How Decentralized Oracle Networks like Witnet can be a crucial use case of blockchain technology in the so-called post-truth era
Jason Taellious — [CC by-sa]
The Concept of Truth During The Era of Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason was a philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century. It was an intellectual movement which was characterized by a rational and scientific approach. The core of this scientific approach was all about the search for truth. Instead of perceiving truth as monopolized by an authority, the idea of enlightenment emphasized a truth that depends on facts.
Periodicals and journals were first established during the Enlightenment era, and they were the catalyst in promoting the ideas of objectivity, reason and the scientific knowledge. Being a source of knowledge derived from science and reason, they were an implicit critique of existing notions of universal truth monopolized by monarchies, parliaments and authorities.
Consequently, journals turned into a medium that propagated scientific facts and truth that inherently opposed the centralized powers. The idea was to record and distribute the facts that would contribute to the development of perpetual knowledge.
The main difference between journals and pre-existing formats of encyclopedias is their continuity and the fact that as long as some people supply and demand knowledge, they continue to survive. In a way, they are the first business models built on the idea of propagating the truth.
The era of enlightenment and all the scientific and philosophical revolution that followed was “all about the search for truth.” However, in today’s world, we are facing a dilemma in which the agencies, platforms or institutions that we used to trust have become places that degrade truth — rather than propagating it.
A recent Buzzfeed article by Charlie Warzel about Aviv Ovadya documents a detailed account of the misinformation campaigns that jeopardize the idea of truth and points to a more significant threat that might lead us to the so-called Information Apocalypse, “the infocalypse”. The primary basis of this argument are the recent developments in AI, natural language processing, machine learning and augmented reality.
“I think what you see now is an attack on the enlightenment — and enlightenment documents like the Constitution — by adversaries trying to create a post-truth society. And that’s a direct threat to the foundations of our current civilization.”
Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy, François Lemoyne, 1737
“In the search for truth human beings take two steps forward and one step back. Suffering, mistakes, and weariness of life thrust them back, but the thirst for truth and stubborn will drive them forward. And who knows? Perhaps they will reach the truth at last.” ― Anton Chekhov
When you consider the debates around fake news, state-sponsored bots, privacy and algorithmic campaigns, one of the most significant challenges that our civilization faces today is finding the business model of truth in the Internet era.
Whether it is a state-sponsored platform or a global technology company, it is almost impossible for centralized platforms to stay neutral regarding the concept of truth when their primary concern is extracting and increasing profit from a relatively stable number of users in short time cycles.
As centralized platforms move up in their adaptation S-curves during their life cycles, their incentive mechanisms fluctuate drastically. This results in shifting the priorities from the community to profit, and ends up favoring the benefit of the few over the masses. This shift is inevitable inasmuch their business model depends on capitalizing their governance power over the network, and when the consensus is broken, then it is utterly impossible to expect that the system will stick to the idea of truth in a broader sense.
In the age of crypto economics, the business model of truth is about creating the right incentive model that encourages independent actors to be honest. If being honest is more profitable, then you don’t need enforcement or a single point of trust. Decentralized networks offer a valid alternative as they have the potential to propagate truth over deception by incentivizing participants such as miners, validators or witnesses.
Truth and The Digital Knowledge Ark The concept of Digital Knowledge Ark documented by the Witnet whitepaper addresses many of the challenges that our society face around the idea of truth. Witnet proposes a way to mathematically verify truth without trusting an intermediary.
It introduces a new approach in which ascertaining truth and preserving it can be done in a highly resilient, decentralized, self-governed and censorship-resistant way, thus guaranting the accessibility of knowledge for everyone, everywhere at any time, without discrimination of any type. This is the only way to ensure that access to human knowledge will remain democratic forever.
Truth-By-Consensus Protocol Something can only be considered as accurate if there is an independent verification that is reached by the consensus of independently acting participants who behave honestly. It pertains to be true until a different fact is proven by using the same mechanisms under the same assumption of actors being honest. Decentralized verification is a hard-coded feature into the design of Witnet, as Adán documented here:
Truth-By-Consensus is Witnet’s protocol for comparing and finding an “agreed truth” among some potentially conflicting claims brought by independent participants of the network. It ensures honesty by creating strong incentives for those participants to bring valid claims.
Although the idea of trustless computing has been explored in many other crypto network projects, Witnet’s approach makes it possible to use incentive mechanics to have a broader impact on the concept of truth and its potential implications on every social level.
Especially with the full implementation of Bridge Nodes connecting to other blockchains, directly to web and other data sources, Witnet — as a core that sustains truth — can be useful in a diverse range of areas from scientific research to e-commerce and insurance to even politics.
In politics, it might be useful to discuss on verifiable facts rather than a nonsensical discussion about what is fake news and what is not. Witnet can be a crucial use case of blockchain technology in the so-called post-truth era dominated by populist politicians.
Ideas such as transparency, decentralized governance or open sourcing are the founding ideas behind the blockchain technology. As the technology matures, we expect these ideas start shaping our society and become philosophical movements such as Renaissance, the Age of enlightenment or the industrial revolution.
Decentralized oracle networks and the notion of truth that depends on decentralized verification are the gateways of blockchain technology for a broader impact on the society. That is why I am excited about the promise of Witnet.