mfioretti: block chain protocol*

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  1. The idea: Documentation is often lacking in parts of Africa, leading to land disputes because it isn't clear who owns the land. Even when there are records, sometimes they have been tampered with. A record that cannot be deleted, using something called blockchain, could be used to prevent these disputes. Blockchain is a method of recording data - a digital ledger of transactions, agreements, contracts - anything that needs to be independently recorded and verified. What makes a big difference is that this ledger isn't stored in one place, it's distributed across several, hundreds or even thousands of computers around the world. Everyone in the network can have access to an up-to-date version of the ledger. So it can be an open, transparent auditable and verifiable record of any transaction.

    The application: Cybersecurity company WISeKey is using blockchain technology for the land registry in Rwanda.

    What happened in 2017: WISeKey announced a partnership with Microsoft to support the Rwandan government in adopting blockchain technology, reports technology news site Cryptovest.

    What can we expect for 2018: The first step in adopting blockchain in Rwanda is digitising the Rwanda Land Registry, iAfrikan tech blog reports. The company is opening a blockchain Centre of Excellence in Rwanda, reports the New Times, which could go as far as developing a Rwandan cryptocurrency, similar to Bitcoin.
    Outsourcing IT work to Africa
    Image copyright Getty Images

    The idea: The world has a scarcity of software developers. Meanwhile, Africa has a growing young population. Training software developers in Africa who US and European firms can hire taps into that human capital.

    The application: Andela is a startup company that trains developers in Nigeria and hires them out to global tech companies. The original idea was to teach people a practical skill and then use the money they make to pay for their education, Iyin Aboyeji, one of the founders of Andela, explained to the Starta podcast.

    What happened in 2017: In October Andela raised $40m in funding, reports TechCrunch. The previous year it had raised $24m from Mark Zuckerberg, reports Forbes.

    What can we expect for 2018: There are rumours that it is going to open up in Egypt according to iAfrikan.
    Making it easier to pay for things
    Image copyright Getty Images

    The idea: Many people across Africa don't have bank accounts. Mobile money - sending money via your phone - has already proved a very successful alternative to cash. Africa has become the global leader in mobile money with more than 100 million people having mobile money accounts in 2016, according to McKinsey research. Mobile financial services now include credit, insurance, and cross-border remittances. The problem is that there are too many different systems which do not always work with each other. This means lots of people in Africa can't pay for products online.

    The application: Flutterwave is one of the new innovations coming through. It makes it easier for banks and businesses to process payments across Africa. It lets customers pay in their local currencies and allows people to send money from the US to a mobile money wallet, charging sellers a small service fee, which it shares with banks.

    What happened in 2017: In the first quarter of 2017 Flutterwave processed $444m in transactions across Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, it told BBC. From the start the company has processed more than $1.2bn in payments across 10 million transactions, reports CNN. The company received $10m of funding from the US this year, CNN adds.

    What can we expect for 2018: The new funding will be used "to hire more talent, build out our global operations and fuel rapid expansion of our organization across Africa," Flutterwave says. With that, it hopes that more people in Africa can buy things they are not currently able to pay for, like on online retailer Amazon. As the firm's boss Iyinoluwa Aboyeji puts it: "If we are successful, we might just inspire a new generation of Africans to flip the question from: 'What more can the world do for Africa?' to 'What more can Africa do for the world?'".
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-...ource=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
    Voting 0
  2. L’indovinello ha le sue regole. Ogni blocco viene formato da un’insieme di informazioni che vengono scritte come puro testo, secondo un ordine e regole di composizione determinate. Una di queste informazioni è un insieme di caratteri che identifica univocamente il blocco precedente, calcolato matematicamente secondo una funzione precisa che si chiama “hash”. Questa funzione è particolare: restituisce sempre per ciascun blocco (può essere un file, ma non necessariamente) una e una sola “impronta”, una stringa di caratteri esadecimali (da zero a nove e da a ad f) di lunghezza predeterminata, qualunque sia la dimensione del file. Non solo. Qualsiasi modifica, anche infinitesimale al file, genera un’impronta completamente diversa.

    Un esempio chiarirà visivamente di cosa si tratta. Ad esempio, usando l’algoritmo SHA256, la frase:

    tanto va la gatta al lardo che ci lascia lo zampino

    genera un’impronta di hash (o semplicemente “hash”)

    7f14c0f5a28d9f014c8a4c69735ed27abe7f3b28af887367afade4e7138154fc

    Se uso la maiuscola all’inizio, e dunque

    Tanto va la gatta al lardo che ci lascia lo zampino

    ottengo:

    c61431b3b579ae2d97106ff8f7ab6aa46f9f4a41262da9c6c7fbfea7221e288a

    Predire come sarà un hash è dunque praticamente impossibile, perché ogni minima modifica del blocco originario genererà un hash completamente diverso. L’hash, in sé, non ci dà nessuna informazione su come sia il file che lo genera, né quanto è grande, né cosa contiene.

    Qui viene il puzzle. Come detto, non posso prevedere né forzare in maniera calcolabile come sarà l’impronta hash. Se chiedo che qualcuno mi dia un testo la cui impronta di hash contenga in qualsiasi posto due “a” consecutive, lui probabilmente prenderà blocchi arbitrari di testo fino a che non ne troverà per caso uno con due “a” consecutive: nell’esempio di sopra ci sono arrivato al secondo tentativo. Allora complico il problema: chiedo di trovare un blocco che abbia due “a” all’inizio dell’hash. Magari il candidato ne troverà uno dopo cento tentativi (16 al quadrato=256 combinazioni possibili). Se gli impongo di trovare un blocco che abbia sedici zeri (16 alla sedicesima = 1,844*10 alla diciannovesima combinazioni, ovvero circa diciottomila milioni di miliardi di combinazioni) ci metterà ben più di una vita. Anzi no, lo fa fare a computer superpotenti che lo faranno per lui, suddividendosi i compiti.

    Questo è in pratica l’indovinello: trovare un blocco che generi un hash che abbia un certo numero di zeri all’inizio e che contenga tra le altre cose l’impronta hash del blocco precedente. Una di queste informazioni è dunque disponibile solo a partire da un certo momento. Lo sparo dello starter può avvenire solo quando uno dei nodi ha immesso in rete la sua soluzione, e questa soluzione è accettabile. Da lì posso partire.

    Siccome l’algoritmo è fatto per generare un blocco in media ogni dieci minuti, ho solo dieci minuti per risolvere l’indovinello, il quale è già oggi estremamente difficile. E diventa sempre più difficile con l’aumentare della potenza di calcolo totale impiegata per risolverlo: se l’indovinello si dimostra troppo facile, automaticamente la difficoltà viene fatta aumentare (1).
    http://www.econopoly.ilsole24ore.com/2017/12/17/bitcoin-bolla-o-souffle
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-27)
    Voting 0
  3. Yaroufakis agrees that there are numerous design flaws with the currency. Not least, he adds, “the fact that there are no controls, no democratic checks and balances of a bit issue and no way of back-stopping financial transactions by means of some kind of insurance policy for those that get defrauded.” Yet his central criticism focuses upon what he refers to as “the fantasy of apolitical money.”

    To Varoufakis, money is inherently political. The decisions regarding whether money is produced or not, how it is distributed and who receives it, all have significant political consequences, benefiting certain social groups over others. Bitcoin’s central design feature, that it is not governed by a central bank or decision-making authority, means that responsibility for its distribution is forfeited. This can have profound social and political implications in times of crisis.

    To understand what Varoufakis means by the political nature of money, consider how governments respond to financial crises. When a major financial crisis occurs, it is usually caused by the failure of widespread and interconnected debts. Once these debts fail, what happens is that a large part of the money supply effectively disappears. With this money gone, governments have a choice whether to replace it or not. Choosing not to replace it through the creation of new money (inflation) becomes a political decision with political repercussions. As Varoufakis suggests, “effectively you are choosing to shift the burden of a crisis onto the debtors and usually the weakest and poorest of debtors. So effectively you are redistributing power and wealth against the weaker members of society.”

    If the decision is made to replenish the money supply, like it was in 2008 through Quantitative Easing (QE), then how this money is channeled through the economy will also influence the political economy. In Varoufakis’ opinion, QE was engineered in a way to benefit large corporations.
    https://www.wired.co.uk/article/yanis-varoufakis-bitcoin-bubble-interview
    Voting 0
  4. Look: no. Skedaddle is not going to eliminate Yelp or Facebook or tipping. It's not going to be "the first cryptocurrency for real world use." But at some level they're not wrong! One day 20 years from now we'll wake up and all of our interactions and performance will be tracked on the blockchain and will directly determine our income and socioeconomic status, and on the one hand we'll get pretty good customer service, but on the other hand we'll be terrified all the time. It is the logical endpoint of the "gig economy."

    The thing is that this omniscient blockchain of terror will be run by Facebook, not Skedaddle. If you just come out and say that your mission is to build a dystopia of economic precarity and constant surveillance, then you do not have the soft skills to actually carry out that mission. (Never mind if you say that your mission is "to completely take down Yelp and Facebook reviews, while completely eliminating tipping.") If you say that your mission is "to make the world more open and connected," then you have the ruthlessness, and the facility with euphemism, to actually do it.

    Elsewhere in dystopian blockchain fiction, here is a story about doomsday preppers who are hoarding bitcoins against the apocalypse. Doomsday prepping and bitcoin enthusiasm go well together psychologically: Both involve distrust of modern social systems, and both tap into deep libertarian and self-sufficiency themes. But they don't go at all well together logically: If modern society is wiped out in some massive catastrophe, it seems unlikely that the electric grid and global internet infrastructure will survive to run an energy-hungry blockchain for a currency with no physical form that even now basically can't be used to buy anything. But the bitcoin/apocalypse enthusiasts are undeterred:
    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articl...-might-scare-the-gig-economy-to-death
    Voting 0
  5. On October 31, 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto published a paper entitled “Bitcoin : a peer to peer electronic cash system“. This paper introduced a potential revolution : the collapse of the current financial intermediaries — such as banks or states. In the midst of the economic crisis, this idea understandably aroused certain interest — be it to avoid excessive fees or to escape surveillance.

    Since then, the trend has grown exponentially. There are almost 900 cryptocurrencies, accounting for a market capitalization of $160Mds.Still, the revolution so sought after has yet to come to fruition. While it’s a rare feat of technological ingenuity, Blockchain suffers from crippling limitations as soon as it wriggles its way out of the idyllic world of theory.
    The decentralisation illusion

    Blockchain doesn’t magically disappear the need for intermediaries. Rather, it dilutes it throughout the network with the help of cryptography.

    To authenticate any given transaction between two peers, a small competition with a financial reward must first take place. This means that in order to cheat, a node would have to overtake all the other nodes within the network.

    In such a way, Blockchain has replaced an intermediary whose incentive was based on its reputation with a network of peers whose honesty is mathematically ensured. In both cases, the dominant position of a monopoly would allow for cheating, but only at the price of the collapse of the network on which it was built. However, in practice, we run into another problem.
    The Chinese oligocracy

    A whole parallel market has spread on top of these competitions. Companies have invested in specific hardware in order to keep up with the competition and profit from the financial rewards.

    Why has Bitcoin failed? It has failed because it became » a system completely controlled by just a handful of people
    Mike Hearn – The resolution of the Bitcoin

    Back in 2015, 90% of the Bitcoin mining power was sitting on this stage.

    The majority of the network mining power is concentrated in China (58%), and managed by a handful of companies. The 6 most important account for 75% of the mining power. In the case of a governing crisis, this oligocracy has the power to influence the outcome of major decisions.

    And it has already happened
    http://magazine.ouishare.net/2017/11/...ation-of-an-ideal/?platform=hootsuite
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2017-11-13)
    Voting 0
  6. where does all this leave tech startups? Struggling, and probably hoping to be acquired by a larger company, ideally one of the Big Five. While some breakout startups will still doubtless arise, they’ll be far rarer than they were during the boom years.

    We’re already seeing this. Consider Y Combinator, by all accounts the gold standard of startup accelerators, famously harder to get into than Harvard. Then consider its alumni. Five years ago, in 2012, its three poster children were clearly poised to dominate their markets and become huge companies: Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe. And so it came to pass.

    Fast forward to today, and Y Combinator’s three poster children are… unchanged. In the last six years YC have funded more than twice as many startups as they did in their first six — but I challenge you to name any of their post-2011 alumni as well-positioned today as their Big Three were in 2012. The only one that might have qualified, for a time, was Instacart. But Amazon broke into that game with Amazon Fresh, and, especially, their purchase of Whole Foods.

    From here on in, the existing tech titans will accrue ever more power, and startups will be increasingly hard-pressed to compete. This is not a good thing. Big businesses already have too much power. Amazon and Google are so dominant that there are loud calls for them to be regulated. Fake news shared on Facebook may have swayed the most recent presidential election.

    What’s more, startups bring fresh approaches and thinking, while hidebound behemoths stagnate in their old ways of doing things. But for the next five to ten years, thanks to the nature of the new technologies coming down the pipe, those behemoths will just keep accruing ever more power — until, we can hope, the pendulum swings back again.
    https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/22/ask...tm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook
    Voting 0
  7. Could a ledger of that type be useful for 3D printing?

    I certainly think so.

    Imagine a 3D printed part that is used in an application, perhaps inside a machine or vehicle. This part could have an indestructible secure digital ledger associated with it for the lifetime of that part.

    What might you put in this super-ledger? Some ideas:

    The credentials of the designer
    The credentials of the maker
    The type of machine, and perhaps the specific machine on which it was made
    The list of materials used
    The specific batches and sources of materials used
    The date of production
    The date of usage
    The current owner of the part
    The past owners of the part
    The amount of usage withstood by the part to date
    The maximum stress, temperature or other factors incurred by the part to date
    The replacement date of the part (it’s useful lifetime)
    The status of the part; is it leased? Owned?
    How to find a replacement for this part

    And so on. You get the idea.

    For casual prototype parts, this may be of less interest, but
    http://www.fabbaloo.com/blog/2017/5/3...utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter
    Voting 0
  8. Most of us would not stand for this in our real, everyday lives. But on the internet, we tolerate and even expect it. We become dependent on nameless, faceless, remote parties just by connecting. On the internet, we are powerless. Our existence on the internet is defined by others, whether that other be a mega-corporation or a government.

    Now, we can change that.

    Today we are proud to announce the Blockstack browser, which allows developers everywhere to access a whole new internet. This new internet changes the dynamic and brings the power back to the people. Developers can build apps on this new internet by downloading the Blockstack Mac or Linux app (Windows coming soon) and by using nothing more than existing browsers like Chrome or Safari or Firefox.

    Blockchain technology powers this new internet. For the first time ever, you’ll be able to access people, communities, apps, and services built on the blockchain from your browser. This new internet reflects how people interact with each other naturally, as they have for thousands of years. In open marketplaces and societies, people transact directly with other people to offer advice, goods, and services. Human interaction has never needed a middleman. The internet should work how real life works.

    We're a group of open-source developers, and we feel the pain of app developers. The permission-based environment of the traditional internet runs directly counter to true innovation. If you are not an engineer at Google or Facebook, it's hard for you to innovate. It's not a level playing field. We simply don’t have the access, and if we do, it can be revoked at any time. Innovating on the internet should not require permission from a few mega-corporations. Our developer tools for the new, decentralized internet remove the reliance on existing infrastructure or third-party servers.

    Blockchain-based tech has been around for a while, but the technology is too complex, and the average internet user has not had that “aha!” moment: that moment, as with the first Netscape browsers, when you felt you were discovering something truly new, vastly big, and unbelievably cool. Our platform and the dedicated community of developers will lead us to that “aha!” moment for the average internet denizen experiencing a new type of internet.

    As our society becomes more dependent on the internet, its 40 year-old, antiquated infrastructure makes our digital lives more insecure than ever. If hackers today can shut down hospitals at a nationwide level, imagine what the next decade will bring?
    https://blockstack.org/blog/introduci...teway-to-a-new-decentralized-internet
    Voting 0
  9. A platform cooperative ride-sharing service sounds like an attempt to form a cooperative and compete with Uber by recycling profits and remunerating workers better. Its not a very convincing business plan if only because Uber has resources to undercut its competition until they choke and allegedly acts illegally to sabotage its enemies.

    But a protocol for ride-sharing changes the game completely. Anyone could sign up to the network and announce their intention to travel or willingness to chauffeur. A simple algorithm would connect them and at journey's end they might remunerate each other in cash, Bitcoin, home-brewed cider or anything; the line between giving a friend a favour and earning a crust would be very grey. There would be no middle men collecting rent or dictating how drivers should behave as representatives of the company. The protocol might be extended to support long distance travel, hitch-hiking, pick-up points, packages or even cargo. The open protocol creates a free market - not in the neoliberal sense of Wall Street being able to flush out the economy of any country it likes with imaginary dollars, but in the sense that suppliers and customers can meet with the minimal of mediation and restrictions. This might not be optimal for collecting taxes, but is optimal for granting everyone access to the economy, and probably much more efficient in terms of using our existing transport infrastructure.

    So where is the 'cooperative' in 'protocol cooperatives'? In my view such protocols are are fundamentally cooperative, but there is room for any kind of institutional structures on the next layer. Institutions (like co-ops) are not needed to crunch algorithms and own infrastructure that should be public, but to manage trust and social relations. Transport service providers could aggregate to offer services that individuals could not. For example a group might form to co-own a coach, helicopter, or fleet of electric cars. A co-op might provide a 24/7 private ambulance service, or a house removal service complete with furniture-carriers.

    Likely such a protocol widely deployed would render our transport ecosystem unrecognisable. It might obviate most full time driver jobs in favour of hitch-hiking 2.0 approach. The free market would level out the full time driving jobs and the unemployment of drivers and costs and revenues, leading presumably to a more equal society (at least until driver-less cars took over!)

    The blockchains are already making this happen because blockchains are basically protocols which allow open participation. This article about Arcade City makes it clear:

    In the end, Arcade City will be a protocol composed of Ethereum smart contracts supporting a global logistics network with an entire ecosystem of apps and businesses running on top of our infrastructure. What SMTP is to email, Arcade City will become for distributed logistics.

    For all the bluster about Arcade City being an upcoming platform coop, to me it seems there is no platform in the sense of a thing which can be owned & sold. What then does the brochure site mean when it claims to be owned and operated by its members? It seems to me that the language is wrong.

    The benefits and challenges of co-owning and operating a legal entity such a cooperative within a legal jurisdiction, are quite different to the benefits and challenges of using, governing and stewarding a universal protocol. Regrettably Arcade City has now forked after a disagreement in the board, which poses serious questions about the claim that its members were in control. Technology alone will not create the society we want; at a more fundamental level, we have to learn to work together.

    Professor Jem Bendell and I have explored these ideas further in our new paper Thwarting an Uber Future for Complementary Currencies: Open Protocols for a Credit Commons especially as they relate to payment systems, which we argue is the ultimate Death Star platform.
    http://matslats.net/protocol-cooperativism-platform-cooperativism
    Voting 0
  10. the most revolutionary aspect of blockchain technology is that it can run software in a secure and decentralized manner. With a blockchain, software applications no longer need to be deployed on a centralized server: They can be run on a peer-to-peer network that is not controlled by any single party. These blockchain-based applications can be used to coordinate the activities of a large number of individuals, who can organize themselves without the help of a third party. Blockchain technology is ultimately a means for individuals to coordinate common activities, to interact directly with one another, and to govern themselves in a more secure and decentralized manner.

    There are already a fair number of applications that have been deployed on a blockchain. Akasha, Steem.io, or Synereo, for instance, are distributed social networks that operate like Facebook, but without a central platform. Instead of relying on a centralized organization to manage the network and stipulate which content should be displayed to whom (often through proprietary algorithms that are not disclosed to the public), these platforms are run in a decentralized manner, aggregating the work of disparate groups of peers, which coordinate themselves, only and exclusively, through a set of code-based rules enshrined in a blockchain. People must pay microfees to post messages onto the network, which will be paid to those who contribute to maintaining and operating the network. Contributors may earn back the fee (plus additional compensation) as their messages spread across the network and are positively evaluated by their peers.

    Blockchain technology thus facilitates the emergence of new forms of organizations, which are not only dematerialized but also decentralized. These organizations — which have no director or CEO, or any sort of hierarchical structure — are administered, collectively, by all individuals interacting on a blockchain. As such, it is important not to confuse them with the traditional model of “crowd-sourcing,” where people contribute to a platform but do not benefit from the success of that platform. Blockchain technologies can support a much more cooperative form of crowd-sourcing — sometimes referred to as “platform cooperativism”— where users qualify both as contributors and shareholders of the platforms to which they contribute. And since there is no intermediary operator, the value produced within these platforms can be more equally redistributed among those who have contributed to the value creation.

    With this new opportunity for increased “cooperativism,” we’re moving toward a true sharing or collaborative economy — one that is not controlled by a few large intermediary operators, but that is governed by and for the people.

    There’s nothing new about that, you might say — haven’t we heard these promises before? Wasn’t the mainstream deployment of the internet supposed to level the playing field for individuals and small businesses competing against corporate giants? And yet, as time went by, most of the promises and dreams of the early internet days faded away, as big giants formed and took control over our digital landscape.

    Today we have a new opportunity to fulfill these promises. Blockchain technology makes it possible to replace the model of top-down hierarchical organizations with a system of distributed, bottom-up cooperation. This shift could change the way wealth is distributed in the first place, enabling people to cooperate toward the creation of a common good, while ensuring that everyone will be duly compensated for their efforts and contributions.

    And yet nothing should be taken for granted.
    https://hbr.org/2017/03/what-blockchain-means-for-the-sharing-economy
    Voting 0

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