But There Are Some Innovative Ideas Out There…

It seems like I’ve become quite grumpy about the underwhelming crop of “innovations” coming out of cryptocurrencies and blockchain these days. For all the rhetoric about “disruption” and “revolutionizing” the economy; and despite numerous hackathons, accelerators, and rounds of VC money; most of the “innovations” are minor variations of existing ideas. I’m not impressed.

So I am delighted to run across an idea that is actually different, and “innovative” to the point that it’s not clear how exactly it might work. Even better, it is “disruptive”—of arch “disruptor”, Uber! And it even tackles one of my own long term issues with cryptocurrency, the lack of connection between “merit” and mining.

La’Zooz http://lazooz.org/ “is a Decentralized Transportation Platform that is owned by the community which turns vehicles` unused space into a variety of smart transportation solutions. By using cryptocurrency technology La`Zooz has developed a “Fair Share” rewarding mechanism for its developers, users and backers.”

The idea is to provide a service much like Uber or Lyft, except without the company snooping on you and raking off a percentage. Cryptocurrency technology is used to maintain ride sharing credits. You can earn credits by driving, and then redeem them for rides with other drivers. The currency is “mined” by providing service to the ride sharing network, rather than pointless computation.

As Nathan Schneider reports at sharable.net, the founders are actually interested in crating a Distributed Autonomous Organization, and the ridesharing is sort of just the “excuse”. In fact, the ride sharing isn’t even booted up yet, though there is an app.

Things I like:

  • This is designed to be local, community based
  • Credit is earned through service to a community, i.e., “karma”, not expensive and pointless computation
  • It is a direct assault on the viability blood-sucking corporate “sharing” (e.g., Uber)

Things I question:

  • The app collects lot’s of data about the users. It collects more than is needed, and I wonder why.
  • For that matter, what is the privacy model for this service? Is everything transparent, including all my activity and identity? If so, forget it. If not, then how does it work? Being a “decentralized” not-Uber does not really answer this critical question.
  • How does the “mining” really work? At this point, it looks like an honor system to report you are really providing service.
  • The design seems to assume that everybody has a car, and also wants to ride sometimes. How would this work if a few people have cars and want to drive, and a lot of people want rides but don’t have cars? Uber hits this case right on target.

I would comment that the description of how ride sharing works is very Israeli–they are “blockchain-izing” a common practice in Israel. This ride sharing model is not so natural for many other places (we don’t trust each other, for one thing, and we’re awfully spread out, for another). It’s not clear if this service will be comfortable in a lot of places.

In any case, the concept can be broadened to include other kinds of community service. Help out at the soup kitchen? Earn some coins that can pay for a nice ride to the store. Etc.

But we’ve got to get the privacy and safety mechanisms right, or it can’t possibly work.

 

Cryptcocurrency Thursday

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