Humans.net CEO: Data Manipulation and Exploitation Will Become a Thing of the Past
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Current social media platforms seem to have hit the floor with the revelations of data manipulation and exploiting user data. Today there is excited talk about these platforms being superseded by next generation social networks based on blockchain. What’s your take on this?
The big issue today is that your data is owned by the social media platform and not you. This data is manipulated and exploited. Furthermore, the concept of privacy is treated like a quaint notion from the past. The new social media platforms will turn this on its head. Data will belong to users because they generate it and they own it. It will be integrated into the blockchain so users can choose how to manage it and who sees it.
This is an absolutely fundamental change compared to today’s platforms. It’s also revolutionary in the sense that the digital age has partly been characterised by all manner of organisations scooping up data generated by other and using it to make money. New social media platforms will reverse this flow and give power back to the people.
Today’s social media simply makes money by pushing content to you. This model won’t exist in next-gen social networks. One of the fundamental building blocks of these next-gen platforms will be the ability of users to monetise data. In short, should they decide to let others use their data they will receive payments.
Tell us about the Humans.net platform. What are its advantages what problems does it solve?
Humans.net is a technologically advanced, data-driven platform that connects people and organisations with each other. It cuts out middlemen and brings together people who need and those who are providing help and services. The fundamental building block of Humans is the development of a huge databank, or directory of people, and their skills, made accessible to other people on the platform.
To illustrate its benefits let’s look at today’s existing online services. Google for instance indexes websites. It’s great because you can find anything on Google. The only problem is you can’t actually find people. Perhaps LinkedIn has solved this problem? This platform is essential a repository of digital resumes. Of course you can find people with specific skills via these digital resumes. But it’s a very niche network focused on professionals only. What about Facebook? Well, data is not fact checked, nor is it indexed. You don’t really know which profiles are genuine? At best you may find a long lost friend who you studied with 25 years ago after 30 to 60 minutes of searching.
In sharp contrast, Humans is absolutely people-oriented. It brings together a wide range of people who are both seeking and providing services. This can range from someone teaching quantum physics to a gardener, cleaner or music teacher. Each offers their services and also uses Humans to find the services or people they are looking for. Importantly, it’s reliable, secure and not driven by algorithms. In summary, we can say it’s by the people and for the people.
How often do you use it then?
I use it every day, many times a day. I solve a lot of problems with it. For example, I wanted to buy a photo of New York for our office. I posted an ad on Humans; a photographer contacted me and within 20 minutes I had found and bought exactly the type of photos I was looking for. I clean my apartment using Humans, I hung up shelves above the TV using Humans, I fixed the bath using Humans, and I found a person on Humans who helped me with getting from NY to Washington on a Friday evening. I and my team use it regularly. You can do anything by using Humans; it connects people, with a wide range of skills, from all over.
In which direction is Humans.net moving? What new features are you planning to add in the future?
It’s going global. It’s that simple. In terms of new features, we are developing the platform according to four driving principles: Find, Agree, Pay and Evaluate. These form the basis of everything that happens on the platform.
Let me explain. With ‘Find’ we have a proprietary search engine that uses machine language. We are also working on the introduction of artificial intelligence and neural networks for this engine to refine the ‘find’ searches. In terms of ‘Agreement’ and ‘Pay’ we have a chat function that is being developed that will work on the basis of a contract system. You can pull up a Contract Builder directly in the chat and use it so the chat can become a full-fledged contract and a full-fledged payment instrument. Today ‘Pay’ is based on a third-party service for transferring money between verified accounts. However, tomorrow we will have our own cryptocurrency and a global, interest-free payment service. In terms of ‘Evaluation’ today we have recommendations in the form of a star ranking system. But tomorrow we will be a full-fledged decentralized system with social recommendations in the blockchain ranking the skills and services on offer.
How can you verify the identities of people who come onto the platform?
We have a reliable means of verification used for people who come onto the platform based on standardised ID authentication, for instance, phone numbers, addresses and so on.
However, and importantly, we are also working on the introduction of a DNA identification system. This may be seen as contentious in some quarters but there are already countries using DNA databases for the health of their citizens. DNA ID is coming though, and once it comes to market everybody will want to use it. We aim to be the first to market and we are doing a lot of behind the scenes work including a planned pilot with one of the countries already running DNA-based ID verification.
Within the context of social media and Humans, DNA ID will be critically important. All users will know that an individual’s profile is genuine. Fraudsters, chat bots and so on can’t replicate someone’s ID because it is unique to each individual. This will also ensure that people ‘behave’, they won’t post condemning, untrue and scurrilous comments because they can’t hide behind fake profiles; they will deliver a high quality service because this is what they promise. As such fraud is impossible and this will be major draw for people and organisations coming onto the Humans platform.
Who is investing in Humans and how will the platform be monetized?
The initial seed round raised $10 million from private investments which was used to launch the platform. We focused on recruiting a client base on the east coast of the United States (New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington). This pilot phase attracted 220,000 users.
We are now going to round A investment to further develop the platform and to attract more customers. We have a low cost for attracting each user, only $5. After obtaining the investment we will quickly reach 2 million users, and then up to 10 million users. The data bank of people we are creating will be compelling for companies and advertisers. Even with 1-2 million users we can ensure that advertising revenues cover the costs of creating the platform.
So advertising will be a central feature?
We want to make it so that the user himself controls what kind of advertising he/she is looking at, what kind of advertising he/she needs, what kind of advertising is useful to him or her. Advertisers will sell / advertise their services. The quality and effectiveness of advertising on the platform will be high. We will simply change the way people express their desires to consume advertising, while the advertisers will find consumers who are specifically interested in their products/services. It’s the ultimate in targeted marketing.
This will generate the platforms income. For every $100 advertising budget, we will give $25 to active users of the platform. We will also use a significant portion of each $100 to further develop the platform. It is important to provide a payment of $25 to active users of the platform for several reasons. It generates huge interest, it rewards users who contribute to the platform and it generates trust.
Do you see any impact by Humans on other areas of commerce?
Yes, of course. We are on the verge of the fourth technological revolution, which revolves around changing the means of interaction between ourselves and businesses. The need for a middle-man will disappear; a large number of professions will simply fade and ultimately become extinct.
Essentially this revolution directly connects individuals and companies. If you think of today’s digital ‘success’ stories like Uber there’s nothing revolutionary about what they do. They are still middlemen; they have simply replaced physical properties with digital tools.
In contrast Humans is revolutionary because its cuts out the need for middlemen. For instance, business or communication between a person living in Sydney and Washington will not require any intermediaries. Everything will be instant, reliable, and convenient.
How do you see Humans growing?
We will reach a point where you can talk to the Humans system and make requests. For instance, you might want to buy flowers and have them delivered. You’ll simply ask this question: “I need yellow roses and African daisies delivered to this address by 4pm.” There will be an automated ‘assistant’ that picks the message up, searches for relevant providers, sends the most appropriate provider the request and ensures you get the service within the time frame you requested.
In this sense Humans will be truly revolutionary. We have seen many major step changes in technology, for instance when the Apollo missions launched in the 1960’s people marvelled at the technology. Yet, today’s smartphones have many more times computing power than Apollo missions that went to the moon. There is more processing power on today’s microchips, which you can balance on the tip of your finger, than yesterday’s so-called supercomputers which took up several rooms of space and weighed tons.
This paradigm of rapid tech development never lets up, you see it everywhere, networked military operations, just-in-time supply chains, automated factories, cyber security driven by artificial intelligence and so on. It’s simply progress, albeit at a rapid pace. Within the context of social media Humans, is the next major step change. It will inevitably supersede today’s social media platforms and it’s already here.