Reimagining Property Rights
Physical land is the foundation of life. Food, shelter, and water comes down to having reliable access (directly or indirectly) to space on Earth. Human history is fraught with violence, wars, and subjugation of people in the battle to gain control of more land (and the corresponding resources). This struggle plays out at peer, group, and global scales.
To cope with this inherent tension, humans have developed different concepts of private property rights for land. “This side of the line is mine. That side is yours. We both agree not to cross the line, and we’ll be better off.” In the most general sense, these arrangements have been a net economic positive for civilization because they’ve created stronger incentives for investment and the creation of surplus value (planting-tending-harvesting, building structures, maintaining the health of the land, etc).
But these arrangements don’t have a basis in the immutable laws of physics. Property rights can manifest through physical means (violence, threat of violence, barriers, etc.), but they are a social construct at their core. Property rights gain and exert power through our favorite concept of legitimacy.
Since the start of the Geo Web project, we’ve understood that our idea stands at a unique intersection between the deep, strongly held conceptions of private property in the physical world and the digital world where rules can (and sometimes must) be rewritten. It’s a challenge, but it’s also the biggest source of our opportunity for impact on the world.
The original Geo Web concept was to assign the corresponding digital rights to the current physical land holder for free. That seemed like a much fairer solution to auctioning them off to the highest bidding early adopter (which we were seeing with other projects and spurred our work).
As we explored that idea, we came to realize that not only was it extremely difficult (modernizing each country's land registry system while competitive projects zoom ahead) and impractical (consider public land and countries without the concept of private ownership), but suboptimal (it would simply entrench the inequalities that originate from the current system).
We believe that by implementing a system of partial common ownership for digital land, we can create not only a more vibrant, fairer information network, but inspire conversation and affect perceptions about the ways we organize property rights and fund public goods “in the real world.”
Change naturally isn’t welcomed by all. Entrenched interests (individual and sovereign states) will resist. When stripped down to its essence, the Geo Web digital land registry is an open source database with special rules for updating it. “Preventing” the Geo Web requires regulating math and information sharing.
On the flip side, Geo Web adoption won’t be enforced through violence or barriers like previous battles over property rights. It will gain power and efficacy for its mission through the legitimacy of open adoption by the people. It (or forks of it) will win through a competition of ideas and the quantifiable benefits it offers users, publishers, creators, etc.
The long-term governance of the network(s) is a never-ending project for improvement (i.e. like all human governance systems). We don’t have all the answers and never will. But, we’re excited about the possibilities. We’ll save that for another post.
On to the updates…
- Pushed fixes to get Media Gallery AR views working on Safari iOS (https://github.com/Geo-Web-Project/browser/pull/19). If you haven’t yet, head over to the Cadastre, claim a parcel or two around your home/business and give content linking a try. GLB files are the recommended 3D media format right now. When you’re in one of the parcels with an AR enabled phone, you’ll be able to go into AR mode on the Browser to get a glimpse of what geospatial AR can be.
- Other clean-up and UX adjustments on the Cadastre & Browser. The Cadastre landing page (not yet connected to a wallet) now provides some project and application context, so that’s a big improvement!
- Our GR10 Gitcoin is going strong. Thanks so much to all that have supported (this round and previous). Your contributions help sustain and extend our work, but the most important part of Gitcoin for us has been raising awareness about what we’re doing. Sharing our ideas, getting feedback, and getting excited about the future is why we do this.
- If you didn’t see the write-up about the Geo Web from the Ceramic Network blog last week, make sure to check it out. The Ceramic team is doing awesome work. We’re proud to have been included in their early launch program and so excited to see all the other amazing applications built on their protocol rolling out soon!
- We caught up with another friend of the project, Astral recently. Give their docs a look and their Twitter a follow. They’re doing some foundational work on efficiently, effectively representing spatial objects in Solidity smart contracts. Their work can help make spatial projects on Web3 (like the Geo Web) easier to build and more composable. They're looking to solve some of the biggest challenges that we faced in defining Geo Web land parcels in a novel way, so we’re excited to see their progress!
- Thanks to the Ceramic publicity, we’ve had a lot of community members reach out recently to talk about potential use cases, feedback, questions, etc. It’s been awesome connecting. Don’t be shy! Hit us up on Discord or Twitter: we’d love to chat!
- Filecoin archiving (check out Estuary!)
- Additional features on the Spatial Browser
- More wallet integrations to the Cadastre