Snail: You seem to have done the research to answer the question you requested help answering, have thought about your own threat model, and made up your mind. Then I’m not sure why you asked the question in the first place. If you want a lively debate on this topic (which I think is welcomed), perhaps start a new thread, as this one is about search engines specifically.
I only use DDG because they provide an .onion service:
I read a little bit about it and also use the Session-Messenger which is connected to Lokinet (but does not yet use it).
I can nothing say about the technical details but the people behind Lokinet and Session seem to be very dedicated to the project.
For the Enduser the idea is comparable to TOR: Connections are onionrouted to hide IDs/IPs.
The nodes/relays (except the exit nodes) can only be deployed if you deposit ‘OXEN’ (cryptocurrency) as some kind of sign of good will and dedication to a good quality node and earn some rewards for the deposit … so it is some kind of ‘proof of stake’. It is possible you launch the nodes together with other people to share the deposit.
As far as I know they do not have an audit yet.
I personally would chose tor over lokinet (although they claim to have better performance/less latency). But this might show some interesting developments.
you have certainly seen this Github in reference
Have a nice day
SearXNG on the Tor browser is recommended. No DDG.