Digital Empire about DAOs, the blockchain and our future

The new documentary Digital Empire shows the DAO hack 2000 and the dangers and opportunities from DAOs. We took a closer look.

In the second episode of “Digital Empire”, filmmaker Gregor Schmalzried takes a look at a digital vision of the future and the dangers associated with it. In the year 2000 an unknown hacked the blockchain-based venture capital fund The DAO. A tiny error in the code made it possible to repeatedly withdraw small amounts from the blockchain unnoticed. An unknown hacker was after a lot of money. Today the total wallet would be about ,5 billion US worth dollars. Back then it was a lot less.

Digital Empire on the opportunities and dangers of new structures

A few crypto enthusiasts around Alex Van de Sande succeeded a short time later to set everything back to zero. The withdrawal of funds was reversed by reprogramming the blockchain (fork). Fortunately, the shareholders got all their contributions back. This time the story ended well for the community, which had sometimes invested a lot of money in the project. But what happens next time?!

Vitalik Buterin’s blockchain can be used in many ways

The first DAO was invented by the blockchain developer Christoph Jentzsch. The abbreviation DAO stands for Decentralized Autonomous Organization. This is a code-based organization that is supposed to do without any hierarchy. Everything is transparent, everyone is worth the same. All organizational processes can run independently via Smart Contracts. The Ethereum blockchain basically enables much more than just the realization of a cryptocurrency. The term DAO became known in the scene, for example, through fundraising for Julian Assange or the former operator of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht.

Digital Empire

Digital Empire is easy to understand

But there is no legal form and no legal basis for it. A DAO is not a company, not a private individual and not an association. It starts with the fact that the members come from all over the world. So where is the summonable address, where is the head office? Somewhere on the internet, on a blockchain for example? In any case, this form of organization is far too new to be classified legally. It is therefore even questionable whether exploiting Jentzsch’s source code was illegal. Actually, the hacker, who is said to come from Austria, only strictly adhered to the specifications of the real code. The removal was morally reprehensible in any case. It doesn’t matter that the hacker undoubtedly demonstrated his brilliant skills with the action.

A DAO can be anything. A charity, charitable association, commercial enterprise, fundraiser and much more. It would certainly be tempting for many if they no longer had a boss above them in the future. Everyone would be worth the same, everyone should be able to contribute fully to the project.

Digital Empire
Screenshot from Digital Empire: Schematic representation of a blockchain.

DAO: Can an organization manage completely without a boss?

The documentary Digital Empire mentions several representatives who show the opportunities but also the dangers of this constellation . Because in this area there is no central bank, no regulation or prosecution by an authority. Given the amount of funds available, if someone can exploit a vulnerability, they likely will.

Nevertheless, it is possible that the DAO will soon seem as normal to us as many other innovations. Bas Grasmeyer, for example, who has accompanied several Ethereum developers for a long time, believes in this.

The episode “The crypto visionary and the million robbery” is here available in the ZDF media library. The episode is also easy to understand and exciting for outsiders.

What power do algorithms have over us?

In a Another episode of Digital Empire by Edith Löhle and Lena Nagel, the documentary questions the power of algorithms. Code can be very unfair and intentionally fuel scandals, as Metas Facebook loves to do. Because the operating company will earn more money, the more people discuss there.

Code can also discriminate, just as people are reluctant to show overweight people on Instagram and ban their photos. However, program code can also be very problematic in the medical field, which is reported in another episode.

About Lars Sobiraj

Lars Sobiraj started in the year 2000. to work as a career changer for various computer magazines. 2006 numerous other online magazines were added in addition to He is the founder of In addition, Ghandy, as he calls himself in the scene, since 2006 at various universities and training institutions teach the participants how the internet works.



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