How to bring the EU (you know, that "faceless bureaucracy") closer to the citizens, how to show the people that Europe is working for them? For decades, the EU has funded roads and bridges and power grid interconnections. Now, in the era of data, the EU is working on the building blocks for a future data and application infrastructure - a humble "blockchain-in-a-box" which anyone can plug-in and start contributing to creating the future European "data highway network". A building block for a future of "high democratic bandwidth".
This is a very special time in the history of Europe. We are fast approaching the fateful #Brexit date of March 29th - the first time when a country is going to leave the European Union.
More than six decades after its creation, during which the supranational organization went from 6 member states (MS) to 28 MS, the EU will be faced with the unprecedented situation of seeing one MS go its own way. This event did not come out of the blue though, and many other political manifestations echo it in a number of other MS. This is typically referred to as the rise of populist and eurosceptic parties and is manifest in a significant number of EU countries.
Or it also happens that the EU is going to hold elections in May this year for the European Parliament, elections which could very well see a lot of anger, frustration and discontent being expressed through votes for the anti-EU parties.
This is a direct democratic challenge to the EU politicians and the EU institutions. It is the way of the people to stand up and legitimately ask: "What have you done for us?"
Well, as it happens, while nobody denies that more could have been done, the answer remains: "A lot!"
"You should eat your vegetables! Brussels says so!"
It is widely understood in EU circles that one of the factors which contributed to the current popular dissatisfaction of significant parts of the electorate with the EU, is the result of the traditional institutional arrangement.
In a nutshell: for decades, elected politicians in member states have used the EU as the "bad cop" in a regular "good cop - bad cop" play with their electorates.
Whenever something good had to be announced to their voters, it was "thanks to them".
However, whenever there was a need to administer to the electorate some "bitter medicine", to bring some bad news (taxes had to be raised to balance the books, belts had to be tightened after a period of excess, etc.) it was "Brussels fault! They make us do it!"
This is very neatly illustrated in the below candid quote "stolen" by a journalist at the end of some EU crisis summit (likely on the Greek debt) in the wee hours of a bleak Brussels' morning.
For decades, the easy and expedient thing to do had been to "blame it on Brussels"
Well, guess what, it stuck. People in some countries started believing that their home politicians were national champions preserving and enhancing their prosperity, while in "Brussels" there lurked some "faceless bureaucrats" who wanted them harm and were taking away hard-won privileges.
So what is to be done to correct that misconception? And more importantly, is there anything which can be done to improve this system which swings cyclically between great promises, which spawn high hopes which in turn create hard-to-resist incentives to indulge in excesses and abuses and leads to promises being broken and hopes being dashed and people ending up as economic victims?
One clear idea is to "bring the EU closer to its citizens". Show people that the EU is a force for everyday good in their lives. That the EU is working for them even when it is the national politicians who take the merit.
Also, create channels through which they can interact with the EU and inform and influence the politicians and the institutions at all levels. In short, create a nimbler, more agile system with a denser mesh of information pipes, more robust decision-making processes, based on richer feed-back loops.
Because even a 20000 leagues journey starts with a first step, the Commission has established its strategic priorities for its 2015-2019 mandate (which shall end after the European Parliament elections with the nomination of a new Commission).
I expect the first two in the above pictures to remain high up among the priorities of the new Commission.
Here, our role is pivotal: we need to open the eyes of the politicians and decision makers to the huge "desintermediation power" of the blockchain.
Jobs is a label for a set of activities producing value for other people and / or for the society. "Jobs" is mentally associated with an organization acting as an employer. Some of these employers are governmental (local, national or supranational). Some are charities. However, the overwhelming majority of employers are "for profit corporations", also known as "businesses".
In the flow of adding value, a flow usually called "jobs", the employer organizations act as a bottleneck and, in the case of businesses, as a "toll booth" - they can only justify their existence if they extract a toll in the form of profit, to compensate for the risk taken.
The flip side of "Uberization"
During the past decade, many economists have hailed the "value creation" and "job creation" ability of the new "platforms", starting with Uber and AirBnB. Thanks to AirBnB people were able to monetize their unused living space while offering a service in demand thus creating value. Thanks to Uber, a holder of a driving licence could choose to not remain unemployed.
The drawback of these models, the elephant(s) in the room being of course the platforms itself, AirBnB and Uber, which occupy a position of natural monopoly thanks to the "network effect", and were created with the very goal of exploting this monopolistic position to extract as much profit as allowed for a happy few, the investors.
Profit which, in the "value adding equation" can only come:
- on one side from those who consume the service (the customers), via a pricing as high as the market would accept
- on the other side from those who deliver the service (the "labourers"), via compensation wages as low as the labour market would accept.
Obviously, the central monopolistic position of these platforms confers them an enviable bargaining position on both sides
Let's think about it for a second: Uber and AirBnB would extract as much profit as allowed ... by who?
Because monopolistic markets are very different (and much less efficient) than competitive markets, we typically request our political representatives to set up regulatory institutions with the mission of trying to restore some sort of equilibrium in bargaining positions.
Blockchain technology opens up a wholly new chapter in the history of social relations. For the first time, thanks to this technology, we can look at building cooperative platforms which are owned and operated by people providing services to each other, to the cooperative as a whole and to outside customers.
Have your own!
So what do you see in the picture at the top? A small NUC ("New Unit of Computing", by Intel) which is a small yet powerful bare-bone computer (x64 architecture). I added a 16GB RAM chip and a 500GB NVMe Samsung drive for storage (a fast SSD-type storage). The whole thing costed less than 650€ and makes for a quite powerful (if tiny) server. It is also very frugal, it consumes very little electricity, and is silent (no fan). While it cannot run a witness of the steem mainnet (it might, if I added a second RAM chip to go to 32 GB), it can run "younger, dedicated" steem clones.
Now the beauty of it is that suddenly, one realises that this is no "classical IT system". Pending some tweaks to the governance model that the Blockchain Competence Center is in the process of implementing, anyone can register to operate a witness node and be paid for it (via a controlled market for the blockchain token). What we have here, is an element of a "citizens' cloud infrastructure". One can imagine topping-up his salary (or unemployment benefits) by simply running such a box for the EU, generating blocks and then redeeming the "quasi-steem" for € with the relevant institutional actor (which could very well be an EU Institution)!
We are at the very beginning - with this first iteration of an EU Citizens' blockchain, anyone could offer to help the EU provide services to its citizens (and be compensated fairly for its help, via the EU buying the blockchain token from the "citizen witnesses").
In a very first application, this could be a service of data sharing, as envisioned by the #EFTG project.
It has been said that Data is the new oil and the EU wants to bring down existing barriers to data flowing freely and unlocking value, and bring down data monopolies. Imagine such a data infrastructure being opened to any registered individual to start its own "dApp business" with a lot more flexibility and agility, with less paperwork and overhead- precisely because the blockchain here adds trust.
In other words, we are opening an era where gradually, the commitments and trust those commitments will be honoured, which are the ultimate goal of a lot of institutional constructs, processes and procedures, are going to be recorded and tracked (with the appropriate level of transparency) by the democratic, citizens' blockchain using signed transactions rather than by protracted, cumbersome, and paper-strewn processes.
The final questions
"Blockchain"? Which blockchain? Why, the best designed and proven blockchain technology there currently is, the #steem blockchain, of course. The quality of this blockchain (both design and implementation) is a major factor in this efforts' success.
And who is doing this? You, the steem community, you are doing this, with the help of #utopian and you should be proud of what you are able to achieve! Keep in mind that the main success factor, the unique strategic advantage of #steem is its community, with its capacity to mobilize, organize, and orchestrate high added-value activities.
Other posts you might enjoy:
Blockchain and Europe
- Europe, I love you! - Europe, je t'aime!
- The Blockchain Competence Center (BLKCC)
- European Financial Transparency Gateway
- Toward a pan-EU blockchain infrastructure
- Blockchain and Data Virtualisation
- Blockchain, Credentials and Connected Learning Conference
- Decentralized Learning: The Future of Student Mobility in Europe
- The "war for [steem] blockchain talent" has been engaged - Fujitsu allies with EC
- Poker Champion Tony G turns MEP Blockchain Champion!
- Virtual Currencies - an EP report July 2018 - Part 1
- Central Bank Digital Currencies - Part 2 of the "Virtual Currencies" EP report of July 2018
- Blockchain taming the Dragon of Corruption
- Sovereign identity on blockchain
- Blockchain and GDPR - a Call to Arms!
- The Steemit adventure 
- Help Yourself! (steemit for dummies)
- Steem crypto-economics
- Best way to Grow on Steemit
- Turn up the Heat! Steem Luxembourg
- Spammers gonna spam - focus on original content!
- The best time to publish is now
- Historic evening: first beer paid with SBD in Luxembourg (+ Fr)
- Steem $10Bln!
- Setting up a new Witness Node!
- Why would anyone burn a bear? - SteemFest 3
- Steemit and the Fractal Society
- Game Theory 101 - Schelling point or "Why Steemit.com is important"
- Converting SBD to maintain the $1 peg
Blockchain, Crypto and Society
- Why Blockchain Is a Revolution
- A New Hope
- Hack Your Life in 3 Easy Steps!
- The Holy Blockchain
- Blockchain revolution: Money and Credit
- Small worlds
- The Press needs to be Freed from the Tyranny of Money
- Immigrate to Romania!
- Blockchain in large organizations
- Blockchain revolution: the CIOs' dilemma
- The Heist: How Big Blue stole Blockchain!
- Blockchain Explored - why the industry loves IBM
- Blockchain and the End of the Western Civilization
- The Church of Bitcoin
- The Ressolid Project
You might also want to check out
- my “lighthearted” account, @sorin.lite, perhaps you’ll like what you’ll see.
- the Ressolid account
- the Witness account, @lux-witness (and even approve it, perhaps)