Every time I log on or get a text message from an unknown person or source, I immediately have to assume whoever is trying to engage with me is a bad actor, scammer, or bot. Interacting and transacting online these days is demoralizing. Why? Trust is broken. You can’t trust reviews, ratings, search results, or profiles. In my opinion, adopting a healthy dose of skepticism bordering on irrational paranoia is a safety mechanism we should all deploy when we venture online.
Everything seems to be bought and paid for by large corporate interests or nefarious organizations. The only online experience I can count on is knowing that my search results are going to be generated algorithmically from the highest bidder. My profile picture on various social media and other platforms might as well have a giant “S” for sucker on my forehead and a bullseye target on my back.
Now, Big Tech and Social Media are trying to address this by utilizing legacy databases and government issued IDs, and wrapping it up in a shiny new offering called “identity verification.” We consumers, who have also been productized to generate revenue, are now expected to pay a monthly subscription for old technology deployed through a centralized system. This, they hope, will offset dwindling ad business models which I wrote about last fall in The Implosion of Free: Time for Big Tech to Rethink Advertising
To subscribe to this new identity subscription plan, Meta, drawing on legacy verification technology, requires your profile photo to reasonably match your government ID. But what if you want a profile picture of your labrador retriever as your avatar? Or you're a rock star, celebrity, artist, gamer, professional athlete and are a “brand” in your own right, do you really want that bad passport photo to be your avatar? Is this the only way of validating and verifying identities by relying on a giant central database?
In everyday life, we participate in a variety of social contracts. I’m referring to the more mundane social contracts that we as a community and society engage in routinely. Things like doing favors for neighbors, agreeing to abide by certain sets of social rules. Obeying rules of the road for instance, stopping at red lights, having a current auto registration. But if you’re buying or selling anything on Craigslist or NextDoor can you really trust the counterparty to fulfill their end of the social contract? What if I wanted to find the best Napoli pizza in San Francisco? Can I trust that the reviews and ratings are authentic?
Until recently, there've been few successful attempts to validate or reward good online citizens. It’s starting to happen on new, decentralized social media platforms, such as Nostr. On Nostr, people tip each other for a post they like. It’s called Zapping. A typical transaction might be as little as 420 Satoshis or about 12 cents with Bitcoin’s current value at $30,300.
This enables users to recognize and reward others for being good citizens. It also signals to others that this person faithfully fulfills their social contracts, and that you can trust them. They’ve been validated by their peers. So whether it’s a photo of your dog or an old passport photo on your profile, what matters is peer validation which lets others know you can be trusted. Empowered with this knowledge, others on the platform can forge their own meaningful connection with you based on trust.
Powered by Bitcoin and the Blockchain, and transacted on the Lighting Network, trust can literally be earned through peer-to-peer validation.
This is just one of the many ways life will soon be transformed, for the better.
All the best,
P.S. Doppio Zero is the best Napoli pizza in San Francisco