tokens to exchange value on a daily basis. With the upgrade of FoTan, these media will also receive a ISCN, an “identity card” for each valuable piece of content, allowing their content to further interact with all stakeholders in the Republic.
As the Declaration foretold, “[w]e are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours.” The Republic uses codes to define and interpret the governance mechanisms that apply to the community for content creators. Through liquid democracy, the Republic has generated 14 proposals in the last two years, 10 of which have been passed, including the most recent proposal to upgrade to the FoTan version.
The current governance in the Republic is neither perfect, nor even complete, but the point is that any person has the right to raise a proposal, convince other stakeholders to support it and vote for it, and put it into practice. This has empowered the Republic to be able to self-rectify and refine in a peaceful, democratic and decentralized way, so as to deal with all current problems, e.g. disinformation and content farms, as well as those we can foresee to happen in the future, plus other challenges that cannot be anticipated. Liquid democracy, together with the smart contracts on the blockchain, will help the Republic amend its constitution swiftly and improve governance continuously, organically forming a set of sound and complete “smart social contracts”.
If you had the supernatural power to make a piece of text last forever, what would it be?
Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about answering this question.
Technology is changing at an astonishing pace. We have truly acquired previously unimaginable powers, and it is not limited to making a piece of text last forever. It is permissionless for creators and citizen journalists to join the Republic of Liker Land, where they can publish an unlimited number of works on the blockchain, and see them become an immutable part of Cyberspace.
To carry forward the noble idea our distinguished predecessors passed on to us, let us stand in solidarity with each other, and build a brave new world for all.