Browsed by
Tag: Cryptocurrencies

Blockchains Instead of Beggars: Could Cryptocurrencies Unleash Universal Basic Income? – Article by Nicole Sallak Anderson

Blockchains Instead of Beggars: Could Cryptocurrencies Unleash Universal Basic Income? – Article by Nicole Sallak Anderson

Nicole Sallak Anderson


Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this article by Nicole Sallak Anderson as part of our ongoing integration with the Transhuman Party. This article posits a creative approach toward fulfilling one of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s objectives – the achievement of a Universal Basic Income (which is advocated for in our Platform and in the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, Version 3.0). We advocate a wide variety of emerging technologies, including cryptocurrencies, as well, and we endeavor to contemplate ways in which such technologies can solve deep-rooted societal problems by altering people’s incentives, hopefully in positive directions. This article was written in February 2018, just past the peak of the cryptocurrency bubble, but it looks beyond that bubble and envisions more sustainable functions for cryptocurrencies beyond speculation – for instance, achieving the goal of providing a basic income and integrating activities that create external value in the community with rewards for the individuals who engage in such activities. We continue to encourage our members to contemplate possibilities for implementing a Universal Basic Income in realistic ways that would harness new technologies for incremental progress toward the goal and would not require revolutionizing the entire world at once. 

~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, January 6, 2019


Cryptocurrencies are America’s latest capitalist playthings—from Bitcoin’s Christmas surprise of over $14K per coin, to the Bitcoin Cash fork of August 2017 and BitFury’s success in negotiating blockchain contracts in both Georgia and Dubai, cryptocurrencies, and the technology that powers them, went from being anarchists’ obscure hobby to the latest shiny object that the financial markets are drooling over. While cryptocurrencies are still a ways off from becoming actual currencies that can be used to exchange goods, they have proven to be valuable assets in today’s markets. Moreover, the blockchain technology that underpins said currencies has begun to gain momentum as an advanced application for the encryption and storage of data. Many see it as the natural evolution in the digital age.

For those of you who don’t know what blockchain technology is read here, or if you’re interested in cryptocurrencies in general, read here. People much savvier than I can teach you the technical details. Today I want to discuss practical implementations.

In the past two years, cryptocurrencies have made a lot of young people, and already rich old people, very rich. Cryptocoins and blockchain applications are the latest innovation to encourage the American rags-to-riches mythos, and I don’t see their bubbles popping anytime soon. Yet is seems like all of this is creating just another set of 1% who are wealthy, while most miss the boat completely, and this is the complete opposite of what many of the early adopters had envisioned—rather than creating a new cryptoclass, the blockchain was supposed to emancipate humanity.

This has me thinking…how could blockchain technology be used to create currencies that support a universal income? I’ve written before about universal basic income, from both a practical perspective and a feminist perspective. Most people argue there isn’t enough money out there to create a sustainable world where everyone is fed. I’ve long called bulls**t on this. Technologically we can now feed the world, so what’s holding us back? The food can be farmed in labs and it can be distributed to the most remote locations on Earth. Why then, does much of it rot in holding areas? Or never even get planted, while children die of starvation in our streets? Even in America, child poverty is rising with 30.4 million children daily in our country using the National School Lunch Program in their schools.

To me, the growing poverty in the “Land of Opportunity” is a universal lack of love on every citizen’s part, not a money problem. However, if everyone’s convinced that there aren’t enough American dollars to go around so that we can guarantee housing, food, and clothing to our fellow brothers and sisters, then perhaps it’s time to make more money, and not the kind you can hold in your wallet.

The way to create a new economy based on care and commonwealth may be to create a new currency with community as its only goal, rather than profit and greed, and what better way to do this than with a cryptocurrency? Why not build a crypto-token that is secure, hard to hack and trackable, whose purpose was to provide liquid resources to the most vulnerable members of society?

This last feature – traceability – is very important.  In principle it would be a clear advantage over fiat currency welfare systems, since the cash economy is only partially measurable in terms of mapping demographic groups to purchase/usage patterns. For fun, let’s call the new currency, LifeCoin, created not to get a bunch of miners and traders rich, but instead to be shared from person to person, growing as we all grow in wealth, a true peer-to-peer network both technically and socially.

A currency whose aim is to provide a universal basic income would need to have the following properties:

1)      It would need to be easily distributed to all citizens in the network 18 and over. Thus, a wallet that accepted LifeCoin, identifiable by the currency platform would need to be created.

2)      It would need to be accepted by all businesses that provide shelter (banks, landlords, etc.), food, clothing and healthcare. Thus a networked payment system that accepted LifeCoin and linked up to user’s wallets would need to be created. It needs to be seamless and provide incentives to services providers for honoring the LifeCoins as currency, thus the traditional fee structures in place for money exchange would need adjustment.

3)      It would need the ability to be changed into other currencies at the owner’s discretion. Thus the LifeCoin would need to be accepted on a decent number of exchanges.

This is a minimum list of technological needs, but at its most basic, a currency needs to be able to flow throughout the society if it’s going to be a true universal basic income solution.

Essentially there are two ways the LifeCoin could be created, either by the government, or by us, the citizens in an act of goodwill.

How could a government create and issue LifeCoin responsibly? There are probably many answers to this, but I think LifeCoin could be implemented by local governments that are looking to use blockchain technologies to manage and secure their data. Governments collect more than taxes, they’ve long been keeping track of our data, such as births, deaths, marriages, land titles, county employee information, driver’s license information, school information, health information and even voting registration and ballots. All of this information needs to be managed, and many governments are starting to consider using blockchain technology to do just that. Take the country of Georgia, who has uploaded over 100,000 land titles to a blockchain network created by BitFury. They have decided that using blockchain smart contracts will help them prove land ownership as Russia slowly begins to occupy more and more of their land. Dubai has also decided to use the Ethereum architecture to manage its data and bring their country into the 21st century.

Many other countries have taken notice. In Haiti, for example, after the earthquake in 2010, the first building to fall into ruin was the building that held all of their public records. In seconds, all the paperwork that documented who owned what land was gone. My own town of Santa Cruz, CA, is always under earthquake threat, could moving their local government data to a blockchain system help them in the long run? Of course it can.

Money will be saved by adopting these new technologies for data management. According to an article in August 2017, the government of Dubai expects to, “Reduce the cost of document processing by billions of dollars through eliminating manual processing of residencies, passport documentation and visas through a partnership with ConsenSys.

Billions of dollars, eh? And what to do with those savings? Why not redistribute them back into the community as a universal basic income? This can be done by tokenizing the endeavor, and backing the initial release of the coins with the savings the governmental entity receives.

As governments begin to implement various blockchain schemes to manage their data it is the ideal moment for them to tokenize the blockchain ledger they’re creating and distribute those tokens to their citizens as a universal basic income.

Consider Santa Cruz. Recently named the fourth most expensive place to live in the nation, it is estimated that our cost of living is 81% higher than the national average and our housing costs are 208% higher than the national average. When I drive down the street near town, I see tents nestled in along the highway, back near the fences and hidden in tall grasses. At night, when you pass our city hall, the courtyard is filled with people in sleeping bags, trying to find a place to sleep. Beggars line our downtown mall. Truly if any town needed a universal basic income, it’s ours.

Perhaps UBI begins at home with our local city council opting to invest in building a blockchain ledger using Ethereum to manage all contracts regarding land in the county as well as all legal documentation and contracts stored in the courthouse. The project includes tokens that are backed by the city at first with the monies annually saved by efficiently managing and securing their data. These tokens are distributed evenly to every citizen over 18 on a monthly basis.

As time goes on, more data can be added to the ledger and with each savings by switching from the manual handling of the data to digital networks doing the job, that money is used to issue new coins to citizens. The basic income could start at one number, say $500/month with the intention of growing to a final amount that can sustain a human being within the county.

In addition, more tokens are created as incentives to encourage people to enter the system as miners to help maintain the ledger. This is the decentralization aspect, the data is stored across hundreds of servers rather than just one. Thus everyone gets a set amount, but those who mine create more coins that they can use to purchase items in the community, or trade on the exchange, thus increasing the value of the tokens. Tokens can also be given to businesses as a means of encouraging them to accept LifeCoin as payment for their goods and services. With time, the currency spreads throughout the city and county, and as a result is accepted at more and more locations. None of this is because we “took” money from somewhere else. Using blockchain technologies, money was freed up to invest in a new currency, one that exists for the sole purpose of providing a living to our citizens.

Now, this is a very basic sketch of the system, and one I’m not able to complete. I’m merely putting it out there as something to debate and discuss, with the hopes that minds much more crypto than mine can see that their work has this potential. And perhaps to get the political dialogue rolling. This has to start somewhere and we can’t wait for our federal government to help. I also realize that as with any monetary system, cryptocurrencies may not be able to address the potential inflation and deflation associated with a universal basic income.

My good friend and fellow Medium writer, John Eden, put it perfectly:

“My view is that the real worry about crypto-powered UBI has nothing to do with the power of the blockchain from a tech POV.  The problem is that any economic system with a fixed or variable amount of tokens can and will experience inflation and deflation.  To me, this basic economic fact can’t in any way to neutralized by blockchain.  The implication of this is that the token one designs for UBI must be created in partnership with some pretty thoughtful economists so that a method of adjusting the value of the token relative to the wider economy is built into the token infrastructure.  After all, you don’t want to create LifeCoin only to see inflation ruin it’s core purpose – i.e., giving the most vulnerable members of society the ability to live a decent life.”

I’m not sure where we’d find those thoughtful economists. Can our local governments implement a token system to help the poor while keeping in mind the long term economic monetary policy goals? The blockchain might not save us from this issue, but the currency created can be set up with a new set of rules than our regular fiat, especially since it would be it’s own new market, individualized at the local level. We’ve been manipulating the markets forever, is it any different for a township to create it’s own currency to establish a standard of living?

We could also leave the government out of this and instead take responsibility as private citizens, creating a universal reward token ourselves. Private citizens can create a coin that is then given to those who need it. This work has already begun. GrantCoin was established in 2015 with the intent of providing a UBI to those who meet their criteria. However, this feels more like charitable handouts than a true UBI, for it’s still based on need, which requires judgement by a group of people who get to determine whether or not you really need it. Universal Basic Income is not only about providing the basics to all in a world of plenty, it’s also about freeing us from the judgments of others. We all receive a universal basic income, that’s what makes it universal, and we’re trusted to do what we should with it. Still, GrantCoin is a good start.

Another idea that caught my eye was the concept of gamifying cryptocurrencies as a means of deploying them. In an incredibly passionate plea to save cryptocurrencies from big business, author Daniel Jeffries writes,

By gamifying money distribution, we spread it far and wide across the playing field, as fast as possible, and guarantee that the system becomes viable. We bootstrap the system from banana republic to global powerhouse. That will bring powerful economic players into the system, who will then be incentivized to protect it and expand it.

If we move swiftly, we can unleash the true power of the blockchain to unlock the frozen reserves of human potential, rise from the ashes of our crumbling political systems and rocket into a whole new level of economic potential and development.”

He goes on to explain how by using a killer gaming app along with a universal reward token, one could possibly build a cryptocurrency that is completely decentralized with the possibility to not only fund life, but allow the movement to build into smart contracts and other aspects of civilization. Instead of the government initiating the move to the blockchain, private citizens do it for each other, via games so fun to play, we play them for a living. His article is a worthy read if this sort of idea floats your boat.

This may seem a bit pie in the sky, and on some level it is, but when thinking about the future of money we have the ability to write a whole new story, so why not base it upon joy and games?

Regardless, as financial firms explore the possibilities that platforms like Ethereum bring, it may benefit us to begin to probe our local governments into doing the same. However, instead of keeping the profits for themselves, they could the adventure to create new systems of money that promote life and health for all citizens.

Nicole Sallak Anderson is Computer Science graduate from Purdue University, and former CTO for a small Silicon Valley startup, turned novelist and blogger, focusing on the intersection of technology and consciousness. In addition to rebooting her eHuman series, she recently sold a historical fantasy trilogy about the Great Egyptian Revolt of 200 B.C. She currently lives in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains in California with her husband and teen-aged sons, where she raises goats and bees. She enjoys spinning, knitting, playing the bass, and dancing, particularly the tango. Visit her blog at eHumanity: The Intersection of Consciousness and Technology

Contra Robert Shiller on Cryptocurrencies – Article by Adam Alonzi

Contra Robert Shiller on Cryptocurrencies – Article by Adam Alonzi

logo_bg

Adam Alonzi


While warnings of caution can be condoned without much guilt, my concern is critiques like Dr. Shiller’s (which he has since considerably softened) will cause some value-oriented investors to completely exclude cryptocurrencies and related assets from their portfolios. I will not wax poetically about the myriad of forms money has assumed across the ages, because it is already well-covered by more than one rarely read treatise. It should be said, though it may not need to be, that a community’s preferred medium of exchange is not arbitrary. The immovable wheels of Micronesia met the needs of their makers just as digital stores of value like Bitcoin will serve the sprawling financial archipelagos of tomorrow. This role will be facilitated by the ability of blockchains not just to store transactions, but to enforce the governing charter agreed upon by their participants.

Tokens are abstractions, a convenient means of allotting ownership. Bradley Rivetz, a venture capitalist, puts it like this: “everything that can be tokenized will be tokenized the Empire State Building will someday be tokenized, I’ll buy 1% of the Empire State Building, I’ll get every day credited to my wallet 1% of the rents minus expenses, I can borrow against my Empire State Building holding and if I want to sell the Empire State Building I hit a button and I instantly have the money.” Bitcoin and its unmodified copycats do not derive their value from anything tangible. However, this is not the case for all crypto projects. Supporters tout its deflationary design (which isn’t much of an advantage when there is no value to deflate), its modest transaction fees, the fact it is not treated as a currency by most tax codes (this is changing and liable to continue changing), and the relative anonymity it offers.  

The fact that Bitcoin is still considered an asset in most jurisdictions is a strength. This means that since Bitcoin is de facto intermediary on most exchanges (most pairs are expressed in terms of BTC or a major fiat, many solely in BTC), one can buy and sell other tokens freely without worrying about capital gains taxes, which turn what should be wholly pleasurable into something akin to an ice cream sundae followed by a root canal. This applies to sales and corporate income taxes as well. A company like Walmart, despite its gross income, relies on a slender profit margin to appease its shareholders. While I’m not asking you to weep for the Waltons, I am asking you to think about the incentives for a company to begin experimenting with its own tax-free tokens as a means of improving customer spending power and building brand loyalty.

How many coins will be needed and, for that matter, how many niches they will be summoned to fill, remains unknown.  In his lecture on real estate Dr. Shiller mentions the Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto’s observation about the lack of accounting for most of the land in the world.  Needless to say, for these areas to advance economically, or any way for that matter, it is important to establish who owns what. Drafting deeds, transferring ownership of properties or other goods, and managing the laws of districts where local authorities are unreliable or otherwise impotent are services that are best provided by an inviolable ledger. In the absence of a central body, this responsibility will be assumed by blockchain. Projects like BitNation are bringing the idea of decentralized governance to the masses; efforts like Octaneum are beginning to integrate blockchain technology with multi-trillion dollar commodities markets.

As more than one author has contended, information is arguably the most precious resource of the twenty first century. It it is hardly scarce, but analysis is as vital to making sound decisions. Augur and Gnosis provide decentralized prediction markets. The latter, Kristin Houser describes it, is a platform used “to create a prediction market for any event, such as the Super Bowl or an art auction.” Philip Tetlock’s book on superforecasting covers the key advantages of crowdsourcing economic and geopolitical forecasting, namely accuracy and cost-effectiveness. Blockchains will not only generate data, but also assist in making sense of it.  While it is just a historical aside, it is good to remember that money, as Tymoigne and Wray (2006) note, was originally devised as a means of recording debt. Hazel sticks with notches preceded the first coins by hundreds of years. Money began as a unit of accounting, not a store of value.

MelonPort and Iconomi both allow anyone to start their own investment funds. Given that it is “just” software is the beauty of it: these programs can continue to be improved upon  indefinitely. If the old team loses its vim, the project can easily be forked. Where is crypto right now and why does it matter? There is a tendency for academics (and ordinary people) to think of things in the real world as static objects existing in some kind of Platonic heaven. This is a monumental mistake when dealing with an adaptive system, or in this case, a series of immature, interlocking, and rapidly evolving ecosystems. We have seen the first bloom – some pruning too – and as clever people find new uses for the underlying technology, particularly in the area of IoT and other emerging fields, we will see another bloom. The crypto bubble has come and gone, but the tsunami, replete with mature products with explicit functions, is just starting to take shape.

In the long run Warren Buffett, Shiller, and the rest will likely be right about Bitcoin itself, which has far fewer features than more recent arrivals. Its persisting relevance comes from brand recognition and the fact that most of the crypto infrastructure was built with it in mind. As the first comer it will remain the reserve currency of the crypto world.  It is nowhere near reaching any sort of hard cap. The total amount invested in crypto is still minuscule compared to older markets. Newcomers, unaware or wary of even well-established projects like Ethereum and Litecoin, will at first invest in what they recognize. Given that the barriers to entry (access to an Internet connection and a halfway-decent computer or phone) are set to continue diminishing, including in countries in which the fiat currency is unstable, demand should only be expected to climb.

Adam Alonzi is a writer, biotechnologist, documentary maker, futurist, inventor, programmer, and author of the novels A Plank in Reason and Praying for Death: A Zombie Apocalypse. He is an analyst for the Millennium Project, the Head Media Director for BioViva Sciences, and Editor-in-Chief of Radical Science News. Listen to his podcasts here. Read his blog here.

U.S. Transhumanist Party / Institute of Exponential Sciences Discussion Panel on Cryptocurrencies

U.S. Transhumanist Party / Institute of Exponential Sciences Discussion Panel on Cryptocurrencies

logo_bg

Gennady Stolyarov II
Demian Zivkovic
Chantha Lueung
Laurens Wes
Moritz Bierling


On Sunday, February 18, 2018, the U.S. Transhumanist Party and Institute of Exponential Sciences hosted an expert discussion panel on how cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based technologies will possibly affect future economies and everyday life. Panelists were asked about their views regarding what is the most significant promise of cryptocurrencies, as well as what are the most significant current obstacles to its realization.

Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, and Demian Zivkovic, President of the Institute of Exponential Sciences, are the moderators for this panel.

Panelists

Moritz Bierling

Moritz Bierling, in his work for Exosphere Academy – a learning and problem-solving community – has organized a Space Elevator bootcamp, an Artificial Intelligence conference, and an Ethereum training course while also authoring a Primer on the emerging discipline of Alternate Reality Design. As Blockchain Reporter for the Berlin blockchain startup Neufund, he has educated the city’s Venture Capital and startup scene, as well as the broader public on the applications of this groundbreaking technology. His work has appeared in a number of blockchain-related and libertarian media outlets such as CoinTelegraph, The Freeman’s Perspective, Bitcoin.com, and the School Sucks Project. See his website at MoritzBierling.com.

Chantha Lueung

Chantha Lueung is the creator of Crypto-city.com, which is a social-media website focused on building the future world of cryptocurrencies by connecting crypto-enthusiasts and the general public about cryptocurrencies. He is a full-time trader and also participates in the HyperStake coin project, which is a Bitcoin alternative that uses the very energy-efficient Proof of Stake protocol, also known as POS.

Laurens Wes

Laurens Wes is a Dutch engineer and chief engineering officer at the Institute of Exponential Sciences. Furthermore he is the owner of Intrifix, a company focused on custom 3D-printed products and software solutions. He has also studied Artificial Intelligence and is very interested in transhumanism, longevity, entrepreneurship, cryptocurrencies/blockchain technology, and art (and a lot more). He is a regular speaker for the IES and is very committed to educating the public on accelerated technological developments and exponential sciences.

The YouTube question/comment chat for this Q&A session has been archived here and is also provided below.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Facebook page here.

See the U.S. Transhumanist Party FAQ here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

References

 

Chat Log from the Discussion Panel on Cryptocurrencies of February 18, 2018

Read More Read More