Solana should host the next generation of self-improvement apps 

We finally have the tools to stop wallowing — and do something — as our industry’s innovations are reduced to gimmicks and get-rich-quick schemes

OPINION
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Akif CUBUK/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks

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This cycle’s big innovation probably isn’t memecoins, because they don’t actually solve any real problems. In fact, memecoins might be the culmination of all the bad behavior in crypto that has come before — the final boss of anti-utility. 

Because memecoins, for the most part, make no grand promises. They exist simply to exist, rewarding risky behavior justified only by the one-in-a-million chance of a moonshot. 

But there is one problem this market cycle might finally solve: rewarding self-improvement and the positive impact we make on the world.

We’re already seeing some of this self-improvement in action. 

Move-to-earn apps like STEPN, Walken and Genopets incentivize people to live active lifestyles — effectively paying users to be healthy. But the concept can go far beyond that use case. Imagine a world where people are rewarded for their role in reducing and recycling single-use materials. That’s exactly what IBM’s Plastic Bank initiative has been working towards. Launched in 2019, Plastic Bank provides tokens as a reward for collecting and recycling plastic waste.

Picture being rewarded for maintaining a healthy diet, or for completing your yearly medical check-ins. What if we incentivized intelligence by rewarding people who teach themselves new subjects and skills, and then used their verifiable subject matter expertise to weight their voting power within applicable on-chain governance mechanisms? When was the last time you volunteered at your local homeless shelter? What if you received reputation-based attestations for your charitable work, and that in turn translated into higher on-chain yield and status? 

None of this has ever really been possible before, because how would you track it? But now, blockchain has solved the issue of accurate, transparent record-keeping. 

Why haven’t we seen more work on utilities like these being done in the 15 years since blockchain’s inception, and why is it different now? 

Well, the problem is twofold. Firstly, it’s an issue of scalability. Blockchains have historically struggled with transaction throughput and high fees, making real-time tracking of behaviors and attestations impractical. 

This is where Solana can come into play. At long last, we have a user-friendly blockchain that’s lightning fast and dirt cheap, making it a viable platform for these types of applications.

With that problem solved, there’s still at least one more battle we need to fight: Persistent identity management and the prevention of sybil attacks. These occur when bad actors create multiple fake accounts and use them to exploit the sorts of systems we’re talking about to unfairly maximize their gains.

Developers are attempting to fix this by implementing proof-of-humanity and persistent identity systems. Proof-of-humanity involves verifying that each participant is a unique human being, typically through methods such as biometric data and social proofs. Persistent identities, meanwhile, are digital identities that remain consistent over time and across different platforms, making it difficult for bad actors to create multiple fake identities. 

The people working on this problem believe that it would reduce the number of bad actors over time if users were made to use persistent IDs to participate in rewards schemas. Under such a system, networks would only need to catch someone cheating once and simply ban the offender. Users would not be able to get around these bans by infinitely creating additional accounts, making the risk of bad behavior higher than the reward. Bans might be temporary, or they might be permanent. 

Either way, the result is that platforms train participant behavior by rewarding the good and excommunicating the bad.

This is similar to what solutions like Worldcoin — with its biometric ID system, currently operational on Optimism and Ethereum​ — are looking to achieve. But it’s certainly not alone in the race to solve this problem. Competing projects like the Galactica Network have chosen to take a more decentralized approach to self-sovereign identity management and digital citizenship​​. And Solana developers have a few digital ID solutions of their own in the works as well. For instance, Identity.com is a user-first identity platform that integrated with Solana back in 2021.

Read more from our opinion section: Web3 doesn’t need flashy — it needs functional

Social maintenance has long seemed like an unsolvable problem. But because of the fidelity of efficient networks like Solana, this may finally be possible. If that is true, it could mean that we no longer have to accept the reputational damage that comes from the high-profile actions of bad actors, or wallow as our industry’s innovations are reduced to gimmicks and get-rich-quick schemes. 

Self-executing systems that reward individual positive impact are the true promise of blockchain technology — and they are finally within our grasp.



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