Philanthropist Jaan Tallinn, the co-founder of both Skype and the file sharing app Kazaa, has just spent a year working out how blockchains can “save the world,” offering a new solution to one of man's most basic and stubborn problems.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Tallinn says that he is “compiling a research paper on ways of using blockchain to create more co-ordination mechanisms,” that can be used to save humanity from possible resource-based problems, “from crime and corruption to deforestation and over-fishing.”
“The interesting thing about blockchain is that it has made it possible for humanity to reach a consensus about a piece of data without having any authority to dictate it,”
- Jaan Tallinn
For the same reason that so many startups have flocked to blockchain tech to solve coordination and other logistical and data-sharing problems in their industries, Tallinn proposes that the 'industry' of mankind could use blockchain technology to solve the societal problem known as the Tragedy of the Commons, “Imagine if you could use this to solve bigger problems that require global co-ordination,” he envisioned.
Examples of Tragedy of the Commons all include self-interested individuals taking more than 'their fair share' from publicly-owned, or otherwise shared resources. These include parks, the atmosphere, rivers and oceans, outer space, our groundwater, and anything else that is unowned by individuals. Resources of such problems become “locked in an equilibrium where the players cannot change the outcome of the game,” he told the Telegraph, describing the situation man has typically relied upon governments to resolve for us to date.
As a philanthropist and one of the world's first experts on peer-to-peer technology, Tallinn has come to the conclusion that many of man's biggest problems have this issue as a root cause, and that blockchains can account for who owns what better than ever before, letting man experiment with new ways to solve this important problem.
Tallinn then pointed to blockchains and incentive schemes, just like Bitcoin employs, as a way to break that equilibrium and solve the problem. “Shaming people into being virtuous doesn’t change behaviour,” claims Tallinn.
“Incentive schemes, whereby people who have done the most good for humanity are rewarded 20 years into the future would create the expectation that doing long-term good is valuable.”
- Jaan Tallinn
Of course, in order to incentivize anyone, you must first track their progress and identify them, and those are all resources that blockchains excel at tracking.
One specific example of this is Ghana's Bitland registry, already being used to make blockchain-based records of the ownership of the local real estate. “Like many other African countries,” Bitland's website explains, “the Ghanian Land Title Administration has been proven to be ineffective and problematic. The poor state of the land registry has been causing a problem for many years to millions of Ghanians.”
The website promotes an offer to create “an extra record (elsewhere) that [...] is stored in a blockchain, meaning that it is super secure and impossible to forge or tamper with (even by Bitland). You could say that it becomes written in stone,” the service explains.
The local government is not removed from their new land titleship model, but it is held more accountable because blockchain-based evidence is so strong. In some cases, the local courts won't even be needed to resolve disputes with such solid proof. “Should later on a legal land dispute arise then this conflict can be settled (outside of court) quick and easy,” the website concludes. Such a scheme would be a great match for one of Tallinn's incentivization schemes.
"Bitland offers Blockchain based Land Registration in Ghana as a Service to Protect and Support Real Estate Companies in Ghana "
Before Microsoft purchased the Skype messaging platform from eBay for US$8.5 Billion, eBay had purchased it from Tallinn and his small team of co-developers for $2.6 billion, making Tallinn wealthy enough to pursue his altruistic projects full-time.
The Estonian native spends his days dreaming up ways to save humanity from itself from many different, scary scenarios, from resource management problems all the way up to the destruction of the entire planet. As part of these efforts, Tallinn has donated considerable time and funding to both the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, (CSER) which he helped establish, and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute as well. He even helped pioneer the Effective Altruism movement, a social movement that uses a distinctively scientific approach to determine the most effective ways to improve the world.
As a co-founder of CSER, where Stephen Hawking is a member, Tallinn regularly tours and gives lectures about the worst of the future dangers to mankind's very existence. Far more dangerous to our survival than a mere asteroid impact or World War III, Tallinn and CSER worry about the unnatural problems that threaten all life on the planet, such as hostile artificial intelligence, unstoppable pandemics, biotech weaponry gone awry, self-replicating nanobots that won't shut down, and other humanity-ending scenarios. Therefore, the CSER was created to research them and act like a sort of fire insurance against each of these possible threats.
"The Centre is intended to build on CSER's pioneering work on the risks posed by high-level AI and place those concerns in a broader context, looking at themes such as different kinds of intelligence, responsible development of technology and issues surrounding autonomous weapons and drones."
- Dr. Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh, Executive Director, Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
Tallinn's upcoming paper will have a narrower focus, however, specifically to extol the virtues of coordination mechanisms on blockchains.
Large financial organizations and the industry that surrounds them have been speaking up more over time about the benefits of Blockchain technology. Their message is starting to become similar to Tallinn's message. For example, in October last year the Economist referred to bitcoin's blockchain as “the Trust Machine,” and on Friday the IMF's quarterly publication called bitcoin's blockchain “The Internet of Trust”.
Both were very bullish reports that explained how blockchains solve the problem of mankind being able to trust each other in financial markets and in general.