The DAO stands for the “Distributed Autonomous Organization,” and while that could very well refer to anything from a blockchain car-share app to a hive of honey bees, this rather boring title stands for something truly remarkable: the first unmanned investment portfolio. It is a proof of concept for what many believe will be the future of finance, with software organizing and overseeing an investment strategy developed through semi-democratic input from the collected investors. It’s secured by the much-ballyhooed Ethereum platform, using a cryptocurrency called Ether as its trading currency, and at first everything seemed to be proceeding according to plan. It was a confirmation of the promise of the blockchain, and proof that the future really is near at hand!
Then, just days after that DAO’s public launch, a lone hacker managed to digitally make off with more than $50 million-worth of Ether, or roughly a third of the overall capital the DAO had raised. More than a setback, this was an existential problem: This was the one, specific thing that was supposed to be impossible under the supervision of the blockchain. Despite all the efforts detailed below, make no mistake: the DAO is dead. What’s important now is containing the damage, and stopping it from tanking Ethereum as a whole.