About this episode
What is neutrality and how is information to be recorded for generations to become? Sam Kazemian of Everpedia joins this episode of End of the Chain to discuss the current political climate and how Everpedia is designed to be an inclusive platform.
Sam Kazemian (b. February 12, 1993) is an Iranian-American software engineer, entrepreneur, and cryptocurrency enthusiast. He is the Co-Founder and President of Everipedia, the first decentralized online encyclopedia on the blockchain. He founded the company with Theodor Forselius, Mahbod Moghadam, and Travis Moore in 2015.  He is also cofounder and CEO of frax.finance, an algorithmic stablecoin project.
Where to find the show
What to listen for
- Why the goal of both Everipedia and Wikipedia is to just present everyone’s story and not their narrative.
- Why objective journalism no longer exists in the USA due to the polarisation and the cultural divisions we see playing out.
- Why neutrality bias exists in Wikipedia because you decide what should and shouldn’t be included depending on its reputable source and this conservative status quo approach limits pages.
- Why if you make everyone mad or unhappy, you are doing something right because you are giving everyone space to present their viewpoint.
- Why Everipedia as a for-profit company is building DeFi related products that have direct relevance to knowledge like prediction markets.
- How their IQ token built on EOS incentivizes content creation and editing for the future.
- Why Everipedia’s mission was always to be on-chain and to build an economically sound cross-chain platform.
- Why everything is becoming a political question in 2020 and how this makes it difficult to remain apolitical or neutral, especially in the US.
- Why how you control information is how you gain power; and why this polarization is limiting constructive dialogue in the US today.
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Sam M: I brought you on because I have been interested in the idea of what Wikipedia does and the growing divisions that you see in Wikipedia and how the platform has evolved to be where it is, and just really to get your thoughts on how its growth has kind of spurred you to create a competitor to it, or maybe not even a competitor, but another type of information gathering portal that shares different views than Wikipedia.
Sam K: Yeah. I think what is really interesting is in the past few years, so we started, building blockchain Wikipedia, cause that's kind of what they see it as the landscape in our society is actually changed a lot the past few years as well about people's view on knowledge and where things are coming from what are reliable sources, what are not what people previously thought were reliable.
I think we're in a really interesting time, and actually, when it comes to blockchain-related software and things like that, with the emergence of DeFi and some of the newer kinds of financial products and protocols on-chain, I think we have a lot of really exciting things coming forever, but would it make sense to go over a quick history first for the audience?
Sam M: Yeah. You've been working on Everipedia for a while now. Haven't you?
Sam K: Yeah. So we actually started Everipedia just as kind of alternative to Wikipedia or, like an expansion pack or a redesign since 2015, it wasn't until kind of the ICO and the big blockchain death. A boom that we thought, well we think the next generation of web services and technologies are going to be blockchain-based.
If we're really building a new knowledge base, it would be irresponsible to not include a leverage blockchain technology. Since 2017, Everipedia has been fully an on-chain product, so to speak.
Sam M: But what was the reason in 2014 for creating this Wikipedia alternative?
Sam K: Teddy and I, so we started it together and then, quickly grew to four co-founders together, we thought that Wikipedia is restrictions and they're kind of deletionism rules made it so that the concept of an online knowledge base on the internet was too restrictive.
You had to essentially be encyclopedic in terms of a topic to have a page back then, and even a lot still today. You can't have a page about your startup or something or your cryptocurrency project or things like that because, that's not what Wikipedia sees itself as; it just sees itself as a digital version of Britannica, so to speak, and way more so in 2015, and because of that, you've had all of these huge sites like Crunchbase, trying to fill the gap for knowledge on startups, because you couldn't have it on Wikipedia. You'd have, for example, a Wikia which now rebranded defend them have knowledge bases for animation or TV shows and things like that, or even YouTube, celebrities and stuff like that because they couldn't have a Wikipedia page. We thought why is that actually a big deal? It's not like space is like a constraining factor anymore in the digital age, and if there are sources, you're going to be able to find sources and create an encyclopedia entry for a startup. Maybe it's not as big as Uber or Facebook or something. Why can't it be in an entire encyclopedia of everything, right? And so that's where it got its name too.
Sam M: What are some of the restrictions, just for people that don't know on Wikipedia about, about creating and maintaining entries?
Sam K: Yeah. So on Wikipedia, actually, we ran into this a lot when we're pitching it to two different people. A lot of people really think anyone can have a Wikipedia page or any company or anything at all, and the only reason they don't have a page is that they haven't gone in and made one for themselves.
Obviously, they couldn't be more wrong. It's a huge process. You have to find a reputable source that Wikipedia claims is very reputable, which there's a lot of discussion about mainstream news sources actually as reliable as people used to think are nuts, and then after you create a page, it has to go through this approval process, but higher ranking or status editors have to vet it and then it'll become a page. Then it can always be put up for deletion if it's deemed not to meet those standards at any time.
It's actually something that's pretty difficult if it was super easy; you have a lot more pages for Everipedia. We actually started out as a fork of the English Wikipedia because their content is free. So as Everipedia has content, so we just thought, why don't we fork it? And then, just build our own knowledge based on top of it. We quickly got over a million, plus pages of unique entries in the English Everipedia section. So we actually had almost like a little bit over a million of people, companies, things that were not on Wikipedia because people wanted to put that stuff up.
Sam M: Because there's a certain type, how would you describe some of the editors that are at least the senior ones that have been at Wikipedia for a long time?
Sam K: I mean, there's a wide breadth of editors, some of them aren't in the deletionist camps. So there are two camps. There are inclusionists and deletionists. The deletionists, they don't think everything or even everything that could be cited needs to be on a Wikipedia or an encyclopedia only encyclopedic content should be. And then there's the inclusionists—a lot of them which actually edit Everipedia. We have long time Wikipedia administrators/stewards or whatever the actual exact title is, but there's a lot of great editors that edit both.
Sam M: Yeah, I've actually had on one of the senior Wikipedia editors in David Gerard, he actually came on to talk about his book attack at the 50-foot blockchain, but it's funny that he is one of the most vocal opponents of cryptocurrency, blockchain, opponents. That, that you could find yet he's in charge of maintaining a lot of the pages that goes up. He's notorious for editing the Ethereum page, the Bitcoin page.
I know there was some stuff he's been at the centre of a lot of these deletion edits that you've been talking about. I enjoy speaking with David. I think he has a great viewpoint and he was probably one of the only people in 2017/2018 who was trying to throw water onto the ICO bubble, or maybe one of the few when everybody else was just flinging money at things. At the same time, I think there is substantial information that should be published. When it comes towards the political, so crypto is one thing. Right. But especially when it moves towards the political, would you say that there's bias in some of the edits that go up?
Sam K: I would say humans are editing these things, right? So it's always going to have the flavour of the interpretation of the person, and hopefully, the idea with Wikipedia is there are multiple viewpoints. Actually one of the interesting things is Larry Sanger was our CIO, one of the co-founders of Wikipedia with Jimmy, early on, he actually was our CIO from, late 17 to late last year-ish. He actually was in charge of devising Wikipedia's original neutrality guidelines. If you haven't read Larry's view on neutrality, it's actually one of the most thorough and elegant pieces. He actually helped us devise the foundations from neutrality on Everipedia. I think the idea here is neutrality is all about viewpoints, right? As long as you don't, you're not supposed to take a position you're just supposed to present a neutral article or a neutral piece or a neutral encyclopedia entry or whatever is supposed to be; you just present a multitude of viewpoints and interpretations of the content. It's not supposed to tell you what anything actually is. That's a very subtle distinction, but it's extremely important, right? Like if you're talking about either political things or if you're talking about a cryptocurrency, so you're supposed to say proponents of cryptocurrencies say that a new way to settle value outside of the classical banking or Swift system is valuable. Well, they're supposed to then talk about the people who don't think it's actually important, right.
Then you're supposed to talk about money laundering concerns or all of these other things, and you're not supposed to actually try to build a story about it. You're supposed to just present everyone else's story. That's the whole goal of both Wikipedia and Everipedia, and I think Larry was actually the person that kind of set those foundations. I think some of that is changing at Wikipedia recently and that's kind of unfortunately not a good path in my opinion. A lot of things in Wikipedia where things that they call reputable sources or things like that are heavily skewed to mainstream sources, and when you do that, you basically get to decide what is a viewpoint that you can include or what is a viewpoint you shouldn't even include, which is absolutely not the point of neutrality.
Sam M: Right. The way that I would think about that is that you grow up reading all these textbooks and this is really pressing for what's happening now in the United States, as you grew up reading all these textbooks about American history, but then you get to 2020, and we start to have deep conversations about racial justice and about what it means to educate people in America and what should be included, what shouldn't be included. If anything Wikipedia really represents the status quo of what information is acceptable, because if it wasn't acceptable or if it was on the fringe, then it wouldn't be included. I would just assume that Wikipedia tries to maintain the line of acceptable ideas that are not controversial.
Sam K: Yeah. I would agree with that, and honestly, as a founder of someone building either an alternative new knowledge base, that platform, the whole reason I was interested in this space is cause I actually like Wikipedia. I'm not here to even try to be a salesman for Everipedia and be like my thing is better. Wikipedia is great actually. Wikipedia is definitely now a pillar of the internet. People who are in charge of making the rules kind of set it up for becoming what it is, or hopefully staying as good as it was.
So the issue is right now with the whole kind of political polarization in the USA, and people finding, for example, news media, even like ones like that they thought were objective or neutral, so to speak, maybe like the New York Times, but now it's laughable. Right? I mentioned the New York Times, but now people are probably listening to this, later are going to laugh at me.
But there was a time where the New York Times was the standard for objective journalism. Right but now half of the country thinks it's kind of like a liberal mouthpiece or whatever. Then the other half thinks, for example, Fox News is like a propaganda outlet and the issue is, with these evolving attitudes, all of the people that are making the rules on Wikipedia right now have a lot of power to change what Wikipedia is going to be.
Sam M: I think, concerning the news, you're probably right on both points because news in 2020 is different. I mean, it's the same as it was back in the 1920s, right? Where you have a series of organizations that are trying to write facts mixed with a little bit of opinion, to garner eyeballs or clicks to come to their site and the more eyeballs or clicks that they get, the more money than they make from their advertisers, and so they have this strange relationship where, because they're profit-driven, they are driven towards making money from their advertisers, rather than presenting something, which should be a neutral record. If they wrote a neutral record, then it would not gather the same attention that a bombastic outlet like Fox News where they have their talking points.
They allow people to come on and have their own talking points about what they want to speak about. You really are catering towards a hyper select group of people that already agrees with most of what you're talking about. You're just presenting it in a way to them, which matches their political leanings.
You look at the New York Times and its subscriber base. It's new Yorkers, right, and other East coast, West coast, big city people who use that as their general newspaper and the online newspaper as well too, but when it comes to Wikipedia, it becomes harder.
Because if you're trying to be like the history of the status quo, there's bound to be political clashes and continuing political conflicts. I'm sure I could without even knowing about what the topic would be, I could probably bring up five things right now, which are very contentious on Wikipedia and that's not even bringing in like stuff like China and their relationship with some countries in the world or anything. Wikipedia is a global repository for information that I use it every day probably to go and check out things and read stuff.
It's amazing. You're right. It's a great portal but at the same time the polarizing effect that's been happening in the United States of this movement away from centrist ideas and Central's policies to extreme populism or this cultural Marxism and then the other effect of countries like China and other places where free speech may not be as open and more limited. I wonder if that has a detrimental effect on Wikipedia itself and its ability to maintain itself as the status quo history,
Sam K: Yeah. I think that what you said is since a hundred years ago when newspapers were huge, then in the fifties in the USA, television became a big and kind of the market effects of advertising and things like that really played a role.
I think that things have been getting more and more polarized since then, because like you said, there's been advertising and stuff, but there's been a move away from the centrist view. The issue now is that all of the people who are basically editing Wikipedia or making all of the rules now are in this political climate of these, these kinds of cultural Wars and things like that, so the actual discussions get more heated. They get more polarized. There's a wider range of possible opinions and viewpoints that people want to include it. There's a lot of places where issues can come up. Now, one of the things I wanted to kind of point out is just from a technological perspective, Wikipedia is global, but it's actually kind of a band, but you can get to it through proxies and stuff in China it was banned for a while from Turkey. One of the cool things with, Everipedia is that because it uses IPFS and a lot of blockchain technology we've actually had people in, China hosts some of the content more easily instead of being required to use things to bypass China firewall and stuff like that.
So that's actually one thing where blockchain or peer to peer technology does allow Everipedia to be more global and accessible as well as, people editing it to be able to earn tokens and actual value. That's one of the actual differences other than content that I wanted to highlight in terms of the global reach of using blockchain technology. That's one of the things that really excites me.
Sam M: When it comes to these more like sensitive issues, if you want to call them that, like when it comes to race, gender, what are other like disabilities or,
Sam K: Politics, right?
Sam M: yeah, Geopolitics. I think there's a modern theory that every single one of these subjects, which defines people, whether it's their gender, race, nationality, everything, everything is political, that every single part of any sort of speech connect to it is political.
When you have an entry on Wikipedia or really anywhere, it could be anywhere on the internet, it then becomes a political form of speech. So even though you have Wikipedia, who's trying to be very well unbiased.
Sam K: Neutral.
Sam M: yeah, neutral, right? They would say that there is no neutral and there are people who would say that there is no neutral bias by publishing alone things that may be considered facts.
You're already moving in one direction or the other, or not even one direction, or the other, because maybe something is multifaceted, but you're already taking a political stance by publishing certain things, and maybe not including other things that in itself would be a political act.
Sam K: Yeah. I think going back to the whole idea of neutrality, being a thing that you're supposed to say all viewpoints and, and describe them, you then run into this situation where how do you decide which viewpoints are valid and which ones are conspiracy or too fringe to include? Do you weigh it by its popularity? Do you weigh it by its news coverage? Do you waive viewpoints based on the number of people that ascribed to it? It's not easy. Right. And it's actually political, right? It's a political choice, right? Politics, by definition, is the stuff that affects people, right?
Decisions on how to run things and the rules around them are always political, even if you're trying to come up with the rules of neutrality.
Sam M: How do you manage that then? What's the best way to manage that neutrality?
Sam K: I think what's really important is maintaining a diverse group of people that actually, can engage in both intellectual and honest discussion about what is appropriate and relevant. Cause it's all at the end of the day, these tools are all used by people, right? The people who upkeep them are the people who need to actually keep the system running, need to keep the content up to date.
We try to make sure that there's actually a wide group of people that, and it's not always tilting to one side or the other. Actually, it's not easy, to be honest, it almost feels like, some people say, if you make everyone mad or if you make everyone unhappy, it's kind of like, you're doing something right. You're giving the other side enough space and enough coverage, and it makes the other end, the opponents angry, but then you give the opponents or the opposing viewpoints coverage as well. It's against what you just said, where people want to in news organizations, these days wants to just tell people what they want to hear so that they make more money.
But this is exactly the opposite of that. It's almost like if you make everyone kind of a little bit dissatisfied. You're doing the whole topic of justice. Cause there's a wide range of, viewpoints on it, right? Like if you give people everything they want to hear, you're probably leaving out, some things that they don't want to hear obviously.
Right. So that's what we try to do. We try to not care if it makes some people, discontent sometimes and others angry at another time, we just try to have a very neutral point of view.
Sam M: So, is there any difference in, in the relationship between the editors at Everipedia versus how they would be at Wikipedia?
Sam K: I think just based off of historically like a year or two ago, we just have a wider range of people editing. We have more women, we have more people across the world, even just editing the English version of Everipedia and then we just have a lot of people interested in different things. We have people editing, modern up and coming, things even like Instagram influencers means all of these things, as well as politics and history. And the reason for that is these things are all relevant even if some of them are modern and have like a younger audience and things like that.
We just want a very diverse set of not just content or coverage, but diverse set of people that actually, upkeep this kind of topics. Wikipedia has been this ground where very political or scientific oriented and interested editors keep the information, and they don't really have too much interest in internet culture or these kinds of newer things, but we try to make sure everything is included. It's a different demographic. There's also a lot of blockchain technology and futurists people that just kind of what Everipedia is built on excites them with tokenization as well as blockchain technology that Wikipedia sometimes or it's high-level editors are sometimes antagonistic to, and everyone on Everipedia feels really excited about this kind of technology. There's a different vibe, and I think that it's actually more diversified.
Sam M: One of the big differences between you and Wikipedia would be that you are a for-profit company, so how does that work in trying to maintain this record, but still turning a profit? Does it skew your relationship between the information or the editors and the company itself at the end of the day through your operations?
Sam K: Yeah. That is actually an interesting thing because we don't put advertising, we don't plan on in any way monetizing this kind of stuff at least the content or anything in that regard, so even though it's Everipedia international, the company is a for-profit entity. We actually just build open-source software. We build the IQ token smart contracts. It is open-source, the Everipedia protocol and everything. You can build different front ends that actually view the content. You can run IPFS nodes that host the actual content and IPFS is open source. So it's actually unique in the sense on paper it's for profit, but we actually don't control any part of the protocol in any way.
So actually, I actually think we're even less profit or even monetary driven then than Wikipedia, right? Like if Wikipedia saw that saying certain things increase the number of donations that they would receive, that could actually affect how they, how they run the entire foundation and things like that.
We actually don't even have that luxury, right. We produce open-source code. If people really don't like what's going on, they can fork it. They can fork the IQ token. They can fork the entire database where free creative commons, the same way Wikipedia is and so actually I'd like to think that, we actually have even less exposure to monetary incentives then than even competing, obviously Wikipedia doesn't run ads, but they ask for donations, which is a certain kind of advertising, right?
It's actually kind of like reverse advertising instead of putting up a banner and charging the advertising agency per click or something, they put up an ad, which is a donation ad, and then they hope that the viewer is the one that ends up paying or donating. So, I think that because of the distributed nature, both in terms of hosting, editing, earning IQ tokens, we're actually, really different.
We're actually separated from the monetary aspect. It's not like we earn a piece of the token when people edit. We obviously have a decent amount of the IQ tokens in circulation as a company. Imagine if a company had created. The Bitcoin protocol and they had some of the early Bitcoins, but that's about it.
We can't do anything else about anything afterwards, right? The software is open-source, and people upkeep the core client and stuff. It's free to build wallets, front ends or interfaces.
Sam M: So, how do you have enough money to pay for server costs and other things too, or it's all an IPFS, right? So you don't have to pay for server costs.
Sam K: Yeah. I mean, there's a small amount of server cost, and upkeep and a lot of people ask us, how do you actually keep the lights on and stuff? We're actually building a lot of interesting products and new protocols around the IQ token. That's a knowledge base. So we actually released a prediction market called predict that's powered by the same token, it's a user within Everipedia. The interface of that there's creation fees and, for markets and trading fees and things like that. We have a lot of interesting stuff coming that we've announced some we haven't. The idea with that is to really leverage that blockchain technology that Everipedia is built on to create a sustainable global market around the IQ token around knowledge around all of these things.
We don't actually need to monetize any of the knowledge portion or anything of Everipedia. It's unique, right? Like Wikipedia can't build, something like that and basically make it a decentralized financial ecosystem around and all right, because of, the type of software infrastructure that they have.
Sam M: Yeah. I mean, they're pretty fixed in what they have to do, and I'm sure as one of the most visited sites on the internet, they have to pay extremely high server costs that come along with it. So maybe, I see where you're coming from about how the model works.
Sam K: Yeah, we're actually in a really, interesting and unique place because, in the blockchain space right now, DeFi and all of these financial products are really huge. And for the first time, unlike the ICO era, where everyone just printed a token, and somehow it had an inflated price, and then everything crashed down to the reality basically these DeFi products have sustainable economics.
The things we're doing at Everipedia is building DeFi related products that have direct relevance to knowledge. Right? So prediction markets are market dynamics around the crowd's view of future events, right? It's about predicting the outcome of actual knowledge. We actually have an Oracle product also coming where, instead of just kind of citing these news sources or something on an Everipedia article, we're hoping to be able to get a lot of news organizations and just real-world sources to sign with public keys, their claims about what they're writing, right? Like what they say, the election results are, what they're saying the coronavirus situation is and stuff like that. When they sign that with private keys, you can actually just bring those claims are those pieces of information on the blockchain.
And that's actually not only helpful for Everipedia in terms of the articles, but it actually is a solution to the Oracle problem, which is a fundamental blockchain problem. We're actually building a very vibrant, ecosystem around knowledge market dynamics around knowledge, and it's all powered with the IQ token.
Because of how Everipedia is built, we have a unique way of being able to make the PR on the protocol level, and as well, a little bit on the company level make, money that isn't relevant to either readers or advertisers actually paying to keep the lights on, which is unique.
It's for the first time, I think in the history of the internet, where a product can actually make money or monetize without needing to sell out in any way, or bother readers to ask for donations to keep the lights on and things like that.
Sam M: So contributors are given IQ tokens for the work that they do?
Sam K: Yeah. So right now, when you edit you have to stake IQ tokens, and when you edit or create content or propose a content, then other IQ token holders can stake and vote on whether your edit gets approved or revert it. It's kind of a proof of stake model that currently the majority of stakers decide on the canonical state of the content, just like how the majority of stakers in a proof of stake system decide on the next block or the next order of transactions for the canonical chain. If your content is in that canonical history, you get some IQ tokens as rewards, and you can continue to edit.
You don't actually need to keep buying IQ tokens to edit. If you do a good job, you'll keep earning more IQ tokens, then you'll be able to actually edit for free, and you keep earning actually more value. It's a pretty unique system. And so far it's worked pretty well for about two years, it's running, and the number of editors is growing, and it's actually a way for people to get into crypto without having to have a Fiat on-ramp right. One of the main issues is when you first want to get into crypto, how do you get it?
Well, you need the cash, or you need to set up an account on an exchange that allows banking, wires, or something like that. But with a PTA, you can actually earn cryptocurrency and then use that cryptocurrency that you've earned to either continue to edit or trade for Bitcoin or anything else. It's an on-ramp into crypto through knowledge, and without having to connect a bank account or anything.
Sam M: Yeah. I mean, it allows for essentially micropayments to happen for edits.
Sam K: Yeah. But it allows you to monetize your actual knowledge or your work. With our new products, like predict, which is the prediction market, people can even earn more and more IQ by being correct about the prediction of events with the Oracle product that we have in the works, even larger organizations or entities can actually earn, IQ tokens for signing, what they publish in the real world, signing it on-chain with their own public key. People can use that data, how they see fit on-chain for either financial contracts or other Oracle resolutions and things like that. Yeah.
Sam M: So. Was there a shift in how users use the platform before and after the token?
Sam K: I'm honestly of the belief that if the only reason people are editing a platform or using it because they're earning, money or value, it's not going to be quality. One of the main things you can look at is Wikipedia, right? It's volunteer-maintained.
For most of its life, it's been pretty good, I mean, you use it every day. So do I. I think that with proper incentives and people that actually like to use Everipedia it just makes usage by, by editors and curators and stuff like that sweeter, not the fact that they're just doing it to earn wards or anything, but it actually just makes it better. If you're someone that's thinking, should I edit Wikipedia or should you earn tokens. It's kind of a clear decision, right?
It's kind of a clear decision in that respect, which one you'll edit first, but it's not just because you came to repeat it to her and tokens because you were thinking of, you want it to edit an encyclopedia, you want it to add knowledge, you want it to create a page about yourself or some topic or company or something like that.
But then, it just makes it a little bit sweeter, right? When you compare, editing Wikipedia or I've repeated.
Sam M: Was there an uptick in users, in people that came to the platform? I mean, has it been because I've been part of the reason why people would want to maybe be attracted to using it repeated in the first place would be the token, the comfort of the token, and then they stay because they liked the environment. So has it worked as a good marketing tool?
Sam K: Yeah. We had a pretty vibrant community before, and it actually did grow a lot. And to be honest, we did have some problems of people trying to game the system or trying to create bots that created frivolous edits and things like that. Thankfully the entire protocol and the way that the voting works and staging works, it actually becomes infeasible to have these kinds of sock puppet accounts on Everipedia versus, something on like Wikipedia, because if you are, creating frivolous edits and people are reverting them, you actually get your IQ token slashed. You actually lose monetary value. So, when there was a really big uptake at the beginning, it was very easy for curators to actually weed out low-quality users or people trying to abuse the system because it actually becomes really expensive, really quickly.
It's only free to edit if you're earning IQ and you're continuing to stake your IQ. But if you are trying to gain the system, or if you're trying to create these sock puppet accounts, which are these fake or automated accounts that create frivolous content, it actually becomes monetarily expensive on Everipedia versus with Wikipedia.
If you get, then you can just create a new account within UIP and, and try to, keep going again, which is actually a really big problem that they're having.
Sam M: Well, can't you just create a new wallet address and then use that.
Sam K: Yeah. Yeah, you can, but then you need to go get IQ tokens. So it actually becomes not just expensive in terms of time, but in terms of value. You'll get IQ tokens and stake them. If you don't create quality, you'll lose it, and then you won't be able to edit again unless you go get more.
Sam M: Because they have to go purchase on the open market.
Sam K: Yeah. So it becomes, expensive, not just in terms of a time and resource, type of, allocation, but in terms of a monetary way as well. The way that it's designed is if you're doing good work and curating good stuff, then you don't have to go buy more. Cause you're actually earning IQ so you can continue to stay there.
Sam M: So whose idea was it for to include the token?
Sam K: I mean, so I've personally been in the blockchain space since 2013 before we even started Everipedia. But the thing is that this kind of stuff, dApps and decentralized finance applications and stuff, wasn't even a thing as you probably know until Ethereum really matured after a year or two of its release.
So I remember it was first announced and actually was in the cryptocurrency space since counterparty and all of those kinds of pre-Ethereum things, coloured coins on a Bitcoin and things like that. So, it was kind of my idea to think about bringing Everipedia to the blockchain space, and it really wasn't possible until early 2017. So that's why actually we started working on it, right, when the vision for this was actually technologically feasible.
Sam M: I mean, why couldn't you, so you're on yours, right?
Sam K: Yes.
Sam M: So what are the limitations that prevent you from signing some transactions on Bitcoin? Is it just too expensive? And then you also wanted a token.
Sam K: Well, there is some actual backend logic that it's not just about the incentivization layer. It's about the whole logic of the backend. When you vote when you stake IQ, and you vote on an edit, what you're voting on is the new hash, which is the representation of the new state of an article.
All of these hashes are stored on the Everipedia smart contract. So for example, if you run an IPFS node, you can query the hashes on the EOS blockchain inside that have repeated smart contract and hosts the most up to date, content. And so it's not just about signing a transaction to earn tokens.
It's about the entire logic of these transactions voting for an edit, creating an edit, creating a page. All of these things are actually all done on-chain. If you go to everipedia.org, everything right now is on-chain. We have leader boards, which are basically the most edits made in the most IQ, like querying historical transactions from wallets that are to that repeated smart contract.
All of these things are fairly sophisticated blockchain transactions. It's not just about the token, so we definitely need a smart contract platform to run it on. We were the first project to commit to building on EOS because it had a lot of advantages to Ethereum back when this was announced that you could actually run many of these transactions, fairly cheaply in comparison.
If you had to propose an edit and it costs 50 cents of gas costs, and that edit would earn you 40 cents of IQ, then you'd actually be paying, it wouldn't even be free. It wouldn't even be a net positive. It would be a net negative to, Do anything, right? So it'd be even kind of worse off that a Wikipedia itself.
So that's kind of the decision to build on, it's not the blockchain landscape has changed since 2017, obviously. One of the things we've announced recently is we want to make the IQ token cross-chain, we're actually going to issue an ERC 20 token, hopefully, sometime this year, as well as kind of have a lot of our products and back in Smart contracts code on any chain actually that can support it. There's a lot of good projects coming out with like algorithm, polka dot, East 2.0, which I'm a huge fan of we're just like how the content is supposed to be neutral. We're actually blockchain neutral as well, or prep platform, agnostic, or that's kind of the plan for the whole thing.
Sam M: This was this originally how it was when you picked you. Or was it just a matter of market forces and the fact that there's so much more liquidity on Ethereum was a driving factor as well?
Sam K: Well, when we originally, built on EOS and EOS has been fairly good; obviously every chain has certain problems and certain advantages, but EOS was the only blockchain we could actually build the entire Everipedia platform on with a lot of scaling solutions and new platforms that have unique value propositions, we can build the entire vision of, Everipedia with decentralized knowledge, decentralized prediction markets, Oracles and on-chain facts and stuff on multiple platforms. The whole idea for us always was, like I said, both in terms of content neutrality, and then also technological neutrality it's not like EOS or certain chain or tribalism. There was no other show in town that we could build this off then; now there is.
Sam M: Again, you're coming back to neutrality again. I mean, it shouldn't really matter where you go, it's more about how can the data be secured in the right way and how can it be done at a low cost?
Sam K: Exactly. Now there's many, new and very high quality options, obviously. We want to basically make sure that, we're on all of these platforms that can legitimately secure both the value of the IQ token and host the actual backend logic. We're actually thinking of, our near term is Ethereum 2.0, so an ERC 20 token, as well as, we're looking at potentially polka dot, and those are even one or two steps after Ethereum.
Sam M: I guess, what are some of the challenges that you're facing going forward?
Sam K: Yeah, I think, actually the stuff that we're focusing on right now is kind of expanding Everipedia's mission on-chain, which has always been knowledge and facts on the blockchain. When we started building it, how can we bring this knowledge base to a more decentralized infrastructure?
So with the advent of DeFi protocols, as well as that advent of more sophisticated ways of bringing on-chain data, with chain link and, and all of these things, we're actually our main goal right now is to continue to expand the encyclopedia, a service, as well as build out this ecosystem of prediction markets, Oracles, and things like that that make it a very robust and economically sound cross-chain platform. Our main challenge is making sure all of these pieces come together in one unified, Everipedia platform with one token. Bringing marketplace dynamics to knowledge upkeep and things like that without actually bringing perverse incentives, right?
Like we just talked about the kind of corrupting power of advertising or money, but designing these things in a way that actually helps when, when the value in market forces are brought into it is. Probably the most challenging thing, right? I was previously saying it's harder to game Everipedia because it costs something and that's because it's well designed. It's actually profitable to edit, but it's prohibitively expensive to do things that that would cost you things to kind of attack the network and knowledge base. Right? So the biggest challenge is to build these systems and have them make sense and difficult to attack.
Sam M: Yeah, asymmetric returns
Sam K: Exactly. Crypto is so exciting because it's very defender centric, right? It's one of the only places and realms, so to speak in cyberspace, for example, where a state actor still can break a public/private key set even though they're a state actor, you have your own cryptography is an asymmetric technology.
Sam M: Very cool. How does your own core beliefs tie into what you're building at Everipedia? Was it always there to want to build this open platform? Or, I mean, was there something that you came about to during your time at UCLA that pushed you down this path?
Sam K: I was a neuroscience and philosophy major. I think Philosophy was, believe it or not, the more important formative part of my personal identity. It's actually interesting Larry, the other Wikipedia co-founder, was a philosophy PhD.
But like I said earlier, I always liked Wikipedia. I mean, I'm still a fan, as well. That's why I went into this area and then I've always been a huge cryptocurrency and blockchain proponent because of the asymmetric nature of cryptography. So it's interesting that it, kind of came full circle. But actually, as I said, design it in such a way where it adds value. It makes it more resilient and makes it harder to censor. It brings proper incentivization. And so it's kind of the merging of both of my interests brought it here. And I think that's why I'll continue to work in like the cryptocurrency and knowledge space and things like that. I'll find myself in the actual space, probably for most of my career.
Sam M: Yeah, I mean, I have a philosophy degree as well too, and I'm probably should have taken neuroscience as well.
Sam K: What's your favourite, topic and area and philosophy?
Sam M: I like creativity. I like the philosophy of creativity and art because I like exploring where the spark of imagination and creativity comes from and how we're able to capture it into designing new ideas and new platforms. I think that really matches my own personality style as well, too. I'm always pushing for like new ideas, new ways of doing things. And so it really resonated with me when I was doing my philosophy studies. I like a lot of logic as well too, but art and creativity were much more interesting.
Sam K: Yeah. I mean, I took a lot of classes on either objectivity versus subjectivity and what is creativity and where intuition comes from. That's actually one of the most interesting parts of philosophy. You're trying to talk about these logical systems, and then there's also the intuitive realm of what is actually objective versus what is kind of art essentially.
Sam M: Yeah, I think I'm more in the conservative camp, and I think I've come about this in a long path, right? Where in the beginning, you think that art can be anything and that modern art has really come on to something in the ability to speak ideas through objects or even titles and names or through words, which it does in many cases, I mean, a guy like stuck a banana on a wall, duct-taped a banana on a wall and it's sold for a hundred and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Right. And then the guy came and ate it. Right. And that, and both of these there. It just doesn't sit right with me that, it's a novel idea and yes, it says something, but it doesn't mean that it's beautiful. And I think that this element of beauty that's been stripped away in modern art really is detracting in modern society.
One of my philosophy lectures was Roger Scruton at a university of St. Andrews, and he wrote a lot about this. He passed away recently from cancer. He wrote some great books about beauty and about conservatives and what it actually means to preserve things. They're beautiful. His explorations were co-mingled because when he spoke a lot about architecture was one of the things that he really focused on and he pointed to modern architecture as this garish temporary forms that wouldn't last more than a couple of decades
Sam K: Kind of utilitarian.
Sam M: Yes. Utilitarianism like surging purely for utilitarianism and functionalism within the buildings themselves detracted from and stripping away their beauty detracted from the buildings, having any lasting purpose or desire within us as a society to preserve them. And you see this a lot in the buildings that were created in the sixties and seventies, especially in Britain, and especially in, in Eastern Europe as well too, these just garish concrete structures. I don't know if you've ever been to Romania.
Sam K: No, I haven't actually, I love to visit that, that area in Eastern Europe.
Sam M: So Bucharest has this strange juxtaposition of buildings where there's many from the 18th century and 19th century, which have been preserved even to modern-day, but they're fitted in between these 1950s and 1960s Soviet concrete apartments. That just it's. So there's just such differences of architectural styles in buildings that are directly next to each other. You can have a building that's 200 years old next to a building that was some concrete slabs that were slapped together during the 1960s. It just shows the need to build things that are beautiful and not just things that are functional or provide utility and that without focusing on beauty and focusing on things that you want to preserve, then there really has no lasting purpose and you're just building something that's cheap and, and will be forgotten.
Something beautiful is something that should be preserved. You can then move into other spheres of how you live your life and about how you base your political beliefs to provide value and meaning.
Sam K: Yeah. I'm really glad you said that because I totally agree about the architecture stuff. I wonder if during each actual era, if people, what they thought about their own architectural style versus, the one previous to them. I have never really met anyone today that says isn't our architecture so much better than 200 years ago, or even more, no one even says that. Right. It's almost like everyone universally agrees that it's kind of devoid of beauty. And like you say, you say that you see that everywhere. Here, in UCLA campus and stuff like that, you see the buildings that were. Built even in the early 19 hundreds, UCLA has original buildings like Powell, Kirkoff, these really nice buildings with beautiful architecture that are now the prestige and life of the campus. They're just brick, squares and rectangles. And I wonder if in another hundred years or something, if people will actually be like, well, the early two thousand are, or at least much better than what we have now in 3000 or whatever.
But I don't think so. I think everyone seems like they universally agree on that beauty is kind of becoming sucked out and, and leaving man's creations in terms of, both for the preference of functionalism and utilitarianism. So I totally agree. And I think it's actually universally agreed upon, right?
Like I've never met anyone that's been saying isn't modernist architecture, so great to compare it to the olden days? I'd love to meet someone that would argue that, but I really haven't. I think you're totally right.
Sam M: Yeah, but I don't think it's framed that way because it's more about like here we have space which meets all the needs of the person. I mean, the functionalist utilitarian would say here's a building that meets the purpose of what needs to happen inside.
That building will last as long as it's needed. As soon as it's no longer needed, it will be replaced by something else. It's also a powerful argument, bu. I think it forgets the lasting legacy that that will happen throughout generation to generation because part of what we have to do as a culture is we have this spoken cultural history, which has passed down and it grows and is modified and become something new. It evolves as its past. As the kind of living right now, we have a requirement to ensure that what we're passing down is valuable and worth something, and not just something that's cheap and should be thrown away.
Sam K: It's almost like the function of architecture had changed from purely what needs to happen inside versus, before where, as you said, there was a clear mental goal of passing this down to generations and kind of coming back to the whole knowledge thing.
It's almost like we also have a responsibility to write our own history and document it, in a way that is kind of a reflection of us or future generations. The way that we write our own history or create our own monuments and stuff is totally changed.
Sam M: It's hard because the common themes and ideas shift from generation to generation. All these statues being torn down now, and when they were built, it was completely fine. I mean, there may have been some descent, but on the whole, if you're going to have a statue of yourself be built in Washington DC or a major city, there's probably a general consensus among the population that you're deserving of it, and then it only takes what like three or four generations to have that totally flip. People want to rewrite history about that person, or the actions come into a new light, and they're no longer, morally acceptable or, sorry, not morally acceptable, but they're no longer acceptable within society and that they're cast away.
But I think this is different; there's a difference between how you act and how you as a person because everybody has their black spots. I think that that becomes clear as we proceed into 2020 is that it doesn't matter who you were in the past, and it doesn't matter how good of a person you were is that shifting cultural norms can eventually lead towards black spots on your legacy, and almost everyone has them now. It's difficult with human lives, right? Because there is no black and white, it's just grey. There are many multifaceted ways of looking at a person and the same with history as well, too. Capturing it in its right form, I think it is important, and it's a difficult task. But I think it's more difficult with words than it is with physical objects. You have an easier time with art because you can say something with words, you can say something as beautiful, but those ideas can always be changed, but with a physical object, like a building or a piece of art, the physical properties of it stay the same while the idea can shift from generation to generation.
Sam K: Yeah, exactly.
Sam M: I've been really reflective in 2020 for a lot of reasons. I don't like to join movements. I don't like to be political if that's the thing, right. If you can be apolitical, because if you, if you join factions, if you take a side, you remove a portion of your impartiality that should exist and you cannot have substantial difficult conversations when you're taking a biased view of something.
Sam K: I totally agree. It's also just becoming a little bit harder to remain apolitical or even just neutral these days, since everything is kind of becoming a political question, like how respond to a biological pandemic, right or things like that. I think that's kind of what we were talking about before the hyper-politicization of the things that usually were not before, but they are today.
Sam M: Yeah. I see it as the people who stand on both sides or at least the people who stand in the Jordan and the people who stand standing minority, all of these of holding them at certain beliefs. They pushed to take away any ground where you could step aside and not take aside.
You're forced to take a side forced to proclaim your belief, or you're part of a certain team while denouncing the other team. It's not healthy towards building a place where different ideas and arguments and other conversations can be had.
Because if you come from a place of the other person is wrong, without exploring why they're wrong in the first place, then there's no change that can take place, right? So, But the problem, at the same time these people that push towards a radicalization of extremes instruction of the centre also understand the importance of power and how it relates to the speech that they have. When they push for these, and they pushed for the destruction of the centre. It's more about how can we assume control of the people around us through, through speech and through the ability to control the ideas of what they have.
Sam K: Yeah. But everything that seems to be going on today. It's almost like every action you take voluntarily or involuntarily ends up having a political statement, whether you intentionally mean it or not. In the USA, it almost feels like if I go somewhere and I don't wear a mask, it's a political statement. Or if I do wear a mask, it's almost like it is a political statement and it's not just actually a free choice, but almost like identification of your political leaning. It actually just makes it hard to discuss the merits or the advantages or disadvantages of certain views, and so, it just seems like even just unintentional actions now are labelled as political stances.
Sam M: Yeah, especially with COVID, you've seen political bias come out, even in like scientific studies that that then are used as ammunition for legitimate news sources to discredit people.
Sam K: Roxy chloroquine.
Sam M: yeah. Hydroxychloroquine he took that for like a week or something. Every single newspaper came out and used this Lancet study that showed the ineffectiveness of hydroxychloroquine but then almost two to three weeks later that Lancet study, the same study was disproven and it had to be retracted, but it had given enough ammunition in that one moment for the national news and all the pundits to jump on the president for something which they believed they could attack them with, and this isn't just against Trump, it pretty much happens to every public figure out there. How you control information is how you gain power today in our culture.
Sam K: Yeah. There are no more wars where you take the land. It's all Headspace information and beliefs, right? I mean, there's no more conventional, warfare, it's all information warfare.
Sam M: Exactly right. Because warfare is just dead or relegated to non-Western developed countries, so you're Iranian. Right? How do you view our coverage of us around race relations in the United States?
Sam K: Yeah. It's kind of a portrayal of perspective or narrative of each individual news organization itself. News organizations that are heavily against diplomacy or pro-diplomacy coverage. I think the news, it's not even just about Iran, but it's more about kind of anything, whether it's to discredit the current president or even the former president or something like that. That's also why the mistrust in news organizations has been so prevalent.
Coverage is a tool for making ends meet, right? The actual end goal is not about recording something as it is in the real world, but, how to just continue a certain type of narrative, whether it's from Iran or anything else actually.
Sam M: Yeah. I understand. Did your family immigrate over here?
Sam K: Yeah. So I came here as a kid when I was about five or six. I grew up here. I grew up in Southern California and stayed around here ever since in terms of a West coast, and I actually have only briefly been to the East coast. I've travelled for crypto and business to Asia. I've been to Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea. I haven't been to the East coast much compared to the West coast of the US, so I've been around the world now, and there's a lot of interesting stuff going on in Asia, especially with cryptocurrency and the importance of that region in this century.
Sam M: Yeah, it's nice in Southern California. I don't know why you'd want to leave.
Sam K: Oh, the weather's nice. Although no one can really enjoy it these days because of a COVID, things are getting back to normal, hopefully in Florida where you are right now. I assume the weather's this time of year. Maybe it's a little hot.
Sam M: Oh, it's hot. I've been living in Europe for the past ten years, so I have a hard time converting to Fahrenheit. So it's like 91 today, but it feels like 106. And so in Fahrenheit, that's like 31, but it feels like 35 or something.
Sam K: Yeah, especially because of the humidity, huh?
Sam M: Yeah, it's like 70 or 80% humidity every single day, plus 90-degree heat. It's not fun, but in the wintertime, it's great because all it's like 70 degrees every day, and it's great.
Sam K: That's also one of the things with the US; it's such a huge country with a diverse landscape, diverse demographics, diverse politics. It's actually, one of the things that I was recently reading on is that there maybe there didn't need to be a national response or maybe the lack of national response for such a huge country is what made controlling the pandemic difficult.
If Oregon, for example, locked down at the same time, New York lockdown down, it's the equivalent of like Ireland blocking down because in Moscow, and there was a huge outbreak or something, that's how big the U S is.
So there's this huge divided how to actually respond to this pandemic, and in the actual bickering and discussion, you give more time for the virus to actually get around, which is what makes the pandemic even more difficult to control in such a huge country.
Sam M: I think, the national response put people in masks, and it put them on alert on that they should change their behaviours. Suppose you didn't have that you wouldn't have the tepid response that you've had so far. I think a lot of it was directed at seniors and how we can protect them and make sure that they're not dying.
Sam K: Hopefully, the death rate as it's going down looks very promising. I just keep thinking if the death rate for COVID-19 can approach the flu levels, that it'll actually be a good outcome that we've managed to bring this down to something like that. But then you have other countries that have completely eradicated, and you think, okay, well, why couldn't we actually bring it much lower than flu levels, right?