Nothing is safe from disruption in this digital age, especially work. As a number of new technologies reach the stage of cheap mass production at higher functionality, machines will very soon, if not already, have a primitive level of intelligence, in that they can think – albeit what we have told them to think – act by exchanging value through eth or btc, retain memory through cloud servers and have awareness through data analytics.
In a world of automation, systemic tasks are left to machines while men and women engage in lateral thinking. There are more than 53 million freelancing Americans, or 1 in 3. A trend boosted by the invention of the internet which the Monthly Labor Review calls the “Industrial Revolution of our time.” Although many have tried to provide freelancers with a platform, all have failed. Five dollars here or there won’t cut it for it takes more time than $5 is worth to create the task itself.
But what if we could devise a system where it is more efficient to hire individuals for a task, allowing them to retain full freedom, than send everyone through the soul crushing interviewing process?
Colony, a VC funded platform that won $10,000 at Consensus 2016 consists of, according to Collin Vine, co-founder:
“8 people total, 4 developers, 1 person in R&D (has a PhD in math), 1 marketing, 2 business. My last company was a typical SF VC-backed company. Raised over $5M, lead investor was Tony Hsieh from Zappos, had more than 450 employees.”
In the pitch video he describes Colony as github, but with a business model. That is, companies can form colonies – or, more concretely – projects, with certain tasks required. Freelancers can work on those tasks with the money earned becoming a sort of karma point to indicate reputation.
Establishing the platform is difficult and complex. There is, to start, the bootstrapping catch-22 – getting people on the platform. Most already have their systems and are established, so it needs to at least replicate those systems and provide added benefits as well as, perhaps, get corporations on board which requires a shift in mainstream thinking.
The difficulty is best expressed by how long the project has taken. It was founded more than two years ago and there is still no live version. Vine, speaking to Trustnodes, states:
“In Q3/Q4 of 2015 there was an alpha of the product. We decided to end that, rebuild everything (on top of Ethereum), and are now getting ready for a beta.”
Colony is based on ethereum’s blockchain, adding some additional capabilities over traditional freelancing platforms, such as potentially smart contract based tasks and automatic payments. According to Vine:
“[F]or the proper implementation of the protocol at it’s most complicated level, it needs to be transparent to all. If you’re working on projects that have thousands of contributors, almost all of whom you’ve never met before, then you need a public ledger to trust. Plus, we’re building organizational infrastructure. We don’t want people’s projects to be wholly dependent on the success of Colony the company. Regardless whether we succeed as a company, the protocol will exist [on the blockchain], and that’s why it’ll be open source and part of a non-profit foundation. Why Ethereum? We think it’s the best and want to be part of building it for the long term.”
We are near a new stage where much is automated. We can, therefore, expect many more attempts to crack the freelancing code. Will Colony, specifically, manage it? Who knows. They are to demo at the International Blockchain Week, the biggest event since blockchain’s invention with some calling it the blockchain coming out party where Microsoft, Santander, Thomson Reuters, Tencent, UBS and far too many to mention are to attend, but there is little doubt that, if not Colony, someone will create the freelancing platform for the 21st century.