Both HAT ecosystem and a Blockchain ecosystem empowers the individual, the former through a HAT Microserver, the latter through a Blockchain-wallet (see this medium post on Blockchain 101 or if you want a far simpler explanation – this one). Both HAT Microserver and Blockchain wallet allow individuals to have full rights to its contents and both ecosystems deal with digital data transfers. Hence, it is easy to think of them as similar. They are, however, quite different as they are designed to achieve different outcomes.
The Blockchain ecosystem tends to deals with the part of the Internet that is transactional, and a large part of the Internet is transactional, especially for its most precious cargo e.g. money, shares, contracts, record of assets. Such precious cargo requires more explicit and formal contracts, and should only be transacted with and through trusted parties e.g. government or bank, for example payments or transfers of shares. The Blockchain system disrupts the most trusted transactions on the Internet by not needing a centralised or a trusted party.
The HAT ecosystem does enable the transactional aspects of data exchanges but it is designed to deal with the other part of the Internet — the part of the Internet that is relational — service-for-service exchanges such as personalised news, ads, products, recommendations; where data matters even when it is not overtly transactional in nature; data that is more ambiguous and perhaps less accurate, but are nonetheless valuable and exchanged for better experiences. Blockchains are useful when immutability of data is important so a passport number that is 23948267 has to be accurate and true and is very different from 23948268 whilst you might not care if you walked 10350 steps or 10351 steps.
Identity, ownership of money and shares are all believed to be valuable in themselves because their application and use is known and often assumed. Blockchain systems are good for such data transactions.
The HAT ecosystem deals with all kinds of data, immutable or not. The Internet moves a lot of data around and the value of most of the data is often not known and its worth would vary greatly. For example, data about my body dimensions and the type of clothes I currently have in my wardrobe are not really useful till I wish to have wardrobe recommendations. It is suddenly useful and worth a percentage of my clothing purchases, an amount that can be borne by the seller or by me. Given that the time and space of such transactions are uncertain, the HAT holds the data in a place where it can be applied dynamically, real time and on-demand wherever a market could appear. It is then dependent on how the transaction can happen i.e. whenever a person is willing to give data in exchange for a service — which may or may not even be monetised through currency.
Blockchain systems tends to extol the benefit of a decentralised system whilst the HAT ecosystem is designed to be a hybrid of a fully centralised and fully decentralised model, much like the way a human being lives in centralised and decentralised systems — where we are unique individuals with unique identities and unique assets we call our own and we transact on them, we are also relational, community, centralised people with centralised institutions such as family, community and state.
The HAT therefore enables ‘data exchange relationships’ with organisations. These may be data debits that can last as short as a few seconds (more transactional) or a 1 year rolling data debit of a continuous stream of data for better fitness recommendation (more relational). Most importantly, the HAT is more than a wallet or even a data locker; it can run its own micro-services and therefore allowing us as digital persons to have technological capabilities of our own with built-in software, machine learning algorithms, or even stream our own music that we create if we wish. The HAT is essentially a ‘digital-person-as-a-service’ on the Internet. And like normal physical persons who can do things for ourselves and perform services for ourselves and for others, the HAT Micro-server can do that digitally for ourselves by ourselves in our own private space on the Internet as well.
Of course the digital person is transactional as well, so we expect there will be blockchain applications running on the HAT ecosystem for data that needs to be more accurate and where formal contracts are necessary. The outcome of a Blockchain system is to dispense with the need for a centralised trusted party whilst the outcome of the HAT ecosystem is to give true economic power to the digital person. Both are disruptive. The Blockchain disrupts trust models and the HAT disrupts personal data acquisition, usage and rights. In 2018, we will see them come together for a true revolution.
(This post originally published on Medium on 1 Jan 2018)