Home Sci/Tech The Dream of the Internet, Deferred

The Dream of the Internet, Deferred

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How to Fulfill the Dream of Democratizing Opportunity with Incentive-Driven Blockchain Technology

The internet was created with the intent to connect the world, empower people, and give everyone the opportunity to contribute in unique ways to society. Unfortunately, it seems we have lost sight of this dream, as users increasingly forfeit the value they generate together to a few internet giants that control the networks they use.

During the first dot-com boom, everyone had the opportunity to carve out their own piece of the world wide web. We dreamt that this would unlock our potential by democratizing the “land of opportunity.” Instead, we see an online landscape riddled with broken and inefficient markets.

“Boost how we harness our collective talents, and you will boost every problem solving effort on the planet… the sooner the better!” — Douglas Engelbart

There are still problems that require large-scale collaboration among many users. Open source software development, for example, remains under-incentivized. Allocating labor and jobs correctly remains broken. Advertising is unfocused and inefficient. Our attention is being tested as engagement increasingly looks like spam. Most importantly, we have the resources required to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, but we are not incentivized to work together to solve them.

The internet has become more divided and less global primarily because people have not been incentivized to utilize the value of their network. The rise of internet giants has further propagated this issue, since trust between people and large corporations began wearing thin once it became clear that their interests diverge from ours.

The internet has succeeded in connecting us, but it has yet to unlock our common, shared potential.

The fact is that we know ourselves better than anyone else. We know our connections better than any algorithm, and we analyze and make decisions every day about other people and the value they bring to our networks. But instead of volunteering this value to the Internet giants that have the resources to coordinate us (but fail to do so miserably), we need to find a way to recover the power of our networks ourselves.

As the Red Balloon Challenge showed, people are motivated to solve problems together when their incentives are aligned. In brief, a team of MIT researchers motivated thousands of people to find ten red balloons. They did so by rewarding anyone who submitted the coordinates of a balloon for the first time with $2000. Anyone who referred that person received $1000. And anyone who referred them in turn received $500, and so on.

The recursive incentive structure MIT used to solve the Red Balloon Challenge

There are a number of these so-called “red balloon markets” — or Incentive Markets, as we prefer — that can motivate people to solve complex problems by using their implicit knowledge of each other. All that is missing is the right incentive layer to create space for these incentive markets to enter the economy, displacing ossified firms and inefficient markets to clean everything up.

The problem is that incentive markets have not been able to efficiently scale, mostly because the amount of trust they require is prohibitively high. But what if there was a way to create a scaled incentive market without requiring anyone to stand in trusting relationships with one another? At nCent, we believe that blockchain technology will enable us to create so-called trustless incentive markets, which are the key to unlocking our cooperative potential.

“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.” –Dalai Lama

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