The Dutch Blockchain Research Agenda

applications | blockchain | ecosystem | frontpage | governance | media appearances | papers | papers | Partner search | people | Research Notes

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
strategic investment.

The Agenda is now public And can be downloaded from here:
 Dutch Blockchain Research Agenda

What do AI and blockchain mean for the rule of law? | TechCrunch

algorithms | blockchain | people | related_projects | Research Notes

Blockchain “freezes the future”, argues Hildebrandt, admitting of the two it’s the technology she’s more skeptical of in this context. “Once you’ve put it on a blockchain it’s very difficult to change your mind, and if these rules become self-reinforcing it would be a very costly affair both in terms of money but also in terms of effort, time, confusion and uncertainty if you would like to change that.

Source: What do AI and blockchain mean for the rule of law? | TechCrunch

Critical Analysis of Law

law | papers | Research Notes

Vol 5, No 1 (2018): New Economic Analysis of Law

Guest edited by Frank Pasquale (University of Maryland, Law), the special issue on New Economic Analysis of Law features illuminating syntheses of social science and law. What would law & economics look like if macro-, as opposed to micro-, economics were a primary concern of scholars? Do emerging online phenomena, such as algorithmic pricing and platform capitalism, promise to perfect economic theories of market equilibrium, or challenge their foundations? How did simplified economic models gain ideological power in policy circles, and how can they be improved or replaced? This issue highlights scholars whose work has made the legal academy more than an “importer” of ideas from other disciplines—and who have, instead, shown that rigorous legal analysis is fundamental to understanding economic affairs.

Source: Critical Analysis of Law

The State of Cryptocurrency Mining – Sia Blog

blockchain | consensus mechanisms | decentralization | finance | politics | Research Notes

The biggest takeaway from all of this is that mining is for big players. The more money you spend, the more of an advantage you have, and there’s not an easy way to change that equation. At least with traditional Nakamoto style consensus, a large entity that produces and controls most of the hashrate seems to be more or less the outcome, and at the very best you get into a situation where there are 2 or 3 major players that are all on similar footing. But I don’t think at any point in the next few decades will we see a situation where many manufacturing companies are all producing relatively competitive miners. Manufacturing just inherently leads to centralization, and it happens across many different vectors.

Source: The State of Cryptocurrency Mining – Sia Blog

The Politics of Blockchain | SpringerLink

blockchain | critique | law | papers | politics | Research Notes

The aim of this supplement is to explore and critique this ‘blockchain ecosystem’, the politics it tries to hide, and the legal and regulatory ramifications it inaugurates. The following essays do not portray blockchain as providing all, if any, of the answers to the world’s problems. Instead, the challenge is in part to understand the tensions faced by law and regulation in defining blockchain within the ongoing networking, digitalisation, and datafication of the social. Success in this regard will be measured in the coming months and years by the grip that regulatory authorities and governments are able to maintain on the various strands of blockchain research, development, application, implementation, and conduct—a grip, moreover, that is able to be maintained alongside the regulatory conundrums that continue to plague the wider field of network technologies which are themselves still evolving, mutating, impacting, but not necessarily benefiting community or public interest ahead of private, commercial power. Understanding the extent to which law and regulation will play a role in securing democratic accountability of these powerful and far-reaching technologies is or ought to be a key concern for blockchain scholars and practitioners of all stripes.

Source: The Politics of Blockchain | SpringerLink

The State of Cryptocurrency Mining – Sia Blog

algorithms | blockchain | hardware | quantitative analysis | Research Notes

A few months ago, it was publicly exposed that ASICs had been developed in secret to mine Monero. My sources say that they had been mining on these secret ASICs since early 2017, and got almost a full year of secret mining in before discovery. The ROI on those secret ASICs was massive, and gave the group more than enough money to try again with other ASIC resistant coins.It’s estimated that Monero’s secret ASICs made up more than 50% of the hashrate for almost a full year before discovery, and during that time, nobody noticed. During that time, a huge fraction of the Monero issuance was centralizing into the hands of a small group, and a 51% attack could have been executed at any time.

Source: The State of Cryptocurrency Mining – Sia Blog

blockchain will belong to us,

blockchain | politics | Research Notes

They were even more surprised when they asked the F.S.B. agent why the Russians were devoting such resources to the blockchain standards.
“Look, the internet belongs to the Americans — but blockchain will belong to us,” he said, according to one delegate who was there. The Russian added that two other members of his country’s four-person delegation to the conference also worked for the F.S.B.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/04/29/technology/blockchain-iso-russian-spies.html

Blockchains and Cybercurrencies Challenging Anti Trust and Competition Law by Stephan Breu

blockchain | law | Research Notes

Abstract

Blockchain technology has come to most people’s attention through Bitcoin as the leading cryptocurrency today. But the technology can be used for a lot of other applications as a way to store decentralized data and information. Blockchains are filing their records through a continuously growing number of single “blocks” which are linked and secured using cryptography. Typically, such blockchains are managed by a peer-to-peer network using a specified protocol for validating new blocks. By storing data across an international network, this new technology is operating independently of any government or central bank as it is not residing in a specific area of influence of any given regulation or jurisdiction. Also, there is the question as to which court has jurisdiction in context of blockchain disputes based on the international and anonymous structure. These systems also offer a high level of anonymity to their participants. Given these scenarios it has to be considered that blockchains with shared use of distributed ledgers by several competitors might be a considerable risk under antitrust and competition laws. To get full value for future blockchain applications, a deep cooperation and collaboration on a common platform by all participants – that often will also be competitors – will be necessary. Although collaborating to achieve an outcome more efficiently is generally not sanctioned by antitrust laws, there are still potential antitrust concerns to be considered. And finally, due to the automatic and irreversible execution of blockchain transactions, one has also to think about technical precautions for enforcing any possible court decisions. All these challenges for the future will ask for a strong self-regulation of the market participants in the digital marketplace.

Source: Blockchains and Cybercurrencies Challenging Anti Trust and Competition Law by Stephan Breu :: SSRN

Smart contracts, stupid humans: new major Ethereum ERC-20 token bugs BatchOverflow and ProxyOverflow | Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain

blockchain | critique | issues/conflicts | quantitative analysis | Research Notes | smart contracts

Smart contracts are fundamentally bad software engineering, part 666 of a never-ending series — PeckShield have been running an automatic scanner on the public Ethereum blockchain:Built on our earlier efforts in analyzing EOS tokens, we have developed an automated system to scan and analyze Ethereum-based (ERC-20) token transfers. Specifically, our system will automatically send out alerts if any suspicious transactions (e.g., involving unreasonably large tokens) occur.They’ve found a couple of beauties, which they’ve branded “BatchOverflow” and “ProxyOverflow.” These affect multiple ERC-20 tokens — which are the basis for almost all ICOs.The root cause is that smart contract coders just copy each other’s code a lot, because who needs formal methods when you can cut’n’paste’n’bodge.

Source: Smart contracts, stupid humans: new major Ethereum ERC-20 token bugs BatchOverflow and ProxyOverflow | Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain