This weekend, as the internet collectively gawked at OpenAI's seemingly needless implosion, I couldn't help but think about DAOs.
First, let's go back a bit. Just a few days ago, I found myself deep in conversation with a newfound friend about how I initially got involved in web3 in the first place. The catalyst was a growing sense of disenchantment with what 'community' meant within traditional organizations. Time and again, “communal ownership” within traditional corporations amounted to little more than a facade, with any genuine attempts at collectively steering the organization quickly nipped in the bud by the people actually running the show. In contrast, web3 and DAOs offered a refreshing reimagining of community, placing it at the core of the organization and transforming members from mere spectators to vital contributors.
Yet, it's crucial to recognize that DAOs and traditional corporate structures are not as different as they're often perceived. Both models grapple with similar challenges: delineating roles and responsibilities, balancing power dynamics, and ensuring effective decision-making. It could be said that DAOs are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, representing a blend of old and new, merging traditional corporate governance with a fluid, democratized, and extremely online level of participation that's representative of the digital age.
In an ideal world, DAOs also differentiate themselves by building in the open. Unlike traditional entities that often make decisions behind closed doors (in this week's case with OpenAI, seemingly for the worse), DAOs can build in public, allowing every member to have a say. The reality, of course, is more complex. DAOs are still finding their footing in this new governance landscape, often caught in a whirlwind of challenges, unpredictability, and creeping centralization.
Which brings us back to the unfolding drama at OpenAI. As news broke this morning of OpenAI staff staging a mass exit in response to Sam Altman's firing, it felt like a testament to a form of community influence worth watching. It’s a raw, unfiltered example of a collective voice making waves, a scenario mirroring the aspirations of web3 DAOs in more ways than one. Be it in an 80-billion dollar company or a decentralized collective, the power of the people comprising these organizations demand integration into the very essence of the organization itself.
As members posted in the middle of the night, "OpenAI is nothing without its people." That statement holds a vital lesson for DAOs. The future of any organization, decentralized or not, should rest firmly in the hands of those who build, nurture, and guide it.