When we talk about digital data, rarely do we consider what it actually is. I don’t mean 1s and 0s, or information stored on a server in some remote part of the world. At its core, data is the tangible product of human decision-making over time.
Every Facebook like, Amazon purchase, tweet, Instagram photo uploaded, e-government service accessed, Google search, and the myriad other online activities contribute to our digital footprint.
At one point in time, we decided to interact, and the outcome of that interaction, a reflection of our identity, was recorded. Multiply these activities by billions, and consider how our decisions are being recorded and translated into data every day makes it no surprise that The Economist referred to data earlier this year as the world’s most valuable resource.
Who owns that data, though? Is it simply the companies or governments collecting it, or is the user since they often have the ability to export or even delete their data?
Maybe a better question to ask is, if a user is giving a company access to their data in exchange for a free service, why aren’t those users benefiting from the monetization of that data as well?
This question is one of the most important considerations society needs to address going forward, not least because the longer it goes unanswered, the greater the divide will be between those who control data and those who simply generate it (scenes from Black Mirror come to mind).
In fact, overconsumption, population growth, climate change, and inequality — these are four of the most pressing challenges to humanity, yet they all have at least one thing in common: they are intrinsically connected. Any one of these factors persisting long enough is enough to plunge a society into chaos, and now we are experiencing a global perfect storm fueled by our current economic and political system. Brexit, Trump’s election, and the rise of populist politicians around the world are no accident: the world, and in effect, society, can only take so much before it pushes back.
If we truly want a more hopeful and sustainable future, it is imperative that we understand the underlying architecture behind our 21st-century challenges: trust.
Building trust through decentralization
Many of our physical problems are often exacerbated by social problems, and around the world, trust in institutions is significantly declining.
Yet, as the sharing economy seems to demonstrate, trust in each other is paradoxically increasing.
Perhaps then it is not such a stretch to imagine moving away from a centralized system where power is concentrated in core institutions and among select elites, to one powered by user-generated data that is decentralized across multiple networks.
Indeed, the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are but one of the challenges to centralized power: by chipping away at the financial and banking sectors, retaking power into the hands of the people, we reappropriate our power.
Moreover, blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies, has the potential to revolutionize collaborative decision-making, transparency, and accountability — key features of not only a healthy society, but of democracy itself.
At the same time, with the value of Bitcoin soaring for instance, who is benefiting from those high prices?
Early adopters who saw the value when it cost nearly nothing; technologists literate in cryptocurrency trading who have been carefully investing over time; hedge fund managers with enough wealth to buy in even with the high prices.
Perhaps it partially solves issues surrounding trust, but how does it address inequality?
It seems that instead of empowering everyone, it merely presents an opportunity to replace existing elites with a new generation, albeit a more tech-savvy one. Furthermore, it completely ignores those individuals without access to the Internet who have no way to benefit directly from digital technologies.
What we need is to connect the dots; cryptocurrency is based on the same principles that built the Internet: decentralization, openness and trust, and above all, people.
Every Internet user is building the Internet, byte-by-byte, so why then don’t we all have a greater share of it? Why aren’t we individually charging for the use of our data the way we charge for our time?
This is exactly what Rachel Botsman, author of the book Who Can You Trust? How Technology Brought Us Together — and Why It Could Drive Us Apart, alluded to when she stressed:
“What is inevitable is that our identity and our behaviors will become an asset … Hopefully we’ll get to a place where it will be us as individuals so that we will be more in control about how that data is used and sold, and that we can use it to our benefit. As opposed to a tech company like Google, Amazon, or Facebook or, even worse, the government having that kind of control over our lives.”
Building community with Boulé
At Boulé, we believe blockchain is key to the future evolution of the society — one that is decentralized, democratic, and empowered. At the same time, we recognize that technology is not a panacea for all social problems, nor is technology our savior. Ultimately, collaboration is what makes human progress possible. This is why we are building a community by empowering our users to take ownership of their data through our ecosystem, participate in decision-making, and capitalize on new forms of wealth distribution. Blockchain is already growing in terms of its multiple applications for social good, but we want to do so much more.
Akin to Fight Club or Mr. Robot, our mission isn’t to change the system. We want to completely redefine it, but this time based on maximizing well-being, meritocracy, inclusion, and egalitarianism. By rooting your online experience in Boulé’s secure and independently verified, blockchain-based Universal Blockchain Identity, you take your first step into a world of global digital citizenship.
Create your ID here, gain tokens in the form of cryptocurrency (BOU) for every time you share your data with a third-party website or service, and take advantage of our decentralized voting platform. For more information about Boulé’s blockchain ID see our Medium post here.
Join our community, and take back your data!
Boulé is a blockchain-based ecosystem that provides a holistic solution for digital citizenship, including a decentralised voting platform, cryptocurrency wallet, and a secure, independently verified ID.