Semantic Web and Blockchain-Based Value Models

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Alexandre Monnin:

"The ValueModels project which is part of the TCP-IP + Blockchain cooperative platform (also submitted as a manisfestation d’intérêt) aims to create a new technical and methodological framework to help detect value(s) and valuation practices and thence bridge the gap between knowledge engineering and the Semantic Web on the one hand and Blockchains on the other. This is done by developing a new approach to modelization in terms of valuation rather than domains so as to foster collaboration among actors who share a compatible approach to valuation by allowing them to implement new cooperative “value chains”. We believe ontology engineering on the Semantic Web has mainly fostered interoperability among datasets rather true cooperation among actors and institutions. To address this shortcoming, it is necessary to model values and valuation practices rather than domains. Value chains among actor who hold compatible value models may then be automated with Blockchains in order to support fruitful cooperation and foster the advent of a sustainable economy which promotes recognition of the diversity of valuation practices and maximizes the production of positive externalities."


The Scientific Context

Alexandre Monnin:

"For many years now, the intended aim of the Semantic Web has been to expand the reach of knowledge engineering by bringing it on the Web. One of the building blocks of the Semantic Web is ontology engineering, in other words, the modelling of various domains with (logical) knowledge representation language. Modelling a domain with a logical language makes it possible to reason about it and generate new inferences and knowledge about the said domain: this is called entailment. The main paradigm behind these languages and models is centered on individuals and relations. What is missing though is a representation of how the same reality can be “valuated” in many various ways by a host of different actors. In turn, this lack severely limits the possibilities for genuine cooperation. Cooperation means more that interoperability. While the focus of the Semantic Web from its inception has been to promote a mostly technical notion of interoperability among datasets, this remains a far cry from creating adequate conditions for cooperation amongst people and institutions.

Our hypothesis in this project is that cooperation requires other preconditions than market-based exchanges. One could even say that the market allows for transactions in the absence of genuine cooperation. That’s its strength. Cooperation on the other hand requires that the parties display compatible assessments regarding the value of things (or how they proceed to value them). Being able to measure the positive and negative externalities involved in one’s activities for instance constitutes of good indicator to decide whether or not fruitful cooperation can be achieved. In addition, the logic of valuation has to be made visible if cooperation among parties is to ensue. The reasoning capacities of ontologies in this new context would help to identify new potential value chains among cooperating parties and the Blockchain could be used (realistically for once) in order to automate them. For institutions, modeling the way they attribute value to their activity would allow them to track more precisely their true social impact which is neither limited to the market (the value cannot be expressed as a price ), nor to budget guidelines (the operating cost of an institution is not a good indicator when the task at hand is to evaluate its true cost, especially when the latter generates positive externalities which are not taken into account and that will put pressure on any budget whatsoever should it be shut down).

The lack of a truly “Social Semantic Web” may stem from the hope that from interoperability cooperation will follow. Against this hypothesis, we propose a truly interdisciplinary project that will tightly associate the social sciences to determine an appropriate framework to help bring in to the light concrete valuation practices and implement value models so as to advance the shift from market-based competition to valuation-based cooperation of shared “ecosystems”, typical of the economy of functionality."