During the afternoon session of a conference that took place in Brussels on Tuesday 17/2, it is my interpretation that Fabrizio Sestini indicated there is currently an opportunity to produce a collaboratively written agenda for Europe on distributed architectures for decenteralised data management. At the political level the EC is currently tackling data-monopolies through conventional means but this is clearly not enough. For context, please read this post summarising key discussions during the event: https://edgeryders.eu/en/blog/shaping-the-future-of-digital-social-innovation-in-europe-what
Fabrizio wishes to contribute to this effort by building an appropriate research program and getting member states to accept it.
Sestini: “…Problem: when we talk about distributed, different people mean different things. Data storage, data management, do we need a different internet? What is technically or practically are the directions we should investigate and priorities ?”
Morozov: “the biggest contribution you can make is to show that there is alternative mode of action to the mode of action imposed by silicon valley. Take a device, release all the data it collects…and then make app for experimenting with it. In a way that does not require us to pay one dollar to a developer in Slilicon Valley. A key to that is the ability to compare notes, and you cannot do that currently because devices are locked. And because an economy has emerged in selling us solutions. So you need to fund a project that will take problem currently being solved in a commodified way, and tackling it differently. That is the argument you can then make to cities and governments that the problems they currently cannot solve and that citizens now have to pay to solve…can be tackled differently. But this not about open data. The problem you have is that of the providers of solutions.”
Fabrizio told people in the room that If we wish to see the EC support work on distributed architectures, we need to help him and others build a case for this. To succeed in this endeavor he believes we would need to make a proposal that touches three levels:
A. Strategic level - The problem is that when we talk about distributed, different people mean different things. Data storage, data management, do we need a different internet? What is technically or practically are the directions we should investigate and priorities? Right now if we ask people, some will say put all the money in crypto. Others will say data storage. What is a strategically sound plan for what to prioritise in which order?
B. Technical level - How do we shape a research agenda? It is very difficult- we need to answer the question of what could be desirable (from political perspectives) outcomes of a 10 million Euro investment in research? What is the required level of funding required in order to have an impact?
C. Political level - How do we build a political case and sell it at the level of national governments? Many of which are actively pushing policies at odds with the agenda of decentralised solutions- which in turn depends on public opinion. We need to make the case through examples and cases which are clear and easy to understand, also for those not working in/with technology. "We need to produce a pedagogical description of distributed architectures. Starting with defining basic concepts. Think questions like “what is a blockchain” and replies like “Blockchains are chains of contracts stamped with timestamps that cannot be faked” + clear explanation as to why this is the case. So people feel they have a clear understanding. Some examples provided by participants in the meeting included resilience of storage (so we are not screwed by central points of failure), finance/online payment and credit cards.
Who does the work calls the shots
In the next couple of weeks a meeting will be held in Brussels during which a proposal for a large research program will be drafted and then sent to the member states to approve. In order to make the most of the opportunity, those of us who with to see Europe move in this direction might do well to prepare a shared agenda for what we want to see in the proposal so that we are coherent and consistent. It’s also a good opportunity for people trying to tackle the consequences of various socialecological, economic and political crises in Europe to think strategically about how we can align our work in different areas to contribute to such a development.
If you wish to work on this with me, please leave a thoughtful comment about the contents of this blogpost (post them on the blogpost page, not here, please). I commit to weaving them together into a first draft that you can then share with our respective networks and communities to get the conversation going.
Ideally the comment would connect the discussions during the event with your own work.