Telegram AMA #1
Hosted by our CTO Aaron Craelius and Lead Engineer Ethan Frey, with support from our Chief Regeneration Officer, Gregory Landua
On Tuesday, September 17th, 2019 at noon Eastern, we hosted our first #AskMeAnything in our Telegram channel.
Regen Network - Public Group
Regen Network - Public Group The official Public Telegram Group for Regen Network (https://www.regen.network). Balance…
The following is a transcription of what transpired.
Question: I’m curious to know about Regen’s approach to smart contract technology. What are the key parts of the developer experience Regen focuses on in the smart contract domain?
Aaron: So our current approach is two-fold. In the long-term we have the idea of creating “human readable” smart contracts. In the short-term, we’re working on enabling WASM smart contracts within the Cosmos SDK so that we can get something up and running quickly
Ethan: The product side is focused on defining a set of easy to use smart contrats, based on user needs. We may even encode the first prototypes in go.
By launch, we should be able to encode such contracts as wasm, but it will still be expected that regen is developing them.
Longer term, there is the vision of human-readable (and programmable) smart contracts in a domain-specific langugae, that environmental organizations could define themselves
Aaron: In the long run, we’re working on human readable smart contracts based first on a structured ecological state claims and then on predicates on state claims that can be transformed from code into natural language. The basis for that design is the existing work done on RDF and Sparql. Prior art is http://aksw.org/Projects/SPARQL2NL.html. Effectively we could create a state machine composed of Sparql ASK queries as predicates for state changes and Sparql CONSTRUCT queries for state actions like sending coins. That’s our starting point for now. It’s a research area that we want to pursue further once we get more MVP functionality like WASM into production
Q: What is Regen Network’s ultimate goal? And why is blockchain necessary to reaching that goal?
Ethan: To incentivize ecologicallybeneficial actions, we need a trusted record of ecological state to base the calculations upon.
Using a blockchain as the basis for the ecological ledger makes sense as the technology is designed to amplify trust in a decentralized situation
Q: Cosmos does not have smart contracts, Cosmos HUB is benefit from these Smart contracts or will they only be for Regen?
Ethan: I am working on a web assembly (wasm) smart contract implementation that will be mainlined into the cosmos-sdk. This is funded by an ICF grant and somewhat tangent to my work at Regen.
It will definitely cover all expected use cases from Regen and the current design of interfacing with the SDK is currently Aaron’s design from Berlin Hackatom. However, it is intended to be useful to as many zones as possible.
I am seeking feedback on the design — if you have any use cases or want to get into details, there is a dedicated group to that
The longer-term vision of human-readable smart contracts will be based on a domain-specific language, highly tied to the ecological ledger we are building.
Building a general human-readable programming language is a holy grail that has not been acheived in decades. We aim to make a way to programming a certain subset of actions accessible to “normal” people
Q: Would you start with a high level refresher of what Regen Network is setting out to do?
Aaron: So from a high-level, we’re trying to solve major planet-wide environmental crises like climate change, loss of biodiversity, soil degradation. That is our goal and we try to to reflect on the potential impact of our solutions as a guiding light. Concretely we have identified decentralized technology as a huge potential catalyst for better management of our shared environmental resources. The founders of Regen Network have years of direct experience in ecology and regenerative agriculture and have encountered numerous areas where the management of ecological data, verification of ecological outcomes and the coordination of funds to support these efforts is hampered by the lack of technology to coordinate all of it. It is our belief that the world needs a solid set of open-source decentralized tools for managing our commons resources, and that is what we’re trying to build
Ethan: > have encountered numerous areas where the management of ecological data, verification of ecological outcomes and the coordination of funds to support these efforts is hampered by the lack of technology to coordinate all of it.
This is a great sumary of the current state of affairs. Centralized efforts, such as those by the UN are notable and powerful, but limited to domains where there is a global consensus. And all require heavy beauracracy.
A truly decentralized (call it grassroots or market-based as you like) approach requires a trustable, up-to-date source of data. Imagine trading when you only get to see a sample of 10 trades that happened over the last month. What is a valid price? Worse, when your trading partner is faking some of this data.
Outside of some (inter-)governmental initiative there is little canonical, trusted data in the environmental/ecological space. And definitely not collected and normalized in a format that can easily be queried.
Providing such infrastructure for a true state of even some parts of the world, enables a wide range of actions to improve the health — you can’t fix anything unless you can look at it first
Q: Have you ever thought about issuing a certification for companies that are committed to working with you and using your registration methods, based on the analysis obtained? Would it be possible for you to obtain the authority and authorisation to issue such a certificate and make it recognisable worldwide?
Aaron: At a technology level we are trying to enable new types of certifications that have a transparent ledger of claims associated with them. Our direction thus far has been to try to partner with existing organizations working on these sorts of certifications and create technology to upgrade and support their efforts. Whether or not we as an organization decide to create our certification or standard is a question that has come up a number of times internally. At some point, we may decide to go in this direction but we have thus far been aiming to do this more through partnership than on our own.
Q: Do you have in plan to apply the current program with Chorus One on a larger validator set?
Aaron: Yes. We have been discussing plans for doing that and will announce more soon
Gregory: To be a little more detailed: we will work with Chorus (and you too we hope!) to craft a governance proposal for the Cosmos Hub based on our pilot work with Chorus to use the community fund to invest in carbon offsetring and carbon removal to make the cosmos hub carbon negative and climate positive.
Q: How did you two get involved in Regen Network? What excites you most about this project?
Aaron: When Gregory and I first met maybe 10 years ago at this point we both had a shared interest in ecology, permaculture and the possible application of technology to create a more sustainable world, and we started scheming up various projects to make something happen that we codenamed “Practivist” — for practical activism. Anyway, nothing really took off at the time, but we stayed in touch over the years and Regen Network is the outgrowth of that earlier enthusiasm, with both of us having much more real-world experience under the belt
Ethan: I came into blockchain some years ago and it was Jae’s vision of cosmos and the design of tendermint that really convinced me of a useable, scalable approach to the future. Since then, I have been highly committed to the Cosmos vision and ecosystem.
About 6 months ago, I heard about this Regen project, also in the Cosmos network. Later I heard the amazing far-reaching vision from Gregory, and the deep technical analysis behind it from Aaron. I care about the future of our planet and had been involved in ecological initiatives some years ago, but they had been pushed aside largely by my career.
The chance to apply my skills to a vision I truly believe in was a great opportunity. Maybe there are more in the cosmos space who resonate with this as well
Q: Do you have anyone you would personally like to cooperate with? Someone or some team that you think could bring a particular added value to your project for example
Ethan: On the non-blockchain side (and I think Aaron and Gregory can answer better), there are a number of groups working on remote sensing ecological data, and others working to integrate existing sensors into unified software systems. I am very interested to learn more here about what is possible. Gisel from Regen is leading the remote sensing area, and there is a collaboration with GOAT on the ecological data collection side, which I would love to learn more about from Gregory.
On the blockchain side, I admire the frontend work of a number of cosmos projects, especially efforts to bring this to mobile. In particular, cosmosstation as well as commercio’s recent dart wallet demo are quite interesting. And I would be very happy to collaborate with them in some way to create mobile apps for recording and viewing data in the field.
Gregory: On the science side we would like to create open source science working groups with leading scientific insitutions. We are taking our first steps there with Conservation International, World Resource Institute and The Nature Conservancy
On the economics side, I would love to have time with token economics geeks who want to talk about the “second layer” token economics wher epeople are generating and issuing ecological outcome based tokens that represent rights to the natural capital being generated from a piece of land.
Q: Where do you see this project being in 5 years?
Aaron: That’s a really tough question. I can talk a bit about where I want it to be and hopefully we can help it get there together. In 5 years, I would like to see a lot of the software we’re developing as part of the global infrastructure for managing the planet. Our goal now is to try to build core open source infrastructure pieces for tracking ecological data and making ecological contracts. I’d like to see that become the norm in many industries — where consumers expect that companies and governments are putting their ecological commitments on the blockchain and that there’s a place where they can go to see what an organizations real impact is. That’s the vision I have for Regen Network — the portal where we all go to take care of our planet — where we go whenever we’re making an important spending decision to consider the broader impact on the planet and contribute to project’s which have trackable impact
Q: What do you think about BREEAM and LEEDS certification? To store their certificates on blockchain.
Aaron: So I want to start by saying that my expertise is in software engineering, not ecology so I can’t go into too many specifics about the pros and cons of those certifications specifically. Possibly someone else on our team could. Generally, we want to provide the technology to support managing such certifications on chain and we would consider both of those valid use cases. Now regarding specifics of what types of certifications we’re trying to encourage, on the team we’re generally in favor of including outcomes, not just practices in certifications. I know this is somewhat complex and in some cases you can only reliably measure practices. But to the extent that we can actually gather data on environmental outcomes — the actual impact we’re having on the surroundings — we want to track that and enable a world where we actually have more impact data at our finger tips to make spending decisions, decide which practices to employ, etc.
Gregory: Personally I am not a big fan of these certification systems because they end up being simle check boxes that rarely provide context specific and truely transformative outcomes. Certificaitons of this sort (I believe) will go extinct as we make trnasparency around accurate information about ecological state and cost available throughout a supply system and project context. In turn this will enable all stakeholders to design agreements that are no longer “standardized” but instead have real impact, and generate public goods that can be assigned to the appropriate parties and either traded or used for reputation.
Q: is the prosposal voting period equally to the cosmos network?
Aaron: On our testnet it is 4 days
Q: can you speak more to how regen plants to reconcile “remote sensors” which afaik must be built in some sort of tamperproof way by a trusted manufacturer, with the idea of a truly trustless & decentralized community ?
Ethan: It seems to me like those two ideas are a bit at odds with eachother. Is there plans for some kind of token voting on globally authorized sensor devices? Or is the legitimacy of a sensor decided on a “per contract” basis (eg each ecological agreement would specify its own set of public keys of sensors it trusts to determine its outcome ?)
Someone else can probably answer better, but my understanding is that much of the machine verifiable state is coming from analysis of remote sensing data, like satellite images. This is hard to fake, especially if you draw from 2 or 3 sources. This remote sensing data can be fed into ML algorithms to extract features, like tree cover, and done off-chain in some typical challenge-reward multiple oracle model for verifiable execution.
The on-the-ground measurements with sensors definitely needs a human trust layer. Having multiple independent parties auditing overlapping areas, a transparent registry of ecological data, and a reward-punishment system for those who detect/commit fraud would be a way to provides incentives and accountability.
Especially if there is a reasonable delay between entering ecological data and taking action (like releasing funds) based on the data, such a model along with radical transparency should help fight fraud.
I must say I am new to Regen and have not been involved in these discussions — the remote sensing info is my understanding from what Aaron told me Gisel was working on, and his design. The human challenge-response is more or less my interpretation of how I would extend the model
Q: How and who can make an audition? How can an organic farmers become involved?
Gregory: Not sure if you mean audit or audition. We’re creating an on ramp in partnership with our Sci, and farm os for organic farmers to collect and share different forms of production data in a secure way, as well as provide data for ecological contracts for ecosystem services like carbon payments.
Q: what certifies as organic? there are so many organizations that give out the stamp for it
Gregory: Organic Certification standards very by country. Yes there are many different organizations that can give organic certs. Certificaiton schemes in general are pretty bad for a number of reasons. The primary reason being that the incentive to certify is at odds with the incentive to give accurate information. That is to say: Organic Cert companies get payed by keeping people in the certificaiton program, not to provide accurate information WHATEVER IT MAY BE. Needless to say the organic certificaiton is not as robust as consumers might hope.
Q: If theres a certified organic farmer how can we start the main concern is that theres organic farmers that cant afford to pay for a U$10000 certification. Will there be oportunities for organinc farmers which arent certified. Just to give an example. How can a native american growing this family food be involved.
Gregory: Indeed, it is insane to ask farmers to pay for the certification. This, I might note, is NOT the model Regen Network operates under.
For instance in our pilot project in Ecuador with an organic cacao farmers cooperative, we are working directly with both the association of farmers and a third party data collection agency to collect data, hash it on the blockchain for auditibility, and link that data to premiums based on real ecological proformance. The steps in that context to create teh type of transaprency needed to track and reward actual ecologcal proformance (instead of using a certificaiton process) are as follows:
to generate a geolocation using GPS that is associated with each farmer in the program. To link this Geolocation with a private keyset, to link this private keyset to a farmer.
to start providing data from both the cooperative and a third party, about the ecological health, as well as other production data) linked to this account and geo-location.
Then when a buyer places a contract for cacao produced at a certain level of ecologcal proformance, we can sort the farms that qualify based on the criteria in the contract.
In the case of our pilot in ecuador, there is a corelative assessment that cross references satalite data, farmer generated data, and third party data to sort farmers into 4 tiers of ecological proformance. Those tiers were agreed upon by the farmers cooperative and the cacao buyers.
I hope that is a helpful walk through the world of how an ecological agreement framework is a more competitive and attractive alternative to standards and certifications by tying product premiusm to direct payments and real world outcomes.