Today, digital life is an extension of our physical world and it demands the same critical, moral and ethical thinking. However, from the current standpoint and when it comes to exchange of knowledge and services, the internet can’t assure that bias or systematic abuse of global trust are avoided. Several threats in the real life scenarios of a person’s interaction with the Internet can be identified. Here are some examples.
The balance of power, initial spirit of the internet has been broken by few dominating companies. This small centralised network has now the power of information in hands and can potentially dictate what is true and what is false.
We all make daily decisions on the basis of information we find on the Internet. But the provenance of these information is hard, slow, and costly to verify and its quality itself is often uneven and unassessed. Information can be corrupted by malicious storage and network, or by censorship and can be shared and propagated to unforeseeable extent.
Publishing anonymously or pseudonymously to protect privacy leads from time to time, to misinformation. Removing anonymity from the Internet is not an option and even if it was, real people will always be able to share false information whatever the reason. Information disorder would still remain.
Various platforms publicly expose users’ ratings as metadata over the public internet, typically relating to the profile of single users. But this model is flawed in two ways. Firstly, it allows spam to mislead prospective consumers, while past consumers have little incentive in providing their feedback. Secondly, the revenue that service providers make is not shared with the users that took the time to provide feedback.
Artificial Intelligence, increasingly present in our digital daily life, if not trained correctly can only lead us to adopt partial behaviors and reveal how unequal, parochial, and cognitively biased human can be. The blockchain technology, victim of its own success, leads to stand-alone, disconnected blockchains entailing different ecosystems, hashing algorithms, consensus models and communities. The blockchain space is becoming increasingly siloed, and its core philosophical concept – the idea of decentralization – is being undermined.
In order to overcome these threats and make the internet a resilient, trustworthy and sustainable means of knowledge and services exchange, the ONTOCHAIN European program is brought to you today to support the development of innovative and interoperable solutions with novel business models in an open and collaborative way toward three cascading open calls. It proposes to suitably federate blockchain and semantic technologies for trustworthy content handling and information exchange for vital sectors of the European economy. Several question and challenges are nonetheless still open:
Shall we build the ONTOCHAIN ecosystem from scratch? Platform compatibility might make it easier for developers to contribute, but is it a double-edged sword?
Techniques and algorithms (e.g. knowledge representation, storage and querying, Machine Learning, data analytics) to be used, have to be leveraged and integrated in a unique decentralized ontology framework.
The fast pace of innovation in blockchains will certainly lead to obsolete design choice before the end of ONTOCHAIN and has to be anticipated and mitigated for the sustainability of the ecosystem. Open and flexible design will be required and ONTOCHAIN innovators will have to make numerous trade-offs, e.g. between the granularity and how much data is stored on-chain vs. performance, that may evolve as future blockchain protocols emerge. It will have to be documented and adaptable to make ONTOCHAIN contributions interoperable and sustainable.
A method will have to be elaborated to transparently derive a new truth out of several known truths according to a set of rules. The design of specific Smart Contracts that would implement first order logic directly on the blockchain could be one solution. How ONTOCHAIN will maintain competitive advantage against the already existing blockchain ecosystems? A set of innovative business models related to blockchain will have to be thought and implemented in order for all parties involved in the content exchange to be rewarded fairly.
By building ONTOCHAIN with you, we expect to answer these challenges and contribute to a more distributed and transparent internet that respects and promotes the fundamental values of diversity, equality, privacy and participation. Stay tuned, share and engage!