SuperBetter - Bridging Behavior and Blockchains with Reward Systems

In college I majored in neuroscience, concentrating in computational neuroscience. I transitioned from traditional computer science because I was running a software product with millions of users in my spare time and wanted to expand my research to include human behavioral factors and A.I.

I came across a transformative idea while learning about behavioral psychology: the power of "living gamefully" (see SuperBetter by game designer Jane McGonigal, Ph.D, 2015). I spent a summer researching habit formation, and became convinced that even superficial rewards were able to drive healthful behavior (like reading or exercising) that stuck around long after the initial reward period.

Continuing to explore a productized version of this idea, I joined as a founding engineer at a startup that helped distribute billions of dollars in scholarships from over 300 US colleges to high school students, based on their academic achievements in high school.

In discussions with the CEO at the time, I began thinking further about distributing rewards like universal basic income, based on prosocial behaviors, including education, and health. We could compute rewards based on user attributes – not just for college scholarships, but any kind of reward.

Around that time a friend of mine had founded a startup in the crypto industry, and I got to thinking about how we could distribute awards onchain. I saw that the trustless rails of crypto could serve to bridge funds from one source (like colleges) to end-users, without the need for a trusted intermediary like the one we had built. It would be safer and faster and more transparent. The key to this would be having onchain attestations that we could compute over, with safe bridges for rewards.

I have always had a strong inclination towards personal growth, starting with being a competitive athlete in my youth; I represented provincial teams in South Africa in two sports as a teenager. I found that having metrics could help me direct my behavior and feel like I'm making progress towards specific goals. I love having metrics about the progress I'm making on my goals.

With the invention of the iPhone and the app store, many of my behaviors were suddenly more quantifiable and online. When I run on Strava, I can track my times. When I learn a language on Duolingo, I have "experience points" for quantifying my progress. When I'm learning a subject deeply, I often use Coursera.

I'm not alone in this, as apps like Duolingo have successfully onboarded millions of people. But all of these metrics today are siloed without a way to aggregate them into a single identity – the intersection of the things I care about, and the progress I'm making towards those projects. The question has remained on my mind for years: how we do bridge this with blockchains?

Blockchains provide a way to make this kind of data more accessible and useful. But until recently, blockchains were not scalable enough to bring data onchain, and to distribute rewards accordingly as I had envisioned years ago. But we are now entering a time where it is not only viable but also potentially a central piece of the web3 social ecosystem.

After working in the crypto industry for the last 6 years, I am convinced that the time has come to build a product centered around this concept. With the ability to easily integrate data onto blockchains and bridge rewards, we are ready to create a unique product that distributes rewards based on individual progress in areas we care about.

That’s essentially what we’re trying to do with Stack – to help make a more engaging, connected, and healthful world that is aligned with positive outcomes for emerging technology.

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