All information is flowing onto blockchains and nothing really can stop it. Think of blockchain technology as a blackhole in the online univrse which sucks up all information into it to be stored and analyzed forever. This has implications.
Sousveillance and radical transparency brings with it both risks and benefits. For a thought experiment assume the statements below are the new reality:
- Everything you do, everything you say, every relationship you have, is recorded and stored permanently on the blockchain. For humor let's assume it's stored on the Steem blockchain.
- Every behavior you have, every relationship, from this point forward can be reviewed forever by the new central deity of the online universe which I'll call the "social consensus".
- The black hole like nature of the blockchain due to the drawing power, attracts all information to it and rewards all information givers. Because it's permissionless, and completely transparent, there are no encrypted transactions which means open to all.
When I say every behavior I mean everything you buy, every place you go, every word you say, every food you eat, every subconscious body language you exhibit, everything which can be detected or sensed electromagnetically speaking and uploaded for analysis.
If this is China then perhaps the central government is now in control of and running the Steem blockchain. Perhaps they have all the necessary technologies in place to make sure it can never be shut down. Perhaps the surveillance tech is all in place to record every moment of people's lives and make sure it's on the blockchain permanently. And because it's China let's assume the government now has this and can use it with social credit scoring.
If this is America assume instead it's completely decentralized, but primarily run by private sector entities such as large corporations, banks, and social media companies, in cooperation with law enforcement, with religious or church institutions, and insurance companies.
In either scenario, every behavior you have from now on will determine how people treat you. This means if you for example eat a lot of meat your health insurance company knows and will raise your premiums, or it means if you cheat on your partner your employer knows and can decide not to give you the same level of trustworthiness benefits that the employees loyal to their partner are getting. Assume everything is tracked, reviewed, scored, and everyone can access it, anywhere on the planet, because the blockchain is totally open for all.
It could also mean whatever you buy, will be used to judge your character. If you buy a certain kind of car and a lot of people don't like that you bought that car then you might lose friends. If you spend your money in ways that employers don't like you could find your paycheck is reduced or you miss out on those bonuses because you have a reckless spender label. All financial transactions are open to be reviewed by machine intelligence and can be used in behavioral analytics.
Take the scenario to the next level? Prediction markets could allow speculators to bet on your future behaviors. Profit seekers could be making bets on when you'll get married or if you'll get married, they could make bets on if you'll ever become famous or if you'll graduate or whether you will commit a crime and what kind of crimes. All the betting will be out in the open for you and everyone else to see.
Why is the blockchain the black hole of the online universe? By itself it's nothing more than just a tool. It's how society chooses to use this tool which will determine the risks vs the benefits. Transparency and openness are also tools, just as privacy is a tool. These tools in a certain context can decrease or increase risks depending on the trends of the society and the context it is used. For example surveillance cameras aren't good or evil, as they can stop crime in some context, they can protect your home in another context, they can also be used to suppress protest in another context or to control large numbers of people in another. It's not the technology itself which is good or bad but how that society applies it.
So while the blockchain may in fact be like a black hole in that it draws information into it, it doesn't have to be to truly be like a black hole because the information can become more organized, more useful, more insightful. It all depends on if the blockchain is just going to be something random people throw random bits of information at without any means or help on how to interpret, filter and use the information or if it's going to be highly curated, highly filtered, with an emphasis on knowledge, on progress, on actually being applicable to improving the quality of decision making.
More information by itself does not improve decision making. Propaganda is information and for many years people have had their decisions distorted by it. Even if the information is confirmed true it doesn't mean that the information is necessarily useful for making a good decision. In medicine we have information which is of clinical significance and we have incidental findings which have no prognostic or diagnostic utility but which still provide information. We know in medicine that too much ambiguous information doesn't lead to better decisions on behalf of or for the patient.
What about in the blockchain community? If we are going to deal with big data, with massive amounts of information, yet are guided by propaganda, by religiosity, well in that case the blockchain may in fact become an institution like the church. Blockchain as a religion has a very different set of risks and benefits vs blockchain as a public utility vs blockchain as a government control and surveillance mechanism .
To all readers, what do you want blockchain to become and what future do you imagine it can bring? Based on this vision you have for what you want blockchain to become, from this what technical features would need to be developed,and how would it fit into societal, poltiical and global trends?
- Henderson, M. T., Wolfers, J., & Zitzewitz, E. (2010). Predicting crime. Ariz. L. Rev., 52, 15.