8. Putting the Pieces Together: 
Multi-Layered Digital Futures

Welcome to the concluding chapter of the Digital Disruption for Conservation Toolkit! By now, you've navigated the intricate landscapes of Blockchain, Web 3.0, Smart Contracts, Cryptocurrencies, Tokenization and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). You've also explored the emerging realms of Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs), the Metaverse and Virtual Worlds, and the transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Each of these technologies and concepts, in isolation, holds immense potential for nature conservation. But what happens when we start to combine them? How can we leverage their synergies to create innovative, multi-layered solutions for conservation? That's exactly what will be explored in this chapter. We'll weave together the threads of knowledge we’ve gathered, envisioning a tapestry of possibilities for the future of conservation.

As we embark on this journey ‘into the future’, it's important to clarify our approach. We're employing futures thinking techniques to envision potential scenarios. This isn't about predicting the future with certainty. Instead, it's about exploring a range of possible futures, understanding the opportunities and challenges they present, and using this understanding to inform our actions today.

Each future scenario presents a speculative narrative – a story of what could happen if we combine the technologies and concepts we've explored in the toolkit. These narratives provide flexible tools for thinking about the future and are designed to spark your imagination, stimulate your thinking and inspire you to envision your own scenarios for the future of conservation.

The scenarios are presented in chronological order, with Future 1 being the most immediate and tangible based on the technologies available today, and Futures 2 and 3 stretching the levels of complexity and speculation. These scenarios may seem futuristic but they're grounded in the current trends and developments, many of which are referenced in the previous chapters. They represent the potential of what could be if we dare to direct our efforts towards such futures.

Future 1: Compensation for Human-Wildlife Conflicts
Future 2: 
Regenerative Neighbourhoods
Future 3: 
Interspecies Coexistence
Future 1: Compensation for Human-Wildlife Conflicts

In one line: A future where human-wildlife conflict compensation schemes are more efficient, fair and sustainable, facilitated by a blend of emerging technologies.

Layered technologies: AI, Blockchain, Smart Contracts, Cryptocurrencies, DAOs and NFTs

In today’s world, human-wildlife conflict compensation schemes often grapple with challenges such as inefficiency, inequity, bureaucracy and delays in payment processing.

In this envisioned Future 1, Maria, a farmer in a rural community, finds her crops damaged by elephants. Instead of despairing, she uses an app to upload photographic evidence of the damage. Her user experience is kept simple and seamless.

An AI-driven compensation system assesses her claim. The system is governed by a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO), comprising local communities, conservation organisations, government agencies, and insurance companies. These stakeholders collaboratively decide on resource allocation, evaluation criteria, and conflict mitigation strategies. Funding sources for the scheme include governmental budgets, private investors, grants, and proceeds from the DAOs activities.

The AI system takes into account factors like geographical location, regional socio-economic data, the potential for retaliation and the extent of the damage, combined with satellite and tracking data to incorporate the movement of wildlife in the area. This allows the system to validate the authenticity of Maria's claim, evaluate the context of the conflict and calculate fair and sufficient compensation for the case.

Once Maria's claim is validated, a smart contract on the blockchain instantly releases compensation in the form of a digital currency, offering reduced transaction costs, faster payment processing and financial inclusion while ensuring the security, transparency and traceability of all transactions. Maria can then either use the currency in its digital form or convert it to a local currency through locally accessible exchanges.

AI is further utilised to identify and predict potential human-wildlife conflict hotspots, helping stakeholders develop proactive mitigation strategies based on data. Generative AI creates customised educational materials tailored to different regions, languages and cultural contexts, ensuring better understanding and engagement with the compensation system. 

For each resolved compensation claim, a Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is minted. These NFTs, representing the specific incident and the resolution of a human-wildlife conflict, are given to the supporters who invested in the scheme. These NFTs can then be sold as high-quality, verified biodiversity credits to entities seeking to contribute to biodiversity conservation, providing tangible proof of impact for the credit and a return on investment for the scheme’s investors.

Within a few hours, Maria is compensated for her damaged crop and further insights and mitigation actions are drawn from the data to reduce similar events in the future.

This scenario presents a future where multilayered disruptive technologies potentially lead to a more efficient, fair and sustainable human-wildlife conflict compensation scheme, fostering better coexistence between humans and wildlife.

Future 2: Regenerative Neighbourhoods

In one line: A future where urban sustainability is transformed through decentralised technologies, innovative incentive mechanisms and other digital tools, fostering regenerative neighbourhoods.

Layered technologies: AI, Blockchain, Smart Contracts, Cryptocurrencies, DAOs and the Metaverse

In today's world, urban sustainability often faces challenges such as lack of incentives, inefficient resource management, lack of community engagement and limited access to real-time environmental data. 

In Future 2, John, a resident of a city neighbourhood, receives a notification on his phone. His neighbourhood has just achieved its monthly temperature and greenery goals and, as a reward, he has received an amount of the local council’s digital currency. With this currency, John can pay for his council fees, bills, community projects or at different businesses across the city. This is part of a city-wide initiative that leverages AI, smart contracts, DAOs and the Metaverse to promote regenerative practices among residents.

A network of drones and sensors monitor the neighbourhood gathering real-time data on temperature, greenery levels, biodiversity, energy consumption and even light and noise pollution. AI algorithms analyse this data, informing local authorities when areas need improvement and suggesting targeted interventions and monthly goals. The residents then collaborate to achieve these goals. Once a target is reached, a smart contract is automatically triggered and residents are awarded the digital currency, ensuring a transparent and efficient incentive mechanism.

Residents in these neighbourhoods collaborate through a DAO, sharing best practices, resources and ideas while coordinating their efforts to create a more sustainable environment. The DAO also connects residents with local businesses, environmental organisations and other neighbourhoods, fostering a city-wide network of sustainability champions.

The metaverse serves as a platform for community engagement, inspiration and informed decision-making. A digital twin of the neighbourhood, continuously updated with real-time data, allows local authorities and residents to visualise the impacts of their actions on temperatures, greenery and biodiversity. This virtual model not only provides inspiration by offering residents a glimpse into the potential future of their neighbourhood, but also enables the testing of different interventions before implementing them in the real world, optimising resource allocation and maximising positive outcomes.

The city council consolidates the environmental impact across all neighbourhoods to generate verified carbon and biodiversity credits for their decreased footprint. These credits can then be sold to companies seeking to offset their environmental footprint, providing additional funding for the continued implementation and enhancement of the regenerative neighbourhoods system.

As the initiative progresses and more neighbourhoods achieve their sustainability targets, AI algorithms analyse the data from the most successful neighbourhoods. This analysis uncovers best practices and strategies that have led to significant environmental improvements. These insights are then used to inform future urban planning and serve as a 'blueprint' for other neighbourhoods looking to implement similar sustainable practices.

This scenario presents a future where multilayered technologies and data-driven insights transform urban environments into regenerative, sustainable and thriving neighbourhoods. The potential impacts include improved local climate resilience, increased biodiversity, stronger community bonds and an enhanced quality of life for all residents.

Future 3: Interspecies Coexistence

In one line: A future where AI, blockchain and the metaverse converge to enable interspecies communication and agency for nature, fostering a new era of mutual understanding, coexistence and inclusive societies.

Layered technologies: AI, Blockchain, Smart Contracts, Cryptocurrencies, DAOs and the Metaverse

In today's world, the communication gap between humans and non-human nature is vast, limiting our understanding and hindering inclusion and collaboration. 

In the highly speculative Future 3, AI-based systems have not only deciphered complex animal communication patterns but also enabled rudimentary conversations with some species. In this future, Jane, a wildlife conservationist, wakes up to a notification on her device. It's a message from an elephant named Kibo, sent through an AI intermediary. Kibo has spotted a potential threat to her herd and is seeking assistance. This is part of a global initiative that leverages AI, blockchain, smart contracts, DAOs and the metaverse to foster interspecies collaboration and inclusion within human systems.

The AI system has been designed to interpret animal signals, sentiments and behaviours, translating them into messages that are comprehensible to humans. This was achieved through advanced machine learning algorithms that analysed a vast array of data, from audio and visual signals to behavioural patterns, similar to how large language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT were developed to detect patterns in human languages. This breakthrough has enabled humans to establish institutions which grant agency to non-humans and foster personal connections with them.

Blockchain and smart contracts underpin a new, decentralised, inclusive economy that fosters self-governance and representation of natural systems. For example, forests have been transformed into self-governing entities capable of managing their resources autonomously. A network of sensors, coupled with AI systems, allows these forests to monitor their own health and devise appropriate actions. Through the use of smart contracts, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, these forests can accumulate capital, issue licences for sustainable logging activities and even expand their boundaries by purchasing additional land. Humans collaborate with these autonomous forests to implement decisions, marking a significant shift in our economic paradigm in which non-human entities actively participate and exert agency in economic activities.

The metaverse serves as a platform for interspecies interaction where humans can engage and converse with AI-generated representations of non-human perspectives. Leveraging the capabilities of LLMs, these simulations offer a unique lens into the natural world, fostering a deeper understanding of our intricate interconnectedness with various species. These immersive experiences cultivate empathy and appreciation for diverse life forms, while simultaneously providing a platform for animals to have a voice, albeit indirectly, in decisions that impact their habitats and lives.

DAOs are made up of diverse stakeholders, including humans, AI entities and representatives from animal and plant communities. These DAOs aspire to ensure that the interests and rights of all entities are considered in decision-making processes, fostering a more inclusive and equitable approach to resource allocation and environmental governance.

As for Kibo the elephant, her communication through the AI intermediary about a contaminated water source in her habitat triggered an immediate response. The local conservation agency was alerted and swiftly took action to address the issue. As a result, the safety and well-being of Kibo's herd were ensured, demonstrating the transformative potential of interspecies collaboration.

This scenario envisions a future where advanced technologies not only reshape our relationship with animals but also redefine our notions of agency, inclusivity and cooperation. By bridging the communication divide between humans and non-human nature, we cultivate a world that is more inclusive, empathetic and cooperative. The profound potential of such a future extends to humans and non-human nature alike, heralding a new era of mutual understanding and coexistence.

Interested in smart contracts? Here are some points to consider.

1. All considerations under the ‘Keep in mind’ section in the Blockchain and Web 3.0 chapter.

2. What types of smart contracts does your chosen blockchain support, and which programming language knowledge is required to develop those contracts?

3. Can conditions that should be met according to the contract be fed into the blockchain automatically or without a human intervention (for example, via satellite imagery, weather sensors, or similar) so that trust is not compromised?

4. If human intervention is still needed, try to design a contract in which trust is least compromised by a person feeding data into the blockchain.

5. Investigate blockchain oracles – entities that connect blockchains to external systems, thereby enabling smart contracts to execute based on inputs and outputs from the real world.

6. Whilst mitigating unintended consequences of your application, consider best practices for co-designing the smart contracts with any stakeholders who may use or be affected by it in the future.

7. Once deployed on a blockchain, smart contracts are intentionally difficult to change. Make sure to consider and simulate every possible scenario, breach or flaw in the code prior to its deployment, and consider the need for post-execution dispute resolution mechanisms.

8. If you want the smart contracts to be legally binding, seek legal advice. While smart contracts often contain agreements between parties that emulate a traditional legal contract, in certain jurisdictions they are not yet considered legally binding (though they will still self-execute).

9. Test before implementing. Rigorously test your decentralised application before it has any real-world influence on nature and people.

As we conclude our journey through the Digital Disruption for Conservation Toolkit, we find ourselves standing at the crossroads of many potential futures. The scenarios presented invite us to reimagine what is possible for conservation using disruptive technologies. They serve not only as a vision of what could be, but also as a catalyst for more tangible ideas that we could begin to develop today.

Each component of the different scenarios can already be explored and developed. They provide a roadmap guiding us towards a future where conservation is effective, fair, sustainable and inclusive. But these are just the beginnings of what we can imagine. Now, we turn to you. 

We invite you to build upon your learnings from the toolkit and to envision your own futures for conservation. Your ideas, feedback and vision are invaluable in shaping the path forward.

  We would love to hear your thoughts on the toolkit. What resonated with you? What could be improved? 

We also encourage you to share your own envisioned futures, innovative ideas and thoughts on the scenarios we've presented. If you wish to share these insights or have any questions, please email us at info@unearthodox.org.

The future of conservation is something we can actively create. With the right tools and a collective vision, we can shape a future worth striving for. Let's start today.

Want to get in touch?

Email the project team at  info@unearthodox.org
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