Redecentralize Digest — October 2020 —

Given all the positivity surrounding SSI, and its laudable promise to give people control, it may be surprising to find an essay called “The dystopia of self-sovereign identity (SSI)”. Its author Philip Sheldrake warns the SSI community that their projects may achieve the opposite of what is intended, partly by viewing the problem too much from a technical perspective: “SSI cannot provide an ‘identity layer’ of the Internet any more than the Internet might be said to be missing a ‘truth layer’.”

Source: Redecentralize Digest — October 2020 —

Blockchain-facilitated sharing to advance outbreak R&D | Science

Timely and widespread dissemination of resources and information related to pathogenic threats plays a critical role in outbreak recognition, research, containment, and mitigation (1, 2), as stakeholders from government, public health (PH), industry, and academia seek to implement interventions and develop vaccines, diagnostics, and drugs (3). But there are persistent barriers to sharing and cooperative research and development (R&D) in the context of epidemics, rooted in a lack of trust in confidentiality and reciprocity (4, 5), ambiguity over resource ownership (6), and conflicting public, private, and academic incentives (24, 6). Here, we suggest how recent advances in blockchain and related technologies can enable decentralized mechanisms to help break down these systemic and largely nontechnological barriers. These mechanisms resolve scalability, energy consumption, and security concerns of early blockchain models and may be applied to underpin and interconnect, rather than supersede or conflict with existing, well-established systems and practices for storing, sharing, and governing resources.

Source: Blockchain-facilitated sharing to advance outbreak R&D | Science

Towards a Theory of Digital Network De/centralization: Platform-Infrastructure Lessons Drawn from Blockchain by Enrico Rossi, Carsten Sørensen :: SSRN

Global digital platforms are conquering the world and rely critically on digital infrastructures to function, yet little research has explored the fundamental interrelationship between the two. This working paper argues that understanding centralization and decentralization in digital networks as asymmetry and symmetry in mutual interdependencies between the constitutive elements of a digital network can help us understand the platform-infrastructure relationship more fundamentally (and vice versa). To this end, the paper proposes, as a starting point, the in-depth analytical and literature study of blockchain networks as a particularly revealing type of digital platform/infrastructure duality. The paper proposes an analytical model for characterizing de/centralization in digital networks and maps this onto blockchain networks. Based on this, the paper explores the de/centralization of blockchain, arguing that the extant blockchain literature largely has failed in providing a comprehensive understanding of de/centralization by not considering the complex second-order interdependencies between the different constitutive dimensions of a blockchain: the symbolic, technological and political dimension. Based on this, the paper provides an analysis of the meaning of de/centralization in blockchain networks by studying the interdependencies between its constitutive elements of coin, network technology, and social community.

Source: Towards a Theory of Digital Network De/centralization: Platform-Infrastructure Lessons Drawn from Blockchain by Enrico Rossi, Carsten Sørensen :: SSRN

Brave New Coin

  • Earning interest on crypto asset holdings has become easier than ever, thanks to the Compound protocol and DApps like Dharma and Celsius.
  • Converting your ETH to other Ethereum tokens can be done securely and privately decentralized exchanges such as Uniswap or IDEX.
  • Hedging your cryptographic asset portfolio is now possible thanks to decentralized derivatives trading platforms, such as dYdX.
  • Insuring yourself against the failure of smart contracts has become possible thanks to Nexus Mutual.
  • Betting on the outcome of elections, sporting events or whether John McAfee’s bitcoin price prediction will come true can be done on prediction markets platforms, such as Augur.
  • Storing funds in crypto-backed stablecoins during times of extreme market volatility is now as easy as buying DAI.

Aragon, DAOstack, Colony, Moloch

What is a DAO? Here, we take as an (imperfect) definition something simple: “a censorship-resistant means to coordinate the deployment of shared resources towards a shared objective”. The simplest DAO, by this definition, would be a multi-sig wallet, in which individual members can withdraw paltry sums and many members together can withdraw significant sums.While a multi-sig may be sufficient for a group of friends on a backpacking trip, it quickly becomes apparent that for more ambitious objectives requiring the coordination of more resources, additional mechanisms are necessary. How permeable should the boundaries of the organization be? How much influence should any individual have? How can individuals be protected from the bad behavior of others? How easy or difficult is it to participate?For a certain type of person, these questions are irresistible, and it no surprise that many significant projects have emerged in recent years seeking to answer these questions. People frequently ask about the ways in which these projects are similar and different from each other; this essay is a step towards an answer.This commentary is based on my familiarity with these projects and their technical documentation, much of which I have read, as well as conversations with teammates from the various projects.

Source: Aragon, DAOstack, Colony, Moloch

TILTing 2019 – exploring the journey of crypto-assets across the EU financial legal framework

At TILTing 2019 the Lab presented a study on the legal instruments that are, as of today, applicable to blockchain-based digital assets under European law, and the relative enforcement challenges. The broader question to be tackled is whether and how regulators deal with such challenges, and what are the interests at stake.

Control as Liability

Generally, unintended consequences of laws, discouraging entire categories of activity when one wanted to only surgically forbid a few specific things, are considered to be a bad thing. Here though, I would argue that the forced shift in developers’ mindsets, from “I want to control more things just in case” to “I want to control fewer things just in case”, also has many positive consequences. Voluntarily giving up control, and voluntarily taking steps to deprive oneself of the ability to do mischief, does not come naturally to many people, and while ideologically-driven decentralization-maximizing projects exist today, it’s not at all obvious at first glance that such services will continue to dominate as the industry mainstreams. What this trend in regulation does, however, is that it gives a big nudge in favor of those applications that are willing to take the centralization-minimizing, user-sovereignty-maximizing “can’t be evil” route.Hence, even though these regulatory changes are arguably not pro-freedom, at least if one is concerned with the freedom of application developers, and the transformation of the internet into a subject of political focus is bound to have many negative knock-on effects, the particular trend of control becoming a liability is in a strange way even more pro-cypherpunk (even if not intentionally!) than policies of maximizing total freedom for application developers would have been. Though the present-day regulatory landscape is very far from an optimal one from the point of view of almost anyone’s preferences, it has unintentionally dealt the movement for minimizing unneeded centralization and maximizing users’ control of their own assets, private keys and data a surprisingly strong hand to execute on its vision. And it would be highly beneficial to the movement to take advantage of it.

Source: Control as Liability

The Sharing Economy Was Always a Scam – OneZero

These days, it’s not a shared drill that’s redefining trust and supplanting institutional intermediaries; it’s the blockchain. Botsman now says that the blockchain is the next step in shifting trust from institutions to strangers. “Even though most people barely know what the blockchain is, a decade or so from now, it will be like the internet,” she writes. “We’ll wonder how society ever functioned without it.”

The ambitious promises all sound very familiar.