This is a good thread, and I do appreciate many of the points that people are raising. However, some of my biggest fears about the future of SAFE network are playing out right here in this thread, and something I have been concerned about for some time.
Please know that I am not a die-hard capitalist by any means, and I have no interest in invoking the quagmire of capitalism vs socialism as a political discussion. From an economic perspective, I think there is objective evidence that demonstrates that for many/most market segments where rational consumers can make a choice, a relatively free market with competition both drives innovation and produces overall better value/choice for consumers. In this regard, it generally also produces better overall results for society regardless of the overarching capitalist vs socialist economic/political constructs.
Unfortunately, competition doesn’t tend to produce the best rewards for content producers. In fact, as evidenced by the investment community in general, outright monopoly making seems to be the actual goal of the world’s champions of capitalism. I have seen many leading venture capitalist and investment titans outright say that “competition drives the profit out of everything”.
With that in mind, it has concerned me a bit how eager the SAFE community seems to be to annoint a particular project as being the app as being the answer for a particular feature-set. I think it is in the SAFE communities benefit to foster competition between developers that recognize that users will pick the winners, and the market will determine the best apps.
I also thought one of the main tenets of SAFE was supposed to be data interoperability? If I create public message posts for the purposes of social networking, then I should be able to choose from hopefully what are many social networking apps and grant them access to my content and migrate/integrate my data between apps as I choose. In this way, apps will compete more on the best user experience they provide to users for particular tasks/features rather than the closed data islands they rely on today. In all honestly, my cynical nature sort of believes this is a pipe-dream and that competition to win with regard to achieving market-share for applications, that developers will revert to the sort of proprietary/closed data schemes to protect their market share that we see now. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I think human nature will undermine this.
This is a serious and very nuanced issue. How the SAFE network encourages or discourages competition and data interoperability will be a key element in how it evolves and ultimately whether it meets it’s lofty goals. I am not pretending to know the answer, but I have seen enough abuses of monopoly power and how it corrupts human nature to remain skeptical that planned monopolies produce the best results.
If SAFE network is going to be successful, once it launches, a signal that it will be successful would be the thousands of application developers around the world that will start innovating on the platform to create user experiences to solve problems. When and if that happens, many developers will choose to tackle the same kinds of information, tasks, feature set, etc., that other’s are, but in some regards with different user experience, task flow, etc.
Free Speech, Fact Verification, Information Quality and Reputation
What ultimately has been missing from the Internet from it’s inception has been the integration of fact verification and reputation. Information publishing used to be tightly controlled by a set of gatekeepers who largely controlled who and what information could be broadly shared across societies. Once again, the centralized power of these gatekeepers while it produced some benefits, like all power, enabled many abuses. The emergence of the Internet was supposed to be a grand thing, allowing everyone to have a voice. Free speech! Of course, that exposed us to the dark side, outright lies, hate speech, conspiracy theories, etc.
I am not a fan of the people encouraging content filtering and moderation as limits on free speech. While I tacitly agree there should be legal limits placed on free speech in general with regard to outright hate speech or speech that encourages violence, etc., content filtering/moderation has demonstrated that it tends to create echo-chambers where like-minded people tend to filter out the content they don’t agree with. It creates islands of information whether competing ideas and opinions never have to compete directly with each other. Once again… human nature. I don’t think human beings really like competition much… it makes us too uncomfortable, and makes us fell less safe, even if competition in the larger context produces better overall results.
I think what has been missing from the Internet is that it undermined the good elements associated with having gatekeepers on information; fact verification, peer-reviewed quality of information standards, and verification of source reputation. All of these things are now possible in a data-connected open network. When we gave everyone a voice on the internet without conventions for associating claims (fact, reputation), we displaced knowledge, expertise and reputation, and made it very difficult for information consumers to make informed choices about the trust they should give content published on the Internet.
One of the better examples of an existing Internet property that has had to try to bridge this gap is Wikipedia, where a single page is supposed to represent a source of truth. And yet, we have seen the battles that go on between competing contributors to try to shape that truth to various agendas (economic, political, etc).
A better approach (or at least something that can help contribute to a greater degree of free speech and the ability of a consumer to make decisions on information trust) is to allow content to be linked to verifiable claims. Those claims might be counter-opinions by other people who have been verified to have greater expertise on a subject (due to verified experience or education), verified certificates of authenticity with regard to claims related to information produced by 3rd parties, or fact-checked claims provided by information watchdogs, etc.
To summarize, I believe the better choice to improving the quality and benefit of free speech while also protecting society from the dark side is about giving users better tools for determining the quality of information and allowing them to make decisions of trust, rather than reverting to centralized gatekeepers.