by Lucius Gregory Meredith
1 RChain’s Raison d’etre
If you watch Bill Gates’ 60 Minutes interview from 2021, you will see him acknowledge that dealing with the consequences of climate change will require global coordination on a scale exceeding that of WWII. Yet, nowhere in the interview does he mention coordination technologies that work at global scale. RChain was designed from the ground up to provide global scale coordination. While this has many business applications and provides the first realistic Web 3.0 platform, its central purpose is to support a decentralized grassroots self-organized response to climate change.
Decentralized decision making is critical for decentralized grassroots self-organization. RChain, as a decentralized organization itself, developed RVote first to serve its own needs. RChain is a cooperative based on democratic principles such as ‘one member one vote.’ RChain’s membership is worldwide with a large constituency in China, another in Eastern Europe, another in the UK, yet another in South America, and still more in North America. Since 2017 we have come together every October to vote in the new board of directors and decide membership wide items of business involving the governance of the protocol.
In 2020, recognizing that it is a complex undertaking for us to meet as a membership at the best of times and that we were in the midst of a global pandemic, i let the membership know that we would not hold a face to face annual general meeting. Instead i described an algorithm for voting on-chain that had three properties:
- members could vote from the safety of their own homes, provided they had an Internet connection;
- no one besides themselves would know how they voted;
- as soon as the polls closed, the membership could see the results on-chain.
The community took up the algorithm and with no one in charge, built RVote in six weeks. The Cooperative has been using RVote for its membership wide decision making ever since.
It is worthwhile to compare this platform to the 2020 US presidential elections where 1000’s and 1000’s of elderly citizens were forced to stand in line for hours during a global pandemic. Further, the collation of the results took so long the losing party could lie about the results and caused a violent insurrection against the US Capitol. Had the US elections been held on-chain the country could have protected its citizens, its Capitol, and saved billions of dollars.
To the original point, RVote is available now for any community or organization to use. It can certainly be used for corporate governance, or in the public sector, but we hope organizations and communities focused on responses to climate change will take it up and are working to raise awareness of its availability.
3 Self-sovereign Data
The global pandemic also created a situation where many people needed to manage sensitive healthcare data to cross borders or even cross the doorsteps of many vital service providers. In many respects it makes more sense for private citizens to manage their own healthcare data, and there was a significant call from the public sector for decentralized tools to manage COVID-19 vaccination and test status, but when we consider the issue in the context of climate change this shift becomes vital. The last two IPCC reports have been consistent: unless we take unprecedented action, we are going to surpass 2.7C temperature rise in the next 30 years. Unfortunately, it is also clear that — barring a miracle — we will not be able to prevent the rise above 1.5C. But, just past 1.5C the tropical zone of the planet becomes uninhabitable. Forty percent of the world’s population lives in the tropical zone. That means that in as little as 15 – 20 years 2.8B people are going to have to relocate. This is a humanitarian crisis the scope and scale of which humanity has never seen before.
Just like the Australian citizens were caught flat footed by the climate related continent-wide fire of 2019 that killed half a billion animals, and endangered so many Australians, the rest of the world is clearly going to be caught out by disaster after disaster, despite warning after warning from an overwhelming majority of the scientific community. As a result, climate refugees will be showing up in numbers it is hard to fathom at foreign borders without officially recognized documentation. It will be a logistical nightmare to determine who has a legitimate claim to relief. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for people to prove their credentials as doctors, lawyers, engineers, educators, etc., let alone prove healthcare status. However, if their credentials, identification, and healthcare documentation were stored on a decentralized storage solution, such as a scalable blockchain, and managed as a data wallet solely controlled by the person whose data it is, then the situation changes dramatically. Instead of being in reactive mode, with RChain’s self-sovereign data solutions, we can be in proactive mode. In particular, this solution is immediately applicable today, allowing us to bring the billions of people who are currently unbanked into the global economy while at the same time preparing for the unavoidable difficulties we will be facing.
RChain’s subsidiary, RChain Publishing Cooperative (RPC) has made its number one goal to roll out a self-sovereign data solution. Yet, it will bring the technology to market by providing the first NFT platform where the digital assets are not only stored on-chain, but are searchable. Scalable storage doesn’t just mean the solution can handle volume. It also means that when there is a huge volume the data can be searched so that digital assets don’t get lost in the ether. This has immediate consequences for artists and creators who are publishing NFTs today and are wondering how the market will find their work. If their offerings are stored behind an unsearchable blockchain (like Ethereum) on an unsearchable storage medium (like IPFS), this is a step backwards from all the gains of Web 2.0 where people regularly find goods, services, reviews, dates, songs, destinations, etc. with a few keystrokes. RPC will provide a solution where it not only offers its own marketplace to its users, but offers a scalable, searchable blockchain to all the other marketplaces, such as OpenSea and Rareable, to host their own artists and make new artists available from other marketplaces. RPC has a simple formula for the NFT market: publish once, be discovered everywhere.
This solution is taken directly from the established content aggregator services such as DistroKid where musicians regularly release their music to all the streaming and online music distributors from a single hub. However, in RPC’s case the storage solution will be decentralized, and provide the user experience that makes using blockchain for decentralized storage as simple as drag and drop. Such a low friction user experience creates the basis for mass adoption of self-sovereign data solutions, paving the way for people to use it for more sensitive data, such as their credentials, or their healthcare data. In the meantime, RChain Cooperative, through its partnership with one of the largest Systems Integrators in the world, is actively working with self-sovereign governments to roll out national healthcare data wallets. By working through both the private and public sectors there is a chance we can build a solution in time to meet the coming crisis.
Lest this seem like a lot of “what will be” rather than what is, it is important to note that RChain itself has been in mainnet for over 2 years and RPC’s mainnet went live concomitantly with Paris Blockchain Week Summit and you can see the drag and drop demo here and the marketplace demo here.
Decisions don’t happen without deliberation. In the same way that individuals will need to manage their own data, and communities will need resilient decision making tools to self-organize, communities and organizations need a medium for deliberation. And, just as with RVote, RChain has created the RChat initiative primarily for its own members to be able to communicate and deliberate. Beginning with the open source chat program, Zulip, RChain has made it possible for the Zulip postgres chat data to move to chain and for on-chain Zulip chat data to move back to a Zulip instance. This means that the RChat version of Zulip is effectively decentralized.
It is important to note that Zulip’s architecture is exactly the same as hundreds of other open source Web 2.0 applications. As such, RChat constitutes a template to decentralize all of those applications as well. Meanwhile, RChain’s next step is to modify the Zulip frontend to allow RChat users to mint RChain’s version of ERC 2.0 tokens (aka non-staking tokens) and allow users to send tokens through the chat interface. This enables a range of real world social token applications that help with the process of explicitly and intentionally gamifying the capture of sentiment. If Facebook did nothing else, by featuring the like button in their user experience they showed the importance of capturing sentiment in the development of opinion and consent in public discourse. The natural evolution of this is tokenization. Tokenization can be used to gamify the process of capturing public sentiment and converging toward consent. RChat will offer these services to its members first, but of course, RChat, like all RChain software, is open source and available for communities around the world to adopt.
5 Sponsored Content
Without a doubt Web 3.0 needs advertising more than Web 2.0. It’s a matter of common sense. While a Web 2.0 application that refers a user request to servers hosted on backend cloud or data centers can settle up with its cloud provider or data center on a monthly or even quarterly basis, any user request that requires accessing on-chain resources will be forced to pay gas on the spot. These costs will be passed on to the user. If they are passed on at the time of the request, the user experience will be abhorrent. If on-chain resources are locked behind a paywall, users will simply choose the existing “free” services they have been used to for the last 20 years. Sponsored content and advertising are the industry accepted solution for broad user adoption. Web 3.0 must adopt this strategy, not only to achieve critical mass, but because Web 3.0 can considerably improve the experience and value proposed for the user.
Specifically, with a scalable blockchain like RChain, the sponsored content, advertising, and content monetization APIs can be placed at the data layer, and hence provide a uniform service that not only cuts across all dApps, but provides a bridge between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 so that ad campaigns originating on Web 3.0 infrastructure can reach Web 2.0 sites. Note that this is markedly different from the Brave browser and BAT approach. Being browser based, they cannot cut across all dApps, especially those with native only mobile UI or new form factors, such as Metaverse.
The advantages of a decentralized data layer sponsored content and advertising API don’t end there. Indeed, they provide the basis for a new kind of advertising model that rejects surveillance capitalism and ad tech that spies on online user behavior in favor of user participation. Users are not necessarily opposed to their data being monetized. They just want a piece of the action. RChain’s subsidiary, DAASL Cooperative, is focused on creating decentralized data layer ad tech that provides two key features:
- if there is an opportunity to resell aggregated user data, users should get the option to consent, and also an option to participate in the profits;
- since every company from Facebook to Twitter has shown that the cost of individual use of the service is more than offset by ads and sponsored content, users should get the option to earn some of that revenue after their usage is paid.
To elaborate on the second point, tokenization is key to gamifying the increased user adoption that will inevitably arise from these economic opportunities. Getting paid to watch ads and resell your data is even better than “free.” This value proposition, beyond being a much more ethically clean rejection of surveillance capitalism and spyware ad tech, is why users will come.
We cannot move on from the user adoption narrative without also pointing out that self-sovereign data goes hand in hand with advertising and sponsored content. RPC’s Trojan horse is to create self-sovereign data solutions with a much better value proposal for creators to put their content on chain. Yet, once high value creative content is on chain at scale the eyeballs follow. Be they designers and Bored Apes or musicians and videographers, it only takes 100 hundred artists with 1M followers each to create an audience of 100M viewers.
Now, selling aggregated user data is not only about nefarious corporate schemes to mine user data. In light of the recent pandemic it is clear that appropriately anonymized aggregated user data could be of significant value to researchers investigating the long range effects of the new vaccine technologies that were deployed in haste because of the emergency. And, with more and more health and well being data from devices like Fitbit being captured, aggregated user data can find its way to many more organizations focused on human health and well being. Users should be paid to participate in these studies. Smart contracts and tokenization and a decentralized data layer ad tech makes this possible. Likewise, sponsored content does not only refer to ads. The recent pandemic showed the importance of public health and safety campaigns. Users’ healthcare data wallets can and should be sponsored by public health and safety content.
As we have already witnessed, the communication channel afforded by sponsored content creates a ready made disaster alert and response mechanism. In this way, we align market interests with the creation of a desperately needed capability. We need a decentralized disaster alert mechanism that will not be taken down by the very disasters it is trying to warn people of.
6 Ultimate Green Chain
Of course, if the chain itself is creating its own environmental catastrophe, it is not a viable solution. RChain uses a version of the Casper proof-of-stake protocol developed by RChain’s founder in collaboration and cooperation with Vitalik Buterin and Vlad Zamfir. This makes RChain 100’s of millions of times more energy efficient than Bitcoin and 10’s of millions of times more energy efficient than Ethereum. Beyond the consensus, the real key to RChain’s ability to scale is the ability to get more performance by adding hardware. For the last half century the software industry has been scaling by adding hardware and for the last quarter century scaling to high performance systems, globally available 24/7 to 10’s of millions of active concurrent users by adding hardware. Yet, today’s blockchains all get slower when nodes are added to the network. This is not only a step backwards: it shows a lack of understanding of the market trends.
When Apple launched its M1 chip it was a watershed moment marking the end of the fat instruction set architecture, ushering in the mainstream adoption of reduced instructor set architectures to deliver more physical threads per cubic centimeter at lower power consumption. This trend continues with Tesla’s DOJO architecture which is also about a modular supercomputer architecture that offers more physical thread per cubic centimeter at lower power consumption. The trend continues exponentially when optical computing goes mainstream. Each of these data points makes it abundantly clear that all software architectures, not just blockchain, must be in a position to consume physical threads and turn that into performance. The ones that do not have this capacity are already history, whether they know it or not. RChain is the only blockchain architecture to be able to consume as many physical threads as are available and turn that into performance.
At the end of the day, it’s not just about performance, though. The real essence of decentralization is resilience to catastrophic failure. What singles the Bitcoin protocol out, despite its many failings, is that it is robust against failure. If Russian gangsters, or the Chinese or US governments shut down Bitcoin nodes, 100 more can spring up in other regions of the world. This robustness against human mounted attacks also serves in the face of climate related failure of key infrastructure. The looming refugee crisis is not the only worry. Indeed, both the power and telecommunications infrastructure will be up against enormous stresses as we blow past 1.5C. A computational and storage infrastructure that can quickly reroute in response to environmental factors will be essential. This, more than any other concern, is why it is not viable and certainly not responsible to sacrifice decentralization for performance as many chains have done under market pressures.
7 The Wizard of R’s
Originally, the “R” in RChain was to symbolize that it was our chain, it belongs not just to the members of the Cooperative, but to the entire world. This is by design, for if we are going to have a chance against the coming crisis, we need to mobilize the collective intelligence, the strange wizard who doesn’t live in any one of us individually, but manifests in us collectively. More recently, the R also seems to stand for rescue as enterprise after enterprise is coming to RChain having failed to deploy scalable solutions using other chains internally.
RChain has just closed a deal with a very large distributor in the UK to replace their incumbent solution with an RChain-based solution. The same solution is ready made for a dozen other distributors who have similar supply provenance problems. RChain has been laying this groundwork for the last 2 years, following the hard won lessons from the evolution of the Internet. The Internet didn’t spring into being fully connected overnight. Instead, it was first a bunch of largely disconnected Intranets created inside various organizations and institutions. Over time the value of connectivity overwhelmed the security concerns and with the catalyzing effect of the World Wide Web, the modern Internet took shape.
Likewise, RChain is rolling out many shards as internal solutions inside various enterprise and government organizations who see the need for blockchain solutions to their provenance and data aggregation challenges, but can’t get other chains to scale. One key point in this adoption is that RChain scales as hardware is added, so enterprises can do actual resource planning to fit the shard to their throughput and economic constraints. For management this is a godsend. For RChain it creates alignment with our larger goals to create the basis for a global coordination infrastructure deployed ubiquitously in the public and private sectors.
RChain is building a realistic Web 3.0 platform. It is doing so for the primary purpose of providing crucial global coordination tools to address the clear and present danger of climate change. The business opportunities afforded by a scalable blockchain with the features necessary to build Web 3.0 infrastructure and applications allows RChain to align current market interests with our primary objectives. We plan to exploit this alignment and corresponding business opportunities aggressively to accelerate our path to delivering the necessary global infrastructure for a grassroots response to the coming crisis.