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Creating and Educating for a Digital Democracy | by Carlos | Reserve | Oct, 2021

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Carlos

One of the most important Spanish-speaking cyber activists tells us how will he forever change our concepts of identity, democracy and personal finance, using decentralized blockchain cryptography in the optimization of social decision making.

Creating and Educating for a Digital Democracy | by Carlos | Reserve | Oct, 2021
Santi Siri, entrepreneur and hacktivist

For 20 years, Santiago Siri has been a real dynamo of ideas for the promotion new technologies in Argentina and Latin America.

In 2001, when he was just a teenager, he founded the Argentine Association of Video Game Developers to encourage the cultural industry of video games in that country. In addition, he has done political activism with the Partido de la Red (PdR, in English, the Network Party.) It was the first digital political party to run in elections, with the commitment of communicating with citizens through the Internet as a way of promoting a democratic culture. In 2015 Siri also published the book ‘Hacktivismo’ which was edited by Random House.

Currently, “Santi” is the CEO of Democracy Earth Foundation, a non-profit NGO backed by YCombinator. Its aim is to support the use of incorruptible digital civic tools. As part of that project he developed the Ethereum-based “Universal Basic Income” (UBI) and the “Proof of Humanity” (PoH) protocols. In addition, he is the Executive Director of DAO Education, an organization with which he has promoted education for the information society.

As an entrepreneur, he was the founder of Popego, a pioneering laboratory in big data, semantics, and social network research acquired by Boo-box in 2011, was part of the founding team of Three Melons (acquired by Disney), and a partner at Bitex.la, a leader in Bitcoin-based financial services.

As part of our campaign “Stable Currency, Human Right,” Reserve’s Matías Olmos interviews Santi to learn about his vision on democracy and economic rights.

What is blockchain and how can it be used for decision making?

The blockchain is an alternative to help determine the validity of an economic transaction or who owns something without resorting to any authority.

The revolution brought about by Satoshi Nakamoto with his original Bitcoin paper and its implementation more than ten years ago has to do with replacing the concept of authority with the use of distributed cryptography, where a network of machines, by dint of mathematics and not much else, can determine the veracity of a transaction or who owns what.

We at DAO Education put a lot of emphasis on trying to help people incorporate these concepts, that are counterintuitive at first, but are very powerful once they are incorporated.

Matías Olmos (Reserve) interviews Santi Siri.

What do you do at Democracy Earth?

We are a foundation, a non-profit organization, that is dedicated to investigating what democracy is in the information age. We do this by implementing democratic pilots in various places around the world, always in real contexts, organizations, or communities, that are facing a real weighty decision. We do this by developing open source technology that operates on decentralized networks that are resistant to censorship and, ideally, free and open technologies, accessible to anyone.

In the last few years we have focused on an issue that is essential to helping expand democratic and legitimate systems of participation around the world. This issue is the problem of identity: how to provide decentralized identity in these types of networks.

This year in particular we developed a protocol with the people from Kleros, the French cooperative, called “Proof of Humanity” (PoH), which verifies that an address in the blockchain corresponds to a living human being and that there are no robots, no duplicate accounts, or no humans controlling multiple accounts. It is a protocol that, by allowing the generation of human identity, also gives room to more social applications on the blockchain, and not just financial applications.

Tell us more about the Partido de la Red (PdR).

PdR was an initiating experience for me as an activist in Argentine politics, particularly in Buenos Aires. It was a political party where candidates would vote on laws according to what the citizenry had previously voted on an online platform. When you start researching the requirements for a digital democracy, you begin to discover the challenges of building such a technology.

This was ten years ago. It was an initial experience into the intersection between politics and technology. The PdR ran in an election in 2013 and got 1% of the vote. For an independent party it was a good endorsement, but it was not enough to get a deputy (in Congress). What was interesting is that there are few experiences of digital parties in the World. There is the pirate party in Europe and some other isolated experiences in different parts of the world, but I started investigating how to form a democracy in the Internet’s cyberspace thanks to the experience of the PdR.

The challenge of thinking about technology led us down that path. At the same time, in the last decade, technologies that did not exist at that time but today are fundamental when thinking about this problem, matured. Some examples are smart contracts and networks like Ethereum, which allow us to think about institutions based on programs mounted on the blockchain.

When we started with the PdR, we focused on making use of open source, a traditional identity system, still very centralized technology, but as we were building pilots around the world we realized that a database administrator with a bias in the decision-making process can easily manipulate that choice in very subtle ways. So clearly the emergence of decentralized networks is something very important when thinking about digital institutions and digital voting systems that are really very difficult to corrupt by an authority. Blockchain makes a lot of sense in those cases, because its great disruption is to replace the concept of authority with a concept of distributed cryptography.

You suffered several civil attacks on the projects you have created, which motivated you to get to PoH and then the idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI) came up. How did you get from the concept of identity to Universal Basic Income?

I always tell about the many pilots we did: one in the legislature of Buenos Aires, in 2014, where Partido Obrero put in 6,000 fake identities; then we made a very big project with CON where the Communist Party also manipulated the digital election by putting in 600,000 accounts in a Telegram channel. As we went digging into what is needed for there to be a global democracy through the Internet, the problem of identity becomes extremely critical in order to understand how to get to that kind of technology.

It is so critical that, if we look at democracy at the global level, we can see the role that Facebook had in the last elections in the US as a propaganda tool. This is thanks to the fact that it is the largest repository of identities in the world, totally centralized, subject to a business model that demands permanently infringing on people’s privacy and, therefore, also bombarding them with messages that can radically condition their thinking.

We live in a very polarized society precisely because of the effect that these networks have had, where a permanent bombardment of information and algorithmic optimization on who to follow and who to listen to ends up generating a sort of endogamy, where one only follows and listens to those who think similar to oneself, and ends up becoming ideologically radicalized. So, we see the emergence of authoritarianism as a consequence of this new digital reality, in which the entire planet is immersed, and that is where we must try to see and think about identity under the new lens proposed by the networks.

Relying on blockchain, like Ethereum, is an interesting challenge, because we have to think about identity from a new point of view, from the idea of decentralization, where identity is totally under one’s sovereign control and not under the control of a database or Mark Zuckerberg or whoever is at the top of these companies.

PoH is a protocol that tries to do that, with a system where anyone can generate their proof of humanity. Today you have to make a video. It requires a previously verified identity, where one makes a vouch, which is like an endorsement showing that people are who they say they are, and requires a deposit which is recovered when the identity is correctly created. But if there was a conflict with the identity because it was detected as a duplicate, or the video was wrong and the blockchain address was not entered correctly, anyone can object to that identity and compete to get the deposit when it does not meet the requirements.

All this is possible, because it is an open, decentralized system, where there is no central server and where there is a community of humans who are trying to build a list in which we can avoid duplicates, robots, deep fakes, and a list of human identities that anyone in the smart contract ecosystem can trust, and have the certainty that if, indeed, we interact with someone on that list, we are interacting with a real user.

Because of this, one can find all kinds of applications for it. One of them is obviously democracy, this system where there should be “one person, one vote”. Today most of the blockchain governance systems in the world are “one coin, one vote,” people generally vote with their money. And being able to do “one person, one vote” is something quite innovative with respect to what the ecosystem is.

And later, (we decided) to do universal basic income. We implemented a token, which is called UBI (Universal Basic Income.) Once people get verified on PoH, they start being credited in their blockchain wallets with UBI every second, immediately, in real time. Thanks to that, many people can have an alternative means of subsisting. It’s a global basic income system, where a person in Bangalore or Madagascar can receive the same amount as someone who registers in London or Los Angeles. It’s a technology that helps balance the starting point on a social level.

Today, it is obviously something very experimental, there are barely 10.000 people on the list, but this allows us to say that we are the largest decentralized identity protocol out there and it’s a very young project, at 7 months old, and still many parts are experimental: investigating the token model and the different mechanisms to ensure that its value is sustained. It is a very interesting challenge because we are betting on generating the idea of universal basic income, which is not ours but something that has been discussed for many decades. We are betting on creating a mechanism that allows for people to have the basic needs in order subsist and potentially eradicate poverty as a problem in our societies today.

Your identity was challenged, questioned… is that right?

Yes. There are no privileges in the protocol. Myself, as the developer of the UBI smart contract, for example, cannot modify anything. I already handed over the keys to the community. Interestingly, in my first PoH video (you have to show your address on the blockchain to prove that indeed the address introduced matches one that the person showing it actually controls), I didn’t realize that it didn’t show the last four characters of my address, so someone noticed that and challenged me. When I saw the objection, I could have made an appeal and tried to battle through the Kleros board the veracity of my proof of identity, but it seemed to me that the objection was correct. It didn’t follow the guidelines that are stipulated in a guide used for arbitrators, so I decided to accept the penalty and make my proof of humanity from scratch, like any other user. We also have had “unicorn” CEOs who have done their humanity test and for different reasons were also objected. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re a billionaire or the founder of the protocol, there are no privileges.

Technology as an equalizing tool par excellence. In UBI I see two recurring questions: How is the price of UBI supported? And at the time of creating a proof of humanity, is it necessary to give your name or is enough with showing your face? The concept of identity and blockchain are hard to join, isn’t it a counterintuitive concept for what blockchain was born for?

The only requirement of PoH is showing your face in a video, but you don’t necessarily have to use your real name or first name, we just need something we can use to historically verify if there is a duplicate or not in the record.

The goal of avoiding duplicates means that you have to use a fingerprint, we don’t use any biometric fingerprint, we just look at your face. I believe that the face is something that at some point evolved as a public key, because we all recognize each other in the distance thanks to the face.

Clearly, that implies that when people create their proof of humanity, ideally, it’s best to do it with a fresh blockchain address, without history, without transactions. That way people can be assured that the address is associated with their public image. People can have many addresses in a blockchain wallet, and all of them with different degrees of anonymity, pseudonymity or total publicity of one’s image.

I have an address, “santi.f”, which is a public address that appears on my Twitter account and everywhere. So for anyone who wants to publicly interact with me on the blockchain, that’s the same address I use in PoH. I know I’m associated with my public image there, but I have anonymous addresses, pseudonymous addresses, and public addresses. Privacy, at the end of the day, is one’s responsibility, because we are in a context of personal sovereignty.

Regarding UBI, it is a challenge because it is a constantly issued currency. One UBI is issued per hour for each human being. The main economic challenges that we face are how to generate demand and how to reduce circulation in order to sustain the price.

There is a mechanism we implemented two months ago, which is quite interesting. I’m referring to vaults where one can deposit Ether or DAI and those vaults generate income. In Ether, it’s 2% while in DAI, it’s generally around a 7% annual income. DAI is a stablecoin that trades 1 to 1 with the dollar.

Half of that income is distributed as profits to those who invested in the vault, the other half is used to buy UBIs and burn them, which means sending them to a 0000 address. We are doing quite well, so far, we have burned more than 20,000 UBIs. The more liquidity there is the more income is generated, the more UBIs are burned.

Our estimate is that with 10,000 humans on the registry, and about $2 million in these vaults, we could burn $100,000 of UBIs a year, which would help support the price and would represent a basic monthly income of about $200 (for each identity.)

We are trying to reach that target. A huge challenge is trying to explain these technologies. We are moving forward with the caution and prudence required to work with smart contracts, where a mistake can be very costly, but so far, in these 7 months since we activated the protocol, this technique of the vaults as well as other services built with UBI have worked very well.

Now we are working on streaming features (the UBI, in fact, is streamed to the account of every PoH natively.) What we want is for whoever receives that stream to be able to send it to whomever they want. For example, another individual or a charity.

These are all discoveries that we are making as the project evolves and takes color and shape. In these 6–7 months we have seen all kinds of things happen, both with PoH and with UBI, and this is a great research work that several developers from the team been doing.

When you were 15 years old you made a soccer simulator that had several peculiarities, do you want to tell us about it?

Soccer Deluxe. Some of you will remember it. It was a soccer manager game that I always liked. I am a soccer fan.

This one had some particularities; as a manager you could send the hooligans to bully the rival team, give illegal enhancers to the players, and bribe the referee. For me it was a very realistic simulator of how the soccer industry works.

It was a great experiment 20 years ago: the first ]video game for export made in Argentina. I did it before the iPhone, before the smartphones that amplified the videogame industry enormously, and before many things that happened afterwards. It was my first experience as an entrepreneur: think of a product, assemble it, produce it, look for a distributor, and try to export it.

Another thing I wanted to ask you about was the birth of your daughter, do you want to tell us about that? It’s very linked to who you are today and your passion for technology and the blockchain.

When my daughter Roma was born almost 6 years ago, maybe as a sort of precedent of PoH, we made her birth certificate using the blockchain (at that time, year 2015, the Bitcoin blockchain).

At the hospital I put together a video, with witnesses and so on, and then I generated a hash, which is a sequence of numbers and letters that can only match the information or bits linked to that video. Then, I made a bitcoin transaction that includes that hash, with which I can prove that the content of that video was not corrupted, and that it was filmed at that moment in time, November 6, 2015. So it works as the birth certificate of my daughter. It was more like a demo than anything else. Today, PoH is that exact thing transformed into a product.

I read in my research that the collateral for UBI is human time, I thought that was a genius concept. Also, you have spoken about potentially building a stablecoin that is not necessarily tied to the dollar?

I find the idea of emancipating from the dollar very interesting. What blockchain allows is to think about new monetary experiments. When thinking about stablecoins, which are a challenge and a category in itself, trying to think beyond the dollar is something that is not so trivial, it is not so easy.

I know that the Reserve team has been investigating this. It has been spearheading it for years. I met the Reserve team when they were in New York. It is an excellent team, one of the most sophisticated ones in the blockchain space.

With UBI, the collateral is human time because people get it as a Human Right. With every second that passes, drops of UBI fall inside your wallet.

It allows us to think of all kinds of projects. For instance, we are investigating the possibility that individuals can borrow against the UBI they will receive in the future. We are still at a very experimental stage, but it opens up the imagination of what’s possible from a financial perspective. We can at least think outside the box about how a currency should work.

I’d like to chat a bit about the “Stable Currency, Human Right” campaign. Doing a quick search in my head about crypto-social projects, I can think of three: Kleros, UBI and Reserve. We want to make an open call that helps restore hope.

I think anyone who was born in Argentina, in Venezuela, in Latin America, tragically has big financial problems, big inequality problems.

It is not by chance that there are also many software developers and engineers who are engaging in blockchain who come from these countries. It is precisely because we see a tool, an alternative, that enables us to think outside the canons of what is possible in traditional finance. We are trying to build systems that can capitalize on the enormous wealth that has been generated with Bitcoin and Ethereum, which are probably the most successful economic experiments of the last decade. We are thinking of how can that wealth provide a better quality of life not only to speculators or software developers, but also to society as a whole.

I believe that solutions such as basic income, or those proposed by Reserve with stable currencies, are technologies that will become very important in the coming years.

How do you make it possible for people to have access to a stable currency without interfering with the monetary policy of each country? With technology?

With the pandemic, digital life has come to the forefront for almost all of us. The level of digital media consumption, of e-commerce, the level of use of teleconferencing systems, have clearly generated a mutation in a situation as overwhelming as the pandemic. One salient aspect clearly has to do with the digitization of our lives.

In the digital realm, there are no boundaries. Information moves at the speed of light. The ability to encrypt or decrypt is available to anyone. No state can attempt against the force of mathematics that allows for the use of encrypted networks, effectively empowering people over institutions or states.

I believe that this reality is what a famous 96–97 book called “The Sovereign Individual” describes. The book applies information theory to understand modern capitalism, and it reaches these same conclusions about the world we live in today, where two people can transact with each other in an encrypted form and there is no State, corporation or bank that can get in the way of that right.

I think that these walls are going to fall, and hopefully this will also help us find mechanisms that allow us, as a civilization at a social level, to govern not only our communities and our countries, but also the planet as a whole.

Is technology the equalizing tool par excellence?

I am 38 years old and the only thing I have seen change society is technology. I have never seen a politician really change anything in terms of the quality of life of individuals. There are periods under one economic formula and periods under another one, but the real changes that remain, persist, and that improve the world, are always linked in some way to technological innovation.

It is important to look ahead. Recently in Paris Vitalik delivered a very good speech [inviting us to think] about use cases beyond DeFi and the financial use of blockchain. I think it’s something that will naturally happen as the scalability of these networks increases.

For instance, today Ethereum processes 25 transactions per second, so using the blockchain is expensive, and being expensive means that the use cases with the highest traffic have to be economically profitable use cases. Therefore, today in the blockchain we have a great majority of financial use cases, but as we reach a transaction rate of 500 tickets or 1000 tickets per second and as the costs of using the blockchain become cheaper, and as Layer 2 or roll-apps (which help to decompress a little the traffic within the main chain) grow, those more social use cases will begin to gain greater preponderance. Hence, scalability is very important. I think Vitalik and several in the Ethereum ecosystem are quite interested in seeing that happen.

Do you want to tell us a bit more about UBI? Your vision is super optimistic in terms of trying to restore hope.

I invite everyone to discover the protocol at proofofhumatinity.id and then, on Telegram, you can search for proofhumanity or proof of humanity in Spanish, which are the two channels where on a daily basis our community talks about the different aspects of the protocol.

It is a highly experimental project, but it has started off on the right foot. We have the blessing of Vitalik, who has been following us for a long time, he even created his PoH when the technology was discovered. It is a project that was born from minds from all over the world. Many of us come from Argentina and Latin America, and are trying to contribute a more social perspective and to find a technology that, if we manage to hit the right key, grow, and attract enough interest from the ecosystem, has the potential to attack very deep social problems, such as poverty or marginality and exclusion.

I believe that technology has that power. We have seen in this millennium, which is only 20 years old, how the Internet, social networks and new forms of communication have permeated everything. I believe that in the coming decades we will not only see a cultural revolution, but the institutions of our society will be profoundly affected by this, starting with money and continuing with identity and other factors that are the pillars of the institutional framework and the functioning of organizations in the world.

So I am very motivated by what is to come, because there is an immense potential in all this we are working on and creating together as a community.

In your path you have encountered many adversities, is optimism the way to overcome them?

Everything that is not explicitly denied by the laws of physics is possible. It is not a matter of if, but when and under what conditions or circumstances. This makes the idea of optimism have a life of its own in this universe. So I’m very optimistic by nature and technology reinforces the reasons for me to be optimistic.

There are huge challenges ahead and, if we want to leave a better world for future generations, the path will be technological, but with social and political awareness.

A couple of books you recommend?

I just mentioned “The Sovereign Individual,” which is almost a cult book written by two very good English historians. It was written more than 20 years ago and it helps apply information theory to understand capitalism. The book is a bit of a bible in the sense that it can be read randomly, and it left a very deep impression on me. Many people in the crypto sector have been influenced by this book. It is very often quoted among bitcoiners (this is so bitcoiners do not say that I do not love them; deep down I come from being a bitcoiner, I just matured a little, nothing more.)

Also a book I read this year called “The Science of Can and Can’t,” which is a new approach to physics that tries to apply information theory to classical physics. We have only seen information theory applied in the field of quantum physics, but there are several Oxford physicists trying to solve some of the equations of physics forgetting the classical mathematics, algebra, and calculus that were always used, and trying to use computer language to better understand the world in which we are immersed. I liked it very much. It is a science book, which never hurts at times when there is a lot of noise going on.

Thank you so much for the recommendations and for your time.

Thanks you for inviting me.

One of the most important Spanish-speaking cyber activists tells us how will he forever change our concepts of identity, democracy and personal finance, using decentralized blockchain cryptography in the optimization of social decision making.

For 20 years, Santiago Siri has been a real dynamo of ideas for the promotion new technologies in Argentina and Latin America.

In 2001, when he was just a teenager, he founded the Argentine Association of Video Game Developers to encourage the cultural industry of video games in that country. In addition, he has done political activism with the Partido de la Red (PdR, in English, the Network Party.) It was the first digital political party to run in elections, with the commitment of communicating with citizens through the Internet as a way of promoting a democratic culture. In 2015 Siri also published the book ‘Hacktivismo’ which was edited by Random House.

Currently, “Santi” is the CEO of Democracy Earth Foundation, a non-profit NGO backed by YCombinator. Its aim is to support the use of incorruptible digital civic tools. As part of that project he developed the Ethereum-based “Universal Basic Income” (UBI) and the “Proof of Humanity” (PoH) protocols. In addition, he is the Executive Director of DAO Education, an organization with which he has promoted education for the information society.

As an entrepreneur, he was the founder of Popego, a pioneering laboratory in big data, semantics, and social network research acquired by Boo-box in 2011, was part of the founding team of Three Melons (acquired by Disney), and a partner at Bitex.la, a leader in Bitcoin-based financial services.

As part of our campaign “Stable Currency, Human Right,” Reserve’s Matías Olmos interviews Santi to learn about his vision on democracy and economic rights.

What is blockchain and how can it be used for decision making?

The blockchain is an alternative to help determine the validity of an economic transaction or who owns something without resorting to any authority.

The revolution brought about by Satoshi Nakamoto with his original Bitcoin paper and its implementation more than ten years ago has to do with replacing the concept of authority with the use of distributed cryptography, where a network of machines, by dint of mathematics and not much else, can determine the veracity of a transaction or who owns what.

We at DAO Education put a lot of emphasis on trying to help people incorporate these concepts, that are counterintuitive at first, but are very powerful once they are incorporated.

What do you do at Democracy Earth?

We are a foundation, a non-profit organization, that is dedicated to investigating what democracy is in the information age. We do this by implementing democratic pilots in various places around the world, always in real contexts, organizations, or communities, that are facing a real weighty decision. We do this by developing open source technology that operates on decentralized networks that are resistant to censorship and, ideally, free and open technologies, accessible to anyone.

In the last few years we have focused on an issue that is essential to helping expand democratic and legitimate systems of participation around the world. This issue is the problem of identity: how to provide decentralized identity in these types of networks.

This year in particular we developed a protocol with the people from Kleros, the French cooperative, called “Proof of Humanity” (PoH), which verifies that an address in the blockchain corresponds to a living human being and that there are no robots, no duplicate accounts, or no humans controlling multiple accounts. It is a protocol that, by allowing the generation of human identity, also gives room to more social applications on the blockchain, and not just financial applications.

Tell us more about the Partido de la Red (PdR).

PdR was an initiating experience for me as an activist in Argentine politics, particularly in Buenos Aires. It was a political party where candidates would vote on laws according to what the citizenry had previously voted on an online platform. When you start researching the requirements for a digital democracy, you begin to discover the challenges of building such a technology.

This was ten years ago. It was an initial experience into the intersection between politics and technology. The PdR ran in an election in 2013 and got 1% of the vote. For an independent party it was a good endorsement, but it was not enough to get a deputy (in Congress). What was interesting is that there are few experiences of digital parties in the World. There is the pirate party in Europe and some other isolated experiences in different parts of the world, but I started investigating how to form a democracy in the Internet’s cyberspace thanks to the experience of the PdR.

The challenge of thinking about technology led us down that path. At the same time, in the last decade, technologies that did not exist at that time but today are fundamental when thinking about this problem, matured. Some examples are smart contracts and networks like Ethereum, which allow us to think about institutions based on programs mounted on the blockchain.

When we started with the PdR, we focused on making use of open source, a traditional identity system, still very centralized technology, but as we were building pilots around the world we realized that a database administrator with a bias in the decision-making process can easily manipulate that choice in very subtle ways. So clearly the emergence of decentralized networks is something very important when thinking about digital institutions and digital voting systems that are really very difficult to corrupt by an authority. Blockchain makes a lot of sense in those cases, because its great disruption is to replace the concept of authority with a concept of distributed cryptography.

You suffered several civil attacks on the projects you have created, which motivated you to get to PoH and then the idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI) came up. How did you get from the concept of identity to Universal Basic Income?

I always tell about the many pilots we did: one in the legislature of Buenos Aires, in 2014, where Partido Obrero put in 6,000 fake identities; then we made a very big project with CON where the Communist Party also manipulated the digital election by putting in 600,000 accounts in a Telegram channel. As we went digging into what is needed for there to be a global democracy through the Internet, the problem of identity becomes extremely critical in order to understand how to get to that kind of technology.

It is so critical that, if we look at democracy at the global level, we can see the role that Facebook had in the last elections in the US as a propaganda tool. This is thanks to the fact that it is the largest repository of identities in the world, totally centralized, subject to a business model that demands permanently infringing on people’s privacy and, therefore, also bombarding them with messages that can radically condition their thinking.

We live in a very polarized society precisely because of the effect that these networks have had, where a permanent bombardment of information and algorithmic optimization on who to follow and who to listen to ends up generating a sort of endogamy, where one only follows and listens to those who think similar to oneself, and ends up becoming ideologically radicalized. So, we see the emergence of authoritarianism as a consequence of this new digital reality, in which the entire planet is immersed, and that is where we must try to see and think about identity under the new lens proposed by the networks.

Relying on blockchain, like Ethereum, is an interesting challenge, because we have to think about identity from a new point of view, from the idea of decentralization, where identity is totally under one’s sovereign control and not under the control of a database or Mark Zuckerberg or whoever is at the top of these companies.

PoH is a protocol that tries to do that, with a system where anyone can generate their proof of humanity. Today you have to make a video. It requires a previously verified identity, where one makes a vouch, which is like an endorsement showing that people are who they say they are, and requires a deposit which is recovered when the identity is correctly created. But if there was a conflict with the identity because it was detected as a duplicate, or the video was wrong and the blockchain address was not entered correctly, anyone can object to that identity and compete to get the deposit when it does not meet the requirements.

All this is possible, because it is an open, decentralized system, where there is no central server and where there is a community of humans who are trying to build a list in which we can avoid duplicates, robots, deep fakes, and a list of human identities that anyone in the smart contract ecosystem can trust, and have the certainty that if, indeed, we interact with someone on that list, we are interacting with a real user.

Because of this, one can find all kinds of applications for it. One of them is obviously democracy, this system where there should be “one person, one vote”. Today most of the blockchain governance systems in the world are “one coin, one vote,” people generally vote with their money. And being able to do “one person, one vote” is something quite innovative with respect to what the ecosystem is.

And later, (we decided) to do universal basic income. We implemented a token, which is called UBI (Universal Basic Income.) Once people get verified on PoH, they start being credited in their blockchain wallets with UBI every second, immediately, in real time. Thanks to that, many people can have an alternative means of subsisting. It’s a global basic income system, where a person in Bangalore or Madagascar can receive the same amount as someone who registers in London or Los Angeles. It’s a technology that helps balance the starting point on a social level.

Today, it is obviously something very experimental, there are barely 10.000 people on the list, but this allows us to say that we are the largest decentralized identity protocol out there and it’s a very young project, at 7 months old, and still many parts are experimental: investigating the token model and the different mechanisms to ensure that its value is sustained. It is a very interesting challenge because we are betting on generating the idea of universal basic income, which is not ours but something that has been discussed for many decades. We are betting on creating a mechanism that allows for people to have the basic needs in order subsist and potentially eradicate poverty as a problem in our societies today.

Your identity was challenged, questioned… is that right?

Yes. There are no privileges in the protocol. Myself, as the developer of the UBI smart contract, for example, cannot modify anything. I already handed over the keys to the community. Interestingly, in my first PoH video (you have to show your address on the blockchain to prove that indeed the address introduced matches one that the person showing it actually controls), I didn’t realize that it didn’t show the last four characters of my address, so someone noticed that and challenged me. When I saw the objection, I could have made an appeal and tried to battle through the Kleros board the veracity of my proof of identity, but it seemed to me that the objection was correct. It didn’t follow the guidelines that are stipulated in a guide used for arbitrators, so I decided to accept the penalty and make my proof of humanity from scratch, like any other user. We also have had “unicorn” CEOs who have done their humanity test and for different reasons were also objected. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re a billionaire or the founder of the protocol, there are no privileges.

Technology as an equalizing tool par excellence. In UBI I see two recurring questions: How is the price of UBI supported? And at the time of creating a proof of humanity, is it necessary to give your name or is enough with showing your face? The concept of identity and blockchain are hard to join, isn’t it a counterintuitive concept for what blockchain was born for?

The only requirement of PoH is showing your face in a video, but you don’t necessarily have to use your real name or first name, we just need something we can use to historically verify if there is a duplicate or not in the record.

The goal of avoiding duplicates means that you have to use a fingerprint, we don’t use any biometric fingerprint, we just look at your face. I believe that the face is something that at some point evolved as a public key, because we all recognize each other in the distance thanks to the face.

Clearly, that implies that when people create their proof of humanity, ideally, it’s best to do it with a fresh blockchain address, without history, without transactions. That way people can be assured that the address is associated with their public image. People can have many addresses in a blockchain wallet, and all of them with different degrees of anonymity, pseudonymity or total publicity of one’s image.

I have an address, “santi.f”, which is a public address that appears on my Twitter account and everywhere. So for anyone who wants to publicly interact with me on the blockchain, that’s the same address I use in PoH. I know I’m associated with my public image there, but I have anonymous addresses, pseudonymous addresses, and public addresses. Privacy, at the end of the day, is one’s responsibility, because we are in a context of personal sovereignty.

Regarding UBI, it is a challenge because it is a constantly issued currency. One UBI is issued per hour for each human being. The main economic challenges that we face are how to generate demand and how to reduce circulation in order to sustain the price.

There is a mechanism we implemented two months ago, which is quite interesting. I’m referring to vaults where one can deposit Ether or DAI and those vaults generate income. In Ether, it’s 2% while in DAI, it’s generally around a 7% annual income. DAI is a stablecoin that trades 1 to 1 with the dollar.

Half of that income is distributed as profits to those who invested in the vault, the other half is used to buy UBIs and burn them, which means sending them to a 0000 address. We are doing quite well, so far, we have burned more than 20,000 UBIs. The more liquidity there is the more income is generated, the more UBIs are burned.

Our estimate is that with 10,000 humans on the registry, and about $2 million in these vaults, we could burn $100,000 of UBIs a year, which would help support the price and would represent a basic monthly income of about $200 (for each identity.)

We are trying to reach that target. A huge challenge is trying to explain these technologies. We are moving forward with the caution and prudence required to work with smart contracts, where a mistake can be very costly, but so far, in these 7 months since we activated the protocol, this technique of the vaults as well as other services built with UBI have worked very well.

Now we are working on streaming features (the UBI, in fact, is streamed to the account of every PoH natively.) What we want is for whoever receives that stream to be able to send it to whomever they want. For example, another individual or a charity.

These are all discoveries that we are making as the project evolves and takes color and shape. In these 6–7 months we have seen all kinds of things happen, both with PoH and with UBI, and this is a great research work that several developers from the team been doing.

When you were 15 years old you made a soccer simulator that had several peculiarities, do you want to tell us about it?

Soccer Deluxe. Some of you will remember it. It was a soccer manager game that I always liked. I am a soccer fan.

This one had some particularities; as a manager you could send the hooligans to bully the rival team, give illegal enhancers to the players, and bribe the referee. For me it was a very realistic simulator of how the soccer industry works.

It was a great experiment 20 years ago: the first ]video game for export made in Argentina. I did it before the iPhone, before the smartphones that amplified the videogame industry enormously, and before many things that happened afterwards. It was my first experience as an entrepreneur: think of a product, assemble it, produce it, look for a distributor, and try to export it.

Another thing I wanted to ask you about was the birth of your daughter, do you want to tell us about that? It’s very linked to who you are today and your passion for technology and the blockchain.

When my daughter Roma was born almost 6 years ago, maybe as a sort of precedent of PoH, we made her birth certificate using the blockchain (at that time, year 2015, the Bitcoin blockchain).

At the hospital I put together a video, with witnesses and so on, and then I generated a hash, which is a sequence of numbers and letters that can only match the information or bits linked to that video. Then, I made a bitcoin transaction that includes that hash, with which I can prove that the content of that video was not corrupted, and that it was filmed at that moment in time, November 6, 2015. So it works as the birth certificate of my daughter. It was more like a demo than anything else. Today, PoH is that exact thing transformed into a product.

I read in my research that the collateral for UBI is human time, I thought that was a genius concept. Also, you have spoken about potentially building a stablecoin that is not necessarily tied to the dollar?

I find the idea of emancipating from the dollar very interesting. What blockchain allows is to think about new monetary experiments. When thinking about stablecoins, which are a challenge and a category in itself, trying to think beyond the dollar is something that is not so trivial, it is not so easy.

I know that the Reserve team has been investigating this. It has been spearheading it for years. I met the Reserve team when they were in New York. It is an excellent team, one of the most sophisticated ones in the blockchain space.

With UBI, the collateral is human time because people get it as a Human Right. With every second that passes, drops of UBI fall inside your wallet.

It allows us to think of all kinds of projects. For instance, we are investigating the possibility that individuals can borrow against the UBI they will receive in the future. We are still at a very experimental stage, but it opens up the imagination of what’s possible from a financial perspective. We can at least think outside the box about how a currency should work.

I’d like to chat a bit about the “Stable Currency, Human Right” campaign. Doing a quick search in my head about crypto-social projects, I can think of three: Kleros, UBI and Reserve. We want to make an open call that helps restore hope.

I think anyone who was born in Argentina, in Venezuela, in Latin America, tragically has big financial problems, big inequality problems.

It is not by chance that there are also many software developers and engineers who are engaging in blockchain who come from these countries. It is precisely because we see a tool, an alternative, that enables us to think outside the canons of what is possible in traditional finance. We are trying to build systems that can capitalize on the enormous wealth that has been generated with Bitcoin and Ethereum, which are probably the most successful economic experiments of the last decade. We are thinking of how can that wealth provide a better quality of life not only to speculators or software developers, but also to society as a whole.

I believe that solutions such as basic income, or those proposed by Reserve with stable currencies, are technologies that will become very important in the coming years.

How do you make it possible for people to have access to a stable currency without interfering with the monetary policy of each country? With technology?

With the pandemic, digital life has come to the forefront for almost all of us. The level of digital media consumption, of e-commerce, the level of use of teleconferencing systems, have clearly generated a mutation in a situation as overwhelming as the pandemic. One salient aspect clearly has to do with the digitization of our lives.

In the digital realm, there are no boundaries. Information moves at the speed of light. The ability to encrypt or decrypt is available to anyone. No state can attempt against the force of mathematics that allows for the use of encrypted networks, effectively empowering people over institutions or states.

I believe that this reality is what a famous 96–97 book called “The Sovereign Individual” describes. The book applies information theory to understand modern capitalism, and it reaches these same conclusions about the world we live in today, where two people can transact with each other in an encrypted form and there is no State, corporation or bank that can get in the way of that right.

I think that these walls are going to fall, and hopefully this will also help us find mechanisms that allow us, as a civilization at a social level, to govern not only our communities and our countries, but also the planet as a whole.

Is technology the equalizing tool par excellence?

I am 38 years old and the only thing I have seen change society is technology. I have never seen a politician really change anything in terms of the quality of life of individuals. There are periods under one economic formula and periods under another one, but the real changes that remain, persist, and that improve the world, are always linked in some way to technological innovation.

It is important to look ahead. Recently in Paris Vitalik delivered a very good speech [inviting us to think] about use cases beyond DeFi and the financial use of blockchain. I think it’s something that will naturally happen as the scalability of these networks increases.

For instance, today Ethereum processes 25 transactions per second, so using the blockchain is expensive, and being expensive means that the use cases with the highest traffic have to be economically profitable use cases. Therefore, today in the blockchain we have a great majority of financial use cases, but as we reach a transaction rate of 500 tickets or 1000 tickets per second and as the costs of using the blockchain become cheaper, and as Layer 2 or roll-apps (which help to decompress a little the traffic within the main chain) grow, those more social use cases will begin to gain greater preponderance. Hence, scalability is very important. I think Vitalik and several in the Ethereum ecosystem are quite interested in seeing that happen.

Do you want to tell us a bit more about UBI? Your vision is super optimistic in terms of trying to restore hope.

I invite everyone to discover the protocol at proofofhumatinity.id and then, on Telegram, you can search for proofhumanity or proof of humanity in Spanish, which are the two channels where on a daily basis our community talks about the different aspects of the protocol.

It is a highly experimental project, but it has started off on the right foot. We have the blessing of Vitalik, who has been following us for a long time, he even created his PoH when the technology was discovered. It is a project that was born from minds from all over the world. Many of us come from Argentina and Latin America, and are trying to contribute a more social perspective and to find a technology that, if we manage to hit the right key, grow, and attract enough interest from the ecosystem, has the potential to attack very deep social problems, such as poverty or marginality and exclusion.

I believe that technology has that power. We have seen in this millennium, which is only 20 years old, how the Internet, social networks and new forms of communication have permeated everything. I believe that in the coming decades we will not only see a cultural revolution, but the institutions of our society will be profoundly affected by this, starting with money and continuing with identity and other factors that are the pillars of the institutional framework and the functioning of organizations in the world.

So I am very motivated by what is to come, because there is an immense potential in all this we are working on and creating together as a community.

In your path you have encountered many adversities, is optimism the way to overcome them?

Everything that is not explicitly denied by the laws of physics is possible. It is not a matter of if, but when and under what conditions or circumstances. This makes the idea of optimism have a life of its own in this universe. So I’m very optimistic by nature and technology reinforces the reasons for me to be optimistic.

There are huge challenges ahead and, if we want to leave a better world for future generations, the path will be technological, but with social and political awareness.

A couple of books you recommend?

I just mentioned “The Sovereign Individual,” which is almost a cult book written by two very good English historians. It was written more than 20 years ago and it helps apply information theory to understand capitalism. The book is a bit of a bible in the sense that it can be read randomly, and it left a very deep impression on me. Many people in the crypto sector have been influenced by this book. It is very often quoted among bitcoiners (this is so bitcoiners do not say that I do not love them; deep down I come from being a bitcoiner, I just matured a little, nothing more.)

Also a book I read this year called “The Science of Can and Can’t,” which is a new approach to physics that tries to apply information theory to classical physics. We have only seen information theory applied in the field of quantum physics, but there are several Oxford physicists trying to solve some of the equations of physics forgetting the classical mathematics, algebra, and calculus that were always used, and trying to use computer language to better understand the world in which we are immersed. I liked it very much. It is a science book, which never hurts at times when there is a lot of noise going on.

Thank you so much for the recommendations and for your time.

Thanks you for inviting me.



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“Fact You Need To Know About Cryptocurrency - The first Bitcoin purchase was for pizza.” ― Mohsin Jameel
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