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The word "sovereign" has its roots in ideas of being above others, having supreme and ultimate power over others, of ruling others...
Today it is used mostly to refer to the power of national governments over the citizens of their respective nations. Naturally, not all citizens are happy to be subject to such powers. Occasionally, the dissatisfaction reaches critical levels and revolutions occur.
This kind of dissatisfaction permeates the history of the cryptocurrency industry. One can see it, for instance, in the cypherpunk manifesto, in Satoshi Nakamoto's message in Bitcoin's genesis block, in the notion of network state, ... One could even say that there is a certain government-defying sentiment within the cryptocurrency movement. (And there are often corresponding reactions by governments against the cryptocurrency industry.)
This anti-sovereignty sentiment gives rise to aspirations of becoming "self-sovereign". However, from an etymological perspective, "self-sovereignty" is at worst a contradiction in terms and at best a poor oxymoron. For if sovereignty means to be above others, then it is logically impossible to be above oneself.
If what is meant by "self-sovereignty" is to not be subject to the attempted or imposed sovereignty of others, then perhaps a more precise word for this concept would be "sovereignty-resistance".
However, "sovereignty-resistance" is not a sufficient principle to capture the spirit of the cryptocurrency movement. If we were all radically "sovereign-resistant" on every aspect of our lives, we would need to live in isolation and self-sufficiently. But currencies are means of exchange, and we exchange things precisely because we are unable or unwilling to be self-sufficient. Every exchange means forfeiting one's own absolute sovereignty, for if one were truly sovereign, one could just take what one wants without giving anything else in exchange.
When we use a cryptocurrency, for instance, we are subjecting ourselves to its autonomous monetary policy. The key differences here are that:
- 1.we are subjecting ourselves to an algorithm, and not to other people.
- 2.this is our free choice, and not something that is imposed on us by others.
The path beyond sovereignty leads to a sort of algorizmarchy: freely choosing to have aspects of one's interactions with others ruled by autonomous algorithms.