A protocol system emerges when a group of people acts in relation to a protocol (a set of rules, laws, norms, standards, traditions, etc). This broad category includes nations, religions, professions, families, blockchains, and most other group activity, making protocol systems foundational, all-encompassing features of human life.

Focusing solely on the system level, however, means we can miss what it feels like to be a person in a protocol system. This essay looks at the experience of an individual participant in a protocol system — how they enter, perform a role, and make decisions about their future within (or outside of) it. Is the role a good or bad fit? Do they have enough knowledge about the system to make meaningful choices? What kinds of common archetypes will they encounter along the way? Are they even aware they are participating in the protocol system? Grappling with age-old philosophical questions of consciousness, agency, power, and change, the essay presents a conceptual framework for the protocol system experience, and challenges readers to examine the protocol systems in their own lives.

Sharing Protocol