Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Using Blockchain To Disrupt Uber

Sticking with the monetizing information theme.

I'm not sure if this works but at a meta level the idea of individuals recovering the value of their information, both individual and in aggregate is intriguing.
From Quartz:

How blockchain technology can prevent the next financial crisis, disrupt Uber, and give us control of our data
... A new book, Blockchain Revolution, envisions a future where the technology doesn’t just change finance, but bring more people into the global economy and disintermediate startups like Uber and Airbnb. Quartz spoke with Alex Tapscott, the founder and CEO of blockchain advisory firm Northwest Passage Venture, about some of the more novel ideas in the book he coauthored with his father Don, and how blockchain could shape our future. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity....
...In the book, you say that companies like Uber and Airbnb can get disrupted by blockchain. Can you run through that scenario?
So Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Taskrabbit, these companies are part of the so-called sharing economy, which is a word that is incredibly misleading. They have nothing to do with sharing. Sharing is about the free exchange of information and value. What these multibillion dollar corporations do is that they’re service aggregators. They aggregate excess capacity. In Uber’s example, they aggregate cars and drivers to a centralized platform and resell them to people who are looking for a ride. And they perform a really good service. But it has its limitations. Drivers have been known to be erratic or abusive. Everyone’s subject to surge pricing. The driver’s have no collective bargaining power. Uber captures an asymmetric value of what’s created, they take 20%. In the process, they also capture all this data on people—who they are, where they’re going—and that’s stuff that can undermine privacy in future commercial exploitation. 

So you don’t need Uber to build Uber on the blockchain. You can have an app that’s built on the blockchain, let’s call its Super Uber, or SUber. And everyone can get a copy of SUber like they have Uber, they log into SUber just like they do with Uber. SUber knows what kind of car you want, where you’re going, how fast you want to get there. And it matches you automatically with a car that matches that criteria. SUber has a native payment system built into it, like Ethereum and Ether or bitcoin in the Bitcoin network, so you don’t need a centralized intermediary to process payments. You also don’t need a centralized intermediary to organize capabilities because the distributed application can do it instead. And even things like paying for fuel, negotiating liabilities, buying insurance, and automating itself is all something that the cars and drivers can do on their own. In the not-too-distant future, this could just be autonomous vehicles not owned by anyone but existing in a common app that performs this service. 

So that’s a big risk to Uber. The disruptors are going to be disrupted, we think. But it also has a lot of positive social implications. The obvious one is that drivers get to keep more of the value, and maybe that translates in lower fares for individuals. But also in a lot of parts of the world, transportation is a big civic issue. Cities like Toronto, where I live, are looking to build new subway lines that cost billions of dollars a mile. It could also mean that people’s data isn’t stored in central repositories like at Uber, but rather encrypted and controlled by them....