Block Mirror: 3 Ways Blockchain Could Make Life a Futuristic Dystopian Nightmare
December 16, 2018 by Robert DeVoe
We all think of blockchain technology as being this world-changing, democratizing, freedom granting entity that will usher humanity into a new utopia. But what if that’s not true? What if instead, blockchain brings in an era of Black Mirror-like technology gone mad? In this article, we’re going to go over a few possible scenarios where blockchain could become your worst futuristic nightmare come to life.
Also read: Stablecoins: Bad Money For the Modern Age
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1 – An Irreversible Social Credit Nightmare
Over the past few years, the Chinese Communist Party has been rolling out a system it refers to as social credit. The idea is that virtually everything you do is tracked, categorized, and scored.
Paying your debts late, not paying your traffic tickets, and even buying too many video games according to some reports will lower your score. If your score drops too much, your ability to interact with society drops quickly and in a potentially terrifying way. You could find yourself unable to get a home or car loan, attend University, or even buy plane or train tickets.
But what does this have to do with blockchain?
Many projects have come out that could be what eventually become social credit systems for the rest of the world. These systems claim to offer an alternative to the existing credit system as it tends to be far too regional and only controlled by a few profit-motivated businesses like Equifax and Trans Union.
Credit reports are not just for determining whether or not you can get that shiny new metal credit card. They can be used to determine your eligibility to rent an apartment, get a job, buy or lease a vehicle, and a growing list of other critical parts of life.
If there’s a mistake on your credit report today, there’s a good chance that with some effort you can get it removed or corrected. But what if we relied on a completely decentralized system that had no customer support team or complaint department?
What if, instead, such a system functioned more like a database that allowed only authorized users to make entries? Further, since the system is blockchain-based, everything that goes in it is permanent and can never be removed.
Imagine now that you’re living in this hypothetical blockchain social credit future.
You wake up and get ready to go to work. You take out your smartphone and try to book a ride through a ride sharing service, only to find all your requests get denied immediately. You call your boss to inform them you will be late only to be told you’ve been terminated by upper management with no further explanation.
In a panic, you open your social credit app and see that your score has dropped by hundreds of points for no apparent reason. Perhaps your identity got mixed up with someone else, and some evil act was attributed to you instead. The blockchain social credit system has no employees, no office, and no phone number–there’s no place to appeal.
In an instant, your digital life, and by extension your real life, has been destroyed. Now your ability to get critical services like transportation, loans, jobs, and housing is gone. And there’s nothing you can do about it. The police or court system can’t help you since the system exists internationally and outside any government’s control.
2 – Anonymous Black Markets and Assassination Bets
Even though the Silk Road marketplace is long behind us, online anonymous black markets powered by cryptocurrencies still exist. While it’s difficult to get accurate information on their numbers, it’s conceivable that the markets of today see even more activity then Dread Pirate Roberts’ original creation.
These anonymous markets are nothing new, though. Yes, the threat of buying weapons, bomb-making materials, and other dangerous or illegal items exists now. But an unstoppable, completely anonymous black market trading service that can never be taken down since the site itself exists in a decentralized manner could usher in a new era of illicit trade across the globe.
But it’s not just the trade in items that causes us to pause. It’s also the idea of assassination markets coming to life. Concerns were raised before the launch of platforms like Augur and Gnosis that prediction markets would lead to so-called assassination markets. Here’s how they work.
In a prediction market, someone places a bet on the outcome of an event. Predictions could range from the mundane, such as will it rain tomorrow in Luxembourg, to the extreme, such as what will be the cause of death of a given celebrity or public figure, or will said public figure die within a given time frame.
An assassination market is one where an anonymous individual poses a prediction relating to when a specific person will die. If a would-be assassin wants to make a lot of money quickly, they could put a massive bet on the day they plan to eliminate their target.
Once their prediction comes true (since they did it, presumably), they will receive a massive payout from the prediction market.
Assassination markets could lead to all sorts of high-profile deaths and assassination attempts that could shake the foundations of our society as we know it. While these types of markets have so far failed to cause any real damage, the fact is, they already exist.
3 – Unstoppable, Relentless Nightmare DAOs
The idea of a DAO stretches back to the early days of Ethereum. For those that don’t know, a DAO, or decentralized autonomous organization, is a sort of company that exists entirely on a blockchain. It does everything by itself autonomously and is driven by decision-making logic coded into smart contracts.
The idea of the DAO sparked imaginations across the world with many trying to imagine what such a self-driven and automatic entity could accomplish. A DAO could handle its accounts and hire and get paid for various things without the need for human intervention.
But what if someone created a DAO for the sole purpose of causing pain, suffering, or even death to as many people as possible? This idea is what we call a nightmare DAO.
Nightmare DAOs would likely exist in two different forms. One would be a DAO for hire that would act as a hit man, and another would be more like a computer virus, working by itself with the only goal of causing as much harm as possible.
In many ways, a self-driven nightmare DAO is just like a computer virus. It could have been created by someone not to try to earn them a profit, but instead to directly cause as much damage as possible to society.
Imagine now, if you will, a nightmare DAO that does nothing but collect ransom from ransomware attacks then uses the collected money to hire lawyers to file lawsuits against a randomly selected target from a database. This type of assault could cause someone to become stuck in permanent legal hell that would essentially never end.
Imagine another nightmare DAO that steals money through automated phishing attacks and then uses it to rent botnets to call phone numbers on a hit list endlessly, and leave threatening messages. Perhaps it could also call police agencies to file false reports similar to SWATing.
Worse yet, imagine an ultimate nightmare DAO that does everything it can to completely ruin a person’s life with the intent of trying to get them to commit suicide. It could hire hackers to get into the target’s email and bank accounts and publish the target’s private information as far and wide as possible.
It could call the target’s employer pretending to be a crazed ex-spouse. It could file lawsuit after lawsuit in an attempt to get all of the individual’s assets seized under false pretenses. The list of potential ways to torture someone remotely and autonomously is endless.
And nightmare DAOs might not act randomly. They could be a sort of digital assassin for hire through previously mentioned black market networks. Want to get revenge on someone, and for it to be completely untraceable back to you? A nightmare DAO for hire could be just the ticket. Just send some bitcoin or ether to a smart contract along with details of your target.
Maybe Not Today, but Sooner Than You Might Think
The good news is, most of these ideas are still many years away, at the earliest. Or we might get lucky, and none of them will come true. But the fact of the matter is, while blockchain is fantastic technology that can be used to further the good of humanity, much like the internet, it can easily be flipped around and used for evil purposes.
Have your say. Are any of these adverse outcomes plausible on a wide scale?
Images via Pixabay