How did blockchain smart contracts perfectly mimick life’s social interactions?
This question came to mind after reading Erving Goffman’s 1956 classic “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life”. Goffman establishes a parallel between social interactions and the way people act in theaters. For Goffman, people perpetually perform as they present themselves, and the nature of the performance can change based on the “audience”, which is defined here by people in the surrounding environment. This way of seeing social interactions as Goffman describes it can be shared by many of us. This text is fundamental as it helps us be mindful of how we present ourselves to different people and different crowds, and to see how our personality can differ during those different meetings.
After all, aren’t we all just presenting different versions of ourselves to different crowds at any given time?
We live in a world where each and every single of our social interactions are organized around a “working consensus”. As Goffman explains it, every social interaction is organized around a “working consensus”, meaning that when we meet people we define the situation, what is going on, and how we will act during that conversation. First impressions are very important in social interactions as that is the moment when most working consensus are created.
There is a concept in “How I Met Your Mother” called “associative regression”, which can be defined as “the tendency of a person to revert back to an older version of themselves when around people from their past.” Lily (a character in the show), when meeting a friend from high school, reverts back to the version of herself she was around that same friend during high school. This example helps put in perspective what Goffman calls working consensus, and how based on who our interlocutor is we bring a different version of ourselves to the surface. Because Lily and her friend already had a “working consensus”, a set of fictive rules that gives direction to their interactions, they both felt obligated to bring back to life old versions of themselves that followed this particular working consensus. This is the same phenomenon that happens in every day life and in the Ethereum blockchain smart contract.
CoinDesk defines smart contracts as “programs that execute exactly as they are set up to by their creators”. We, as humans, are consistently creating working consensus when we meet people. The creation of a working consensus is mandatory as it creates a “smart contract” that will define our future interactions as well.
When we enter the presence of someone for the first time, we try to present our self in the most appealing way possible based on the information at our disposal. The environment where we meet helps in creating a definition of the situation (working consensus). When the environment changes, even if we have the same individuals, the working consensus will change as well between those individuals. The way we present ourselves in presence of different individuals and “audiences” serves to create a working consensus between us, and those individuals.
This concept is particularly interesting. We can see that when Ethereum developers program their own “autonomous agents”, they make them interact as human beings would. In my opinion, this is one more reason as to why the ethereum blockchain has a bright future ahead. By mimicking this working consensus that has dictated every human interaction so well (arguable) for ages, the ethereum blockchain is able to recreate life and its process – and that can make for wonderful creations.