What can we learn from Bitcoin and Burning Man?


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?


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.


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.



1. Social Physics and the Human Centric Society By Alex Pentland

2. Why Self-Sovereignty Matters By John H. Clippinger

3. The Next Great Internet Disruption: Authority and Governance By David Bollier and John H. Clippinger

4. The New Mestieri Culture of Artisans By Maurizio Rossi

5. Burning Man: The Pop-Up City of Self-Governing Individualists By Peter Hirshberg


6. The Internet of Money By Irving Wladawsky-Berger

7. Why Complementary Currencies Are Necessary to Financial Stability: The Scientific Evidence By Bernard Lietaer

8. Africa, Digital Identity and the Beginning of the End for Coins By Jonathan Ledgard

9. Ven and the Nature of Money By Stan Stalnaker

10. Green Coins: Using Digital Currency to Build the New Power Platform By Reed E. Hundt, Jeffrey Schub and Joseph R. Schottenfeld


11. Organic Governance Through the Logic of Holonic Systems: By Mihaela Ulieru

12. The Algorithmic Governance Of Common-Pool Resources By Jeremy Pitt and Ada Diaconescu

13. The ID3 Open Mustard Seed Platform By Thomas Hardjono, Patrick Deegan and John H. Clippinger

14. The Relational Matrix:The Free and Emergent Organization of Digital Groups and Identities By Patrick Deegan

15. The Necessity of Standards for the Open Social Web By Harry Halpin

Conclusion: A Digital Manifesto: The Windhover Transition