Said and I are starting a long and exciting journey with ChainSkills. And at the start of this kind of journey, it is often useful to take a step back to ask ourselves who we are, what we believe in, what our ambition is and what we want to achieve. This is what some call Mission/Vision/Values, but what we decide to call Identity/Ambitions/Project here, because we estimate that it makes more sense to think about it in that order, and there is too much ambiguity about these terms of mission, vision and values. The goal of this post is to lay the foundation of the identity of the team behind ChainSkills.
We are both passionate about technology, but first as a means rather than an end in and of itself. For us, technology must always be useful and useable.
Useful because technology for itself, without concrete application, without an impact on life sounds like a huge waste given the infinite number of problems technology could help in solving.
Useable because the most elegant technology will always fail if it is not thought around its users, while keeping in mind their environments, their ecosystems and their mental models.
The thing is that when you speak about cryptography, security and networks, and mix in a little bit of economics and finance, as it is the case with crypto-currencies for example, it is very easy to get carried away by big abstract concepts, too much lingo and a certain fundamentalism that threaten this pragmatism.
We start from the assumption that, while making the best out of the benefits of a technology, it is sometimes necessary to find acceptable compromises to keep the technology useful and useable.
At its core, technology is about making the impossible possible, and making the hard stuff easier. In doing so, it is not rare for it to upset business-as-usual, whether it is legal or fiscal rules, a business model or an industry. That’s what disruption is really all about.
When an ecosystem is disrupted, as it was the case recently with the taxi ecosystem and Uber for example, a naive reaction is to try and stop change in its course by blocking innovation or making it illegal.
And when politicians intervene, under the pressure of lobbying, they can overcompensate technological simplification with administrative complexity, such as what the Belgian administration is trying to do with models like Menu Next Door.
Our position regarding those trends is clear: we estimate that technology’s primary mission is to improve our lives, to make them easier and more rich, and we also estimate that nothing artificial should slow down or block that innovation. What we mean by artificial here is protecting abstract constructions such as employment or unfair competition. Innovation forces us to adapt, to evolve our beliefs and our vision of the world, and to grow as a civilization.
That’s why we will do everything in our power to minimize the compromises whose sole purpose would be to accommodate ancient administrative, legislative, competitive or fiscal models. The disruptive power of blockchain is too enormous to allow that.
Note that we are talking about minimizing compromises, and note about eliminating them, because we are aware that, at certain moments, such compromised will be inevitable to stay pragmatic.
And of course, what we don’t consider as artificial are the health, well-being and integrity of the recipients of this innovation, and as long and legal, fiscal and administrative rules will be designed primarily to protect those, we will abide by those rules unconditionally.
Said and I have both been immersed for years into the culture of Agile methodologies and software development. And today as entrepreneurs, we believe strongly in the values of Lean Startup.
Behind those lies the notion that we have access to limited and precious resources, whether they are time, energy, or more pragmatically financial means, and that it is our duty to use those resources with as much efficiency as possible, in order to go as far as possible.
In that regard, we have always leaned towards an experimental, incremental and iterative approach in the construction of our projects. We rarely try to do things perfectly on the first try, to think a problem through before moving forward. We prefer experimenting and observing empirically to hyper-theorizing. We value prototypes that do 80% of the job with 20% of effort. And we believe in the necessity to test and validate your hypotheses as soon as possible, before implementing them.
As in any new domain, our main goal here is not to get wealthy financially, but to learn, to understand and to integrate. Maybe one day, we will have learned enough to capitalize on this expertise and this understanding. But in a first approach, we want to explore and understand in the leanest and more pragmatic way possible.
Blockchain technology was originally discovered in the context of a financial application with Bitcoin. It thus inherited some of its philosophical concepts that we don’t share entirely.
Most of today’s market finance is based on neo-liberal theories according to which human beings are cupid and selfish, and thus you have to embrace those trends fully and integrate them in the rules that regulate markets, betting on the fact that the sum of individual interests will always favor improvement in common interest.
We how two objections to those theories:
We have two major objections to these theories:
- some major crises, including those that we are still going through today, tend to demonstrate that as stakes and inequalities get higher, individual interests can push people to do everything in their power to destroy interests of their peers, especially when it is easy to hide behind figures, regulations and anonymous structures. In such a situation where inequalities are too high, power tends to concentrate in the hands of a minority that threatens common interest in order to concentrate more and more power. We can only wonder about the solidity of this assumption that common interest is simply the sum of individual interests.
- If it is true that survival instinct and adaption are parts of our genetic heritage and powerful forces, there is at least one other instinct that doesn’t seem used enough in big human interaction schemes like finance: gregarious instinct. If it is true that an individual will always do everything in his power to protect and improve his own life and the one of his lineage, he also understands the importance of the group and his own integration in this group to increase not only his own chances of survival but also his very quality of life. He instinctively knows that he needs others, and others need him, and with all the individual power in the world, he is nothing if he is isolated.
For these two reasons, we would like to witness the emergence of a system that pushes forward notions of reputation, accountability and mutual interest to go towards another macro-economic vision.
Besides, it is important to underline the fact that we do not adhere to this idea that there is a dichotomy between capitalism and socialism, and since socialism has been attempted and failed in the past, capitalism is the most advanced form of society there can be. We think there is another path, a path that would push forward some of the notions mentioned above but at a larger scale. And we think that blockchain technology, in its distributed and decentralized model, is an ideal platform to enable this kind of societal change.
The blockchain is a complex topic, that involves some advanced concepts in computer science, mathematics, economics, finance, etc. With such topics, it’s easy to get carried away in lingo and acronyms.
Moreover, with blockchain, it seems reasonable to observe that we are witnessing the dawn of a technological revolution, with its own “eldorado” effect, that gives birth to a whole generation of self-proclaimed and opportunistic experts who see this as a field to split, in which more people means smaller shares. Hence the temptation is big to exclude, to close and to place explorers of this new world in boxes: experts on one side, novices on the other.
As far as we are concerned, we don’t see this domain as a zero-sum game in which some have to lose for others to profit (more). To us, it looks like a gigantic field, whose potential is virtually unlimited, and that calls for an enormous diversity in vantage points and philosophical directions, given the large scope of potential changes.
That’s why we are convinced that yesterday’s novices are the experts of tomorrow, but more importantly that not everyone needs to be an expert in a field to have their say. We think everyone should be empowered to take ownership of these concepts to the best of their abilities, and our approach will always be to facilitate this access instead of restricting it.
Plus, in all humility, we ourselves are at the very beginning of our exploration of this vast domain, and we will thus go more naturally towards those who make information accessible and seek to include instead of excluding.
Our approach here will always be to discover together, to share what we think we understood, in good faith, with the community and to include a maximum of the constructive feedbacks we will receive to make them accessible in turn to the community.
Your comments, your corrections, your suggestions, your opinions and your questions will always be welcome on this platform.
Our goal with ChainSkills is not to create a secret society, an elite and closed group that would seek to protect its certainties and privileges.
We believe in the values of Open Source, sharing and open transparent collaboration. And this blog in the first manifestation of that spirit. By sharing our learning process, we hope it will help other explorers to move forward with these subjects, and that our shared experiences will produce a result far greater than their sum.
Of course, this will also apply to most of the products and experiments that will originate in these experiences, that will also be Open Source by default, except in special circumstances.
Lastly, this spirit of openness also applies to all those who will participate in that journey, without distinction of sex, age, beliefs or origin, provided they hold themselves to the same openness values.
If blockchain was a religion, Satoshi Nakamoto would be its god, Vitalik Buterin its prophet. The Bitcoin whitepaper would be the Old Testament, the Ethereum whitepaper would be the New Testament. And there would be apostles and priests at war to spread the Word.
We don’t position ourselves in this logic at all. Our vision is that of a open-minded, pragmatic and non-dogmatic community, in which people don’t do things a certain way only because certain authorities said so. We are trying to understand, integrate and climb on the shoulders of our peers to build something greater and push forward practical applications that bring innovation in human societies.
In that regard, while completely respecting the expertise and the work of those who came before us, we naturally mistrust the argument of authority, behind which we will always try to understand the motivations behind the choices, even if it means exploring other choices and thinking out of the box.
Last but not least, we don’t see ourselves as apostles of the blockchain, we don’t position ourselves as owners of a knowledge to pass on, but more as explorers with and for the community.
Of course, if you have questions, remarks, corrections or suggestions, comments are open, and so long as they stay constructive, they will be more than welcome.
Said & Sébastien
This post is also available in: French