RadicalxChange is a conference organized by Glen Weyl of Radical Markets fame and a bunch of other excellent people. There is a call for papers and speakers and I’m planning to submit the following abstract. Would love constructive feedback, positive or negative!
To date, the economic benefits of digital technology have accrued disproportionately to a narrow segment of society, leading to unprecedented levels of inequality and, increasingly, social unrest. Jaron Lanier paints one possible picture of a better future, a “humanistic information economy” where attribution for digital works and data are maintained and “complete accounting” allows people to be paid for their digital contributions, circumventing the top-down, exploitative, siren server model that dominates today. In this world ordinary people are fairly compensated on an ongoing basis for the value they create in digital social networks.
Blockchain platforms such as Bitcoin and Ethereum bring this concept much closer to reality, and prove that participants can indeed be rewarded in a decentralized fashion for value contributed to a network, but they fail to satisfy Lanier’s criteria for one crucial reason: they put computers at the center of value creation, not humans. This is because they contain no concept of unique identity and are therefore vulnerable to Sybil attack. Nakamoto consensus affords limited Sybil protection via proof of work, but the “work” required is meaningless, valueless number-crunching. All attempts thus far to design a “proof of human” or “proof of meaningful work” have failed for lack of a deterministic algorithm that humans can perform better than machines.
I present an idea called Cryptopia which satisfies all of the necessary criteria: a human-centric social network, based on the same technologies behind Bitcoin and Ethereum, where users accrue wealth through two fundamental, unforgeable acts of value creation, generation and curation of content (which could take the form of text, images, videos, etc.). The network is fully decentralized, Sybil resistant, and provides complete accounting by provably tracking provenance and fairly compensating participants for value generated. In this way it may serve as the cornerstone for the humanistic information economy of the future envisioned by Lanier.