August 1, 2016

    Helping Millions Help Millions

    Perennial is building a distributed model for citizen action, through software that uses social algorithms and blockchain technology

    Something strange has been happening in global affairs over the past decade. Around the world, the power of individual citizens to bring about change has been growing, as the power of governments has been falling.

    We’ve all seen how so many of today’s challenges exceed the grasp of states: human rights abuses, refugee flows, terrorism, you name it. In private our national leaders express frustration at how little ability they have to solve pressing global problems – even Barack Obama, the most powerful president in the world.

    If global affairs remained the exclusive preserve of presidents, prime ministers and diplomats, we would be in real trouble. But the other trend of the past decade has been to see how individual citizens can make a difference.

    Just think of the environment. The Paris Agreement of 2015 was the biggest breakthrough in combating climate change ever. But it only happened because millions of citizens in over one hundred countries mobilized through the People’s Climate Marches and many other civic initiatives to pressure governments to reach agreement.

    Or look at refugees. A photo of a drowned Syrian boy did more to open European and Canadian borders to thousands of desperate people fleeing terrorist violence than any government act, because it spurred citizens throughout the world to welcome refugees to their countries and their homes, at least for a time.

    When millions of people take action into their own hands, it represents a powerful force in the world. It’s called distributed action, and it’s made possible by the internet. Just as huge groups of people can engage in distributed action to write an encyclopaedia (Wikipedia), to trade billions of dollars of goods and services (think eBay), or to share rides and rooms (think Uber and AirBNB), citizens can engage in distributed action to improve their communities and our world.

    The potential for real action to solve major global problems is immense. So why waste that potential on petitioning governments, the same entities that are losing power?

    We at Perennial believe that we are on the verge of a major transformation of citizen power as we all learn how to take distributed action. And we’re building a tool to make that happen.

    Our tool starts with you, the citizen. What change do you want to make in the world? What interests you, and what skills do you have to lend a hand? We are building a network around individual citizens as the key nodes.

    As we learn about those citizens, we can build algorithms of what motivates people to action. Private companies like Facebook have already mastered these “social algorithms,” but they use them to advance their companies’ goals. We will use them to empower individuals to bring about change in the world.

    But what about security? As we know, in global affairs there are many controversial issues and making progress may mean taking on the interests of powerful people and institutions. That’s why Perennial is building its tool on the blockchain, a system that keeps critical information about users separate from the actions they take. It is a fully decentralized system so there is no master database with the privacy data of users that can be hacked into – not even those that run the software will have access to all the information.

    How will it work? As a user you won’t see the security, it will be baked into the system you are using. You’ll log on, answer a few questions and then be presented with simple, practical tasks that you can take on the issues you care about. You’ll join with thousands, eventually millions of others and as the number of tasks performed add up, you’ll start seeing changes in the real world. You’ll be changing the world with every login.