It’s the year 2040 and our newsroom is as silent as ever. The proprietary AI we license “GA-Net” does most of the daily grind stories. I honestly forget what it’s like to do the sports score, Wall Street-score, obits and other run-of-the-mill event-based stories.
Today our reporters focus only on enterprise stories. Everything else is covered faster and better than we could ever churn them out by the AI. Our head of AI-editorial has to fill in the occasional variable and is staying on top of the latest developments, but for the most part we’re hooked into the right inputs to get those stories out seamlessly.
The newsroom is silent, because well, who even goes into the newsroom? Our chat rooms, however, are buzzing both with people conversing but also the notifications of smart contracts being executed. Our newsroom operates off four main layers of smart contracts and you can tune in and see how we’re doing by subscribing to those notifications. In short, our newsroom is a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO).
Today if you want to plug into the global value transfer protocol you need tokens and a wallet, just like in 2004 you would have needed a website to plug into the global information transfer protocol that defined the early internet. In the year 2040, digital property rights are arguably more safe and secure than meat-space property rights. This security has enabled a thriving marketplace and our newsroom operates trying to grab our fair share.
The path to get here wasn’t always obvious. There was the mis-and-dis information wars of the early 2020s. And who could forget the midinformation wars that followed from 2025–2029, where expert consensus over emerging scientific data reached a fever pitch. But the roots of our newsroom go back to 2007ish and the rise of the anachronistic phrase “citizen journalism.”
In 2007 Wired writer Jeff Howe, who coined the phrase “crowdsourcing,” observed in a blog post ‘The Importance of Community’ “a dirty little secret of open source.” While crowdsourced projects of the early web are thought of as the product of a few super-contributors and a mass of people who contribute minor bits, there’s another important element Howe observed. “Any crowdsourcing project must install one go-to guy (or girl) who will thanklessly toil day and night to keep the project on the rails. At a magazine this person is called the Production Manager.” Many minds make for lighter work, but there has to be somebody to make sense of it all.
Back then somebody had to pull the levers to finish the “last mile” of a collaborative project among strangers. Today, in a world of DAOs and smart contracts, a series of rules, written into code govern these relationships. Even with individuals operating in their own self-interest, incentives and structures allow “organizations” to emerge.
The critical discovery was when news organizations realized that it wasn’t enough to open themselves up to drive-by audience participation: leave a comment here, hit a Facebook like there. That was the hub-and-spoke model of the first quarter-century. It kept the “Cathedral” news operation intake. Through the use of smart contracts, proper incentives and blockchain technology the community became the organization itself. The spiderweb of relationships became the bazaar of information exchange where news was produced and value exchanged as a result.
The rules didn’t come via social media companies like Facebook or Twitter. Those organizations got close to becoming the arbiters of information between the Arab Spring and the 2024 election, but, we realized by 2025 that multinational corporate entities were actors, not governors, in the information space. Instead the rules were protocols that anyone could interact with. For the first 25 years of this century the protocols of the web were open to all, but only a few elite organizations were able to truly enrich themselves. After the monopoly scares of 2027 even those organizations were ready to embrace a new protocol layer to the internet that enabled commerce and gave secure property rights to the participants themselves. You owned your data and any value it created.
In short, the revolution has rules that are put into code. Most newsrooms today, in 2040, rely on four main layers of smart contracts. There’s the layer of editorial creation, the layer of management and the layer of ownership. As you might guess, these layers can intermix, mingle or downright plop on top of each other. But we have rules in place for these situations.
Most people who engage with the newsroom do so in a fleeting way and that’s fine. Some tune into our streaming videos. Every minute they’re charged .0000005 BTC, the equivalent of a less than a penny in 2022 dollars. It’s possible to have this low rate because there’s no middleman or payment processor. Most people agree to the smart contract that governs this transaction once and never think about it again. Same for per-article transactions.
All of this revenue from readers is governed by the layer of “ownership.” That’s a strong word, since most people who add U.S dollars or BTC into our system in exchange for access don’t own anything more than access. This access can only be granted via these kinds of transactions which add liquidity into our own DAO tokens. The tokens are what signify a level of ownership. These tokens can be purchased separately or earned.
Some users step up their interactions and want to comment on articles, join the community chat or even eventually write their own op-eds. These loose editorial creations do not yet earn our DAO tokens. They are different from the transactions above in that they can be both purchased or earned through our editorial marketplace.
Open up your crypto wallet (what we call a “key” in the year 2040) and you can browse our editorial marketplace. Here, our managers, who have a specific class of DAO tokens, create bids for what they think our newsroom needs. They can be entire op-eds, or as specific as a quote from an official on a topic. They can be open to all users or only able to be bid on by people who have earned a other specific class of tokens. Earn enough and you can make a living and even rise higher in the ranks until you’re a manager too. This is the machine at work, where the layer of management and editorial meet. The content decisions that used to happen every morning around a table with croissants and bagels among a select few is now distributed.
The active are rewarded. The quality of one’s work isn’t judged in the vacuum of a corporate office, but by the outcomes of their work.
Transparency is the new objectivity in this world and nothing goes unseen. Everything is tallied and tabulated. If fact-check, their own bids to be taken up, finds somebody’s work was sloppy, Tokens can be revoked. This can be permanent if necessary. There’s always an audience sloshing around our content and within that audience we can see who is browsing our editorial marketplace, what work they’ve done for other newsrooms and more.
It’s 2040 and you open your key (crypto wallet) and seen an offer to buy 500 tokens for .00005 BTC to join a driverless car DAO that has a fleet of 50 cars in your city. As you take the driverless cars from point A to point B, part of the proceeds are taken by the DAO and go towards maintenance and saving up to buy more cars for the fleet. More cars increases the appeal of the network and might even increase the value of your remaining tokens.
Like the newsroom, this was written into the code of the DAO and was advertised to you and part of the reason why you decided to try it out. You could take Uber’s driverless cars. They do come with unique media (Uber-only shows) but you wanted to feel like you were investing in a car-share too.
This is the age we live in. You don’t just participate, you own, invest and interact with coded rules with almost every decision you make.