It seems we cannot go by a day without someone talking about privacy in some context or the other. We all agree that privacy is important but the way we have been going about it has been somewhat convoluted. The 30 human right that we have come to accept will need to be updated to include data privacy in this digital era as the 31st Human Right.
Most debates and efforts around privacy have been about HIDING private information, but Richie Etwaru, CEO of Hu-manity.co, has a different perspective about protecting privacy. He wants to give our data the same status as any property so that we can identify, track and be in control of our data.
Essentially, treating data as personal property that can be legally enforceable.
Imagine getting paid in microtransactions from all the companies that use your data, only now, they don’t run a secretive coup operation, instead, they are in an open and honest relationship with the consumers whose data they are leveraging to increase their marketing spend.
This is not a pipe dream. What is dubbed as “#My31 Movement” Richie has been working with his ambitious team at Hu-manity.co for about a year now and they are already making strides.Humanity is catching on to what Hu-manity.co is putting forth.
If you hear Richie talk, you will instantly know that he has not cooked up this novel idea to milk the blockchain craze, he has a deeper purpose behind this project: handing the keys to one’s own privacy in an identifiable, enforceable and exercisable property right.
20 years in the making
Richie is no stranger to technology booms and busts!
He built a program when he was only 22, that leveraged trucker data from DMV to help trucking companies with background checks of their fleet crew.
“I was 22 when I built my first company dealing with private data, but I always had this feeling: this cannot be right” Richie shared “but turns out it was legal because of loopholes in the law.”
There lies the crux of privacy issue: Lot of practices in handling data privacy are not right, but they are legal.
That got him thinking about privacy and its impact on individuals who cannot control how their data is being used. He has been contemplating this topic of privacy for the last two decades.
Blockchain presented the perfect opportunity to bring forth this idea of managing privacy in a meaningful way.
“Privacy is being expressed as a negative freedom: you can’t touch this; you can’t touch that; you can’t see this; you can’t have that” Richie alluded to the current state, “we’re actually trying to express privacy as a positive freedom: your data is your own property that you can exercise control over how it is being used.”
Goldilocks for privacy movement is here
Talking about the importance of timing, Richie shared his perspective of how timing is much more important than the idea and people involved.
Just like the internet went from chat to shopping cart to streaming video progression, Blockchain is going through discovering its use cases.
Referencing to the origins of copyright and abolishment of slavery movement, Richie thought we have to have 3 goldilocks’ conditions present for any movement to succeed.
The first goldilocks’ condition is awareness of the masses that something has to change, we as a species simply cannot carry on the status quo. The 2016 election and the manipulation (on both sides) triggered a mass awareness of the extent to which our own data is being used against us, to manipulate us.
The second goldilocks’ condition is public’s view should reach a boiling point, this is when the issue is discussed at the kitchen table. In today’s world, Cambridge Analytica created this kitchen table conversation.
The third goldilocks’ condition is “you have to have some sort of framework, where communities, corporation, and countries can thrive”, Richie explained, “and with Hu-manity.co, we are building this framework for the governments, communities, and individuals to use.”
Hu-manity.co is turning a real issue into a solution that can be implemented in a framework that can be readily implemented globally.
IBMs collaboration will bring more awareness to Hu-manity.co’s campaign.
Hu-manity.co is collaborating with IBM Blockchain on the #My31 consumer app to manage personal data property rights.
The initial phase will focus on allowing people to decide how they would like their healthcare data to be used. Would they like to keep it for themselves, donate their data or since it is being sold and used for research, would they like to lease their data and receive a portion of any profits made when their data is used. These choices are stored on the IBM Blockchain backed app.
“It’s important to recognize the courage that IBM is showing, to take a stand on what could be easily the largest debate of the technological revolution,” Richie said, “I’m very, very honored and proud of the stance that IBM has taken to, I wouldn’t say actively support, but to be north of neutral on the notion that humans should have ownership rights on their data.”
This collaboration complements Hu-manity.co’s mission to assign data property rights on a global scale.
“For us, it was very important to make that bet on an organization that we knew had the history and the posture to be able to bring it to life at an international scale,” Richie clarified.
Data is a non-rivalrous product
Unlike oil or minerals which have a rivalrous usage, that is, if I am using it – it’s no longer available for you to use.
Data, on the other hand, is a perfect non-rivalrous product, any number of parties can use it any number of times and it never expires, it only gathers more power as more data gets added. In that sense, data can drive more commerce than any of its predecessor rivalrous products have managed to.
The only difference is, instead of filling pockets of select few, the #My31 movement has the power to decentralize the control and monetization.
Because data is a non-rivalrous product, it has a different market segment. “It’s a permission-based market, not a pricing based market or a product based market,” Richie explained.
Hu-manity.co’s app helps assign a unique identifier to individual data that can be tracked and traced, to ensure proper usage of the data.
Join the movement of human right
Privacy is important, and it is important enough to be protected.
Hu-manity.co’s #My31 app (Apple App Store | Google Play) is the first step to giving individuals the power to take control of their data and once there are 100,000 people who have joined the movement, Hu-manity.co will work to fight to make sure your data choices are respected.
“We’re sort of your data freedom fighters,” Richie went on to explain, “you sign up with the app and then we go fight on your behalf.”
No one else will fight this privacy fight, if we the people do not care. And you can do your part by just installing the #My31 app and start using it to control your personal data.
Richie puts it more eloquently “the fundamental premise of the #My31 app is you can now participate in collective action without getting off your sofa.”
CryptoTapas tests the App!
It’s pretty simple to sign up in the app.
Transcript of the Interview with Richie EtwaruNOTE: CryptoTapas does not have any affiliations with Hu-manity.co; our recommendation is to encourage people to try out the app to see blockchain’s real-life use-case.
CryptoTapas: Give us some introduction of what you were doing before getting into the blockchain space, but more importantly, tell us how you got started in the blockchain space first.
Richie: Well, like most people who got into the blockchain, we all got sort of routed into it through the awareness of the first application, which is bitcoin. Like many other geeks, I got interested in Bitcoin, because of its unique design to be able to decentralize this once very, very, very centralized construct, which is currency, right?
There are only banks and reserve banks and governments that can tell you what currency is and what the price of the currency is, and who can have it and who can’t have it.
Here was this sort of interesting community based, if I may, before the word decentralized became the call signal to it, this community-based peer to peer, true to the white paper, constructs, I got into it that way.
I’m lucky because I’m old enough to have lived through the growth of the internet as well. And, when I lived through that in my teenage years, I remember getting into the internet through AOL chat and as most teenagers at the time, I knew how to write code and I wanted to build something that would take over the internet, so to speak. And obviously, like most, I built a chat application, which I thought would have been amazing. My brother, my friends and I used it but it was terrible.
I remember for the next 10 years, I did this around 17 years old, thinking when I saw things like YouTube or I saw things like Amazon, God, I had the whole power of the internet in front of me, and all I could do is write a copycat of an application that I saw, which was AOL chat. And so, what I saw Bitcoin, I thought to myself: whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
I’m not making the same mistake again.
I’m not going to get distracted by trying to copycat the application of the protocol that makes it popular. I’m going to go study the protocol like I probably should have studied TCP IP a little bit more when I was a teenager as opposed to thinking about chat. I probably should have studied pockets and routers and the stack a little bit more. I didn’t want to get distracted by what makes the protocol popular. I want to study the protocol. That got me into looking at the blockchain protocol, not necessarily at bitcoin. The rest of it is somewhat history.
CryptoTapas: So, this isn’t a fresh start for you leveraging the technology to make something out of it. Is that a fair statement to make?
Richie: Well, that’s the idea. If you think about these protocols, whether you think about electricity which was a platform invention or when you think about the steam engine or the combustion engine or when you think about the internet or blockchain, there tends to be a series of fundamental inventions on top of these protocols that sort of makes them popular.
After that, there’s a myriad of copycats of the first invention, but then somebody else figures out the second invention and the third invention. If you think about the internet, the first invention was the real-time exchange of texts, which was operationalized through email but only to the privileged. But then AOL chat made it popular to the masses. Then like gangbusters, there were copycat chat applications. At one point there were 2000 VC funded chat applications in the world.
Then everything went to crap. The next zero-to-one invention was invented, which is, shopping carts, to be able to do financial transactions online and boom, you saw a spike again. Tons of copycats. And there was a pet.com and there was all sort of shopping cart type applications and then that busted.
Then eventually we saw streaming media, which was made popular by voiceover IP and YouTube and things like that. Now, we have all sorts of variations of that. If you look at your mobile phone today and you remove the hardware inventions of the camera, GPS, etc. 80% of what you have is some combination of those three fundamental inventions.
Real-time exchange of text, which is email or chat, a shopping cart experience and streaming a video and streaming data for voice, etc.
So, with blockchain, it would be the same.
The first invention was to get large networks of people to agree on and share their agreement and publish it via consensus on what something was. And that was applied at, what’s the price of the coin, what’s the transactional history of that coin and what’s the balance of everyone’s wallet?
Right now, we’re in the phase where that’s been copycatted like crazy. As a society, we’re almost at just over the edge of this bubble where it’s going to start going down and begin to deflate.
The next invention I think is going to be: who someone is, not necessarily what something is. I think we’re going to solve identity and then I think we’re going to solve how something should work. Think about the real-time exchange of text on the internet: Shopping cart and then streaming media. I think similarly with blockchain, there’s going to be what something is which has been made popular by cryptocurrency. What’s the price of the coin? What’s your transactional history of Bitcoin? What’s the balance of everyone’s wallet that’s being copycatted at the supply chains. For instance, what’s the amount of lettuce that we have? What is the amount of items on a shipping container? Whether you think about the IBM and Walmart example or the IBM and Merck example, the concept proves out.
I think it’s going to eventually become who someone is, which will solve for identity and reputation, and then eventually it’s going to become how something should work.
How should we interpret a law?
How should we treat each other?
How should we respect certain premises?
And, I think that’s where we are, Hu-manity.co, we’re using blockchain to an aggregate agreement around how we should think about who owns human data and how do we transact on that agreement once we have it.
CryptoTapas: That is interesting. Do you think there will be a fiction of sorts from social media platforms like Facebook who make tons of money on people’s engagement and people get nothing? Do you foresee that there is going to be friction?
Richie: I’m definitely anticipating friction.
However, the idea of pooling consumers together to aggregate their agreement on something, and then push back or renegotiate or rebalance the relationship with either corporations or governments is not new.
It has played out twice before in human history and both times when it played out the public won, but it wasn’t without a fight.
First in the 1600s, if you think about our creativity: our writing, our art, our music; until about 1623, if you wrote a book or you draw a piece of art or you record a piece of music, it wasn’t yours.
In the 1600s, artists got together around this notion which led to this whole phrase of ‘starving artists’ and argued that we need to figure out a way how art can thrive. There are benefits to creating art and there was a huge uproar. Today, we have intellectual property laws, we have patents, we have trademarks, we have copyrights. Think about the benefits of that to the consumers and corporations and governments.
Because governments can tax the income from your intellectual property. I would argue that the limited liability corporations would have never worked if they couldn’t have their own intellectual property. That pattern played out in the 1600s and, of course, it was met with resistance from the status quo.
Of course, it was met with arguments.
The arguments usually come from the very, very smart people who had tons of Ivy League degrees or were Jesuits at the time. Because they’re arguing from a perspective of expertise of the past but an absence of perspective of the future.
That that pattern played out the second time in the 1800s around our productivity, we already had control of our creativity, but we didn’t have control of our productivity, our labor. I don’t need to remind everyone about how slavery was abolished, but now we have labor laws, and now we are sort of a two-income species.
We can have a primary income from our creativity. We can earn income from our productivity, which is our labor forces, etc. You can always have secondary income from things like real estate and all that type of stuff.
It’s the exact pattern that we seek to accelerate here again around our data.
Another byproduct from the human species, not just creativity and productivity, but our inherent, we believe that we will be able to pool the consumers together and bring forward-thinking corporations to the table to express that this could work, but it won’t be absent of friction.
It won’t be blood, it won’t be bullets and it won’t bombs. So, none of these things. But it’s definitely going to be digital civil war.
That’s why if you look at how we are deploying this company, we have the two-pronged approach.
We’re expressing it in healthcare in the U.S. to show that it would work, but at the same time, we’re also conditioning the revolution in the form of a movement by getting fortune 500 companies involved, by influencing policymakers, both at the state level in the US, as well as globally with countries.
There are now two bills introduced in the states of the Oregon and Maryland that would classify human data as human property, as well as with places like the Aspen Institute, the United Nations and the World Economic Forum.
We’re going about it in a very deliberate way to not be just a movement without an expression that it could work. We’re expressing that it could work in healthcare in the U.S. and at the same time, we’re making movement too, to answer your question more succinctly, if I may, about resistance, I’m not questioning whether we’re going to have resistance or not. I’m questioning whether we’re going to be able to control this battle that’s about to begin.
CryptoTapas: I couldn’t have put it in any more eloquent terms. You said, it’s not going to be the other three B’s, but I think it’s going to be the fourth B, which is going to be the blockchain, which just happens to be another B, I couldn’t control myself thinking that when you were saying that.
Richie: Yeah. So it’s not bullets. It does not bomb. It’s not blood. It’s a blockchain. It’s just another B. I was going to say bits and bytes, but, hey, bitcoin works too. Like historical socio-economic implications, does the magnitude of it come through?
CryptoTapas: Yes, it does. I think when we really know, read or study history, it makes obvious sense. Reading history, you can say, it was stupid and someone changed it. It calls for an obvious change.
People who were sitting there together fighting the system that was existing at that time would have appeared to be rebels or stupid. I think my point was when you were saying all of that history repeating itself, the people you, people who are passionate about the space, passionate about bringing change, passionate about changing the status quo, you all appear to be the nomads now, but 10 years down the lane when you guys are the big corporations, everyone will say: that makes sense. There was a problem and they solved it.
From that perspective to Segway into the next question: How do you bring about the awareness on a mass scale and what are you doing to bring the awareness on a mass scale. What have you done so far? Can you talk a little bit about that Richie?
Richie: I’ve always reckoned that timing is more important than the idea and the team. History is riddled with great ideas that had the wrong timing, great teams that had the wrong timing.
I think what’s important here is the timing. The Goldilocks historic conditions that are needed. Goldilocks as in perfect conditions: not too hot, not too cold.
What are the conditions that are needed to make sure that something like this could come to life?
Then I’ll talk to you a little bit about what we’re doing to soften or to reduce the effort that the public had to put in to be able to come to terms with this new reality.
If you go back again to the 1600s and to the 1800s, there were three things that were in place both times.
Number one is the current status or the current trajectory of the issue was starting to affect the sustainability of the human species.
With art for example, in the 1600s, we needed art to thrive, we couldn’t just thrive on mathematics. With Labor in the 1800s, we just couldn’t carry on with slavery. Yes, a couple of people would have done good, but the species itself would have probably been at risk. That’s number one. The direction on the projectile hostile or reach a point where the prosperity of the human species will boil over.
And here today, we have that as well, which is, it’s not just that people are using our data and we’re not getting cut the deal. That’s the present issue. But the deeper issue is that without control of our data, corporations or conglomerates of digital algorithms who view our data without other permission to understand us better than we understand ourselves.
And when something understands you better than you understand yourself, they can manipulate you. The issue right now is that if we don’t get control of data, the species itself runs the risk of being manipulated.
I only have to point to the 2016 election for you to understand what I mean. By the way, it was both sides of the isle manipulating, it wasn’t one side.
We’ve got that first goldilocks condition.
The second is public opinion on the matter has to boil over. The public has to care. In the 1600s, the artists got together with Jesuits, with kings and queens, and raised public opinion on the matter.
In the 1800s we know if the Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and all that type of stuff.
Cambridge Analytica is the Martin Luther King of this issue.
Cambridge Analytica actually raised this issue into the kitchen table. Bring it to a point where public opinion is boiling over.
So, we have that second goldilocks condition.
The third is you have to have some sort of framework, where communities, corporations, and countries could thrive.
We think in the absence of some sort of new property construct, I like to call it to inherit property, I think this is going to end up in the supreme court, we are going to debate intellectual property versus the inherent property. But in the absence of some new legal construct, personal property, like we own our land, or like we own our homes, or like we own our cars is a pretty good framework, both legal and market framework – to use to express that data could use.
The first thing, part of the answer to your question is we have the historic goldilocks conditions in place for this change to play out. The second is, the notion that we are expressing that it could work in healthcare, and it’s important to understand why we express it in healthcare, particularly in the US, because the buyers of healthcare data in the U.S., which is primarily the pharmaceutical companies, want a transparent relationship with consumers. They want the opportunity to engage with those consumers to improve and validate the data that they have on them. They want the opportunity to get those consumers permissions to use the data for the purposes that can truly improve health care. They want the opportunity to have those consumers permissions so they don’t have to worry about walking on eggshells around HIPAA compliance.
Given that we have a data set, which is healthcare and a geography, which is U.S., where the buyer side is motivated to compensate the consumers and be in a relationship with them, a big part of what we’re doing is expressing that it can work cause we could build a nonprofit advocacy group and a public awareness group and talk about this for 20 years, but until you don’t show that it can work, you won’t get the type of imitation that you need, whether it be in other countries or other industries. That’s the first thing that we’re doing.
The second thing that we’re doing, is we’re solving it from the top and from the bottom. If you think about a problem like this, you can’t really solve for a problem like this with Nationalist thinking, you have to think very globally.
The issue with data right now, privacy is very important, but privacy is being expressed as negative freedom: which is you can’t touch this; you can’t touch that; you can’t see this; you can’t have that. That’s how privacy is being expressed.
We’re actually trying to express this freedom, not as negative freedom, but as positive freedom: You are your own property or your data is your property.
Positive freedom starts with very, very, very high-level agreements of human evolution. It starts with things like the 10 Commandments. It starts with the Upanishads from the Vedas of Hinduism. It starts with human rights. So, we are expressing it as positive freedom at the top of the stock, so to speak, to make sure we solve the problem at the top of the stock.
Those are the two main levers, expressing that it could work and then making sure that we solve it at the top of the stock. We’re not trying to build a new B2B offering to make sure that corporations can stay compliant. Yes, that’s what they get in the end, but what we’re building is a human right now, all the rest of the stuff around it with the marketing, the advertising, the thought leadership, the speeches, the documents, the bills, and the laws and the policies.
Those are all really the infrastructure that supports the fact that we can build the decentralized, the agreement that is as big as a human right from the ground up.
CryptoTapas: Absolutely awesome!
Yuval Nova Harari made a point talking about how the technology that we have developed in the artificial intelligence area can actually read your face and it will say, what is your sexual orientation? What are you going to do in the next two hours? What kind of colors can I show you to make you buy something? And it’s already there.
My question then is how do we control the property rights, digital property rights of individuals when the data is being controlled and churned by artificial intelligence systems. Can Hu-manity address that aspect of privacy?
Richie: First of all, I’ve never met Dr. Yuval Harari, but I would easily say I am a student of Dr. Yuval Hariri. He’s, in my mind, an intellectual God, easily. And, he’s absolutely right.
One of the examples that I like to use this state of manipulation and how it affects our free will. I give talks on this stuff sometimes and I have two slides. The first slide is the human being walking a dog, and the next slide is a robot walking a human being.
If you think about snapchat, for example, it’s domestication – not just manipulation. It’s hard to find this in the public domain, but snapchat has an algorithm that can predict where a teenager is on a spectrum from ‘straight to gay’, based on who they interact with, the content and the people that they follow, who they engage with. Now that’s not new. We know that there are algorithms. The question is, does snapchat have the ethical stripe and the ethical posture to not target that teenager with marketing content that has been earmarked for the LGBT community?
Think about what that does to freewill and how that affects the way we’re supposed to operate.
We’re definitely on this path of manipulation or domestication. That’s the first part; the second part is around this notion that the data is already out there and how do we make sure that property rights can help us?
Property rights are very powerful: there’s a legal and a market framework around it, there’s legal constructs such: title of ownership, leases, taxation, donation and being able to pass it off in your estate, and then there are market constructs that understand in order to really think through this question and the problem and think about how we’re solving it, it’s important that we understand that data is not like oil data is not like land data is not like salt. Data is not like diamonds.
The fundamental difference is that all of those other things are what are called rivalrous products; which means, only one person could use them at a time, and in some cases, if used ones that it can’t be used again, like a gallon of oil.
Data, on the other hand, is a non-rivalrous product, which means, multiple people can be using it at the same time, and it can be used over and over without deteriorating its value or its usefulness. When you think about the market construct that would create fair trade data, if I may, similar to fair trade coffee, fair trade for data.
It has to be not about the ownership or the control or about where the data is, but more about permissions. Our solution doesn’t focus on you have the data in your hands, but more importantly about marking the data for ownership, so that when that data is seen by other people, they can use that marker to do a lookup to understand your permissions and to understand your preferences, and to understand your likelihood to be in a lease with them so they can have a relationship with you. So it doesn’t matter where that data is, all we are trying to do is we’re trying to mark the data for ownership with the unique identifier, which when people see the data downstream, they can now use that identifier to read in a lookup formation to see what this person really want from his data.
Does he want to be private?
Is he okay being in a transparent relationship with a company who’s going to use this data in exchange for compensation?
What does consumer want?
So, we are expressing it given that this is a non-rivalrous product, we’re expressing the solution as track and trace, not as buying and selling.
If you have a rivalrous product, this could fail. But if you have a non-rivalrous product, which is data, you have to express things like track and trace, which means that all you have to do is to market with a unique indicator, a watermark, so to speak, of ownership so that those who use it can have a look up to understand the permissions behind it.
It’s a permission-based market, not a pricing based market or a product based market.
CryptoTapas: That is profound. I have never thought about data having an infinite number of uses, I’ve never thought about it that way.
Richie: That’s the thing about this whole, this whole matter – this is an infection. It’s an obsession. Once you get to this level of precision on the matter, you can’t stop thinking of it.
CryptoTapas: That’s what I was saying. We grow oblivious to what’s right in front of your eyes, right? Um, and data being there forever and people are using it against, not against you, not in a, you know, not in those villain terms, but just against you to manipulate you to make you buy stuff.
Richie: It’s important for us to understand that even in the times of slavery, there were some people who really didn’t even understand that freedom was a possibility.
I just want to, if I may, if you would allow me to underscore here for a second, privacy is important and there’s a lot of people working on privacy. But I believe that property ownership is the actual permanent solution.
I want to draw a parallel for a second. There was a huge debate during the times in the 1800s around, should we abandoned slavery or not? And, yes, of course, we should abandon slavery. Why would we not? But that was not the permanent solution because there were still people who are enslaving people and there are still people who are enslaving people, today. The capstone of this solution was that you were born free.
And we have the similar issue here today where people are looking at privacy are going: ‘we’ve got to get privacy, we’ve got to get privacy’. Of course, we have to, that’s equivalent to saying slavery is wrong, but what we’re talking about is different. We’re talking about your data is your property, which is more equivalent to you should be born free.
CryptoTapas: That is absolutely you are actually true. But no one ever thought about it that way saying hey, someone else is using my data and I’m not doing anything about it. When I first saw you speak about the 31st right, the way you are passionate about what you were talking, it made sense to speak to you directly about this important topic.
Richie: Well, we need more agents. I think it’s important to understand that this is not just about change. This is about courage.
I’ve done a lot of change agent work in my life. This is about being a courage agent, not a change agent. Only these types of bold actions, there’s never been the historic change that didn’t come from someone who was initially classified as a radical. If you just go back in history just a couple of decades, you’ve got examples of people who were once chastised for their ideas, which have become very prominent ideas today. Prince Charles is a good example. With his early thoughts around organic food and GMO, initially, he was thought of being radical. Today we all buy organic.
Like George Bernard Shaw said “All great truths begin as blasphemies,” that’s where we are. Somebody has to do it and it’s not going to be those who are selfish and their pockets are lined or those who are blind and don’t understand the future. And it’s definitely not going to be those who classify themselves as experts, because the fact that you call yourself an expert means you have a fixed view of the world and you’re an expert in what happened, not an expert in what should happen or what’s going to happen.
CryptoTapas: That reminds me of Manoj Bhargava, Founder of 5-hour energy, who said that exact thing about never having experts on board when thinking about future states.
How long have you been working on the usability of blockchain in general, and humanity in particular? Like from the conception to the place where you are right now.
Richie: Hu-manity itself is only just under a year old. We’ve made tremendous progress and it’s all because of this team. This vision and this mission have been able to attract, what I like to call, a coalition of the mutants in the world to come together around this idea.
If you think about Glenn, for example, Glenn is one of those legendary communications and PR guys who simply hasn’t had his day yet and his day’s coming.
Think about the content that we have in this company and the thought leadership. All of that comes from Glenn.
We’ve been able to pull together a very strong team of unusual mutants to be able to bring this together. Now, the idea itself, I’ve been studying this idea for about 20 years. I’m 43 years old now. I founded my first startup when I was 22. That first startup company was to buy driver data from the department of motor vehicles across the United States of America and sell that driver data to trucking companies so that those trucking companies could check their driver records and comply with federal safety laws.
I was young, so my moral compass wasn’t really developed and I was getting myself out of poverty. I remember thinking to myself, man, I’m probably going to go to jail for this stuff because this can’t be legal. I’m not the driver whose data is being sold. I’m not the department of motor vehicles. I am a 22-year-old with an S Corp and I’m making 80% margins on the data.
I’ve seen everyone’s speeding tickets and suspensions for not paying alimony. This has to be illegal somehow.
I know that I’m complying with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Law and the Fair Credit Reporting Act and related privacy protection laws. But man, how is this possible?
Those drivers don’t even have choice and control. It wasn’t even about compensation at that point. It was just quite choice and control. And, I thought to myself, this either has to be illegal or this is the best country in the world. One of the two. It turns out that it was legal because of the loopholes in the law.
I remember thinking to myself 20 years ago that at some point in the future, the source of this raw material, those humans, who this data is coming from, are going to have to be included in this choice chain, in the authorization chain, in the compensation chain, in the supply chain, they will have to be re-introduced.
Now I watched that industry go from a couple of hundred million dollars to a couple of billion dollars to a couple of hundreds of billions of dollars. I’m very thankful that during my lifetime I have been able to see the Goldilocks conditions of history come together, where I actually have an opportunity to work on this in a very meaningful way.
Because to be honest, if the public didn’t wake up on it, you know, this could have probably this would have relied on my kids or your kids or somebody else’s kids to work on, but we have an opportunity to fix it in this generation.
CryptoTapas: Absolutely. I was relating what you just said with the times when India was under British rule. Those who said, freedom is our birthright were labeled rebels, they were outcast and hanged to death. Eventually, the freedom fight was fought by the rebels and outcast. Right now you are doing this because you believe in human freedom. I mean, freedom as a basic right?
Richie: Yes, in the digital world.
Every once in a while, my wife will ask me, hey, how are things going?
I’ll say, we’re freedom fighting, and she’ll say, I don’t see any guns on you. I’m like, no, this is about software, code, and laws. This is not about the first three B’s, bombs, bullets, and blood, but this is about blockchain and bits and bytes.
At the end of the day, are we audacious? Yes. Are we sober about our audaciousness? Absolutely.
Is Audacity a reason to not act? Absolutely not.
The first people who act on this type of socioeconomic historic course correction requires our audacity. Rosa was not the first woman or black woman to be specific, to sit on the front of a bus. There were many that had come before her. She was the one that stood on the shoulders of the other to break through.
Will we be successful overnight or is there a guarantee this will be done in my lifetime? Probably not. But, way we’re going about it and the pace of change and the indicators that we’re seeing, I would say yes, we probably can.
But if we don’t, we’re going to lay down so much groundwork, so much progress, so much evidence and so much normalization for the next wave of people to come in and hopefully get it done. That’s the kind of work we’re in. It’s unique that we’re able to string a business model around it to be able to motivate those that have capital, to invest in it, to see profitability and to see the socioeconomic outcome.
This is impact investing in high definition 1080 for all those investors who want to impact investing and one of the alliances, both their social enterprise and their economic enterprise together. It doesn’t get better than this.
That’s why sometimes we sound like a movement. Sometimes we sound like a political framework. Sometimes we sound like a for-profit corporation. We are all those things in one because those are all the things that are needed to create this type of historic course correction.
CryptoTapas: Absolutely, any one direction is not really the answer. Moderation is where the answer lies. You cannot be too idealistic, then the society will stop running, but then you cannot go to capitalistic than you’re going to ignore the ideas on which the society was formed. I think moderation is always the answer.
Like you said, sometimes you are working for a revolution, but at the other time, you’re also running a business so that you can take the revolution forward. I was just looking at the IBM collaboration, how did that come about? What impact is it going to have on the brand value it brings to Hu-manity?
Richie: I think it’s important to recognize the courage that IBM is showing, to take a stand on what could be easily the largest debate of the technological revolution. I’m very, very honored and proud of the stance that IBM has taken to, I wouldn’t say actively support, but to be north of neutral on the notion that humans should have ownership rights on their data.
It’s not very frequent that you see a hundred-year fortune 100 conglomerate argue on the right side of history like this. I think it’s important for us to recognize both the foresight of the leadership of IBM and the ethical posture of IBM to recognize that this is about doing what’s right. I think that’s the first thing.
Secondly, from an IBM blockchain perspective, you know there are many blockchains out there and they all have their limitations because the protocol is new, but IBM has had a track record of deploying resources and expertise to take things that are in the nascent stage and bring them to life at industrial strength.
For us, it was very important to make that bet on an organization that we knew had the history and the posture to be able to bring it to life at an international scale. We’re talking about the title of ownership of human data, just like the title to your house or title to your car, to a title to your data.
We’re talking about a Cartesian product of leases between multiple companies and multiple humans and data and finances being moved back and forth via a beginning and end of lease and payments and adjudication of payments.
This is not the type of stuff that you want to run on Joe Schmoe.com blockchain. This is the type of stuff that you have to run on an organization that has a historical track record of having both network infrastructure, storage and operating system and business applications capability deep in the stack from the Z servers up to the cloud.
We wanted to make sure that we’re making the bet on industrial-strength infrastructure and that’s what IBM represents for us. Now there’s a whole bunch of brand credibility around it. I think the brand credibility is just the icing on the cake, but the underlying fabric and the courage to be on the right side of history, I think should be commended on IBM’s part.
There was an ad that was run at the Oscars by IBM. If you’ve got a chance to see it, and it has the phrase that we should champion data rights as human rights. That’s a profound statement for a $100 billion company to make.
CryptoTapas: Wow. I did not follow the Oscars, but I will check that out. Talking about the token itself how does that play a role when we are talking about billions of data property licenses. How does it facilitate commerce among the billions of identities transacting over a vast space of the virtual world?
Richie: It’s important to understand that we have a token, but our token is not the star of the show. We have a currency token, which essentially is a reward system for people to grow the movement. But that’s not the star of the show. We’re not trying to build a cryptocurrency, we’re trying to build a crypto right, if I may. We are pooling large amounts of consumers together to show their agreement on how they believe the answer to who owns human data should be manifested in reality. In order to underscore that, I think there’s been this whole narrative around blockchain adds trust to every transaction. And there was a period in my blockchain journey where I thought that was the most brilliant statement I’ve ever heard.
The last two or three years I’ve realized that it doesn’t really reflect the facts of what blockchain does.
My current perspective on this combination of symmetric cryptography and distributed computing is that what blockchain does is it adds agreements to heterogeneous networks.
We as a species, we’re not good at agreeing on things. If you put seven people in a room and ask us to pick our three favorite movies, you could argue for a week, we’re not good at agreeing. What blockchain does is it allows us to see what everybody else agrees on in real time without giving away too much of the privacy and the identity of those individuals?
It’s really something that allows us to manufacture agreement at large scale across heterogeneous networks. Over history, given that we have this sort of characteristic flaw as a species that we can’t agree, we’re great at disagreeing.
We have created these constructs called pools of power to hold our agreement and then tell us what we should agree on. Corporations are a great pool of power. Governments are a great pool of power. The Federal Reserve is a great pool of power. They hold our agreement and tell us what we should agree on.
So, we over history, we’ve centralized our agreement because we simply are not good at agreeing in a decentralized way.
What blockchain does is, for the first time in human history, it allows us to experiment with hypotheses that we can take things that we once centralized the agreement and test to see now whether we can use this technology to agree on it in a decentralized way and no longer rely on the central power to tell us how it works.
Currencies are a great expression of this. Before blockchain, we had centralized our agreement on currency. We had agreed that the banks will tell us how currencies work and here comes blockchain and we’re like, wait a second. Banks, can you guys pause for a second? We’re going to figure out this currency stuff up. We’re doing exactly the same with human rights.
We’re reengineering it from the bottom up. We’re renegotiating the contract. Influencing sovereignty law, influencing country policy, influencing what we believe and then taking it to the United Nations. We’re building it from the ground up. We’re going to give them pre-packaged human rights in a framework of 31st right.
I want to take it back to your question around blockchain and cryptocurrencies, by going back to the Internet where we started, there was texts, chats, then there were shopping carts and then there were streaming media, there were shopping carts that have that have chat in it, and there were streaming media that had shopping carts and chat.
We have brought over cryptocurrency into our application to use it as a reward mechanism to grow the movement. But the unique and differentiating invention for us is we are now having an agreement that we’re trying to use to build a human right.
I think you can wrap it up in the following statement: The Internet was won by killer apps. Blockchain will be won by killer agreements.
CryptoTapas: I see all of the passion and the energy that you have behind this and you have talked a lot about the human rights, but just for people who are new to this, they have no idea what this is. How do you present the concept and idea of Hu-manity in an elevator pitch?
Richie: This is the data hustle.
If you think about every aspect of society, whether you’re black, white, brown, poor, rich, female, male, it doesn’t matter. Everybody’s hustling. Even the CEO’s are hustling. Even the VCs and billionaires are hustling. This is what we like to call the data hustle. At the end of the day, you now have this bi-product from your body, which is your data, which has a value and it continues to be used to create value and you have an opportunity to take control of it via an APP and work with organizations to pay you for your permission to use it. It’s about the data hustle. I think of it in its slightly more sophisticated pattern as universal passive income.
CryptoTapas: Not the universal basic income, but universal passive income, by exchanging the value of human data.
Richie: Correct. Because universal basic income is a tax handout. But the universal passive income is an exchange for digital value that I have, which is my data.
CryptoTapas: How far along has the APP come and how easy is it for people to use, when is it going to be ready for common folks.
Richie: The APP is live and in production today in the APP store and the Google App store. And you can search for #My31 to find the APP. What the APP essentially does today is it allows you to sign up, and take ownership of your data and declare how you’d like it to be respected, so that we can go fight on your behalf.
We’re sort of your data freedom fighters, if I may. You sign up with the APP and then we go fight on your behalf. Now what’s important here is the critical mass. The more critical mass we get on the APP, the more likely it is that we’ll be successful if fighting on your behalf to get people to respect your data and to pay for it, and that’s why we call it a movement.
When you think about the design of the APP, it’s important to recognize that it’s not primarily designed on the premise of earning money, that that is in there and the premises of control of your data in there. And the premise is of choice are in there. But the fundamental premise of the APP is that you can now participate in collective action without getting off your sofa.
In the past you’d have to get off your Sofa, you’d have to write a sign. You’d have to march on Washington. We’ve created an APP where you can sit on your sofa and you can join a movement and collectively together we will go fight on everyone’s behalf.
CryptoTapas: In terms of the data that you get on the APP, do you guys have visibility to it or do you have protocols that kind of mask the visibility for the people controlling the APP?
Richie: It’s important to understand that we don’t collect your data. We’re not a data broker. We’re a consent broker.
We allow you to set your consent, your authorization, and your market preferences. All of those, all of that is obviously cryptographically encrypted using SHA256 and then we go out, we fight on your behalf to mark your data with your title ID, your title of ownership. So that when companies see that marker, they know that they can do a look up to figure out what your preferences are.
We don’t actually house the data. We’re not a data broker, we are a consent broker, and it’s very important to understand.
For to consent that we do collect and all of the legal documentation that we put in your briefcase to make sure that you’re equipped to be one of those people who we can fight on your behalf. All of that is protected behind the PKI encryption of the SHA256 on the blockchain.
CryptoTapas: You have thought through this.
Richie: This problem has been badgering me for about 20 years. I cannot think of anything else in the world I would do other than spending time with my wife and my kids, there’s nothing else in the world that I want to do other than this.
CryptoTapas: From the time you have conceptualized Hu-manity and ever since you had been working on this, how did Hu-manity change you as a person? What impact had the project have on you?
Richie: I think it gives you a lot of patience.
When you’re trying to change the world like this, you can’t expect that everybody is where you are. Recognize that you are going to have to make an investment, while everyone else catches up. It would be great if everybody woke up tomorrow morning and have this conversation that you and I are having right now, everybody would act right. But we can’t get everybody to do that. People have other priorities and so it requires a bit of patience. I think it’s taught me a lot of patience. The second thing, which probably is more profound than patience, is to understand that there is a tremendous amount of members of our species who are very smart, very decorated and very accomplished that have no business in the future. I have no shortage of very, very smart people who are saying ‘we tried this in 1956 and it didn’t work. And by the way, we tried this in the 70s and it didn’t work in those’, those are very important perspectives for me to have.
There was a point in my life where I prioritize those perspectives because I lived believing that the world will not change. But this experience has opened up my realization that you have to live both in the present and the future at the same time. And it’s an interesting dynamic now to really work with the experts but not have the experts bog you down.
CryptoTapas: That’s very profound because when you said 1956, that just quickly reminded me of the reference to 1957 document in Bitcoin WhitePaper that actually talked about the concept, but it didn’t work. As you said, it’s all about timing. They tried it in the 1980s, 1990s 2000s. When Satoshi combined that with the monetization or rewarding people to participate in the revolution if you could call it that, that’s when everything clicked. But it has been in the works since 1957.
Richie: You’re, absolutely right. This is freedom fighting my friend. I don’t know you, but, I hope you will join us.
CryptoTapas: Absolutely, I will do my part by downloading the App, and ask our readers to give it a try as well by including the links in the article.
The last question from my side is, how do you achieve work-life balance if there is such a thing? That’s the first part of the question. And, the second part of the question is how do you stay away from digital noise?
Richie: Work life balance, in a startup I do have the optionality to work from home. I was a career executive for the last 10 years and I traveled 300,000 – 400,000 miles a year. So, my wife has pretty happy to have me at home. I work here at my Home Office, I have a 14- month old son and we have a second son on the way [CryptoTapas: congratulations] My Home Office has some glass doors and he comes and he knocks on it, he protests around five. He knows I’m supposed to be out. I actually have more work-life balance in this than anything else.
I think there are two dimensions of work-life balance. There’s your physical and your mental health. One of the things that I really like about doing things that you love is that it doesn’t feel like stress. This is a very hard job and this is a very difficult movement. Like all these types of historic socioeconomic change, they’re not easy. But I truly love this. I truly enjoy this. This doesn’t feel like work to me. It feels like more like a calling than anything else. It’s a lot of work, but I don’t feel the pressure. R
Around digital noise and digital stuff, I think it’s important to understand that we can’t be digital hermits. You can’t live in a cave without our phone and without a computer, without an email and be effective anymore. Personally, I’m a big fan of not responding to everything.
I don’t have to respond to every email. I don’t have to respond to every text. I don’t have to respond to every voicemail, if you do, you’ll never get anything done.
I pick the ones that I think are worthwhile relationships. I cherish those and I nurture them. For the rest of it, if it’s important enough, they’re going to try you the next day. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve seen and I gave it 24 hours, and 24 hours after it wasn’t a problem anymore.
That’s how I manage digital noise.
CryptoTapas: Awesome, thank you, Richie. This has been one of the most inspirational and most vision filled interviews. Something that impacts us in a day to day life. And I think blockchain has found its’ perfect use case in Hu-manity. I really thank you for your time.
Richie: I will tell you that if you are married and have a family, or you are planning to be married and have a family to make sure that the next generation understands that guys like you and I were doing something for them.
Thank you, brother. Thank you so much.
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About the author
RK Reddy holds two Masters degrees, one in Accounting and another in Business Administration with over 15 years of experience in the financial services industry.
RK Reddy is an ardent fan of Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies. You can see the excitement about this new blockchain technology in every article on Cryptotapas.com. Sometimes this excitement leads to an overly optimistic view. Guilty as charged. RK Reddy says “what may seem like an ‘overly optimistic expectation’ today may become an everyday norm in 5-10 years; look at the history of cars or airplanes, Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies belong to a similar frame of reference.” Of course, that is just his opinion.