- Blockchain startup Dirt Protocol just got $3 million from investors including General Catalyst, Greylock, Lightspeed, and Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam.
- Dirt Protocol's goal is to incentivize truth through a token-based voting system.
- The company's founder, Yin Wu, describes it as a blockchain-based Wikipedia.
When Yin Wu, 29, began brainstorming names for her blockchain company, Dirt Protocol, she took the opposite approach of most founders.
"There's a lot of companies in the blockchain industry that have big, lofty sounding names," said Wu. "We wanted to do the opposite."
While "dirt" might conjure to mind a project of unassuming origins, for Wu, it clearly conveys the company's fundamental purpose.
"Dirt comes from the ground, right?" she said."It's foundational. You need dirt to grow."
Dirt Protocol has vast ambitions for its application of decentralized technology -- both business-wise and philosophically.
Its primary goal? Incentivizing truth.
To do so, Dirt Protocol has received $3 million from blue chip tech investors including General Catalyst, Greylock, Lightspeed, and Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam.
Spreading false information would become "economically irrational"
The blockchain has been used to tokenize any number of assets, both tangible and otherwise. But what if you could tokenize knowledge in a way that benefited the most trustworthy information?
Sean Gallup/Getty Images"Think of Dirt as a set of rules that make it economically irrational to spread false information," said Wu. "With Dirt, if you want to spread a piece of information, you'd need to stake a token."
Wu, a Stanford dropout, offers up her college education as an example:
"For instance, I could say that I'm willing to put down 10 Dirt tokens on the claim that I graduated from Stanford," said Wu. "But it's not true, so someone could easily say, 'I'm going to put down 10 tokens to challenge that information.'"
The challenge would then go to a vote, with participants each putting a token down on the claim they believe to be most trustworthy.
"In a vote, anyone can put down tokens on either my claim or [my contender's]," said Wu.
Lose the popular vote and you lose your tokens. Vote poorly on a claim, and you'll be meted a small penalty for picking the losing choice, as well. If you offer up the winning information, or vote on the majority's pick, you earn a portion of the token winnings.
Wu describes the winnings as as "an information bounty" that's set up to reward accurate information.
"As a network, there's an incentive to be honest because the value of our tokens will only stay up if people are using them in good faith," she said.
Dirt's first goal is to restore credibility to the blockchain industry using its voting system
Dirt's first goal is to apply its voting system to claims within the blockchain industry itself, where scam and misrepresentation are endemic. If there's a way to verify a blockchain project's claim, like the integrity of a company's forthcoming initial coin offering, Wu suggests it might restore the community's credibility.
From there, the applications are seemingly limitless. Wu suggests that Dirt's voting system could one day be applied to platforms like Facebook or Google, where commenters could back their claims with digital assets.
But what about people with large followings who could potentially rig the system in their favor?
Wu says that this is a hurdle that Dirt will have to cross in the future.
It's possible, Wu said, that people with large followings could break a vote because they have more resources, but she was quick to point out that this is an issue that plagues other platforms as well.
"If someone has a large Twitter following, they can still spread whatever information they want, right?" She said.
If someone is spreading misinformation, however, Wu said that Dirt would potentially rank their vote as less credible.
But for now, Dirt's primary concern is with information that has commercial value. The data collected by Dirt would be stored on the ethereum blockchain, where it wouldn't belong to any corporation or company.
To anyone doubting Dirt's ambitions for the digital-asset backed information, Wu points out Wikipedia as a prime example of a crowd-sourced truth-based project that worked.
"We're creating Wikipedia, but with machine-readable data sets that belong in the public domain, and don’t belong to a single party," Wu said.
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