Recently, I had the chance to sit down Chris Bates, the Cheif Security Officer of BitLand. It was a great conversation and not very long into our discussion, I came to the conclusion that Chris is a big thinker. I hope you appreciate the first part my interview with Christ and be on the lookout for Part 2 in the coming weeks!
[KH] How did you become acquainted with blockchain technology?[CB] It happened when I was living in Turkey and I started hearing about Bitcoin and its affiliation with Silk Road. I started doing more research into Bitcoin but was thrown off by the pairing. However, I got back into cryptocurrencies through Dogecoin because they were sponsoring the construction of wells in Africa and other clean water projects.
So many people were doing so many positive things by pooling their money into these projects. They were even more transparent than what I saw with conventional charitable entities who were working with millions of dollars. This made me look into how the blockchain funded projects were functioning as opposed to the way regular charities were operating.
What I saw was blockchain technology has the capacity to make capital use transparent and if someone is putting money towards a cause it would be easy for someone to see where the money was going. That’s what really got me interested in looking into the potential of the technology and understanding the economics and social adoption that was needed in the sense of how do you get someone to adopt something in the first place? I try to understand blockchain through all the aspects rather than just the cryptographic hash technological aspect.
That’s interesting. I spoke to someone not too long ago about how they used crypto-currencies to help families in Nepal after the earthquake instead of donating to the Red Cross after they saw how the money was mismanaged with the earthquake in Haiti. He was able to set up tin-roof shelters for over 30 families with only a few thousand dollars.
Those are the types of things I started examining early in 2012 and 2013 before Livestrong had an incident of mishandling their funds. I noticed a pattern after seeing it again with what happened in Haiti with the Red Cross.
What I began to find is that charities don’t work whether it is conceptually or in the application. So what ended up happening is even though Bitland started out as an NGO, it is now limited business entity. Bitland is a socially-minded humanitarian company that follows business practices that allow people to have a fair chance to earn wealth instead of being given a handout or a way out of poverty with strings attached. That doesn’t really allow the underprivileged to get out of poverty, and they never become wealthy that way.
We as a society have seen that charity doesn’t really work. How many 5Ks do people need to run before they understand that they won’t cure cancer? We’re misappropriating scientific research and the application of capital on the ground for a middleman called charity where a very small part of it is transparent. To go further how it applies to taxes and corporate research and development.
How much of the corporate culture is centered around high-level Executives getting a disproportionate amount of pay and nobody knowing where the money is really going in a company? However, if a company implements a blockchain they may not have as much of a problem and be may be more efficient and making more money because their transactions are taking place with lower overhead from unnecessary intermediaries.
In reality, the economy would do much better and actually be more efficient and evolve quicker if we implement systems that cut out the middlemen because they don’t benefit anyone other than themselves. Extreme ideologies like communism, socialism or free market capitalism don’t work in the real world. The people who tout free market capitalism as the solution to the woes of humanity often conflate the application of capital to development and research as a benefit of capitalism, where in actuality, those are two totally different things.
Many economic theories sound great until you put them into the real world and try to apply them. Most of these economists have no idea what it is like to be a worker, thus they have no idea of what motivates workers.
I’ve worked a lot of blue-collar jobs, some of which were during the coldest winters on record. I enjoy doing physical work and labor-intensive jobs, but it’s not about it being fun. Instead, I need to do these things every so often in order to understand the needs of workers and their sentiments. I have experience as a psychologist and have conducted research, so I want to understand how these theories can be applied to motivate employees and a lot of economic theories leave out the human element, thinking workers are just robots. You have a lot of people who don’t understand the worker’s mindset because they’ve never done it before or it’s been so long since they’ve done it, so they have no business trying to comment on these motivations. However, I understand the blue-collar mindset as well as blockchain Technology.
So when we take that kind of disconnect and put it in context with implementing digital currencies, what I find is people in the mainstream talking about how digital currencies can change the globe, but what they are saying is completely absurd. For example, in the sense of Africa, where so many in the Bitcoin space think it is going to “save” Africa or “drastically change” Africa. All of these people conveniently leave out M-Pesa in the conversation, because M-Pesa, as far as adoption goes, has dwarfed a number of Bitcoin users and other digital currencies in the same period of time.
The reason is M-Pesa’s ease of use. This is one of the things that the cryptocurrency community has fought against and they’ve tried to make things more complex to the point where that was what drove the community for so long and the reason why most digital currencies have not caught on yet is because those people have no idea what the average user wants and have no idea what mainstream consumers are looking for. The reason why some of these projects continue to fail is that they are trying to get consumers to adapt to the technology without evaluating what motivates the people who are actually going to use the product.
It is very clear to me that there are people in the cryptocurrency community that have special interests and are not being objective in how they present information and whether they’re invested in if the Ethereum, Bitcoin, or Dash; any person that pushes one currency over any other is invested in that currency and I can almost say it with 100% confidence.
What is the Bitland project?
The Bitland project is digitizing land records using a public blockchain in order to get unregistered land onto the market and make them into functioning properties. The great thing about this is a lot of countries have mechanisms in place where we can just come in, attach a blockchain and upgrade their records. We do this by digitizing them and from that point on that record can now have and identity attached to it in the blockchain that has an immutable record which can be referenced. Thus solving land disputes can then be an issue of examining a digital title instead of relying on what some person is holding a physical record that could have been altered. Many of the land disputes come from the non-digitized paper records that are currently in place in these countries.
We are working to develop international standards that will help establish a general culture that is inclined towards transparency and following the rules rather than people were inclined to being corrupt and work off the books.
How did you get involved in this project?
Early on Nari (Narigamba Mwinsuubo) was trying to build the team to take it from theory to product and I was one of the first people he contacted to ask for help with the project. I liked the concept as it was a viable, impactful, and had a lot of potential. So I said I would work on the project pro-bono and see where we can take it and that’s how I joined the team in late 2014.
What is your role in the project and how has it evolved from then to now?
Early on in the project, I was moving to change the brand identity because I felt that they were approaching certain aspects of the project all wrong and needed to remove some of the anti-government rhetoric.
We were able to reframe how we were going to approach things and that’s when I came in as Chief security officer and basically tried to protect the project from having the concepts stolen or having the project implode in any way. Once we were able to reframe the project I felt more comfortable putting my name on and getting even more involved.
I’m one of the few people in the crypto space that actually is pro-government when it comes to implementing blockchain technology. The reason why I feel this way is this is the only way blockchain technology is ever going to last long term; that is, there has to be some degree of government buy-in and compliance.
There are a lot of people who feel is a Bitcoin and the blockchain are a sort of panacea and try to deify this technology in disturbing ways that amounts to a Ponzi scheme. I think they do this because they really don’t understand what Bitcoin is.