One of my family friends congratulated me recently on the success of the ‘Ether startup,’ leaving me briefly puzzled. While the parallels between issuing common stock, stock options, and digital tokens are relatively intuitive, this was the first time I heard an open source community described as a company — by someone unfamiliar with open source software. Technically, Ethereum isn’t a startup but an organization rooted in open source communities working to develop decentralized, logic-gated information and value exchange. There are similarities, and differences, between open source communities funded by digital tokens and traditional startup equity.

Transitioning from a Clinical Informatics fellow at UCSF to starting an R&D lab has provided me an opportunity to reflect on the valuable mentorship I’ve been lucky to receive along the way.

Analog Labs is an applied research laboratory aiming to:

  1. Educate societies about blockchain technology and emerging paradigms in Participatory Computing
  2. Apply this research directly toward social good
  3. Be financially and environmentally sustainable

The excitement surrounding cryptocurrencies drew attention to a field in tech that had been niche until relatively recently. Capital allows companies to grow and subsequently create value for society. However too rapid influx of wealth into cryptocurrencies can outrun the ability of these technologies to mature and evolve. Rapidly increasing prices of cryptocurrencies can bring wealth (and ruin) to speculators and can also discourage the spending of Ether to actually run applications. The excitement surrounding the industry, despite being a source of attention and potential investment funds, needs to keep pace with the development of these technologies for the sake of the long-term health of these technologies.

Since I started purchasing health insurance last month — $902.04 per month for medical insurance and $32.52 per month for dental insurance — I’m reminded of the dizzying cost of healthcare in the United States — the glaring economic and public health problem that sparked my interest in Ethereum several years ago. Analog Labs’ flagship project is a study of grassroots primary care models on the Ethereum blockchain. This living experiment is an opportunity to tap into a body of literature in Global Health and international communities’ experience with designing creative solutions to the challenge of funding healthcare’s perpetual journey to better.

Analog Labs is also seeking to help develop 2-4 projects that further the lab’s goals of applied research for sustainable social good by providing funding, technical expertise, and collaborative work, especially in the areas of:

  • health insurance
  • environmentally-friendly shipping materials
  • public transportation

 

I’m grateful to Betty Tran, Steven Truong, Peter Mikhail, Royd Carlson, The Haham-Grossman family, Linh Tran, Darlene Nguyen, Dr. Blake Gregory, Dr. Indhu Subramanian, Dr. Taft Bhuket, Dr. David Avrin, Dr. Sidhartha Sinha, Dr. Scott Enderby, the Highland family, the UCSF community, Bella Shah, Seth Blumberg, Dana Gersten, Tanner Irwin, Youssif Abdulhamid, Shahzad Ahsan, and friends at UCSF’s Aldea community for their support, mentorship, and contributions to this work.

 

Omar Metwally, MD

 

 

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