Article by Francesca Bria and Elettra Bianchi Dennerlein. The original article was published at the Nesta website.
Denis Roio (aka Jaromil) is a researcher in philosophy of technology, artist and software artisan whose creations are endorsed by the Free Software Foundation. He has been involved in Bitcoin since the early days and since 2000 he has been dedicated to building Dyne.org, a software house gathering the contributions of a growing number of developers who value social responsibility above profit.
Jaromil is leading D-CENT development of Freecoin, a blockchain-enabled digital social currency and has been invited at the reinvent.money event on the 26th of September by organiser Paul Buitink to explore the opportunities of Bitcoin beyond its function as currency.
In the recent report published by D-CENT “Design of social digital currency” we have touched upon the notion of freecoin. What is the D-CENT freecoin toolchain?
Freecoin is our toolkit to build social wallets, one of the free and open source pieces of software we are developing as a result of the D-CENT project. We call it a toolkit because anyone can adopt it to design their own application to record value transactions within small or mid-sized groups of participants. The resulting ledgers are distributed and authenticated: they do not only exist on one or more databases, but also on peer-to-peer distributed blockchains.
This way we hope to provide easy peer-validation of authenticated records that are tamper proof and exist beyond the actual Freecoin installation. We are not aiming at the sort of trust less peers scenario in Bitcoin: we assume that trust is abundant within an organisation (this can be helped also by other democratic and decentralized tools in D-CENT) and that the main challenge is to share such trust outside the organisation, with other organisations.
Technically speaking, Freecoin aims to be mostly “middle-ware”, placing itself between a well customisable layer focusing on identity management and the inner process of standardisation for cryptographic ledgers and blockchain backends. We consider the latter to still be in a highly volatile and competitive phase of development, therefore we contemplate multiple options: first and foremost we are trying to abstract a generic API that can be applied to most blockchain existing technologies, from Bitcoin to second generation proof-of-stake (NXT) to the latest development in smart contracts and pegged sidechains.
In the context of the Greek crisis and the never-ending banking scandals how will blockchain technologies help reinvent the future of money?
Reinvent is the right choice of word here, since the main power of this narrative lies in its open horizons, the fact that we could rethink and redesign the most ancient and most used medium in the world: money.
By becoming digital, money has stopped existing in the same form. With the birth of banks money became (mostly) not simply physical and in the past half century it has become a digitised number in something as fragile as a computer database. As every account is digitised, no matter how small that is, banks today became a forced intermediary to operate any monetary value transaction, since there is no asset really behind anything, but numbers written down, bureaucrats validating them – and of course people cheating this system. There won’t ever be the need for a centralised bank to prove that one plus one is two, that all transactions listed by a particular ledger are valid.
At the base of all this there is a ground-breaking technological innovation in the field of accountancy, which is called “triple-entry book keeping” and is brilliantly explained by Ian Grigg in a paper he wrote in 2005, way before Bitcoin was even conceived.
Of course this situation offers a more agile way to manage value transactions than ever before. But this is not to be taken as a solution to the financial crisis. Certainly it is a new dimension in which qualitative changes to the financial industry can be applied together with a progression towards social goals that include mutual credit distribution and structural interventions on the way production is perceived and networks of trust are managed by the corporate financial sector.
What we witnessed in 2015 was not a “Greek crisis”, but an important point for the sort of political consciousness Europe desperately needs to develop beyond the fiscal union. The Blockchain is undoubtedly among the technologies opening up the field of development for new emerging forms of rationality and social relationships, which are still, primarily, of social and political nature.