More recently, many people treated blockchain with great skepticism, believing that it is another bubble or a dead-end technology. As the years go by, however, blockchain is permeating every aspect of life at a galloping pace, repeatedly proving that the future is behind it. But, if you think that the development of the blockchain system is connected solely with the technological and economic needs of mankind, then you are dead wrong. In this article, we will tell you why the advent of blockchain is quite natural from the point of view of evolution as such.

The Origins of Social Scalability

In order to prove the codependence of blockchain and evolution, we need to backtrack several millennia to the origins of the formation of human society and the processes associated with the development of civilization.

By observing the behavior of herd primates, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar found a relationship between the level of development of the neocortex of the cerebral hemispheres of the primates’ brains and the size of their flocks. After that, he evaluated the development of the human brain and suggested the optimal size of a human community. Further studies of settlements within a tribal system only confirmed his hypothesis that their dimensions fluctuate in the range suggested by Dunbar and vary between 100 and 230 people.

At the dawn of our history, it was this number that became the maximum possible number of people capable of joint coordination of actions, control over common resources, and war with enemies. It is this quality that determined the further extinction of the Neanderthals, and the rapid evolution and general planetary settlement of Homo sapiens.

Many years later, this vital skill led to social scalability, a phenomenon described by Nick Szabo, a famous scientist in the field of computer science, cryptography, and also in the field of law, known for his studies of smart contracts and cryptocurrencies. Social scalability is how and to what extent participants can think and interact with the association and with its other participants, and how the number and diversity of participants in this association grows. At the same time, the limitation here depends solely on humans, and not on technological or material resources.

All further human evolution is associated with the expansion of this property. One of the most important tools for social scalability was the advent of spoken and written language, as well as a culture that allows predicting the behavior of other community members.

Technology as a Natural Consequence of Evolution

Another important factor, which seriously increased social scalability, was double-entry bookkeeping. Prior to that, information about a transaction was stored centrally, by one party, which facilitated the recording of debts. Double-entry bookkeeping allows for dealing with a less trusted counterparty, as it grants the possibility of having a personal, immutable copy of the transaction’s data. This economic phenomenon of recent years has led to another necessary component of further social zoning, or the minimization of trust. Now you do not need to trust your partner or counterparty to make deals, because you can just sign a contract in advance, and go to court in the case of an infraction.

It was this opportunity to commit joint actions that led to a steady increase in social scalability. "This is a deeply flawed cliché, constantly repeated from every faculty and in the speeches of all outstanding people that we should cultivate the habit of thinking about what we are doing. The situation is exactly the opposite. Civilization develops by increasing the number of important operations that we can perform without thinking about them," said the English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead on the matter.

In most cases, social institutions that enjoy the greatest confidence of people, such as the market, depend on the trust of their participants. These institutions, in turn, guarantee security and realize the contracts necessary for the participants. Modern technologies can only partially eliminate some of the inherent vulnerabilities. For example, they reduce the need for or the degree of risk of trust to others. Institutions that completely exclude the need for trust are not available at the moment.

One way to assess the social scalability of an institutional technology is to determine the number of people taking a fruitful and mutually beneficial part in its conglomeration. And it is also possible to assess the additional benefits and damages that the association brings to participants before the damage from participation in the association grows at a faster rate than the benefits due to cognitive or behavioral reasons. The less citizens of a state depend on local customs, laws, and language, the less this state is scalable. Therefore, globalization is also a direct consequence of this evolutionary process.

The Revolution of the Blockchain

So how are social scalability and the cognitively conditioned limitations of the natural social ties of a person connected with cryptocurrencies? We all know the history of Bitcoin. In 2009, a certain person or group of people under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto created the most socially scalable currency in the history of humankind, which is beyond the control of regulators, police and lawyers, or bankers. Thus, we took the first steps away from a controlled, local and not very secure system towards an automatic, globalized and secure one, making another leap towards more social zooming.

Nevertheless, not all experts are optimistic about the indisputably breakthrough nature of the appearance of blockchain technology. Vasily Popkov, a post-graduate student of bioengineering and bioinformatics at the Lomonosov Moscow State University, shared his opinion on the issue with Decenter.org. "Some attribute its uniqueness and innovativeness exclusively tied to the financial sector. I do not think that real participation of people in projects will increase thanks to the blockchain factor. Perhaps this will only simplify investments of funds by ordinary people. Kickstarter and similar sites, however, have been around for a long time. And traditional institutions still attract the resources of many people."

Nonetheless, it is unlikely that any reasonable individual will be ignorant towards blockchain. And only time will tell just how severe the changes relevant to them will be, and what aspects of our lives will be affected.

To be continued in Part 2.