Decentralized governance and four fallacies

Together with popularization of blockchain we can notice revived calls for decentralization of national and international governments, their reboots, or even their dissolution. But such calls lack fundamental understanding of how our governments operate, their role in our global society, and what all in fact regulate and control our existence beyond just governments.

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Sybil attacks and shell corporations

In computer security an important type of an attack in a decentralized system like Internet is a Sybil attack. The core of the attack is that many protocols we have developed depend on the assumption that each entity participating in a protocol participates only once and that it cannot create an arbitrarily number of additional “puppet” entities which it can control. Because on the Internet it is easy to present yourself with multiple identities, decentralized systems with open membership are often susceptible to this type of an attack.

Why are we designing such protocols? Maybe it is because so many protocols are based on existing processes we find between humans? Or maybe there is some fundamental issue of open, decentralized systems and identities.

But even more interesting is to observe that we have similar protocols in our existing society, with the same assumption. Moreover, we also allow people to create additional identities as needed. We call them corporations. Many our protocols in our society were designed when only humans were persons. Governments make sure that humans have unique identities and we have passports to allow governments to trust other governments about this validation. Creating corporations is on the other hand much less controlled. You have many countries with less strict laws which allow one to create shell (“puppet”) corporations. Traversing multiple jurisdictions through interactions between such corporations can hide many traces of linked identities. In a way, we allow arbitrary number of corporations to be created, without really requiring passports for them to be able to work with other corporations across borders. A passport which would link corporations to their unique identities. Furthermore, the issue is even more complicated because there can be multiple people behind corporations, and also other corporations.

So a real question is not why we are designing such protocols on the Internet, but why we are having ways to compromise such protocols outside the Internet. When we know that they can be misused and used to launch attacks. We already see such attacks in practice through pervasive tax evasions and other financial maneuvers.

Wanted: precise terminology about democracy

In the previous blog post I presented one example of a confusion when talking about democracy: we use democracy for both “one person, one vote” and “one dollar, one vote” approaches to voting. But the issue is much broader. Saying that something is democratic does not really tell much, because it can mean anything from a majority voting, consensus (unanimity), voting based on shares, a system with representatives and one where we vote directly. Democracy is used to wage wars, topple dictators, but also topple democratically elected people. We use democracy to say “you cannot argue with it”. And we use it to position ourselves as morally superior. As such, the term democracy became almost useless.

We need to start finding more precise terminology for all aspects of democracy. What does it mean that a cooperative is democratically run? That workers can elect board members? That they do not have votes based on shares? Or that they can directly influence business decisions through a democratic process? Which process exactly? Does it matter? Are all the same? I do not think so.

Let’s start building terminology. Collectively.

One person, one vote or one dollar, one vote and blockchain

We live in times of a hidden war between “one person, one vote” and “one dollar, one vote” ideologies. The reason why it is hidden is because we use the same terms for both: democracy, voting, consensus, etc. We govern our governments each having one vote, but in our companies shareholders commonly hold votes proportional to their share. Some people are claiming that the latter is a better approach and everything should be decided through markets and power. I believe that using power (physical or monetary) to make decisions is barbaric and that our civilization progress was to introduce a more true democracy, one person, one vote. But I do not believe even that is the end of our developments in this respect and we should continue developing our collective governance. Moreover, I do not believe that these two positions are necessary the only possibilities, and some combinations might also exist. In some way we might even already have that: using “one person, one vote” to decide the rules under which we operate, but using “one dollar, one vote” to decide how to split the profits.

Anyway, all this could be a topic of some other longer blog post. Here I wanted to explain this existing tension between these two ideologies to present how they have existed in decentralized technologies as well and why Bitcoin’s blockchain is so innovative.

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Blockchain as an Internet of things savior?

Internet of things (IoT) has some big issues. Interoperability is one. And potential vendor lock-in and data silos are another.

But I do not buy that blockchain is the solution to those problems.

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Free as in … ? My LibrePlanet 2016 talk

Interesting talk by Luis Villa pointing out that freedoms are not enough, but we have to aim for empowering people to have capabilities to exercise those freedoms.

An example of this can be found in free software where just a freedom to run a software is not always enough because it does not address that many people cannot do much with such an abstract freedom. We should build software which gives people capability to run them.

Bruce Sterling on startups' role in helping the global rich get richer

Bruce Sterling’s speech from NEXT Berlin is a blast of cold air on the themes of startup life, disruption, and global collapse. Bruce excoriates the startup world for its complicity with the conspiracy of the global investor class to vastly increase the wealth of a tiny minority, and describes the role that “design fiction” has in changing this.

via Boing Boing

Learn how to walk

Learn how to walk. Literally. When I observe people how they walk I notice that everyone walks differently. This is great, it allows one to recognize friends from far away. But it is also bad: some types of walking and posture is worse for you than other. Especially because you are probably walking the same way your whole life.

We are never really taught how to walk. We learn on our own. It is one of first things we learn. And everyone around us is so happy that they forget to help us improve our walk. And we, based on our first steps we did by chance, extrapolate to walking and get used to it. For long our body tolerates any way we are using it, but through years we might suddenly discover that it cannot anymore. But then it is too late.

While others help us with other things we learn (for example, talking, you will get feedback if you talk incomprehensibly, or too loudly), for walking we have to do it ourselves. So stop just repeating steps you did as a child and start walking your grown-up walk.

Speech recognition

I do not know much about speech recognition. I do not know what is the state of the art. But years ago I was playing a bit with it and I would like to throw an idea our there, maybe somebody picks it up, maybe it turns out useful, or maybe it is already being used. Please tell me. It can be used for not just speech recognition, but any general audio pattern recognition, or any signal pattern recognition.

The basic idea is to observe that human hearing works by first cochlea doing physically a frequency transform. Hairs of different lengths resonate to frequencies in the audio input. Stronger a particular frequency is in the input, stronger will be a signal for that hair. A stronger signal in neurons does not mean a larger amplitude of the action potential, but more of them. So a stronger signal for a particular frequency means that more impulses will go over that neuron. More impulses mean a higher frequency of those impulses. So brain has to learn not directly from the input audio, but from changes of frequency of the signal for each frequency in the input audio. If brain is recognizing patterns from that, we should too.

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