Comms + policy. Author of #digitaldiplomacy (2015), Twitter for Diplomats (2013). My views here.
The Internet “has been spectacular in so many ways,” Joseph Lubin, founder of startup ConsenSys and co-founder of ethereum, said in his keynote address during the Ethereal Summit in Brooklyn last weekend. “It has transformed global society, but it’s broken.”
In his keynote presentation, Lubin pointed out how the technology behind the Internet and the World Wide Web “is getting stretched to its limits” and security is one of the main issues.
“Its [the Internet] foundations were formed decades ago, in naive times,” Lubin highlighted in one of his slides. “Security evolved as a patchwork later.”
Referring to the blockchain space, the founder of ConsenSys said that there have certainly been issues with security and “usually they happen at the intersection of the legacy financial world and the blockchain world where we’re still using those legacy databases,” which are vulnerable.
We’re also moving into a world in which we have native access to money — programmable, native digital money — and with that in mind Lubin mentioned how “blockchain protocols have been really been rock solid throughout the years that they have been running.”
He continued: “The issue is figuring out how to build layers and layers of applications layers and to harden each layer, building better programming languages, […] pure functional languages, executable mathematics […] and other kind of systems.”
Applications and business processes on blockchain are going to be much more secure.
Blockchain is going to be a revolution in IT security because every transaction against your infrastructure is a strongly and cryptographically authenticated and granularly authorized.
“We’re no longer gonna be subject to security by a ring-fenced, firewall-protected soft asset where, have we have seen, systems are regularly been penetrated by hackers or nation-state actors,” he added, pointing out how in the blockchain architecture it’s very hard to own the whole system.
“This new veridical property, trust-minimized systems you add more secure IT infrastructure and you realize that all of that is all built in the context of a radically-decentralized, radically-open free market peer-to-peer network,” Lubin said.
“You have a force for universal disintermediation” enabling content creators, resource providers, service providers to directly access consumers with little to none intermediary extracting value, without adding any commensurate value.
ConsenSys has been exploring these approaches already with platforms like Ujo for music, Civil: Self-Sustaining Journalism for news, and Cellarius for collaborative, fan-crowdsourced, and fan-curated stories on many formats. But also in the area of services and resources, linking them directly to consumers, with projects like Golem Project, SONM, Kauri Team, Swarm, Storj Labs, Pangea, and many others.
The Internet is also broken, according to Lubin, because “it didn’t ever had a native identity construct” or a “native money construct too.”He mentioned what ConsenSys calls self-sovereign identity (uPort), a blockchain-based identity that can serve as the root of our identity. “It enables you instead of spreading away aspects of your identity across the Internet, having those elements monetized — he said — and it enables you to upload your data, in encrypted form, and control all of that information from your side of the browser.”
This way of thinking about identity is going to: enable users to benefit better from their data; enable corporations to have proper, paid-for access to data on data markets.
I think the decentralized World Wide Web is going to be much less exploitative of personal information,” he pointed out while mentioning that situations like the Cambridge Analytica scandal and policy paths initiated by regulators like the European Commission’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are going to push this idea into prominence.
This constitute Web 3.0 for ConsenSys and its mesh of projects, with trusted transactions, automated agreements, and smart software objects on Ethereum, a single world computer, a single execution space; as well as other protocols like decentralized storage, decentralized bandwidth, and heavy compute.
All of this is going to enable us as people and corporation to interoperate much more fluidly.
In a way, Web 3.0 brings the Internet back to its beginning as a decentralized architecture.
“But efficiencies and drive for wealth led to siloed, walled gardens,” Lubin highlighted in a slide. “This was due to a lack of mechanism for shared ownership of open platforms.”
Web 3.0 is what we’re just of the cusp of. And Web 4.0 is going to be very interesting.
Lubin mentioned how Web 4.0 is “what we’re just starting to think about.” It is a system where artificial intelligent agents are empowered by value through blockchain and tokens. “The Internet of the machines economy is going to be very interesting and definitely coming to a blockchain near you,” he said.
When is this going to happen? Hard to say, but here are a few historical points that Lubin mentioned:
“It feels it’s coming really fast, but it also feels it’s agonizingly slow,” Lubin said. “We’re not seeing the compelling consumer applications, although on the enterprise side we’re seeing things gain real traction. These little elements are all being built and being matured.”
Essentially, in 1–2–3 years I think it’s going to feel like blockchain is everywhere. It’s still not true right now.