PL Vision: Driving Breakthroughs in Computing to Push Humanity Forward 

Protocol Labs
Protocol Labs
PL Vision: Driving Breakthroughs in Computing to Push Humanity Forward

In a century marked by unprecedented technological capabilities, we find ourselves at a crossroads. The outdated macro systems that once coordinated global efforts are struggling to adapt to the rapid evolution of our digital landscape. Climate change, international agreements, and the very survival of countless species hinge on our ability to architect a new, robust foundation for the internet.

As we delve deeper into this critical century, the urgency of our mission becomes clear. With the power to reshape genetic codes, rewrite our very essence, and find ways to come together to solve complex problems, we stand at the precipice of an era that demands both caution and ambition.

Protocol Labs’s vision for the future is built on three core focus areas that aim to harness humanity’s potential for good, navigate potential pitfalls, and ensure a future where technology empowers humanity.

These focus areas are:

  1. Securing Digital Human Rights: Building a foundation of freedom and safety in the digital age.
  2. Upgrading Economies and Governance Systems: Creating more efficient and equitable structures for global progress.
  3. Developing Advanced Technologies: Ensuring responsible advancement in AI, AR, VR, BCI, and other emerging fields.

In a thought provoking talk (opens new window) given at LabWeek23 in Istanbul, Juan Benet, founder of Protocol Labs, describes his vision for the future of the innovation network and for pioneering tech, in the context of the three pillars. We’ve transcribed Juan’s remarks below, with light edits for clarity.

# The Vision: Protocol Labs 01:10 (opens new window)

We will kick off with the Protocol Labs Vision and discuss how PL drives breakthroughs in computing to push humanity forward. Our mission is to take on a whole range of ambitious projects that involve people around the world — thousands, tens of thousands, and sometimes millions of people. These projects include: securing the internet and, establishing digital human rights;, upgrading our economies and governance systems;, and developing safe transition technologies. To achieve this, we need to drive breakthroughs in computing tech and other scientific technologies — and the best way to do that is to accelerate the R&D pipeline with an innovation network.

# Technological Advancements and Challenges 2:45 (opens new window)

"The Kardashev Scale"

In this section, I'll talk about how we're the beneficiaries of many centuries of amazing global improvement. On almost every measure of human experience, things are getting dramatically better. However, we're also facing challenges. We have technologies that can be used to wipe ourselves out, and we're impacting the planet and other species in ways that are unsafe. To make things more complicated, we now have technologies that can rewrite our genetic code and transform how we interact with the world. Additionally, we're dealing with inadequate macro systems in the world to organize ourselves.

The large-scale coordination systems were set up centuries ago and haven't seen significant upgrades to match the time scales of today. This is why challenges like climate change persist, and we struggle to reach agreements to save billions of people and numerous species, globally.

This century is extremely critical, and each decade will present difficult challenges and high-potential, optimistic visions for the future. It's up to us to optimize for much better outcomes. Humanity has enormous potential; we could venture off to the stars, colonize the entire galaxy, come in contact with other species, and explore many civilizations, even engaging in long-range interstellar travel to visit other galaxies.

Our destiny is to keep upgrading, eventually reaching different levels in the Kardashev scale. However, if we mess up in this century, the entire four billion-year history of this planet might come to an end. While some life might survive, there's also the potential to wipe out all life on Earth, a tremendous risk that we possess the power to trigger.

The challenge we face is extremely difficult, but the optimistic perspective lies in our history. Throughout our existence, humanity has overcome monumental challenges, leveling up, growing, and solving problems to reach better places. In this century, the responsibility falls on us — the people in this room and the thousands who will listen to this message — to solve these problems and steer ourselves toward a brighter future, collaborating with all species around us.

# Digital Human Rights: Improving the Internet for All 7:02 (opens new window)

"Internet Interactions"

To push humanity forward, we're actively working on numerous concrete and challenging missions. Let's delve into some of these challenges. Our network is unique because it brings together countless teams and projects, collaborating on these missions, allowing us to progress faster by leveraging each other's efforts.

PL began with a strong focus on improving the internet. In the last 80 years, computing has radically transformed our species, providing us with superpowers beyond our ancestors' imagination. Billions of humans and trillions of computers now coexist, deeply integrated, generating artificial intelligence agents that are becoming increasingly integrated into most human activities. The internet serves as an incredible superpower machine, enabling humans to dream up new innovations and deploy them globally.

However, these same systems can be misused for nefarious purposes, such as digital totalitarianism, using today's technology without any improvements. It is our responsibility to create better infrastructure that protects human rights. So many teams within PL’s ecosystem are working in this space — and elevating it.

One model I've been using over the past year is to conceptualize our human superpowers as a remarkable layer riding on top of the applications we develop. This layer leverages personal computing devices and relies on the secure and scalable computing infrastructure we've built globally. While the internet facilitates this, its foundational systems are structured through contracts, license agreements, terms of service, corporations, governments, and courts. Unfortunately, these underlying systems are vulnerable, with numerous pressure points that can compromise the preservation of human rights.

In an era of profound transformation and exponential technologies granting immense power to society, universal access, and a robust foundation are paramount. Connectivity should be consistent for all humans worldwide, necessitating a foundation built on mathematics, incentives, economics, and robust global governance. This is the essence of Web3 – constructing an underlying infrastructure layer with public internet digital utilities.

Consider a blockchain; at its core, it serves as a system to coordinate multiple parties, allocating diverse types of work and organizing them to provide services to a large community. This structure enables the creation of remarkable utilities, ensuring the enshrinement of digital human rights. Numerous projects across the network actively contribute to these missions daily, demonstrating high interconnectivity and collaboration. It's a testament to the collective effort of these teams, each playing a vital role in advancing our shared vision for a better future.

# Rectifying Inadequacies in Economies and Governance for a Better Future 11:28 (opens new window)


I'm immensely proud of all the work accomplished over the past 10 years. Another mission gaining prominence in recent years is leveraging crypto systems, cryptoeconomics, and improved governance tools to address various governance questions related to our resources and organizational structures. This movement aims to rectify the inadequacies of our economic and governance systems, which repeatedly demonstrate our global incapacity to coordinate and solve monumental challenges.

Climate change stands out as the most prominent example, alongside other significant failures, like the delayed development of fusion technology. Despite the monumental challenges, the funding required for these endeavors is significantly smaller than what we allocate to various products and services. To embrace these transformative technologies, we must address the fundamental misalignment in how we route our capital, allocate resources, govern systems, and assign value.

Rewriting these rules is a monumental challenge, involving a restructuring of our systems and their scaling mechanisms. One crucial aspect we are deeply involved in is rethinking how R&D capital is formed and deployed to develop these transformative technologies. The advent of cryptoeconomics empowers us to coordinate on a massive scale, demonstrating the ability to align millions of people worldwide toward shared goals. This movement harnesses extremely powerful levers, particularly in utilizing mechanism design to orient everyone toward collaboration.

# Public Goods Funding: A New Financing Mechanism 14:49 (opens new window)

Within the crypto community, there is a sub-movement actively experimenting with mechanism design, focusing on prototyping and scaling these mechanisms. Conferences like Funding the Commons (opens new window) and Shelling Point (opens new window) are hotbeds for this work, with active participation from the PL, Ethereum, and Filecoin communities. The exciting phase now involves experimenting with a myriad of mechanisms that have evolved into composable primitives, ready to be integrated into various projects and initiatives across the network.

In this vast landscape, we are navigating a complex terrain, addressing challenges ranging from improving the internet, enhancing digital human rights, to redefining economic and governance systems. Our journey involves building fundamental blocks and interconnecting them into large-scale systems, all while experimenting with new mechanisms and prototyping governance solutions.

The potential of crypto networks to allocate capital and resources at the scale of nation-states is on the horizon. As we approach this transformative capacity, the opportunity to fund massive-scale public goods for the benefit of all humanity emerges. This prospect is both incredible and challenging, with the potential to reshape the landscape of public capital.

# Building Advanced Technologies: AI, AR, AGI, BCI & Much More 15:27 (opens new window)

"Computing Phase Transition"

Simultaneously, teams and projects within our network are exploring diverse areas of computing, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, AI, AGI, robotics, brain-computer interfaces, and more. The graph of technological evolution is expanding rapidly, and the next 10 to 20 years promise radical transformations. A robust R&D pipeline, coupled with effective resource allocation, positions us to overcome challenges and achieve breakthroughs faster than conventional systems.

The critical focus on AGI and brain-computer interfaces underscores the profound impact these technologies can have on our trajectory. This decade is pivotal in steering our collective energy toward ensuring positive outcomes in these transformative areas. While AGI and brain-computer interfaces represent the newest frontier in our network, numerous successful projects and collaborative efforts are already shaping this evolving ecosystem.

# Collaboration is Key to Shape Our Future 17:02 (opens new window)

To navigate this expansive and diverse landscape, collaboration is key. Working together on both short- and long-term scales enables us to tackle a broad spectrum of challenges. Scientific knowledge fuels technological innovation, creating a positive feedback loop that propels us toward our shared mission of pushing humanity forward. By fostering collaboration, sharing expertise, and aligning our efforts, we can collectively shape a future that harnesses the full potential of transformative technologies for the betterment of humanity.