Are Blockchains Insurable?

by Dan Robles on August 3, 2016

home-fireAre blockchains insurable?  This question was posed to us as a topic for presentation by the Center of Insurance Policy and Research, a research arm of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (CIPR / NAIC)

The trigger appears to be that some insurance companies are being asked to insure the business operations of blockchain enterprises. This same concern would apply to legacy business operations that may choose to deploy a blockchain – basically, a shared database managed by software.  If one listens to the blockchain activists, this could basically apply to everyone in the near future.

The Ingenesist Project volunteered the following opinion to the question; Are Blockchains Insurable?  The article was published in the July 2016 CIPR Journal

Article available here

This article is comprehensive and staggering in its implications.  It begins by shaping the given landscape of finance and entrepreneurship in terms of insurability.  It follows with, in essence, a mathematical proof that arrives at a conclusion that blockchains are insurable, but business processes using blockchains may not be.   Luckily, the technology offers sufficient mathematical underpinning to calculate and adequately pool risk exposures of its components.  However, the trouble arises where digital assets can neither be treated as money nor property.  This extralegal condition may exist which would be categorically non-insurable in mainstream finance.

“Extralegal” refers to a condition in which something is neither legal nor illegal. Economist Hernando De Soto writes about how the extralegal sector in many parts of the world grossly inhibits economic growth because people are unable to secure “title” to property and businesses that they create.  They are unable to bridge the capitalization gap – that is, the ability to borrow “money” against tangible assets or future returns.

Blockchain technology appears to be languishing in the extralegal domain as courts and governments have little uniform ideas about how and where this tech fits in society.  That is, until something goes wrong like a major hack where important people lose a lot of money.  Then some patchwork of blanket legislation will likely emerge to favor those of one sector over another.  The running joke in crypto-space is that any effort to control blockchain technology would negate any benefits of having it in the first place.

There is a third option.

This article raises the possibility that the pairing of blockchain tech with professional engineers (as the decentralized adjudicators of smart contracts) would achieve a state of insurability and thus bridge the capitalization gap required for mainstream financing of blockchain enterprise.  This arrangement applies primarily to basic infrastructure and derivatives of basic infrastructure which may not actually be a bad thing at all.

Ucritcal pathOn a critical path.

The Earth is an epic case study in deferred maintenance.  There are very real and serious global problems that impact every living creature on Earth that we need to attend to immediately.  Critical path methodology is a technique familiar to all builders as a set of instructions specifying where one action must precede the next in order for subsequent actions to occur.  Millions of business plans that provide basic human needs and protect our natural resources, and that are currently unprofitable, will suddenly become hugely profitable.

These outcomes could be accomplished with the recommendations provided within.  Please read this article and forward it to others who are interested in this technology.  There is very real money to be made in the next economic paradigm that is currently at our fingertips.

Article available here





Infrastructure Finance With Blockchain Technology

by Dan Robles on July 19, 2016

Jericho Beach Walk

Face it, if the water was not clean, and if we did not have a warm place to sleep, or safe roads, or fresh food, reliable energy, Internet technology, bug-free software etc., something like bitcoin, let alone antibiotics, could never have come into existence. This is a fact, the value of all money is derived from the value of infrastructure that supports human productivity. For the avoidance of doubt, simply compare US infrastructure with, say, Haitian Infrastructure.

Infrastructure Finance with blockchain technology should be the financial system that society adopts. The entire planet is now an epic case study in deferred maintenance. The greatest threat to bitcoin, Ethereum, Steemit, and all future great innovations will not come from some oppressive government, it will come from a failure of basic infrastructure.

One of the problems in the cryptocurrency space is that speculation is needed to increase adoption. However, speculation requires volatility, otherwise there would be no spread or arbitrage opportunities and therefore little incentive to to make a bet. Conversely, a productive and sustainable economy requires stability – i.e., low volatility or no volatility. Stability and volatility are mutually exclusive and therefore the incentives associated with each of these crypto-methods are likewise mutually exclusive. At best, we have a zero sum game devolving to a race to the bottom, or at worst, we’ll wind up with the worst of each one, i.e., irrational stagnation.

There needs to be a completely different path. Finance DEPENDS on insurance (not the other way around) and insurance has long term objectives, not short term profit taking. Further, insurability decreases the cost of capital which allows for an organic portfolio of development to emerge. The highest priority applications will be those that decrease volatility. Invariably, these will include basic infrastructure, clean energy, universal education and health care, etc.


Hacking The Financial System

by Dan Robles on July 15, 2016


The financial System is made up of 5 components that act as a system. If any of these components falters or is corrupted, the whole system becomes unstable. Therefore, it may not be a good idea to attack any one of these 5 components individually without understanding the consequences to the whole system. In fact, many economic shocks have been an attack on only one of these components.

The trick to hacking the financial system will be to alter it without disrupting the fundamental purpose of each component. In order to accomplish this, we need to replicate and integrate the functions of all 5 of these components. In that way, we may be able to induce what I call “The Big Flip” toward a more sustainable set of outputs.

These 5 components are as follows:

Entrepreneurs (supply — sources)
Markets (demand — sinks)
Accounting System (inventory)
Currency (storage and exchange of value)
Institutions (to keep the game fair)

Entrepreneurs: There is no shortage of entrepreneurs. To harness and release the vast stores of intelligent, productive, and creative people in the world should be fairly easy — all we need to do is give people a game that they can win playing by a consensus set of rules.

Market: There is no shortage of work to do, the entire planet is an epic case study in deferred maintenance. New energy sources, educational programs, safe food and water, transportation, civil liberties, community building and collaborative enterprise are all desperately in demand.

Accounting system: This is where we fall woefully short. Factors of production in the current economic model are scarce land, labor and capital — these are called “tangible assets”. Meanwhile, social capital, creative capital, and intellectual capital possessed by all people are called “intangible assets” and do not appear on a balance sheet — yet are responsible for the value tangible assets!!

Guess what, this is how we are controlled. This is how we are held captive, this is how we are made invisible and how our identity is taken away. As long as we continue to buy into land, labor, and capital economics, we will remain imprisoned by an accounting system that clears our accounts of what is valuable leaving behind what is not.  For example; motherhood is responsible for all taxpayers, yet does not appear on the GDP. This may sound weird, but we are accustomed to it. We need to develop an accounting system where factors of production are abundant Social Capital, Creative Capital, and Intellectual Capital, then allocate that to a sustainable market.

Currency: The dollar will soon expire under the weight of compound interest on an impossible debt load. Cryptocurrencies offer the brightest hope for a new way to articulate value. We are all very excited about this, but cryptos cannot also be called upon as the vetting institution that keeps the game fair. The recent events with the DAO demonstrate this. There still needs to be human intervention of some kind.

Institutions: Today we have laws and courts and enforcement that articulate power to ostensibly keep the game fair. This system is falling apart. Smart contracts embedded in the blockchain do not work. The recommended strategy is human adjudicated smart contract articulated on the blockchain. The best way to keep the game fair is to decentralize the human adjudicators. This is the great advantage of the proof-of-stake algorithm — people can be arranged in many real byzantine fault tolerant systems to secure a network.

Curiosumé is an analog to digital converter for knowledge assets. Curiosumé serves two important functions; the new accounting system and the decentralization of smart contract adjudicators.

1] First it establishes an accounting system for knowledge assets. This allows people to reorganize around social, creative, and intellectual capital in existing communities. Productivity is associated with innovation instead of some increasingly irrelevant association with land, labor, and capital.

2] Curiosumé decentralizes the role of the adjudicator by converting a person’s résumé to cryptography that can open and close contracts on a blockchain. The algorithm can select the adjudicator anonymously until the point of transaction upon which their ID is sealed to the blockchain. You cannot corrupt what you cannot see.

By deploying Curiosumé to a blockchain with the distinct purpose of hacking the financial system via the five components of an economy simultaneously, we may stand a chance of inducing The Big Flip to an economy based on new factors of production. Maybe a lot sooner than anyone is expecting.

earthshot2The hallmark of a great society is the ability to capitalize it’s needs, not it’s arbitrage opportunities.  The Highest and Best Use for Blockchain Technology must be to reduce the cost of capital by decentralizing risk, not necessarily money…yet

Blockchain technology carries a promise of great opportunity, efficiency, and fairness in business operations and governance for an entire struggling planet. If that is true, then Blockchain technology should be integrated broadly and uniformly across society and within as many existing institutions as possible. If that is true, then Blockchain development should not be the exclusive domain of a single sector, such as banking. Nor should Blockchain development reflect priorities of highest ROI from VC start-ups. Likewise, purely Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) may carry the risk of operating in an extralegal sector without legal recourse, thereby increasing net volatility, not decreasing it.

A different track is required.

The primary objective of Blockchain technology must be to reduce the cost of capital by decentralizing risk, not necessarily money. The highest and best use for blockchain technology is therefore insurance, not necessarily banking. In doing so, blockchain innovation can then be applied broadly, evenly, and intentionally across the economy. This makes sense because when building anything complex or important, one logical piece needs to go in front of the next logical piece regardless of it’s individual ROI, because the collective ROI is the true basis of valuation. If people tried to build an airplane in the same manner we are now trying to build decentralized economics, a few may benefit, but an air transportation system, as a whole, would be tragically constrained.

We have seen this before.

Many of the issues currently propping up the narrative to the Blockchain phenomenon were also present during the time of this author’s participation in the NAFTA negotiations. Anyone who was around in the early 1990’s may remember the mantra of modern globalization was that decentralized markets were good and centralized markets were bad. The mathematics supporting the efficiency of free trade models such as the Theory of Comparative Advantage were, and still are, bullet proof. So what happened?

Unfortunately, decentralized markets were administered unevenly, disproportionately, and only partially insurable, at best. The act of trying to control a decentralized market eliminated many of the benefits of having one. Today, we face a similar peril, except we are playing with a far more powerful technology promising exponential efficiency, or exponential deficiency. Don’t let the pundits fool you. It can go either way.

The difference today is that we also have the knowledge, foresight, a technological tool kit, and profound responsibility to get it right this time.

Let’s begin.

The place to start developing blockchain technology is through a consortium of Insurance and Professional Engineering institutions for the creation of relevant infrastructure and the physical derivatives upon which everyone utterly depends. This includes renewable energy, clean air, safe water, transportation systems, health and welfare, housing, building systems, computer networks, etc. After all, bitcoins aren’t worth a whole lot when the power goes down.

Infrastructure projects, and all their beneficiary derivatives, require financial institutions that can bridge the capitalization gap between the inception of a project and revenue from the project. This period of time is rife with peril because the “money and title” precedes the delivery of the physical asset. The cost of capital is directly proportional to the risk associated with project delivery. Wherever the insurance industry is capable of pooling project risks, the cost of capital will fall precipitously. The insurance industry is therefore an imperative component to this objective. Banking is relatively simple, accounts can be cleared with a placeholder currency; a token, if you will.

Herein lie both the challenge and the opportunity facing Insurance and Engineering institutions related to Blockchain Technology:

First, as with all new technology, we need to recognize that society will reorganize itself around Blockchain Technology. We need to provide hundreds of millions of entrepreneurs and citizens the support systems with which to do so.

Second, if each component part of the blockchain system is insurable, so too should the entire system. We need to insure and reinsure each individual components of a blockchain business system(s) in order to lower its cost of capital.

Finally, once insurable, each component part of the new economy will have the same cost of capital as any other part. The relative value of an investment will therefore be ordered in time — the most important and valuable piece is the one that goes next in the critical path. This is how things get built.

Taken together, Insurance and Engineering are sufficiently disintermediated from short-term objectives and are ideally suited for the long game. Together, they can bridge the capitalization gap upon which everyone can then cross. They provide outcomes in the physical world that are essential to everyone. Together, they can deliver the projects that are most important — the ones that come next as we navigate our critical path into the future.

Questions Related to Bitcoin Protocol For The Insurance Industry

April 4, 2016

There is no shortage of crypto pundits who’ll wax poetic over the imminent disruption that blockchain technology will render over the insurance industry.  A more likely scenario will be a slow and intentional transition between new and old technology.   The objective of this article is to present some questions related to Bitcoin Protocol for […]

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Blockchain Technology and the Engineering Profession

March 31, 2016

Blockchain Technology and the Engineering Profession Blockchain protocol and technology is said by many to be among the greatest accomplishments of human intellect since the Internet.  Blockchain is the underlying technology to what is commonly known as Bitcoin, however, the technology is not exclusive to Bitcoin.  Swarms of innovators are working feverishly to design and […]

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BidPool Adjudicated Smart Contract Game

March 30, 2016

Problem:  Many contractors say that their COGS (cost of goods sold) consumes 10-30% of their expenses. Obviously, this cost is passed on the customer.  Bidding can be made far more efficient with BidPool Adjudicated Smart Contract Gaming platform. For example: 5 contractors may spend $10K bidding on a 1 million dollar project that only one will win. […]

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Uber Airlines

January 5, 2016

As the Uber/Lyft business model continues to hone its end-run around the heavily regulated taxi industry, many are now looking at the air transportation industry for vulnerability to Uberesque disruption. Enter Uber Airlines. Long before social media, entrepreneurs have been trying to sell empty legs on private airplanes – almost 40% of all private jets […]

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Identity Verification On Blockchain

January 5, 2016

This Panel was formed at the Future of Money and Technology Summit in San Francisco on December 5, 2015 to unpack the issue of Identity verification on Blockchain.  One of the most powerful components of blockchain technology is the equal ability to disintermediate a person’s identity from their data, as to associate identity with a […]

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Introducing Quant

December 16, 2015

What is Quant? Quant is a digital token that represent human productivity. The total number of Quant that can be mined is 223.3 Trillion corresponding to the approximate dollar value of outstanding human productivity existing on December 15, 2015. This is the amount of future productivity that everyone in the world has committed to each […]

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