Can the blockchain fix our broken society?

Democracy, from the Greek Dēmokratía, translates literally to “rule of the commoners”. 

A quick look around America will tell you this is far from the system we have:

  • the richest 1% hold 38% of all of America’s wealth.
  • the bottom 90% hold 73% of all the debt.
  • Trump’s 17 cabinet members have a net-worth of 14billion; which is more than a 1/3rd of blue-collar American families combined. (Todd Ricketts: $5.3 billion; Betsy DeVos: $5.1 billion; Wilbur Ross: $2.5 billion; Linda McMahon: $1.6 billion; and Trump himself has a net worth of 3.7 billion)
  • There are an estimated 46.5 million people on food stamps (that’s nearly 1 out of every 6 Americans unable to afford food, and this is even including children)
  • For the first time since 1880, young adults ages 18 to 34 are more likely to live with a parent than in any other arrangement.
  • The minimum wage has been in decline since 1968; had it kept up with productivity growth, it should have reached $21.72 in 2012; and yet the Federal minimum wage is $7.25; all while the cost of renting in a city (where the majority of jobs are now) has tripled and even quadrupled in less than a decade. And all that money is trickling up, away from all of the average hardworking Americans; aka: the “commoners”.
  • Healthcare, childcare, and tuition have continued to rise exponentially while these wages stagnant; full-time jobs with benefits have turned into contracted positions, and middle-class jobs are crumbling away forcing a once-strong middle-class into low-paying service positions.
  • And to sum it all up: nearly half of Americans do not have $400 to their name.

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This, my friends, is not a democracy. This is NOT a rule by commoners. This is rule by the aristocracy, by the business class, by the rich ancestry lines who have continually used their inherited wealth to change the rules of our government in a way that gives them more money and power, which results in a continually increasing influence over the policies that dictate the lives of us average commoners.

And they’ve been able to do it because they were able to operate in the shadows, using the ignorance of the masses to get away with shady business deals–via interests groups, sneaky legislation, confusing tax loopholes, and a manipulation of public opinion through a media system that controlled what information we were allowed to know about it, thus swaying our uneducated votes and weakening our ability to properly resist this growing deceit.

And so now, after decade after decade of our money trickling up to these oligarchs, our country is now deeply centralized around entities like Big Oil, Big Banking, and Big Pharm, and the political pawns who are in their pocket.

So if we are to have a true democracy and capitalistic economy, if we average people are to be truly represented rather than extorted, we must be able to have our voice stand equal to that of these elites.

And to do that, our democracy must become decentralized–there must be no authority that holds a greater sway than any other citizen. This was a virtually impossible thing to do pre-internet, but now there is a piece of technology that exists that can move us away from the centralized systems that have been extorting us since the baby boomers were born, and instead move us closer towards a system of true, one-to-one representation.

Enter: The Blockchain.

So what is it?

For most, the blockchain is simply known as the system that the increasingly popular cryptocurrency, BitCoin, uses to manage its transactions.

But it’s so much more, because it can be used for recording any kind of information, not just money.

In its simplest form, the blockchain is just a database. But what makes it unique is that it’s managed by a network of dispersed computers that no one controls, rather than by a centralized cluster of servers controlled by one organization. This is extremely important because it means that any change to the database must be confirmed by all nodes in the system before it’s allowed, thus preventing the ability of any centralized source to falsify or censor data. That means that every computer has an up-to-date version of the database at all times, meaning that every node, and every person, has a copy of the “truth” at all times that will automatically use consensus to override any attempts to deceive the system. And the system also ensures the order in which people are allowed to make additions/changes to the blockchain, so there’s no way to overwhelm the database with false information.

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An example:

Imagine 1000 people who are charged with protecting and preserving the truth of any situation. Imagine they all have a piece of paper with that truth written on it. Well, if one of those people (or a newcomer, say person number 1001) suddenly steps forward and proposes an “alternative truth”, their alternative truth is automatically rejected by the other 1000 people and that person who’s attempting to deceive the system is forced to take the piece of paper with the truth on it–if they wish to be a member of the society of truth.

But that’s the kind of society we can choose as the commoners. We can demand this kind of transparency and integrity in our data systems.

And if we’re going to survive the current chaos we’re in, that’s what we need right now in society: more truth, and the protection against alternative truths. The protection against social network reality tunnels, the protection against deceitful governments run by businessmen and women, and protection against centralized entities which extort us for their greed.

For example, Bitcoins purpose is to use this tamper/hack-proof blockchain as a banking system that takes power away from the banks (who are incentivized to make money off of us) and any individuals involved with the banks who might attempt to partake in fradualant activity. For example, USATODAY recently reported:

“Wells Fargo employees opened roughly 1.5 million bank accounts and about 565,000 credit card accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau…Employees issued debit cards with fake PINs and used phony email addresses to secretly sign up customers for online banking. They temporarily transferred customers’ money to the bogus bank accounts, at times leaving a low balance and triggering overdraft or other charges.”

Things like this are done in organizations all the time, from lowly employees who need a quick buck all the way up to President Trump himself who has refused to pay his workers after they completed work simply because he knows he can buy lawyers to get away with it. And he has gotten away with it, several times, because when he makes dozens of changes mid-way through a project, the paper-trail gets muddied and it becomes easier for him to deny the extra expenses he incurred. But had the contract changes been pushed onto a Blockchain, it would have been impossible to tamper with, and judges could easily see who agreed to pay what for what work. This is the kind of protection we need as commoners against overly powerful oligarchs who can buy lawyers to silence our truth.

So we can use the blockchain to avoid banking fees (and stop paying middle-men for handling our money), to avoid fraudulence on the part of any individual who one day might just become desperate or greedy enough to use their position to rip us off, and in that same way even avoid things like identity theft. This protects our finances and our rights in business endeavors, but we can also extend this to our voice in the government as well.

Imagine, for example, if we moved away from the electoral college and had a voting system based on the blockchain, where a citizen’s vote went into a system that would be nearly impossible to hack–a system where each person could see their own addition to the blockchain to confirm their vote wasn’t tampered with. The audit trail left by the blockchain would confirm that no illegitimate votes were made or changed.

And since we already trust online banking with our livelihoods, we know we have the technology to build a similar system that would allow us to us our social security numbers to vote with the blockchain.

And what if we combined that with a system like Switzerland’s referendums, where the representatives that we’ve elected (hopefully by blockchain!) don’t make the final decisions for us, but instead design a law they think would be useful and then propose that law to the American people as a referendum. Then each citizen would get a one-to-one vote on whether they want to approve our government’s proposed changes. This would put the power back in the hands of the people. This would be a true democracy, where the people get a one-to-one vote directly on an issue that could affect them before it goes into power. And with the blockchain we could confirm our votes are counted correctly and that our voice is heard equally with everyone else.

And I know what many of you are probably thinking: “This is too big of a change. We can’t redesign our government like this.”

But of course we can. We’ve been changing everything we do in society for the last few decades to take advantage of technology. We can still have public voting booths where people who don’t have smartphones or computers can go to add their vote to the blockchain, and everyone else can simply add their vote to the blockchain from the comfort of their own home, thus avoiding many of the barriers that keeps so many people from voting.

Buckminster Fuller once said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete,” and that’s what we need to do right now to fix our crumbling society. Trump’s election showed us that we’re all desperate for something different; well now’s the time to build that something different, that new system that will allow us to avoid these rich elites like Trump and Clinton all together, a system that will stop us from being extorted by the middle-men we no longer need, a system that will restore our equality to our voices and demand accountability from our fellow citizens.