New and exciting
I’m excited today. In tech, you only get to say the following phrase so often and really mean it. This is new.
Meet Pillar, which aims to be an equal and opposite option to the present digital trends at work in finance, security and the distribution of economic power.
Use it, don’t own it
If you’re an entrepreneur, a businessperson, a power user of any kind of technology – really, if you’ve interacted with currency and/or tech in the past ten years – you know the prevailing paradigm is “X as as service.”
Everything from public transport to Peggle has been reimagined as something you use rather than something you have.
The resources necessary to functioning in society belong to someone else and are implemented by millions of someone elses, a workforce of service professionals often employed on a contract rather than traditional salary or wage-benefit basis. Them’s the breaks in This Modern World. Ownership is so 20th century.
Pillar says otherwise.
We’ve talked about blockchain at American Genius. Here’s how it could be a huge deal for tech security. Here’s a great primer on what, you know, it even is. The short version is that a blockchain is a secure, anonymous way to buy goods and services, built on high-end cryptography and the basis that nobody ever has all the information, all the time. Bitcoin’s the one you’ve most likely heard about, but there are all kinds of others.
Pillar would be another, “cryptocurrency” to use the (silly) word, but with a vital addition: it’s actually built to do something.
Bitcoin and its kindred represent a new transaction paradigm, an approach to buying and selling that removes public and private middlemen of all kinds. That’s a big deal by itself – in theory. In practice Bitcoin and its kindred have stayed curiosities. They haven’t put an offer in the world that appeals to anyone outside a core community of early adopters and various fringes. I say it with love: it’s hipster money. By comparison, Pillar claims, direct quote, to be “a world changer.”
It could be.
Pillar as a pillar
Unlike Bitcoin and friends, Pillar isn’t just a blockchain-based currency. It’s an implementation of blockchain-based currency, a means of making it do things that actual people need their money to do. The titular Pillar is a core of information available only to you, accessible through an AI assistant with access to various carefully demarcated parts of it for the services you use it to pay for. It’s a blockchain wallet.
To paraphrase our primer, at present blockchain appeals primarily to people who need or want their transactions to be private.
Frankly, that was a reasonable concern when the biggest security holes in the modern money system were credit card numbers and talkative bank tellers.
As more services are digitized, things get less secure. Honestly, now: how many of you out there use the same password for more than one thing? I do, and I literally do this for a living.
How many of you trust important data to a service that may or may not exist in ten years? I’ve got a half-terabyte of stuff on someone else’s cloud server and 175 games on Steam. Either one goes belly up, and all that information wafts away like a summer breeze, along with the not inconsiderable amount of money I spent on it.
How many of you centralize with one service for convenience, in spite of what seem like weekly breaches, leaks and hacks?
I swear to Insert Deity Here, right now I am writing this on a Chromebook, in Google Docs, with one eye on a big file I’m uploading to Drive.
Not to be alarmist, but the plain fact is, that’s information you don’t control. It lives with somebody else, and by accident or malice something untoward could go down. It’s the downside of the digitized world: only big companies own the infrastructure to implement day to day services like transactions and identity protection.
Pillar and its $50 million ICO (that’s Initial Coin Offering, since obviously they’ll be taking investments in blockchain currencies) intend to see that changed.
It’s the first serious effort I know of to implement blockchain as a consumer proposition, offering blockchain security with the tools necessary for an ordinary person to actually use the functionality blockchain provides.
Pillar’s paradigm is the opposite of how things are done right now. More often than not, that means it’s nonsense, a geek pipe dream that will never hit the big wide world.
New, but not
But blockchain is already hitting the big wide world. Pillar’s offer, in essence a take on Bitcoin and other blockchain-based currencies that work for the average consumer and have a reason for existence other than Sticking It To The Man™, might well be enough to make it the next step forward in the digital marketplace, “like Uber, but for shifting beyond the Uber paradigm to owning your own dang stuff again.”
That could be a thing.