Interview: Robin Kohze – Satoshi Nakamoto scholar

By Alex Speirs Published: January 19, 2021
Photo of Robon Kohze

Following the news that Robin Kohze, a University of Cambridge PhD candidate in genetics, had been awarded the Satoshi Nakamoto scholarship for a second consecutive year, he sat down with Bitcoin Association to reflect on the results of the past year and his plans for the one ahead – both of which are rooted in the development of his HIVE protocol.

‘HIVE started with the idea to reshape our news landscape – how we read things, how we get informed, how we gain expertise in certain areas,’ explains Kohze.

‘The HIVE protocol is all about creating new incentives to generate content in a network-based way. It’s a new model of social media incentivisation. If we look back to 2005-06, we saw companies like Facebook and Twitter coming up, but they all were based on the same core concept: getting views, likes and replies. In those systems, there is a high threshold where you need to have thousands of viewers first before you generate any revenue.’

‘That is the status quo, but it doesn’t need to be. With Bitcoin SV, because it doesn’t require any intermediaries, it can cut the costs and fees incurred in-between, meaning that when used correctly, you can directly profit from your content.’

This is founding principle for HIVE, which works by connecting content uploaded to its platform via an interconnected network – storing and displaying content in a way that shows the ‘bigger picture’ between nodes of information. For example, a HIVE user may want to glean an understanding of how a given piece of content is connected to another – is it an article which is a response to another piece of writing on HIVE, or a correction, or an elaboration, or a criticism? These are the insights which HIVE will unveil.

Viewing data in this way not only helps to categorise and sort information in ways that are insightful, relevant and actionable for the userbase, it opens the door for users to be more appropriately rewarded for their contributions. A user might post an article to HIVE and receive a lot of positive attention, with each engagement (thanks to the Bitcoin SV protocol) bringing some fractional payment to the creator as a reward. But the content that is created as a result of this original article will provide reward not just to the new creator, but to the original article’s creator as well, along with all other proximate content.

‘The idea is that you have this dynamically growing incentive system – the more a chain of interactions gets liked, the more profitable it becomes for everyone, so it makes sense to create value around it. At the same time, it’s fading away the spam, because spam generally needs to be low-cost and high impact. Under this incentive system, you are only giving money to those who created actual value,’ says Kohze.

‘If you scale this up, what you would get is a more collaborative online society, but in a capitalistic way which is extremely competitive. You don’t get money for free; you get it because you provided value.’

Developing HIVE as a platform was Kohze’s key focus for the past year, with the concept now live and operational at raspora.com. But for Kohze, the work has just begun. The real substance of the project lies in the incentive system; the social media platform is as much a vehicle for this incentive system as it is an end in and of itself. This will be the focus for Kohze during his second year as the Satoshi Nakamoto scholar, with the year ahead set to focus on researching, iterating and finalising the incentive model used in HIVE -as well as other different incentive models – so that they can be understood, packaged and then used by the Bitcoin SV ecosystem at large.

‘What’s different this year is that the scholarship will go into the academic side of our work – both the formalisation of the concepts and the simulations to test it. The main reason why I got the scholarship this year is to fully figure out the meta component of the system and why it works,’ Kohze explains.

‘We already know that it’s only possible on Bitcoin SV, because the fees are so extremely low that you can have something that shares value to lots of nodes. But once we figure out this incentive system, then I can publish a finding which can be a reference for future papers. Research is always about refining ideas: I haven’t seen any of those ideas which are blockchain-based and uses these incentives together.’