God Coin: A Modest Proposal

post by Mahdi Complex (mahdi-complex) · 2024-04-01T12:04:09.157Z · LW · GW · 5 comments


  The Problem
  Enabling Technologies
  What is money?
  The Currency Matters
  The Bitcoin theory of change
    What Bitcoiners get wrong
    What Bitcoiners get right
  God Coin
  Aligning money with human values
  The Competition
  Attracting People
  We The People, In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union

[cross-posted from the EA Forum [EA · GW]]

Epistemic status: I may be a little nuts.

Content warning: may contain harm to some sacred cows.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.(Matt. 6:24)

The challenges humanity will face in the 21st century, from the governance of emerging technologies to global inequality and existential risks, will require a serious reevaluation of our current institutions and governance frameworks. Nation-states and international organizations appear increasingly ill-equipped to address the complex, interconnected problems we face as a species. In this essay, I propose a radical idea: creating a new cryptocurrency, the "God Coin," to fund decentralized global institutions that can peacefully compete with nation-states and international organizations and represent the interests of humanity as a whole. By leveraging the power of blockchain technology, such institutions could potentially gain the legitimacy and resources needed to tackle our greatest challenges and align economic incentives with universal human values. While the "God Coin" proposal may seem unrealistic, I argue that exploring such unconventional solutions is necessary if we hope to create a future that benefits all of humanity.

The Problem

The Westphalian system, which has dominated global politics since the 17th century, is based on the principle of sovereign nation-states with exclusive authority over their territory and domestic affairs. However, the challenges of the 21st century, particularly the development of advanced artificial intelligence, are likely to strain this system to its breaking point. To effectively address these issues and safeguard the interests of humanity as a whole, we may need to move towards a post-Westphalian world order, with new institutions that transcend national boundaries and represent the collective interests of our species.

These post-Westphalian governance frameworks will be crucial not only for tackling existential risks and ensuring the responsible development of transformative technologies but also for making critical decisions about the future trajectory of human civilization. As we grapple with profound, foundational questions, such as what values should guide the creation of superintelligent AI and how to allocate the vast resources and potential of our cosmic endowment, we will need institutions that can legitimately claim to represent the diverse perspectives and interests of all human beings, rather than the narrow agendas of individual nation-states.

This is a challenge that has been pointed out in the AI governance, existential risk and longtermist literature. In The Precipice, the philosopher Toby Ord writes: "there is a need for international institutions focused on existential risk to coordinate our actions." Even though such a "large shift in international governance [seems] unnecessary or unrealistic," he argues that the risk of the "destruction of humanity's entire potential" might justify a large scale "reordering of international institutions."

Ord argues that "we can't rely on our current intuitions and institutions that have evolved to deal with small-or medium-scale risks. […] Our system of laws, norms and organizations for handling risk have been tuned to the small-and medium-scale risks we have faced over past centuries." Achieving existential security, and allowing for the period that Ord described as the "Long Reflection," will probably require a radically different world order.

Current governance frameworks are dangerously inadequate. Ord writes "When I have raised the topic of existential risk with senior politicians and civil servants, I have encountered a common reaction: genuine deep concern paired with a feeling that addressing the greatest risks facing humanity was 'above my pay grade'."

In his AI Governance research agenda, Allan Dafoe, the head of Long-term Strategy and Governance for Google DeepMind, argues that without the right institutions, "nothing short of a technical miracle will be sufficient to safely navigate the transition to advanced AI systems." He explains, the development of advanced AI "could lead to a radical break from the current technology and world order" and "undermine the liberal world economic order." The creation of new institutions capable of handling these challenges will thus become crucial.

There are good reasons to believe that our current institutions are inadequate. The liberal nation-state generally acts in a narrowly self-interested manner, has a myopic outlook, and has a relatively narrow mandate, which does not include matters beyond its borders, nor long term decisions depending on foundational questions of morality and humanity's destiny.

Meanwhile, the UN and other international organizations are dependent on member states, many with governments that have no democratic legitimacy, and have little authority beyond what member states consent to and are willing to fund. Given the scope and size of the challenges and the almost boundless upheaval implied by the development of AGI level technologies and beyond, it could be argued that under the existing global political-economical framework, an entity with sufficient legitimacy to develop, deploy and govern such transformative AI technologies does not exist.

The main X-risk and AI governance theory of change within Effective Altruism (EA) has thus far been focused on pushing current governments and international institutions to take these issues more seriously, and to try to influence these institutions by either lobbying or by working within these organizations. These are important efforts. However, it might turn out that this strategy will prove insufficient. Our current governance frameworks might turn out to be too structurally misaligned or too sclerotic to adequately confront humanity's greatest challenges.

It becomes thus worth asking the question, is there another way? Is there a plan B? Might a real paradigm shift be necessary? That is, as Thomas Kuhn put it while describing political revolutions, will we have to “change political institutions in ways that those institutions themselves prohibit”?

Enabling Technologies

In this piece I will attempt to sketch a realistic path towards the creation of new post-Westphalian institutions, relying on blockchain technologies, to create new decentralized virtual spheres of sovereignty and institutions able to peacefully compete for resources and legitimacy with nation-states, and representing cosmopolitan interests on the world-stage.

Throughout history, technological advancements have often disrupted existing power structures and paved the way for new political realities. From the agricultural revolution that enabled the rise of the first civilizations, to the printing press that fueled the spread of revolutionary ideas and challenged the authority of the Church, to the military innovations that shifted the balance of power on the battlefield, technology has repeatedly proven its ability to reshape society and politics.

In the modern era, the internet and social media have emerged as powerful tools for political change, enabling activists to coordinate on a global scale and challenge authoritarian regimes, as demonstrated by the Arab Spring. At the same time, these technologies have also been exploited to spread misinformation and sow discord, as seen in recent US elections. Beyond its political implications, the internet has also given rise to new forms of transnational communities united by shared values, interests and worldviews, rather than geographic proximity. Moreover, the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence and increasingly realistic virtual reality are poised to further blur the lines between the physical and digital worlds, potentially creating new avenues for social interaction, economic activity, and political organization.

Against this backdrop, I believe that the transformative potential of cryptocurrencies and decentralized governance structures has yet to be fully appreciated, even within the crypto community itself. Just as past technological breakthroughs have upended the status quo and ushered in new eras of political and social change, the rise of decentralized, borderless currencies and decision-making protocols could have far-reaching geopolitical consequences. It will be my contention that these decentralized technologies could give rise to entirely new forms of social and political organization that transcend the nation-state paradigm.

What is money?

The standard definition states that money is a medium of exchange. This definition works well enough to understand how we interact with money day-to-day. When one takes a bigger picture perspective, a better definition becomes: money is the set of tokens that entitle the holder to a share in the labor and capital of an economy.

Money can thus be thought of as the information layer through which individuals, corporations, governments, etc... broadcast their preferences, their wants and needs (or, what they care about) to the rest of society. It is the universally recognized language of value and thus allows for large-scale virtuous collaborations between strangers.

Much of political debate can be boiled down to who controls money, who and what is entitled to money, and what rules govern the exchange of money for goods and services. Even primitive societies had to confront this problem. They had to decide how to distribute a limited amount of resources and energy, a limited amount of "units of caring [LW · GW]."

In small primitive societies, this question was generally decided on the basis of moral, social and cultural norms and expectations. It was a "moral economy." Tokens of caring weren't explicitly represented, people were expected to behave in a prosocial manner, and deciding how to divide energy and resources was a very communal and inter-subjective activity.

As societies scale however, this becomes unworkable. You rapidly need a more objective, explicit, scalable, trustless, and liquid system than reputation, need or barter to distribute or exchange resources. That's the role of money.

At its best, money serves as a tool for efficient resource allocation and exchange, enabling complex economic activities and facilitating the division of labor. When coupled with free market principles, it can function as Adam Smith's "invisible hand," providentially guiding self-interested individuals to unwittingly contribute to the common good through their economic choices. The use of money in free markets has thus been credited with enabling the astonishing growth in wealth and living standards across much of the world over the past centuries.

However, while wildly successful in lifting people out of poverty and creating wealth, free markets have left many people in a state of discontent and alienation. Too often, our current economic system deviates from what our intuitions tell us a real scaled up "moral economy" should look like. That is where much of the appeal of left-wing economic policy comes from. Looking at all that is wrong in the world, people turn towards a central authority, the government, to control how money is allocated, and to have money distributed closer to the collective moral preferences. Even the Soviet Union, with its centrally planned economy, relied on money to distribute resources.

While the debate around how to organize an economy rages on, a new approach of solving global problems has emerged in recent years: Effective Altruism. It was created as a response to the most egregious misallocations of money in our current global system. It seeks to answer the question of how to do the most good with the resources available, whether it's addressing global poverty, reducing animal suffering, mitigating existential risks from biotechnology and artificial intelligence, and safeguarding the long-term future of humanity.

In doing so, EA has exposed numerous areas where existing resource allocation mechanisms fall disturbingly short of achieving optimal outcomes for humanity. However, it seems that within the EA community, these observations have not yet prompted a deeper, more critical examination of the underlying system that allowed such shortcomings to arise or remain in the first place. Or at least, EAs have lacked the imagination to propose any credible alternative.

The Currency Matters

Even though we don't spend much time thinking about what we use as money, it is not a neutral choice. A currency is the language of value, founded on a social contract between the people using it and the institutions controlling and issuing it. Using a specific form of money constitutes an implicit endorsement of those institutions and their currency. By holding your wealth in a particular currency, you are implicitly broadcasting your faith in the institutions behind it and endorsing their power of seigniorage – the authority to control and issue new units of that currency.

In the case of the dollar, the social contract is based on the US constitution, with the government and the Federal Reserve as the key institutions. The US dollar has been the global reserve currency since the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944, currently representing about 60% of global reserves. This indicates that foreign governments and international capital markets consider the US to have the most trustworthy institutions and the most stable social contract.

However, in an age of waning US hegemony, domestic instability, and increasing US public debt, some commentators have begun to ask themselves if we may be heading towards a new age of currency competition, and the decline of the US dollar as global reserve currency. Although there is no consensus on what might replace it.

Currencies, whether issued by a country's central bank, or created with a blockchain, are faith based assets. And at the moment, the world's governments and the international capital markets still have faith in the United States, its social contract and its institutions. Or at least there is no currency and social contract they have more faith in. As some commentators have opined: the US is “the cleanest dirty shirt.”

But, there is a group of people who have started putting their faith into a new currency: Bitcoiners.

The Bitcoin theory of change

So, let's examine the Bitcoin theory of change.

For Bitcoin maximalists, such as Saifedean Ammous, the author of The Bitcoin Standard, the endgame is a world where Bitcoin has displaced the dollar as the world reserve currency. A world where the state has lost all power of seigniorage, where individual wealth becomes practically unconfiscatable by governments, where the libertarian Austrian School has been vindicated and Keynesian policies of active government involvement in the economy discredited.

In A Most Peaceful Revolution, the bitcoin maximalist Nic Carter explains that Bitcoiners want to create "a system which permits unfettered commerce, provable-reserve free banking [...], renders capital controls obsolete, frees savers from state-sanctioned theft by inflation, and eventually disempowers the State entirely, shrinking its monetary toolkit." He emphasizes, "It is a rebellion, make no mistake." For him, what others have failed to understand is that “these are political and social experiments first."

Bitcoinism, according to Carter, "is an emergent political and economic philosophy combining strains of Austrian economics, libertarianism, an appreciation for strong property rights, contractarianism, and a philosophy of individual self-reliance." For Bitcoiners, the cryptocurrency represents more than just a speculative investment opportunity. As Nic Carter explains, "For Bitcoiners, success consists of a day when no exit is required. Their admittedly eschatological philosophy anticipates a time when they will be able to participate in a closed loop Bitcoin economy, free from the vicissitudes of the legacy financial system." In other words, they envision a future where Bitcoin becomes the foundation of a new, self-contained economic system that operates independently of traditional financial institutions.

Thus, Bitcoiners anticipate a future in which faith in governments and their ability to responsibly manage an economy and currency has all but disappeared. Bitcoin will continue to exist and have value as long as there are people who believe in this vision. As long as there are people more committed to the Bitcoin “social contract” and to this anarcho-libertarian vision of the future. And, in theory, if enough people start believing in this story, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Bitcoin is an attempt at a monetary coup (coup de monnaie?). It is a gradual, slow-moving, peaceful, opt-in, financial revolution aiming to seize the means of money production and put it outside the reach of any centralized actor. The value of Bitcoin is not so much about its technology. Anyone can create a Bitcoin clone with the exact same technical specifications. The value of Bitcoin derives from its politics. It's a symbol.

What Bitcoin maximalists have recognized is that what the blockchain allows is a referendum on a new monetary social contract, on a new language of value. For Bitcoin maximalists, Bitcoin is the totem at the center of a new people of "sovereign individuals," wrestling power away from governments by storing their wealth in a medium inaccessible and uncontrollable by governments. It is a vote of no-confidence in our institutions.

For them, the sole public good that is worth funding by seigniorage is the security of the Bitcoin network itself. Every 10 minutes or so, some new bitcoin is issued to a miner running the proof-of-work algorithm used to secure the Bitcoin network. And if you believe that inflation and our fiat-monetary system are at the root of most of our problems, then the costs of Bitcoin mining are a small price to pay.

What Bitcoiners get wrong

Bitcoin's theory of change is as brilliant as its politics and economics are misguided. Of course, centralized governance is important. Public goods need funding. Individual preferences aren't all that matters. Inflation is not at the root of all our problems. The poorest and most vulnerable in our society and on our planet deserve a share of the economic pie, even if they are not able to contribute to it. Governance is important and necessary. We need a way to express our collective preferences. We need trusted institutions controlling the money supply in charge of the public good and our collective survival.

For Bitcoiners, any creation of new tokens for the funding of public goods, investment in the future, the expression of collective preferences, or for a fairer distribution of wealth is illegitimate. It is a profoundly individualistic, distrusting, and misanthropic ideology.

The price of maintaining the trustless nature of the Bitcoin network is substantial. What might one day be seen as one of the greatest innovations in the funding of public goods in human history has used its vast resources to have miners run a computationally intensive proof-of-work algorithm that requires miners to solve essentially useless, yet increasingly complex cryptographic puzzles.

The Bitcoin network has thus created 328,500 bitcoins to reward miners. At the current Bitcoin price, that is equivalent to around $23 billion. The Bitcoin network thereby spends more collectively on its “security,” than the international community contributes to fund the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) combined. The fact that the Bitcoin network's spending on its own security is comparable to the international community's funding of these vital global institutions raises troubling questions about our collective priorities.

What Bitcoiners get right

Bitcoiners are right to point out that the power of seigniorage, the ability to issue new money, is an immense responsibility that needs to be wielded carefully and for the right reasons. Historically, governments have often abused this power, leading to hyperinflation, economic instability, and the erosion of citizens' savings. And while the Bitcoiners’ case against the US dollar may seem unconvincing, they raise a crucial question: when does a government lose the legitimacy to control the currency that its citizens rely on?

I would argue that when a government consistently fails to address some of the most pressing global challenges such as mitigating existential risks and providing for the basic needs of the global poor, it undermines its moral authority to unilaterally control the money supply. If the governments of nation-states are structurally incapable of serving the global public good, it may be necessary to explore alternative monetary systems that better align with our values and priorities.

God Coin

Cryptocurrencies empower people to shape the future of money by voting with their wallets. By choosing which currencies to support, individuals can express their values and priorities, essentially writing a new social contract and economic constitution for our future. This lays the foundation for a new moral economy, where decentralized institutions can be designed to reflect our shared values and fund global public goods through the issuance of purpose-driven currencies.

In this emerging landscape, the perceived value of a currency may no longer be solely tied to the strength of the issuing country's economy and institutions. Instead, the ethical values and principles embodied by a currency could become increasingly important factors in determining its worth and adoption. Bitcoin, with its hyper-libertarian ethos, stands as the first major example of this shift, while the Sam Altman-backed WorldCoin project, which promises a crypto UBI to all uniquely identified humans, may soon emerge as another contender in this new landscape of value-aligned currencies.

In Beyond Bitcoin: Reconsidering The Moral Economy And Reinventing Money, Matthew Prewitt and Steven McKie argue that cryptocurrencies allow us to "build more legitimate, more sensitive, more democratic money issuers," that are "able to better identify the public good, thus rewarding virtue more accurately than either states or markets can."

Cryptocurrencies allow for the creation of what Balaji Srinivasan calls a "network state," which he describes as "the sequel to the nation state." It is a social network transcending national borders, with a "purpose" and "a sense of national consciousness." Prewitt and McKie conclude that such networks might "come to rival nation states as actors on the international stage."

After all, the fact that the world is organized around sovereign nation-states, and that people's primary allegiance is presumed to be towards the country they happen to be born in is only a historical artifact. In an increasingly globalized, online, interconnected and interdependent world, currencies and sovereignty may thus transition from being organized around countries defined by their borders, and towards decentralized communities of shared values.

If the challenges, opportunities, and communities people most care about increasingly transcend geographical boundaries, then the nation-state may turn out to be an outdated and ineffectual form of social organization, incapable of properly representing people's interests.

Nation-states only exist in our collective imagination. They're stories we have come to accept. They're the Schelling points our world revolves around. But we can craft new stories, first in our collective imagination, then in the cloud, build a new virtual nation with a new moral economy, and once people have gained enough faith in this creation, we can bring it down from the cloud and onto a new earth.

I thus propose the creation of a "God Coin." A new currency backing new institutions of global governance aimed at solving the world's most pressing problems, reducing existential risk, helping the global poor, representing universal global interests and setting up the governance frameworks to govern the long term future. We need new global institutions with the ambition to represent humanity directly, rather than through the intermediary of nation-states.

Individuals and organizations can then empower these new institutions by storing their wealth in the new currency. They can vote with their wallet for a new global social contract, a new polity that holds all humans as equals.

Aligning money with human values

The AI Objectives Institute has begun exploring the parallels between aligning capitalism with human values and the AI alignment problem. As increasingly powerful AIs are deployed in the economy, these two challenges may converge, though truly transformative AI will pose unique technical hurdles.

However, the issue extends beyond just aligning capitalism. If we truly want to create a better future, we need to fundamentally rethink the design of our economic systems and institutions. This means looking at the entire spectrum of economic interactions, from the decentralized exchanges of free markets to the strategic decisions of centralized authorities, and asking ourselves: what values and priorities are embedded in these systems? How can we create economic and political frameworks that don't just optimize for narrow financial metrics or benefit only an oligarchic geographic elite, but actually reflect what we care about most as a civilization? This is where the lens of money and currencies becomes particularly illuminating.

After all, money is the lifeblood of any economy - it's the medium through which we express value, allocate resources, and coordinate our efforts. By consciously designing the properties and incentives of our monetary systems, we have a powerful opportunity to shape the trajectory of our economic future. We can create currencies that don't just facilitate transactions, but actually embody and promote our highest ideals and aspirations. In this sense, the project of aligning our economic systems with human values is not separate from the project of redesigning our monetary institutions. They are two sides of the same coin.

By reexamining the nature and purpose of money itself, we can lay the foundations for an economy that truly serves the long-term flourishing of our species. Isn't this, in essence, the ultimate goal of effective altruism - aligning our units of caring with what matters most?

Cryptocurrencies may thus become an outlet for asking some of the most important questions facing humanity in the 21st century. What currency is the future priced in? What language of value will our descendants speak? How will the value be distributed? What rules will the monetary system of the future obey?


Establishing a new global currency like the "God Coin" and the decentralized institutions to govern it would be a formidable undertaking, fraught with numerous challenges. For these institutions to effectively steward humanity's long-term future, they would need to gain widespread recognition as a legitimate outlet to debate some of the fundamental moral questions and policy decisions that will shape our radically different tomorrow. Moreover, they would have to foster deep trust and credibility among diverse stakeholders worldwide in order to successfully issue a currency that could potentially entitle holders to a stake in the economy of the future.

To achieve long-term success, the "God Coin" institutions would need to be perceived as representing the interests and moral values of a substantial portion of humanity. Gaining democratic legitimacy among a large number of people would be crucial. These institutions would need to occupy the moral high ground and demonstrate the ability to navigate humanity towards a utopian future while steering clear of existential threats.

Furthermore, the "God Coin" system would need to provide robust security measures and make any attack by nation-state actors politically unfeasible. This would require a combination of technological safeguards, decentralized governance structures, and widespread public support to deter potential adversaries. Alongside these measures, the "God Coin" institutions would need to engage in strategic diplomacy, seeking to build alliances with nation-states that share their values and objectives, while striving to maintain their integrity as an independent project aimed at serving the interests of humanity as a whole.

To gain the moral high ground, any "God Coin'' candidate must demonstrate a strong commitment to several key principles.

First and foremost, it should not challenge the state's monopoly on violence, except in cases of self-defense within the digital realm or under extreme circumstances that would need to be carefully defined. This commitment to non-violence and respect for the rule of law will be essential to establishing the legitimacy and trustworthiness of the project in the eyes of the global community.

Second, it must make a credible commitment to a new social contract that respects the fundamental dignity and rights of all individuals, regardless of their ability to participate in the system or their initial stance towards it. This commitment should be grounded in the recognition that every human being has inherent worth and potential, and that a truly legitimate global institution must strive to create conditions that enable all people to thrive. The specific mechanisms for achieving this would need to be developed through a transparent and participatory process, drawing on the best available evidence and the diverse perspectives of stakeholders worldwide.

Third, in the event that such a "God Coin" becomes successful enough to potentially destabilize existing financial markets, it must have a plan in place to minimize economic disruption and ensure a smooth transition. This will require a combination of competent technocratic leadership and the incorporation of democratic input and oversight. The system could leverage emerging technologies such as proof of humanity (as used in the WorldCoin project), futarchy (a form of governance based on prediction markets), Quadratic Funding (a way to match funds allocated based on democratic support levels), and Pol.is (a platform for large-scale, AI-facilitated deliberation and consensus-building) to balance the need for efficient decision-making with the importance of broad-based participation and representation.

By harnessing the power of decentralized technologies and participatory governance models, such new institutions have the potential to be more responsive to the needs and values of its global stakeholders, more accountable in its decision-making processes, and more transparent in its operations than traditional centralized institutions.

The Competition

The notion that such an entity may garner enough faith, legitimacy and credibility to upend the structure of the international order and garner enough of a popular mandate to challenge the domination and ambitions of the global superpower will probably still sound too far-fetched to most readers. But let us not forget what the competition actually looks like.

The US government represents and is accountable to less than 5% of the world population. Its revealed preferences appear to indicate that it considers an American life to be over 1000X the worth of a non-American life. It is suffering from political gridlock and polarization, and will probably have one of two unpopular octogenarians at the head of the nation in 3 years, with one of them campaigning on an “America first” platform.

The US may be one of the best options to develop AGI among all other nation-states, but this should not obscure that it is a deeply flawed option. Creating an institution with a more legitimate mandate to govern transformative AI technologies than the US government may be a lower bar than it might sound like at first. Ultimately, the goal is not to create a perfect system, but rather one that is demonstrably better than the current alternatives.

In this light, the rise of decentralized spheres of sovereignty could offer a promising path forward. By transcending the limitations of nation-states, these new institutions could help align the development of transformative technologies with the interests of humanity as a whole. They could provide a platform for global political participation, empowering people to shape the future in ways that the nation-state system has struggled to accommodate. These decentralized institutions could foster a more inclusive and democratic approach to global governance, ensuring that the crucial challenges and opportunities ahead are addressed in a manner that reflects the shared values and interests of people worldwide.

The fact that currency is a faith-based asset, an agreed-upon information layer that determines who deserves what, suggests that we have the power to create new narratives, new currencies, and even new virtual nations. These ideas may seem far-fetched at first, and they don't need to directly challenge the nation-state system right away. But as more people recognize that nation-states are also social constructs, products of our collective imagination, we may begin to see new possibilities emerge.

Just as we have relied on old stories and paradigms, we can create new ones. We can envision ourselves as a people in a diaspora, scattered across the globe but united by a shared vision and values. If enough people believe in and support such a vision, it could become a reality - as real as the religions, nations, and currencies that shape our world today.

The prevailing notion of humans as 'homo economicus' - rational, self-interested economic agents - overlooks a crucial fact: when people come together around shared values, they have the power to transform entire economic and political systems. The simple act of investing in tokens that represent these values can catalyze a profound shift in our global order. The assumption that humans are driven solely by narrow self-interest fails to capture the immense potential of collective action motivated by a common vision for a better world. We may thus soon come to learn that the global moral economy is alive and kicking.

Attracting People

One key challenge will be attracting and empowering the right people to build and sustain such new global institutions. Many individuals who are deeply committed to doing what's best for humanity as a whole find themselves in a difficult position. To gain access to the levers of power and influence within existing institutions, they often have to pay lip service to national interests and ambitions that they may not fully believe in. This can create a sense of misalignment or even dishonesty, as these individuals are forced to navigate between their sincere global values and the nationalistic expectations of their roles.

While this compromise may be well-intentioned, it can breed distrust among the broader public. People may sense the disconnect between the stated national priorities and the underlying global agenda, leading to suspicion about the true motives and loyalties of those in power. This erosion of trust can undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of even the most benevolent efforts.

A project like “God Coin”, however, could provide a new avenue for those who want to work towards the greater good of humanity without the constraints and contradictions of national allegiances. By creating decentralized, global institutions that are explicitly aligned with universal values and interests, such a project could attract and empower a new generation of leaders, thinkers, and changemakers who are eager to serve the world without compromising their integrity or ideals.

In this way, the “God Coin” project could help to restore a sense of honesty, transparency, and trust in the efforts to shape a better future for all. It could provide a platform for those who are truly dedicated to the well-being of humanity to work together openly and authentically, free from the limitations and distortions of nationalist agendas. This, in turn, could help to build a broader base of public support and engagement, as people recognize the genuine commitment to the global common good.

We The People, In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union

It could be said that what has made the US exceptional has been that it has been defined more by its ideals than by its ethnic or geographic makeup. Ideals which it has struggled to progressively make reality. The Declaration of Independence states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." These ideals, while imperfectly realized, have been a guiding light for The American Republic.

In an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, maybe it is only the natural progression to turn away from nation-states incapable of truly fulfilling these ideals. It may be time to create new political and financial realities that indeed hold all people to be created equals, irrespective of their nationality, country of origin or other discriminatory arbitrary attributes. Just as the US was founded on the idea of creating a new polity primarily based on shared ideals rather than shared ethnicity or ancestral geographic proximity, perhaps the time has come for a radical paradigm shift towards a new global polity based on shared values and a shared vision for the future of humanity.

Cryptocurrencies and decentralized governance offer us the tools to create such a polity - a kind of world government in exile, or bottom-up competitor to the UN. By buying into a cryptocurrency like the proposed "God Coin," people could vote with their wallets for a new global social contract, a new economic constitution enshrining the values and governance frameworks to tackle humanity's greatest challenges. If enough people put their faith in such a project, it could gain the legitimacy and resources to become a major force on the world stage, peacefully competing with nation-states.

The United States’ first founding document wisely notes, "Prudence, [...] will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes." And while the issues I have raised here are neither light nor transient, and my proposed solution is neither a call for violent revolution nor a demand for immediate and radical change, this proposal should be approached with extreme caution. The creation of a new global currency and governance system is not something to be undertaken lightly, and it would require careful planning, broad consultation, and a deep commitment to transparency, accountability, and democratic values.

Fiat currencies and the liberal nation-state are load-bearing fictions. They are the indispensable myths that scaffold our shared reality, the vital tales we weave to give structure and meaning to our economic and political lives. Yet, for all their necessity and power, we must remember that these are stories we have chosen to tell ourselves. In an age of global existential risks, where our fates are intertwined across borders and our most pressing problems demand collective action on a planetary scale, it may be time to question whether these fictions, in their current form, can still bear the weight of the challenges ahead.

And yet, in proposing alternative narratives, we must also be careful not to strain or undermine the existing structure, but rather to thoughtfully engineer new support systems, leveraging both social and technological innovations, that can help distribute the load and, if necessary, gradually take over the responsibility of holding up our shared reality as we navigate the complexities of the 21st century.


It is important to note that the United States and the international community still have the power to discredit this proposal. By stepping up to the plate and creating the international governance frameworks we need for the 21st century, by taking serious action to address existential risks, global poverty, and the governance of transformative technologies, they can still demonstrate to us that the nation-state and international organizations are indeed up to the task. They can show us that the old Guards can still provide for our future security. That a real paradigm shift in global governance is unnecessary.

But if they fail to do so, we may need to take matters into our own hands. The dollar bill's proclamation of "In God we trust" has long been a fixture of American currency, a symbol of the nation's faith and values. But in the face of the global challenges we now confront, perhaps it is time to ask: In what, or in whom, should we really be placing our trust? By creating a new currency - a "God Coin" - we can embody the values and aspirations of a global community, transcending the limitations of nation-states. In doing so, we may find that the words inscribed on the US dollar take on a new and profound meaning, pointing us towards a higher ideal and a more inclusive vision of where our ultimate loyalty should lie.

Either our existing institutions rise to the challenges of the 21st century, or we must create new ones that will. The stakes are too high, and the potential consequences too grave, for us to cling to outdated paradigms. It is time for a new global social contract, a new economic constitution, and a new vision for the future of humanity. Whether through reform or revolution, change must come.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Richard_Kennaway · 2024-04-01T13:20:52.459Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I kept expecting a punchline that never came. Is this an April Fool?

Replies from: Dagon, mahdi-complex
comment by Dagon · 2024-04-01T15:17:44.545Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, it's tagged as such.  I wasted a lot more time than it was worth before I noticed.

comment by Mahdi Complex (mahdi-complex) · 2024-04-01T23:44:50.193Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It was meant as an April Fool's in the same way the Death with Dignity [LW · GW] post was an April Fool's.

comment by Lao Mein (derpherpize) · 2024-04-01T13:31:07.690Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Eurasian steppes have long been a source of human suffering due to its generation of steppe hordes. HorseShitcoin is the first crypto currency powered by horse dung to do something about this. This is my thesis statement.


How HSCoin works:

I have a notepad on my desktop that keeps track of all HSCoins. Every time you send me a message on LessWrong including the statement "Give me a Shitcoin", I will add your username to the list and credit you with a single HSCoin. If enough people do this, I will feel obliged to buy grazing land in Inner Mongolia and keep it away from horse ranchers, thereby decreasing SN-risk.

Warning: 1000 coins were pre-mined to help pay for food deliveries and throat singing lessons.

Replies from: mahdi-complex
comment by Mahdi Complex (mahdi-complex) · 2024-04-01T23:46:42.387Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This doesn't feel like it's really engaging at all with the content of the post. I don't mention "legitimacy" 10 times for nothing.