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Home Opinion Trent McConaghy: Tokenize Bits, and Atoms From information highways to… highways

    Trent McConaghy: Tokenize Bits, and Atoms From information highways to… highways

    Image: Infinity Room, Yayoi Kusama iicense: CC-BY-SA 4.0


    So far, we’ve seen token launches for startups on internet infrastructure (bits). That gives at least two dimensions to extend:

    1. Type of organization that tokenizes. Startup → Enterprise → City → Country
    2. Type of infrastructure being built. For bits → For atoms.

    Dimension 1: Type of Organization That Tokenizes

    Startup. This is what we’ve seen so far: a startup trying to create a new ecosystem. Think Ethereum for processing, or (more recently) Ocean for data. And, we’ve only seen ‘blockchain-first’ startups; there remain the other 99% of startups that which can tokenize too. Kik and Numerai were just the start.

    Enterprise. Tokenize the enterprise, and melt it into the community. This is brewing; I expect to see much more activity on this in the next 6–12 months.

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    City. Part of the mandate of cities is infrastructure for its citizens, from roads to schools to sewage. They take in taxes from one citizen and business at a time; they pool it; they build public infrastructure for the good of the community. Tokens could play the same role of pooling & redistribution to a public utility. This is starting too: Dubai.

    Country. National governments have a mandate of infrastructure for their citizens too. Furthermore, constitutions, laws, school curricula and more are all basically protocols. This is farther out than the rest, but it will be amazing to watch as it develops. Estonia is edging towards this, first with E-residency and most recently with Estcoin musings.

    Dimension 2: Type of Infrastructure Being Built

    Information technology (IT) is the all about moving bits. Despite the importance of IT, total value around all IT pales in comparison to moving atoms. Bits are cheaper to move than atoms, and the money we spend on them reflects that.

    In the blockchain ecosystem, most of the work so far has been on internet infrastructure, or applications on top.

    We can start to extend to the atoms that drive internet infrastructure, like tokenized satellite-based ISPs. Optical fibers. Cell phone towers. Semiconductor fabs. Forget DSL, give me TSL (tokenized subscriber line:).

    As mentioned above, we can tokenize good old boring infrastructure too. Look out your window at the roads, at the metros, at the electric lights. Think about the pipes below, the wires below. And go broader in scope to bridges, dams, space stations, and beyond (Mars?). All of these can be tokenized.

    The capital of startups on bits is comparatively small:

    • Enterprises have vast resources compared to startups. And, in turn, their capital is tiny compared to cities and to nations. Series B versus GDP, it’s a 1000x+ difference.
    • Similarly, the amount of capital in bits is tiny compared to that of atoms. An apartment might be $500K and a streaming subscription $50. Another 1000x.

    Which means we could see much more capital flowing around tokenized ecosystems than we currently do. Currently the tokenized ecosystems sum to about $100 billion. The GWP (Gross World Product) is about $100 trillion. How much of that might get tokenized?

    Related Stories

    • Part I: Tokenize the enterprise [post]
    • Part II: Tokenize bits, and atoms [this post]
    • Part III: Starships and tokens: a path to human self-actualization [post]
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    Trent's vision is to have a shared public database for the internet, to allow sovereign management of personal data and to celebrate the cultural commons while compensating creators. Towards this, he works on the IPDB network & foundation, BigchainDB blockchain database software, Coala IP protocol, and advise Estonian E-residency program. These are building blocks towards his long-term goal - to help ensure that humanity has a role in an increasingly autonomous world. Trent started his career by doing AI research for national defense in the 1990s, while still an undergraduate. Then, in his first startup (ADA), he explored creative AI. ADA was acquired in 2004 and then extended that work during his PhD, and found a way to reconcile machine creativity with existing engineering knowledge. In his second startup (Solido), he leveraged AI to help drive Moore's Law, which was under threat due to manufacturing variations. Now, Solido SW is used for most modern chip designs. Most recently Trent co-founded ascribe to help compensate creators in the digital era (via IP on the blockchain) and this work evolved into IPDB, BigchainDB, and Coala IP. More: -PhD in EE from KU Leuven, Belgium. Awarded #1 thesis worldwide in the field. -BE EE and BsC CS from U Saskatchewan, Canada. Awarded #1 final year thesis. -Did ML research for Canadian Department of National Defense. -Wrote 2 Books [1,2] on ML, circuits and creativity. Also 35 Papers, 20 Patents. -Keynotes & invited talks at MIT, Columbia, Berkeley, JPL, Nvidia, IFA+ Summit, Data Science Day Berlin, PyData Berlin, more. Regular lecturer at Data Science Retreat [link]. -Organize Singularity Meets Self Improvement [link] and co-organize Berlin Machine Learning [link] meetups. Co-organized workshops on ML / circuits [e.g. 1,2,3,4]. TPC / reviewer for many conferences & journals [e.g. 1,2,3,4,5] -Past projects: painting, BCI hacking, hypnosis, video game programming, surfing. -Raised in a pig farm in Canada, hacking away on cold winter nights.

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