<aside> 📌 Abstract Governance is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity, and we, as researchers, may wonder how we can help. Here we describe how researchers can contribute to the emerging science of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and other digitally-constituted organizations. From granular privacy primitives to mechanism designs to model laws, we identify high-impact problems in the DAO ecosystem where existing gaps might be tackled through a new data set or by applying tools and ideas from existing research fields such as political science, computer science, economics, law, and organizational science. Our recommendations encompass exciting research questions as well as promising business opportunities. We call on the wider research community to join the global effort to invent the next generation of organizations.


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Open Problems in DAOs (by discipline)



Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) first began to surface in discussions of the blockchain community around 2013, where people imagined them as digital substitutes for traditional organizations. DAOs could automate vast business processes and allow for more broad-based and cooperatively-governed ownership of the digital economy, all on the basis of a cryptographically-secured blockchain (Buterin, 2014; Larimer, 2013). While such DAOs existed mostly in the realm of speculation, with the noteworthy exception of The DAO (DuPont, 2017), the reality of DAOs has drastically changed over the past few years. Driven by what is often termed the “DeFi Summer”, real world deployment of DAOs has surged by as much as 660% from 2019 to late 2020 (Haig, 2020).

While no single comprehensive definition for a DAO exists, core characteristics can be identified across academic uses of the term; DAOs enable people to govern themselves online by using smart contracts deployed on a blockchain which autonomously enforces rules for interaction among the members (Hassan & De Filippi, 2021).

This article provides an overview of the open problems and research questions relevant to DAOs, as well as a number of discrete research and engineering projects across many disciplines. In order to maximize the relevance of our recommendations, we have consulted experts across many fields as well as a wide range of DAO practitioners in the preparation of this article.

Who is this article written for?

This article is intended to (1) establish key problems and research opportunities in DAOs, (2) communicate and motivate those problems and opportunities to researchers not already familiar with DAOs, and (3) collect and cite existing research works and projects relevant to DAOs. We hope that our recommendations will prove valuable to several different audiences.

Academics and researchers: Throughout this paper we identify many problems that require conceptual and practical innovations, either within DAOs or within an academic discipline.

DAO practitioners: Many of the problems identified in this paper were sourced directly from our engagement with DAO practitioners. We hope that in reading this paper practitioners can identify areas of research relevant to their problems and begin to think through the implication that existing research has for their practice today.

Entrepreneurs: Many of the problems and questions highlighted throughout this document require the development of various services, tools, and solutions to be solved in the long run. Consequently, we believe that this paper presents an interesting starting point for entrepreneurs looking to contribute to the wider DAO ecosystem.

Investors: Given its rapid growth, the DAO ecosystem presents an interesting area for investors. We believe that highlighting some of the most pressing problems for DAOs today can serve as a useful indicator for allocating impactful investments, be it to research or to support the concrete development of tools and solutions in the space.

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