Article by Forbes: Matt Spoke
I’m generally a pretty level-headed person. I don’t get star struck, and I don’t fawn over celebrities. But last month, when I ran into Andrew Yang in a Manhattan restaurant, I felt like a kid meeting Iron Man at Disney World.
Being a Canadian, I’ve always taken a somewhat passive interest in following the reality show-like entertainment that passes for the US elections recently. But this time around, I find myself captivated by this candidate who by all accounts should not be standing on the same stage as career politicians.
Andrew Yang has not only brought a different perspective into an age-old discussion, he’s also demonstrated an understanding and appreciation of things that are new, and technologies that could fundamentally change our lives. Putting AI and robots aside for a minute, try having a conversation about Bitcoin, Libra, Aion or Ethereum with 76 year old Joe Biden or 78 year old Bernie Sanders – “…kids these days, and the things they’ll dream up on the interweb…” I’m paraphrasing of course.
You don’t have to be a partisan Democrat to be inspired by Yang’s candidacy. I certainly am not one – in fact I have historically supported fiscal policies that are more conservative than what is currently being debated in the Democratic primary. What excites me most about Yang’s platform is the obvious relevance to how the blockchain could be used to roll out some of his key ideas.
Consider Yang’s proposed Freedom Dividend – the $1,000 per month payment to every adult American. Whatever you think of the policy, the payments themselves could be implemented using what the blockchain industry has come to know as airdrops. Imagine a system that not only automates distributions, but also places rules and considerations on how these payments should be calculated and ultimately used by the recipients –not to mention the ease with which we could automate the compliance and tax implications of these payments.
Yang has also proposed “Democracy Dollars” – a program that would provide $100 to every voting-age American to contribute to a campaign or campaigns of their choice, at any level of government. The program’s goal is to reduce the influence of large donors and corporations on campaigns. You probably see where I am going with this… once again, the most efficient way to execute such a program would be a blockchain, where the form of contribution could be rules-based and programmatically enforced and verified.
Perhaps most interesting among Yang’s policy ideas is the still undefined concept of “data as property rights”. This is a timely and important concept in an era of near constant data breaches, and with an entire industry built on the backs of our personal data. But it’s still unclear how such a policy could ever be feasible. At the end of the day, your data will always exist on a company’s servers, and remain vulnerable to what that company allows to happen to it… or, not? Associating age-old property rights to modern data requires a new type of data infrastructure – unowned and unmanipulated by centralized entities, including the government. Such a system should be built on the blockchain; permitting individuals to demonstrate ownership of their data, manage how and when it’s used, and where relevant, monetize it.
Beyond his current platform, as the digital asset economy continues to grow in relative size to the American and global economy, it’s encouraging to imagine a President who could think constructively about how to best manage this change and prepare the economy for this inevitability.
Whoever the next US President is, they will need to fundamentally understand the issues facing our technology sector, and how these impact society more broadly. For some candidates, the simple yet ill-informed answer will be to go down the path of additional regulation, or even going as far as Elizabeth Warren in proposing the break-up of the country’s biggest tech companies. These policies are just knee-jerk reactions to a much more complicated challenge. To prepare the country for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, we need to look to technological solutions of the 21st century. Anything short of this will simply be a country taking its first steps towards a slow decline in global economic leadership.
I wish I could say with confidence that, short of American leadership, Canada could be counted on to step up and demonstrate an openness to this new data revolution we’re preparing to enter, but I’m not so naive. So my best bet is to turn my optimism to our BBQ-eating neighbors. But I suspect that will only be the case under a newly elected President Yang.
Hopefully next time I meet him, I’ll be able to call him that.