Blockchained Society — Part 2: Crowdsourced Labor

Blockchained Society is a series of articles about some practical use-cases of blockchain technology (and others). For every article, we zoom in on ONE possible application of the technology and try to envision how it would change society as we know it, through storytelling and hand-drawn illustrations. We publish a new one every week, so stay tuned by following me on Medium! Text by Deniz Yilmaz, illustrations by Niels Sinke. [DUTCH VERSION HERE]

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | ???

illustrations by Niels Sinke

Meet Tim; a 21-year old sociology student, living in Amsterdam. Last summer he decided to move to the Dutch capital— from the city of Utrecht — so that he could live close to his school and friends. He found a nice little apartment close to the university and shares the flat with two other guys. Living outside of his parents’ home is quite costly; Tim now has to pay for rent, groceries and electricity on top of his weekly drinking nights and concerts. Still — even as a student — Tim is getting by quite nicely.

What might surprise you, is that Tim is actually unemployed and has been for his whole life so far. You might have all sorts of questions now: How does he pay for his rent? How can he afford all those nights of partying and drinking? Does he have wealthy parents? Why wouldn’t a student have a part time job on the side?

The thing is; Tim actually does work for his money — just not under contract as we know it today. Tim is a big fan of Latium; a decentralized tasking platform, where people and businesses all over the world can create tasks and jobs. What Tim likes so much about Latium is that it provides him with work wherever and whenever he wants to.

illustrations by Niels Sinke

For example, this summer he went on a roadtrip with friends. In between destinations, they used the “gig map” feature of Latium to look for small tasks (called “gigs”) in the area. Tim did a lot of handywork on nearby farms and one of his friends accepted an online gig that involved designing a website.

Latium is a DApp, which stands for distributed application. Distributed apps are different than the apps we know today; they connect people directly — without requiring middlemen — thus creating an open and free market. The software is completely based on smart contracts running on the Ethereum blockchain; which is like a global and decentralized supercomputer. Latium provides employers with a platform to advertise, organize, hire and pay employees anywhere on the world. Not only business can hire on Latium; individuals and government bodies can also create tasks and hire up to millions of people. Latium provides a worldwide open market for labor, without the need for trusted third parties.
In this example, Tim and his friends use the “gig map” feature of Latium. This feature uses AR (augumented reality) to show nearby “gigs” on your smart glasses while you’re looking around. Tim’s father often compares it with a game that he used to play as a kid; Pokémon GO. Instead of looking for Pokémon, Latium can be used to find jobs and tasks in the area.

Since this year, the municipality of Amsterdam started using the Latium platform to crowdsource maintenance tasks in the city. Instead of hiring contractors, the municipality creates a gig whenever a park needs cleaning, the pavement needs fixing or a lamp needs replacement. People all over the city can then accept the gig, provide the service and upload a “Proof of Labor”. One gig usually provides work for multiple people and sometimes even hundreds of people! The biggest gig ever created involved a public cleanup of the Vondelpark — one of the biggest parks of Amsterdam — where nearly 400 people participated in.

Tim is studying Sociology, but he’s actually quite handy and knows his way around electrical work. To earn some extra living money, he often meets his friends on saturdays to cycle through the city and scout for gigs that fit his skillset.

When the municipality of Amsterdam creates a gig on the Latium platform, it’s translated into a smart contract and posted on the Ethereum blockchain. Information regarding identity is handled through blockchain technology which— coupled with Latium’s built-in reputation system — allows for a transparent employer-employee relationship. Both the employers and employees always know who they’re working with. After every gig, both parties are asked to rate their counterparty — which contributes to the reputation of the employer or employee.
Because the gigs are smart contract-based, payment and remittance are also fully trustless and automatic. Employees that completed a gig and provided “proof of labor” are automatically paid out in Ether (ETH), which is the underlying cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain.

Crowdsourcing work is very efficient, because employers are directly connected to an open “labor market”. There is no need for employment agencies, contractors, employee screening, payrolling agencies etc. There is a noticeable trend where businesses hire employees through these open labor markets instead of hiring people on full-time contracts.

illustrations by Niels Sinke

Ever since the municipality started crowdsourcing on Latium, they were able to drastically increase their budgets for city maintenance. This started to have positive effects on the city. When something in the city breaks down, it’s usually fixed on that same day. The city is also cleaner because the municipality often creates “cleanup gigs”, which mobilize the crowd to help with cleaning a public area in return for cryptocurrency.

Blockchain technology has the potential to decentralize and globalize labor by creating a “gig economy”. Employees and employers all over the world will be connected directly, without costly middlemen. Companies will start crowdsourcing labor instead of hiring full-time employees. Individuals will have the power to mobilize millions of people, without having to worry about trust or payment. Tasking platforms like Latium could gamify labor by creating something similar to “questing” in online games. Check the map for quests and get paid automatically when the quest is completed!

Thanks for reading! Liked it? Then please don’t forget to CLAP and follow me on Medium or LinkedIn, since we’ll publish a new article every week!

All illustrations hand-drawn by the amazing Niels Sinke! Check out his work on his website and Instagram.

Some interesting articles and projects regarding this subject: Frankwatching on crowdsourcing | Latium blockchain project

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | ???