Cryptocurrency Might be a Path to Authoritarianism – The Atlantic

Anarcho-capitalism is far more extreme than Silicon Valley’s usual brand of technological individualism. For one, the tech sector’s libertarianism is corporatist in its bent, and amenable to government, if in a strongly reduced capacity. And Silicon Valley takes a broader approach to the liberating capacity of technology: Facebook hopes to connect people, Google to make information more accessible, Uber to improve transit, and so on.The ancap worldview only supports sovereign individuals engaging in free-market exchange. Neither states nor corporations are acceptable intermediaries. That leaves a sparsely set table. At it: individuals, the property they own, the contracts into which they enter to exchange that property, and a market to facilitate that exchange. All that’s missing is a means to process exchanges in that market.

A different reinvention is more likely. Instead of defanging governments and big corporations, the distributed ledger offers those domains enormous incentive to consolidate their power and influence. For people like Eddie Lee Holloway, Jr, who’s African American, that might mean even greater exclusion, as the very institutions that locked him out of the voting booth might suppress his transformation into a digital-ledger citizen in the first place.

Or if not, other traumas might yet face citizens like Holloway in a society run by blockchain. A mandated DNA-test could accompany citizens’ blockchainification, allowing their ethnic origins and medical predispositions to become attached to an identity record. Financial assets would also be connected, thanks to an underlying cryptocurrency account through which they make debits and credits. Not to mention all the personal insights already consolidated by services like Facebook.

Businesses might subscribe to this data. Thanks to distributed ledger, it could be used to prevent their automated doors from opening for people whom a smart-contract risk-assessment service rates below a threshold of desirability. Left outside, privately-contracted security robots might deploy ledger-backed ID scanners to sweep loiterers from private property. Once delivered and booked into jails, smart courts could automate sentences based on an automated assessment of future crime potential.

And that’s just America. Imagine how a mature authoritarian state would fare under the rule of blockchain. Is this starting to feel like a Black Mirror episode yet? For Adam Greenfield, the anti-authoritarian left has profoundly misunderstood the corner into which such an ambitious aspiration paints society. “I believe distributed ledger enables the kind of central control they’ve never in their worst nightmares contemplated,” he tells me. The irony would be tragic if it weren’t also so frightening. The invitation to transform distributed-ledger systems into the ultimate tool of corporate and authoritarian control might be too great a temptation for human nature to forgo.

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If this sounds familiar, it’s because contemporary culture has been here before. The existing, comparatively modest surveillance and control technologies in use by Google, Facebook, and their ilk—whose impact on governance we now know all too well—proliferated on the assumption that technology could make life better and more efficient. Nobody chose this life, exactly. People adopted technology in sufficient numbers to allow industry, and the culture that follows it, to conclude that the market had decided what was best.

Likewise, Bitcoin’s triumph hinges mostly on the financial success of speculators who never had any intention of using it as currency, and who appear to have strip-mined it into oblivion in the process. Similarly, blockchain’s future seems tied to the short-term vision of investors and entrepreneurs willing to speculate on a hypothetical, distributed utopia without hedging against the consolidated autocracy it seems equally likely to realize. “This is what happens,” Greenfield says, “when very bright people outsmart themselves.”

Source: Cryptocurrency Might be a Path to Authoritarianism – The Atlantic

John Lanchester · When Bitcoin Grows Up: What is Money? · LRB 21 April 2016

When Bitcoin Grows UpJohn LanchesterIt’s impossible to discuss new developments in money without thinking for a moment about what money is. The best place to start thinking about that is with money itself. Consider the UK’s most common paper money, the English five or ten or twenty quid note. On one side we have a famous dead person: Elizabeth Fry or Charles Darwin or Adam Smith, depending on whether it’s a five or ten or twenty. On the other we have a picture of the queen, and just above that the words ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of’, and then the value of the note, and the signature of the cashier of the Bank of England.

Source: John Lanchester · When Bitcoin Grows Up: What is Money? · LRB 21 April 2016

How Bitcoin’s Blockchain Could Power an Alternate Internet

“There is a tendency in computer-land to seek technical solutions to political problems,” Ceglowski says. “In my opinion, the focus on the blockchain (and related ideas) falls into that misguided category. The idea that we should look to algorithms and technology to reclaim our freedoms is fundamentally undemocratic. It presupposes a technical elite who would ‘fix the Internet’ for everyone else. While I can see how this appeals to romantic ideas of hacking the system, I see it as a dangerous trend at worst, and a distraction at best.“We are terrible at predicting the social outcomes of technological innovation. There’s no reason Bitcoin-like distributed systems would be immune from that rule. I say let’s wise up and actually fight this battle on the level where it belongs.”Ceglowski’s argument is surely worth braking for as we race down the blockchain road. A world in which math secures all our property, communications and identities looks cool. Maybe it will solve some of our problems. It might even be better than what we have now.The question to ask is, do these blockchain-based enhancements of our technologies end up giving us more freedom and initiative? Or will a world of “distributed autonomous organizations,” empowered financial algorithms and bots that own themselves only hem in our human sphere of control?It could be exciting to sit back and watch the future drive itself. But it might be smart to keep our eyes on the road and our hands on the wheel.

Source: How Bitcoin’s Blockchain Could Power an Alternate Internet

Bitcoin: A Means for Global Independence (2014)

With some research and a little technical aptitude, distributed forms of money such as bitcoin can be used as the digital equivalent of cash, offering the potential for anyone to theoretically bank themselves without relying on traditional financial institutions.Additionally, innovative wallet technologies mean anyone can store vast amounts of value without the need to trust governments or banks. From brain wallets to paper wallets, multisig to BIP32 hierarchical deterministic technologies, the ability to store cryptocurrency value independent of a third party is becoming more sophisticated by the month.This all adds up to a revolution in personal finance that can be attributed to smart and enterprising developers who see digital currencies as a means for independence that has never before been possible.

Source: Bitcoin: A Means for Global Independence

‘Blockchainiacs’ en onafhankelijkheid – Bits of Freedom

Sommige Bitcoin- en blockchainadepten geloven dat deze gedistribueerde database een technische oplossing kan zijn voor veel maatschappelijke problemen. Maar gaan ze daarmee niet te makkelijk voorbij aan het feit dat technologie óók altijd politiek is?

Source: ‘Blockchainiacs’ en onafhankelijkheid – Bits of Freedom

The Financialization of Life – Startups & Venture Capital

On the one hand, they are a very powerful agent towards the “transactionalization of life”, that is of the fact that all the elements of our lives are progressively turning into transactions.Which overlaps with the fact that they become “financialized”. Everything, including our relations and emotions, progressively becomes transactionalized/financialized, and the Blockchain represent an apex of this tendency. This is already becoming a problem for informality, for the possibility of transgression, for the normation and normalization of conflicts and, thus, in prospect, for our liberties and fundamental rights, and for our possibility to perceive them (because we are talking about psychological effects).On the other hand, they move attention onto the algorithm, on the system, on the framework. Instead of supporting and maintaining the necessity and culture of establishing co-responsibility between human beings, these systems include “trust” in procedural ways. In ways which are technical. Thus, the necessity for trust (and, thus, on the responsibility to attribute trust, based on human relations) progressively disappears.Therefore, together with it, society disappears. Society as actively and consciously built by people who freely decide if and when to trust each other, and who collectively agree to the modalities of this attribution.

Source: The Financialization of Life – Startups & Venture Capital

A New Approach to Consensus: Swirlds HashGraph — SAMMANTICS

As many people here know, my interest in consensus mechanisms runs far and wide.  In the KPMG research report I co-authored “Consensus: Immutable Agreement for the Internet of Value”, many consensus mechanisms were discussed. In Appendix 3 of the paper, many of the major players in the space discussed their consensus methodologies.  One consensus mechanism which wasn’t in the paper was the Swirlds Hashgraph Consensus Algorithm. That whitepaper is a great read and this consensus mechanism holds quite a lot of promise.  I have had many discussions with its creator, Leemon Baird and this blog post comes from conversations, questions and emails about the topic.  Also at the end of the blog I asked Leemon to fill out the consensus questionnaire from the KPMG report and he graciously did. His answers appear at the end of this post.

Source: A New Approach to Consensus: Swirlds HashGraph — SAMMANTICS

A Crypto-Decentralist Manifesto – Bit Novosti – Medium

We decentralists are committed to keeping blockchains open, neutral andimmutable. We’re committed to keeping blockchain systems decentralized. This informs all our actions and positions towards any developments in the crypto world and beyond. All attempts to violate any of the key blockchaincharacteristics should be fought. All changes to a blockchain’s rules thatintroduce new centralization risks or strengthen existing ones should be fought. Only developments that are clearly beneficial to decentralization or strengthen the three key blockchain characteristics should be supported and encouraged.The blockchain revolution won’t be centralized. Let’s make sure of it.

Source: A Crypto-Decentralist Manifesto – Bit Novosti – Medium

What we learned from designing an academic certificates system on the blockchain

Over the past year, we have been working on a set of tools to issue, display, and verify digital credentials using the Bitcoin blockchain and the open badges specification. Today we are releasing version 1 of our code under the MIT open-source license to make it easier for others to start experimenting with similar ideas. In addition to opening up the code, we also want to share some of our thinking behind the design, as well as some of the interesting questions about managing digital reputations that we plan to continue working on.

Source: What we learned from designing an academic certificates system on the blockchain

my.pages – Do we have to make financial use of blockchains illegal?

The anarcho-capitalist incentive method is a bypass of societal payment systems. It allows bitcoin billionaires to make a fortune with crime and speculation on crime, or alternatively speculation on speculation on crime, without ever being traced (except maybe by the NSA), nor taxed.

Let me explain this reasoning in more detail, so you can let me know if any of it is wrong. All of the societally harmless uses of Bitcoin and Ethereum can be implemented in a safer manner using TALER, without bypassing the tax system which is, as flawed as it may be, the only instrument society has to redistribute from the wealthy to the poor. Without such a redistribution, the capitalist architecture collapses and humanity’s ability to exist on the planet dies with it. If everyone just cares about themselves, a future comes when the rich get chased by pitchforks while global challenges such as pollution and climate change would not be tackled by anyone.

Source: my.pages – Do we have to make financial use of blockchains illegal?