Human collective mind and a how a harmless blockchain potentially turned into an assassination…

Human collective mind and a how a harmless blockchain potentially turned into an assassination market.

Hitmen, the blockchain, collective mind, and super-forecaster. If you also are thinking “how the hell are those thing connected?” you are probably just gonna be amazed once again by the wonderful world of the internet.

Ok. So it is hard for me to choose where to start. So I will take the argument, the way I like it. As far as possible. Let’s start from the concept of wisdom of crowds.

The wisdom of crowds is a concept stating that opinions coming from large groups are more accurate than opinions coming from experts or singular individuals. The concept especially apply to questions involving quantity estimation, general world knowledge, and spatial reasoning.

One on the main example was given by the statistician Francis Galton who observed the phenomena in a country fair contest. The contest involved 800 participants trying to estimate the weight of a slaughtered ox. The median guess (1207 pounds) was in the 1% accuracy of the true weight of the ox (1198 pounds).

Research into this phenomena tends to give it explanation to the elimination of individual noise in large groups. Random errors, errors that causes measurements (in this case assumptions) being inconsistent when repeated, tend to be eliminated.

In 2004 Surowiecki defines further the attributes that a wise crowds needs to have in order to take an accurate decision.

These attributes are: diversity of opinion (private information about the event) , independence (not influenced by other member of group), decentralization (members can pick up on local knowledge), aggregation (a method to aggregate their opinion) and trust (each member trust the other to be fair).

This argument has been the subject of many research recently. And not just to measurements, but applied also to future event predictions.

A couple of days ago BBC Future in collaboration with Nesta, the UK innovation foundation, launched the “You Predict The Future Challenge”.

You can register and try to predict a series of events. For example, one of the questions as reported on the BBC website is:

Before 1 January 2020, will either SpaceX or Boeing launch its first crewed space mission?


Yes, only SpaceX

Yes, only Boeing

Yes, both Space X and Boeing

The aim is to study the phenomena on predictions, based on collective intelligences and groups acting as one but also studies show that “forecasting increases open-mindedness, the ability to consider alternative scenarios, and reduces political polarization”.

The idea of a collective mind has been discussed for long time into the history of philosophy. Recently I was reading a really cool essay (Man, Android and Machine, 1975) from one of my favorite sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, who discussed the idea of collective mind picking up from different ideas from philosopher (Theilhard, Vernadsky, Bergson) from many epochs . He describes a “neural network” in its original meaning, created by the right part of the brain of humans (noosphere) where humans can pick up unconsciously notions, with a concept of non linear time, which could give information also on the future event. I love when sometimes so different fields (statistic, philosophy) can approach a problem in a similar but very different way.

On the same argument a movie that I love from Richard Linklater “Waking Life” has a very interesting clip.

I am clearly losing focus on the main point of the article! I should definitely not discuss philosophy, movies (and maybe personal experiences with psychedelics) in a tech article.

This concept has been largely used also in finance. For market predictions, and a blockchain, Augur, has based its main idea on this.

Augur can apparently seem very similar to a betting website.

The blockchain allows to create and give an informed opinion through a fee on whatever kind of events (political , economical, weather, natural disasters and so on). The idea is to have the equivalent of an online oracle for future events based on the wisdom of a large group of people. High participation fee should discourage people poorly informed making the group “wise”. The participation fees of the losers are taken and divided proportionally to the bet among the winners. So far, so good. If you ask me, a fancy way to set up a betting blockchain.

The opportunity of creating every kind of events had unimagined consequences . People started to create events on deaths of other people in a certain frame of time. Obviously if that person is in a good health, there would be no reason to “bet” on his death, so probably money would accumulate on the NO.

An event can be considered “unpredictable” as long as the better is not an active part into its outcome, so the platform turned into something dangerous. A user could potentially place a bet on the death of a person and then be active part on the outcome of the event winning large amount of money.

Other users could create an event on a death of a person and bet heavily on him to not die to encourage a hitmen to kill that person, and everything anonymously.

The platform took the distance from these speculations, and stated that they are not responsible for how users use the platform, and refused to remove these events which rises future unethical potentiality for the blockchain.

Human collective mind and a how a harmless blockchain potentially turned into an assassination… was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.