I wrapped up my previous post about the Alice.si blockchain social impact platform noting that digital identity is THE KEY element required to make speculative markets in human capital data function. The game of gambling on life outcomes requires:
1) unique personal identifiers
2) predictive analytics protocols to set the odds
3) constant monitoring of those receiving services, including inputs and outputs
4) fluid cross-border payment systems tied to real-time data flows, and
5) data aggregation and deal fulfillment platforms.
If you don’t have the first item, the unique identifier, the game cannot even start. That is why developing scalable digital identity systems is crucial. Ironically, much of the discussion we are having now around data privacy, including GDPR, is being used to advance the case for digital identity. Once adopted it will be a sea change. At that point each person will be transformed into a digitally-branded commodity available for speculative trade (based on social/reputation scoring) in the global marketplace. That is the reality of what is being built right before our eyes, and yet so few people see it for what it is.
Below are some of the sixty members of the Decentralized Identity Foundation. Most of these companies have emerged just in the past three years. Evernym, listed at the bottom of this screenshot, has partnered with the state of Illinois on a Blockchain birth certificate registry program. See the full list here.
The infrastructure needed to run human capital futures markets has been developed via “humanitarian” aid to countries that have long suffered under colonial rule. The first “Blockchain baby” was born in Tanzania in 2018. Mother and child were each assigned a digital identity, and the health care provided during that pregnancy was tracked on Blockchain. An article from Pymts.com last June, Aid:Tech and PharmAccess Deliver World’s First Blockchain Baby, describes how the Blockchain platform could be set up to incentivize desired pregnancy behaviors. The article goes on to say a similar “loyalty” program was set up by Mastercard to encourage medical compliance in Hepatitis C patients.
Interactive Map: Tanzania Blockchain Baby / Digital Global Aid HERE
Mastercard has gained prominence within the global aid community for its digital payment systems. It also holds biometric security and Blockchain identity patents. The company is a member of the Better than Cash Alliance, a program housed within the United Nations that advocates development of digital payment systems for the global poor; Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, a think tank working to scale global poverty “solutions;” the Decentralized Identity Foundation, a membership organization that promotes technology based identity; and the Domestic Security Alliance Council, a public-private intelligence gathering partnership.
Interactive version of the map above here.
The company is well positioned to benefit from a shift to Blockchain aid distribution just in time for mass global unrest stemming from climate catastrophe, economic instability, and militarization. A key feature of Blockchain technology is the ability to deploy smart contracts, the same types of contracts used in the Alice.si platform.
Using Blockchain identity and smart contracts, an organization could gamify compliance fairly easily. As individuals demonstrate required behaviors via digital networks, they “unlock” value, benefits, or privileges. While the idea of gamification is novel, we must recognize that those in positions of power will be the ones coding the game. These are people whose goal is to obtain wealth and power at the expense of the subjects compelled to play their “game.” Their intent is certainly NOT to redistribute the assets they’ve already accumulated.
Another key area of concern is the fact that VALUE SYSTEMS have begun to be written into smart contract code. Last year former Augur CEO Matt Liston devised a Blockchain RELIGION, which he dubbed 0xΩ. His technology allows believers to vote on sacred texts, select leaders, fund missionary work, and commission works of art. In a Forbes article Liston said “The idea is that you can take an existing religion, and you could place the scripture in the Blockchain.” People can then vote by proxy, changing the nature of the enterprise as the group evolves. Other Ethereum enterprises with a religious bent include Jesus Coin, Lotos, and BitcCoen.
This is important, because in the “pay for success” world we now inhabit, public services are being outsourced to non-profits and NGOs, many of which are FAITH-BASED. What will it mean if “success metrics” linked to “evidence-based” programs demand a person’s behavior comply to a specific value system? Will those needing assistance have their activities circumscribed by Blockchain-code? Will AI screen individuals for compatibility? As these contractual systems become automated via DAOs and DAFs, they are becoming further and further out of reach. It will be increasingly difficult to refute the terms of coded computer smart contracts. Where exactly does one protest this new world of cloud-based domination?
This is highly relevant to sexual and reproductive healthcare access. Our nation’s health systems are moving away from fee-for-service to a values-based payment structure-pay for success. Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including electronic health records, laid the groundwork for this transition. As hospitals are closed and consolidated, communities many only have access to religious-affiliated (often Catholic) health systems that may limit what treatments are available.
One might argue that improved reproductive health outcomes justify the Blockchain solution imposed on these mothers in Tanzania. But once again, we need to consider if the “solutions” offered materially improve the conditions of impoverished families or if they instead impose expectations of “proper” pregnancy behaviors on expectant parents without providing additional support.
Africa has become a lab for mobile health or mHealth interventions, many of which are directed at maternal health outcomes. Programs like MomConnect send SMS messages with branded content from Bay-area based BabyCenter, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Many of these digital interventions have been developed for the sole purpose of disruption and advancing behavioral economic approaches to intractable social problems.
The “impact” economy envisioned by the Davos crowd anticipates a small percentage of the world’s population will have access stable, fulfilling, living-wage work in the coming decades. Most families will be dependent on some form of assistance to survive: food, shelter, education, and health and mental health treatment. Those benefits will most likely be issued electronically and linked to digital identity systems. The system will demand to be able to compare resources expended against a person’s economic output. Software to query on encrypted data has already been developed by MIT. It’s called Engima.
This dystopian vision is a future where “labor” for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid, disproportionately Black and Brown folks, will consist of navigating increasingly intrusive “evidence-based” training, social service, and health care “solutions.” These systems will codify behavior in ways that advantage those in power. All of this hinges on digital identity, tech-based surveillance, and outcomes-based contracting. If we want to avoid this future, we must educate one another about the infrastructure that is being put into place and attempt to block its imposition.