Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blockchain Government

Blockchain technology is starting to arrive to the extent that applications are being defined for different sectors, most prominently markets/finance/banking, government/legal, IOT, and health. In all of these venues, the thinking is that centralized models may be something of the past, and could be supplemented or improved by secure decentralized frameworks that could be more efficient, quicker, and less expensive. For example, in finance and banking interbank transfers currently take three days to clear, but this could be immediate.

The reason that secure decentralized ‘smartnetwork’ operations are possible is the maturity of the Internet. The Internet is now large enough and liquid enough in terms of global reach, billions of participants, and in-place infrastructure such that a whole new tier of applications is enabled like those using blockchain technology. Blockchain technology creates secure decentralized transaction networks. The technology combines the peer-to-peer file-sharing of BitTorrent with public key cryptography to form a network where independent parties (rather than a centralized authority) can confirm that transactions are unique and valid, and record them into a ledger. This means that transaction networks can be more decentralized, secure, and resilient, and also accommodate a much greater scale of activity since parties do not need to know and trust each other, just the system.

Government is a sector where blockchain applications could have a significant benefit and finally allow services that are personalized instead of one-size-fits all. Public services could be as individually-specific as a Starbucks coffee order. Blockchains could be a liberty-enhancing equality technology allowing individuals to be more empowered, participative, and involved. Governance might be the next venue where individuals can take more authority and responsibility for themselves. The Internet made this possible with financial instruments, an intermediary like a stock broker is no longer needed for selecting and buying-selling financial instruments like stocks, bonds, CDs, and mortgage products. Likewise in information and entertainment, the Internet has fractured traditional centralized industries and created a new sensibility where individuals select their own content. Health services is another example where patient-driven EMRs (electronic medical records), web-based test data, personalized genomics, and quantified-self wearables have led to a new sensibility of individuals self-advocating for health as biocitizens. The key point is that the nexus of authority has shifted to the individual per decentralized Internet models. Blockchain-based government services could trigger a similar shift in sensibility and a rethinking of authority

Decentralization concepts are already underway in government (Rescaling the State) with a focus on the important role of mayors as non-partisan administrators (If Mayors Ruled the World), and the rise of metropolitanism (21st Century is the Metropolitan Century and Metropolitan Revolution). These ideas could be deployed in more detail per several key properties of blockchain technology in government services, for example its being secure, decentralized, scalable, universal, granular, auditable, trackable, and transparent. Applications could roll out in two phases:

Basic Blockchain Government Applications
  • Transnational organizations – Correspondingly transnational governance structures for world-scale organizations like WikiLeaks, ICANN, and Wikipedia could be accountably and transparently coordinated by blockchains 
  • Document registrations – Blockchains could serve as the whole of a society’s public records repository
  • Voting – More secure and universal public electronic voting systems, and more transparent, usable, aggregatable data regarding representative issue voting records; faster results tabulation
  • Issue and proposition development – Blockchain-coordinated proposal development, validation, and community dialogue and participation, and short-term delegative democracy instead of elected representatives (Liquid Feedback
  • Campaign – More immediate, transparent, universal, and interoperable finance disclosure and tracking
  • Digital signatures and identity – Blockchain-based digital identity validation, signatures, proof-of-truth functions, escrows, passport services, and inclusive pseudonymous identity services for documented and undocumented individuals alike
  • Notary services - using blockchain technology's secure auditable record-logging functionality together with digital timestamping and pointers to electronic documents stored off-chain
Advanced Blockchain Government Applications
  • Personalized opt-in governance services – Individuals could enroll in competitive personalized governance services (locality-provided or vendor-provided), paying for preferred services, such as composting, or education. Other personalized government services could include: reputation-based ID systems, voting, dispute resolution, national income distribution, public documents registration and repository (Bitnation, facilitator of the world’s first blockchain marriage October 5, 2014)   
  • Blockchain public finance services - Self-directed community bonds (Neighbor.ly), whose creditworthiness could be facilitated and evaluated with blockchain-based mechanisms such as Ricardian contracts, such as those contemplated by Greece to provide assurance regarding tax receipts
  • Real-time documented legal services - On-demand tele-attorney consultation, rights advocacy, law enforcement interaction, and private policing (Sidekik)
  • Futarchy prediction markets - Two-step voting process on outcomes and strategies for their attainment rather than individuals as representatives 
  • Token issuance and management - Civic tokens (convertible to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or fiat currency, or accepted directly) could be issued for guaranteed basic income initiatives, health services, EBT/foodstamp programs, or other community spending initiatives to improve efficiency and reduce fraud

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Philosophy of Big Data

Big data is growing as an area of information technology, service, and science, and so too is the need for its intellectual understanding and interpretation from a theoretical, philosophical, and societal perspective.

The ways that we conceptualize and act in the world are shifting now due to increasingly integrated big data flows from the continuously-connected multi-device computing layer that is covering the world. This connected computing layer includes wearables, Internet-of-Things (IOT) sensors, smartphones, tablets, laptops, Quantified Self-Tracking devices like the Fitbit, connected car, smarthome, and smartcity.

Through the connected computing world, big data services are facilitating the development of more efficient organizing mechanisms for the conduct and coordination of our interaction with reality.

One effect is that our stance is moving from being constrained to reactive response to now being able to engage in much more predictive action-taking in many areas of activity.

Another effect is that a more efficient world is being created, automating not just mechanical tasks, but also cognitive tasks. This paper discusses how a philosophy of big data might help in conceiving, creating, and transitioning to data-rich futures.

 More Information: Presentation, Video, Paper