Autonomous Objects

tape and tool

The sharing economy should be about sharing more than profits. At least that’s what the thinkers behind the sharing economy called for in the early days of the term; however we’ve seen it evolve into a profit-driven notion like rental cars and the ever-questionable AirBnB. Frustrated by this greedy turn in the sharing economy the people at Good Robot started Autonomous Objects (AO). AO is similar to the tool library except there are no physical locations for the service, instead the tools are listed and tracked on an ethereum blockchain. The tools live in the houses of the borrowers until the next borrow shows up.

Why Autonomous Objects?
Autonomous objects are objects with freedom: they can’t be owned because they are part of a commons. This is an important and deliberate choice, because while ownership and its assumptions have been very valuable for our society, these assumptions have also dismantled many a successful commons. We try and avoid that problem by ensuring the objects in our system have genuine autonomy. Every object even has its own web page and even a ‘bank account’ (more about that later). Autonomous objects are public goods that can be enjoyed, used and shared by anyone. But they also need kind-hearted people to help, care for, fund, and protect them too (a guardian). Anyone can help, and best of all, if you like an autonomous object enough to donate to it you can help it spawn new offspring. Once an autonomous object accumulates enough donations in its ‘bank account’ it will purchase new copies of itself (its children) to share with the world!

Check it out!

Use a Browser Tab to Raise Funds for Charity

teen computer

Donating money, time, or resources to charities makes the world a better place, but what if you don’t have any of those things to spare? If you’re using the internet via a web browser maybe you can donate some spare CPU cycles though. A new site called Donate Your Tab uses your computer’s spare computational power to mine Monero (a cryptocurrency), it is then donated to a charity of your choice. The technology behind it has come under scrutiny recently because some sites are using people’s browsers to mine without their consent. Donate Your Tab allows you to opt-in to the mining and even control how much energy goes to mining.

Why would I want to use this?

We obviously think you should contribute your time, voice and cold hard cash to your favorite charity. But this site is a good start. You’re already on your computer, why not use that time to make money for causes you support? These days we often feel guilty like we can’t change anything but this allows you to do something even when you’re just sitting on the internet scrolling through your newsfeeds.

How much money can we raise on this thing?

Good question. Mining cryptocurrency isn’t profitable unless you do it over an extended period of time and have lots of people contributing.

Lets say you can make $0.05 for leaving this thing running in a browser tab all day. $0.05 x 100,000 users x 365 days = $1,825,000 to charity. Not bad! Spread the word so we can get there.

Check it out.

Using a Blockchain for a Smarter Energy Grid

Blockchain technology stems from Bitcoin and provides a platform for change greater than Bitcoin itself. Researchers in the renewable energy industry have realized that blockchains can be used to replace outdated billing and tracking. Presently when a company produces energy it requires verification form other companies and each step eats into profits – a more efficient system would be use blockchains to verify the system by cutting out the middleman. The blockchain also provides a transparent solution that makes for easier monitoring and accountability than what’s currently provided.

The blockchain being used the example below is powered using my favourite cryptocurrency Ethereum. It is another way that distributed ledger systems mixed with computing power can alter our economies for the better.

Keeping track of renewable-energy certificates is one of dozens of potential applications of blockchain technology that could solve data management challenges in the electricity sector without disrupting business as usual, according to Morris. He and many others believe that in the long term, the technology could help transform the very architecture of the grid itself.

To unleash the potential of blockchain in the energy sector, Jesse Morris’s team at RMI has joined with Austria-based blockchain startup Grid Singularity to create a new nonprofit called the Energy Web Foundation. Earlier this month, the EWF launched its own blockchain, which Morris says is “purpose-built for the energy sector.” Based on Ethereum, the network will be a test bed for promising use cases. To validate transactions during the test, EWF will rely on 10 major energy companies that have signed on as affiliates.

Read more.

Using a Blockchain to Rebuild Trust in Governments

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Cryptocurrencies have popularized the use of a digital concept called a blockchain. These blockchains can be used to track transactions and increase accountability of shared networks. If this sounds familiar, a few months ago we looked at how blockchain technology can be used to track physical items.

Citizens around the world have been losing trust in their in governments. Certain parties are getting elected that increase corruption, or at least, make it look like those in charge are running a kleptocracy. This leaves the average person distrusting of their government, maybe using blockchain technology this trend can be reversed.

Tillemann believes blockchain could play a big role in improving trust in government, improving bureaucratic efficiency, and maintaining integrity of public data, from vote counts to land registry titles. (We discussed several other social impact applications for blockchains here).

“The critical challenge facing society right now is the breakdown in trust in institutions,” he tells Fast Company. “Blockchain was designed from the ground up to address that, creating systems that are highly secure, highly transparent and resistant to corruption.”

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Blockchain Technology to Track Real Blocks

Blockchain technology is changing the world of commerce and law, now it can be used to track real world blocks instead of just digital blocks. The technology got attention thanks to the rise of Bitcoin, which is still going strong, and has been improved since then. More recent takes on the technology like Ethereum have evolved blockchains to be more robust, faster, and malleable for unique circumstances. A new startup, Peer Ledger, wants to use this technology to monitor ethical mining practices.

However, Ms. Jutla says there is mounting pressure from the international community to stop the unethical production of minerals, and she says Peer Ledger’s Mimosi product provides a solution to this problem. Mimosi uses a private permissioned blockchain, which chronologically and permanently logs information that’s copied across a computer network accessed by multiple collaborating parties. When a transaction is carried out, it’s grouped together in a cryptographically protected block. In the case of the Mimosi technology, every transaction involving a source of ore can be linked back to older blocks containing previous sales transactions for the ore. This allows Mimosi users to trace gold and other precious and industrial metals (mainly tin, tantalum and tungsten) from the refiner, to the processor, to the distributor.

Ms. Jutla is confident customers will want Mimosi. Not only does she think the technology will make it tougher for unethical sources of precious and industrial metals to make it into the supply chain, she says it will reduce a client’s compliance costs in this area by 75 per cent.

Read more.

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