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Talk Abstract: Gregory Sandstrom

Social Machines, Distributed Ledger Ecosystems and Digital Extension Services: A Cornucopian Combination

This presentation begins with a comparison of the notion of “social machines” by Tim Berners-Lee and Mark Fischetti (1999) with blockchain distributed ledger technologies (DLTs). Practically no studies have yet explored the interface or potential synergy between DLTs and social machines. The presentation thus offers a way to think about DLTs as social machines in a way constructive towards building better ecosystems. It makes a basic appeal about incoming opportunities in DeFi and digital identity currently arising via business ecosystems enabled by DLTs, rather than a grand statement about social machines involving what risks and rewards they pose to humanity. Secondly, it looks at how to make sense of economic development today when considering DLT-based communities on a global scale. Here it turns to look at the comparative model of “extension services” as an example of mass global scaling of initiatives. The historical diffusion of public “extension services” (mainly in education and agriculture) in multiple countries around the world (cf. innovation diffusion), establishes them as arguably the single most influential early “social machine” prior to the Internet. We can now consider extension services in the digital startups (cf. Thiel and Majors, 2013) that use the Internet as well as DLTs, in the context of new economic and financial platform development. The question is thus opened regarding how DLTs use digital extension services to increasingly better coordinate and serve their globally online and connected users. Thirdly, it presents the new digital platform Play4Work based in Ottawa, Canada. It highlights a novel DLT use case, an adapted business model, and at least one new adoption strategy with a “communityoriented” approach (presenter background: sociology). As well, it raises social equity issues surrounding digital identity, employment, and enterprise in the form of having a common platform opponent: The Precariat. The presentation asks how our identity is involved when we apply for work digitally and how DLTs are suited to disrupt the HR landscape. The presentation aims to contribute to academia/industry/HRtech research dialogue about DLTs relevant to a Canadian audience. It draws on the authors’ experiences with blockchain in 2 countries, one in Europe, one in South-East Asia, as comparisons with the Canadian blockchain ecosystem. It seeks to add value to Canada’s blockchain conversation and ecosystem from an emerging base for DLT research, testing, education, and training at a public Canadian university in Ottawa.