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the fathom whitepaper:

Introduction

Society functions on knowing what people can do. Everybody needs to be able to communicate their skills to others in order to coordinate. This used to be a social process within a local community, but society has grown and largely outsourced that function to institutions. Today, people need to communicate a greater diversity of skills and experiences than ever before, over long timescales and across geographic, cultural and linguistic barriers. It is our belief that institutions cannot provide that service and will be unable to provide it in the future.

We seek to provide an alternative to institutional credentials by specifying a social protocal with economic incentives to allow knowledge communities to define their own standards and individuals to be assessed resulting in meaningful, verifiable and durable credentials

Problem Statement

The coupling of learning and assessment in current institutional models is unscalable and creates a set of perverse incentives for both educators and students. The bureaucracy of centralized institutions makes them resource intensive and slow to adapt to changes. As a consequence they are only able to offer a small set of experiences, defaulting to those that can be mass-produced.

Because communicating one’s experiences is so essential in today’s society, it is in an individual’s best interest to actively mold their experiences towards what they can communicate, instead of towards what they can aspire to. Therefore, relying on instituions to be the arbiter of people’s abilities has a chilling effect on societal progress.

Introducing Fathom

Fathom is a protocol to create and assess meaningful credentials through the consensus of knowledge communities.

It allows anyone to create a credential and anyone to be assessed in it. The core process involves a jury of randomly assembled assessors with relevant experience, as previously proven by the protocol, playing an ‘assessment-game’ in which they are economically incentivized such that an accurate assessment is the schelling point.

The protocol makes no assumptions about what is being assessed, instead it allows communities to form their own definitions and rules, to be then carried out collectively.

Implemented on a public blockchain, it will be possible to distribute the work necessary for assessments to scale far beyond what institutions are capable of.

Furthermore, blockchains can enable a truly inclusive, accessible and extensible credential-ecosystem, which is censor-resistant, durable and leaves individuals in full control of their identities: Able to learn skills and accumulate experiences towards their unique aims as well as to shape and strenghten the network by participating as an assessor.

Outline

The purpose of this document is two-fold: to provide a formal specification of the fathom-protocol, and to describe the infrastructure necessary to deploy it on a large scale. The second part will also lay out the launching process that we think will be favorable for a widespread adoption and for the overall intregrity of the system. While the core protocol is unlikely to change much, the infrastructure around it is still being developed and as such this document is subject to change. We believe in transparency and working out in the open and therefore invite the reader to engage with us: By contributing ideas or comments, or by actively taking part in the development. Together, we seek to enable a wide variety of real-world applications based on this new layer of trust for digital social relationships.