Estonian Skype Founder Jaan Tallinn Wants to Save the World with Blockchain


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Jaan Tallinn is no stranger to distributed technologies – he’s considered to be one of the foremost experts on P2P technologies, and together with fellow Estonians Ahti Heinla and Priit Kasesalu worked out the core elements for Kazaa and Skype.

And now, according to a recent article in the Telegraph in the UK, Tallinn wants to save the world with Blockchain – and he has spent a year working out how the technology can be used to solve humanity’s biggest problems, from crime and corruption to deforestation and over-fishing.

“The interesting thing about Blockchain is that it has made it possible for humanity to reach a consensus about a piece of data without having any authority to dictate it,” Tallinn told the Telegraph. “Imagine if you could use this to solve bigger problems that require global co-ordination.”

According to the article,  he feels that Blockchain can solve the Tragedy of the Commons and came to this conclusion after reading Scott Alexander’s blog post – Meditations on Moloch.

The Tragedy of the Commons written by Garrett Hardin in 1968 in Science magazine focuses on how individually rational economic decisions can lead to environmental ruin. Using examples from early 19th century, agrarian England, his essay focuses on herders sharing a common parcel of land on which each is allowed to graze their sheep.  While overgrazing of the “commons” inevitably leads to the depletion/destruction of the parcel, each individual herder finds it in his/her economic interest to add an extra sheep or two to graze on the commons.  Thus can individually rational actions work to the detriment of all by destroying resources held in common. Essentially it’s about people’s short-term selfish interests at odds with long-term group interests and the common good.

“Shaming people into being virtuous doesn’t change behaviour,” claimed Mr Tallinn. “Incentive schemes, whereby people who have done the most good for humanity are rewarded 20 years into the future would create the expectation that doing long-term good is valuable.”


Tallinn, who is speaking at the International Festival for Business in Liverpool, is compiling a research paper on ways of using Blockchain to create more co-ordination mechanisms. 

He is a proponent for the study of existential risk and has given numerous talks on the topic and h e feels humanity is not spending enough resources on long-term planning and mitigating threats that could potentially wipe us out as a species. Tallinn is also one of the founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, and the Future of Life Institute.


About Richard Kastelein

Founder of industry publication Blockchain News, partner at ICO services collective CryptoAsset Design Group (helped raise over $200m+), director of education company Blockchain Partners (Oracle Partner) and ICO event organiser at leading industry event  CryptoFinancing (first ICO event in Europe) - Richard Kastelein is an award-winning publisher, innovation executive and entrepreneur. He sits on the advisory boards of half a dozen Blockchain startups and has written over 1200 articles on Blockchain technology and startups at Blockchain News and has also published pioneering articles on ICOs in Harvard Business Review and Venturebeat.
Kastelein has spoken (keynotes & panels) on Blockchain technology in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Bucharest, Dubai, Eindhoven, Gdansk, Groningen, the Hague, Helsinki, London, Manchester, Minsk, Nairobi, Nanchang, San Mateo, Shanghai,Tel Aviv and Venice. His network is global and extensive.
He is a Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Métis) whose writing career has ranged from the Canadian Native Press (Arctic) to the Caribbean & Europe. He's written occasionally for Harvard Business Review, Wired, Venturebeat, The Guardian and and his work and ideas have been translated into Dutch, Greek, Polish, German and French.
A journalist by trade, an entrepreneur and adventurer at heart, Kastelein's professional career has ranged from political publishing to TV technology, boatbuilding to judging startups, skippering yachts to marketing and more as he's travelled for nearly 30 years as a Canadian expatriate living around the world.
In his 20s, he sailed around the world on small yachts and wrote a series of travel articles called, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Seas' travelling by hitching rides on yachts (1989) in major travel and yachting publications. He currently lives in Groningen, Netherlands where he's raising three teenage daughters with his wife and sailing partner, Wieke Beenen.

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