Expressing Hong Kong's Pain through Technology

Apple Daily, Blockchain and Beyond

There is a project trying to create a "Library of Alexandria with no administrator" using blockchain.

In current Hong Kong, wearing a t-shirt criticizing the government is enough to be detained. The democratic party could have won a majority in the legislative elections in September 2020 due to public opposition to the National Security Law. However, a massive change in the law enforced by the Chinese leadership has destroyed the chance.

One of the symbolic events of suppressing speech was the abolition of Apple Daily in June 2021. The executives were arrested under the Maintenance of Security Act, their assets were frozen, and their website and social media disappeared.

Meanwhile, articles from Apple Daily began to be uploaded one after another on a blockchain platform called Arweave. This platform is a storage service in which data can be stored decentralized and forever without any administrator like a company. Its founders set a goal to permanently store valuable information from around the world without a central administration (creating a "Library of Alexandria" with no administrator). The Hong Kong government has power to remove websites that promote illegal activities. Still, it cannot do anything about the articles based on this technology ( for lack of anyone to sue and no technical way to remove them).

According to reports, Ho, the 21-year-old tech expert who uploaded the article, said, "I'm not doing this because I love Apple Daily, it's what needs to be done," Ho said. "I never thought that Apple Daily would disappear so quickly."

Some may wonder about the significance of (only) remaining newspaper articles for Hong Kong's democratization. It allows articles criticizing the government to "exist" without being censored or deleted. Its very existence is an expression of the will to resist censorship and also an expression of the pain from the people in Hong Kong whose freedom is being suppressed.

Unfortunately, the people in Hong Kong who are suffering do not yet have a mechanism to express their pain in private and anonymously. If they bravely express their agony, they will surely face the risk of their lives.

So far, people have been allowed only to express their suffering in primitive ways, such as shouting out their complaints loudly or remaining silent to show their opposition. More advanced methods include elections and voting but often fail to relieve suffering. Expressing pain using the blockchain has become possible with the advent of new technology, and it gives a sign of the social change that technological innovation will bring.

However, it is still only an "expression." Can we make the anonymous expression of pain directly motivate a reformation of the organizational structure without putting individuals at risk? We believe that blockchain has the potential to make this happen.

Is there any idea that we can use pain to directly change the organization, rather than just "expressing pain"? For example, creating a system in which the "perceived pain" itself can be accumulated and recorded on the blockchain and traced. Can we imagine a new system where the accumulation recorded there would automatically update the organization without unnecessary intermediaries like the recent artificial intelligence learning scheme?

We should not go through "unnecessary mediators" here because they usually have particular tendencies and interests, and it is difficult to expect them always to stay neutral. In addition, our cognitive and judgmental abilities are limited, so when the amount of information becomes overwhelming, we can no longer deal with it, which leads to unintended bias.

The authors are currently working on a system named "Pain Token (or PS3)" as an example. If you are interested, please refer to these articles.

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