Future Of Humanity Podcast with Carl Taylor
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Voting, Blockchain and The Future of Democracy with Jamie Skella – Episode 7

  • July 3, 2018

Episode Summary

In the future, the importance of the voice of the people in democratic processes will become more and more important. In this episode, Carl talks with Jamie Skella, whose company, Horizon State, seeks to create an easy way for people to vote safely and easily from their phones. Carl discusses with Jamie how Horizon secures its voting practices the same way block chain secures itself, how to keep people educated on the subjects they are voting on, and how artificial intelligence and the human mind will one day meld together as one.

What We Covered

[04:00] – Jamie’s history in E-Sports and opening the first E-Sport bar

[06:30] – How Horizon State came to be

[10:40] – Bitcoin, and the difference between cryptocurrency and block chain

[14:40] – How block chain is as important to humanity as the Internet

[16:00] – How Horizon state uses the same security as block chain to secure voting platforms

[22:40] – Combining block chain and other new technologies

[25:30] – Making sure people stay educated on voting issues

[30:00] – The changes society must make to reach a true digital voting platform

[32:00] – The dangers future technologies can create

[37:00] – The unavoidable future of melding artificial intelligence with the human mind, to create something more than human

[40:00] – Other companies that make use of Horizon State’s technology

[42:50] – How the data shows we are living in the best time on earth

[44:40] – The quantifiable good Horizon State is doing right now


Links Mentioned

Horizon Sntate website


Read Full Transcript

Jamie Skella: ... thinking this potential future in respect to how we govern our selves more effectively which would mean having a more frequent dialogue in reducing the gap between government and citizen. I don't think it's realistic to expect that voting will always be compulsory. A decision, sort of, overload, I suppose. When you have to be making decisions frequently on everything, especially on things that maybe you have no interest in or no knowledge about.
Speaker 2: A wise man once said.
Speaker 3: A wise man once said.
Speaker 2: The best way to predict the future.
Speaker 3: Is to create it.
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Scientists, entrepreneurs, thought leaders.
You're listening to the Future of Humanity podcast.
Kyle Taylor: Hello, hello, hello. Welcome to the show. I am your host, Kyle Taylor and if you're joining me for the very first time, welcome. I'm so glad that you are here. This is the show where we explore, through discussions with incredible people from around the world, just what the future of humanity potentially holds.
Now, if you're an old friend and you've been listening for a while, welcome back. I am so thrilled that you've joined us again.
In this episode we are joined by technologist and entrepreneur, Jaime Skella, who is the co-founder of a company called Horizon State.
Now, Horizon State is redesigning how societies collaboratively make decisions using Distributed Ledger Technology. Now, this is often referred to as Blockchain.
This is not our first episode where we've spoken to a blockchain company. So, if blockchain, in particular, quite interests you then definitely, if you haven't already, go back and have a listen to episode one, where we spoke to Dave Martin from Power Ledger. Another great blockchain company.
But before you do that, listen to this episode. You can always go back and listen to episode one later. Because, today we're joined, as I mentioned, by Jamie.
Jamie has a diverse background. He spent 20 years in the designing, building and advising of businesses across blockchain, esports, machine learning and even future foods. He was the former executive director at MiVote, which is an information platform that allows Australians to have their say on issues that are being debated in the Australian parliament. And what he and his team at Horizon State are doing, not just in Australia, but around the world is potentially game changing to how our current democratic systems operate.
In this episode we talk about the future of voting. We discuss what blockchain is and how it's enabled electronic voting to become unhackable. Which previously, that's been one of the major issues with electronic voting.
We also talk about the future of an informed public. I mean, the voters need to be informed before they can make a decision and we discuss what that might mean for us and how we might need to change our definition of humanity decades into the future to ensure we stay informed.
It's a fantastic episode. I'm really loving what Jamie and the team at Horizon State are doing. I cannot wait to share this with you. Unfortunately, I do need to give you this heads up. The morning of this interview, my office internet went down and I was connected to the internet via my smartphone, tethered. That's unfortunately meant there are roughly three or four times that Jamie's audio gets a little bit scrambled for a few seconds due to signal fluctuations. So, apologies for that.
It definitely doesn't take away from the episode and its content, but I wanted to give you that heads up so you don't look at your phone or wherever you're listening from and think you're having connection issues. It's not on your end. So, with that said, let's start the interview.
So, we are joined by Jamie Skella and Jamie, you have very diverse background: machine learning, esports, future of foods and of course, blockchain. What I'm interested about is that esports. You opened, as I understand it, the very first esports bar in Australia.
Jamie Skella: Yeah, a lot of people find that relatively surprising given that my day job is in emerging technology and blockchain. But I do consider esport that's something that is certainly emerging. Not necessarily technology, but culturally, which technology tends to drive.
The advent of Twitch and the popularity of watching others play games has really brought esports to a whole new level over the past few years. But I think, more broadly speaking, esports is sort of, in part at least, a large part, responsible for a lot of my success.
I started playing Cannon Strike and QuakeWorld TF competitively back when I was a young teen, 13 and 14. It sort of, it really opened my eyes on how to build a team, how to lead a team, how to inspire people. I learned how to write code and design websites. I learned about area and wide area networking to improve and optimize my latency. I learned how to build computers and how computers work. So it was sort of my entry into everything and I guess I've got a lot of thanks for that.
Kyle Taylor: Yeah. We have similar backgrounds there. I've built my own computers and I learned all about networks and stuff because it made better LAN parties, right? You wanted to have your friends over.
So, anyone who's listening in, you know like, what exactly is esports? Esports is essentially people playing computer games. That's in a nutshell what it is. And it has become huge. There are esports players, as I believe it, who are earning multi-million dollars a year playing video games.
If I had known, as a teenager, that playing video games could have been a viable career path, I may not be doing what I'm doing today.
Jamie Skella: The first time that I told my parents that I was getting flown across to the east coast, which was my first travel really ever, first time on a plane, and that I was getting paid to play this game called Counter Strike and they were going to put me up at a hotel, they literally thought it was nonsense. It was a pretty funny, sort of, exploratory period. But obviously it's matured a lot since then as well. Yes, quite literally, players are earning big bucks, stadiums are being filled.
The League of Legends, sort of World Championship, a couple of years ago, had a higher viewership than the entire NBA final series. So it's big business and it's a lot of fun.
Kyle Taylor: Wow. Amazing. Well, I didn't invite you on here to talk about esports though. So that's just an amazing fact and really fascinating. Maybe we'll do a future episode about esports, if you like.
The reason I wanted you to come on is you have an amazing technology company that you co-founded called Horizon State. I mean, what's the story behind it? How did Horizon State come about?
Jamie Skella: In a nutshell, if I was to give you the elevator pitch, this really revolves around secure elections and tamper-proof records of results and I guess unhackable democratic processes. Both within institutions and in governmental applications. Which is a big deal and it's a big statement, but I'll explain a little bit on how that's possible shortly. But, so far as back story's concerned, you know timing, as they say, is everything in technology.
About two and a half years ago, three years ago, I was not only working with a democratic movement, here in Melbourne, called MiVote M-I-V-O-T-E, but I was also dabbling in encrypto and doing some research in distributed ledger technology and blockchain.
Through working towards some of the objectives that we were striving for at MiVote, it became apparent that the idea that we would be trying to create a more frequent dialogue with individuals about issues that affect them. Couldn't really be done through postal votes and polling stations. These are centralized physically, they are expensive to setup or send out. They're inefficient, they take a long time, they cost a lot of money.
So, I really was thinking about this internet voting thing all over again, despite the fact that it's usually dismissed just because of inherent centralization and the security risks that come along with that. But, what blockchain really gives us the opportunity to do is, to decentralize the ballot box. So if you think about a BitCoin transaction being immutable and irreversible, perfectly accountable and transparent. Well, those sorts of properties make for a really good sort of voting system or opinion solicitation system or voting and polling system.
That's sort of where the dots began to be connected. Over the course of a few months we've billed out an MVP, which more or less retrofitted a blockchain transaction to represent a vote and that's sort of where everything took off. So, not only interest from government at various levels, from domestic counsels through to international/national governments abroad, but also NGOs and other institutions, other enterprises [inaudible 00:08:20] things such as shareholder voting and community engagement more broadly.
So, it's really blown up into this big beast that's sort of all underpinned by that initial idea that, "Hey, we might be able to work towards the eradication of corruption by leveraging this kind of technology."
Kyle Taylor: It's a huge idea. Some people, those in Australia, the US, they might not feel it's as big a deal. But if you're in a developing country like the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, like there is huge corruption at all sorts of levels happening. The idea of being to eradicate corruption is a huge concept for them.
Jamie Skella: There's multiple problems that get solved by the introduction of this kind of technology. So sure, there's the blockchain piece which secures the vote in unprecedented ways. But there's also the knock-on effects: social, cultural and behavioral.
So, if we can decentralize participation. Not only decentralize the ballot box so that no institution, government, organization or individual actually controls the result or can change it. But, when you start to think about decentralizing participation, enabling people to basically vote from their pocket, then you increase participation and maybe we'll see the numbers in the US rise if this kind tech was adopted.
In developing nations, where sometimes it's sometimes not a good idea at all to even attend based on your political position. Sometimes it's unsafe. People, unfortunately, are maimed and worse case scenario, are killed. There's a lot of opportunity for a lot of positive change through the implementation of this kind of tech.
Kyle Taylor: And bringing it back more to Australia, I mean, that now tells people that they can no longer say they're going to go vote as an excuse of why they can't go to work, right? If all the sudden the vote was as simple as pull out their smartphone and cast their vote and then get back to work.
Jamie Skella: Yeah, yeah, that's right.
Kyle Taylor: So this is interesting. I mean one thing I think we need to go back on, you're not the first blockchain company we've had on the podcast. We had, for episode one actually of season one, we had Power Ledger which I know that you're familiar with. Another fellow Aussie, homegrown blockchain company doing amazing thing. But for someone who's listening, you mentioned BitCoin and you're like, "Yeah we all know it's an immutable transaction", but do we all know that, right?
How many people are listening going, "What is he talking about? Cryptocurrency. I've heard this Bitcoin thing." Can you break down for those listening who maybe have heard the term Bitcoin, but that's as far as really it's gone? When we're talking blockchain, what's the difference between blockchain and cryptocurrency? I mean, I think that's an important distinction. How, when you say, "Oh, this is how it works" Explaining how your platform works maybe giving us that background.
Jamie Skella: Let's start with I guess the distinction that blockchain is not bitcoin. Is effectively with a lowercase b is a native asset class, atop of a blockchain, which happens to the Bitcoin blockchain with a capital B. So you've got bitcoin the network, the technology. And you've got Bitcoin the asset, the currency which is very, very specifically designed to do things such as be a medium of exchange or a stored value or a unit of account. But it's really, to me, the most fascinating part of the equation is indeed the blockchain itself.
And of course, now there are many others. Ethereum is another big popular one which is sort of making headlines. And you might have heard of Ripple or Litecoin or Dash or Zcash and a whole bunch of these other ones.
The easiest way to explain why they're important, why it's a big deal and how they work, is to first talk about the matter of currency in digital assets and ownership. So, it's relatively profound when you start to think about other kinds of digital things. Let's use an mp3 as an example and pretend for a moment that the Australian federal government has declared mp3 as legal tender.
Well, I can copy an mp3 a million times and then sort of have a million bucks, so to speak. Likewise, if you had a copy of that a merchant wouldn't really be able to understand whose was legitimate and whose wasn't. So through this technology, when I have a bitcoin, I quite literally have that bitcoin. There is ownership signed and I control it. It can't be forged, it can't be copied, so this is a big deal, conceptually.
I guess the other reason it's important, from a financial perspective, is a bit more philosophical, but it's really about considering the future that we're walking into, especially within developed nations, such as Australia, where cash is becoming less and less common and eventually it will probably really won't exist at all as a medium of exchange. What this means is that all of our money is with banks effectively digitally [inaudible 00:12:30] who control the flow of that money and ultimately surveil that money. We could potentially be wandering into a bit of an Orwellian future, which would be unfortunate.
So, cryptocurrency sort of restores self-sovereign financial management as an option if you want to do it. Obviously there's risks, because if you lose your private key, you sort of lose everything. But I think, just like we have the option to use cash, having the option to use something comparable is also very important. But it comes with the luxury of being digital and border-less and all of these things which cash isn't.
So I hope that sort of explains the cryptocurrency stuff with enough specificity. In respect to blockchain, it's a much bigger idea that has implications that extend far beyond currency. Because ultimately what the blockchain is is a distributed and synchronized ledger. Or to put it another way, a synchronized record book.
You can make these line items represent more or less whatever you want to. It can be relational to physical, and I've seen some fantastic ideas in implementations in respect to supply chain, and some really really powerful social group ones as well, such as the profiling of about 40 or 50 characteristics of a diamond, at the side of a mine, and then tracking that through the supply chain, in an immutable, irreversible, tamper proof way, so that consumers, they can be rest assured that there is a clear paper trail and they can understand that the practices and procedures involved across that supply chain to reduce harm, basically. And curb the flow of conflict and blood diamonds, which is a really great example.
For us, you know, it's about repurposing transactions for votes. Then you've got companies, like Power Ledger, who are enabling peer-to-peer energy trade, using this kind of technology. You know, thinking about Joe and Sue having solar panels on their roof and Tesla power walls on the outside of their home and being able to trade excess or surplus energy, as neighbors need it.
Lots of really, really profound examples worth exploring.
Kyle Taylor: Do you believe ... There are many people who talk about blockchain being as important, if not more important, than the invention of the internet. Are you a believer in this? You're obviously, you are biased, with a blockchain company, but do you feel it's that significant of importance to society?
Jamie Skella: I'd put it into the same kind of category, which we would put the internet and we would put things like the steam engine. This kind of technology, these kinds of technologies, are quite literally ones that change how society organizes itself. It changes culture. It drives culture. It changes behavior.
You think about the changes we've seen over the past 50 and 100 years, because of some of these inventions, paired with globalization and the ability for them to encourage communication or trade, commerce. It's really, really shifted what the world is and how people interact with each other. The blockchain, and some of its applications, are going to do all these sorts of things all over again.
Kyle Taylor: I agree with you. I think blockchain is a very fascinating ... I mean, I dabble, personally, in some cryptocurrencies, but I'm far more interested in blockchain itself.
One of the reasons that I really wanted to have you on, same with the guys in Power Ledger, there's so much junk out there. I mean, you just listed a bunch that are doing really practical things, but there's so much out in the blockchain and crypto space. Some companies just adding blockchain to their name so that their share price can go up.
But, you guys are actually doing something transformative and practical. What's really interesting to me is the space that you're in, with digitizing votes, which I think ... At least, most people I've spoken to in Australia has been saying, "Why can't we vote online?" for years. Every time an election comes up, it always seems to be a bunch of us saying, "This is stupid, why can't we vote online?"
Obviously, there are many security issues and problems of why we haven't been able to vote online, to date. Not properly and at scale. How does your platform, from a security standpoint ... I mean you've mentioned the blockchain side of things. But, why is it that using Horizon State would make it a more secure voting platform?
Jamie Skella: Flowing back to the crypto currency conversation, I think the easiest way to start explaining why it's secure, is to explain, kind of, how crypto currency works. At least, at a very high, conceptual level.
Which is that, for example, you've got Joe and Sue and they want to exchange $5 worth of value, but they don't want to necessarily use an intermediary. They don't want to use a bank. But, they'd still like a good record to be kept of this, just to make sure that none of them plays funny buggers later, because they know each other but they don't know each other that well.
So, what they do is, they get 200 of their closest friends and associates and colleagues to come to the place of this transaction and they tell them all to bring record books and pens or pencils. Collectively they witness this exchange of value, this $5 worth of value being exchanged, between Joe and Sue and everybody writes it into a line item in their respective record books.
It documents the time, it documents the place, documents the sender and the receiver, it verifies their signatures. There's a shared reality here amongst all of those people who have witnessed this transaction.
They all take their shared record books and they all go home. Some of them live across the street, some of them are a suburb away, some of them are even on the opposite side of the world. There are lots of them. In respects, in a blockchain, technically speaking, there are thousands and tens of thousands. There will soon be hundreds of thousands of what we call nodes. These people effectively verifying transactions. Right?
Now, conceptually, if you were to ... If you were trying to maliciously change the record of that transaction. You want it to say $50 of value, instead of $5 of value. You'd kind of have to break into every single home, simultaneously, and change the record of that transaction in every single record book, hopefully without waking any of them up and do so that in a way that, effectively creates a new shared reality.
So, speaking layman's terms, right now, based on current computers, this is more or less impossible. And if you want to put a computer scientist hat on, you would call it extremely improbably.
But, either way, that is kind of how the security of a blockchain works. Again, very high level. It's not perfectly, technically accurate. It goes a lot deeper than that. But, it gives people a good entry point to start thinking about the mechanics.
Now, if you think about, potentially, swapping out a transaction that relates to $5 of value, and instead representing a vote, then automatically, you can start to appreciate how that vote would be unchangeable and tamper-proof and accountable for all perpetuate.
Kyle Taylor: Obviously, the thing that comes to my mind is, yeah, the vote would be accurate, the record of the vote would be accurate, but it would still, obviously be ... People would still be the fallible part. The logging of that vote ... I mean, if someone was to get a bot, for example. Is it possible that a bot could make a whole bunch of fake votes? Or is this where the voting platform has to tie to someone's identity in some way, to track back?
Jamie Skella: That's right. So this is ... A big part of the solution is still very much identity. But, what that identity and authorization and the eligibility piece of the puzzle looks like, varies from place to place. We have some corporate enterprise customers who have relatively simple processes and procedures and policies, which we adhere to in regards to establishing identity and making sure that people only have one vote, while protecting that identity.
The way that looks for, for example, a state government or a national government, can be very, very different and different, based on jurisdiction, as well. So, we are flexible in that regard and we make sure that these processes and policies are appropriately accommodated for, wherever we attempt to do business or find some penetration.
This is really important, as well, in terms of speeds market and working towards mass adoption of this kind of technology. Because, it's one thing to go in there and talk about this unhackable record of a result and then, to also say, "Oh, by the way. We also need to change how your entire citizenship is ID'd." It's usually a step too far.
Kyle Taylor: Yeah, exactly. People might say they like change. Even techies like you and I will probably go, "Yeah, we like change." But, there's a certain reality of how much change we'll accept at one time. Right?
I want to touch on something, that ... I've heard you say that driverless cars now exist, yet our democratic process and tools are comparable to horse and cart. Can you explain what you meant when you said that?
Jamie Skella: If you look at most of what's going on in our world, technologically, which again, to reiterate, is really what drives culture and behavior. I think we like to believe that we create technology with a specific intention in mind. More or less, we are driving what humanity is to become.
But, it's actually flipped. If you think about the advent of the internet and the technology which existed to access it then, we really were only starting to modernize prior processes for work and play because we hadn't imagined things which hadn't been imagined yet. Which other technology hadn't enabled.
The improvement of micro-electronics, smartphones, data-connectivity. We started seeing technology, such as Uber and Airbnb, arrive. Which, 15 years ago, would have been pretty much unimaginable. On top of that, part of the reason they were unimaginable was they required you to think about how you would interact with people in very different ways.
The idea that you would step into a stranger's car, or invite a stranger into your house, was quite literally a changed culture and changed behavior.
If we look at, broadly speaking, everything is moving as that kind of pace. Stuff 15 years away is unpredictable. But, generally speaking, we've kept things pointing in a generally positive direction.
The two things that lag behind, have really been how we govern ourselves in democracies and other forms of government, and education. Unfortunately, these are the two things that really haven't changed all that much, in my life time.
So, when we were thinking about the problem at hand and the opportunity that this technology now enables, it was really about, "Wow, maybe we can finally have democracy and politics and the way we govern ourselves, catch up to the rest of our society."
It's exciting to finally be a potential inflection point. And I'm really proud to be a part of it.
Kyle Taylor: Really interesting inflection point of humanity, in general. With so many technologies that are all, kind of, converging.
So, that's something I'm curious about. How do you see the technology that you're working on combining with some of the other trends, like AI, voice, machine learning. All of that, like AR, VR. How do you see your technology potentially interacting with those, into the future?
Jamie Skella: Look, I'll give you one little example now, with two cutting edge technologies, which are actually being combined right now, which is blockchain for the purposes of a transaction or accounting. Also, the latest in biometrics. So, there was a United Nations initiative towards the end of last year, which basically began to ID Syrian refugees coming through Jordanian camps using retina scanners. Biometric scanning. By establishing this perfect biometric identity of each individual, they would then apply food stamps, food vouchers, through the blockchain. More or less, issuing them currency for certain kinds of redemption.
This means they could leverage the borderless and immutable qualities of the blockchain in brand new ways without even needing a mobile phone or a computer.
This is important, for a few reasons, in the context of these camps. It prevents things like double spending. People trying to forge some kind of intra-camp currency to claim more than they're entitled to. It also stops robbery and theft and mugging of those, what are highly valuable vouchers.
So, they would wonder into these stalls within the camp and they would have their retinas scanned again and more or less debited or deducted from their balance when they walked out with their food.
So really, really cool stuff. High impact, social good stuff, which is fantastic.
In relation to our technology specifically, voting and what that could look like in regards to combinations of technologies into the future. We're already looking very, very closely at things like machine learning and narrow artificial intelligences to discover, analyze and disseminate information in brand new ways, far more objective ways, than what a human might interpret it and do it far more efficiently, as well.
It's one thing to secure the vote in a perfect way, big enough unto itself. It's another to reduce the cost of doing that per the organizing body which, in Australia as an example, could mean the tax payer. For example, $120 million on the same sex marriage [inaudible 00:24:29], which took three months to run. And, of course, reduce the times. It's fantastic to do all those things, but by doing all those things specifically, you're not really improving the quality of the outcome, right? You're making a democracy more accessible, you're encouraging participation and soliciting opinion, potentially far more frequently. But, it's not improving, necessarily, the quality of those democratic outcomes.
So, by being able to better inform people ... Hopefully, as the saying goes, "Shit in, shit out." But, in this case, if we can improve the quality of inputs, we can improve the quality of outputs.
That's just one way that we're thinking about improving that, using a combination of emerging technologies.
Kyle Taylor: That's really interesting to me, because I was in the Sydney Morning Herald last year, I think. Because there was this big ... I can't remember what it's called. It's like the Big Idea, and people could submit ideas.
I submitted an idea that I thought that there should be an app that every ... That it was like the Australian government, we should all have an app on our phones so that we can vote on different policies. Very similar to the whole MiVote concept that you were working with before.
I ended up getting in the Sydney Morning Herald about this app idea. I think they thought I'd actually created the app. It was just an idea of what I thought should happen. But, the media being media, they drum it up.
The thing is though, I had a number of people come to me with a valid point I hadn't thought about. They said, well, that's all well and good. But there are plenty of people who would be voting on something that they have no idea. They're not educated in the issue or the policy that's being voted on. Plus, yes, we hear all the debates, but the government pass all sorts of different policies and legislation every day. To vote on every single one would be ridiculous. We wouldn't get any work done.
The point that was most concerning, because ... I've heard it said that the best thing about democracy is, everyone has a say. The worst thing about democracy is, everyone has a say. Right?
Jamie Skella: Yeah.
Kyle Taylor: Because it really does depend on different education levels. People's ... What's driving them and why they vote for something. So, to mention that you could better inform people so we end up getting a better decision.
So, how exactly can you go about that? Or is that still kind of unfolding?
Jamie Skella: AI is going to automate part of that process. But, as it can be achieved right now, one example is indeed MiVote. Where they solicit the support and the help of PhD and analysts and researchers from all around the world. People from the left of politics and the right. Different world views, different geographic locations and citizenship's. Through their collaboration, are able to arrive at information packs which are required to be digested before having your say. Which are far more objective and less biased than what you might see on Today Tonight or read on the Daily Mail.
You know, this isn't perfect. None of this is perfect, in fact. But perfection isn't real and this is all about really taking proactive, positive steps towards improving the status quo. There is no silver bullet here. It's just about taking steps in the best, most positive way that we can.
Kyle Taylor: Yeah. Definitely. Love that, that idea of getting ... I mean, you know, it's easy to say it's unbiased, but to get a huge group of different people from different leanings, different backgrounds, to then come together and put together an info pack. That sounds like a lot of hard work.
Jamie Skella: Probably also worth mentioning that I think, in this potential future, in respect to how we govern ourselves more effectively. Which would mean having a more frequent dialogue and reducing the gap between government and citizen. I don't think it's realistic to expect that voting will always be compulsory.
Decisions, sort of overload, I suppose. When you have to be making decisions frequently, on everything, especially on things that maybe you have no interest in or no knowledge about. Again, you're probably going to erode the quality of outcomes, rather than improve it. So, I'd like to think that, sometime into the future, we'll start to think about ways that we can solicit opinion and arrive at decisions that have more, I guess, more specificity for the people in question.
Kyle Taylor: Interesting concept of ... Yeah, when you make it optional, then the people who know nothing about it can opt to go, "You know, I know nothing about this. I'm not going to dilute the decision making by me just randomly picking a decision." I'm sure there'd be some, very true to the democratic process, that would be outraged by that idea, though, and think that everyone should have their say.
That's really interesting.
Jamie Skella: I grew up in a pretty poor neighborhood in South Australia. A place called Salisbury. Getting better, but it was certainly a lot worse back in the 80s. I can tell you, first hand, that when a community is politically disengaged, the idea that they will get fined $70, or whatever it might be, for not voting, is more or less the only motivation to vote.
That doesn't mean that they go and learn about the policies. It doesn't mean they go and understand who they're voting for, all the history. A lot of the time, they didn't even necessarily know who the politicians were in question. Sometimes not even who the Prime Minister was or who the future Prime Minister could be. A lot of friends and their family members would more or less donkey vote. Or vote randomly.
Which, I think, is obviously not a good outcome. It dilutes the quality of outcome anyway. Unfortunately this is not unfamiliar reality. You know? Those of us living in Brunswick and Fitzroy and Melbourne, like to think that everybody cares and everybody understands and that's just not the case.
Kyle Taylor: If you're joining us from a non-Australian country, or in a country that it isn't compulsory to vote, just so you know in Australia it is compulsory to vote, which is what we are talking about. If you don't vote, you get a fine. You can actually be taken to court. I was actually talking to a friend of mine recently, who was explaining that he had go to court because he opted not to vote. Yeah, very interesting.
So, let's talk a little more about the future. So, your technology and other blockchain technologies are out there. What you're doing now, with the ability to vote ... Assuming that your technology, you know, Horizon State become the go to voting platform globally, or even just in certain countries around the world. I know you do have some deals that are in the works, or even have happened. We'll talk about them shortly.
Let's say, ten years from now, twenty years, future. What are we looking at? What needs to happen, actually? A better question is, what needs to happen between now and a future where it is a digital voting platform? What are we looking at here?
Jamie Skella: It's going to be a slow process over a [inaudible 00:30:37] a knowledge that we can change the world overnight or that this is going to be a flick of a switch. In Australia, we have relatively higher levels of penetration for mobile devices and stuff. We're talking in the vicinity of, sort of, 80-85% mobile ... Sorry, 80-85% smartphone and 95% mobile.
So, there is the opportunity to put this technology into many people's hands, but it's also important to recognize that it doesn't need to be all or nothing.
For every postal that we don't need to send, for ever ballot box we don't need to stand up, we're saving time, we're saving money and we're improving the legitimacy of that result. With particular focus on the security of that result.
So, it's going to be something that, indeed, will take five and ten and, maybe, even more time than that, to actually fully realize. But I do think that within that timeframe, that the reality is going to be that any politician, any party, any government, that is rejecting the consideration of the use of this technology will effectively be waving a flag, signaling their own corruption. Because there is no reason, just simply no reason, that you wouldn't want to improve the security of the results and improve the quality of your democratic process.
We're in late stage talks with a national government over in the European region right now. In fact, the first election that they will likely run, using our technology, won't be as cool as having people vote from the mobile phone in their pocket. But it will still be about capturing the vote, using digital technology, onto a blockchain, through a centralized poling station.
So, in many ways it's going to be baby steps, but again, they're all steps in a positive direction.
Kyle Taylor: I think that that makes sense, though. We don't need to, as you said, we don't need to jump all the way to voting from our phones. Even just the current paper-based approach of going in ... I actually volunteered, at one point, and I worked at a poling ... I think it was a State election. I worked at a poling station and had to take all these big pieces of paper and put them into different orders. It was a lot of work and it was late nights. To think that we could just eliminate all of that.
I remember thinking that going, "This is ridiculous, how much paper is involved here, when we have computer systems."
So, I agree. We could just start with taking the current process and just digitize that, you know? Let's take that step.
Jamie Skella: You can even ... Bigger and bolder, obviously. The work that I'm doing with Horizon State and MiVote, is really about improving the quality of our collaborative decision making processes. And installing brand new levels of trust in governments and in the decision making process, through this technology. But, it's ultimately still not enough.
I think, with a little bit of existential dread, that right now ... If one individual can print a firearm and do some damage, or one small group of individuals can propagate what we're calling fake news and, quite literally, change significant outcomes and polarize communities and create conflicts through this kind of power, which is all enabled by technology. As technology continues on it's exponential curve, the kinds of power it grants individuals and small groups of people, is exponentially what? More powerful, right?
So, I've been really thinking deeply about, how do we improve the quality of our decision making, not only collectively and collaboratively, but individually on a similar exponential curve? Because, unless the quality of our individual outcomes continues to improve, well one day somebody's going to be able to 3D print a nuclear weapon and do some real damage.
Now, that's obviously a very crude example. But, the point I'm trying to illustrate here, is that technology continues to grant individuals more and more power and so we need to think about, not necessarily about how to restrict technology more advanced, that would be entirely futile. But, how to improve we, as humans, and our condition. How we behave and how we think and a lot of this will have to do with things like intelligence augmentation and the role of artificial intelligence in the future.
But, certainly, it sort of worries me and I'm starting to direct a large amount of energy into thinking about what kinds of solutions might be possible in the near future, based on emerging technology that can help, I guess, mitigate against that kind of future doom.
Kyle Taylor: I mean, that's something that, obviously, philosophers and, you know, people worrying about ethics and morals have struggled with for years, as every technology has come about. I think the governments have always struggled to then legislate, because the laws don't ... The technology outstrips the speed at which the people in power often understand the technology, to even know where to start when it comes to regulating it.
Then there are, obviously, those in the purely capitalist mindset that believe regulation is wrong and shouldn't be used. There's conflicting views there.
You mentioned the idea of 3D printing. People can 3D print a gun, which is absolutely true. Then, the idea of one day, in future, being able to 3D print something like a nuclear weapon is, yeah absolutely. Technologically, I'm sure we'll get there.
Jamie Skella: Mass destruction or weapons of mass destruction. They actually come in many way, shapes or forms. It is a very crude example, but I would actually consider audio-video synthesis, the kinds of stuff that's arriving which enables someone to post a video ... A motion video of President Trump or former President Obama, saying things that they never said, sounding just like them, looking just like them.
This, unto itself, is potentially a weapon of mass destruction. I think that has the ability to erode trust and societal cohesion in really, really profound, unfortunately profound ways. So, this is again, an example of the kind of technology which is pretty much already here and enables individuals to inflict mass confusion, mass harm.
Kyle Taylor: The idea, you say, it is already here. I know that because I myself, there was a recording I did for one of our future episodes ... Previous episodes. There was one word I wanted to edit and change in the thing. I was, "Surely there's got to be a way to just edit that one word and not have to record the whole thing again."
I don't know if you've seen the video of Adobe Voco. I think that project has been killed. But, basically, it is audio editing. With 20 minutes of audio of someone's voice, you can then just type out anything you want and it will speak it as that person. But, I think Adobe Voco, at least for now, has been killed, possibly by their legal team.
There is another company called Lyrebird, which is online, free available. Then there is also the video work that can be done. You know they have done Obama videos where it's just completely 3D generated and make him say whatever you want.
Fake news is a big thing and, it was something that I was touching on earlier, is that as much as we can digitize and build trust in the voting blockchain, the voting ledger, the weak link here still is the human being who votes. They can still be manipulated through fake news, through ... Like what they say happened through Facebook with Cambridge Analytica.
You think the only solution there is, kind of, Elon Musk's idea of melding our minds with artificial intelligence?
Jamie Skella: I do, actually. It's inevitable. When we're talking about the opportunity for individuals to affect large groups of people, then obviously we want them to be doing so with the best possible intelligence and the best possible information. Right now, both are unfortunately lacking, as technology continues on that exponential curve. So, unless we can find a way to basically keep up with technology, leverage it through good and make better decision with it along the way, then we're going to run into some hurdles.
I think, when you think about this deeply enough and for long enough, that is the ultimate eventuation and maybe somebody else will have some other ideas. But, I don't doubt that within three generations from now, not only biological and physical augmentation will be relatively commonplace, even if only minor. But we'll have started to explore, in meaningful ways, what intelligence augmentation looks like, as well.
Look, people freak out with this concept. But, we've kind of, already augmented ourselves in many ways. You know, the smartphone in our pocket, is effectively infinite memory and perfect recall. We have cars which we drive around, which we just think about as a mode of transportation, but really what you've just done is give you the super power of speed and an armored sort of shell.
These are all augmentations of the human condition and how we conduct ourselves and how we behave and interact and, more broadly, how society works. So, these concepts are really just extensions of the kind of augmentation that already exists.
Kyle Taylor: I don't disagree, it's just I also struggle to comprehend ... I think this comes down to the existential idea of what is it to make us human? If, at that point, when we've melded more with machines in our mind, are we still human? Or are we something else at that point?
Jamie Skella: Everybody, I think, gets caught up on what it means to be human. The bottom line is that people generally, as humans, think very lineally and can't necessarily grasp easily, the concept of at least trying to think exponentially. We get hung up on current condition and current state because that's all we know. That's how we exist. We read about the history books and that doesn't necessarily seem like there's been a lot of evolution. In fact, there has. Each generation grows taller. Small things like this and over thousands or millions of years the changes are quite profound.
Through technology we now celebrate it, just in time. Ultimately, if we don't so these things, if we don't find a way to modify the human existence in a way that will let us travel through space, then we all die on this rock, eventually. Give it a few million years and however it ends, whether it's an asteroid or the sun dying or whatever the case is, maybe we kill it ourselves with global warming. But the bottom line is, if we don't forcefully evolve, then we all die on this rock.
So, if anybody's interested, truly, in the propagation of whatever you define humanity as, then we need to evolve.
Kyle Taylor: Look, absolutely. I think evolution happens physically and also, I think, there's an element of consciousness and the way we think. Which, you know, some believe spirituality and the path of enlightenment is the way to get it. Maybe, the way we'll get there is through the use of technology, who knows?
I want to come back to your technology, though. I mean, this is great conversation, but I want to come back to Horizon State. We've talked a lot about elections. That's an obvious use case for your technology. What else, what other platforms? You've mentioned NGO's, you've mentioned companies. What are the other use cases that people are looking to, or actually are already using, your technology for?
Jamie Skella: I'll give you a few examples. One is local government. So, we're currently in talks with the Victorian Council in respect to utilization of this blockchain technology to improve the dialogue with them and their residents for that council.
A typical way that this works, currently, is that they'll spend tens of thousands of dollars of letterbox drop, inviting people to come to Town Hall. Sometimes, instead of tens of thousands of people, in fact that never happens, it's more like tens of people and sometimes just a few. Quite literally, sometimes, just a few people.
So, terrible ROA. Obviously a terrible way to solicit that type of engagement. So, through using this tech and a mobile application, not only can they create shorter feedback loops and increase participation, but they can do so in a way that delivers new levels of trust through the accountability and the transparency of the technology. By casting these votes to a blockchain, as an example.
On the other end of the spectrum, I guess, less of the social good and more of a commercial prospect, is the utilization for this technology within some high profile European football clubs who, again, what to use it to install trust and improve the quality of collaborative decision making amongst their members.
We're talking to, as I suggested, a national government for elections. We're engaged with the WWF, which is not the defunct wrestling federation, but the global conservation NGO, on the topic enabling more autonomous and decentralized volunteer organizational structures.
So, it's pretty broad. You think about voting, not with connotations of the electoral process, and you think about democratic processes outside of a political landscape. They exist within our workplaces, they exist within our families, they exist within [inaudible 00:42:22], they exist everywhere.
So, wherever there is sensitive decisions to be made, or this kind of accountability and transparency is important, then blockchain, sometimes, is a good thing.
Kyle Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, shareholders voting and things could all-
Jamie Skella: That could be put onto this.
Kyle Taylor: So, when you think about the future, is the question I like to ask everyone who comes on the show. When you think about the future, are you optimistic, pessimistic, somewhere in between? Where do you lie?
Jamie Skella: I like to champion something that I call intelligent optimism. I, very, very specifically, am biased towards possibility, rather than impossibility because I've never seen anything good derived from pessimism. Never in my life. I'm not sure what pessimism accomplishes. It certainly doesn't affect positive change. So, if you're not working towards positive change then you're not helping.
I think optimism is incredibly important and, despite the fact that both locally and globally, we've got some enormous challenges to solve. I do believe we are pointed in the right direction.
The 24/7 news cycle, the 24/7 fear cycle as I like to call it, seems to lead people to believe that we live in the worst time in the history of the universe. When, in actual fact, it's the opposite. When you look at the data, we actually live, quite literally, in the best time that there has ever been. Record lows for famine. Record lows for poverty. Record lows for terrorism and homicide, in fact. Everything is improving and it always has.
Sure there's been some bumps in the road and we'll see some more bumps and some big dips. We are, actually, constantly improving and I really believe we can make that continue.
Kyle Taylor: Yeah. It is interesting just to note that the majority of people who come on the show has an optimist outlook.
I think that that's part of ... You wouldn't be doing what you're doing if you weren't optimistic about the future and where things are headed.
So, before we kind of finish up and wrap up, I'd like to know a little bit more about what you've already got going on. You've mentioned a few things, but I know in Indonesia, for example, you've just recently had some cool stuff happen there. We've talked about the problems that need to be solved and Horizon State's doing an amazing job with that. We've talked about the future and where things can go and we went all sorts of places there.
What about right now, is in use, apart from the football clubs and things you've mentioned. What else is happening right now, with blockchain, but in particular Horizon State?
Jamie Skella: Unlike many blockchain businesses, this is more than a white paper. It's actually up and running. It's not theoretical. It does work. We've had it up and running for MiVote since February last year. We've been running votes within their membership on our tech.
The next really big deal for us is indeed Indonesia. We've singed the deal with the NU. I won't even try to pronounce what that acronym stands for. But, they're one of the world's largest socio-religious organizations. They're an Islamic group that's striving towards progressive ways of thinking and encouraging anti-extremist movements. Building hospitals and doing all kinds of fantastic, positive things which align philosophically very much with the impact that Horizon State wants to have.
They've got 96 million members also, in Indonesia. They want our technology to be used by their membership, to make policy decisions about the organization and engage in more meaningful ways and do so transparently and with accountability.
That's a big deal for us, in terms of empowering individuals. We expect to see much more of that kind of thing. It is important to reiterate that what we're creating isn't just political in nature. It's not just about supplanting or replacing elections and election processes. It's much broader than that. It's really about community enablement and community empowerment more broadly.
Kyle Taylor: That's fantastic. Jamie, thanks so much for joining us. I hope, maybe in the future, we can have you on to talk about esports, as well. But, I'll definitely be keeping my eye on what you guys are doing with Horizon State.
Jamie Skella: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Kyle Taylor: Thanks for listening to the Future of Humanity podcast. To download the latest episode and find the transcript and various resources mentioned in today's episode, visit our website at foh.show. That's F-O-H, as in Future of Humanity and show, as in S-H-O-W.
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