[Humanode Special Interview Series]: Dato, co-founder of Humanode

[Humanode Special Interview Series]: Dato, co-founder of Humanode

Dato, please introduce yourself, what’s your background before Humanode?

Well, my first venture was back when I was 16 years old, and Victor (co-founder of Humanode) and I were in university together.

You see, my focus at school was in History and Political Science, but the world was making a major shift and everything was about IT.  All of the jobs out there were also connected to IT.  So the guys who did Economics were doing Economics and IT, those who were doing Finance were doing Finance and IT, basically, everything was tied to IT.

So I wanted to find a way to connect broader science, political science, and History to IT.  Even back when I was just a little kid, I always wanted to grow up and bring something “good” to the world through understanding political science and perhaps working with big international organizations and stuff like that.

But by the time I was 15, I realized that international organizations were often just bullshit, and not all of them did things that were “good”, nor were they trying to tackle the root causes of many of the issues in the world.  States and countries were just fighting each other for power, and all in all the “power grabbers” of the world just couldn’t stop trying to “grab more power”.

So, basically, I decided that if I wanted to really try to do anything “good” for the world, I would have to find a way to do it myself.  And the only way I could come up with, is apply my studies of political science and history, along with general sciences, and combine it with computer science, cybernetics, and programming to see if I could find a path forward by diving into a startup environment.

I must say Victor and I did a lot of crazy stuff.  Our first venture, when we were 16, was an app that is like Instagram, but was about the places you go to.

Let's say you are going around the city, you could check the app to see where your friends have “checked in to” and if they are looking for company or if they want to party.  Users could invite people in general, or they could invite specific friends.  The app had a lot of different tools and maps that they could use, which at the time we thought was pretty cool.

By the time we were 20, we managed to gather about the equivalent of $10,000 in crowdfunding, did all the marketing, shot videos, and the whole 9 yards.  Actually, we had to hide our age, so the investors wouldn’t know we were underaged and stuff.  We didn’t know anything about running businesses, but we went head-on to make this happen… and failed drastically and dramatically.

But we learned what we could, and since then we have done various startups, a few failures, but also some great successes.  The key though, was that no matter if it was a success or failure, we learned something, and moved forward one step at a time.

When did you get involved in crypto?

That was back in 2013.  Crypto was the “hype”, and we didn’t know much about it, but we thought it was kind of cool, and may change how money is handled, so we dabbled with it part time, because, you know, we had to run other businesses and projects.  I mean, we did earn some Bitcoin and stuff, but we really didn’t understand the full potential, until we learned about the launch of smart contracts on Ethereum in 2014.  That was the game changer.  Money transactions are interesting, but not compared to the potentials that smart contracts could bring.  Once we saw the possibilities here, we dropped everything, sold all of our businesses and shares in our already running and successful business, and founded Paradigm.

The Paradigm Fund was at first only an investment venture, and early on we mostly handled the funds of friends and family, along with the funds of friends of friends.

We hired a team for internal analytics to create various reports about the emerging projects, protocols, currencies, technologies, and the code and teams that supported them, so that we could read, keep up to date with all the changes in the industry and projects that we invested in.  We would invest in a portfolio of like 30 to 40 companies, and each project would be analyzed from 13 to 14 different angles, and to be honest, you really couldn’t keep track of them all by yourself.  So we had analysts, and “watchers”, who would go into various communities to check things out, see how things are going, and would create bi-weekly reports on each and every project we were marking or had invested in.

Even then, there were up to 50 to 60 reports coming in per week and it was overwhelming to be honest.  But we learned a lot.

And it was also around this time that we noticed that aside from our reports, there were no other resources out there that covered some of the eco-systems or subsystems that we were researching, that came out in a bi-weekly manner.

So, we decided to open up these reports to the world for free.  After all, we are working in an industry that is more than often open sourced, we were making money from investments, and although how we use the information in the reports may be our “secret sauce”, the information itself is nothing to hide and could be useful to all.  After all, the industry as a whole needs to grow for it to really become something that everyone could benefit from, so why not share the wealth of knowledge?

Thus we went from just being an investment venture, into being an investment and research institute.  After that, we also worked on creating Citadel, and then came Humanode.

So after our last institutional fund round that we did in 2019, we haven’t accepted new funds.  Currently, as Paradigm, although we do manage funds from long standing clients, we have become more of a research institute that focuses on providing the community with various reports on a number of fields that we think are interesting.

We don’t do paid advertising or promotions, we don’t sell posts nor do we sell articles, and never shall we as long as I am alive.

When did you first start forming the ideas behind the Humanode concept?

Back in 2017, I was in the suburbs of Moscow.  One day, although it was cold outside, I was standing outside having a smoke, thinking about the principle of control of the various systems.  Basically, what was going through my mind was the fact that everything is controlled or regulated by something or someone, always. No matter what tech is used, even if the system is decentralized, as long as the power that reins over it is concentrated or centralized, the system itself inevitably is no different from being centralized, regardless of how it works.  On the flip side, say, even if a system is fully centralized with one computer calling all the shots, if the governance is properly decentralized, why would you need decentralized technology at all in the first place?  Because in that case, it would actually be the same as being decentralized.

So, after mulling over this for a while, I came to the conclusion that the quickest, and most logical way to guarantee a decentralized system be truly decentralized, was to create a one human equal one node system, somehow.

I didn’t know how we could do it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this idea may be the only way to realize a truly democratic decentralized system.

So, we began our research.  Obviously there were quite a few missing pieces to make this a reality, but it became clear that this was going to be a goal that we would aim for in the future.

What were the biggest challenges that you faced in starting the project?

People would not get what we are trying to do.  Even today, some still don’t get it.

Obviously people would have a multitude of questions and concerns.

One of them being, “I mean, why would this be safe?”, another being “How could it even work in a decentralized system if it is not safeguarded by some capital in the form of mining equipment or staking assets”.

So trying to explain how uniqueness becomes the safety trigger for the system was really hard.  Privacy was the second issue.  To be honest, if privacy wasn’t an issue, we would have had Humanode running a long time ago.

Too many companies say “privacy” does not exist and doesn’t mean anything anymore.  To some it is nothing more than a commodity.  To others, the first thing that comes to mind is that since people leave biometric information hang out in the open, say through social media postings on platforms like facebook or instagram or tiktok or whatever, why not just “take” that info, and stick it in a node, and use it as fit?  In reality, there is so much information out there, that it just opens so many angles of attack, so it is simply unrealistic to build a system based on biometric info unless the information is auditable and pseudonymous, and unless you can prove that the info is coming from a live human being.

So, finding and implementing the technology that could guarantee security and privacy, was the biggest pain in the ass.  I mean, without being able to guarantee those 2, it is absolutely impossible to make the system work as it should, and absolutely impossible to explain to anyone why this system will actually drastically change how things are and will be.

What are your greatest challenges now?

Privacy is still the greatest challenge.  I mean, to make a precisely working cryptographically based privacy is a challenge.  Currently we are taking a 2 step approach.

For the first version, which is currently being implemented, we will be utilizing hardware with special processors and/or private enclaves for some portions of the process.  This basically means that we will also require “proof of ownership of the processor” which also means that we need to “trust” the manufacturer of the processor, and trust the guy who runs the processor for your privacy.

For the second version, which we are already deep into research and development, is based on the biometric data itself by purely using crypto primitives along with very intricate but interesting search and matching, and liveness detection that uses a neural network that is private at the very beginning of the whole process.  And as you can guess, this is entirely different from, like, running a processor.

In a nutshell, the second version of the system that we are trying to build will not require having to trust anything that is outside of the system's control.  And that, ugh, is no easy task.  But we are going to do it, and by doing so, will change the world.

What is your vision for Humanode, and what do you hope to achieve?

Actually, I wouldn’t say “what I hope to achieve”, but more of “what I want to avert”.  

You see, in each age, there is a thing that defines the dominance of the “elite” on human beings.  In each age it is different.  Ownership of land.  Ownership of manufacturing and factories.  Ownership of money.  Ownership of patents and technologies.  Ownership of information.  Basically anything that gives you the most power in that age.  

In this era, we are at the point where those with money can afford technological advancements that ordinary people can’t.  For example, currently there are “giants” that not only own, but control every single bite of information that you produce.  Even this interview now.  Everything we say here, is backdoored, and processed, and monetized several times over as “bits of information” by acquiring services and data centers.  Eyes and ears are everywhere, and pretty much everyone knows that.

Even cryptographers say that this battle for privacy is long lost, and that there isn’t anything that we can do about it.

But it gets worse.  Because, mankind is always trying to create technology that you just can’t live without.  Imagine a person without access to a computer or laptop, or a cell phone, or lets say computer skills.  Maybe as of now there is something that he or she can do.  But in 20 years time, unless the person wants to be totally cut off from society, there will be nothing that he or she can do, because everything will be based on digital and technological stuff.

Naturally, the people who own these systems or technologies, will own everything we do.

Now, let's look a little bit into the future.  A future that can be gleaned from a number of ongoing research projects by companies owned by these “giants”.

Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI’s) and neuro links will for sure become ordinary things in your life to interact with the network or internet or devices that surround you.

Having something like this in your body that allows you to make your life more comfortable, like, say, allowing you to open your doors, access your cars, access your apartment, surfing the web, while replacing your wallet, replacing your id cards, bank cards, drivers license, etc… Who wouldn’t want something like that?  With it, you virtually become a different species than a homo sapien that has no digital interfaces.

Now think of this.  Even now, most people in the world are slaves of the information bubbles.  ~78% of our decisions are made based on “information” that we have seen before.  Now remember the fact that the content providers are owned by the same people that own the hardware, and fully control what information we see based on our browser history or posts.  Where you shop, what you buy, what is recommended, what you eat, what you drink, is all based on your assumed likes and dislikes, which are also determined by the content pushed.

How you view beauty, what you think success is, what you feel like about your age or gender, what you think is a social “norm”, basically everything is based on the information that is presented and surrounds you.  And this is all without things implanted in our minds.

Now, what would happen if a few centralized companies are able to fully control your access to anything via a chip in your brain?  What power will they have?

I know it may sound too “Sci-Fi”, but the technology is already here.

So what it comes down to is this.

Humanode is a vision of a decentralized private ownership and signature of anything that exists in the world, from BCI’s to financial transactions.  

Enabling you to have an auditable pseudonymous biometric identification that allows you to own something, not because a company or government allows you to, but because it is bound to you by your biometric identity.  This also enables you to verify transactions, or voice your opinion in governance of the systems, not because you own mining equipment or have “bought the right to do so” by staking assets, but as your biological right, because you are a living human being, no matter what race, gender, age, belief, or where you come from or how much you own.

The ownership of such networks that establish your biological identity and rights, should in no way be owned by a small group of people, or corporations, or governments.

The system and platform that enables this needs to be equally owned by all human beings, because as I say, we are talking about our own biological rights here.  

Yes, big companies may currently own the “bubbles” of information in centralized networks.  But at the very least, we should have options available that are owned by all, that are equally as powerful, and that can stand toe to toe against the “giants”.

So, yeah, basically my vision is to avert a future in which the technological necessities of life are controlled by centralized companies and governments.

Setting aside Humanode for a moment, what do you enjoy the most in life?

There are two things that I enjoy the most in life.

The first one may sound corny, but it is actually seeing people doing good deeds, showing honor, defending the weak, trying to selflessly embetter the world we live in, and selfless beneficial acts of humans toward other humans. Seeing such acts, no matter big or small, gives me the feeling that humanity has hope.

And the second is playing grand strategy games. Now that is entertainment!  When you are thinking about how you can overcome a challenge, then devise a plan, and when it actually works...   Oh My God!  That feeling and rush you get, is better than sex.

What are your current goals in life, and what do you see yourself doing in 10 years time?

Well, obviously, my current goal in life is to make Humanode work, with proper Sybil defence, allowing millions of people to become nodes without putting much effort, time, or money into it.

As for 10 years in the future… Well, there are so many projects that I have to do!  But basically I will keep doing what I’m doing, and try to create new ways to make life better for all.  No matter what field it is in.  And just work work work and work.  Until there is nothing left for me to do or until a whole new generation of innovators appears, leaving us in the dust, allowing me to sit back and play, or build strategy games!

Any advice for people who are interested in the Humanode Project?

Get involved.  Become a human node.  Don’t delegate your voice, get involved in governing, go to Vortex, vote, and voice yourself.

Being involved is the only way to protect yourself, and everyone in the system against those who only want to control and power grab.