A New Type of Immortality
How blockchains allow people to live on through their community after they cease to be with us
TandaPay is an architecture for building peer-to-peer insurance on the Ethereum blockchain which doesn’t require 98% of users to know they are using cryptocurrency. Using the blockchain we seek to provide communities the ability to self insure without requiring that they rely on a trusted third party to hold premiums. Communities using TandaPay are able to provide each other with supplemental coverage but they are also able to create a permanent, tamper-proof record which represents the collective experience of the community. In so doing it creates a new type of record that has never before existed, a living record of what is happening within a community written corporately by its members. By embedding humanity into this record we are doing something that has never been done before.
How to become immortal
Every young person has an angsty period in their life where they feel nothing is working out for them, everything they’ve tried is a failure, and they themselves are failures. Certain pieces of music become iconic memorials for a generation that captures what it meant to feel like a young adult. For my generation the musical Rent was as popular as the modern day musical Hamilton. In addition to being popular with many audiences, it was about the angst of young 20-somethings who were struggling to make it when I was a young 20-something struggling to make it.
The musical itself is incredibly mysterious for one very important reason, which I will explain after providing some context. Most of the characters in the play are HIV positive. In the early 1990’s the prognosis for those who contracted the disease was that they would only have a few years to live. Here are just a few of the more poignant lines which conveyed the sense that the characters had of their own mortality:
One song, glory, one song, before I go, glory, one song to leave behind.
The pain will ease if I can learn, there is no future, there is no past, I live this moment as my last, there’s only us, there’s only this, forget regret, or life is yours to miss.
There’s only now, there’s only here, give in to love, or live in fear, no other path, no other way, no day but today.
The reason why the play was such a phenomenon was that the playwright who wrote it died the night before the play was to open. Jonathan Larson died unexpectedly the morning of Rent’s first preview performance Off Broadway. He suffered an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome. His friends and family were left to cope with a situation in which there was no time to mourn. They wanted time to grieve, yet they knew Jonathan’s last wish would be for the musical to open. Later, many of his friends and family commented on the fact that the musical had a prophetic quality. It almost seemed as if Jonathan had both foretold his death and written his own memorial through the musical’s dialogue.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure the life of a woman or a man? In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried, in bridges he burned, or the way that she died.
It’s time now — to sing out, tho’ the story never ends, let’s celebrate, remember a year in the life of friends. Remember the love…measure in love…seasons of love.
The very last lines of the musical are especially haunting:
Life goes on, but I’m gone, ’cause I die without you, I die without you, I die, without you, I die without you. No day but today.
It’s hard to know how to interpret those lines. Some of the cast members have commented that Johnathan continues to live on through the lives of those he touched. His parents felt that even on the day of his death the show had to go on because that’s what Jonathan would have wanted. The day he died was the day all his dreams came true. The show opened to great acclaim and he was heralded as a great playwright whose life was cut short. His death elevated Rent by giving the tragic substance of the musical a very real human context. It convincingly declares the reality of “La Vie Bohème,” as demonstrated through the tragic fate of both the play’s characters and its author. In doing so it convinces the audience that we should live our lives without regrets as if each day was our last. In delivering such a powerful message, he impacted the lives of far more people after he had passed away than he did during the course of his entire human life.
Given the uniqueness of the circumstances which lead to the play’s meteoric rise, it’s not unreasonable to say that for 12 years Rent served as a continual memorial to Jonathan. On Broadway, Rent gained critical acclaim and won several awards. The Broadway production closed on September 7, 2008 after a 12-year run of 5,123 performances, making it the 9th longest running show in Broadway history up till that point in time. Even today the show is still touring and being performed by local theaters and will likely to continue to be performed for years to come.
Publish or perish
All this is very touching, but what does it have to do with blockchain technology?
The musical written by Jonathan Larson should not be viewed merely as a manuscript which immortalizes him in the same way a memoir may immortalize a historical figure. Yes, the characters he created truly convey a sense of who he was and the type of life he lived. This makes the play a work of autobiographical fiction by exploring his personal struggles through the protagonists. But, Rent doesn’t just convey Jonathan Larson’s personality. Although autobiographies can memorialize someone the same way a photo captures a moment in time, a musical that is still being performed requires a community of actors to tell that person’s story night after night. To this day, a community of actors are still building their careers upon the work that he did making Rent a living manuscript. Rent goes beyond creating a mere memorial of who he was because it is still functioning to keep a part of him alive.
This is the spirit of TandaPay
TandaPay will allow individuals to create lasting communities. Their initial participation will pave the way for future generations to benefit and build upon their efforts. The characters in Jonathan Larson’s play declare, “I die without you” and this has impact because the audience has an emotional connection to his story. The current policyholders in a TandaPay group declare the validity of all previous claims. This has authority because they are using their time and money to sustain the group. Why would they do that if they didn’t believe in what the group was doing? Furthermore, every policyholder is required to take the TandaPay pledge wherein they vow to only support the group if the community abstains from knowingly approving fraudulent claims.
The first policyholders in a TandaPay group are the group’s originators. They build up the group’s initial credibility and provide the opportunity for future participants. Every successive policyholder is granted the right to contribute to the community’s history. Participation is accepting the responsibility of carrying this history forward in a way that matches the values of the community. The goal is the fair and honest treatment of claims. A lasting legacy is one where policyholders continue to see value in paying premiums into the community. This testifies that the members believe that claims have been and will continue to be fairly awarded. So long as a TandaPay group continues to treat participants fairly, the founders efforts are forever immortalized.
It will immortalize the factory worker who was injured. It will allow them to offer testimony against their employer with the goal of making their factories safer places to work. It will immortalize the victims of police brutality. It will allow them the freedom to testify against their oppressors with the goal of making their communities safer places to live. It will immortalize the victims of sexual assault on college campuses. It will give them the ability to speak out against oppressive policies which result in the underreporting of incidents. By increasing reporting it will force campuses to change their policies, thereby making their college campuses safer places to go to school.
TandaPay might also potentially be used as an offensive weapon for communities. In theory it might allow them to create legal defense funds. This could serve as a means by which they could raise enough funds to challenge their oppressors in a court of law. If this ever happens, it will take a monumental effort for me to suppress my joy that some corrupt authority is having the tables turned on them.
In addition to making people immortal, it will also serve the banal purpose of allowing people to form groups to provide insurance coverage. One of the first use cases will be as a means to eliminate the pesky $500 deductible commonly tied to most auto, homeowners, and renters policies.
The power of the blockchain is in its ability to create a tamper-proof, immutable record. TandaPay will leverage this power of immutability to preserve the testimonies of individuals as living records long after they themselves have died. In this way the spirit of TandaPay is a spirit of “celebration, remembering a year in the life of friends.”