Is Aave making the case for decentralized social media?

What shall we call ‘decentralized social media’? Decentralized finance was easily turned into DeFi, but DeSM or DeSocMed doesn’t have quite the same ring. Still, somebody will come up with a shortened version in time.

One of the proponents of decentralized social media is Stani Kulechov, the founder of the Aave DeFi protocol. He has been tweeting teasers about his support for decentralized SM platforms, pointing out that there is a widespread belief that the current SM platforms generally ‘suck’. Twitter has also been talking about it, which surely points to that’s the way it is considering going.

According to The Defiant, five persons in crypto told the website that Kulechov has sent them a cryptic text asking them to sign up to ‘ However, The Defiant was unable to find out from Aave or Kulechov any more information about this site.

The Lens Protocol

Follow the link yourself and you’ll find yourself at a simple site that contains a  short letter expressing dissatisfaction with Web2.0 social media companies, such as Facebook and Twitter. The letter says, “Web3 brings forth a renewed hope for what social media can be. It offers the ability for us to control how our content is used. We can have the power to own and monetize our content and community with no middlemen or centralized data harvesting.”

Should you wish to sign the letter, you do so with a tweet. The tweet includes a cryptographic signature that uses their Ethereum wallet and text that usually reads “I should own this tweet @lensprotocol #digitalroots.”

This is not the first attempt to decentralize social media. Other efforts include STEEM, which emphasized blogging; FEEDWEAVE, which was built on Arweave and Cent is an experiment in selling content. None of them have made much impact on the SM world, but as The Defiant says, “the top minds in the space seem to believe that this is still a crackable use case for one blockchain or another.” Indeed, Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX said, “I think social media on the blockchain — I continue to think this could be absolutely huge. I think it solves a lot of existing pain points, which are really coming to the forefront of society right now.” Of the others who have been talking up the idea, one supporter is Vitalik Buterin, who has proposed an SM platform built on the Ethereum blockchain. However, perhaps Aave will beat him to it, and these cryptic tweets are just the beginning of the platform’s attempt to finally deliver a blockchain-based, decentralized social media platform. Then perhaps we’ll know what to call it!

The Black Wall Street App: A Road to Financial Inclusion

Consensus 2021 is always a fount of new ideas and initiatives, and the Black Wall Street App is one of them. As Jordan Muthra writes at Coindesk, it aims “to increase access to financial education in Black and other communities of color.”

The project from Hill Harper and his team states on its home page, “You can’t be free if the cost of being you is too high.” Not only is this the world’s First Black-Owned Digital Wallet, it has also been built and designed by the Community, with the Community and for the Community.

Last week, Harper told CoinDesk’s Consensus 2021 event, ““When you really, actually peel back the onion, 90% to 95% of the financial products and services that have historically been offered to Black, brown and marginalized communities have been either predatory on their face or hidden predatory.” Perhaps this is an aspect of finance you haven’t considered, or to say it as Black Wall Street app does – Black Cash Matters™.

Muthra points out, “We are entering a phase of increased collective consciousness but not without a wide wealth gap, institutional racism and proud racists surfacing.” What is more, as he says, we have become jaded “by the widespread evidence of prejudice due to the proliferation of social media,” and this has a tendency to stop us thinking about the many facets of prejudice and how they are intertwined.

It is systemic prejudice that is behind Muthra writing the following, “As a community, Black folks have always strived to own and operate both infrastructure and the means of production but have been continually held back by structural inequality and attacks from extremists and the government alike.” If it didn’t exist, this would not be a necessity. Nor would the existence of the Black Wall Street app be necessary, but it is.

I’ll leave you with this thought: Black Americans hold only 1% of US wealth, and are systematically refused access to the financial system. With this app, people can learn about financial wellbeing and investing, invest in cryptocurrency, start building wealth and send/receive cash and crypto with community members. Being in charge of your finances and understanding the system, as well as making it work for you, is a necessary step on the road to freedom at a bearable cost.

Is it too soon to talk about a virus-based battery?

Futurist writer Leon Okwatch, poses an interesting idea in his latest Medium post. He suggests that viruses could be used to manufacture batteries in the future. This may not be quite the right time for any positive mentions of what Okwatch calls, “nature’s microscopic zombies,” but then again, perhaps it is the perfect time to understand how they can be harnessed for a good use.

Okwatch also points out something that many of us may not have thought about: the global reliance on batteries has increased at speed. Not only are they required for basic electronic devices (my Apple mouse uses them at an alarming rate), but the advent of electric cars also ups demand for batteries. As a result there is a need for better, more reliable and higher energy batteries, and viruses might be the solution.

How would viruses be used in batteries?

According to Okwatch, back in 2009, Angela Belcher, a professor of bioengineering at MIT, demonstrated a lithium-ion battery that used viruses to assemble its electrodes. The inspiration for her experiment came from “studying organisms that can grow incredibly strong structures by using chemicals found in nature.”

Citing the example of the way in which an abalone snail builds a strong shell by gathering calcium molecules, a process that is encoded in the snail’s DNA, Belcher worked on the basis that an organism’s DNA could be tweaked “so that it can attract conductive materials such as gold or copper.” She then looked at viruses because it’s easy to alter their DNA.

Belcher experimented with M13 bacteriophage, a virus that only infects bacteria and is therefore harmless to us humans. It had a further advantage: its genome is quite easy to manipulate.

Through genetic engineering, Belcher created a virus that encodes proteins that can latch onto metals that act as semiconductors.

Another upside to working with a virus in this way is that whilst billions of virus copies are need to make a battery, it’s relatively easy to produce at this quantity, because they multiply rapidly in the bacterial host. Furthermore, she “proved that her genetically modified viruses can be used to make batteries that are thin, flexible, and able to fit into non-standard shapes,” Okwatch says. And she has a US patent to prove it!

Why do we want virus-based batteries?

In brief, because we want more powerful batteries that are able to be recharged faster.

A battery created with a virus shortens the path of the electrons moving through it. This results in increasing the battery’s charge and discharge rate, giving it additional energy capacity and a longer cycle life, as well as a faster charge rate. That’s very important for electric car owners.

A virus-based battery is also more environmentally friendly, because the conventional battery uses toxic chemicals, whereas with belcher’s method all that is needed is the electrode’s metal, water, and genetically modified viruses.

Why don’t we have these batteries?

If Belcher first demonstrated this in 2009, what’s the hold up in producing these more eco-friendly batteries? As with many discoveries like this, scalability is the issue when it comes to launching a commercial product.

As Okwatch points out, “The goal is to find a sweet spot where we can achieve economies of scale without compromising on the quality, efficiency, and reliability of the product.”

Viruses have for centuries been feared as the agents of death and disease, with 2020 being the perfect illustration of our sentiment about them. However, they also have unique properties that can be utilised for good, and batteries may not be the only product where viruses play a leading role in the future. As Okwatch says, “nature offers a new frontier to solve problems that haven’t been solved so far.”

The Future That is on Its Way to You!

We should be preparing for a set of major macro trends, Bernard Marr has written, after a discussion with Scott Smith of Changeist. Some of the trends already pre-dated the Covid-19 pandemic, but have been accelerated by it, and both men warn that these trends are ones we should not ignore.

Decoupled economies

According to Marr and Smith, the ‘decoupling’ of economies has been happening for around a decade. The result is a turn to nationalism in some of the world’s biggest economies, such as the USA, the UK, Brazil, Russia and India. As they say, ‘globalization is in the rearview mirror’ now, and we can expect a ‘multipolar world’ where three or four large regions with their own “distinct economies, security networks, cultures, and laws.”

Social change

Education, transportation, energy, food, and healthcare are in the midst of massive changes, much of it spurred on by the recognition that climate change is not a hoax. We are seeing a swell in the numbers of vegans and vegetarians due to livestock production accounting for 14.5% of greenhouse gases. There is also a transition to cleaner transport, and in the energy sector there is a move to meet the emissions reduction targets agreed to as part of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Covid-19 has also produced a transition to more working from home, and we are still grappling with this sudden change in our work life.

A new social contract?

The traditional social contract between citizens and government is no longer working for a significant number of individuals. Marr writes, “Societies have become divided between the haves and have nots, and any differences, whether religion, race, or sexual orientation, create chasms rather than common ground in the echo chamber of social media.” Automation threatens some workers, while the idea of a universal basic income has become a much hotter topic, as will debates about the nature of the future social contract between people, businesses and governments.

An AI reset

Currently we are seeing what is called an ‘AI reset’. The technology presents challenges that need to be carefully considered now, such as the regulatory obstacles and cost of development. On the other hand AI is accelerating and Smith believes another big wave is on the way.

Who are you?

Our personal identity would seem to be solid, yet thanks to digital technology it is varied and complex. Marr writes, “Today we have the ability to represent ourselves as a “stack” of identities that account for various affiliations, situations, values, and more.” Virtual and augmented reality has added to this ‘stacking’. As Marr says, “Given the tools at our disposal, smartphones, social media, and technology, we are free to create a digital narrative about who we are that might not match our physical world persona.”

Finally, we are facing life in a “blend of the physical, biological, and digital worlds.” The ‘new normal’ will be a combination of the physical and digital, and “Every organization must now consider how they provide products and services equally as well and complementary, whether interacting online or in the physical world.”

Some will welcome these trends, while others will be less enthusiastic. Whatever your view, it’s not difficult to see that regardless of opinion, this is our direction of travel.