The beecoin project is a project by artists, biologists, engineers, programmers and bees. Bees uphold the ecosystems we depend on every day, yet we repay them by destroying their habitats, smothering them in pesticides and globalising parasites that threaten entire colonies. The beecoin project is an experiment in recoding the community as organisation—one in which our relationship with bees is symbiotically reinforced and the relations of our shared environments reconfigured. Open-source sensoring kits generate data from bee hives, and a crypto-economic system redefines the inherent value of the reproduction of colonies. This project invites anyone to become a vanguard beekeeper, DAOist shareholder, or simply a curious supporter.
The beecoin project was borne within STATISTA, a cooperative project between ZK/U, Center for Art and Urbanistics, and KW Institute for Contemporary Art. Using its historical location—Haus der Statistik at Alexanderplatz in Berlin—as the point of departure, STATIST investigates models of cooperation in the field of urban development, which aim to maximize public welfare and undermine private profit maximization. The project develops artistic prototypes for an urban society based on common property. Prototypes remain responsive to the participation of the diverse parties involved, and are built to make a lasting change.
The beecoin decentralized autonomous organisation (DAO) is inspired by the idea of self-governance of non-human stakeholders based on early versions of smart contracting explored in projects such as Terra0, which aims to create a self-owned forest. Paul Seidler and Max Hampshire, co-founders of Terra0 and Nascent, created the coding base for the guild around bee
The initial concepts for beecoin sought out an alternative currency, one that would run against the stream of fiat systems to create an economic sphere of autonomous exchange—a token bound to the value produced by honey, or a token generated by the steady reproduction of the beehive. As the project progressed, beecoin became the origin from which a DAO was born.
Using smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain to automate administrative tasks, the first prototype of the DAO surfaces as a general social agreement programmed as protocol: bettering the conditions for bees. Using The Moloch DAO—created to contribute to the development of public goods infrastructure on the Ethereum blockchain—as a template, the proposed “Minimum Viable DAO” encodes a guild as a self-governing funding body.
The loss of bees is a phenomenon making its mark globally, particularly in North America and Europe. In North America, the loss of 30-40 percent of commercial honeybee colonies is tied to a syndrome called “colony collapse disorder,” while in Europe the loss of honeybee colonies since 1985 is estimated at 25 percent. These statistics only represent the tip of the iceberg. Honeybees are the species best documented in the tracking of this phenomenon, standing in stark contrast to what is known about wild bee populations. Yet scientific research shows that a diversity of wild bee species is paramount for sustainable crop production. The complexity of issues surrounding the livelihood of bees is difficult to penetrate and even more difficult to conquer if not collectively. As such, what beecoin addresses is the need for a process that may collectively find an answer to the difficult question of how to better the predicament faced by bee populations.
Within this process, the main aim is to create an organizational structure that incentivises beekeeping and data gathering for further research, acting as a catalyst for community-driven action. Starting small from a handful of honeybee hives, the aim is to bring together human and non-human actors in a constellation, distributing resources so that small individual contributions can ripple into larger collective zones of impact. Can the care of one honeybee colony at Haus der Statistik spawn the explosive propagation of colonies around the city, or contribute to research into better conditions for wild bee populations in urban spaces?
beecoin and 221A
Beecoin collaborated with 221A in research phase of the Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks (BACP) initiative as a program partner, contributing findings and research from its experimental DAO prototype. Its advancement of equitable, distributed relationships between human and nonhuman actors (bees) offered compelling support to BACP’s central axis of inquiry around imagining equitable and ecological design on the blockchain. In partnership with the Goethe Institut, 221A presented two events (Vancouver, Toronto) in early 2020 with the beecoin project’s Matthias Einhoff, Artist and Director of Z/KU, Berlin (Centre for Art and Urbanistics).