Open Data Peer to Peer SODU 2020

The Scottish Open Data Unconference SODU 2020 was cancelled in March 2020 but took place online in September of that year. An unconference is all about who turns up making their own agenda for the time together. I proposed a session entitled Peer to Peer Open Data / Crypto.

The notes on the format of the open space

Open discussion

What does peer to peer or crypto mean to you?

How does open data work, different or same?

Questions on the topic?

Please add ….

tokenisation?

DAO

Future of the web?

The discussion was held on the last day of both the Saturday and Sunday. On the Saturday one peer participated and on the Sunday three peers participated. The discussion started by listening to any understanding of peer to peer technology or bitcoin or another cryptocurrency project they may have heard of. Most had heart of bitcoin and those with a software background had the basics of cryptography but most had limited exposure to the space.

I made statement that bitcoin is the best open data project. Not only does it span hardware, software, psychology (game theory) and of course money or economics. Some peers where surprised to hear about the inclusion of game theory and how it keeps the open data honest, the bitcoin ledger or blockchain. In short an open data project that pays for itself.

Next an introduction to linked data and the peer to peer data stack engineering. Starting links were provided:

Links SOLID Content Addressing

https://safenetforum.org/t/safe-network-dev-update-august-1-2019/29450/4

https://ipld.io/

https://handshake.org/

Education getting started

https://beakerbrowser.com/

This section was much more technical in nature but the peer to peer stack was compared to generally understood standard web stack. The point being made was the crypto open data community have chosen not to build on the open web stack infrastructure but to superseded it by providing new fundamental properties from its foundation. The basic comparison give was that of a URI and its know link rot problems to content addresses i.e. hashed of files and changes over time. And this concept of new decentralised ways of rebuilding are followed for DNS and by adding in cryptocurrencies to bring in new incentives around open data, privacy to indexing to payment etc.

In the remaining time, some new popular crypto language was explained, Tokenization being the discussion area of most interest.

Two useful sessions to help me improve the communication and understanding of what is going on in a space mainly associated with only money speculation or highly technical language and engineering that excludes most. Peer to Peer Data – open data being the next stage of the crypto community.

Walls Wither

Minds make walls
Clogged thinking blocks
Mortar made material
Brittle, stand upright

Landmarks earth divide
Space markers eye
Remote glen, that’s mine
Metal, barbed will abide

Seasons turn rust up
Water, ice, people defy
Stones slip
Sunlight gaps

Ticking of time
Chipping of crystal
Unwinding of wire
Memories fade, walls wither

Rebirding Book Review

What does rewilding really mean in practice? I have been on a mission to learn as much from those practising and leading the way. From my own experience walking in our local hills and comparing the hills to photos and stories passed down it is clear something is far from right with the land. I was born into an environment surrounded by grouse shooting moors. I read a couple of articles Spectator1 Spectator2 that explain the reality that confronts me every day. So, I reached out the author Ben MacDonald.

Ben informed me he has written a book on rewillding or Rebirding. This is an invaluable read. Combines a geological time perspective to practical examples and he also addresses the economics. It is bold too. Rewilding has to happen at vast scale and the temptation to manage the land by targets need to be let go. Stand back and let nature figure it out, noting this will involve the reintroduction of the right mix of animals and plants that with time will build resilient environments. Ben addresses the human side of the land equation pointing out how few people are employed in current moor management and how the economy it create limits the democratic and social inclusion of our lands.

A hopeful and ambitious book with a clear message that we can do more rewilding by standing back more and opening our the hills to a wider reach of society. Do that the economics will take care of itself.

Post-monetarist outlook

Much to my surprise the most popular image I have on flickr is a chart I made up:

This was back in 2006, at the start of web2.0 and in a sense I can see why the image attracted the views, as looking back, this is exactly what came to be as the Internet giants of google, facebook, Apple, Amazon and Twitter etc. and those equivalent in China and other parts of the world grew to dominate economics, attention economics. What does the current outlook look like? What should we chart in the next image?

Answer: A doughnut

I am not the author of this image, its the creation of Kate Raworth and I think it is the right image for the outlook. Now such diagrams originate from the environmental movement so it is interesting to see an economist now putting it forward for a post economic growth society. How does an Attention economy fit in with the doughnut? As the name implies, it draws focus to information and social interactions. It is far superior than money at this, as I explain. However, as Kate rightly talks about, we need a Peer to Peer Knowledge Commons. What knowledge do we want to address our attention at and contribute too, what is most urgent or speculative? As I have written on before, we need to have a future looking Doughnut too. Another great thinker and philosopher of our time is Jaron Linear who also paints a picture of a doughnut for an AI commons. Without the ability to look forward, Jaron warns of how the machine learning algorithms will be left with no human collective intelligence to learn from. The same can be said about our ecosystems, soils etc. When they collapse they will not be able to e.g. clean our air or provide us with food, so we need to look forward to prevent such outcomes coming to be.

Attention is timeless, equally happy to look back and forward in time but we still need help on where to focus and apply our contributions to society. New currencies need to emerge. These will be post-money, or information currencies e.g. an immune system index or a soil index etc. These new currencies will allow us to learn from the past and simulate the future in any level of detail ensuring the doughnuts boundaries are kept too.

entrepreneurship evolution

I think the word entrepreneur is the first in my twitter profile.  But for a while now I have been thinking the role of the entrepreneur is evolving.  In a political context I have always found it mildly amusing that both the ‘right’ and the ‘left’ were ‘friendly’ towards entrepreneurs, the job creators, builders of businesses or engines of wealth generation or even progress are sound bites that come mind.

Where is entrepreneurship evolution heading?  To a post start up world.  Start-up has become the term of starting a business but I like to broaden it out to any entity, for profit or not, vocation to a think tank etc.  The individual entrepreneur being the master of crafting ideas, people and capital for a purpose.  Lets focus on the capital part.  It seems clear we are heading towards world where only capital flows will exist.  In economics we talk about stock of capital and flow.  Raising a seed investment is an entrepreneur receiving a stock of capital (money) to spend on people and assets to make their idea/opportunity come real.  However, it is clear to me the amounts of capital has declined dramatically recently, talk of lean start-up.  Yes, vast sums of Venture Capital continue to be raised and invested but the fabrics of innovation environment is changing.  Crypto-startups I will call them are going straight to IPO’s and the stock of bitcoins are not just tokens of exchange (money) but a connection of human ingenuity, skill and ability to collaborate to make some thing together.

I can only see this trend expanding and accelerating.  Less and less stocks of capital or even crypto-capital will be needed up front.  Collaboration will flow, all the time, innovation all the time, in short entrepreneurship happening all the time, a post startup landscape.

Transhumanism philosophy & book reviews

Earlier this year I had a series of panic attacks over a couple of weeks.  Makes you think more about your own mortality. Given this unexpected nudge I have taken some time out to read on the topic of transhumanism. Living in the geek ecosystem / culture you hear the word from time to time along with the technological singularity and even talk on post human beings.  There is much to read, listen or code to review online but my online searches got to me to two books.

The first by Ben Geotzel, A Cosmist Manifesto. Ben is the founder of the open source AGI (artificial general intelligence) project, OpenCog .  Written with many headings and quick burst of thoughts, explanations and philosophy history or own opinions.  The second book was authored by an Economist, Ted Chu, Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential. This was a more demanding read with the breadth and depth of content, thinking and reasoning and sheer range of topics, including putting religion equally at the heart of the book.

Religion and especially religious history would not normally be my choice of reading but I found Ted’s global vantage point, from East to West, believer to atheist, he covered it all and beyond.  The rigor of research and references is impressive although I have not had the time to follow any of it to source yet. Before expanding on the main thrust of the topics of both books, I found myself seeing part of my own personal path through the Universe or cosmos being described.  How pioneers or those providing a different view point and thinking are not always embraced and often the opposite of encouragement put in the way.  Both achieved a person connection along with the big future looking visions.

Both books are putting the case for a post human future, as Ted puts it, Cosmic Evolution.  A Universe full of CoBe’s (cosmic beings).  AGI could well be one of the technologies that takes us to this state of being.  Ted, builds on the thinking of Darwinsm in the context of biological evolution, cultural evolution (which if I understand right includes technology, religion and social forces) and conscious evolution or consciousness 2.0 which will take the the lead in evolution and us humans will ‘give birth to it’. Ted ties all these stands together into a coherent argument to describe the future.

A future not with out many risks.  The risks discussion takes up large parts of both books. Morality, playing god or human extinction are all big hitting subjects that both authors rationally discuss from various stance points.

Both authors bring much to think on about the future.  By sharing their knowledge, more general awareness is brought to us new or newer to the topic.  What gets me is the time scales are not eons away.  The most optimistic predictions are a 10% change of transhumans in the next 10 years, 50% chance in the next 20 years.  Time will produce the date if ever.  Finally, the personal role we each can and do play in the future is brought up by both authors and I found renewed focus and commitment to the part I want to play in the future.

Both books have all or a couple of chapters open sourced and free to read.  Invest your attention and mind in one or both.

 

 

Putting QS on the blockchain

Putting QS – Quantified Self on the blockchain.  I read/listened about the notion of a smart contract on the bitcoin blockchain from Mike Hearn a few months back now.  I had been aware of bitcoin for some time, even downloading the mining software but did not persist in getting it to work.  The motivation of a currency just was not that strong a pull to put in more effort.  However, I had overlooked the whole underlying blockchain technology but on understanding the notion of a smart contract I did not make the same mistake again. I went back to the beginning and read the founding bitcoin paper paragraph by paragraph with the aid of blog posts and video tp aid learning.  It seemed to me that a smart contract would allow the semantic web to hit the blockchain.

I use the words, semantic web but I was thinking much broader, knowledge itself combined with the time-stamping transaction logic of the blockchain.  From this insight, I started to think through how my ‘day to day job/project’   opensportproject.org would apply.  One of the key problems I was coding at the time was allowing individual swimmers to share this personal best times with each other Peer to Peer.  The data would be self added initially so how could we trust the data inputted?  How would a club verify a new club record has been achieved and should become part of the clubs publicly list records page?  What if that time record was a masters Scottish record, British, European or even an alright world record?  This is a time plus knowledge + identity example, but what about if two individuals were to exchange genomes peer to peer?

All this data adds up to make the Quantified Self.  How do we put this data on the blockchain?  Is a blockchain the best place for it to be? Lets break it down into three parts,  QS data collection, QS storage and knowledge or intelligence extracted some how, ie the smart contract.  QS data collection is about knowledge structuring, the sensor records a measurement, whether it be time, movement, medical heart rate, genome, self descriptive perspective, location etc. etc..  Each sensor can be uniquely described and the knowledge description of the data captured, time, units, distance, frequency etc. The term Internet of Things is applied. Each sensor could – should have its identity on the blockchain?

Storage is somewhat easier, right now cloud computing dominates, EC2 or S3 are popular services.  Now we have the likes of MaidSafe.net Peer to Peer decentralised storage and compute power.  Even brand new blockchain platforms are emerging e.g ethereum.org .  Right now you can have Peer accounts in the cloud but on the same instance, therefore storage in affect centralized, albeit with back up services to reduce this risk.

Data is just data, what does it mean to me, us, the Universe?  Can personal statistics, data mining or machine learning software be run as a smart contract on each new sensor data element added and feedback displayed or fed back into a body directly.  All life’s activities happen where they happen, not in the cloud so the decentralized nature of the blockchain provides instant analysis, in the context of me, the others at the location networked and via the web to all.  Decentralized over cloud wins in QS all the time.

What is the overall goal of putting QS on the blockchain?  Transhumanism or post humanism would be a logical conclusion.

An example: I have to travel to London for an internet conference. This turns out to be the hottest week of the year and combined with the heat is pollution and pollen.  I am a hayfever suffer.  I need to get a taxi back to my lodging for the week.  I look at my taxi app and see a taxi offers special hayfever air conditioning, its a bit more expense but I go for it.  Could happen today? Well, in this example, there is no human involved on the taxi side.  It is a smart contract on the blockchain that had data mined its own and other sensor data, data mined twitter and decided a hayfever filter would be a good differentiation in the marketplace this week.  It entered autonomously into a contract with a local garage to fit the improved filter.  My own QS data analysis had shown my own increased stress levels and those were used to filter against the taxi options.  And if a ‘currency payment’ still exists in the future the resulting transaction would join the blockchain too.

 

Self Engine

My main opensource project is called LifestyleLinking.  Describing what it means has proven difficult over the years, half due to my poor explaination of it and half because of it visionary nature back when it started.  But now the Quantified Self movement and BIG data have brought a context to explain it better.  What is being built is a Self Engine.  What is a self engine?  We all know a search engine brings back results based on keyword inputs,  a self engine makes suggestions on information to ‘consume’ based on the authoring of your life.  Life captured by web publishing tools, to sensors to your very own DNA.  A self engine terms has be used by the folks at Wolframalpha. It think this term will become more common in use as hardware sensors explode in daily life.

Suggestions will ultimately be integrated to make future simulations that can be passed to the make tools to achieve the desired outcomes.

Doug Engelbart – intellect game changer

It was sad to read that Doug Engelbart had passed away. During my time in Silicon Valley I was lucky enough to meet with Doug. The SuperHappyDeveloperHouse  SHDH had invited him along to surprise him with a demo of his original mouse.  When I arrived the house was a buzz with software engineers configuring modern computers to act like those back in the day when Doug invented the mouse and they succeeded. Doug was delighted.  And the mouse was not just a pointer device with a click button but a full communication authoring tool complete with hypertext markup that provided machine readable structure as the human input text.  Genius and “ahead of his time” describe Doug, with the latter disappointingly making him ‘too risky’ for mainstream venture funding.  But that would be look at the world through the glasses of money.  Doug stood above that culture and raised the expectations to sheer intelligence itself.  He provided the thinking theory, practical delivery of ideas and most importantly the inspiring vision and an exciting vision for tomorrow, that fuelled those developers that evening in SHDH and a whole generation of developers out there on the web today and no doubt tomorrow too.

Doug was driven by a goal to  “augment human intellect.”  A goal I share.  RIP Doug.