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fathom: a universal system of assessment

fathom is a decentralized protocol for creating and assessing meaningful credentials through the consensus of knowledge communities.

It aims to build identities based on qualifications. A fathom user will accrue a profile of assessments and certifications earned from those assessments to accurately and reliably portray the things they know and are qualified to do.

The protocol makes no assumptions about what is being assessed. Instead communities use the protocol to form their own definitions and rules about concepts, which are then carried out collectively. Those certified within a concept are economically and socially incentivized to participate in the accurate assessment of individuals looking to be certified.

This creates a universal credential ecosystem, where individuals are free to learn what they please how they please and earn credentials that are meaningful and trustworthy to anyone in the world.


A more wide-eyed explanation:

fathom is fundamentally about expanding how we can communicate useful experiences. Society functions on knowing what individuals can do based on what they have done; it’s how we hire, allocate funds, and even make friends.

In communities with small populations, people are able to form deep understandings of the skills and identities of other members in their group by word of mouth, apprenticeships, and other social connections. While this method results in comprehensive and accurate interpretations of people’s skills, it cannot scale to large populations.

In large scale communities, emphasis is placed on standardized testing, usually provided by central educational institutions. While this method of measuring skills and worth is efficient, it is inflexible and overlooks many relevant and valuable experiences that are not part of the institution’s system. As a result, individuals often choose to accrue only experiences that can be broadly communicated by the system. In college, a Math major is less likely to enroll in an art class because his experience in art is neither considered valuable to the institution granting him a degree, nor easily conveyed to a potential employer.

This is holding our society back. If individuals were free to build their experiences tailored to their unique aims, and were able to communicate those experiences reliably to any entity in the world, there would be an order of magnitude shift in the efficacy of social organization at every scale.

How fathom fixes things

Fathom aims to enable this freedom by focusing on the social process that generates the credentials themselves. By creating incentives for communities to form and support themselves in the assessment process, you have a system for creating and organizing microcredentials that are both meaningful and scalable.

You can distribute the work and trust required to perform those assessments, allowing for scalability, along with adding value, not only for the individual aiming for a credential, but those assessing and the community as a whole.

Because the protocol focuses only on how individuals interact, and maps that as closely as possible to how credentials themselves influence how people interact, fathom is capable of capturing any credential communities need it to.


Why Ethereum

fathom is built and deployed as a smart-contract system on Ethereum. This allows the protocol to function without any central point of trust, failure, or control. This is important in the context of credentials for multiple reasons.

Self-Sovereign Identity

In fathom, credentials form identity, and individuals have a right to control their identity. It should not be able to be destroyed, forged, or otherwise compromised, by any power. Blockchains, and Ethereum in particular, form an incredible foundation for self-sovereign identity. Ethereum provides a robust and versatile paradigm for identity management for lower level qualities, such as immutability and public-key based accounts, and higher level constructs, such as proxy contracts and others.

Protocol trust and incentives

Because individuals need to trust in the process that generates the credentials themselves, Ethereum is necessary to ensure security. For that to happen individuals need to trust that the protocol can’t be abused and that it functions exactly as described. This is a coding problem. Obviously our smart-contracts have to be robust. Ethereum guarantees that robustness, once deployed, will execute. This is especially important when dealing with fathom’s economic incentives.

Forming a foundation

Above all , fathom is built on Ethereum in order to form the foundation for our future decentralized social systems. Anyone in the world can build something using fathom credentials, and everyone else can trust what they build. The systems they build can be planetary scale social systems, a new digital society.