Starting from the beginning
We remember very clearly May 17, 2017. It has remained etched in our memories. At 3pm that day, two young Spanish people aged 20 and 21 (age is important here, since it made us totally nuts at that time), launched their fundraising campaign to finance a project that would soon allow everyone to "simply" create their own decentralized organization. The rest, we all know it; for a moment when, each behind our computers, we exclaimed, witnessing the deep success of the ICO; "Shit, this is actually going to work!"
How could we explain Aragon’s birth and success? Obviously, through the professionalism of its team and a thorough knowledge of the investment environment. But is that all?
Two weeks have passed since the AGP-34, officializing both Aragon Black and Aragon Black Blog, and we wanted to dedicate our first article to Aragon itself, but without listing the major advances of Aragon during this year 2019, or even presenting their future projects.
We wanted to come back on that moment when our team, the same at that time, had started discussing Aragon, exchanging on this tiny and so distant project, whose values were ours and who had the audacity to call themselves Aragon. “At last!” It was happening! A little black human heart beating in unison was coming out of the shadows, with a big foot of nose to the established order, saying, "Don’t really like the way it’s going here, we’ll be a little further ahead if you're looking for us".
We wanted to analyse the reason that led us to follow Aragon, look back at that moment we decided to answer the call. In order to talk better about what is coming and what we are looking forward in the near future.
Part One : The Aragon Manifesto
"We seek to use technology to lift people from oppression. To be successful, we must keep our products open, understandable, and easy to use for everyone". This is the closing sentence of the Aragon Manifesto. A programme is affirmed there: alongside production must coexist a desire for openness, understanding and facility. In this sense, the Aragon Manifesto clearly responds to the writing of a manifesto: it is at the same time an object of communication, theorization and clarification. The message is clear: a fight for freedom. The method also: the new governance involved by the DAO. What remains is to spread this message as clearly as possible, to the widest possible audience. The manifesto is to a wider audience what the white paper is to the Blockchain community.
The Aragon Manifesto responds to the very characteristics of the manifesto as an object of language and literary and political genres. It sets out a program. It is not only an object of communication: it articulates a political will. We know that the term manifesto, like the term avant-garde, which it is often correlated to, comes from the military and political fields. It suffices to read the Aragon Manifesto to note a totalizing ambition as well as a strictly programmatic rhetoric. Similarly, the beginning of the manifesto opens with a direct opposition between two visions of the Internet and technology, one focused on surveillance and manipulation, the other - claimed by Aragon - as open-source, cross-border, non-violent, collaborative and decentralized.
The manifesto as a genre really emerged in the 19th century. Its prototypical form, drawing up at the same time a history, an indictment but above all a program, is the Communist Manifesto. Then come the artistic and cultural forms of the manifesto, whose most famous productions will be signed by avant-garde artistic movements such as futurism, Dadaism and surrealism. The history of the 20th century could be read through the gigantic production of manifestos. At the same time, a kind of technological manifesto has also developed, to which the Aragon Manifesto seems to belong. One of the definitions in the manifesto, however, is this: it is an escort text. In other words: it accompanies an object, a production, whether it is a work of art, a political project or a new technology.
Blockchains, like DAOs, are technologies. They are developed. What developers do, in a programming language, is both programmatic and performative. They are makers. In this sense, perhaps they are fulfilling the old avant-garde dream of creating both language and things. But a technology does not exist without the community that supports it, and even less without the users who will make it exist. What Black Monthly section will propose will be a continuation of a manifesto: based on the Aragon Manifesto, particularly on its concluding sentence, it will seek to theorize, analyze, share the potentialities opened by the blockchain and Aragon. It will seek to open up and create the debate.
Aragon Manifesto as a rhetorical perspective
“To put out a manifesto you must : want ABC to fulminate against 1, 2, 3” writes Tristan Tzara in 1918 in the DADA Manifesto. He parodies what makes up certain constants of the manifesto: the proposals, and therefore the program; the opposition; the imprecation.
It is important to note, concerning Aragon Manifesto, this manifesto’s style is neither threatening nor aggressive. It does not proclaim any tabula rasa. At best, it merely delimits, at the outset, an opposition between its open and decentralized technological project and that of an Internet of control and surveillance. The Aragon Manifesto's proposal is proceeding serenely; probably because the project has a solid foundation in an underlying technology, very real and pragmatic. Nevertheless, the rest of the discourse borrows from the manifesto’s genre many rhetorical and stylistic motives, including: the use of a "collective" we, symbol of a group of thought:
We believe the fate of humanity will be decided at the frontier of technological innovation.
a use of the Gnostic present, proposing truths and assuming one's choices:
Decentralized technologies provide users unparalleled power to transact and interact with a level of security never seen before.
an elliptical unfolding of the origin, history and future of an organization:
For the first time in history, thanks to blockchain technology and smart contracts, we can now create fully decentralized organizations, which are truly autonomous and unstoppable.
an almost messianic vision of the project:
We seek to use technology to lift people from oppression.
a sentence creation resembling to a slogan:
This is the Enlightenment of the century.
a network of concepts and values:
Thus, Aragon is a fight for freedom. Aragon empowers freedom by creating liberating tools that leverages decentralized technologies.
Part Two : Jorge & Luis interview about the Aragon Manifesto
Hello Luis and Jorge, and thank you for answering our questions on the Aragon Manifesto. Firstly, when did you draft the first version of this document and at what stage were you in the development of Aragon?
Jorge: The original white paper had already been written and the project was around 18 months old. We published the Manifesto when we were communicating the vision and the rationale behind doing the Flock program.
Luis: Yes, there was already a community with clear values built around the initial vision
When you decided to write the Manifesto, what was your first wish / ambition? What did you had in mind? What did you expect of it?
Luis: We wrote it to create a one-page doc that anyone could read in 2 mins, and know what Aragon was standing for. But also to "rank" the values, so in case there's a dispute in the community, we can always come back to the manifesto and do right.
Jorge: Exactly, even though the Aragon Network is a Decentralized Autonomous Organization, we felt that it was very important to lay out what we thought the values of the Network were as the community was growing. Other communities that don't have an explicit set of values can have major disagreements when it is already too late for everyone to agree on an ordered list of values. By having a Manifesto early on, it helps set the tone for new community members. The Manifesto was ratified by ANT holders in the summer of 2018: https://github.com/aragon/governance/issues/21#issuecomment-407474503
Is there a manifesto that already had an influence on you at that time?
Luis: Mozilla's was an inspiration
Jorge: I’d also say Cypherpunk's Manifesto. These are two amazing manifestos in different ways, that were definitely an inspiration for the Aragon Manifesto.
Do you think we can consider blockchain as an avant-garde, why? If so, how would you like people to consider Aragon?
Jorge: Absolutely, it has given people the tools to build crazy things that were impossible before which keeps inspiring people to build new interesting concepts. I'd like people to think of Aragon as a liberating technology that allows people to decide how to organize and who to organize with for whatever goal they want to pursue.
Luis: I would also like people to consider Aragon as a hope, one that has been stolen from us in the last decades.
In the manifesto you say that "We are committed to creating collaboration mechanisms in which violence is not only disincentivized, but impossible". What is your "relationship with the enemy" (state, capitalism, etc...)? Is there a specific offensive will in Aragon project and if so could you explain it?
Luis: The relationship is tricky: some nation states are complete enemies, while some others are actually pushing forward jurisdictional competition and therefore freedom forward. Although they will always be nation states, with everything that means.
Jorge: Nation states have very rigid templates for what types of organizations can be created and how these organizations have to function. This has stagnated improving our capacity to make collective decisions in a more complex world (as it is not possible to try out new models). Aragon completely breaks this limitation by giving people the freedom to organize in any way and at the same time be completely sovereign as Aragon organizations cannot be seized by anyone.
Why and when did you decide to call the project « Aragon »?
Jorge: In January 2017 and as a reference to the anarchic movement in the Spanish region of Aragón.
Luis: You can read the article here if you want : https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmXoypizjW3WknFiJnKLwHCnL72vedxjQkDDP1mXWo6uco/wiki/Anarchist_Aragon.html
Aragon Manifesto has been a strong image for many of us. Would you say that the will you put in that choice has been carried and still exists in the project today?
Luis: Indeed :)
Jorge: Absolutely! I have been personally surprised by how many people actually refer to the Manifesto when a tough/controversial decision has to be made.
Let’s focus a bit more on the Manifesto itself and on it’s values that Aragon Black Blog aims to carry :) At the beginning of the Aragon Manifesto, you present two sides of the Internet and technology, one open and liberating, the other a monitoring and manipulation tool. Should Aragon Black Blog only undertake to defend the first? Or also lead a controversial criticism of the second?
Luis: I think both. I see criticism as valid if you provide an alternative. And we do have an alternative now with Aragon.
Jorge: Agreed, both are very important. A lot of people are not aware of the consequences of what the second can have in the medium term. Those who understand the threat are more likely to use these liberating technologies at the beginning while they mature and encourage other people to use them.
The manifesto, which generally presents the work of an avant-garde, has a total ambition and it’s program touches all spheres of society. As Aragon Black Blog is aiming to carry the Manifesto’s will, should it introduce these ambitions, go into fields as different as art, law, science, where decentralized governance can be applied?
Luis: That makes total sense. We need to tell this narrative to people, and there are many different ways to connect to different people in different fields
Jorge: Absolutely, getting minds from different backgrounds exposed to these ideas is incredibly important not only for the value that they can get from using Aragon, but also for the feedback that we can get from people that aren't so technology focused.
In the Aragon Manifesto, you conclude : “To be successful, we must keep our products open, understandable, and easy to use for everyone” ; how would you like the Aragon Black Blog to make these products understandable?
Jorge: I think from the product point of view we need to keep improving in making Aragon as easy to use as possible, which means abstracting away a lot of complicated and confusing blockchain concepts. From a content perspective, presenting stories of regular people that use Aragon to create and manage interesting organizations, explaining how they set it up and how they use it day to day will also make the product more accessible.
Luis: Totally! Everyone buys the vision, the manifesto, the Fight for Freedom video... now, we need to translate that into actionable items !
Both Manifesto and white paper
There is a typology of manifesto discourses. We will find there as well the pamphlet, the polemic, the presentation or the essay. In the same way, the universe of the blockchain has reappropriated a whole grey literature - institutional, commercial, political - to build a whole typology for its communication and promotion. The most technical writing, intended in particular for developers, is called yellow paper, while white paper, first used in politics at the beginning of the 20th century, explains a technological project in a clear, structured and understandable way. This is the famous case of Satoshi Nakamoto's white paper, Bitcoin: a Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. Between the two still exists the Beige Paper. However, this grey literature remains as long as it is technical. Which is why its appearance is also followed, in a directly communicative and political aim, by the manifesto. In itself, we can say that the manifesto is the colour on the technical purity of the blockchain, its warmth, the bridge it builds between it and the crowds.
Crypto Anarchist Manifesto and Aragon Manifesto : a brief comparative analysis
Written in 1992 by Timothy C. May, the Crypto Anarchist Manifesto has become a cult text; with a libertarian orientation, the manifesto wishes to draw traditional anarchists’ attention to the possibilities offered by computer technologies, particularly encryption, to make discussions anonymous and guarantee the free flow of information. Should this be seen as a common political basis between this project and the blockchain?
The question would require a broad political reflection that we will conduct later, particularly on the distinction between libertarian, libertarianism, liberalism within the Blockchain movement. Because what we mean by blockchain, like the demonstrations that make it concretely exist, are not homogeneous. Nevertheless, the idea of an open and free Internet is shared between the crypto anarchist movement and a project like Aragon. The latter adds - and this is essential - the principle of decentralization. But 25 years have passed between the two. Where Tim May's manifesto and his movement fall directly into political categories (here, anarchists), and refers explicitly to communism ("A specter is haunting the modern world, the specter of crypto anarchy"), the Aragon Manifesto is apparently free from these political categories of previous centuries. The technological mechanism - in this case the blockchain and the DAO - are prevalent in relation to political discourse. Probably because there is a DAO policy from the outset, technologically speaking.
Manifesto as a DAO-content
In 1960, the Manifesto of the 121 was published, a declaration on the right to insubordination in the Algerian war signed by French intellectuals, artists and academics. Who wrote it? Is it a background, a backdrop? The 121 protestors? Or just Dionys Mascolo and Maurice Blanchot? Rather, in this case, we are witnessing an eclipse of the author's figure demonstrating behind a "us" not only linguistic but also political. We could even define the manifesto as what is written with, together, collectively. The Communist Manifesto is not the work of Marx, but of Marx and Engels, and a single glance at the genesis of the text and the correspondence exchanged between the protesters will show us that such a literary and political object is being co-constructed.
On several points, manifesto and DAO overlap. It should be noted that a DAO is a decentralized and autonomous organization; however, a content can also be a DAO (read this paper). Imagine that a manifesto, as content, as a textual object, at the same time organizational, communicative, political, is written in the form of a DAO-content. The manifesto is a collective object, which tends to display a program in order to organize a data (an artistic object, for example, or a political association). In itself, a DAO is also done collectively, in order to build an organization. There is still decentralization.
Pando Network, which intends to decentralize creation, by proposing a protocol in particular to allow collaborative writing (creation), will precisely propose the writing of the manifesto in the form of DAO-content. That is to say: the writing of the manifesto will be done in collaboration and at the same time will organize the DAO. Better still: the manifesto will go beyond its primary status, i.e. programmatic and communicative, to become a legal document attesting to the autonomous and decentralized organization of a project or team. In short, the very nature of the manifesto is changed, and so to speak improved.
Part Three : Aragon Black Blog
In 1848, when Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx write the Communist Manifesto, they are aware that this revolutionary text is not so much an affirmation of unity but also the recognition of a common ground bringing together the most resolute fraction of sympathizers in the whole country. The manifesto also illustrates the combination of knowledge and action, while delegating to the revolution itself the mission of reinventing politics while reviving theoretical criticism. What seems to be an act of gathering becomes moreover an act of spreading out, with the certainty that whoever is to be part of the movement, will be able to recognize the call with its own sensitivity and expectations.
This paper is what happens after a manifesto. It’s the confirmation of a common ground, a collective struggle that we have decided to lead side by side with Aragon. Our strength does not come from our ability to develop technical tools. Nor does it come from our way of anticipating strategic steps in a roadmap, reappropriating managerial tools, our way of philosophizing or even from our way of feeling an ambient scepticism. Our strength comes from a curiosity and open attitude towards today resistance, from our interest for sensitivity that isn’t ours, from our desire to come together around a common hope, from a fear of emptiness and our rage to fill it with anything we can find.
We consider Aragon Manifesto as an Alpha, and will be referring to it’s principal topics through Aragon Black Blog. Our proposal is what follows - Aragon Black Blog will be planning the publication of six official articles through Black Monthly, one at the beginning of each month to the end of the first Flock round - first, this one as an introduction Aragon Manifesto and white papers (9 may), A brief history of decentralization (11 june), Anonymity and transparency (9 july), Reappropriation of Commons (6 august), Bringing back autonomy and collaboration in human work (10 september), and finally, Blockchain and ecology (8 october).
These six topics are a way of thinking together in different fields of practice of blockchain, but all of which putting in honor the construction of tools according to Aragon's values. It will not escape anyone that the “monetary dimension” is deliberately set aside, not that it will not be interrogated through the various articles (the undeniable main interest of blockchain remains the ability of playing with the rules of capital and to invent new ones), but we believe that this question is present in most of the articles, interests, research, today on the blockchain. Our interest is not to ignore it but to put new topics in the balance, and in this manner, bring new thoughts and actors in what we are doing. The goal of Aragon Black Blog is not so much to deepen these different themes, which undoubtedly has already been done by others, in different forms and in different study settings, and surely in a much better and long-form than us. The aim of Aragon Black Blog is to open these questions to a wider audience, allowing outsiders to bring an outside perspective on human issues from which no one should be excluded.
For this matter, the Aragon Black Blog will also publish several other articles through three other sections; Miscellaneous, Book Reviews and Outsiders Insight. We believe that decentralizing governance comes also with a precise interest in making what we do accessible for a wide audience, not only in the practice of blockchain tools but also in the understanding of what we are doing and what futur we are aiming for.