The best ideas are often the simplest — so I want to share a simple demo of how smart contracts and incentive games can be implemented in your daily life, a game I’ll call “Better”, I encourage everyone to try playing Better without the use of computers with people they trust to get a feel for these games. Games like this are not new or rare — gyms and workplaces incentivize each other to do many self-improvement tasks (Weight loss, smoking cessation,) but being able to create them ad-hoc and trust they will be executed faithfully through the programmatic nature of cryptocurrency is what makes these games more interesting and efficient.
B E T T E R
The gist of Better is that you and your counter-party both wager an equal amount of some currency, we can call this ante. The ante is wagered on whether some goal (in this use-case, a behavior modification,) is achieved. At the end of an arbitrary but goal-related time period, all parties vote on which counter-party succeeded in their wager.
Now, I’m inclined to believe that the best results will be achieved when we require the final vote to be unanimous (as opposed to simple majority wins) otherwise the stakes of both parties are held in escrow by a program- a smart contract, — this reduces the likelihood of attempting to ‘game’ the final voting process.
Once voting is complete, the winning side is paid out doubles their stake, the other side gets zilch and the game is complete.
So, with that said, we can be even more succinct: Incentivize yours or others self-improvements using a double-or-nothing wager with automated and trustless processing.
E X A M P L E
You’ll need at least two people to play. We’ll use “Quit Smoking” as our goal. Four friends get together one day and pool their money, each contributing $100 for a total of $500.
The friend group (the ‘Stake-ers’) asks their nicotine-dependent friend (the ‘Player’) if they want to play Better. First, the Player will need to ante up $500 on their side. Together they will agree on a time period as well as goal details — whatever the goal, it should be framed as a question that will have a yes or no answer when the clock runs out on the game.
For the sake of this example, we’ll say the Player and Stake-ers agree to set the specific goal as: “No cigarettes for three months,” and that these friends aren’t worried about being deceived by the behavior-modification target;
the Stake-ers trust the Player not to defraud or sneak around.
At the end of the three months, they hold their vote: The player quit smoking for three months, won $500, and the Stake-ers lost their bet but gained the satisfaction of a healthier friend.
D A P P S
In that example, I don’t talk about the players using an app or technology — because they don’t actually need one, but a decentralized app (or dapp) would be better: decentralized applications can eliminate the need to trust a corruptible or fallible central entity to manage the funds and wagers, and also eliminates the need for a human escrow to count votes and pay out the winnings, who can also be manipulated.
Vote-tallying and smart-contract payment methods are ideal for this simple but effective social interaction, and in Better, we find a rare instance in which the user experience might actually be improved through programmatic money, decentralization and smart contracts.
Consider other simple rounds of Better:
- $10 to encourage your peer to interview for that job they’ve been procrastinating on.
- The weekly allowance to get your teen to clean their room.
So there you have it. There is nothing stopping you from playing Better with your friends today for even small things, and all you need is basic trust and someone to hold the cash and count the votes, but blockchain tech and cryptocurrencies can make all of this open-source, operationally transparent, and easy to use.
F U R T H E R
Better relies on notions like “stake in the game,” the “sunk-cost fallacy” and the pressure we feel when others depend on us. Consider Better: Hard Mode, which risks a total loss of funds to a third-party (say a charity) or application-layer wallet, increasing the pressure on the Player even further: If the goal isn’t met, both parties lose their wages (which also means the Stakers are further incentivized to support the Player in meeting the goal.)
With privacy-preserving blockchains like Enigma Project and perhaps Oasis Labs protocols, we can imagine very high-stakes games of Better played out with more exotic and influential Players and systems:
Imagine a nation whose citizens pool 1 million dollars and challenge an elected official to take some action or enact some policy.
At a very shallow glance, these privacy-preserving blockchains could permit inscrutable incentive games that would make it impossible to tell if a politician or a citizen actually engaged in the game, potentially empowering “dark money” in both democratic and undemocratic senses.
T h a n k s .
If you appreciate these thoughts, I encourage you to consider a new venture I’m embarking on called Guardian dapp, a privacy-preserving, decentralized, and incentive-game theoretic reputation management system that seeks to warn against, disincentive and reduce the influences or dark triad/tetrad traits in human societies. We’re currently part of the first cohort of Pioneer.app and working on our whitepaper. Follow along with our news on my Twitter.