Cultural Context for Linket

by Muriel Vernon

Humans have always and already been engaged with technology; in fact, the Greek word “techne” refers to craftsmanship or creating art, but it can also be understood as transforming something from a “before” to an “after” state through human activity (Boellstorff 2008). We’ve always been makers and creators, which is why our species Homo sapiens, by name, designates us the “smart” hominids. However, in the age of artificial intelligence (AI), which some scholars have labeled human’s last necessary invention, we now face the potential to be displaced as the most intelligent entities on the planet, and watch AI take on – and in some cases take over – our most important interactive processes based on having optimized access to limitless amount of data (Bostrom 2014, Kurzweil 2005, Lee 2018,Tegmark 2017). This moment in time, however near or far in the future, will effect a paradigm change in how humans understand life itself and their purpose in it because AI will amplify the distinction between intelligence and consciousness (Harari 2017). This transition will force-move humans taxonomically from Homo sapiens, the smart, knowledgeable hominid, to Homo sentiens, the emotional, sensitive, or “feeling” hominid (Tegmark 2017). Humans will thereafter have to distinguish themselves by way of creating a new relevance of their own existence or, as Harari (2018) has remarked, become irrelevant in their own life worlds marked by real or imagined dystopian visions of human futures. This new distinction will without a doubt be based on how humans interact with and through novel mobile technologies.

Linket’s mobile brand technology recognizes and responds to this emerging need by creating individualistic mobile brands through domain ownership independent of websites or apps that own, control, limit, or regulate brand content. Linket thereby follows a philosophy of preserving individual human economic and emotional relevance by embracing a humanistic approach that returns the individual to his or her rightful place in the center of future technological innovation.

Technologies of Mobility and Consumption

Linket technology essentially builds on the entrepreneurial spirit of Henry Ford who observed that the most prominent aspects that defined America’s middle class in 1920s were mobility and consumption: an increasing move away from urban city centers to the suburbs, and an increasing appetite for consumption to communicate middle class status markers. Ford responded to these socio-economic shifts by identifying the very thing that enabled mobility and consumption to connect: the car. But rather than designing a high-end luxury vehicle few people could afford, he wanted to design an affordable version potentially everyone could own. As he passed by a slaughterhouse one day, he serendipitously realized the efficiency of what would become assembly line production and produced thousands of his iconic Model Ts (Madsbjerg 2018).

Today, mobility and consumption also define modern human digital and mobile behaviors albeit unfolding in an era of a much more rapid pace of one technological development rendering its predecessor obsolete. Unlike the relatively gradual demographic adoption of 20th century mechanical technologies like the automobile, 21st century digital technologies, most prominently the transition from web interface to mobile interface communication, are increasingly normalizing the adaptive user expectation of obsoleting less optimal or less optimizing technologies. Linket’s mobile technology responds to these adaptive behaviors and expectations by leapfrogging unnecessary, less optimal, or soon-to-be outmoded means of information, communication, or interaction exchanges. As a mobile domain platform, it cuts out the necessity to build and maintain a website or stay loyal to one app to provide services, and enables users, for example, gamers, to skip interacting through platforms like Twitch. It enables sellers and buyers to seamlessly connect to each other, and serves any participatory culture, such as fandom communities, that enable millions of young people to interact with performing artists directly. Essentially, Linket is to website and app based mobile technology what Henry Ford’s Model T is to the horse-drawn carriage: rather than making the horses faster, we replace them all together.

Global technological disruptions and leapfrogging practices are already transforming entire economies and industries, yielding to increasingly informal or “gig” economies. For instance, China has more or less leapfrogged credit card technology and went straight into scanning QR codes for purchases with their mobile phones (Lee 2018). African cities like Nairobi have also leapfrogged telephone landlines and have embraced mobile technology; there, the “gig economy” is the actual economy (Adegoke 2018). And although many gig workers lack employment security and longevity, simply owning a mobile phone enables users everywhere to join the freelance labor pools of the world. Mobiles phones in the developing world have essentially become tools to potentially elevate entire populations out of poverty and exclusion from traditional labor markets. In addition, Alec Ross (2016) points out that high end or high investment jobs like doctors will likely be fragmented into discrete skill sets, such as interpreting x-rays or assembling data profiles, that can be outsourced to less educated or part time workers. Linket allows mobile users to create business domains to participate and compete in gig economies easily and efficiently.

From Gig Economies to Passion Economies

But while the gig economy is already in full swing, a different, more humanistic economy is on the horizon: the passion economy. For example, conceived in 2016, Airbnb, the most valuable accommodation business that competes with major hotels without owning so much as a single room, introduced “Experiences” to its website. Much like customized tours organized by knowledgeable locals, Airbnb experiences lets everyday people monetize their passions by inviting others to join them for any kind of adventures or activities. This feature will likely outcompete traditional tourist guides or more formally organized group tours. Similarly, major global marketing firms have already made the move to selling not products, but experiences connected products that users identify with, and brand marketing is the name of the game to ensure customer loyalty.

Linket’s focus on creating not just mobile user connectivity, but enabling users to build an individual mobile brand that is not dependent on commitment to a website or mobile app, is a perfect match for, and can easily compete with established leisure economies like Airbnb Experiences. Linket enables participatory cultures and informal economies to thrive while offering monetization opportunities to individuals as well as to licensing companies.

Understanding Mobile User Cultures

Linket’s approach to its own marketability follows a sensemaking model that aims to understand the culture of the consumer, not just the consumer itself (Madsbjerg 2017, Madsbjerg & Rasmussen 2014). In this case, Linket aims to understand habits and needs of mobile technology users who comprise a user culture that is patterned, shared, symbolic, integrated, and adaptive. This model has worked well for global corporations that initially failed to understand decreasing market shares because they failed to grasp how their demographic targets related to their products. Linket optimizes user-to-user connectivity by cutting out unnecessary and expensive third party platforms that inhibit and disrupt interactions while simultaneously offering interactive transparency by way of digital ledgers (verification). Unlike other mobile app technologies, Linket adheres to a verified network that offers transparency of transactions, which addresses the often-voiced concern of data ownership. Whereas before the digital age, most ownership concerns addressed property (agricultural revolution) or the means of production (industrial revolution), data ownership in the digital revolution is an increasingly complex concern for most digital operating system companies (Lee 2018).

A key tenet in cultural anthropology that applies to Linket’s verification ledger is that what people say they do and what people actually do might be two completely different things. Unless users have access to transactional histories, which can be imagined as digital portfolios, a user’s past interactive performances or credibility can only be assessed via reviews on apps or self-reports. Returning once more to the example of Henry Ford’s invention of the automobile above, if we were to simply ask website and app users how to improve user verification of transactions, we would expect an answer that places verification responsibility at the discretion of website or app operators. Here again, Linket leapfrogs this proprietary computational space- and time-wasting step by granting linket owners access to such information directly and instantaneously.

In summary, Linket serves the next generation of user-to-user, or consumer-to-service provider technology by efficiently and affordably permitting people everywhere to monetize on personal mobile brands. Our verification-based focus on enabling people everywhere to interact in economic as well as passion- or leisure-driven ways without committing to any one website or app in a rapidly changing technological world stands out from comparable services and products currently available. We believe that our ideological, humanistic focus of responding to technological trends that tend to alienate, rather than pivot around user’s unlimited imagination, contributes to enriching and supporting human agency in shaping the digital worlds of the future.

References Cited

Adegoke, Yinka. 2018. In African cities, the “gig economy” is called the economy. https://qz.com/africa/1440879/uber-airbnb-lead-africas-informal-gig-economy/

Boellstorff, Tom. 2008. Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Bostrom, Nick. 2014. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. First edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Harari, Yuval N. 2017. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. First U.S. edition. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Harari, Yuval Noah. 2018. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. London: Jonathan Cape.

Kurzweil, Ray. 2005. The Singularity Is near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking.

Lee, Kai-Fu. 2018. AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Madsbjerg, Christian. 2018. Sensemaking: What Makes Human Intelligence Essential in the Age of the Algorithm. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press

Madsbjerg, Christian, and Mikkel B. Rasmussen. 2014. The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review Press.

Ross, Alec. 2016. The Industries of the Future. First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Tegmark, Max. 2017. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. First edition. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.



Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold in Chemistry

xyo Today (3 Oct 2018) I woke to news of Caltech’s Frances Arnold winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (along with 2 others) for evolution research. Around 9am I went to the chemistry main office at Caltech. In the corridor outside the Chair’s office is a wall with photos of 4 previous Nobel Laureates in chemistry from Caltech. Grubbs. Marcus. Zewail. Pauling. The photos are in a row across the wall.

Alas there is no room for a 5th photo. 🙁

I entered one of the offices and spoke to an administrator. I pointed in the direction of the corridor wall and said “You’ve got a problem with that wall.”

She laughed and immediately replied “We’re on it!”

Damn! I wanted to be the first to tell her. But even at 9am, someone else at Caltech had already twigged to it. People are sharp on campus.

Dubious XYO

Today I came across XYO, another crypto startup with dubious claims. (I am sure you are surprised at the concept.) They are in San Diego and say that they combine location and blockchain. Along with the use of an eponymous token. And yes in Feb 2018 they published an article in Medium. See the pretty diagram in page describing their components.

I went to their website and looked at their tech page. See what it says –

xyo

“Sorta like GPS, minus the government monopoly”?? Say what??

If you read their whitepaper, they USE GPS. Here is a direct quote – “ XY’s Bluetooth and GPS devices allow everyday consumers to place physical tracking beacons on the things they want to keep track of”. This is not magic. They have a software layer with 4 impressively named parts (see the figure in the Medium article). But none of those actually determine the location of themselves or anything else.

What they are doing on their website is take advantage of the ignorance and bias of some visitors. (Not you eh?) They play up a supposed libertarian ethos that says government and monopoly are bad, as personified by GPS. This is misleading. They need GPS to find locations.

There is more. See this page from a company called Decentric –

Decentric

See “network that isn’t reliant on GPS”. This is a lie. XYO’s network, as explained above, depends on and sits on top of GPS.

If you want to know more, see a pretty article by Mick West that goes into further gory details. He also points out that Decentric and XYO are tight indeed. They are in the same building. Both are startups. A cynical person (you?) might wonder that they are practically the same firm.

Oh did I forget, XYO has tokens for sale. How encouraging.

Crypto Thermidor

The Thermidor is the period in the French Revolution when radicals fed upon themselves to become ever more fanatical. Laggards were denounced and executed. I was reminded of this in February 2018 at a Blockchain conference in Los Angeles. Speaker after speaker declaimed the limitless glories of blockchain, with attendant requisite ICOs as the enablers. One speaker in particular discussed recent actions by governments to restrict access to cryptocurrencies and ICOs. He said anyone should be free to invest and bear the risks. The (US) government should not intervene.

Thermidor

Say what? If you buy a car with air bags, you have to take the word of the seller that the bags work. Few of us have the ability to check before purchase. If the bags fail in a collision whose fault is it? Yours or the seller or the manufacturer? This is not hypothetical. Takata who makes air bags just settled a big suit over defective bags and several deaths. The point is that the government sets rules in place to assign responsibility. Sellers and makers have an obligation to accurately describe their products.

By most unfortunate unhappy coincidence, the next day Bitcoin came out with an analysis of 902 ICOs that happened in 2017. Just by the 2nd month of 2018. 46% of the ICOs had already failed?! Wow. From fast fraud, where after an ICO ended, the sponsors vanished, to slow fraud, where they put dummy progress reports and then gradually wound down the purported development of the custom blockchain. Plus a third case, where there was a genuine effort but futile.

Kudos to Bitcoin for the survey. It does not mean that 54% of the 2017 ICOs were successful. They fully expect, and so should you, that more will fail with time.

I make this prediction. By March 2019, if another survey is made, 90% or more of the 2017 ICOs will have flopped.

There is 1 caveat. Perhaps my estimate of 90% is too pessimistic. The Bitcoin article pointed out that most of the ICOs occurred in the second half of 2017, both in the number of ICOs and the amounts raised. It could be that honest startups who bulked up on a lot of (real) money may have longer runway if they are careful about the burn rate. Maybe it will take 2 years after 2017 for the statistics to be finalised.

Dead Crypto Meetups

Want to see symptoms of fading cryptocurrencies? Meetup had hundreds of blockchain and crypto groups formed worldwide. In Los Angeles many have shut down. Twenty at last count (September 2018). This list shows the groups and when they closed.

DTLA Blockchain ICO Development — Dec 2017

Blockchain, cryptocurrency & startup networking in Hollywood — Jan 2018

Los Angeles Crypto Currency Meetup — Mar 2018

Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Cryptocurrency Workshop — May 2018

Falcon Horst Advanced Blockchain — Jun 2018

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Wealth — Jun 2018

making360: Blockchain + XR (VR/AR/MR)–Jun 2018

North Hollywood Blockchain/Cryptocurrency/Fintech Meetup–Jun 2018

CryptoStache Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency Club — Jul 2018

LA Elastos Meetup — Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Fintech — Jul 2018

Los Angeles IOTA Meetup — Jul 2018

Crypto Salon — Jul 2018

Inland Empire area Burstcoin Crypto 2.0 community Meetup — Jul 2018

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)- Deal Makers — Aug 2018

China CryptoCurrency Business Opportunity and Tech Meetup — Aug 2018

CryptoCurvy — Aug 2018

BitClub Network Southern California — Aug 2018

Bitcoin Blockchain Technology — Aug 2018

Bit-Social LA — Sept 2018

BTC Blockchain, Tea and Conversations — Sept 2018

I suspect a similar list for New York or San Francisco would be longer. The year is not over yet. But at the grass roots level, this does not look good for crypto. Are some of you regretting the coins you bought at ICOs?

Check out deadcoins.com. This site lists some 700 defunct coins. From scams to where products were made but died out of lack of interest.

Remember this. The proponents of crypto keep saying much is happening and everything is changing. So far the evidence is otherwise.