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Blockchain Technology & Coercive Surveillance of the Global South

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Blockchain: Proof of Work vs Proof of Stake

There should be a distinction made between “proof of work” (PoW) vs “proof of stake” (PoS) when discussing blockchain and cryptocurrency. Bitcoin, Pirate Chain, and Monero are examples of “proof of work”; ethereum is also currently PoW but it is moving to the “proof of stake” model with Ethereum 2.0 by 2022. To critics of this move, Ethereum responded by implementing sharding which is the “partitioning of bulky databases into manageable chunks or shards, horizontally” as a measure to combat centralization.

Sadly, Bitcoin does not have the layers of protection present in the Pirate Chain and Monero systems. Pirate Chain uses “zk-sNARKs” (zero-knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) meaning only the people to whom the transactions pertain will have access to the information on the transaction. Monero users are protected by “ring CT signatures” and “stealth address” which sends transactions to a single-use address that will come up as “non-existent” should anyone attempt to search for who was receiving that transaction.

The second type of blockchain technology operates within the confines of the “proof of stake” model and is popular among multinational tech giants, such as Cardano; ADA is essentially a surveillance coin. Cardano openly states that unlike other crypto projects, “The goal of the Cardano team isn’t to overhaul the entire financial system. Their aim is to use blockchain technology to bring banking systems to places where they’ve previously been too expensive to implement — specifically the developing world.

While proof of work models position “all nodes on the network equally…proof of stake models depend on how much of a cryptocurrency a node, or validator, already owns and puts at stake.” In summary, the more stake a validator possesses, the more likely they are to be elected slot leader. A slot leader is similar to a bitcoin miner, except they are elected by stakeholders with the most stake on the network. Lastly, the PoS model is less decentralized and less secure; thus, more susceptible to cyberattacks.

African Vassal States, Digital ID, and Silicon Valley

From Kigali Innovation City in Rwanda, Silicon Savannah in Kenya to Sheba Valley in Ethiopia, the Silicon valley technocrats are well entrenched in Africa. A notable similarity among the governments in Rwanda, Kenya, and Ethiopia is that they have all been compliant vassal states to multinational business interests for many years (Ethiopia has only recently, slightly diverted).

For instance, newly revealed evidence shows that Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s forces killed hundreds of thousands of Hutus (the other side of the Rwandan genocide), has been accused of murdering political opponents, and supported rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who were accused of crimes against humanity. Despite all of those documented transgressions, Bill Clinton has referred to Kagame as the greatest leader of our time and “foreign governments, notably the United States, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, are…lining up at Kagame’s door with praise and money.” The United States is Kagame’s most faithful ally and proponent because Rwanda is a critical partner with a robust army in mineral-rich east Africa.

Likewise, President Kenyatta of Kenya works closely with AFRICOM to fight “Al Shabaab” in Somalia at the behest of NATO and its war on terror. And how could anyone forget Meles Zenawi and the twenty-seven years of TPLF rule in Ethiopia; a country which received copious amounts of US military funding after it became, “an early member of the ‘coalition of the willing’ and a close ally of the United States in the global war on terror.” The war on terror in the Horn of Africa was really an operation to destabilize Somalia because it became hostile to U.S. geo-strategic interests after the Islamic Courts Union took power in 2006.

UNICEF, Cardano, Ben Goertzel, and Jeffrey Epstein

UNICEF Innovation Fund came to fruition as a result of a partnership with UNICEF and Singularity University, establishing an Innovation Lab at the university campus. A large chunk of the funding came from Disney and the government of Denmark. Ben Goertzel, CEO of SingularityNET, is an advisor to Singularity University in Irvine and iCog Labs based out of Sheba Valley in Ethiopia. Furthermore, Goertzel is in the process of migrating SingularityNET from Ethereum to Cardano and, coincidentally, Cardano is currently registering the identities of five-million school children on blockchain in Ethiopia.

The integration of Cardano and SingularityNET enabled by the Cardano Plutus smart contract framework has worrisome implications concerning the data collected from those children in Ethiopia and whether it will be used to feed the OpenCog hyperon, located in Sheba Valley, that will help serve robots like Sophia, built by David Hanson and Goertzel’s, Hanson Robotics. In 2017, Ben Goertzel explained SingularityNET as a, “decentralized, open market for AI in the cloud [that] anyone who develops an AI can put it into the SingularityNET, wrap it in [the] cryptocurrency-based smart contract and then the AI can help to serve the intelligence of robots like Sophia or software programs that need AI.”

In addition, the Jeffrey Epstein IV Foundation helped fund the OpenCog, AI lab in Sidist Kilo, Ethiopia; the same OpenCog associated with Ben Goertzel and iCog Labs.

The data of five-million Ethiopian children, registered to the Cardano blockchain (which merged with SingularityNET) will help serve the intelligence of robots developed in labs funded and operated by people linked with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted pedophile. Any healthy and critically thinking person who sees these connections should be outraged and alarmed.

Cardano is not new to Ethiopia, in 2018 the government signed a deal with Cardano to incorporate blockchain technology to the agritech industry. According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, since Ethiopia is a latecomer to “industrialization, technological development, and innovation; key element in accelerating economic transformation is the speed in which a country can upgrade its technological capability.”

With that in mind, it is no surprise that Abiy Ahmed was chosen to be Prime Minister of Ethiopia in 2018, considering he was the head of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the founding director of the Information Network Security Agency, and founder and head of the Science and Technology Information Center.

Recently, the new Tanzanian government, after Magufuli’s sudden and suspicious death early this year, selected Cardano blockchain infrastructure to bring sustainable internet connectivity and Digital ID to 100,000 people in Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania. Moreover, in Rwanda, Cardano Foundation is partnered with Save the Children, “to explore the benefits of digital currency on their humanitarian initiatives in East Africa,” especially those associated with its Kumwe Hub mission. Kumwe enables Save the Children’s Rwanda offices to engage with the private sector and amplify impact investing for children and families in education, health, and protection. Presently, Kumwe is piloting Digital Healthcare Solution, by implementing it at a hospital in Mahama Refugee Camp and the Kirehe District Hospital. Additionally, Kumwe is also piloting a new gig-economy platform with 30 refugee youth in Kigali, who are earning income from “annotating images using their mobile devices to support AI platforms” through a program called Microworks. This program is eerily similar to what Ben Goerzel has said about how the educational arm of SingularityNET may “change the way that Africa can take advantage of this sidestepping of global manufacturing by changing the curriculum of education to be able to program and maintain the automated workers of the developed world via SingularityNET’s platform.”

He believes that Africa won’t get a chance to leverage their economy for cheaper labor by being able to provide jobs and develop their manufacturing industries, the way China, India, and Eastern Europe were able to do. So, instead, Africans (via SingularityNET) can learn to code and maintain the AI that the developed world will soon run on (Alison McDowell appropriately calls this ‘sweatshop coding’). Will the data of the Rwandans and other refugees collected by Save the Children via Cardano and SingularityNET also help serve the intelligence of robots? It appears as though Cardano’s blockchain mechanism is as a data extraction operation under the guise of digitizing the humanitarian sector. This would be made easy by the MIT developed, back-end enigma protocol, a decentralized computation platform with guaranteed privacy that can inquire on encrypted data in order to aggregate that data for the ‘impact market’ to fuel a new type of speculative financial market (human capital).

Social Impact Investment and Human Data

The Innovative Finance Revolution special edition issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, presented with the Rockefeller Foundation, states that investors need reliable data to assure them that innovative finance will help them do well, while they do good. One of the articles, Private Capital for the Public Good, advised congress to pass S.963-Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act, which would fund public-private innovative financial initiatives. This is similar to South Carolina’s “pay for success contracts, structured and overseen by a non-profit financial organization called Social Finance” in order to tackle the travesty that is 27% of the state’s children living in poverty. The US Impact Investing Alliance claim their goal is to “[transform] community investing to [confront] inequality and advance stakeholder capitalism to restore American economic leadership” and seeks “to identify a discrete set of recommendations for policymakers in Washington.”

Why would the policy recommendations need to be discrete if the goal is to alleviate economic inequality? Makes very little sense unless these policies have nothing to do with tackling poverty (which they do not).

Researchers at the Rockefeller Foundation boast that private investors can expect a return between 5–13% on “pay for success” investments. Likewise, Zurich, a Swiss insurance company, and BlackRock, launched a new method to quantify the environmental and social benefits of impact investments. In 2018, Zurich increased its impact investments by USD 1 billion through scaling existing tactics of investing in “use-of-proceed” bonds and “impact private equity” funds; in addition to augmenting the impact investing approach to a new asset class, infrastructure private debt, in order to do their part in “achieving both the Paris Climate Agreement targets and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

How is private infrastructure debt an important part of sustainability solution? And why is Zurich Insurance Group, a company accused of bid-rigging and price-fixing in the commercial insurance market in the United States and fined for cartel-like practices in Portugal, spearheading the sustainable development goals put forth by the UN?

Interestingly, the UNICEF Ventures Blockchain team views blockchain technology as having benefits in “leveraging innovative financing models to distribute resources” which is almost identical to Rockefeller Foundation sentiments on how to fund philanthropic development through “[leveraging] innovative finance mechanisms that can tap into private capital invested in global financial markets and effectively deploy these funds towards development efforts.” It is rather odd that UNICEF and Rockefeller Foundation have the same goals when UNICEF is, supposedly, working on behalf of children; and Rockefeller Foundation operates on behalf of big business.

Instant Network Schools and VR Learning

Recently, two Instant Network School (INS) programs were launched in Mozambique in Maratane Refugee Settlement and in a secondary school in Nampula city, to provide nearly 9,000 asylum seekers, refugees, and local students with access to quality, connected education. The INS program, set up in May 2014, is a joint initiative with UNHCR, Vodafone Foundation, Save the Children, UN refugee agency, and Pearson. The US, along with 192 other countries, adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants at the UN General Assembly. Vodafone Foundation and UNHCR understand that data-driven analysis is:

Key to maximizing program impact, identifying gaps, and prioritizing initiatives. To that effect, [they] implemented a mobile-based data collection tool whereby the INS field teams can report activities…in parallel, [they] commissioned an impact research study to measure short and medium-term impacts of the INS program.

To seamlessly aggregate this data, an operational team looks after the INS program implementation, reports daily activities, provides technical support, and acts as the “eyes & ears” of the program in order to ensure continuity, sustain local community buy-in, and collect feedback from beneficiaries. The INS program is also present in DR Congo, Kenya, South Sudan, and Tanzania. It is important to note that the “vitality of data collection” rhetoric is repeated countless times throughout the entire INS program report. They assert that, without the data, they would not be able to provide investors the information necessary to entice them to fund these types of projects.

At the same time, SingularityNET partnered with UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education (IBE) to establish a new curriculum for children and teens, with an emphasis on emerging technology to prepare the youth for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. According to UNICEF:

There will never be enough money allocated in the budget, qualified teachers, or places in schools for the population we have; therefore, emerging technologies like Virtual Reality allow us to leapfrog these problems and offer the hope of more affordable, scalable and better quality education.

It is striking to read that UNICEF doesn’t believe there will ever be enough money to help all of the children in the world receive a traditional, classroom, education; therefore, it’s better to invest and scale Virtual Reality education — a rather pessimistic take from the “children’s fund” arm of the UN. UNICEF Innovation Fund, has virtual reality education programs in Chile, India, Nigeria, and Ghana. In Ghana, they noted there are “challenges to accessing the necessary teaching and learning resources for students to receive quality education; which is compounded by the lack of necessary and up-to-date education materials, huge class sizes and the lack of necessary infrastructural facilities.”

Thus, UNICEF Innovation Fund collaborated with and provided financial support for Nubian VR in order to test the impact of virtual reality enhancing the learning experience of Ghanaian secondary school students.

Similarly, USAID is affiliated with EON Reality, a virtual reality based knowledge transfer for industry and education; and in 2017, they partnered with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education. EON reality chairman, Dan Lejerska, seemed eager to “help a new generation of smart workers become productive contributors to Ethiopia’s economic development” with the help of their Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality based knowledge transfer software. Sure, his rhetoric is lovely; however, companies such as Boeing, BP, and Saudi Aramco are on EON Reality’s list of clients. In 2009, EON Reality helped Aramco with interactive solutions for oil and gas procurement in order to improve training, “reduce the cost of training, and improve the retention of training procedures as well as safety by using a unique Virtual Reality Training System.” EON Reality is a rather unusual multinational software developing company with a variety of interests; training Ethiopia’s youth via virtual and augmented reality one day and assisting petroleum companies extract oil from the earth’s crust the next day. Perhaps, EON Reality is now extracting data from training Ethiopian workers, the same way they helped gas companies extract oil from the ground; the common denominator being profit.

In addition to the education and health sectors, Digital ID and blockchain technology are also utilized in national security and defense. For instance, at the border between Goma, DRC and Rubavu, Rwanda “the Rwandan side is automated — Rwandans scan passports or ID cards and provide fingerprints or other biometric data on censors at gates — many Congolese carry only hand-written IDs that terrorists could easily forge.” Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), suggests the U.S. make a small “investment in biometrics, identity documentation, and capacity on the DRC side” which he believes would benefit both the African Great Lakes region and America’s security. According to the AEI website, Michael Rubin was a political advisor of the CPA, Coalition Provisional Authority, which was the transitional government of Iraq established by the US Multinational Force following the invasion in 2003. The CPA was in full control of the Iraqi economy after the invasion and it was plagued with corruption scandals; an audit even revealed $9billion went missing from CPA funds; but sure, Michael Rubin is the right person to give advice on how the Pentagon should partner with the Congolese military. Laughable.

Crypto Pink Tide in Latin America?

In June 2021, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey vocalized his support of Project Mano, a group of Ethiopia-based entrepreneurs who want to get the Ethiopian government to consider mining and storing Bitcoin. This was several days after El Salvador made Bitcoin a legal tender and Tanzanian President Sulhulu urged the country’s central bank to adopt Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Since then, Panama, Brasil, Argentina, Mexico, and Paraguay have all drafted legislation to adopt cryptocurrency. In addition to that, the founder of Cardano, Charles Hoskinson, has expressed his interest in bringing Cardano to El Salvador. Echoing the sentiments of the Rockefeller Foundation and UNICEF, CEO of Paxful, Ray Youseff-who just recently went to El Salvador as part of a Bitcoin delegation-said, “the future of philanthropy lies in blockchain technology.” This is not a far-fetched assumption considering UNICEF, the UN’s charity for children, launched a cryptocurrency fund that enabled the organization to receive donations in bitcoin and ether.

I will end this with a quote by Charles Hoskinson from the 2021 Blockchain Africa Conference where he espoused the misguided notion that “African nations, collectively, are not poor; they are in a situation where they have tremendous potential and real wealth but that wealth is inaccessible due to bad systems and difficulty globalizing.”

Hoskinson has a fundamental misconception of why African nations are in their current state if he believes it has anything to do with their inability to globalize. This comment is indicative of someone who does not understand the repercussions of hundreds of years of colonialism, intentional underdevelopment, neoliberal policies, inhumane austerity, and corruption from within and outside the nations. If he cannot comprehend and recognize these factors, he is in no position to be part of the solution and Cardano blockchain is a threat, rather than a tool for liberation.

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