Blockchain Ethics

Rhys Lindmark 1991-2030, feedback wanted

Hi guys,

I would love some feedback on my first future obituary. Just like Alex Berke, I appreciate brutal honesty. To remind you, I have created a future in 2030 (I couldn’t make it to 2040 as originally planned, as I simply couldn’t hold it all in my head). In a number of obituaries, pretending to be written in 2030, I will trace paths through this future - the first one being Rhys’. In aggregate, these paths will reveal that future.

I had to kill Rhys in 2030, sorry about that!

Advocate for ethical behavior

Rhys Lindmark, the force behind including random acts of kindness into the 10 values, died on 1 July 2030, aged 39

Walking the streets of Kathmandu, Rhys didn’t learn many words apart from namaste. But he understood that it means “I bow to the divine in you”, and he performed the bow, palms pressed together, earnestly. Eating kothey momos in street stalls, turning prayer wheels in stupas, and breathing in gasoline fumes, it was the poverty, the filth and the lack of sanitation that struck him the most. Looking out on sun-lit Himalayas from Chandragiri Hills, he wondered whether it really had to be like this.

A few months later, back in Cherry Creek, Denver, he watched footage from the earthquake devastation, hitting the poorest the hardest, and he resolved to focus his energies on meaningful action.

But what was that? How can we best impact the world? Rhys had been a nerd at high school, and with some friends he started a music learning app, becoming the CTO. But in the 2010s, the dopamine hit basis of education was still in its infancy, and it was widely associated with caged rats frantically pressing buttons. It wasn’t meaningful action.

He got into digital ledgers which at the time many fellow nerds saw as a revolutionary tool to bank the unbanked and generally provide a technical fix for the world’s ills. This took him to MIT’s Media Lab, where he spearheaded a course on blockchain ethics. The Media Lab had had a Center for the Future of Banking which had pioneered the use of early decision science to analyze human expressions and recognize emotions.

On a visit back home with his aging parents, he went up to the top floor and looked out over the sun setting behind the Rockies. The insight came to him that we could track good behavior and maybe encourage it with dopamine hits. At scale, this could be meaningful impact.

He moved to Silicon Valley and received some generous funding from the Gates Foundation. With this, he convinced the Stanford Shopping Center to host a pilot project, identifying people holding doors for others. At first, screens just displayed random acts of kindness, but in subsequent iterations perpetrators of RAOKs were identified and top achievers were given prizes. Lindmark set out to develop AI to identify more RAOKs and expand the scheme to other malls, in the process becoming a frequent visitor on cable TV morning shows. Gradually, Raok built up a portfolio of identifiable good behavior, ranging from polite phrases to signaling respect, including the “I bow to the divine in you” with pressed palms.

With size, Raok began to put its data on a distributed ledger and the identity of the achievers became an issue. Lindmark and Shileen Jones, of SafID, already started discussing this already in and around Sand Hill Road in the early 2020s. Raok pioneered the analysis of on-avatar behavior, and shortly before the California earthquake SafID swooped in and acquired Lindmark’s company.

SafID had been mainly interested in Raok’s off-avatar and on-avatar software, but Lindmark had insisted on ethical behavior becoming one of the 10 values ranking individuals, even dropping the price in return for smart contractual assurances.

Joining Silicon Valley’s Quake Wake exodus to Rupat Island, SafID contributed to building up the new jurisdiction’s role as the global ID center, and indirectly also to Singapore’s and the US’s lease payments to Indonesia.

Lindmark got involved with improving detection of ethical behavior on and off avatar, but he focused on the academic accreditation in on-avatar gaming exams, starting with 5-year olds in his children’s kindergarten on Rupat Island, and continuing with expanding the technology to adult competitions, both academic and non-academic. The spread of bowing to the divine in you outside the namaste heartland is probably creditable to SafID’s incorporation of the gesture.

In a talk last February, Lindmark considered his children, Annie and Sebastian, his greatest achievement, closely followed by having RAOK scores established as one of the 10 values tracked by SafID.

Tragically, the taxiplane taking him to Singapore failed to recognize a goat on the runway, crashing and burning. The black box revealed that he was working on RAOKs in traffic at the moment of the crash.

Woah! This is cool (and strange) to read about myself (and my death). Some thoughts:

  • I like how you incorporate in a wide variety of other events into the narrative (“the California earthquake”, “taxiplane”, etc.)
  • It’s cool how you incorporated pieces of my non-professional story into the obit (e.g. “children as greatest achievement”, my time in Nepal, etc.)
  • FYI, the Media Lab does a RAOK event: https://www.media.mit.edu/posts/rak-week/
  • Overall, it seems like a relatively plausible future. I do think we’ll move to “value pluralism” (away from our 1D value we have now). Though I’m not sure I’ll focus on formalizing it as much as you note here.

Thanks for writing it up, Arne! Fingers crossed I live longer than 39 (while also accepting death if it comes :).

You’ll live to 100, at least!