In this article I want to explore how Elon Musk could quickly, cheaply, and effectively execute the credibility-score-for-media-outlets that he proposed in a recent tweet.
While this is an extremely complex problem, it highlights the utility of our upcoming Smart Media Tokens protocol as that complexity would be outsourced almost entirely to the protocol resulting in what is effectively a simple solution for anyone looking to solve the problem (not just Elon Musk). Not only that, but the following implementation would actually have superior specifications to those proposed by Musk as this solution would be ungameable, sustainable, scalable, and eternal thanks to the decentralization that results from using the Steem blockchain.
The problem Musk wishes solved can be summarized thusly: create a point system that scores media outlets based on a characteristic or set of characteristics. Those are "Musk's Specs." The following specs, however, will solve for additional problems which can be summarized thusly: create a point system that scores media outlets based on a characteristic or set of characteristics and that leverages the wisdom-of-the-crowd as well as decentralization to ensure that the system is ungameable, sustainable, scalable, and eternal.
The first step toward making this "scoring system" work is to tokenize it. In an ordinary "point system" the points are effectively meaningless. They are created by some entity which deals them out based on their subjective evaluations. This is an important point, as whether a media outlet is credible or not is a subjective evaluation. Some people think Breitbart is credible and CNN is not credible. Some people think the National Enquirer is credible and that the New York Times is not credible. As long as you have a specific group of people with total control over making a subjective determination, that determination will be inherently untrustworthy and the "points" they distribute lacking in value.
Technically, tokenization would simply mean that instead of the points being arbitrary and meaningless, each point would actually be a unique token--it would have a unique identifier--which would distinguish it from every other point in the system. Simple tokenization, however, is not a significant improvement over anything else. That's because as long as it is still the case that a particular entity (or group of entities) has total control over those tokens, then they can create and destroy tokens at will, distribute them to the wrong people, or take them away from the right people. Humans, after all, are faillible.
Smart Media Tokenization
What Tokenization through Smart Media Tokens will add to the equation is that these tokens will now be; 1. decentralized, 2. limited in supply, and 3. autonomously distributed by the very users leveraging the platform.
Limited Supply and Decentralized
What the Smart Media Token protocol (SMT) will enable is the creation of a self-sustaining token system automatically created and maintained by the Steem blockchain. The individual tokens powering this system are generated algorithmically based on parameters that are selected by the creator prior to launch and then--after the launch--distributed among accounts based on the stake-weighted upvotes of users.
Once the SMT is launched, the task of creating and distributing the tokens falls entirely on the Steem blockchain which has been distributing similar rewards in the form of STEEM tokens for 2 years now. In short, no one controls how the tokens are generated (once launched), no one controls the rate at which they are created, and no one controls how they are distributed, making it both fair and decentralized.
After the SMT is created (let’s call it Pravda Coin) individual tokens will begin to be generated based on the initial specifications, but they will sit inside a “Rewards Pool” and remain there until its users begin to upvote content based on how credible they believe it to be. The Steem blockchain will then use those upvotes to calculate how many Pravda Coin should go to the content creator; e.g. the New York Times.
At this point in the exercise it’s important to look back and see just how much we have already accomplished with zero technical development. The Smart Media Tokens protocol will enable anyone--not just developers--to create a functional token that 1. nobody owns or controls, 2. that no one has to oversee or maintain, 3. and is being autonomously distributed by the users of a platform based on their subjective judgments of whether the outlet is credible.
Put another way, we are already crowdsourcing the evaluation of credibility by leveraging a decentralized token distribution system.
The next critical element of the token is incentivization. The best designed system in the world--and the best of intentions--won’t accomplish much if the necessary players aren’t incentivized to play the game. Thankfully, this is another place where Smart Media Tokens will shine.
There are essentially 2 critical players in this game: 1. the outlet that wants to prove it is credible, and 2. the user who wants to know which outlets are credible. If either one is not incentivized to play this game, the game won’t work. The token will not be tied to credibility, and therefore will have no value. For this reason, both parties need to be able to win Pravda tokens. That being said the primary role of this token is to measure the credibility of a publication, so the majority of tokens should still go to the outlets. Here’s one way that could work with a Smart Media Token.
Vote Givers, Vote Receivers
We already understand that there are at least two types of accounts when it comes to Smart Media Tokens: accounts that are upvoting content, and accounts that are receiving tokens based on those upvotes. When one is preparing to release a Smart Media Token, they will be able to select what percentage of the tokens inside that SMT’s Rewards Pool will be allocated to the people receiving upvotes/downvotes (in this case media outlets) and what percentage will be allocated the voters.
In this particular case, let’s specify that 90% of the Pravda Coin supply is to be allocated to accounts that receive upvotes, and the remaining 10% of the token supply will go to the people providing the upvotes. Now, if 100 Pravda Coin are created every day, 90 of them will only be distributed to the accounts that receive upvotes from users based on their evaluation of the outlet’s credibility. The remaining 10 tokens, however, will not simply be distributed to everyone who votes. This would create an incentive to simply vote on everything. Instead, those tokens will remain in the Rewards Pool waiting to see whether other people agree with the upvotes that have been rendered. In addition, voting power is a limited resource which diminishes with every vote, but regenerated gradually over time. That creates a disincentive to vote on everything, because that strategy would their ability vote on something actually credible and that will therefore be more likely to receive upvotes from other users in the future.
Imagine that I upvote something that either I do not believe is credible, just for shits and giggles. After all, people like to mess around (troll, etc.) and any system that requires people to not be people is destined to fail. Am I going to earn Pravda Coin for this action? Only if other people who possess a significant number of Pravda Coin also upvote the same content. In other words, if you want Pravda Coin you have to upvote outlets that Pravda Coin-holders (people who have skin-in-the-Pravda-Coin-game) also upvote.
While we already had a remarkably capable token system, what we have now added to that system is a way to incentivize both the outlets that want to prove they’re credible, as well as the consumers of that who will conveniently serve the addition function of evaluating the credibility of those outlets through their votes. Not only that, but we’ve managed to do so in a way that creates an incentive to “play by the rules” as well as a disincentive to play maliciously as doing so would only decrease the value of the player’s stake (the tokens they earn and hold).
The Final Piece: A Market
While all of these pieces are incredibly important, almost none of it would matter if these tokens were worthless because worthless tokens aren’t going to effectively incentivize any behaviors. The value of the token comes from whether or not it is a critical component of a valuable ecosystem, but the price of the token can only come from a market, and markets are incredibly difficult to get into. Fortunately, Smart Media Tokens will launch alongside a decentralized exchange inside the Steem blockchain, and every SMT will be immediately liquid for the native token of that blockchain: STEEM.
That is the final piece of the puzzle. A credibility point system like this is really only useful if everyone uses it and the only way that’s going to happen is if you pay them to use it. This highlights the elegance of Smart Media Tokens. Because Pravda Coin will immediately be tradeable for STEEM, they will immediately acquire a price. If the token design is sound, if the community spearheading the adoption of that token is effective and valuable, then Pravda Coin will simply be valuable tokens sitting in a Rewards Pool, waiting for the first organization to adopt it. In short, the only reason to refuse to adopt Pravda Coin would be 1. if you don’t like money, and 2. if you don’t care whether people think you are credible.
That being said, this is an open system, which means anyone could create an account associated with a particular media outlet--regardless of whether or not they are affiliated with it--and empower Pravda users to upvote or downvote that account based on the credibility of the associated outlet. So just because an outlet refuses adopt Pravda Coin into their platform, doesn’t mean we have to exclude it from our token system. In fact, if there is a serious media outlet that is refusing to adopt Pravda Coin, that creates a gap in the market that anyone can exploit by creating that account themselves and earning the associated Pravda Coin!
Flagging Propaganda & Botnets
In a later tweet, Musk also discussed creating a website and providing users with the ability to flag propaganda botnets. This really highlights just how powerful Smart Media Tokens will be, because we can easily leverage the solution already outlined to address this problem. With respect to flagging botnets, that would be accomplished by the “downvote” function of the SMT. The very same people who are being incentivized to find credible news stories could be tasked with flagging propaganda. An upvote means “credible” a downvote means “propaganda.” Simple. One can already view a remarkably similar implementation of that feature on this very site!
The rating site would be simple as well, since all that would be needed is to display the outlets in order based on their Pravda Coin holdings. You could even create another site that ranks all the best “Credibility Curators” which would also be based on Pravda Coin holdings, but of the people that have earned them through their upvotes. In fact, because the whole system is open and transparent, all kinds of applications could be built to display the information generated by this token system in ways we can’t even imagine.
Thank You For Reading!
The goal of this post was to highlight some of the unique value propositions of Smart Media Tokens by explaining how they might be leveraged to create a credibility token like the one mentioned by Elon Musk. Smart Media Tokens are still in development, and this is only one potential use case. The last thing I want to close on is that while Smart Media Tokens sounds great, they can only be of use if they reside on a blockchain capable handling the number of transactions that such an application would generate. That’s where the Steem blockchain comes in.
Steem is already processing more transactions per day than every other blockchain combined and it is accomplishing this while utilizing only a tiny fraction of its network capacity. Not only that, unlike Ethereum, Bitcoin, or any other of the major blockchains, Steem guarantees that every single transaction will occur in real-time and with zero fees. This why Steem is the only blockchain powering real applications, that ordinary people use and love every day like d.tube, dlive.io, utopian.io, and of course steemit.com.
In other words, Steem isn’t the best blockchain for Smart Media Tokens … it’s the only blockchain for Smart Media Tokens. If you’d like to learn more about Smart Media Tokens, head on over to smt.steem.io to read the whitepaper and subscribe to @steemitblog on steemit.com for updates.
Content Director, Steemit