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Artwork which would have previously been unattributed, copied and imitated could now be a thing of the past thanks to blockchain technology. We spoke to Masha McConaghy, co-founder of ascribe and BigchainDB to get her thoughts on how the technology is really painting a pretty picture for artists and creators. 

 

ascribe

 
When you first started your company, how would you describe potential customers or those who work in the same verticals attitude towards businesses who use blockchain technology, were their views skeptical, suspicious or did they embrace it?

In summer 2013 we started working on a project that became ascribe, a blockchain-based intellectual property (IP) attribution tool. When we described it to others, the response was usually “huh?” Blockchains were not a widespread idea, in fact nor was Bitcoin.

We addressed an elephant-in-the-room problem: how do you collect digitally based art? Framed differently, how can creators of digital art get compensated? In fact, how could any creator of IP, musician, storyteller, videographer, designer, etc. get compensated in the world where digital files can be easily copied to infinity and spread on the internet in seconds? Blockchain technology could solve this via a public store of attribution and provenance.

We started exploring this technology and thinking about it. So we went and talked to different artists friends and they were all very encouraging, this was something they all wanted. The thing about digital artists is that they are hackers and technologists and so they think about this, they are living and breathing technology. Once you explain the benefits of blockchain and decentralized technologies and walk them through it, they get it, it suddenly all makes sense.

 

Would you say things have changed since then?

Internally, much has changed too. We started facing the limitations of the Bitcoin blockchain head on, namely it was becoming quite expensive. It wasn’t nearly scalable enough for our needs and it was far too slow. For example, we had to turn down one potential ascribe user with 20 million users and more than 100,000 works a day going through their system. That’s roughly the same number of transactions that the entire Bitcoin network had per day. It would not only choke up the Bitcoin network, at 10 cents per transaction the Bitcoin transaction fees would have cost 10,000 EUR per day — a prohibitive cost.

Being a start-up, we chose to focus on IP attribution and hoped someone else would solve scalability, but by the summer of 2015, even more people were raising flags on the scalability of the Bitcoin blockchain and there were no near-term solutions in sight. With pragmatism in mind, we asked a new question: what if you started with a storage mechanism that was already designed for scale? This is exactly the technology of distributed databases. So then we asked, how can we blockchain-ify distributed databases? We drew on our experience in shipping blockchain products to define three specific benefits of blockchain: decentralization / shared control, immutability / audit trails and the ability to issue and transfer assets. And thus, BigchainDB was born.

Ultimately we rebranded as BigchainDB as a testament to our commitment to focus on the technology. While the art market moves infamously slow, tech moves incredibly fast. Our focus went from IP and digital art to a broader number of use cases, with the same underlying goal of using decentralization to help build a more equitable society. The interest in blockchain technology has exploded and there is no longer the need to walk people through the benefits. They are aware of the technology as well as its benefits and are only interested in how they can implement the technology for their own businesses.
 
masha_mcconaghy_a_2

Image credit: THE ARTS+ // Stefan Stark

 

What has Blockchain technology allowed you to achieve, which without it you wouldn’t have otherwise? Per se you were using more traditional technologies and methods?

Everything that we have been working on is to realize the benefits of blockchain technology (decentralization, immutability and assets) without compromising the benefits of traditional distributed databases (scalability, efficient querying).

Once you have a data store that no single entity owns or controls, it’s ‘decentralized.’ Blockchains allow competitors to work together for a common benefit; blockchains are a political tool. Examples include R3 and Open Music Initiative, where banks and music labels are working together, respectively. Most exciting is when the shared data store is public across the whole planet, at which point it becomes a public utility.

Immutability is also a benefit. When you write data to a blockchain, it’s like etching the data into stone. This can be used for education credentials , land registries and more. If you have a series of transactions over time, you gain an immutable audit trail, which is useful for financial audits, art provenance, food product supply chain history and more.

With native assets, a person can issue and transfer value digitally, where they own the asset if they have the private key.

 

Where do you see your company heading in the future?

We want to improve society for the better and help communities build applications that benefit creators, connectors, consumers towards a more equitable society. Having the scalable blockchain database gives us the opportunity to build a shared public database for the planet, so we’re doing exactly that. Alongside BigchainDB the software, we’re rolling out IPDB the network. IPDB is governed by a nonprofit that we’ve spun out of BigchainDB, called IPDB Foundation. So, IPDB the network is running BigchainDB the software.

Companies that want to change the world are building on top of IPDB. We want to help enable them. For example, Resonate is building a decentralized music streaming platform, which directly connects music lovers with music creators. We love this because it’s about compensating creators, which is where we started with ascribe. Then there’s Authenteq; they’re building a platform for self-sovereign identity, where you truly own your personal data – social network data, health records, more. BenBen is building a land registry in Ghana. This is remarkable because a decentralized land registry is independent of a possibly corrupt government; having your own title means you can take loans to get an education or start a business, as a first rung out of the cycle of poverty.

These are just some examples of people building on BigchainDB and IPDB. We’re working with dozens more as well. What all these companies have in common is two things: creating equal opportunity for their communities, and the need for a shared public database in order to realize their vision. That shared public database is what we’re committed to building.

 

Do you have any predictions about how Blockchain technology might be used in the future?

The internet transformed our lives by decentralizing the access and flow of information and now we are in the next phase with blockchain. Blockchain technology has the ability to affect the world and have similar, if not greater, impact than the internet because it allows for the digitization of value. Blockchain technology will insinuate itself in all facets of society as an underlying pipe on how our society runs. It enables a shared public database for the internet, to allow sovereign management of personal data, to celebrate the cultural commons while compensating creators, and more. Improving decentralized technology and governance tools at internet scale will benefit society.

 

You can find out more about ascribe and Masha’s work here: www.ascribe.io and www.bigchaindb.com

 

Blockchain > Interviews > ascribe – Heather McKay, November 30th 2016

Artwork which would have previously been unattributed, copied and imitated could now be a thing of the past thanks to blockchain technology. We spoke to Masha McConaghy, co-founder of ascribe and BigchainDB to get her thoughts on how the technology is really painting a pretty picture for artists and creators. 

 

ascribe

 
When you first started your company, how would you describe potential customers or those who work in the same verticals attitude towards businesses who use blockchain technology, were their views skeptical, suspicious or did they embrace it?

In summer 2013 we started working on a project that became ascribe, a blockchain-based intellectual property (IP) attribution tool. When we described it to others, the response was usually “huh?” Blockchains were not a widespread idea, in fact nor was Bitcoin.

We addressed an elephant-in-the-room problem: how do you collect digitally based art? Framed differently, how can creators of digital art get compensated? In fact, how could any creator of IP, musician, storyteller, videographer, designer, etc. get compensated in the world where digital files can be easily copied to infinity and spread on the internet in seconds? Blockchain technology could solve this via a public store of attribution and provenance.

We started exploring this technology and thinking about it. So we went and talked to different artists friends and they were all very encouraging, this was something they all wanted. The thing about digital artists is that they are hackers and technologists and so they think about this, they are living and breathing technology. Once you explain the benefits of blockchain and decentralized technologies and walk them through it, they get it, it suddenly all makes sense.

 

Would you say things have changed since then?

Internally, much has changed too. We started facing the limitations of the Bitcoin blockchain head on, namely it was becoming quite expensive. It wasn’t nearly scalable enough for our needs and it was far too slow. For example, we had to turn down one potential ascribe user with 20 million users and more than 100,000 works a day going through their system. That’s roughly the same number of transactions that the entire Bitcoin network had per day. It would not only choke up the Bitcoin network, at 10 cents per transaction the Bitcoin transaction fees would have cost 10,000 EUR per day — a prohibitive cost.

Being a start-up, we chose to focus on IP attribution and hoped someone else would solve scalability, but by the summer of 2015, even more people were raising flags on the scalability of the Bitcoin blockchain and there were no near-term solutions in sight. With pragmatism in mind, we asked a new question: what if you started with a storage mechanism that was already designed for scale? This is exactly the technology of distributed databases. So then we asked, how can we blockchain-ify distributed databases? We drew on our experience in shipping blockchain products to define three specific benefits of blockchain: decentralization / shared control, immutability / audit trails and the ability to issue and transfer assets. And thus, BigchainDB was born.

Ultimately we rebranded as BigchainDB as a testament to our commitment to focus on the technology. While the art market moves infamously slow, tech moves incredibly fast. Our focus went from IP and digital art to a broader number of use cases, with the same underlying goal of using decentralization to help build a more equitable society. The interest in blockchain technology has exploded and there is no longer the need to walk people through the benefits. They are aware of the technology as well as its benefits and are only interested in how they can implement the technology for their own businesses.
 
masha_mcconaghy_a_2

Image credit: THE ARTS+ // Stefan Stark

 

What has Blockchain technology allowed you to achieve, which without it you wouldn’t have otherwise? Per se you were using more traditional technologies and methods?

Everything that we have been working on is to realize the benefits of blockchain technology (decentralization, immutability and assets) without compromising the benefits of traditional distributed databases (scalability, efficient querying).

Once you have a data store that no single entity owns or controls, it’s ‘decentralized.’ Blockchains allow competitors to work together for a common benefit; blockchains are a political tool. Examples include R3 and Open Music Initiative, where banks and music labels are working together, respectively. Most exciting is when the shared data store is public across the whole planet, at which point it becomes a public utility.

Immutability is also a benefit. When you write data to a blockchain, it’s like etching the data into stone. This can be used for education credentials , land registries and more. If you have a series of transactions over time, you gain an immutable audit trail, which is useful for financial audits, art provenance, food product supply chain history and more.

With native assets, a person can issue and transfer value digitally, where they own the asset if they have the private key.

 

Where do you see your company heading in the future?

We want to improve society for the better and help communities build applications that benefit creators, connectors, consumers towards a more equitable society. Having the scalable blockchain database gives us the opportunity to build a shared public database for the planet, so we’re doing exactly that. Alongside BigchainDB the software, we’re rolling out IPDB the network. IPDB is governed by a nonprofit that we’ve spun out of BigchainDB, called IPDB Foundation. So, IPDB the network is running BigchainDB the software.

Companies that want to change the world are building on top of IPDB. We want to help enable them. For example, Resonate is building a decentralized music streaming platform, which directly connects music lovers with music creators. We love this because it’s about compensating creators, which is where we started with ascribe. Then there’s Authenteq; they’re building a platform for self-sovereign identity, where you truly own your personal data – social network data, health records, more. BenBen is building a land registry in Ghana. This is remarkable because a decentralized land registry is independent of a possibly corrupt government; having your own title means you can take loans to get an education or start a business, as a first rung out of the cycle of poverty.

These are just some examples of people building on BigchainDB and IPDB. We’re working with dozens more as well. What all these companies have in common is two things: creating equal opportunity for their communities, and the need for a shared public database in order to realize their vision. That shared public database is what we’re committed to building.

 

Do you have any predictions about how Blockchain technology might be used in the future?

The internet transformed our lives by decentralizing the access and flow of information and now we are in the next phase with blockchain. Blockchain technology has the ability to affect the world and have similar, if not greater, impact than the internet because it allows for the digitization of value. Blockchain technology will insinuate itself in all facets of society as an underlying pipe on how our society runs. It enables a shared public database for the internet, to allow sovereign management of personal data, to celebrate the cultural commons while compensating creators, and more. Improving decentralized technology and governance tools at internet scale will benefit society.

 

You can find out more about ascribe and Masha’s work here: www.ascribe.io and www.bigchaindb.com

 

Blockchain > Interviews > ascribe – Heather McKay, November 30th 2016

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