WorldBrain — Vision, Values & Roadmap
Imagine a world where the internet supports a well-informed, less polarised society. Connected communities where individuals enjoy full data ownership, privacy and the freedom to choose the providers they get the best service from, without lock-ins.
This is what WorldBrain is working to achieve. If you want to be a part of this journey, or are simply interested in our approach, here’s deeper insight into our vision, values and a roadmap.
WorldBrain is an open-source software collective with the mission of making it 10X+ faster for people to organize, recover, share and discover the most useful and knowledge-expanding content on the web.
Our first product created by our open-source collective is already out. It’s called Memex. A free, private browser extension, Memex solves one of the most frustrating experiences of doing online research: organising and finding websites again.
After using Memex for a bit, you will ask yourself how you could ever have gone without it — more so, why didn’t this exist before?
Memex is the first step towards achieving a vision that hopefully will have a great impact on how people surf the web, as well as discover, share and curate an ever increasing amount of digital information.
We invite you to use our software. Join us on our journey. And let us know what you think about what we’re doing. Hard feedback is always appreciated :)
- Oliver | Founder of WorldBrain
Table of Content
- Memex — The search-engine for your digital knowledge.
- The WorldBrain Vision
- How we make money
- Product Design Values: Data Ownership, Interoperability, Open Data, Hyper-individualisation
- Besides the hard Technology: The Soft Side — Education
- How we raise money
- Contributing to WorldBrain
WorldBrain was born when I tried, and failed, to sort fact from fiction in the genetically modified organism (GMO) debate. I realised my ignorance — and the amount of work it took to understand this topic — made it easier for me to be misled. This was 2013 — long before the spectre of fake news saturated our headlines. Back then it was already clear to me that misinformation was one of the biggest problems our society faces.
Since then, my research revolved around two questions:
- How to sustainably counter online misinformation and
polarisation at scale?
- How to produce the enormous amount of data necessary to do this?
1. Sustainably countering online misinformation and polarisation at scale?
To explain this, let’s clarify “sustainably” and “scale” :
Gathering enough data about online content to be able to “fact-check” the majority of the content on the web. Data can take the form of quality ratings or contextual, related background information (like scholarly papers or fact-checking articles).
This is a tricky challenge.
Our first goal is not to fact-check everything, but to make it 10x easier to find useful/qualitative and perspective rich information, and to easily separate out content that’s inferior in quality.
When this objective is achieved, and the WorldBrain community big enough, it may be possible to scale up more fine-grained, sentence level fact-checks.
Any perspective claiming to be a single source of truth or that make a judgement about quality, is inherently biased and at risk of being rejected by those who don’t share this same bias. When it comes to understanding societal issues, one-sided arguments miss out on crucial aspects. In order to reach a wide ideological spectrum of people with different worldviews, we can’t build yet another system that ‘knows’ what is true or not. To see truth, or understand issues deeply, one needs to draw from as many perspectives as possible.
To be sustainable WorldBrain will seek to be nonpartisan. We want to build bridges in a polarised world. WorldBrain won’t tell people what is right or wrong. What is fake-news or quality content. We will not impose any singular judgement, but rather give people the mental and technical tools to think for themselves.
Our goal? Instead of defining truth, at WorldBrain our goal is to make it 10x faster for people to grasp the complexity of content they consume, and topics they research. To form better opinions we want people to get deeper insight, faster understanding, and to digest as many diverse perspectives as possible.
We want to give people the technologies and mental tools to think for themselves. To make up their own minds.
What will this look like in practice? See Section 3: The WorldBrain Vision.
2. How and who will produce the enormous amount of data necessary to do that?
The nuanced data required can’t be automatically generated; we need humans to provide it. However, manual data entry isn’t possible at the required scale. There have been many attempts to build fact-checking communities and algorithms to get there. They’ve all failed. :(
To fact check at scale you need a significant community. But to create a sizeable community you need users; the classic chicken-egg dilemma.
Our challenge is to to build a personal productivity tool that provides benefits to individuals without an existing community. A tool people use on a daily basis, that produces the data required as a byproduct of its its use, and from which such a community can emerge.
This challenge will be solved with Memex.
Don’t bookmark. Remember.
The Problem? — The time and labour it takes to organise websites, and find them again.
Internet users — particularly knowledge workers and students — constantly need to find websites, social media posts, papers, research, blogs or good comments they’ve seen in the past. This might have been 5 months or just 5 minutes ago.
To relocate the needed site, users currently must invest in time-consuming and at times frustrating methods of bookmarking and organising. Or they are forced to re-Google, retrace search steps, search all their apps or keep a zillion tabs open.
Sometimes — the horror — people don’t recover the required content at all.
When this happens our research shows that time is wasted, the quality of work or assignments suffer, and and a person’s mood is affected.
Each little situation might not feel significant, but over time adds up to multiple hours per week, a lot of frustration, and a loss of meaningful productivity.
Don’t you want that time back to spend on things that matter?
The underlying problem is that people can’t search for websites the way they remember them. What sticks in our minds are words from the text, the time we visit a site, if we bookmarked or shared it, or liked it on social media. Or any arbitrary combination of these and other vague memories.
Introducing Memex — Bookmarking that works like your brain.
A free, open-source and private browser extension that lets you instantly find anything you’ve seen, saved or shared online — without the NEED to organise content upfront.
In its current version you can search using every word you remember from every website you have ever visited or bookmarked. You can also filter by time, domain, tags. You can search from where you are — straight from the address bar.
Download Memex for free at worldbrain.io
WorldBrain Memex lets you find pages within seconds with queries like:
“That article I saw last monday on newyorker.com mentioning the word decentralisation.”
“The tab I closed 30 minutes ago that was talking about Cats with Tuxedos”
“That Medium article I read 3 hours ago”
“That article i posted to Twitter last year about “Cats playing Piano”
“I need all my Google Docs”
and many more ‘brain-like’ associations you can search with in the future.
To make this possible, we will gradually integrate the different apps you use to organise and communicate knowledge. This will also expand your ability to search through your entire digital knowledge-store, including services like Evernote, Pocket, Slack, Gmail, Mendeley, social media and more.
Your Privacy. Your Data. Your Power.
All the data generated by Memex is stored and processed locally on your computer. We, or anybody else, will never, ever have access to this data without your explicit prior approval.
Our service/business model is not built on using your data.
More on this in Section 7: Product Design Values
3. WorldBrain’s Vision
A peer2peer social network for collaborative web research.
Imagine you could build on the past web-research work of the most respected and trusted minds in any topic, with a wide spectrum of world-views?
Imagine you could know what they think about the website you are reading, what related background information they found or to only search the articles they found useful, instead of the whole web.
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton
STEP 1: Share your Truth
When performing web-research, everyone puts a lot of time and effort into understanding if an article is qualitative, or to research more background information. The knowledge you gather is forming and formed by your personal understanding of the world; your truth.
But you cannot easily share this. Others can’t easily and effortlessly continue where you started.
And so, the knowledge and effort people put into verifying content is inaccessible to others.
What if people could share what you think about the quality and usefulness of the content you see without extra work?
To improve your search features and precision, Memex locally stores all kinds of data about how you interact with websites, comments, papers or posts on social media.
Combining this data smartly, we enable you to also automatically & voluntarily share with others the articles most useful to you, and how you mentally connected them to each other.
(e.g. a scientific paper or fact-checking article you found after visiting a news article)
STEP 2: Building on other people’s web-research
Instead of starting at 0 with every research, and every read article, imagine building on the research others have already done. Imagine accessing the knowledge of the most respected and trusted minds on any topic with a wide spectrum of world-views?
Our mission is to enable you to do this.
You’ll be able to follow (groups of) people in networks and do:
a) Social Search
What if you were able to focus your web-search only on websites others found useful, instead of the whole web?
b) Quality Ratings, Background Information & Comments
What if you were able to know more about each website you visit, for instance if others found it useful, qualitative, and what background information (fact-checking articles/papers) they found in their own web-research. Or if you could access the comments they left on any of their social networks about the site?
c) Bonus: Breaking out of your Filter Bubble.
Lastly, what if you can get this information not just from one group of people, but easily get the same information from people with opposing opinions?
This would effectively give you the control to escape a binary narrative and to break free from any filter bubble you are in.
4. How we make money
We believe that it is important we get away from data hoarding business models, that exploit people’s convenience and their personal data without any transparency and control. We believe business models should be seen as services we can deliver to users, not derived of their privacy.
We are not per se against services that are based on analysing large amounts of user data, but it should be done in a transparent, ethical and with a mutual agreement.
Stage 1: Memex Cloud:
- Memex on all your devices,
- Encrypted Backup,
- Full API Access,
- Plugins to modify Memex and run custom data analysis,
- Monetising your own data.
- Optionally, you can self-host everything
Estimated arrival within 2018
from € 3,75 / month
We currently offer a discount of up to 75% to people who want to support the development of our vision: worldbrain.io/pricing
Stage 2: Memex Enterprise Cloud
Offering a service subscription to companies that want to host their data internally or an enterprise subscription for Memex Cloud.
Stage 3: Micropayments
The ability for users to automatically pay the creators and curators of the most useful content they consume, based on the interactions a user ha with content and the resulting ‘usefulness’ ratings.
Below is our rough roadmap for the next year.
6. Product Design Values
Your Data Ownership & Privacy = Priority
With Memex, you are in full control of your data, it is all stored on your computer. With Memex Cloud all your data is encrypted in rest and motion.
Later you can voluntarily & selectively share it with your followers, friends, colleagues or other applications.
We strongly believe in a user’s self-sovereignty and data ownership. It is important for the individual, and its important for a healthy society, that we move away from data exploiting business models, towards user centric approaches, that put the power back to the user. Our business model is to provide users with a service, not holding their data hostage.
Interoperability is key for the collaborative world (and our future)
We want to foster a world, where people & companies are incentivised to collaborate, not to only to compete. A world where each company has market share because they produce the best service to their users, not because of the biggest leverage and best strategy to amass, and lock them in.
To make a world like this possible, it is paramount that a user can seamlessly switch between the software that suits their current needs the most, without lock-ins by providers, and without losing (access to) their data through a change in service to a similar value proposition.
This is why we will have a strong focus on building on top of existing, and designing, shared standard protocols, like the Open Annotation Data model & datproject.org.
To follow through with that, we collaborate with ScienceFair, Stenci.la & CodeForScienceAndSociety in order to create a shared data layer, which allows users to use these softwares in a seamless cooperative experience
Hyper-Customization & Control
One of the big problems with current social networks is that you have little to no control over how that media’s newsfeed is built for you.
These algorithms are a one-size-fits all solution that try to figure out for you what you like, and engage with. Ultimately this is what earns social giants advertisement revenue.
We see that this as dangerous because the result is the creation of comfortable filter bubbles. These are little more than echo chambers where people experience little if any cognitive dissonance, and thinking isn’t challenged or changed.Even if you wanted to, you have no ability to intervene and improve your experience, yet alone breaking out of your bubbles.
Even if you want to expand your knowledge behind your filter bubble you essentially can’t beyond following a few people you think have different opinions.
This is why we think it is crucial, that the algorithms used to pre-filter and display content for you are highly customisable and influenceable.
To go one step further, we believe algorithms should be plug-and-play, and replaceable through others that you deem to be more useful to you.
Openness by Design
In most data-driven business models nowadays, it is vital to hoard data, and make its access as limited as possible and as open as necessary.
A good example is the way Facebook allows users access to their data.
You have a broad enough API so that business can attach to it and make some meaningful stuff with it, but whenever access would hurt Facebook’s bottom line or would make competitors stronger, they restrict access to it.
We won’t have any such restrictions. Your data will always be fully controlled by you. You can share it, close it up, add API endpoints if necessary. It’s all yours.
Our business model does not depend on hoarding and analysing your data, or restricting access to it.
Following the last two points, Openness and Hyper-Customization, Memex will enable users to modify their their client and server software with plugins.
These plugins could, for example, change work-flows, add features, analyse certain data sets (e.g. to build a good recommendation engine) or build bridges to other applications.
Here we want to leverage ingenuity of the community, and the desires of users to make the best possible software for any individual.
7. Besides the Technology: Education
We fundamentally believe that the misinformation problem cannot be solved using technology alone.
People need to go through a personal cognitive transformation that involves learning critical thinking, compassion, reflection, meditation and mediation as well as developing purpose and self-esteem.
Essentially, people need tools to learn how to think critically, be better communicators and have opinions that are less ego-bound.
This is why our whole marketing effort will revolve around delivering useful and transformative content to people to help them on this journey. #ethicalmarketing
So if you are a writer, filmmaker, science communicator or educator passionate about teaching people how to
- detect and overcome their biases, learn critical thinking
- learning how to be a better listener, empath
- develop purpose and self-esteem
please contact us and join our efforts: firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to working with you.
8. How we raise money
In 2018 we will need a total investment of 1 million € which is structured in the following way:
500k — Presale Memex Cloud
150k — Angel Investments
150k — Bank Loan
200k — Grants
Our Values to Investing
Letting people participate in the growth of an endeavour, especially early believers is important and fair.
However, classical, equity-based investments are not an option for us. Ethically and practically.
Ethically because its dynamics create an incentive structure that heavily contributes to unhealthy wealth distributions and centralisation in an economy.
This is because in order to offer investors a return through increase in stock value, they require the value generation happening centrally inside a single company only, and thus dis-incentivising collaboration in an economy.
Additionally they promise stakeholders potentially ‘unlimited’ Return-on-Invest — there is no cap to what you can earn. This lets everyone strive for maximising their ROI, oftentimes neglecting the ethical boundaries.
Practically it is also counterproductive, as our growth strategy is heavily based on collaboration and interoperability with other projects.
As a financial instrument, equity is unsuitable for the collaborative service economy we want to contribute to.
We will expand on our motivation and reasoning in other posts.
We see the need to find alternative models both for our world and our project.
We actively want to foster and contribute a service-based economy in which companies earn as much as they provide value to us people, in which everyone who contributes is fairly compensated and in which there is not the need for such massive centralised growth in order to collectively progress.
We will expand in upcoming posts on our motivation for not using equity as a financial instruments.
We believe that investors and contributors should be treated equally when it comes to claiming a share/benefit from growth of a project.
Investors have opportunity costs through their investment in the form of money, people have opportunity costs in the form of time.
We use a instruments called “Revenue-Based-Financing” (RBF) + Simple Agreement for Future Tokens (SAFT) to finance our project.
RBF is a debt-agreement with high returns and a cap, and SAFT is a promise on getting a discount on the tokens we sell in a potential Initial Coin Offering (ICO).
Scenario for an investor:
An investor who invests into WorldBrain at this stage will be offered a 5x return on invest in cash.
The money will be paid out monthly through 15% of our EBIT (Earnings before Interests and Taxes) until the cap is reached.
The 15% is split 50–50 into a priority pot and a pool.
7,5% goes to the oldest outstanding debt, and 7,5% is split between the other investors.
Means the first investor will be paid back with 7,5% of the EBIT until the debt is fully repaid.
Once that happens, the second investor will be paid by the priority pot, and so forth.
This way we pay early backers first, but still pay back other investors so they don’t have to wait, potentially years, for first returns.
Scenario for contributors:
Contributors and staff are paid a relatively high salary compared to the market rate, but can reduce their salary in exchange for taking part in the same RBF deal for the current risk situation.
Say, a developer earns 100.000€ / year.
Now they can choose how much of that salary they want paid out and how much goes into the RBF contract.
Say in this case they want to have a 70/30 split and thus will get an additional 150.000€ in the years to come
Equally to investors, all team members are paid out on a monthly basis with 15% of our EBIT (Earnings before Interests and Taxes) until their cap is reached.
The SAFT agreement
Contributors and investors who invest time and money at the current stage will additionally have a 50% discount on a potential ICO token sale. They can convert their outstanding debt and thus receive a 10x return at the event of a token sale.
It is to note though, that the goal of this economy is to be stable, and thus used for payment in the economy, not to be an investment vehicle. This might mean that there is no, or only a slight, additional gain.
We do not plan this ICO yet, but instead wait and learn from the best practices in economy design, that will emerge in the coming year.
An ICO will become relevant as soon as we see a need to support the WorldBrain network’s functionality — not to fund our project.
You don’t think it’s a good idea or you have thoughts on how to improve it?
We are more than happy to listen to what you say, and built a better system together.
9. Contributing to WorldBrain
As you can see in the “Chapter 8: How we raise money”, our goal is to let people who contributed to WorldBrain benefit fairly from its growth.
We are not a pure for-profit, nor non-profit. We are something in between.
In that sense, we are happy to also have some volunteers supporting us in the roles below and then find a way that everyone is happy and gets something out of it.
We are here for fairness and to leave a lasting impact. Not for the money.
Support we need
- Social Media Manager
- Decision-Making Coach/Mentor
- Financial Person to help us calculating through our investment structure, and keeping tabs on our finances
- Developers. Always.
- Security Engineer
- Community Manager for Dev & Users
- UX Designer who knows how to build habitual products
- Graphic Designer
- Writers/Journalists that love to write about cognitive and emotional development, and mediation. (See Section 7: Education)
- White-paper co-author
What we can give
- If we succeed, a chance to significantly change the world to the better
- A diverse and globally distributed team
- A large network in academia, the blockchain space, open-source development and social entrepreneurship
- Working from anywhere
- A lot of responsibility and ability to grow and learn. We are all about learning.
- A fair return on investment on your time and money (as seen in Section 8)