Blockchain and various Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) development teams are racing to popularize different crypto platforms, projects, and apps on a global basis.
The frenetic activity is a great sign. Aside from development teams, there are many other clusters of actors who are racing to carve out a place in the New Internet. They include:
The race is definitely on, but towards what end?
Superficially, the race is towards personal and network enrichment. Yet everyone knows that maximum enrichment (or “social welfare,” “utility maximization,” whatever term floats your ideological boat) requires global scaling/network/market growth. What is the route to the quickest adoption of DLT by billions of people?
Reflecting on this, our core thesis is:
In order to achieve the fastest and most efficient global scaling rates, everyone invested in the success of Blockchain/DLT must collaborate to offer end users tangible material “hyperutility” — ASAP.
Hyperutility refers to process and data markets that create global-scale social utility in the most unimpeachable, uncontroversial, and secure manner possible. By way of example, here’s tech that gives hyperutility:
Many DLT/Blockchain/Crypto projects already claim to be on this list. Many more aspire to join this list. But the ongoing search for crypto’s “killer app” means that, as of mid-2018, DLT is not on the list.
At present, DLT is not ubiquitous; DLT is not end-user-friendly; DLT is not secure.
DLT has vast hyperutility potential. This potential must be unleashed in a coordinated manner in order to obtain maximum freedom of action for global scaling.
Hyperutility is the key to global scaling and the key to ubiquitous, user-friendly, secure DLT.
Material integration and material hyperutility is the key to realizing crypto’s self-professed goal of becoming the New Internet.
Hyperutility = Obvious Utility
The key innovation of hyperutility tech, whether we are talking about new modes of production (e.g., the wiki) or shared standards (e.g., Wi-Fi/Bluetooth) is that they unleash far more gain than pain — in an objectively incontrovertible way.
This may seem like such an obvious point. But for purposes of global scaling, it’s incredibly important:
By offering high individual → social → individual gains (through market creation, proximation, network effects, etc.) with minimal social costs, tech that produces hyperutility acquires an open runway for global scaling — free from regulatory hassle & legal crackdowns.
Hyperutility = Open Scaling Runway
Regulators may continue to be puzzled by game theoretical processes that serve as a check on, say, vandalism in the wiki context. End users may be totally oblivious regarding the internal mechanics or technical minutiae of Wi-Fi. Even sophisticated players may not know or care about the org structure of the Wi-Fi Alliance or Bluetooth Special Interest Group. That’s fine.
The important thing is that with hyperutility, regulators see the value of a laissez faire approach; industry & end users see the value of rapid network build-out and adoption.
The gains from a technology so far outweigh the social costs that overwhelming majorities start to see the need for a non-interventionist approach.
In the most successful hyperutility scenarios, the end goal isn’t just a “hands off” regulatory posture. Where hyperutility is obvious, everyone is better off and everyone gains from investing in, and in accelerating adoption.
When an idea offers true hyperutility, it doesn’t just get an open runway for takeoff and speedy circumnavigation. It gets droves of well-wishers on the tarmac and global good will.
Hyperutility v. Social Utility
For some time now, some of the biggest names in DLT have been urging a turn towards social utility — aiming CryptoTech/BlockTech/DLT towards urgent social needs versus making it just easier to spend crypto.
In a famous December 2017 Tweet, when the price of Ethereum was skyrocketing, Ethereum mastermind Vitalik Buterin expressly urged *all* “crypto communities” to take a moment to reassess where the community was headed.
Buterin implored the community to actually achieve “something meaningful for society,” going so far as to warn that he would leave “the community” if it didn’t adjust course.
In our view, the “something meaningful for society” mantra is a very good sign, but far from enough.
The call for “social utility” is devoid of any metric — quantitative or qualitative — for what that “something” would look like, or how to measure “meaningful” impact on “society” as a whole.
Calls for more social utility or “social responsibility” are amorphous; they allow development teams to make fiat assertions of utility via crude cost-benefit analysis:
(Social Benefits of App X) > (Social Costs of App X)
(App X gives Social Utility)
Because it’s so easy to exaggerate actual and prospective social benefits, and because it is so exceedingly easy to externalize the social and material costs of a particular technology, it becomes extremely easy to claim that a given App X is, on sum, net socially useful.
Social Utility Apples v. Social Utility Oranges
This sort of logic leads to apples-to-oranges comparisons and conceptual incoherence.
The current debates over the environmental costs of crypto mining are Exhibit A for this problem.
CryptoCrits (folks critical of crypto mining practices) point out that the energy costs for crypto mining are staggering, and continue to rise exponentially. On the other hand, crypto proponents argue that DLT unleashes myriad new markets worth hundreds of billions of dollars; therefore, the gains from these new markets far outweigh the environmental and other costs of the technology.
Critics: “Your oranges are acidic, and too much acid is bad.”
Proponents: “Uh-uh, our apples are tastier than your oranges~! And with enough of our apples, we’ll all be able to afford the best specialists to deal with the costs of the orange acid.”
Crude cost-benefit and social utility arguments like this are obstacles to rapid global adoption of DLT/Crypto/BlockTech.
Weak Utility Arguments Impede Scaling
Among other things, arguments like this practically invite regulatory intervention. After all, the chief expertise of the legislator/regulator is the self-proclaimed and/or delegated authority to balance and reconcile conflicting values and costs.
Many regulators work very hard in good faith to develop the best methodologies for measuring inchoate impacts, present-day valuations of diffused future costs, and rigorous ways of thinking about intergenerational equity. This type of socio-economic balancing is inherent difficult in any context, like driverless cars or even drinking-water standards.
In the DLT space, socio-economic/regulatory balancing is rendered much more difficult by the incredibly abstract nature of DLT and the lack of an easily-accessible use case — the missing “killer app.”
The DLT community needs to make clear hyperutility arguments to make it easy for peer developers, regulators, and global bases of potential users to see what the Blockchain/Crypto/DLT fuss is all about.
Hyperutility Is Easy
Over the past five years, the CleanApp Foundation has suggested several relatively easy ways of doing hyperutility.
Coming up with incontrovertibly useful applications for DLT is not hard, and is really quite fun. We are fascinated by the potential of global legal databases, like robust global versions of LexisNexis/Westlaw — offering dynamic and verifiably accurate repositories and translations of all the world’s laws & regulations. Since our first days, we have worked towards an OpenJDXNMap, which would be a globally scalable dynamic jurisdiction-mapping engine, capable of accurately answering who is responsible for what, where.
Everyone stands to benefit from nascent projects like BlockLaw and OpenJDXNMap. Their value and hyperutility are obvious and incontrovertible. Even potential sovereignty-based counterarguments become unstable: “No, we shouldn’t have an open global legal database because we prefer control over who has access to our law on our own terms!”
The list of existing DLT use-cases that offer or will soon offer hyperutility is growing.
But one of our key realizations for hyperutility at this stage of DLT’s development is that (1) robust, (2) quantitatively verifiable, (3) material hyperutility is also relatively easy to execute at global scales!
We think material hyperutility is how the rest of the world should and will get familiar with Blockchain/DLT/Crypto. Here’s why.
Material Hyperutility = Smart Resource Use
The Blockchain-based legal database or jurisdiction map illustrations are akin to early Google, Wikipedia, or OpenStreetMap. The are useful, but the initial hyperutility proposition is informational. Material applications can be built on top of BlockLaw or OpenJDXN, but they become second level apps. To realize material utility from those second level apps, a lot of effort must be expended to scale data inputs to achieve acceptable levels of accuracy and usefulness in the first level maps. This is a classic chicken-and-egg problem.
We have a solution to one of DLT’s most vexing chicken-and-egg scaling problems.
Our big idea is this: the easiest way of doing material hyperutility is to offer material hyperutility straight off the bat.
In other words, instead of creating data markets for subsidiary data markets with the hope of maturation/integration with existing material/commodity markets, DLT permits us to effectively blur the line between material and data markets — from the outset.
CleanApp Foundation has developed a comprehensive vision of one such reimagined commodity-data-commodity market. In a nutshell, this project leverages DLT to rethink recycling, creating the world’s first glocal recycling marketplaces — something like an Uber-of-Trash sitting atop DLT eBays/Amazons/Alibabas.
There are many other globally-scalable material hyperutility applications. The same concept can be easily applied to energy-data-energy markets, and so on.
The usefulness of these applications is easy to see because their utility is material … tangible. A hyperutility app that gives palpable material gains is far more accessible and adaptable as a technology than purely abstract data markets like various distributed cloud platforms, and so on.
The other advantage of material hyperutility apps is the ease of turning them into material crypto mining engines, making it much easier for billions of people to earn crypto instead of just making it easier to spend crypto.
Trust But Verify
We realize that nudging fiercely independent DLT actors to move in the direction of a collaborative project to unleash material hyperutility is akin to herding CryptoKitties.
It’s tough to herd CryptoCats.
We also know that the DLT/Blockchain/Crypto community has some of the top minds on the planet, and is attracting many more. That’s why our approach to material hyperutility emphasizes verifiability, proof, and concrete quantitative methodological approaches for measuring effectiveness. We describe them here (& here & here).
As you — smart developers & Blockchain strategists — get to know CleanApp’s work & role in the 21st century’s global resource and governance markets, we are confident you will realize the value of Blockchain material hyperutility.
The bottom line is this. Getting (1) robust, (2) quantitatively verifiable, (3) material hyperutility isn’t just possible — it’s the fastest & easiest way for DLT to realize its full potential.