From “Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond”

What can we learn from Bitcoin and Burning Man about re-inventing money and designing better forms of self-governance?

Why are “decentralized autonomous organizations” the next great Internet disruption?

From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond: The Quest for Autonomy and Identity in a Digital Society explores a new generation of digital technologies that are re-imagining the very foundations of identity, governance, trust and social organization.

The fifteen essays of this book stake out the foundations of a new future – a future of open Web standards and data commons, a society of decentralized autonomous organizations, a world of trustworthy digital currencies and self-organized and expressive communities like Burning Man.

Among the contributors are Alex “Sandy” Pentland of the M.I.T. Human Dynamics Laboratory, former FCC Chairman Reed E. Hundt, long-time IBM strategist Irving Wladawksy-Berger, monetary system expert Bernard Lietaer, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Hirshberg, journalist Jonathan Ledgard and H-Farm cofounder Maurizio Rossi.

From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond was edited by Dr. John H. Clippinger, cofounder and executive director of ID3, and David Bollier, an Editor at ID3 who is also an author, blogger and scholar who studies the commons. The book, published by ID3 in association with Off the Common Books, reflects ID3’s vision of the huge, untapped potential for self-organized, distributed governance on open platforms.

Cover art for Bitcoin-Burning Man book

The book is available in print and ebook formats (Kindle and epub) from and Off the Common Books. The book, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license (BY-NC-SA), may also be downloaded for free as a pdf file from ID3.

One chapter that inspires the book’s title traces the 28-year history of Burning Man, the week-long encampment in the Nevada desert that have hosted remarkable experimentation in new forms of self-governance by large communities. Other chapters explore such cutting-edge concepts as

  • evolvable digital contracts that could supplant conventional legal agreements;
  • smartphone currencies that could help Africans meet their economic needs more effective;
  • the growth of the commodity-backed Ven currency; and
  • new types of “solar currencies” that borrow techniques from Bitcoin to enable more efficient, cost-effective solar generation and sharing by homeowners.

From Bitcoin to Burning Man and Beyond also introduces the path-breaking software platform that ID3 has developed called “Open Mustard Seed,” or OMS. The just-released open source program enables the rise of new types of trusted, self-healing digital institutions on open networks, which in turn will make possible new sorts of privacy-friendly social ecosystems.

“OMS is an integrated, open source package of programs that lets people collect and share personal information in secure, and transparent and accountable ways, enabling authentic, trusted social and economic relationships to flourish,” said Dr. John H. Clippinger, executive director of ID3, an acronym for the Institute for Institutional Innovation and Data-Driven Design.

“The software builds individual privacy, security and trusted exchange into the very design of the system. In effect, OMS represents a new authentication, privacy and sharing layer for the Internet,” said Clippinger “– a new way to share personal information selectively and securely, without access by unauthorized third parties.”

A two-minute video introducing the capabilities of OMS can be viewed here.

ID3 was cofounded by Dr. John H. Clippinger and M.I.T. Professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland in 2011 to research new software systems to protect personal information and develop Open Mustard Seed (OMS). In addition to directing ID3, Dr. John H. Clippinger is Research Scientist at the M.I.T. Media Lab’s Human Dynamics Group. He is a serial entrepreneur, technology innovator, and Co-Director of The Law Lab at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and is the author of A Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity (2007) and The Biology of Business (1998).

Professor Pentland directs M.I.T.’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the M.I.T. Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, and co-leads the World Economic Forum Big Data and Personal Data Initiatives. His research group and entrepreneurship program have spun off more than thirty companies to date. In 2012 Forbes named Pentland one of the seven most powerful data scientists in the world.



Read one of the chapters online