New Top EA Causes for 2020?
Turning the United Nations into a Decentralized Autonomous Organization
The UN is now running on ancient technology[source], is extremely centralized[source] and uses outdated voting methods and consensus rules[source]. This results in a slow, inefficient organization, vulnerable to regulatory capture and with messed up incentives.
Fortunately, we now have much better alternatives: Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are blockchain-based organizations which run on smart contracts. They offer many benefits compared to legacy technology:
1. Since the blockchain is always online and permanent, they are always available, fast, and 100% transparent by design.
2. They are decentralized and invulnerable to any attacks:
The blockchain-based DAO system works in a fully decentralized way and is immune to both outside and inside attacks. At the same time, operations of such system is only controlled by pre-deﬁned rules; thus, the uncertainty and errors caused by human processes are greatly reduced.
3. The rules are enforced by code, so they are unbreakable.
When a government’s powers are encoded on a blockchain, its limitations will not be mere redress in a court of law, but will be the code itself. The inherent capabilities of blockchain technology can ex ante prevent a government from acting ultra vires; it can prevent government over-reach before the government act occurs.
4. They support new forms of governance and voting, such as futarchy or quadratic voting [source].
5. Since everything runs on ethereum, and cryptocurrencies always go up, a small investment in Ether now could provide enough funds to run the UN forever, freeing states from having to contribute funds [source].
Given the ample benefits, I'm sure a quick email to UN Secretary General António Guterres will convince everyone to switch to DAOs. Thus, we only need a small team of developers to write the code, which should take maybe a couple of months.
What is the expected impact? The UN recently prohibited nuclear weapons[source], contributing to reduce nuclear risk. An improvement in UN efficiency and capabilities is likely to lead to reduced existential risk, via better global coordination on issues like AI Safety.
Note that the savings from reduced operating costs will be much greater than the implementation cost, so this could even be a profitable intervention.