Writing

AA is DAO

Alcoholics Anonymous is the world’s most successful DAO, a response to, and critique of, The Network Union.


The network union, or something like it, will exist, but how do we get there? The conversation about the networked state is driven by the crypto community so it is taken for granted that we need to develop the appropriate user friendly technical applications of blockchain before beginning the work of creating a social or community driven DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) that is appealing to the wider world outside of crypto. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In this case, tech development is not a precondition we need to wait for. As Vitalik (the founder of Ethereum) talks about in his recent article, the most important scarce resource is legitimacy, legitimacy should be thought of as ‘layer 0’ and is more important and scarce than any token or tech. As such we can and should start building the legitimacy of an organization now even without any blockchain infrastructure. The current conversation ignores this path because most participants do not have a mental model of a non tech enabled DAO. So here’s a model - Alcoholics Anonymous.


Alcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide multi million member DAO and one of the most successful and long lived DAOs in existence. Today, an A.A. presence can be found in approximately 180 nations worldwide, with membership estimated at over three million.


  • Every chapter is self organized and self supported.

  • The network exists, propagates, and accomplishes an extremely difficult task (taking people from the hell of alcoholism and substance abuse to living happy joyous and free lives free from substance) with zero centralized authority or direction.

  • Hell the organization is majority run by pseudonymous participants (Michael L - no last names) AND it’s code is open source (the 12 steps) and has been forked countless times - see Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, ALON, Over Eaters Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, etc etc etc.

  • The earlier you join the more social capital you have (as evidenced by sober time) however you can lose that at any time by leaving AA (drinking/relapse).

  • During COVID the entirety of AA moved to full virtual and it still worked. Newcomers came and got sober. Purpose accomplished


A DAO built without would be limited in the degree with which it could coordinate and the power it could wield without aligning financial incentives or automating trustless governance, however it could certainly be a productive force in society and begin to build legitimacy as an organization. This is critical and worthwhile because it allows the organization to build its ‘layer 0’ of legitimacy first with an extremely broad audience before adding in a ‘layer 1’ of any blockchain based infrastructure.


Even the most user-friendly crypto DAOs today require a fluency with metamask and Web 3.0 that is far beyond most people so the rate of expansion would be limited by the pace of innovation. It seems that this is the assumed model for growth, however it is the wrong one. I write this as a member of multiple DAOs, a user of metamask, a crypto investor, a tech startup founder, and a hodlr from 2015. I feel intimidated and unwanted in most DAOs because I am not technical enough, nor am I able to commit myself to them full time. This is a real limiting factor in the growth of any DAO and it has a strong negative effect on the wider social legitimacy of the organization.


Political centrism and local civic action is, in my opinion, the plausible purpose for a social organization that would be relevant to the largest group of people (in America at least). There is a gap both in our political discourse nationally and in our civic lives locally that such a DAO could fill. The example that Balalji mentions in his interview by Tim Ferris of replacing the gap formerly filled by Elk’s clubs is the right one to start working on now. If this could get off the ground now we could build legitimacy and total membership to a much higher degree than if you were insistent on using blockchain tech now before it’s ready for use by the average individual or if we were starting with smaller and more elitist niches.

I am going to begin to build this organization. Send me a DM if you want to help - https://twitter.com/pseudonymdoodle