“The essence of the DLT infrastructure is that no single party should be trusted enough, but don’t we just trust a central bank to maintain the integrity of the global ledger?” said Harro Boven, policy adviser in the payments policy department of the Dutch central bank. Scott Hendry, senior special director of fintech at Bank of Canada, which piloted its Jasper project (built on R3’s Corda DLT platform) last year, agreed that “you don’t need a DLT to make a central bank digital currency.” “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of benefits if you look at a DLT system and the current efficient centralized system for the sole purpose of interbank payments,” Hendry said, adding that in the back office he leads, “they wouldn’t change anything” in the technology stack currently in use. No speaker ruled out using DLT for a CBDC in principle, but none showed much enthusiasm about the tech.
Commonwealth legislation should not only be published in words but in machine-readable code, which would allow it to be read not only by lawyers but also computers, a move CSIRO suggests will boost the adoption of new regulatory technology across the economy, improving compliance while reducing costs.
CSIRO detailed its vision for “rules as code” in a submission to the Senate select committee on financial and regulatory technology, calling for the government to think more about ‘legal informatics’, or ‘computational law’, to allow computers to help automate compliance. This would “reduce the cost of red tape and improve the quality of risk management in society,” the science agency said.
“The goal is that computer-assisted reasoning using these logics should give the same answers as judges and lawyers doing legal reasoning about the black-letter law,” CSIRO said. “When legal texts can be represented in this way, it enables the potential to build digital tools to help people to interact with the law.”
The banking industry – which has faced soaring compliance costs in the wake of the Hayne royal commission – has been wary about adopting new technologies in compliance. This has been due to the complexity of regulation, a reluctance by regulators to endorse a specific technological approach, and heavy sanctions for failures. This was evidenced by AUSTRAC’s legal actions for anti-money laundering failures at Commonwealth Bank and Westpac, which both related to failures in technology systems.
The big banks want Treasury to encourage the financial sector regulators ASIC, APRA and the Reserve Bank, “to make regtech a viable proposition in the financial services sector”.
Many start-ups, along with more established technology vendors, are developing new systems to help banks meet legal duties, including establishing the identity and background of customers, ensuring legal compliance, verification of income and expenses, and data privacy. Juniper Research expects global spending on regtech to rise from $US25 billion ($37 billion) 2019 to $US127 billion by 2024.
‘Rules as code’
CSIRO, which operates a digital innovation arm known as Data61, has detailed to the committee how a “rules as code” approach could lift compliance with various laws.
It is working with PwC on a joint venture called PaidRight to check employees’ entitlements under enterprise bargaining agreements against what they have actually been paid.
The banking industry and CSIRO are working on a project to develop a digital approach to organising climate change disclosure, which CSIRO said could be “a first step towards a nationally coordinated framework for delivery of climate information”.
The agency is also working with the building and construction industry to automatically check Computer Aided Design (CAD) models of buildings against the many building and construction regulations from the federal and state governments.
Publishing machine-interpretable rules alongside the text of legislation would “provide critical support for the regtech industry and potentially significant productivity benefits for regulated industries in Australia,” CSIRO said.
The Australian Banking Association called on the committee, which is being chaired by Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg, to recommend that Treasury “be explicitly tasked with responsibility for a growth strategy for regtech”.
Design box thinking
The RegTech Association, which represents 110 start-ups and corporates, suggested the committee call for the creation of a COAG-style forum to introduce government departments to regtech, and is encouraging government to become an “influencer, buyer, beneficiary and investor” in the space.
In its submission, the association suggests a percentage of regulatory fines paid by banks could be invested in a new ‘patient capital’ investment fund to invest in the sector, modelled on the Australian Medical Research Future Fund. It also reckons a safe harbour, or relief program, could be created to provide reporting entities attempting to deploy regtech with more confidence to adopt changes, via amendments to ASIC’s regulatory guidance.
The association also wants government to create “design box” or “sandbox” programs to accelerate testing of new technologies. It pointed to the APIX Platform, part of the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network and backed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, which has created a marketplace for financial institutions to exchange ideas with fintechs on better ways of doing things.
“Australia could easily replicate this idea of a digital marketplace or partner to introduce a similar platform,” the association said.
“It could allow buyers and sellers to come together to experiment more easily, allow greater visibility over regtech solutions, help regtechs understand the current problem statements of their potential clients, and allow a ‘design box’ where negative assurance could be provided by regulators as observers. Over time the digital marketplace could also be a portal for talent and skill recruitment.”
Separately, CSIRO responded to an accusation in the submission by FinTech Australia to the inquiry which criticised Data61 for “competing directly with private enterprise for government and non-government work”. In a statement, CSIRO said it “does not seek to compete with the private sector or start-ups and where possible aims to partner with Australian organisations, to support their growth.
“Like many of CSIRO’s business units, projects for Data61, the digital innovation arm of CSIRO, are typically identified as a result of discussions with, or approaches from government, industry or academic partners, where an opportunity has been identified for our research to be applied to solve problems and create benefits for Australia.”
When Prince Harry posted a photograph of himself and his future wife Meghan Markle in Botswana, placing a satellite collar on an elephant to track it and protect it from poachers, the royal was demonstrating new ways of combating the illegal wildlife trade.The couple’s post sought to highlight that more than 100 African elephants a day are killed for their ivory. Now, the war against poaching has another potential weapon: artificial intelligence.AI is capable of analysing different kinds of data sets and spotting significant patterns. The results can be used for the wider public good, such as improving planning in healthcare and public transport — or fighting wildlife poachers.“Audio data can be used to train algorithms to distinguish gunshots [of] those poaching wild animals [from] the gunshots [of] hunters,” says Chris Martin, a partner at law firm Pinsent Masons. Using big data, real-time alerts could be pinged to rangers to tell them which areas to focus on.Data trusts — which are separate legal entities designed to help organisations extract value from anonymised data without falling foul of privacy regulations — are being mooted as a way to allay concerns about how sensitive data is held by third parties.A pilot study on whether data trusts should be set up to share information to tackle the illegal wildlife trade was one of three initiatives by the Open Data Institute earlier this year (the ODI is a UK non-profit body that works with companies and governments “to build an open, trustworthy data ecosystem”).The study looked at whether data trusts could hold photographs from camera traps and acoustic information from a range of sources, which could be used by algorithms to create real-time alerts on poachers in protected areas.There are, however, legal questions about how to share anonymised data from governments and companies in a safe, ethical way against a backdrop of public mistrust. In the biggest scandal to date, consultancy Cambridge Analytica illicitly harvested personal data from Facebook to influence elections. In July, the US Federal Trade Commission approved a $5bn fine for the social media platform for privacy violations. Data trusts are being mooted as a way to allay concerns about how sensitive data is held by third partiesIn Los Angeles, residents have expressed concerns about the use of personal data collected from electric scooters, which is intended to help urban planning.Companies and governments tread a fine line between extracting information from data and ensuring they do not break laws such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which forces any company holding personal data of an EU citizen to seek consent and delete the data on request. Individuals should not be identifiable from the data sets.These legal problems on privacy and governance were what law firm Pinsent Masons with BPE Solicitors had to contend with when advising the ODI on data trusts.The project to combat poaching looked at whether a data trust could improve the sharing of information and invoice data from researchers and governments, by monitoring documents given to border staff about species being transported across borders that can be falsified by smugglers. The data could be used to train algorithms to help border staff identify illegally traded animals.Mr Martin says setting up such a data trust could enable border officials to take photographs of a live animal and use software to check whether it is a species on which there are export restrictions.One advantage of a data trust is that it enables individuals to become trustees and have a say in how their anonymised data is used. It would allow citizens to be represented if the data trust held traffic information collected about their locality, for example.Data trusts might also encourage companies to put in data to enable them to work on projects where they have a common goal. “The big supermarkets could decide to set up a data trust to share data on, for example, tackling food waste or climate change,” Mr Martin says.Chris Reed, professor of electronic commerce at Queen Mary University of London, says data trusts are useful when multiple organisations put in data. “The sharing of data might have been subject to agreements between parties, but when you might have 100 companies putting in data you cannot have agreements covering them all. Having a data trust is a fair and safe way of doing this,” he says.Only a handful of data trusts exist. Credit card company Mastercard and IBM has formed an independent Dublin-based data trust called Truata. Connor Manning, a partner at law firm Arthur Cox, handled the corporate and trust structure documentation. He says that part of the legal complexity was designing the structure so that Mastercard was a beneficiary of the trust but the structure was not a standard company. “It is a corporate structure with a trust structure on top,” he explains.A data trust may not be the answer to every situation. Othe
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
“If you bribe 51 percent of the miners, they will change the ledger for you. [This] tells you just how little irreversibility there is in PoW coins,” tweeted Cornell University professor and researcher in blockchain consensus protocols Emin Gün Sirer.A 51% attack on the blockchain network is not a new attack vector for PoW blockchains. However, as highlighted by Gün Sirer, it’s also not really an attack vector. On very special instances, the majority of self-interested miners on PoW blockchains have voluntarily agreed to alter a transaction history to undo critical situations.While the situation isn’t entirely the same, in the past, blockchain networks have seen their histories altered in the wake of critical moments. This happened on the ethereum blockchain back in 2016 when over $60 million worth of coins were siphoned off from the now-defunct smart contract The DAO. It also happened on the vericoin blockchain back in 2014 after $8 million worth of coins were hacked.While controversial, both decisions were supported by the primary developer community who launched system-wide upgrades or hard forks to enable otherwise infeasible amendments to the blockchain transaction history.Yet those choices weren’t without their repercussions; the resulting ethereum fork resulted in two distinct chains, ethereum and ethereum classic, respectively.A resounding noStill, many in the bitcoin community took to social media to deride the idea as both infeasible as well against the philosophical underpinnings of the technology.In Binance’s particular case, prominent members of the bitcoin community point out that bitcoin being the world’s largest blockchain is a particularly unique case with a reputation to uphold.“Talk of forking or reorganizing the blockchain is close to heresy,” tweeted billionaire bitcoin investor Michael Novogratz. “When the ethereum community did it the project was like 5 months old. A baby. Bitcoin now has $100bn market cap and is a legitimate store of wealth.”It would also be unfair according to Adam Back – CEO of bitcoin development startup Blockstream – given that the latest Binance hack is nowhere near as severe as previous hacks suffered on the bitcoin blockchain.“A Bitcoin reorg is just not happening, and I doubt any Bitcoin industry, miners nor developers considered it either. Recall 2014 $473mil, 2016 bitfinex hack $72mil, 2019 binance $40mil etc. #NotHappening,” tweeted Back.
It’s hard enough to get enterprises that compete with each other to work together as a team, but it’s especially tricky when one of those rivals owns the team.Shipping giant Maersk and tech provider IBM are wrestling with this problem with TradeLens, their distributed ledger technology (DLT) platform for supply chains.Some 10 months ago, the project was spun off from Maersk (the largest container shipping company on the planet) into a joint venture with IBM. But in that time the network has enticed only one other carrier onto the platform: Pacific International Lines (PIL), one of eight shipping lines in Asia and 17th in the world based on cargo volumes.As those involved admit, that’s not enough.
This chapter addresses the myth of decentralized governance of public blockchains, arguing that certain people who create, operate, or reshape them function much like fiduciaries of those who rely on these powerful data structures. Explicating the crucial functions that leading software developers perform, the chapter compares the role to Tamar Frankel’s conception of a fiduciary, and finds much in common, as users of these technologies place extreme trust in the leading developers to be both competent and loyal (ie, to be free of conflicts of interest). The chapter then frames the cost-benefit analysis necessary to evaluate whether, on balance, it is a good idea to treat these parties as fiduciaries, and outlines key questions needed to flesh out the fiduciary categorization. For example, which software developers are influential enough to resemble fiduciaries? Are all users of a blockchain ‘entrustors’ of the fiduciaries who operate the blockchain, or only a subset of those who rely on the blockchain? Finally, the chapter concludes with reflections on the broader implications of treating software developers as fiduciaries, given the existing accountability paradigm that largely shields software developers from liability for the code they create.
Keywords: Blockchain, DLT, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Distributed Ledger Technology, Cryptocurrency, Digital Currency, Blockchain Technology, Governance, Fiduciary, Law
Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or ethereum are gaining ground not only as alternative modes of payment, but also as platforms for financial innovation, particularly through token sales (ICOs). All of these ventures are based on decentralized, permissionless blockchain technology whose distinguishing characteristics are their openness to, and the formal equality of, participants. However, recent cryptocurrency crises have shown that these architectures lack robust governance frameworks and are therefore prone to patterns of re-centralization: they are informally dominated by coalitions of powerful players within the cryptocurrency ecosystem who may violate basic rules of the blockchain community without accountability or sanction.
Against this background, this paper makes two novel contributions. First, it suggests that cryptocurrency and token-based ecosystems can be fruitfully analyzed as complex systems that have been studied for decades in complexity theory and that have recently gained prominence in financial regulation, too. It applies these insights to three key case studies: the Bitcoin Hard Fork of 2013; the Ethereum hard fork of 2016, following the DAO hack; and the ongoing Bitcoin scaling debate. Second, the paper argues that complexity-induced uncertainty can be reduced, and elements of stability and order strengthened, by adapting a corporate governance framework to blockchain-based organizations: cryptocurrencies, and decentralized applications built on top of them via token sales. Most importantly, the resulting “comply or explain” approach combines transparency and accountability with the necessary flexibility that allows cryptocurrency developers to continue to experiment for the sake of innovation. Eventually, however, the coordination of these activities may necessitate the establishment of an “ICANN for blockchains”.
Keywords: blockchain; token sales; ICO; initial coin offering; governance; corporation; bitcoin; ethereum; hard fork; utility token; investment token; complexity theory; ICANN; hard fork
In this paper we initiate a quantitative study of the decentralization of the governance structures of Bitcoin and Ethereum. In particular, we scraped the open-source repositories associated with their respective codebases and improvement proposals to find the number of people contributing to the code itself and to the overall discussion. We then present different metrics to quantify decentralization, both in each of the cryptocurrencies and, for comparison, in two popular open-source programming languages: Clojure and Rust. We find that for both cryptocurrencies and programming languages, there is usually a handful of people that accounts for most of the discussion. We also look into the effect of forks in Bitcoin and Ethereum, and find that there is little intersection between the communities of the original currencies and those of the forks