Note — Jul 10, 2022

Data as the New Soil, Not Oil

Micah L. Sifry interviewing Jerry Michalski about “how we need to build a ‘betterverse,’ not the metaverse.” This is one of those click through and explore pieces, lots of links to background or to nodes of his “brain” (a mind-map of the people, ideas, articles and encounters he’s had for more than 20 years).

The soil metaphor is to represent that we need better managed data, collective data that we can nourish and grow new ideas from, instead of the black goo of data oil, today’s leading paradigm for data. One can see the ‘betterverse,’ as growing from that, as “some kind of layer or protocol that enables people sharing their knowledge with others in ways that accrete up to collective knowledge.”

Pair this with the other piece below, about curation, and you have two people talking about roughly the same thing in compatible ways. One comes at it from a mindmap of ideas, the other from music curation, both are interested in finding a way for multiple people to collaborate on a corpus of knowledge, which they could grow collectively, and within which they could delegate to specialists, who would be responsible for a topic, whether it's radio spectrum and telecommunications policy or South Korean artists.

In it’s most developed form, my interpretation of Michalski’s vision would be of thousands of people proposing, developing, and expanding their thinking through “linky prose” shared online (think public digital gardens), which could be used to work on solutions and proposals that could then, using liquid democracy, trickle “back up into journalism, science, education, governance, and elections, because then people in each of these fields are motivated to figure out how to show their work, how to solve things together.”

More → For another tangent, Michalski mentions mushrooms, regenerative agriculture, and the Wood Wide Web, which always reminds me of Claire L. Evans’ piece The Word for Web Is Forest and of mother nodes. Their two ideas are not directly connected, but are very much in the same blurry grouping of ‘how could the internet be better and more useful.’

One big reason to have a betterverse which is actually about the serious issues we face as a society is to negotiate what blend of ingredients will help us improve the world. Is it holacracy and distributed finance plus simple group processes, folding in indigenous ways of solving problems? […]

[T]his betterverse idea is the place where we can conduct some of these conversations, share research, share big questions, collect up into smaller communities of high trust and move these ideas forward, which then might attract other people to say, “Oh, wow, those Game B people. They've done a lot of good work on these topics over here. They speak for me. […]

We’ll shift from lobbying to the distributed, slow building of credibility as we actually work to improve society together. […]

There's a thing called liquid democracy that says, what if we each could proxy our votes? For example, I could proxy my vote over to David Reed, who could speak for me on all issues about radio spectrum and telecommunications policy. I trust him implicitly, he's a genius on those things. And if he's publishing openly what he thinks and why he's voting this way, or that way, he speaks for me. Lather, rinse, repeat at scale, and suddenly we have a platform that doesn't rely on elections every two or four years, but instead is an ongoing conversation about how we fix problems in the world. That’s a world I’d like to help build.