Project Entropy is an Ethereum-based, floating blockchain experiment, which promotes the ideals of peer-to-peer interactions, open source code, and sustainability. It does this by launching a fleet of crowd-owned, community-steered sailing hackspaces/makerspaces. It aims to become a nomadic, global community of like-minded individuals, sustainably sailing the World Ocean.
Entropy’s co-founder, Joran Kikke, is a coder who supports green initiatives, has a passion for makerspaces, and a love of sailing. He was kind enough to speak with ETHNews regarding the project, its inception, and its intentions. Currently based out of Auckland, New Zealand, Entropy is still very much in the bootstrapping phase of launching. While Kikke still works a day job, he spends about a third of his time on the water. Kikke said:
“I suppose we started coming up with the idea a little bit over a year ago, because [my partner and I], we’d kind of been in the makerspace scene quite a lot, and we really liked that part of things. But completely separately, we were very [interested in] sailing, and we were doing a lot of sailing and planning to organize a big global voyage. But the two parts of it seemed completely separate, and they seemed like it was impossible to join them up. But then along the way things started moving more and more with Ethereum, and it started becoming clearer what was possible with that. So that’s when we were like ‘Wow, okay we can actually [join] all these things together and not really compromise, and use the whole combination of a decentralized voting platform and a sort of micronation to kind of bring it all together, but allow people to have access to a makerspace when normally they wouldn’t ever be able to access one.’”
A makerspace is a collaborative workspace that has tools an individual might not normally have, or even be able to acquire due to finances or practicality. It's a place where kids and adults alike can go to do arts and crafts. While a makerspace might have traditional art supplies, many also have a significant range of tools and equipment, from woodworking tools, to 3D printers, CNC machines, laser cutters, and even sewing machines. Makerspaces are all about creative expression, turning nothing into something, and finding new ways to explore and combine things. They're natural innovation hubs, and have been hosted in cities, schools, and local communities, by both profit and non-profit organizations. Hackspaces are like makerspaces, but are more focused on software development and other computer-based work.
Project Entropy hopes to make a floating, traveling makerspace. However, it doesn’t aim to be a leisure cruise, only sailing to Grecian islands and tropical paradises. The team members behind the project want to be able to bring a makerspace to anywhere in the world, especially places with no makerspace equivalents. Seeing as how some “third world” countries don’t even have basic services, encouraging creative innovation through a makerspace could help out entire communities. Entropy hopes to serve the entire world. But hosting a floating makerspace is only a small piece of the puzzle. Kikke said:
“The thing that I thought was very exciting about the project is that no one really knows what the goal is until people start joining and directing it. So it’s sort of up for the citizens to decide what the direction of the whole thing is—very literally even, as in the direction of where the fleet sails to is also decided by the people involved.”
What Kikke is talking about is Entropy’s DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) structure for governance, which we’ll get into in a minute. What’s interesting is Entropy’s website lists a few onboard projects, but those are more like examples of the types of projects the fleet would eventually like to host. As Kikke explained:
“What we were noticing is it’s quite a difficult concept to imagine, because I think people are used to having these things sort of dictated to them. So we thought, ‘Okay, well let’s take some of the other stuff that we’re working on that we would be working on if we had enough space aboard, so then people could kind of relate to it more.’”
Project Entropy is currently a fleet of two ships, the Santa Paz and Festina Lente, which is impressive because the project hasn’t even officially launched yet. Santa Paz is 38 feet and has been circumnavigating for 15 years. She has a bathroom, shower, and kitchen. The Festina Lente (named for a famous phrase meaning “make haste slowly”) is a 24-ft training yacht, lacking the same amenities as the Santa Paz, but is still very much a seaworthy vessel/floating hackspace. Kikke tells ETHNews that the Entropy crewmembers are pretty good cooks, which sounds like a huge bonus when sailing hundreds of miles from the nearest coastline.
Entropy has chosen to have a DAO govern the project. The DAO would control everything for Entropy, from where the fleet goes and what projects the team members work on, to eventually owning the ships. How would a decentralized autonomous organization actually own a boat, let alone an entire fleet? Entropy appreciates the benefit of eventually turning the DAO into a legally recognized entity. Their current thinking is the DAO would most likely incorporate as a cooperative.
If all goes according to plan, Entropy would like to eventually purchase a 60-ft catamaran, which would be owned by the Project Entropy DAO, with sail-space allotted for advertisements. A catamaran is great because it offers stability on the high seas, an open design for a shared workspace, and the redundancy of two hulls, each with its own motor.
One thing that stands out about Project Entropy team members, aside from their passion for the project, is that they really do their due diligence. They don’t want to just present a list of projects they want to host, or nail down immutable goals of the project. They realize the need to stay modular, to be able to adapt to changing conditions as they arise. The high seas are unforgiving; Entropy’s philosophy will be integral to their success, and safety, while out on the open ocean.
The Entropy team members seem to be dreaming big, while keeping their goals broad yet conservative. They will let the amount of interest in Entropy dictate the scale of the project. They don’t want to over-promise anything. Kikke realizes they have a bold vision, but feels, if done properly, their project could not only be a success, but also an inspiration to others who share similar ideals.
They could help people, through Project Entropy, to start their own projects and even potentially acquire their own (project-specific) boats in the fleet. This is all speculation at the moment, just some of their high hopes for what they know the project could become, if it reaches critical mass.
This is why DAO governance seems a good idea for Entropy, which could be an accelerator/incubator for other projects; a mobile, floating hackspace/makerspace; or just a real-life embodiment of what a DAO is. That’s part of what makes Entropy so interesting: it is a physical representation of crowd-led governance. Kikke spoke about how many Ethereum projects are intangible, not having a traditional bank account or board of directors, and how Entropy is unique, saying: “Entropy is different from that. Even though it’s decentralized, there’s a very physical part to it—there are assets in the real world.”
It’s a new business model: don’t give the people what you think they want, have the people literally tell you what they want. Instead of a corporation of workers, shareholders, and executive decision-makers, anyone with a stake in a DAO has a say. A person can embody any, or all, of those standard corporate roles in a DAO.
But who decides when and where is safe? Who assists the DAO in controlling the fleet? That’s where Project Entropy’s Guardians enter the picture. Entropy’s current Guardians are: Joran Kikke, Tudor Georg, Helena Teichrib, Lucas Tauil De Freitas, and Kian Mehrabi.
Entropy Guardians are similar to the concept of oracles. They’re the boots on the ground, able to feed information to the blockchain. The Guardians crew the ships, lead the projects, and do whatever else the DAO directs them to (within reason).
Guardians can be elected, and are therefore accountable to the crowd of citizens, but they’re also the safety gap. If they have to use an emergency measure to go against the governing DAO’s decision, because it would endanger the fleet, they’d need to provide an explanation to the DAO as to why they did it, or risk being voted out of their position as Guardian. So while the Guardians are Project Entropy’s vanguard, they still answer to the Entropy DAO.
Pirates And Peril
Project Entropy may not be actively circumnavigating yet, but the crew is certainly preparing for it. When thinking about a DAO sending a fleet of ships wherever it pleases across the world’s oceans, one problem immediately came to mind: pirates. While instances of piracy is generally declining (the golden age of piracy was 1650 to 1730), it is still a concern when sailing near certain parts of the world.
The notorious Somali pirates hadn’t been active since 2012—until an oil tanker was hijacked off the coast of Somalia on March 14, 2017. It was held for ransom, along with eight Sri Lankan crewmembers who were onboard during the hijacking. Thankfully, after negotiations between local elders and officials and the pirates, the situation was resolved without any loss of life, and the oil tanker and crew were unconditionally released, with no ransom paid. The pirates were not arrested and were allowed to leave.
It’s lucky this situation turned out how it did—previous pirate attacks haven’t ended so well. An obvious concern for Entropy was what if the DAO voted to send the fleet into dangerous waters? Kikke said:
“The topic of piracy came up really early on, because Lucas, who’s the skipper of Santa Paz, he very quickly thought, ‘Wait, but if we let people vote on everywhere we go, they’re going to send us to crazy places, because they don’t know about pirates, and we’ll end up in Somalia.’”
That’s obviously not an ideal situation. There’s a precedent of online voting being used to send people to weird places. How does Entropy plan to sail the World Ocean without running into marauding pirates, vengeful white whales, or hurricanes?
“The idea of the fleet and its general pattern of movement should […] just sort of [have] a rhythm to it. Our rhythm will be a little bit more complicated because we have to follow the trade winds, so we have to head generally west, and there are parts of the world we have to avoid at certain times. So there’s sort of a pattern to it, which we need to, a little bit, [set] into stone. But within that broad global pattern, there’s a lot of possibility.”
Entropy’s DAO will be able to vote where the fleet goes, but within reason. The world’s oceans may seem vast and unending, but Entropy has to bow to the laws of physics and the conflicts of men. That means following the winds and avoiding zones of international conflict. So the DAO can’t just constantly vote the fleet into the Bermuda Triangle—unless the weather is fair and there are no reports of pirates or conflicts in the area. Should the DAO send the fleet into dangerous waters, the Guardians can take evasive action.
A somewhat worrisome aspect of the whole project is its inherent potential for peril, not only from the usual risks of sailing the high seas (squalls, the Kraken, etc.), but from the fact that some parts of the world aren’t exactly welcoming of cryptocurrencies, and may not appreciate a “hackspace” floating near their shores. On that point, Kikke said:
“I think we shouldn’t be totally afraid. I mean, if we’re living already in a world where a group of people can’t get together and sail together, promoting an idea they think is great, that is already a dark dystopia.”
It seems Project Entropy is, in part, about keeping freedoms by exercising them. It’s promoting the ideals of decentralized, peer-to-peer organizations, and new technologies, like cryptography and blockchain tech, while actively bringing them across the world.
Going green is also at the heart of the project, and it’s something Kikke really believes in. The idea is to have a fleet of ships, able to travel the world’s seas, all under renewable energy. Harnessing wind-power via sailboats is obvious, but Entropy also wants their outboard motors to be all-electric, or at least biodiesel (fueled by waste vegetable oil). Covering the boats in solar panels would help to power onboard electronics as well. They even have a concept for using reclaimed laptop batteries for a recycled-battery marine propulsion project.
As to what actually happens on the boats, Entropy is focusing on the basic functionality of hosting a sustainable hackspace/makerspace while on the open ocean. An obvious issue when doing computer work at sea is networking. When Internet connectivity is less than reliable, alternative ways to communicate and share information is crucial.
Entropy is testing out mesh nets (that’s mesh networks—not the kind of nets used for fishing), where everyone on the network acts as a node, as a way to communicate over water during bad weather, or when there’s no cell signal. The simplest way to get internet on the open sea is to have a cell phone act as a hotspot. Entropy uses this method, literally hoisting a cellphone up the ship’s mast to maximize signal strength.
The project is working with Secure-Scuttlebutt, a “database of unforgeable append-only feeds, optimized for efficient replication for peer to peer protocols,” and Scuttlebot, a peer-to-peer log store. Scuttlebot allows each Entropy member to have their own identity and data log within the system, secured by cryptography. On a mesh network, using Scuttlebot means everyone involved with Entropy can be working separately at the same time. The network updates logs whenever an identity has a connection, even chaining connections to create a more complete picture of all the logs across the network. It’s similar to a distributed ledger, except a remote node (on the open seas for example) could send updates to the nearest node (a nearby ship), and then that second node could update the rest of the network (back near the coastline) with both its logs and the logs of the original remote node.
This is a great system for collaborating in places where internet connectivity is intermittent or unreliable. Secure-scuttlebutt is open source and Project Entropy is actually helping with its development. Such a system is what would enable Entropy to do collaborative computer work like software development, and general project hosting, on the open sea.
Speaking of development, Project Entropy offers “citizenship” to anyone who successfully contributes on the Entropy GitHub. For any accepted pull requests, regardless of the level of assistance, Entropy will gift citizenship.
The Entropy crowdsale is planned to occur within a few months, although specifics are still in development. Entropy plans to release some videos leading up to its crowdsale. The crypto-space has seen its share of half-baked projects with blank whitepapers; it’ll be nice to actually see an idea come to fruition.
What does Kikke see in Entropy’s future? Is there a specific end-goal to the project? Kikke said that “the aim is to go global, to circumnavigate. In theory, forever, because I guess if things work as we’re planning, boats can come and join the fleet.”
While Joran Kikke may have sparked the idea, if the crowdsale successfully funds the Entropy DAO, this project could become a self-sustaining, floating example of what a group of like-minded people can accomplish.