Nov 15, 2018 | Moonlight

Blockchain is already changing the world. Next to the most obvious application, which is improving the banking industry, blockchain has been applied in many other areas of public life: tamperproof supply chains, tamperproof higher-education certificates, infrastructure for the internet of things, connecting institutions etc. All these systems work well when they do not need to rely on human trust.

In blockchain industry, trustless systems are implemented by means of decentralization. By introducing clear rules operationalized with use of smart contracts, and in absence of central authorities, it is possible to create a fair ecosystem where all the parties have clear rights and responsibilities. Does it also imply that you could, in principle, move labor onto a blockchain? In such a world of decentralized workforce, individuals could navigate themselves in a large ecosystem, gradually build a set of professional competences – or even, build the whole careers – without being dependent on authorities’ decisions or biased personal opinions. One platform created with a purpose of creating such a friendly marketplace, is Moonlight. The main goal of this initiative is to optimize employment both from the employer’s and employee’s point of view.

In Moonlight, every member of the marketplace – either a person or a group of people – is referred to as an organization. Organizations can either issue (‘issuers’) or resolve (‘resolvers’) tasks. Task in a fundamental unit of the Moonlight platform. Every task is given a monetary value, and this value is determined by the issuer. If an organization takes a role of a resolver for certain task, it places a bid on the task. In a contrary to traditional freelance platforms, the bids are placed on the expected time of task completion and not on the value of the contract. The reason is because, controlling the clock allows for better time management, and for combining bigger tasks from multiple sequences smaller tasks performed in parallel. The difference between declared time of task completion and the actual time of task completion is then recorded on the blockchain, as it influences the organization’s bid quality assessment. One question one might ask would be: will this eternal time pressure eventually affect the job market, as burnout syndrome is already a huge problem? Hopefully, it will be be a self-solving issue as users can learn to pace themselves and take jobs worth their time.

Furthermore, completing tasks requires skills. There is a hierarchy of skills configured in the network, and in this nested, hierarchical structure, relationships between different skills are determined. For each task, a list of recommended skills needs to be specified by the issuer. Resolvers acquire skills associated with particular tasks by successfully fulfilling the tasks, and can be paid according to a few different schemes (‘post-paid’, ‘pre-paid’, ‘staked’ – dependent on previous tasks, ‘flex’ – dependent on the details of job execution, or ‘periodic’). In the future, grading the level of completion of the task will also be possible.

Moonlight has a number of hardwired mechanisms designed to track competencies of the organizations. After completion of the task, issuer and resolver need to review each other. All the reviews are registered on the blockchain and are openly available to all members of the marketplace. Furthermore, in order to secure objectivity, reviewing the quality of the task completion can be delegated by the issuer to another resolver as a separate task.

Of course, it is hard to launch such a new ecosystem: even with an impressive professional experience ‘in real life’, a new Moonlight user does not have any initial experience officially registered on the blockchain. Just as with any other freelance platform, one coping mechanism is to start building a portfolio from offering competitive bids, or from joining a bid where the task value is set to a low amount so the competition is low. Also, unvalidated (off-chain) resumes as well as input from external qualification verification platforms, can be registered on the blockchain in order to help new users in accommodating to the system.

Another possible caveat is that, in certain class of tasks oriented at machine learning and big data, pure computational power can decide about the anticipated time of task completion, therefore, organizations with biggest clouds might have privilege over others. However, in most circumstances, whenever human labor is necessary, e.g. in tasks that require creative writing or programming new solutions, this is not the case.

Moonlight is still in the development phase. However, in a year from now, the platform will be up and running. If it gains in popularity, it will be a breakthrough in a model of labour in a broader sense. Firstly, this platform can address the structural problems present in research circles. It is not a secret that in academia, human resources are often used in a suboptimal way, and a lot of talent and human potential is wasted due to structural issues. There are at least a few key weak points would could be potentially improved by changing the infrastructure. Firstly, in the time management aspect, academia is a horrific marketplace, where people do not have a habit of setting personal deadlines for tasks, and tend to block each other from successfully completing projects. Secondly, distribution of acknowledgment for completed projects, is unfair and is often due to scientific rank rather than due to true merit. Thirdly, the peer review process is often confidential, which can result in taking biased decisions influenced by personal interests or feelings. Lastly, career trajectories are often dependent on recommendation letters released by direct employers – in case the employer takes a personal decision to refuse from writing such a letter on behalf of their employee, it is technically hard to apply for fellowships, travel grants or even get any job in the industry. All these problems might be solved by a trustless system of assigning projects to individuals, and assessing the results of these projects.

But secondly, and even more importantly, Moonlight changes the way organizations are being built. In a traditional model, an organization is a fixed structure created to define and then fulfil a certain scope of tasks. Big tasks are then decomposed into smaller tasks, and some subtasks can be delegated if the organization does not have a know how necessary to complete the task. The organization is focused on growing its own value, and all tasks are developed with a sole purpose to achieve this goal. In the Moonlight model, the task itself is the main focus, and organizations need to dynamically collaborate with each other to fulfil one task – the quality of execution and the quality of collaboration is what makes one organization grow faster than others. Will this lead to new level of innovation? Could this also mean that in some time, companies in a traditional sense of the word, will no longer exist? The time will show!

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