In my most recent article for our CXWithSoul blog I discuss dual transformation, a framework for understanding disruptive innovation. I used two examples of cutting-edge innovation from the 1990s of which I was directly involved with in order to show that while the concept is not new, we still have much to learn about how to really do disruption well.
On of the example case studies I discuss is the Cellnet Barclaycard phone which first launched in 1997. This was the first handset to use smart card technologies in order to offer the first e-commerce banking solution in the UK. The second generation handset which is in the picture below was the first handset to be commercially available and which offered VisaCash for micro-payments.
The key point here is that the phone featured a large blue button. All the user had to do was to press this button to access their services, no configuration needed.
I had started work at BT Laboratories in 1992 in their Human Factors department, and was a customer experience evangelist. By 1996 I was the business development manager at Cellnet responsible for smart phones and smart cards, and this was one of my first projects.
So even in the 90s I had this extreme focus on usability and the need to offer cutting-edge technological innovations that any one of our customers could use. As I survey what is currently happening in the crypto-currency and blockchain related space today, this single-mided focus on usability as a key quality of a service seems to have got somehow lost.
While blockchain and related technologies and platforms such as GitHub are revolutionising the internet at many different levels – standards, architecture, platforms and business models, there are still many technical issues to be addressed, scalability and environmental impact to name just two. There is also a financial speculation side, which has led to some people managing to attain massive returns on their investments, while the opportunity to invest has of course been denied to those people in society without the means to participate in any meaningful way.
There are now many people around the world looking at these technical, social and ecological issues and asking themselves how to build fairer and more ethical technological networks and platforms which do not end up creating ever more consolidated wealth for the very few, and not for everyone.
Holochain is one such technological ecosystem which promises to solves these questions.For a technical introduction, here is an introduction from Nicolas Luck, one of Holochain’s core developers.
Just as the internet is the underlying technology which allows people to create applications such as web browsers, Skype, email etc, Holochain is the underlying architecture which allows people to build applications, products and services, Holo being one of the first examples:
“HOLO enables scalable, distributed Internet applications and data hosting infrastructures. This allows users to become consenting participants in applications that become communities unto themselves. Built on Holochain, HOLO’s energy-efficient hosting enables a new class of hosting where individuals are free to buck the $200B cloud hosting industry using simple consumer-grade devices.”
This article is not intended to be a complete introduction to Holochain. Matthew Schutte has written one of the best lay introductions in this article: Holo: The evolution of cloud computing. In this article he points out the two major innovations:
Holochain: a new way of running truly peer-to-peer applications that makes it so that my computer doesn’t necessarily have to “store” all of the content in an application in order to be able to serve that content.
Holo Fuel: a new crypto-accounting system that enables us to process transactions in parallel, rather than in sequence. That means that Holo can handle millions or billions of simultaneous transactions.
An application such as Holo uses both the Holochain and Holo Fuel to create a technological solution which “enables people to rent their computer’s spare storage and processing power to help pay for their internet access, or even their computer itself”. And rather than wealth being earned just by the few platform owners, such as Uber for example, “with Holo, 99% of the money goes straight to the people whose machines are doing the work. That’s right. In exchange for orchestrating all of this, we take just a 1% cut”.
So to summarise, Holochain helps people to
- Own their own data
- Control their identity
- Connect applications to suit their needs
- Transact without centralized systems
- Build lighter, faster, cheaper applications
And Holochain applications help
- Governance & Collaboration
- Social Media, Social Networks, & Vendor Links
- Sharing Economy & Platform Co-ops Apps
- Supply Chain Wins & Social Communities
In order to achieve this vision, Holochain recently completed a successful ICO (initial coin offering) which is a way in which people can invest in the project as a way to provide the initial round of funding. This funding campaign raised €25 million:
This article was going to be purely about Holochain. I wanted to invest in the ICO in order to fully understand Holochain from the inside, as an investor, someone who had actually committed time and resources to the project, and principally as someone who really believes in the vision and mission of making the internet more democratic, distributed and ecologically sustainable.
The problem was that I never managed to successfully invest and the reason was the difficulty involved. The user experience proved to be too difficult for me. I have never purchased Bitcoins or any other kinds of crypto-currency as I do not wish to convert one form of fiat currency (money) for another. By this I mean that there is nothing of substance behind Bitcoin, hence it’s wild fluctuations in value.
I wanted to start this article with a look at one of the first mobile e-commerce solutions as there was such a focus on the user experience. At this moment in time, people with no technical knowledge have no way to become involved in any form in the world of crypto-currencies or the new generation of internet technologies, no matter how much their purpose is to be accessible for everyone.
As the co-author of the book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter I am someone hugely motivated to participate, but the process was beyond me. There were of course the additional challenges of being a British person with a British bank account living in Brazil, for example Ethereum not being purchasable here yet (from what I understand). The full ICO process is explained in this graphic below.
I did manage to become an investor in BrewDog via their record-breaking Equity Punks programme, and I invested in the Uk while being physically in Brazil. And I did manage to integrate my Microsoft Outlook email with our WordPress website and Brazilian-issued web address, an insanely difficult process which was made possible with the help of support from both WordPress and Microsoft’s customer service staff.
While it is important to point out that Holochain do reply to emails asking for assistance, and that I was offered amazing personal support from the Brazilian Holochain community of developers, work commitments meant that I just did not have enough time to really learn how to invest in the ICO. This is a shame as I wanted to write about Holochain before the close of the ICO, in order to be able to talk about it from personal experience.
I really need to emphasise that my comments should not be read as criticism of Holochain or any other peer-to-peer technologies with social and ecological purposes. But I do feel that we have to be honest at this moment in time and understand that the user experience is a barrier to the uptake of these technologies from the majority of people. On the positive side, it shows just how large the potential is for the adoption of peer-to-peer and decentralised solutions once these issues have been solved.
One framework which can be implemented today which can allow entrepreneurs and investors to create real-world socio-economic solutions is smart ecologies. One of the creators of this framework, Gunther Sonnenfeld, takes as the starting point the fact that out of the $5.6 billion raised in crypto ICOs last year, the majority were “earmarked towards protocols and business plans that promised new technology innovations, most of which were not tied to or driven by real assets” (source).
Gunther is also the founder of Novena Capital, a consultancy, development group & crypto fund which has developed Novem, “a new proprietary, next generation Internet offering that features a unique, evolutionary protocol called RATL (Real Asset Transfer Layer). This platform truly decentralizes, redistributes & collateralizes physical assets — land, natural resources, commodities, etc. — anything with civic + commercial value”.
So the opportunity for new ethical and sustainable investment opportunities is to understand the intersection of blockchain and next generation of financial technology with political and cultural dynamics. Gunther describes smart ecologies in the following way:
One example of revitalizing local economic conditions is something that we detail extensively within our Smart Ecologies thesis, in which a distressed land asset is converted into a thriving local ecosystem. The resources created spawn a significant uptick in labor force participation, thereby providing a way to regenerate assets and develop skills that are paramount to the ongoing development of local communities, and therefore strong economies. All of this, of course, is facilitated by an evolutionary approach with the integration of blockchain/DLT technologies, and designing DAO-like systems for building up new skills areas as well as specialized vocations.
I do feel that it is through this technology and the Smart Ecologies approach that the next generation of entrepreneurs can create solutions which do benefit whole communities and local ecologies, allowing anyone of any background to benefit.
As Gunther mentions in his article, both Holochain and Holonomics, our approach to designing flourishing businesses with soul, have contributed in different ways to the thinking behind smart ecologies. There is a now an extremely promising path for the evolution of technology, business and investment which is based on an understand of the whole, a wholeness which encompasses coding, finance and the expansion of consciousness. This is a future which is shared, distributed, fair and regenerative, and a future in which we can all participate, no matter who we are.