There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship – Ralph Nader
Scroll past this section for the webapp details.
A need to re-organize ourselves
I have watched with wide eyes as the internet age has swept in and social media empires have sprung up. I’ve watched the disinformation and distractions grow exponentially and the people around me becoming more frayed at the state of the world and of their communities. I’ve watched heroin and methamphetamine epidemics spring up alongside continuous alcoholism problems in all the places I’ve called home, and my friends and family have all been deeply affected by it at some point in their lives. I’ve met more people with no close friends or a sense of openness than people with healthy human networks. The psychology-lover in me can’t help but perceive a deep neuroses that seems to be trickling down from an inherently flawed governance structure that is now spread too thin, where a few hundred insulated representatives cannot possibly support several hundred million citizens, and are instead bought off in the royal circus of nationalism, capitalism, and militarism.
I also see this immense efficiency, understanding, and technological power that’s developed at the same time as all these issues have grown, a power which so quickly gets appropriated into established military-industrial powers that it never serves a good and stable purpose, or at least its good applications are far outweighed by what nationalist or for-profit groups use them for. This happened with nuclear energy, with most supercomputing and early AI research, with early aviation, with the internet, with rockets and astronautics, with complex systems, with many schools of psychiatry, the list goes on and on. These are all incredible areas of research with vast potentials we probably won’t reach in our lifetimes.
With APIs like CounterParty, OMNI or Factom, Bitcoin is now being used in very diverse ways like creating permanent paper trails for official documents or folding proteins, but that’s not why people are investing. They’re largely investing to make money. We also have projects like Ethereum that are allowing for development and execution of software in various programming languages that you then can use on the cloud, using the ETH tokens as fuel. Bitcoin is gaining a lot of those functions too, especially with the ever-growing number and quality of APIs. The differences are in the way the cryptography is done, granting advantages and disadvantages depending on what you want to do with the network. This is where you hear about Proof-of-Work, Delegated Proof-of-Stake or Proof-of-Importance algorithms, which determine how tokens and network power get divvied up and managed by users.
The projects that really excite me so far, of the ones I’ve read enough about, are TransActive Grid, IOTA, FoldingCoin, and SingularDTV as they all represent very bright visions of the future of resource exchange, of science, and of the possible diversity that a culture powered by this tech could support. Then you have projects like Basic Attention Token or Steemit that want to use blockchain to reinvent how social media and advertising incentivizes users and publishers alike and provide better rewards and filters, especially when most advertising and social media posting is low effort spam and thus wasted energy and attention and thus time for other better things. Wow! Right? That seems to cut right through so many problems in today’s world with fairly elegant solutions, though still early in development for most. These solutions come from some of the best minds in the industry and not just entrepreneurs looking to turn a quick buck.
The trade aspect of cryptocurrencies is basically theater and will be utterly moot if these technologies really come to their full potential. Why don’t more people talk about this? To keep you focused on the money, duh. Well let’s take a journey away from all that for a bit, shall we?
12/1 Update: I have a half-working prototype of my relational threading system template together. I need help pulling a lot of it together due to my limited web dev experience. I have all my features planned out and they’re all pretty straightforward, coding expertise is all I lack. I’ll need digital artist help, too, if you know how to make SVGs or something comparable. If you’re interested in helping (it’d mean the world to me), email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll get a github going and all that jazz once I have help. Meantime, check out this other project I helped launch.
So like I said, I’ve had this idea tumbling around in my head for a couple years now. I thought I’d share as it seems more doable now. You can read my draft of my grant here to get a full explanation of features and the point system. My purpose here is to give you the general idea.
Here is the introduction:
Roots is a phone and website-based platform dedicated to empowering the grassroots skills and mindsets that define civilization. While communication and networking have come to define much of modern life, the ease and structure of that discourse are now more important than ever to accomplishing collective goals. A shared goal among people across all communities is the ability to use our individual skills in order to improve and protect the world around us, helping not only our own lives but those close to us and in our communities as well. Currently there is no direct or collected method for doing this with modern communications designs that aren’t commercialized. Most civic movements are fragmented or lack the attention they need to be successful. The most current example would be Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution movement, now fairly powerless against the highly partisan and ideological groups running the national legislative, judicial, and executive branches, which threaten the environment, education, health, social and economic stability, etc. by not responding to these problems and even stripping funding from essential social programs in favor of monetary gain.
How can we possibly define our communities within this bigger picture? How can we feel connected to a larger society? And lastly, where do we start? Roots hopes to help answer those questions while simultaneously engaging people and accounting for their civil contributions, big and small. Roots is the result of over two years of personal study on the best possible ways to invigorate civilization, in a way that utilizes modern means and responds to modern problems – and without monetization. Outlined below are methods resulting from this study as well as some of the resources used to gain that knowledge. With this grant, we hope to find public funding to realize this platform to its fullest potential, and inspire further humanitarian ideas in the future.
What I want to see is that sense of community connectedness return and in a way that can connect us anywhere. I feel like the way we organize our civic life is in the stone age while we sit on our space-powered phones and play our space-powered games. The last voting cycle in the US is proof of how little attention is being paid to civics, with cross-check removing millions of voters and the winning candidate being determined by the entertainment and advertising factor. Social media is one of the worst offenders for wasted potential and wasted attention as it’s harder to find things that need getting done in the community than it is finding new things to buy or shows to watch or the nearest parties to attend, and most social media incentivizes that kind of consumer-grade individualism rather than healthy community action – because that benefits advertisers and marketing data collection by using a powerful feedback loop called your personal social life.
I want something that directly connects me to my neighborhood all the way up to my country and my continent and my planet by what needs getting done or what people need help with. I want it to be a platform for skill sharing and information sharing like we haven’t seen, and I want it to exploit all the marketing and gamification that other companies use to manufacture loyal user-bases to instead manufacture better civic and leadership communities, better journalism, and ultimately a better connected world to a very personal degree.
Basically I’d be providing a simple-stupid interface to display local or global civic/environmental projects geographically, as in you with a basic profile and a gps map surrounded by stuff to do connected to ways to contact the people running the project. It would have the obvious search functions but the map is more fun to talk about. Then there will be a reward system in the form of you growing plants and trees with the points you accrue through contributing. This would grow a global ecosystem over time that would be driven by physical participation. Moderation would work by range from a locality and is something we’d organize with reliable leadership in the communities we connected with. The incentive to moderate well is pretty obvious.
I also want to have an information map where you can see journalistic coverage of issues happening geographically, specifically environmental and civic issues, and this map would be curated by a moderation community that is fairly incorruptible, ideally journalists themselves. There will also be information gathering projects where people can en-masse report polluted sites or climate damage or other specific issues for everyone to see. This would create a powerful and very public event documentation platform. This would be well integrated with other social media to make for maximum viral potential as well, and hopefully lead to better participation.
So that’s all good, and there are many ways to generate revenues with this as I outlined in the grant, but I’m shooting for non-profit. I’d use the money to fund habitat and wildlife restoration.
How could blockchain benefit this system? This would be something separate from the points and reputation system I outline in my grant, but could co-mingle in ways. The security and cloud aspect of blockchains is one major feature, as data would be a lot harder to corrupt or steal. If we offered people to create their own side chains, that would allow them to create their own civic networks with internal currencies and in places that may have restrictions on activism and information flow. Groups could create secondary systems from the main one, like how ERC20 tokens work, and create their own maps and everything that would function independent from the main network. I don’t know how I would value a Roots token, but it would be generated like how tokens are distributed by Steemit, by the quality of the contribution or project curation, as it generates valuable data. I’m no expert but there’s a serious potential with Roots as a blockchain platform.
Point is, if any of you reading this have some sway in the communications industry or want to do real things with your life that leave a long-standing impact on the world for the better, then the power of this communications technology and what it could do to bring us together should not be underestimated or the responsibility shirked on in favor of profit and self-indulgence. People need to connect again and stronger than ever, I see this at its most obvious and extreme in the mental health world. The social systems we inhabit now have fatal flaws that are only accelerating climate change and political and cultural divisions. Crime (other than environmental and political), though not in the scope of the issues the Roots network addresses, stems largely from communal squalor, from human trafficking and drug abuse to white collar racketeering and fraud.
All of these things can be addressed by stronger, more active, more integrative communities, and that cause would benefit from having a true interface.
I highlighted an important part at about 59:40 that describes what I’m saying in another way by people I admire:
// Written August 10, 2017. Bitcoin price at the time: $3450 / BTC