Traveling the Road to Digital Sovereignty
By David Chaum, December 7, 2018.
Thank you for joining our team on this journey as we share our Elixxir blockchain platform with you.
I’ve traveled around the globe twice over the past 90 days with various members of my team, working to ensure that we’re building solutions with the community’s input that will have universal application. We aim to create a blockchain by and for our community, and we’ll be asking for you to help us realize this goal over the coming months.
After spending so much time and energy developing the technological breakthroughs of Elixxir behind closed doors, it has been an amazing and humbling experience for our team to have been so warmly embraced. The past few months of travel have been an impressive display of the power and reach of the blockchain ethos -- something we experienced repeatedly as the global blockchain community received us with open arms in the countries we visited.
Along the way, we’ve traveled by train, plane, and automobile with fellow blockchain nomads and have gotten to know communities including the Web3 Foundation in Zug, Paralelní Polis in Prague, Nonce in Seoul, and students at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, to name a few.
The part I find most inspiring about these encounters is the shared strong, heartfelt belief in the empowerment of individuals over their informational lives.
Digital Sovereignty and the Blockchain Ethos
For me, it’s important to start with the ethos and values behind this work.
As you may know, I had the opportunity to work with block technology, or “chain of blocks” as it was called then, back at its inception in the early 1980s. I say this not to patronize, but to share with you my sense of urgency about why this technology is important now more than ever and why I’ve assembled a driven and visionary team to bring the potential of blockchain technology to fruition.
I’ve always rejected the idea that we must give our data to someone else, then trust them to use it with any of the limitations that a reasonable person would expect. Rather, we should be able to only share the minimum data necessary. This principle is what I call digital sovereignty. When it becomes a shared social value, I call it the blockchain ethos.
Today, these words still ring true, louder than ever. Never has the need for a scalable, confidential transactions platform been more obvious.
Since the 1980s and the takeoff of computerization, we have become too complacent in our attitude to information. We are allowing short-term convenience achieved by centralization to determine the control of our informational lives, and therefore our future. Decentralization and a high level of confidentiality will enable us to take back control of our informational selves. It is my fundamental belief that confidentiality and decentralization are now intimately tied to human potential -- and to human freedom. Blockchain offers a means to achieve them.
That’s why I’m back!
If you believe that it’s important for people to have their own keys to their digital selves and to fully control access to their metadata -- then the question is, how can we get there from here?
The direct route is to make a compelling platform that empowers people not only with control over their own end-to-end keys, but also with metadata protection during transactions and hence protection of their social graphs. Messaging and payments are the most frequent and pervasive consumer interactions. I was thrilled when I discovered that there was a way to create a decentralized, consumer-scale payment and messaging system.
Generally, blockchains do not achieve digital sovereignty and are unable to scale to handle the transaction volume required for mainstream use—whether purchasing a house, paying bills, buying a train ticket, or just grabbing a coffee.
Elixxir is ready to meet the challenge of scale. It is the culmination of some of my pioneering work in cryptography, realized in two recent technological breakthroughs. Elixxir’s design is a fundamental step forward in bringing blockchain to the mainstream. We are thrilled to share Elixxir with the community and invite people to participate in its success.
We’ve proved that our system works by building it. We have servers running in three different cloud providers and we’ve created a common API that works on Android, iOS, and most desktops. Over the next couple of months, our team will continue to work towards beta. We will release more details in the new year and I look forward to your input. We are working hard to engage the community to take this technology to mainstream use. We can’t do it without you.