Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dynamic Group Cognitive Coordination through Wearable Tech

A surprising ‘new functionality’ enabler of smartwatches and wearable tech is not just getting real-time alerts and notifications to a single user as the front-end of the seamless connected computing world, but group coordination. Real-time group coordination could foster a whole new class of wearable applications, for a wide range of ‘serious’ and ‘fun’ uses in both large and small groups.

35 teams presented at the Apple WatchKit Hackathon at Silicon Valley’s Hacker Dojo on Sunday November 23, 2014. Many interesting apps were shown, mostly for only a single smartwatch like MoodyBaby, NowCash, MedAlert, ItsRaining, LoveTap, and ScrollforSushi.

Best Tech was won by this author’s own team project for WatchSet: a multi-player social gaming app for smartwatch wearers in proximity to self-discover and play interactive games (Figure 1).

Figure 1: WatchSet Multi-player Social Gaming App for Smartwatch.
Large-scale Dynamic Cognitive Coordination
The level of where we are starting to operate now with technology is automating lower-level cognitive tasks. Linking any and all data streams on-demand in the connected computing world is allowing us to conceive of automation in new ways - as both mechanical task relief and cognitive processing offload. This suggests that we may be able to shift the whole way we interact with the world, and organize human activity in new and dynamically coordinated ways, that are potentially at a much larger scale than has been possible previously.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bitcoin and Science: DNA is the Original Decentralized System

What is the role (if any) of Bitcoin and blockchain technology with regard to the natural world and traditional science? One obvious link is using the blockchain as a means of improving distributed community computing projects with tracking and remuneration. BOINC, whose software runs SETI@home, has introduced Gridcoin, and [Protein]Folding@home has introduced Foldingcoin. In addition, these distributed community computing models could be extended using blockchain technology as a way to coordinate and offer supercomputing time to DIYscientists; opening up access to a scarce resource which was previously only available to professional researchers (Zennet). Other projects are investigating a way to harness otherwise wasted crypto-mining cycles (where the computing problem (computing a nonce) must be deliberately intensive, wasteful, and one-way), like Primecoin’s system (, of requiring miners to find long chains of prime numbers instead of otherwise unusable hashes.

Sense-making Models: Religion, Science, Political-Economy, Information
There is a more fundamental link between the blockchain and science in the grand scope of our human models for making sense of the world: religion, science, political-economy, and now information. Information is an interesting paradigm by which we are starting to see the structure of the world and make sense of it, both in physical and digital reality. The blockchain is an information technology, and the Internet and the blockchain provide a heightened information climate; a means of improving and modulating the resolution of information through faster more-expedient transfer, discovery, deployment, and use.

Information as a Sense-making Paradigm Reconfigures Science
The reach of information as a sense-making paradigm can be seen in how this idea is reconfiguring approaches to science. One way is in the growth and pervasiveness of big data and data-intensive science. Nearly every field of traditional study now has a computational complement (computational biology, computational astronomy, computational philosophy, computational law, etc.). The scientific method is transformed from a narrow hypothesis-experimentation loop to dynamic hypothesis formation per large-data results, vastly scaling the degree of experimental activity.

DNA: The Original Decentralized System
Even more profoundly, information is changing how we think about problems in science. For example, the old thinking was that chemistry and molecular biology are the conditions for life, and this is true in the sense that they are the substrate, the hardware for life. But now life is being seen as an information problem. Biology is a software system that runs on the substrate of chemistry and molecular biology. Wetware biology is the language of information, a software system to signal, transcribe, transmit information, encode and decode information, and send secure messages; a lot like a blockchain system. Biology is perhaps the original decentralized system; every cell has the full instruction set, the organism’s entire DNA, like Bitcoind nodes have the full ledger of every transaction.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blockchain AI: Consensus as the Mechanism to foster ‘Friendly’ AI

The blockchain is the decentralized public ledger upon which cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin run; the blockchain is possibly the next Internet; the blockchain is an information technology; the blockchain is a trustless network; the blockchain is an M2M/IOT payment network for the machine economy; and the blockchain is a consensus model at scale, the mechanism we have been waiting for that could help to usher in an era of friendly machine intelligence. The blockchain’s consensus mechanism could be instrumental in the connected world of Bitcoin which necessarily accommodates communication between humans and machines, and the possibility of increasingly autonomous machine actions and entities which could lead to artificial intelligence and a technological singularity (a moment when machine intelligence supersedes human intelligence).

Large Possibility Space for Intelligence
Speculatively looking towards the longer term, there may be a large possibility space of intelligence that includes humans, enhanced humans, different forms of human-machine hybrids, digital mind uploads, and different forms of artificial intelligence like simulated brains and advanced machine learning algorithms. These intelligences would likely not be operating in isolation, but would be connected to communications networks. To achieve their goals, digital intelligences will want to conduct certain transactions over the network, many of which could be managed by blockchain and other consensus mechanisms.

Only Friendly AIs are able to get their Transactions Executed
One of the real benefits of consensus models is that they could possibly enforce friendly AI, which is to say cooperative, moral players within a society. In decentralized trust networks, an agent’s reputation (where agents themselves remain pseudonymous) could be an important factor in whether its transactions could be executed, such that malicious players cannot get their transactions executed or recognized on the network. (It does not matter if malicious players masquerade as bonafide players since the reputation requirement and network incentives elicit good behavior from all players, malicious and bonafide alike). Some of the key smartnetwork operations that any digital intelligence may want executed are secure resource access, identity authentication and validation, and economic exchange. Effectively, any network transaction that an intelligent agent needs to fulfill their goals could require some form of access or authentication that is consensus-signed, and which cannot be obtained unless the agent has a good (benevolent) reputational standing in the smartnetwork. This is how Friendly AI could be effectuated in a blockchain consensus-based model.

The Blockchain Consensus-Recommended Data is a High-Resolution Information Technology
The blockchain is an information technology, a consensus-derived third tier of modulated, denser, freer-flowing information. Level one is dumb, unenhanced, unmodulated data; level two is socially-recommended data, data elements enriched by social network peer recommendation, and now, level three is blockchain consensus-recommended data, data’s highest-yet recommendation level per group consensus-supported accuracy and quality. Consensus data is data that comes with crowd-voted confirmation of quality, the vote of a populace standing behind the data quality, effectuated by a seamless automated nonce-mining mechanism. Possibly, the blockchain is precisely the kind of scalable information authentication and validation mechanism necessary to expand to a global and eventually beyond-planetary society. The blockchain as an information technology provides high-resolution modulation regarding the quality and authenticity of information.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Counterparty/Ethereum: Why Bitcoin topped $450 today (was under $350 last week)

In the heated development space for Bitcoin 2.0 protocol projects (Figure 1), on November 12, 2014, Counterparty announced that they ported the open-source Ethereum programming language onto their own platform. Ethereum is regarded as one of the most advanced Bitcoin 2.0 projects, a general-purpose Turing-complete cryptocurrency platform. Turing-complete in this sense means able to run any cryptocurrency protocol and any cryptocoin, essentially a universal crypto-platform (the platform wins, not any specific cryptocurrency). Now Counterparty can do this too, serve as a Turing-complete platform, and possibly in a better way than Ethereum since Counterparty is already running on the existing architecture, the Bitcoin blockchain (with 90% cryptocurrency market cap), the de facto standard, already-launched, worldwide, secure platform.

Figure 1: Sample List of Bitcoin 2.0 Protocol Projects. 
(Extended from work by Piotr Piaseki)

This is Good News for All Parties (not just Counterparty): Bitcoin 2.0 is Just Beginning 
This does not mean 'game-over' for Ethereum, or 'game-won' to Counterparty. It is a sign of the dynamism in the space and the rapid innovation that open-source software communities enable (both Ethereum and Counterparty's software is all open-source). Every different project is able to examine and work with the code of the other projects and bring in any and all implementations. It means that good ideas can take seed more rapidly, be improved through iteration, and allow space for the next good ideas. Ethereum and Counterparty both have deep visions for the whole future architecture of the blockchain, and establishing early 'plumbing' foundations can help everyone progress to the next levels. In the seething hive of Bitcoin innovation, these kinds of announcements would be expected to continue, both since the blockchain industry is in early stages of development, and especially due to the open-source code liquidity of the industry.

Smart Contracts
The great benefit is that now Counterparty may be able to quickly launch the ability to do smart contracts on their platform, since Ethereum is known for its intricate focus on smart contract functionality. Smart contracts is the capacity to do more elaborate transactions on the blockchain, moving beyond simple buy-sell currency arrangements to more sophisticated contracts such as a loan with ongoing payments and interest rate resets. However, even before the Ethereum port, Counterparty did have some degree of smart contract capability (certainly for the basic smart contracts that are not even yet widely-used), as does the Bitcoin blockchain itself, and other solutions like Colored Coins and Coinprism. Other Bitcoin 2.0 protocol projects such has Ripple have their own smart contract facility, Codius.

The key point is that the blockchain industry is currently building out the infrastructure, the enabling layers in a protocol stack, the plumbing of the new layers of the Internet. There is tremendous functionality fungibility across blockchain protocols and platforms. In the blockchain plumbing layer, it might be possible to do some degree of smart contracts and tokenized altcoin issuance and multi-sig wallets on all cryptoplatforms. The questions are therefore 1) which Bitcoin protocol 2.0 platforms will emerge as standard after the intense innovation and development phase, and 2) which platforms will prove to be the most secure and raid/theft-free, and 3) at the higher level, which will be the new value-added services (the Netscape, Amazon, and Uber of the future) built atop the Bitcoin protocol plumbing protocol layers.

Take-Away Message 
The important take-away message is that the Bitcoin 2.0 protocols space may only heat up with more announcements to be expected, and more projects forming, merging, dying, and cross-implementing. Also that there could continue to be substantial volatility in the price of Bitcoin. The Counterparty announcement should be seen as support for the overall blockchain industry and underlines the clear demand to move beyond Bitcoin 1.0 currency (even as this segment is still developing) to Bitcoin 2.0 contracts. This has always been part of the initial vision set forth by Satoshi Nakamoto:
"The [Bitcoin] design supports a tremendous variety of possible transaction types that I designed years ago. Escrow transactions, bonded contracts, third party arbitration, multi-party signature, etc. If Bitcoin catches on in a big way, these are things we’ll want to explore in the future, but they all had to be designed at the beginning to make sure they would be possible later." (Nakamoto). 
Reference: Nakamoto, S. (2010). Re: Transactions and Scripts: DUP HASH160 ... EQUALVERIFY CHECKSIG. Bitcointalk.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Bitcoin 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0: Currency, Contracts, and Applications, beyond Financial Markets

Bitcoin 1.0 is currency - the deployment of cryptocurrencies in applications related to cash such as currency transfer, remittance, and digital payment systems. Bitcoin 2.0 is contracts - the whole slate of economic, market, and financial applications using the blockchain that are more extensive than simple cash transactions like stocks, bonds, futures, loans, mortgages, titles, smart property, and smart contracts. Bitcoin 3.0 is blockchain applications beyond currency, finance, and markets, particularly in the areas of government, health, science, literacy, culture, and art. 
Bitcoin and blockchain technology is much more than a digital currency, the blockchain is an information technology, potentially on the order of the Internet (‘the next Internet’), but even more pervasive and quickly-configuring. 
Prevalence of Decentralized Models 
Even if the currently developing models of Bitcoin and blockchain technology are not the final paradigm (there are many problematic flaws), the bigger trend, decentralized models as a class, could have a pronounced impact. If not the blockchain industry, there would probably be something else, and in fact there probably will be other complements to the blockchain industry anyway. It is just that the blockchain industry is one of the first identifiable large-scale implementations of decentralization models, conceived and executed at a new and more complex level of human activity.

Decentralized models have the potential to reorganize all manner of human activity, and quickly, because they are trustless, the friction of the search and trust-establishment process in previous models of human interaction is eliminated. This could mean greatly accelerated rates and levels of activity, on a much greater humanity-level scale. The blockchain (decentralized network coordination technology) could emerge as a fundamental infrastructure element in the model to scale humanity to its next levels of orders-of-magnitude-larger progress.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Next Disruptive Computing Paradigm: Connected World of Bitcoin

One model of understanding the modern world is through computing paradigms, with a new paradigm arising on the order of one per decade (Figure1). First, there were the mainframe and PC (personal computer) paradigms, and then the Internet revolutionized everything. Mobile and social networking has been the most recent paradigm. The current paradigm is that of the Connected World which includes Bitcoin/blockchain technology as the economic overlay to what is increasingly becoming a seamlessly connected world of multi-device computing that comprises wearable computing, Internet-of-Things (IOT) sensors, smartphones, tablets, laptops, Quantified Self-Tracking devices (i.e.; Fitbit), smarthome, smartcar, and smartcity. Bitcoin and the underlying blockchain technology could be the next major disruptive technology and worldwide computing paradigm, on the order of the Internet in terms of the potential for pervasively reconfiguring of all human activity as the Internet did. Blockchain technology could be deployed and adopted much more quickly too, given the network effect that so many humans worldwide are already linked through the Internet and cellular network technologies.

Figure 1. Disruptive Computing Paradigms.
(Extended from: You say you want a revolution?)
Mainframe, PC, Internet, Social-Mobile, Connected World.

Just as Paradigm 4 functionality (social-mobile (i.e.; mobile apps for everything and sociality as a website property (liking, commenting, friending, forum participation)) has become an expected feature of technology properties, so too could Paradigm 5 functionality. Paradigm 5 functionality could be the experience of a continuously-connected seamless physical-world multi-device computing layer, with a blockchain technology overlay for payments, and not just payments, but micropayments, decentralized exchange, token earning and spending, digital asset invocation and transfer, and smart contract issuance and execution; all as the economic layer the web never had. Apple Pay (Apple’s token-based app-based eWallet) could be the critical intermediary step in moving to a full-fledged cryptocurrency world where the blockchain becomes the seamless economic layer of the web.