Straight from our Converge Talks, Santiago Siri and the social impact of blockchain

January 12, 2022

Globant’s last edition of Converge in November 2021 highlighted how reinvention can lead businesses to thrive in our ever-changing world. We created a special converge talk series to continue exploring some of the most important topics that we talked about during the event. In this series, we spoke with Santiago Siri, President of the Democracy Earth Foundation. During the fireside chat between Globant’s own Alan Verbner, Co-Founder of Atix Labs, a Globant Division, and Siri, we learned about blockchain applications and their potential to impact people’s lives. Below you can find the 4 main takeaways of the conversation. 

  1. Through the possibilities of blockchain technology, we level the playing field 

Siri claims the opportunities to innovate through blockchain are enormous. “Blockchain could be used to provide a universal basic income (UBI) that would be the same for everyone, regardless of the country where they were born.” UBI, also known as a Citizen’s income, is a government-guaranteed payment program for each citizen to cover the basic cost of living by receiving a monthly payment.

“The most exciting thing about Crypto UBI is that someone in Mumbai can obtain the same value as someone in Connecticut or Los Angeles. It’s a level playing field network.”

Crypto UBI is a blockchain-based platform that distributes cryptocurrency in the form of a universal basic income. In a joint effort with Democracy Earth, Proof of Humanity is launching a UBI Token, where their verified humans will be the first fully decentralized UBI recipients. 

Although Ethereum Blockchain is still in its early days,  Siri is certain about the potential for scaling technologies that can offer UBI to everyone in a permissionless way. 

  1. Innovation is amplified through the power of communities 

Siri is aware of how the capacity of coordination of a decentralized network can boost innovation, referring specifically to how the community took over the Proof of Humanity project. Regarding innovation capacity and the constant need to figure out the next best thing to build, the experience had some parallelisms with a start-up, this means to have a mindset focused on always creating something new surpassing what already exists. UBI evolved into a joint effort between Democracy Earth Foundation and Kleros, a cooperative that has been building their systems on Ethereum. 

Right from the beginning, Siri recollects, the community started doing coordination efforts such as telegram channels. These channels were crowd vouching for other new members in order for them to be able to participate in the Proof of Humanity registry. They also tried to crowdfund the profiles that didn’t have enough money. The extent of universal and global capacity for coordination surprised him.

“It’s a democratic DAO, and we are seeing all this actually being played out, working, making decisions, enforcing those changes, and seeing how those changes improve the experience for the users, as a coordinated effort built purely through means of smart contracts and nothing else. That’s a very interesting process, and it feels different from a traditional centralized start up.”

  1. Building Smart Contracts represents a world of opportunities

Testing is always an important part of developing, and Siri underlines that before jumping into solidity, a good practice in the traditional client-server architecture is test driven development (TDD) “…writing the tests is probably the vast majority of the code that you will end up writing, even more than the Smart Contract code itself.” He recommends trying to make it as small and succinct as possible, no more than 100-200 lines. 

Another consideration is immutability. This “is what gives value to these networks. Ethereum has the particular property that history cannot be changed, due to its immutability, which is what helps build legitimacy.”

Composability also plays an important role. Siri claims that building with Ethereum allows access in a permissionless way, in the sense that you don’t have to ask for API keys permission. “You can access other Smart Contracts and build up your own system leveraging any of those millions of contracts deployed on the main net.”

Liquidity also needs to be considered, since some of these resources have more money than the central bank of some countries. That’s why the community suggested an endowment model for UBI. Siri explains that they have an investment fund that deploys capital and generates an interest of 10%. You can use that interest money to burn UBI, you don’t burn it with the capital generating the interest. 

  1. The future of DeFi and Crypto will be partly shaped by our lessons from the past

Although it’s not yet written out, Siri thinks DeFi technologies might coexist with traditional finance, and it will depend greatly on how the banks manage this adoption, regulation, and transition. He says El Salvador is a country that is allowing the legalization of bitcoins, and because of this action, a lot of DeFi companies are setting up there.

However, he considers crypto to be like the ocean. “You cannot draw frontiers in the middle of the ocean, you can build ports, customs, choke points, where you get some kind of tax, but what happens in the ocean is a bit of a free area.”

In cryptography, transactions can be done with someone else in a permissionless way. As new, improving technologies continue to emerge, this option is a reality that will eventually require governments to adapt, and the wisest ones will use it to benefit their citizens. Eventually, Siri assures, there will be a generational change in governments regarding DeFi and Crypto, although it may take many years, like it did with the telecom industry. That transition took 50 years, because it depends on one generation leaving, allowing the next generation to take over and make those big changes. 

“I do feel now that behind every protocol, cool tech, smart white paper, the secret is the people…one of the best things about Ethereum is the community. The human element is very important, and we should not forget it when we build tech for humans.” 

Final thoughts

Siri reminds us that in the world of technology there’s a lot of innovation that focuses only on digital reality, but forgets the physical reality. For example, in “the city of San Francisco, where there’s an extraordinary digital world being built while simultaneously experiencing serious marginalization on the streets.” He blames this as an aftereffect of being blinded by software, where people stopped seeing their actual impact on the physical world. He encourages us to focus on building tech that actually has a real positive impact on our communities and neighborhoods.
Discover more watching the full talk here

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