Decentralised Food Safety Reviews

by @edent | # | 3 comments | Read ~457 times.

In most civilised countries, there is a central authority which inspects restaurants for hygiene and safety.

Their job is, broadly, to stop people getting poisoned, falling sick, or dying.

That’s a pretty good feature of civilisation, I’d say. We think that most restaurant owners are probably good people – but it seems sensible to have someone check that they’re not dropping rat shit in our food.

There’s an individually-small economic cost to us. There’s also a cost to the business and economy with compliance. But, as a society, we’re happy with those costs because spending all night throwing up your guts is really unpleasant.

Let us imagine a slightly less centralised society – where there is no single authority in charge of food safety.

In one scenario, the cost of litigation keeps restaurateurs honest. If you die of anaphylactic shock due to their poor practices, your family sues them for millions. Perhaps the restaurant wins in court – perhaps your family makes bank. Of course, the downside is that you are dead.

So, people will probably want some sort of proof that a restaurant is unlikely to kill them before they eat there.

Perhaps a dozen different food inspection regimes spring up. Yelp, FourSquare, FaceBook, all decide to offer a competing service. Through the magical power of the free market they all offer 100% coverage of all restaurants, at a cheap price, and are completely free of corruption.


Back in the real world, each restaurant ends up paying multiple times for the same service, diners have to remember which review plan they’re subscribed to, Yelp lets bad businesses buy their way out of trouble, and Facebook lets you get sick so it can sell more adverts for personal injury lawyers.

People get bored of having crappy decentralised services which don’t work for them. They want someone reasonably incorruptible, with published procedures, and who works the same all over the country.

In short, they want someone they can trust.

All of which brings us round to Verifiable Claims and BlockChain! We don’t need boring old centralised knowledge. Stick it on the ‘chain!

Two dogs sat at a computer. One says "On the blockchain, nobody knows if you're an authority."
With apologies to Peter Steiner

Firstly, which BlockChain do I choose? The one where a foreign country controls 51% of all power, or the one coded with fundamental flaws?

Secondly, assuming I find a reliable ledger, and I understand how it works, and it is cheap and quick enough to access when I’m desperate for a curry – how do I trust the information on it?

Obviously, anyone can write to a Distributed Ledger. You can’t have gatekeepers – that goes against the spirit of decentralisation.

So now I have to wade through the spam and fraudulent listings until I find the authority that I trust to provide me with reliable food safety reviews.

But… and sorry to bang on about this… how do I verify it is them? How do I know they’re trustworthy?

Just putting claims on a BlockChain may make them immutable – but it doesn’t make them true.

Having your claims cross-signed by hundreds of other entities may make it look trusted – but it doesn’t tell you anything about the reliability of those entities.

At some point, you need to trust an authority. It might be the state, it might be Facebook, or your religious leader, or your parents, or some dudebro with a hot ICO.

But you’ll be like most humans. You’ll gravitate to who your community trusts. And, even when that authority abuses your trust, you’ll find it hard to leave.

And, honestly, who wants to go to the effort of verifying every organisation they interact with? No. You’ll trust one authority and let them do the hard work of verifying everything else.

People will centralise. Very few people want to live in an anarchy where their food can kill them. Very few people want to spend their time working out who they can trust. Very few people care about decentralisation.

Who can they trust though? It is, of course, turtles all the way down.

3 thoughts on “Decentralised Food Safety Reviews

  1. Paul says:

    And who does the work, and why? – the eternal pin that bursts these blockchain balloons

  2. This is a brilliant evisceration of one blockchain use case – and surely applies to plenty more

  3. Tangentially-related, this (very long) article on the Grenfell Fire is pretty scathing about the problems caused by decentralised (read: privatised) fire safety reviews:

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