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.
Bitcoin and its users employ a variety of obfuscation techniques to increase their financial privacy. We visualize a representative selection of these techniques in Figure 1 based on their time of invention/creation and our assessment of their similarity to obfuscation vs. cryptography. We make several observations. First, techniques used in Bitcoin predominantly fall into obfuscation, with stronger techniques being used exclusively in alternative cryptocurrencies (altcoins). Second, there is a trend towards stronger techniques over time, perhaps due to a growing interest in privacy and to the greater difficulty of developing cryptographic techniques. Third, obfuscation techniques proposed at later points in time are seeing less adoption, arguably a result of their increased complexity and need for coordination among participants (Möser & Böhme 2017).
Discussions of cryptocurrencies and other blockchain technologies are bedeviled by a nearly universal assumption that attributes that are possible to achieve in theory are guaranteed to be realized in practice. Examples include decentralization and anonymity.Back in June David Gerard asked: How good a business is running a Lightning Network node? LNBig provides 49.6% ($3.7 million in bitcoins) of the Lightning Network’s total channel liquidity funding — that just sits there, locked in the channels until they’re closed. They see 300 transactions a day, for total earnings on that $3.7 million of … $20 a month. They also spent $1000 in channel-opening fees.Even if the Lightning Network worked (which it doesn’t), and were decentralized (which it isn’t), Gerard’s point was that the transaction fees were woefully inadequate to cover the costs of running a node. Now, A Cryptoeconomic Traffic Analysis of Bitcoin’s Lightning Network by the Hungarian team of Ferenc Béres, István A. Seres, and András A. Benczúr supports Gerard’s conclusion with a detailed analysis.
The supposed disruptive and transformational potential of blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT) has received widespread attention in the media, from legislators, as well as from academics across disciplines, including law, over the past few years. While much of this attention revolved around the cryptocurrency Bitcoin (and its numerous cryptocurrency offshoots), many see the real promise of blockchain technology in its potential use for organising transactions in real assets, including shares and other securities, as well as for facilitating self-executing “smart contracts”, which replace vague and imprecise natural language with precise and unambiguous computer code.
Focussing mainly on non-currency applications of blockchain technology, I present a simple legal argument that seeks to demonstrate the impossibility of a meaningful blockchain-based economic system. I argue that features present in all major legal systems mean that real assets cannot be traded on blockchain-based systems, unless design choices are made which necessarily remove all advantages the technology offers over existing solutions. The same argument is shown to apply to so-called smart contracts.
The paper further argues that there is no reason to expect legislators to change current legal principles in sufficiently dramatic fashion so as to carve out a space in which (non-currency) applications of blockchain technology can usefully be implemented, since the oft-promised potential efficiency gains supposedly stemming from the adoption of the blockchain technology are based on a flawed analysis of costs and benefits. Legal and practical obstacles therefore mean that, outside its original and circumscribed realm of cryptocurrency, blockchain technology is highly unlikely to transform economic interactions in the real world. Instead, it is argued that – depending on the specific implementation – blockchain technology is either pointless or useless for transactions in traditional assets.
Keywords: Blockchain, distributed ledger technology, smart contracts, crypto assets, cryptoassets, Ethereum, Bitcoin, DLT
ARTICLE 19 has issued a warning about the promotion of blockchain technology as a solution to censorship. In a report published today, the freedom of expression organisation identifies some of the risks that arise from the use of blockchain technology. It also identifies steps that states, public organisations and tech companies should take to ensure that human rights are protected when this technology is used.
Areas of law covered include:
1 Government attitude and definition
2 Virtual currency regulation
3 Sales regulation
5 Money transmission laws and anti-money laundering requirements
6 Promotion and testing
7 Ownership and licensing requirements
9 Border restrictions and declaration
10 Reporting requirements
11 Estate planning and testamentary succession
The GLI to: Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Regulation 2019 covers government attitude and definition, cryptocurrency regulation, sales regulation, taxation, money transmission laws and anti-money laundering requirements, promotion and testing, ownership and licensing requirements, mining, border restrictions and more
This article presents the top ten obstacles towards the adoption of distributed ledgers, ranging from identifying the right ledger to use for the right use case to developing scalable consensus protocols that provide some meaningful notion of public verifiability.
AbstractEmerging as a comprehensive and aggressive governance scheme in China, the “Social Credit System” (SCS) seeks to promote the norms of “trust” in the Chinese society by rewarding behavior that is considered “trust-keeping” and punishing those considered “trust-breaking.” This Article closely examines the evolving SCS regime and corrects myths and misunderstandings popularized in the international media. We identify four key mechanisms of the SCS, i.e., information gathering, information sharing, labeling, and joint sanctions, and highlight their unique characteristics as well as normative implications. In our view, the new governance mode underlying the SCS — what we call the “rule of trust” — relies on the fuzzy notion of “trust” and wide-ranging arbitrary and disproportionate punishments. It derogates from the notion of “governing the country in accordance with the law” enshrined in China’s Constitution.This Article contributes to legal scholarship by offering a distinctive critique of the perils of China’s SCS in terms of the party-state’s tightening social control and human rights violations. Further, we critically assess how the Chinese government uses information and communication technologies to facilitate data-gathering and data-sharing in the SCS with few meaningful legal constraints. The unbounded and uncertain notion of “trust” and the unrestrained employment of technology are a dangerous combination in the context of governance. We conclude with a caution that with considerable sophistication, the Chinese government is preparing a much more sweeping version of SCS reinforced by artificial intelligence tools such as facial-recognition and predictive policing. Those developments will further empower the government to enhance surveillance and perpetuate authoritarianism.Keywords: Social Credit, information and communications technologies, governance, social control, human rightsSuggested Citation:
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. http://ipkitten.blogspot.com/2019/05/tilting-perspectives-2019-report-2.html
When Satoshi Nakamoto designed the Bitcoin protocol, he had the insight to include the notion of transaction fees. These fees incentivized miners to include transactions into blocks. But initially, Bitcoin did not have, in any meaningful sense, a fee market.A large portion of early Bitcoin transactions were completely free up until 2013 (blue in the above chart). Wallet developers eventually hard-coded tiny fixed fees into their clients, thought of as donations to miners. At first these fees defaulted to 0.1 BTC, but they were driven down as the Bitcoin price rose.