We just released the first draft of a research paper that analyzed The DAO and its voting mechanism. This paper identifies problems with The DAO’s mechanism design that incentivize investors to behave strategically; that is, at odds with truthful voting on their preferences. We then outline potential attacks against The DAO made possible by these behaviors.In particular, we have identified seven causes for concern that can cause DAO participants to engage in strategic behaviors. Some of these behaviors can cause honest DAO investors to have their investments hijacked or committed to proposals against their interest and intent.
In which I argue that “tightly coupled” on-chain voting is overrated, the status quo of “informal governance” as practiced by Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Zcash and similar systems is much less bad than commonly thought, that people who think that the purpose of blockchains is to completely expunge soft mushy human intuitions and feelings in favor of completely algorithmic governance (emphasis on “completely”) are absolutely crazy, and loosely coupled voting as done by Carbonvotes and similar systems is underrated, as well as describe what framework should be used when thinking about blockchain governance in the first place.
Source: Notes on Blockchain Governance
Data is being hailed as “the new oil.” The analogy seems appropriate given the growing amount of data being collected, and the advances made in its gathering, storage, manipulation and use for commercial, social and political purposes.Big data and its application in artificial intelligence, for example, promises to transform the way we live and work — and will generate considerable wealth in the process. But data’s transformative nature also raises important questions around how the benefits are shared, privacy, public security, openness and democracy, and the institutions that will govern the data revolution.The delicate interplay between these considerations means that they have to be treated jointly, and at every level of the governance process, from local communities to the international arena. This series of essays by leading scholars and practitioners, which is also published as a special report, will explore topics including the rationale for a data strategy, the role of a data strategy for Canadian industries, and policy considerations for domestic and international data governance.
Maqta Gateway has developed and launched Silsal — a blockchain-based technology that aims to improve efficiency in the shipping and logistics industry.According to Construction Business News, Silsal will initially be available to freight forwarders and their customers, with the new system being rolled out to “the rest of the trade community as a complementary tool to the existing mPCS (Maqta’s Port Community System).”Using an internal blockchain, Abu Dhabi Ports hopes to reduce paperwork, facilitate real-time status updates and accelerate information exchange.Silsal was developed internally in the Digital Innovation Lab of Maqta Gateway and has been field tested with strategic customers of Abu Dhabi Ports, as Construction Business News reports. CEO of Maqta Gateway Dr. Noura Al Dhaheri commented:
In the last few months Balazs was participating in the creation of the Dutch Blockchain Research Agenda for NWO, the Dutch Science Agency.
The Agenda spells out the research priorities, and topics where more interdisciplinary research is needed. To quote the Agenda: “Given the complex fabric of technological and societal questions around blockchain, future research seems to require at least the awareness of this multi-disciplinarity, or even seek collaboration across the boundaries of disciplines. Blockchain research carries many challenges on the level of research design and methodology. As is the case with systems focused research, the proper demarcation of scope of future research projects and programmes is essential. This scope also sets the disciplinary mix that needs to be involved. At the same time, it should be ensured that the required disciplinary progress can happen, especially since different disciplines require research at different time scales.
Since blockchain technology is a moving target, in terms of research methodology one must also consider more exploratory, theory generating,
high risk and open-ended approaches, including tools such as mathematical modelling and analysis, business modelling, techno-economic analysis, functional and non-functional design and testing, action research, simulations and experiments in research labs and living labs, horizon scanning, etc. As this research agenda includes both fundamental and applied research, it requires active involvement from non-academic stakeholders from public bodies, industry, market sectors and the general public.
Another methodological challenge is the futureproofing of research. In such a volatile field, it is often difficult to distinguish issues relevant only in the short term, versus long term blockchain specific problems, versus fundamental research questions that cut across multiple digital technologies and have been and will be with us for decades.
There are several streams of investment that fuel research in the blockchain technology domain. Private investment through venture capital and
ICOs (crowdsourcing) as well as public investment by governments, universities, and research funding bodies should be aligned in a smart way.
In that context it seems inevitable to identify the fields that Dutch academia, research institutes and research departments of Dutch organisations are
best positioned to answer, either because they already excel in certain domains, or because they want to build skills and research capacity through
The Agenda is now public And can be downloaded from here:
Another Kind of Radical Market
The book as a whole tends to focus on centralized reforms that could be implemented on an economy from the top down, even if their intended long-term effect is to push more decision-making power to individuals. The proposals involve large-scale restructurings of how property rights work, how voting works, how immigration and antitrust law works, and how individuals see their relationship with property, money, prices and society. But there is also the potential to use economics and game theory to come up with decentralized economic institutions that could be adopted by smaller groups of people at a time.
Perhaps the most famous examples of decentralized institutions from game theory and economics land are (i) assurance contracts, and (ii) prediction markets. An assurance contract is a system where some public good is funded by giving anyone the opportunity to pledge money, and only collecting the pledges if the total amount pledged exceeds some threshold. This ensures that people can donate money knowing that either they will get their money back or there actually will be enough to achieve some objective. A possible extension of this concept is Alex Tabarrok’s dominant assurance contracts, where an entrepreneur offers to refund participants more than 100% of their deposits if a given assurance contract does not raise enough money.
Prediction markets allow people to bet on the probability that events will happen, potentially even conditional on some action being taken (“I bet $20 that unemployment will go down if candidate X wins the election”); there are techniques for people interested in the information to subsidize the markets. Any attempt to manipulate the probability that a prediction market shows simply creates an opportunity for people to earn free money (yes I know, risk aversion and capital efficiency etc etc; still close to free) by betting against the manipulator.
Posner and Weyl do give one example of what I would call a decentralized institution: a game for choosing who gets an asset in the event of a divorce or a company splitting in half, where both sides provide their own valuation, the person with the higher valuation gets the item, but they must then give an amount equal to half the average of the two valuations to the loser. There’s some economic reasoning by which this solution, while not perfect, is still close to mathematically optimal.
One particular category of decentralized institutions I’ve been interested in is improving incentivization for content posting and content curation in social media. Some ideas that I have had include:
- Proof of stake conditional hashcash(when you send someone an email, you give them the opportunity to burn $0.5 of your money if they think it’s spam)
- Prediction markets for content curation(use prediction markets to predict the results of a moderation vote on content, thereby encouraging a market of fast content pre-moderators while penalizing manipulative pre-moderation)
- Conditional payments for paywalled content (after you pay for a piece of downloadable content and view it, you can decide after the fact if payments should go to the author or to proportionately refund previous readers)
And ideas I have had in other contexts:
Twitter scammers: can prediction markets incentivize an autonomous swarm of human and AI-driven moderators to flag these posts and warn users not to send them ether within a few seconds of the post being made? And could such a system be generalized to the entire internet, where these is no single centralized moderator that can easily take posts down?Some ideas others have had for decentralized institutions in general include:
- TrustDavis (adding skin-in-the-game to e-commerce reputations by making e-commerce ratings be offers to insure others against the receiver of the rating committing fraud)
- Circles (decentralized basic income through locally fungible coin issuance)
- Markets for CAPTCHA services
- Digitized peer to peer rotating savings and credit associations
- Token curated registries
- Crowdsourced smart contract truth oracles
- Using blockchain-based smart contracts to coordinate unions
I would be interested in hearing Posner and Weyl’s opinion on these kinds of “radical markets”, that groups of people can spin up and start using by themselves without requiring potentially contentious society-wide changes to political and property rights. Could decentralized institutions like these be used to solve the key defining challenges of the twenty first century: promoting beneficial scientific progress, developing informational public goods, reducing global wealth inequality, and the big meta-problem behind fake news, government-driven and corporate-driven social media censorship, and regulation of cryptocurrency products: how do we do quality assurance in an open society?
All in all, I highly recommend Radical Markets(and by the way I also recommend Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Inadequate Equilibria) to anyone interested in these kinds of issues, and look forward to seeing the discussion that the book generates.
By allowing networks to split, decentralized blockchain platforms protect members against hold up, but hinder coordination, given that adaptation decisions are ultimately decentralized. The current solutions to improve coordination, based on “premining” cryptocoins, taxing members and incentivizing developers, are insufficient. For blockchain to fulfill its promise and outcompete centralized firms, it needs to develop new forms of “soft” decentralized governance (anarchic, aristocratic, democratic, and autocratic) that allow networks to avoid bad equilibria.
Keywords: blockchain, platforms, networks, hold-up, coordination, relational capital, incomplete contracts, decentralized governance
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Despite these advances, there has been a growing backlash from opinion leaders as the technology’s drawbacks become better known. Perhaps you’ve heard that Bitcoin alone uses 0.25% of the world’s electricity? Other blockchain systems, such as Ethereum, use similar approaches that require computers to burn electricity unnecessarily. Perhaps you are concerned about the number of accidents, hacks and scams possible in this new space, where the law has not yet found its feet? Or you may have heard that crime and terror networks could use these technologies to transfer funds. Blockchains and digital currencies pose important questions to both their advocates and regulators.Pioneers in the industry are alert to such concerns and have attempted collective self-regulation. The Brooklyn Project, an industry-wide initiative to support investor and consumer protection, was launched in November 2017.“By acting responsibly today, we can help make sure we are collectively able to reap the benefits of this powerful technology tomorrow,” explained co-founder of Ethereum Joseph Lubin. The following month, a coalition of cryptocurrency organizations and investors representing $650m in market capitalization established Project Transparency. It seeks to protect investors by enabling more disclosure within the digital currency sector.
We hard forked once, for the larger DAO hack that was even more of a mess, but we cannot let this become a practice. How many times must Parity mess up for them to own up and move on?
Instead of a hard fork, its users should look into all legal options.