Carin Ism

I work on governance innovation, on updating the tools available to distribute power and make/enforce decisions. I am the Director of Research at Bitnation, where I direct the Bitnation Future Governance Expedition, I am faculty in the future of governance at the Nordic branch of Singularity U. Before that I was Executive Director of the Global Challenges Foundation, I give talks on power and governance-related issues and offer advisory services to governments and IGOs. I am the chairman of Effective Altruism Sweden and run a live-in hackerspace in Stockholm and one in Amsterdam, both heavily informed by effective altruism. My current work emphasises applications of emerging tools for governance, ranging from algorithmic regulation to the power of escrow/multisignatories, reputation systems and what needs to be in place to get distributed autonomous organisations to actually work. If you do anything in the space of reimagining governance and power, do reach out. I am always interested in learning about new projects and perspectives.

Beyond this, my brain tends to ideate far outside of these specific domains. Apparently, it is yet to receive the memo stating that people should act like siloed entities and simplistic brands. Sometimes I indulge in these impulses and create art, lamps and literature. I publish some of the results here.


For the five years, I have led the work of mapping global governance thinkers and ideas with the Global Challenges Foundation. This was part of a build-up towards the largest competition in social sciences in the world to date. The New Shape Prize received 2,700 ideas from 122 countries and had over 14,000 registrants from 186 countries, representing a broad array of thinking from a vast spectrum of sectors and ideologies. The extensive travelling that went with the task meant meeting and speaking with leading thinkers in governance innovation all over the world.

Encountering this plethora of emerging ideas was an eye-opening experience – both in terms of learning of interesting governance tools and perspectives, but also through realising how siloed and fringed the discussions on power is today. To me, the tools that are used to distribute power must be a pivotal part of common knowledge for every citizen. Especially at this crucial point in time, with ecological, technological and geopolitical disruption occurring on a staggering order of magnitude. Because of the transformative shift we are set to encounter, our decision making and the means to execute those decisions must be better than ever, and certainly better than they are today. We must dare venture into examining the transformational governance tool that could lead us to more effective and fair decision making.

This is why I decided to start giving these talks, write a book on the topic, and essentially distribute the information I found myself with, somewhat by accident, to the larger audiences that deserve a higher level of knowledge regarding global risks, power and governance. In essence, I found myself at the centre of a web with a unique outlook, and it felt irresponsible not to go out of my way to share it widely.




How to rule a world?

To decide how we could better to rule the world, first, we must know how it is ruled today. This talk will provide you with an overview of old and new tools of governance. From classics - like the rule of law and social engineering - to next-generation mechanisms, featuring, among others, tokenised trust, prediction markets, teal for teal or liquid democracy.

A world of global citizens – What it looks like, what it calls for

Telecommunications, transport and global supply chains have brought people from across the planet closer together than ever. Yet in this world where messages, goods and people are more mobile than ever, the law remains closely tied to territory. How can we develop a new model of citizenship for these times of unprecedented mobility, offering a peaceful alternative to the rise of ethnic nationalism anchored in outdated forms of collective belonging? This talk offers an introduction to the various models that are currently discussed and developed, from ‘pop up’ citizenship models managed through decentralised online systems to new forms of global insurance systems - reflecting both on the practicalities of technical mechanisms and the underlying narratives and beliefs that guarantee their legitimacy.

Power in the 21st century

Weak mandates, a shifting geopolitical balance and technological disruption are shaking the foundations of power in the 21st Century. Building on the complementary work of leading contemporary thinkers – particularly the different voice of Moses Naim, Francis Fukuyama and Naomi Klein – this talk provides a walk through the changing characteristics of power today.

Bureaucracies, businesses and bold ambitions – The patchwork of global governance

As the role of the nation-state is waning, civil society, corporations and citizens are picking up the slack – not least due to the universal ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals. This talk offers a roadmap to navigate the increasingly complex and distributed landscape of global governance, including a walkthrough of key anchor institutions and their mandates.

Global catastrophic risks – A walkthrough of the world’s greatest threats and how to better address them

Averting global catastrophes – including nuclear war, catastrophic climate change, or risks associated to a destructive artificial intelligence – is among the most complex and pressing tasks of global governance. Collaborating with world-experts over the past three years, I led work at the Global Challenges Foundation surveying the global catastrophic risk landscape in an annual report. In this talk, I provide an overview of those risks and identify the main avenues to reduce or mitigate them.

The price of privacy lost – From Panopticon to Cambridge Analytica

From the Panopticon of the Victorian era to today’s Cambridge Analytica, surveillance has always been one of the central levers of power. With rapid technological advances paired with an overwhelming number of citizens more or less consciously trading privacy for convenience, the surveillance has become more granular than ever. This talk details the current state of mass surveillance and includes an optional workshop on how to navigate the world while protecting your data.

The architecture of trust – Blockchain 101

Trust is at the very core of any governance system. Ten years ago, a new technology revolutionising trust was widely introduced: blockchain. To understand its implications, we need to understand the technology itself. In this expose, this transformative new technology is explored in details, as well as its potential implications on trust and governance, and some of its most interesting applications.

Governing Mars

New frontiers – whether the New World, Antarctica or, soon, outer space and other planets – have always provided green pastures for reflections on governance. These new worlds provide us with opportunities to design new systems of governance rather than tweaking the old. So, when we get to Mars, how should we govern it? This talk provides an overview of the ideas currently being explored for the governance of other planets, as well as the key stakeholders involved.

How to start a state

The number of states has changed greatly throughout history – and new ones are appearing on a regular basis. This talk offers a 101 on starting a new state, together with a few recent examples of recently created states, from the bigger to the smaller.