Can the Blockchain Empower Indigenous Communities? 0 3539

In Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown describes how US agents in the 1800s freely offered provisions, such as dry goods, to native communities, only to turn around and call it a debt after the fact.  In this way, the US used the dollar, a foreign and meaningless concept, to create poverty and dependence. It was a calculated and critical tactic in colonial subjugation of the sovereign nations flourishing on this continent.

In the Jacksonian era of the American genocide, the US paid off its own debt through dispossession, essentially selling stolen land to reduce federal deficit. This lead to the forcible removal of native nations to lands less suitable for self-sustenance, driving them deeper into impoverished dependence on the US.

Native communities are still living in this subjugation, largely excluded from the US economy. Many nations rely on tribal casinos, which cumulatively pull in upwards of $28 million annually, to generate revenues. But that system still relies on importing US dollars instead of creating wealth from within. Without mineral, water or oil rights, the nations have little to export. And now their status as sovereign nations is under threat altogether by the current administration.

Enter the blockchain.

A New Indian Head Dollar

What would happen if a native nation or coalition of nations adopted blockchain technology to create wealth from within?

A system of government cryptocurrency isn’t a new idea. But it still hasn’t been done. Governments in North America, East Asia, Europe and South America are already exploring the potential of federal digital currencies. And some experts, including Bitt founder Gabriel Abed, envision a future in which “all currencies will be digitized”.

Not all global powers are in favor of this. Fearing the collapse of crypto—or perhaps fearing its success—India has followed in China’s footsteps and announced a moratorium on financial institutions dealing with those who use crypto. Some investors are calling this a “huge mistake” that will only stifle innovation and lead to brain drain.

So while we have some examples of what will happen when states reject the blockchain, we have yet to see one fully adopt it, let alone to grow organically from it.

Fresh Soil for Self Governance

DAOstack, one of the year’s most successful ICOs to date, is using blockchain to build scalable, collaborative systems that empower collectives, tribes, markets and other groups. As DAOstack communications director Josh Zemel explains, “it’s a platform for decentralized governance that enables collectives to self-organize around shared goals or values, easily and efficiently.”

Zemel quotes founder Matan Field, saying “The first principle of designing the DAO stack was not to build a specific protocol or a specific application, but rather to build the soil, the ground from which a whole ecosystem can grow and thrive.” Properly employed, this soil could be the ground from which groups like native nations could reclaim self-governance and sovereignty.

Crypto-Utopias

The idea of a crypto-sustained community has lead a group of wealthy investors to Puerto Rico. Their goal? To establish a free and self reliant city—or at least a community—using blockchain technology. They renamed their project Sol when they found out that ‘Puertopia’ means ‘eternal boy playground.’ Despite its murky past and neocolonial implications, the outcome of Sol may provide valuable insights for other groups looking to establish self reliance and wealth generation.

Making the Switch

Because gold- or oil-backed currency is no longer the only alternative to fiat currency, a stockpile of natural resources is no longer prerequisite to creating wealth. Blockchain could be the solution to empower subjugated bodies of people, like indigenous communities in the Americas, to reclaim their power to self-govern.

Can a native nation make the switch to a decentralized blockchain infrastructure? That largely depends on whether crypto has staying power in the big picture, or whether its volatility makes it a bubble doomed to burst. But a forward thinking group could capitalize on moving first. If the chiefs are paying attention, this could be a solution centuries in the making.

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A tribal member of the Choctaw Nation, Brian grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. He's lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and now writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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7 Red Flags to Watch For When Investing in ICOs 0 2218

investing in icos

For many people thinking about investing in ICOs, it may be their first time investing. When traditional opportunities are only open to a selective few with a high net worth, cryptocurrency has democratized investing for all. But it also means that there are a lot of first timers out there not sure of what to look for when they part with their cash.

81 percent of ICOs end up becoming scams. That’s a pretty grim panorama. You have to have an iron cast stomach to want to continue investing in ICOs. But, if do you want to try your luck and see if you can back a winner, here are seven red flags to watch out for first.

1. Too Many Buzzwords

“Decentralized,” “immutable,” “distributed,” may all sound like very important words, but you need to make sure you understand what they really mean. And even more importantly, that your ICO team does as well. There’s been so much marketing hype surrounding Bitcoin and the blockchain, that many people have fallen victim to it, including the ICO startups themselves.

They may be in love with the idea of no regulation or centralized authorities, but how important is it to their actual business? And can they demonstrate a clear way of using the technology? In short, is it more than a fluffy concept on a white paper?

2. Is Their Token Really Needed?

It may be hard for a layman investing in ICOs to assess whether an ICO’s token is really needed. But, try to examine the business proposal. Could it be carried out without using cryptocurrency? What function does the token have within the actual business? Is it being built on a new platform, when it could really be built on Ether? If the ICO has a useless token it’s chances of failure are close to 100 percent.

3. An Unconvincing Management Team

This is pretty much investing 101 in any kind of area. Most top investors in IPOs will study the management team to make sure it has the right balance of passion, leadership, and technical knowhow. While an individual investor may not be able to assess this, be sure that the ICO actually has team members on their site.

If the people don’t even appear on their page, it’s quite possible that they are scam artists. And if they do appear, be sure to run a quick background check. LinkedIn or Google should be enough to at least make sure you’re on the right track.

4. Ultra High Reserves

It could be a good thing that your prospective ICO team has a high amount of reserves. But this depends on their plans to use them. If the funds are allocated to use throughout the roadmap, and not just in the early stages, that’s a good sign of intent. But, if there’s no explanation in the white paper or anywhere else about how these funds will be spent, you could consider ultra high reserves to be a red flag when investing in ICOs.

5. No Code

If there’s no code to support the idea behind the ICO, it may never materialize into something more than an idea on a piece of paper, or a fancy website. At the very least, your ICO should be able to display some technical knowledge. This means demonstrating their ideas with some working code. Being able to write the code required is a basic prerequisite and no company should be asking for finances before showing that they can translate their ideas to code.

6. A Long and Confusing Roadmap

There may be no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to how long a roadmap should be. But make sure that it makes sense and is coherent. Generally speaking when investing in ICOs, you want to get behind something that’s aiming for about two years to get off ground. If it’s longer than that, consider it carefully and ask a lot of questions.

An ICO with a five-year long roadmap may not have a plan for solving problems should it flounder after six months. And that’s the point at which they could easily run with investor money before the project ends.

7. The Same Old Faces investing in ICOs

If you’re flicking through ICOs and you see the same faces appearing on the advisory board, that could be a red flag. While it could be genuine, there’s also a possibility that the advisors are trying to profit from as many projects as they can. Don’t give them your money, too.

ICO investing isn’t for the faint-hearted and it shouldn’t be done on a whim or an instinct. Take some time to do your research, watch out for these seven red flags, and you may just come out on top.

How Companies Are Making Cryptocurrency More Usable 0 38

With each new day, there seems to be another discovery when it comes to cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. What we once thought of as a mere system for creating bitcoin has become the hottest topic in town. From fixing issues with the supply chain to revolutionizing the financial and medical worlds, there’s no end to the blockchain’s capabilities.

It’s kind of like the app store. Apple created a life-changing technology and then opened it up to a world of creative genius coming from different places. Now our smartphones can be used for everything from measuring our heart rate to monitoring our babies. And the same is happening with the blockchain.

With around a dozen ICOs appearing each day, we’re starting to see some incredibly creative ideas. Whether they’ll go the distance or not is another question. With 90 percent of apps deleted or unused after one month, ICOs also face some pretty tough competition–and a few stumbling blocks when it comes to taking their ideas off paper. So, let’s take a look at some ways of making cryptocurrency more usable.

Removing the Need to Convert Cryptocurrency to Fiat

Zeex (a sister company of Zeek group gift cards) has come up with an interesting idea. One of the greatest challenges with buying crypto right now comes when you want to spend it. Not every store accepts bitcoin and the cost of converting to fiat can be unattractively high. That’s why Zeex is currently launching a protocol that will provide the ability for cryptocurrency holders to purchase items and services without the need for fiat conversion.

Guy Melamed, Zeex CEO & Co-Founder, explains, “Zeex targets one of crypto’s biggest problems and enables the growing audience of crypto holders to buy at major brands without the need to convert to fiat and with no fees.”

Gift cards is already big business. In fact, the global gift cards market reached $679,743 million in 2016, and is set to value some $3,003,320 million by 2023. Zeek is already an established VC backed startup with more than 300K customers, who use the company’s app and marketplace as a way to trade store credit they don’t want or need. That includes credit notes, gift vouchers, gift cards and e-vouchers.

Working with All Major Retailers

Powered by Zeek’s gift card platform that works with 350+ merchants, including Amazon, Foot Locker, and Starbucks, Zeex users will be able to make purchases using cryptocurrency. They can shop on Amazon using digital cash without the need for a traditional-crypto money conversion. There are no additional fees and it’s a simple, private, and secure procedure.

Through their platform, Zeex aims to connect the booming gift card market with the massive need for liquidity options in the crypto market. Pretty creative idea. How did they come up with something like that?

Melamed says, “We needed to find a creative payment method that would:

  1. Leave the traditional thinking and skip conversion to fiat altogether.
  2.  Avoid centralization and make sure no middleman can manipulate or stop the platform

By using the rails of virtual gift cards and placing a complete off-chain product on the blockchain, we managed to do just that and create a simple way for crypto holders to buy at the biggest brands, even if they don’t accept crypto.”

Combatting Crypto’s Infamous Volatility

Beyond converting crypto to fiat, another problem with cryptocurrency is that it’s incredibly sensitive to price fluctuation. How do you pay for goods that value $10 one day, $150 the next, and $1.50 a week later?

We’re starting to see the emergence of companies providing a solution to this problem. UbiquiCoin has emerged as one of the first decentralized currencies to take a two-coin approach to allow for crypto to be widely used. On the one side, they have a transaction coin at a stable rate that merchants everywhere could rely on. On the other, an investment coin that functions as their investment vehicle.

Unlike Bitcoin and other popular coins, UbiquiCoin is designed to be used for making daily purchases. From coffee and groceries to paying utility bills, it’s exempt from price volatility.

We’re yet to discover just how extraordinary cryptocurrency and the blockchain will be in our lives. The technology is still in its infancy and experiencing some teething trouble. With companies like Zeex and UbiquiCoin smoothing out the problems, we could soon be able to use cryptocurrency more widely.

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