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CIN Talks E01 - Grayson Bass, Smart Waterloo Region Innovation Lab

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

Data Collaboration Alliance president Dan Demers catches up with Grayson Bass, Manager of the Smart Waterloo Region Innovation Lab to talk about Data Ownership, Collaborative Intelligence, and the future of innovation.

Grayson Bass is the founding manager of the Innovation Lab for the Smart Waterloo Region and an instructor in Applied Innovation. His research focuses on networks and social impact measurement and he has a passion for social justice and economic empowerment. Grayson is currently looking at the impacts of decentralization and the rise of municipalities in setting the global agenda and addressing the biggest challenge of the 21st century.

The Region of Waterloo is a Canadian municipality known globally as a major centre of engineering and innvation. It is home to the University of Waterloo, the Communitech accelerator, and a thriving tech community that includes 500+ startups working on solutions in fintech, autotech, robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence.

See also

About CIN

The Collaborative Intelligence Network (CIN) is the flagship research project of the Data Collaboration Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to meaningful Data Ownership and global Collaborative Intelligence.

The objective of CIN is to define a new global infrastructure for data and applications built on the foundations of control, ownership, and collaboration.

The project includes the following activities:

Episode transcript

Grayson Bass:

So I've been trying to kind of make my own list just kind of informally and I'm always welcome to suggestions about what's actually different between Web2 and Web3 I think kind of most relevant for our conversation is data

You know in Web2 the application and thus application owner so Google Facebook they own my data, whereas in Web3 data being decentralized basically just means in my mind I own it and every data point whether it's the color of my eyes the fact that I have a beard whether I have you know some marker in my genetic code all of that is owned by me and because it's owned by me it's my own currency

Like I'm my own bank for my own data

So Dan you make this really great point about how you may store your money in a different bank account or you may keep it under your mattress

Same with data

But how does that look? And I don't know I don't really trust banks

So I'm always interested in the solution that would allow me to put my data under my mattress but also be able to send it around the world at the same time I think that that's what's really kind of the evolution and promise of Web3 is it's not all the metaverse nonsense it's not all the fact that you know what I can do

I think fundamentally it's about ownership and access. You know there's this great quickly hand drawn chart a couple years ago that showed just a bar chart and they were basically opposite of itself and you know imagine a bar chart and go into a hundred so all the way to 90 was filled up on one and then the top 10 units were a different color and on the other one was just the opposite so the first 10 units were filled up and a top 90 were filled up a different color so in the one where the bottom 10 is filled up.

That's the Web2 so the TCP IP protocols everything the infrastructure that makes things possible that's the share of the value. Whereas in this Web3 world that share the value is actually that infrastructure which in my mind means we all need our own infrastructure

We can't all share a single Ethereum chain. That will never work it will never work. But what we can share is kind of that value like you know I'll have a Grayson chain you'll have a Dan chain but going forward it's that top 10% that will bring joy.

Dan DeMers:

Yeah and it's interesting you mentioned the thoughts on Web3 and the confusion that's out there and there's the original version of what Web3 was you know the semantic web the de-coupling of the data from the applications and then there's the more recent spin on that

But even that more recent spin is still centered around the core concept of data

So the way I personally like to simplify the way I think it will all converge in a world right now where everyone has their own opinions and throw in vendors in there that are trying to influence that general thinking is Web1 is you have a large number of consumers of content that are pulling from a small number of producers of content

Web2 is where the consumers become the producers and it's collaborative everyone's contributing but they're doing it in a way where anything that they contribute they're also indirectly implicitly handing over control of their contribution

I send you my photo it's no longer my photo. I send you a comment it's no longer my comment

I cannot have control over that and I think for me that is the theme of the Web3 that unifies you know the old version of it the new version of it and all these ideas is like you say it's around the data

Personally though I think it's less about the ownership of data and more about the ability to have control over the data because you can own something and not have control over that and if so ownership is irrelevant without control

Just because I own you know my age or my birthday or something if it's out there for everyone to do what they want with that then what's the point of even owning it?

It's like if I own property and I can't have any control over that property anyone could just come and you know live in my house and I can't do anything. I can't call the police or anything

then the fact that I own it as irrelevant

It doesn't matter anymore so I think that's the secret is the Web3 is the revolution where people can start to actually take back control over the data meaning you know who has access that access can be revoked and taken away

You know it's the enablement of control does that make sense?

Grayson Bass:

It makes a hundred percent sense

I mean I think that that's the entire basis for - not to be hyperbolic but - of the revolution that's coming here

There is a completely asymmetric benefit from data today and you know there's always some meme or something going around that says you know if you're not paying for a product then you are the product

Which is true but it's not that we you know don't want to necessarily share our data

It's that we have a problem with who controls it and what they're going to do with it

and I think that is the concern like a friend of mine he says "you know what? Nobody really cares about one world government"

What we're not okay with is a bad actor abusing us or influencing us and since we can't ever be sure about that we have to do something to ensure that that doesn't happen

So the idea that we can be able to share and use our data for collective good this is that utopia this is the idea that we should be able to identify and help people preemptively and proactive

You know the example I use here with our lab because we're focused on you know municipal government. If we look at all the families and children that are in the Child Protective Services

What we see is that about 90% of the people in that system shouldn't be there

In fact, all we've done is just criminalized poverty. If you look at what you know you're deemed to be a bad parent most of those things are a direct result of poverty

And just imagine you know your worst day as a parent you're going to get your kids taken away just because you're poor. That is systemic inequality but imagine that we could go find these individuals you know six months before they couldn't pay rent six months before they started running out of food

And we know some people are too embarrassed to even go to the food bank. Imagine we could show up and instead of having to pay for that system that 90% kind of waste have to pay for like foster parents for the kids we could give that money directly to a family

We could actually intervene before and provide an off-ramp to actually make society better

I think that's the hope of what big data is but it only works if we're all willing to share and it only works if that data is private

Dan DeMers:

Yeah and I think just to add to that I think it's the almost technological guarantee that that control is not lost upon sharing which is where for the Alliance the idea of access not copies comes into play right?

Cause we use the word sharing all the time but if you take two kids playing in a daycare or they're playing with a toy or something and one of them brought it from home and they share it with their friend they're not making a copy of that toy and then saying here now you have a copy do with it what you want

There's only one toy and if they share they have to give it back and if the other kid takes it home at the end of the day the other a kid's sad and maybe the parent wants you just talk to each other cause you know sharing is not duplicating sharing is not transferring sharing is you know where there's just one toy and you can play with it but I can play with it only one at a time.

Maybe we can play together but there's only one toy there's only one version of it so I think that's where we need to reframe the idea of sharing is one that actually models how sharing actually works in the real world where you can share and retain control and I think that's the ultimate measure of what technologies will actually feed the revolution which is ones that enable that level of control and there's so many big questions around you know who owns what data like who owns my birthday for example but that question like I mentioned earlier is irrelevant if there was no ability to have control over that

So there's a bazillion very complicated questions around ownership that will need to be sorted out But It starts with the enablement of control and I think that is when we look back you know 30 years and then go what was the actual revolution of Web3?

It's the technologies and approaches that triggered the beginning of that control revolution

Grayson Bass:

I think the way that we go about that I imagine is going to be quite a simple protocol at some point in time it'll be almost elegantly simple but the implications of it are going to be so profound and I think that's what whether it's evolution or revolution that's what we have to look forward to because that's going to change everything

Dan DeMers:

Yeah and one thing that that I always keep going back to is the combination of collaboration with autonomy so collaborative autonomy which feeds collaborative intelligence is what makes us who we are like the fact that you and I know how to make a fire but we were neither of us were born with this knowledge yet we have separate brains and you can't hear my inner monologue.

I can't hear yours but there's beauty in this you know enablement of collaboration while respecting the autonomy and the digital future is one that will mimic how it works in nature cause it's pretty damn brilliant

Grayson Bass:

I think you're right can we talk about that next time? That's what I want to talk about that's an awesome concept.

Dan DeMers:

Yeah let's do it!




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