the Era of Self-Sovereign Worker

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Original Chinese Post:

We were really glad to have John Paller at Unitimes AMA on 21, Oct UTC+8, hearing his views about the influence of the self-sovereign worker era, four things that blockchain entrepreneurs need to know, why blockchain projects have difficulties to launch and more.

John is the founder of Opolis, an employment & talent acquisition industry leader & entrepreneur. Opolis is creating a new system for democratizing employment.

  1. Unitimes: Hi, John. Welcome to Untimes AMA. Could you make an introduction of yourself and Opolis?

John: I am a technology entrepreneur with almost 20 years in the talent acquisition, HR and employment space. After almost two decades of building multiple successful enterprises, I founded Opolis, the next generation employment ecosystem for the self-sovereign worker. I serve as the Executive Steward for Opolis, where I provide vision, strategy and domain expertise to the project. I also lead fundraising, investor relations and community outreach and adoption for Opolis.

2. Unitimes: What brought you into the Ethereum or blockchain space?

John: I was building a startup in 2013 when I found myself at an intimate executives conference in San Diego, CA. There I randomly met Dmitry Buterin, Vitalik Buterin’s father. We struck up a friendship and stayed in touch. After watching his social media feed talking about the Ethereum launch, I was intrigued.

I reached out to Dmitry in early 2016 asking for an introduction to Vitalik as I had some possible use cases for Ethereum. He told me that he couldn’t guarantee that Vitalik would respond as he didn’t always respond to his emails as his father.

Within one hour, he responded and we planned a time to chat about my ideas. He was gracious to spend several hours with me on the phone one afternoon. In hindsight, my ideas were very naive and, in a lot of ways, missed the point of Ethereum. Since that conversation, my ideas have refined and I’ve “gone down the blockchain rabbit hole”.

3. Unitimes: Could you make an introduction about HR Tech?

John: HR Tech, also known as Human Resources Technology, is traditionally comprised of software solutions which combines Human Resources systems and processes that ensure easy management of the data and employees of a company.

4. Unitimes: What’s the difference between existing HR Tech and Opolis?

John: Currently, thousands of HR Tech companies compete for users with creative marketing, aggressive sales tactics and grand (often overstated) promises. Workers searching for new work opportunities feel stuck and beholden to roles in which 69% of them are disengaged while employers are overwhelmed with regulatory burdens, increasing risks and accelerating costs of employment. Opolis is a new employment framework which better aligns the incentives of ecosystem players in a sustainable, user driven, network-based public utility infrastructure.

5. Unitimes: What problem does Opolis seeking to solve and how?

John: Opolis is creating an ecosystem for gig workers — freelancers, digital nomads, rideshare drivers and many other cohorts — where individuals can come together to access group health insurance and other benefits typically reserved for full-time corporate employees.

6. Unitimes: Is Opolis still in a closed beta? When will it officially launch?

John: Yes Opolis is in a closed beta with a select group of freelancers and gig workers. Join our Telegram and follow us on Twitter to learn more about our official launch plans! Early 2020 in the US. And later in 2020 we’ll begin expansion to other geographies.

7. Unitimes: What kind of services and insurance does Opolis provide?

John: Opolis will allow members to access network benefits including:

  • Crypto or State-based Currency Payroll
  • Financial Automation
  • Work Multiple Jobs; Receive 1 Paycheck
  • Group Health Benefits
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSA/FSA)
  • Self-Directed Retirement with Cryptocurrency Investment Options
  • Life Insurance
  • Short & Long Term Disability Insurance
  • Workman’s Compensation Insurance
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Paid Time Off Accrual
  • Automated Saving and Investing
  • Universal Basic Income Integration
  • And More…

8. Unitimes: How can global employers and job-seekers benefit by using Opolis?

John: Opolis is providing a framework for people around the world to connect together and access the employment benefits they need. Global employers can utilize Opolis to marginally decrease employment risk and find a pool of gig workers from around the world for open roles. Job-seekers can be in control of their own health benefits and other employment services while browsing jobs and connecting with employers from around the globe.

9. Unitimes: Employee compensation policies vary from country to country, and they’re changing all the time. Will Opolis be influenced by those policies? If so, what will you do for mitigation?

John: One of the major functions of the Opolis Trustee, which services the DEOs inside the Employment Commons, is to stay up on payroll and employment policies for different geo-locations. Futuristically speaking, individuals who are working globally won’t have the time or resources to do this. Think about it like a company who has operations in 50 countries. That company would have to keep up on all of the regulatory requirements in each location. The only difference is, the service is being provided to individuals who are sovereignly employed and this is all happening in a network setting vs a corporate one.

10. Unitimes: I noticed that Opolis mentioned in its Off-White Paper the concepts of Decentralized Employment Organizations (DEOs) and The Employment Commons. Could you tell us what they mean? How do they help with building a better and more sustainable employment ecosystem?

John: Opolis’ Decentralized Employment Organizations (DEOs), or Guilds, function legally like cooperatives. They allow individuals to become a member and access network health and employment benefits together. Right now, corporations mainly control these benefits, so allowing the worker to self-sovereignly control their benefits gives them freedom. This reality offers opportunity for individuals and organizations to not only survive, but thrive in a decentralized paradigm. Based on principles proposed by Elinor Ostrom in Governing the Commons, we call the totality of the Opolis ecosystem, The Employment Commons.

The Employment Commons and DEOs function to empower the future of the self-sovereign worker, which is someone who has sole ownership of their digital and analog identities and control over how their personal data is shared and used, the individual also has ownership over their employment and how their employment data is shared and used.

11. Unitimes: Opolis received a MakerDAO Development Grant in September, allowing Dai payment integrations in the Opolis platform, and companies and workers will have the choice to pay and be paid in Dai. Why did Opolis choose Dai as an acceptable cryptocurrency? What other options will exist for users in the future?

John: Our partnership with MakerDAO has been in the works for some time. We collectively believe that the adoption of Dai in an employment and payroll ecosystem is paramount to widespread adoption of decentralized finance as employee payrolls represent the economic engine of the world.

Dai was chosen as acceptable because it is a stablecoin without a central issuing authority. It’s the most decentralized stable currency we have seen. And we believe that a currency like Dai has the ability to upend the existing global remittance systems for payroll.

Eventually, there will be many more currency options for DEO members to choose from. Ultimately, Opolis wants to allow self-sovereign workers to be paid in any currency of their choice; digital or fiat.

12. Unitimes: We know that for some reason, many blockchain projects have been difficult to successfully launch. Few applications have enough active users apart from ICO, and some investors are on the sidelines, making it harder for entrepreneurs to start a blockchain company. Have you worried about user volume and financing issues?

John: Of course we’ve worried about it. It’s no simple task in the blockchain space to produce a UX friendly product and create a business model that is interesting and sustainable for investors. In fact, many of the “traditional” business models are directly in conflict with the “decentralized” ethos in which we believe.

Our strategy is to build a “bridge to the future”. What we mean by that is our technology and services are not full dApp from day 1. We are taking a staged approach to decentralizing the Commons so that “everyday” users can participate without having to manage private keys or know what MetaMask is. Over time, web2 components will be replaced with web3 components where UX has advanced to the point that we can put it in front of a user who possesses little to no knowledge of blockchains or cryptocurrencies.

On the investment front, we’re working with several groups currently to construct a sustainable revenue model in conjunction with new-age token engineering to create an “investor friendly” model without compromising the benevolence of the ecosystem.

13. Unitimes: Do you have any suggestions for blockchain entrepreneurs, especially those who would like to bring Ethereum technology to areas that are not just finance?


  • Don’t get caught up in the hype around the tech or the “investment” of blockchains. If we’re successful, the money will be there in quantities we never imagined. Focus on building something meaningful.
  • Focus on something that has deep meaning to you and and will impact the whole of humanity seismically.
  • Run after it like you have nothing else to do with your life. Try. Fail. Persevere. Repeat.
  • If your personal goals and alignment aren’t with a “humanity level” purpose, the blockchain space is just too hard. Opportunists looking for economic gain won’t last in this space long.

14. Unitimes: Current job offers on The Opolist are mainly in computer engineering, or even blockchain development. Many freelancer hiring platforms suffer the same problem. What do you think is the reason for this situation? What institutions will Opolis cooperate with to bring job offers of many other fields into Opolis?

John: Right now, there are more blockchain startups and applications being developed than there are developers so the demand for these tech jobs is high.

The Opolist is a free utility connecting people and opportunity, so anyone can list and apply for positions without a “middle man.” Opolis will partner with other collaborators over time to ensure a diversity of job opportunity offers within DEOs, and The Opolist is really just a preview of what that tech will ultimately become within The Employment Commons ecosystem.

15. Unitimes: Joseph Lubin of ConsenSys mentioned at the Ethereal Summit NY 2019 that we initiated the era of Self-Sovereign Worker with the advent of Opolis, Sobol, OpenLaw, etc. In your view, who are the self-sovereign workers? How will this era change our life?

John: Opolis hopes that everyone will eventually have the opportunity to become a self-sovereign worker if they want to be one. This means that any individual could have sole ownership of their digital and analog identities and control over how their personal data is shared and used, ownership over their employment and how their employment data is shared and used, and access to the network benefits and services they want to use.

This era will change everyone’s lives because for the first time employment will be fully by choice. Up until now, you either can be on your own or sell your time/attention to a corporation. This is the best of both worlds. Corporation Esque collaboration, support, procurement power and services with the freedom to choose who/where/with whom you want to invest your time.

16. Unitimes: The international economic environment is undergoing dramatic changes, like the British Brexit, the depreciation of the euro, the Sino-US trade war and so on. What impact do you think these changes in the environment will have on the gig economy and self-sovereign workers?

John: Its yet to be seen. It’s either going to create global movement toward a more open workforce (which is what I predict) or it’s going to create more and more tribalism and “warring” for talent through centralized means than ever before.

Ultimately governments will have a lot to do with the speed of this progress. It’s just hard to predict fully, on a global basis, if we’ll ever get the selfish interests of each government to align globally to allow their “citizens” to access a truly permissionless global employment framework.

17. Unitimes: How do you look at the future of Ethereum?

John: I believe that Ethereum has the strongest international community. This is critical for the sustainability of the platform. With Ethereum 2.0 v0 on its way, we have a lot to look forward to. But there are other chains/protocols who have learned from the path that Ethereum has blazed. It will be interesting to see what happens. In any case, I believe the “winning” chain, If there is such a thing, it will have to maintain more than “superior tech” which is why I believe in the Ethereum community as providing the base layer for the future of DLT.

18. Unitimes: Could you talk about the application of digital currency in the financial field, which is facing the problem of traditional financial supervision? How do you think digital currencies like Libra, BTC, ETH can be better applied to the most widespread regions of the world?

John: Excellent question. No one really knows, however. There are scores of jurisdictions and variables to deal with. Perhaps the question is how does the digital currency future COEXIST with the existing fiat system in a way that is non threatening to the overseers. This may not be possible but I think it’s the best hope we have to “evolve” away from the current status quo.

19. Unitimes: Do you think ETH 2.0, BTC, or Libra, Is your ideal digital asset? What would you suggest to improve ETH 2.0’s technology, economy or other things?

John: Different assets have different uses. We will see another wave of digital assets/currencies in addition to the core we already know. I don’t believe there is an optimal design as there are different uses for different assets. I.e oil vs gold (ETH vs BTC). I’m a fan of both of these assets for very different reasons and I suspect we’ll see asset/use optimization over the next few years. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are dozens of SUSTAINABLY highly valuable assets in the digital currency space in the years forthcoming.

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