Podcast by Arthur Falls
Podcast by Arthur Falls
The Third Web #17 - Arthur Brock, Holochain
Holochain has been a project simminging in the background of the blockchain space for several years now. The promise has been a panaceaic solution to the performance and scalability issues facing decentralised hosting platforms. It’s an oft heard claim, but, as founder Arthur Brock expounds in this interview, by giving up our insistence on global consensus in favor of discoverable and verifiable local state, a world of options is opened to us.
This kind of discussion follows from the Secure Scuttlebutt and Urbit episodes. It raises, and offers answers, to questions of data vs agent based ontologies. But most interesting of all, it forces us to reconsider why we wanted to use a blockchain in the first place.
Arthur Brock from Denver Colorado
Interested in alternative currencies in 2001
Self organising companies are just a form of currency hacking
Discovered what a huge leverage point for change currency is
Change the business incentives and all business will reshape towards those incentives
The Future of Money, Bernard Leotard
2003 alternative currency became main gig
Metacurrency project 2004
Met Harris Brown
Currencies as more than money - symbol systems that we use to coordinate at scale
Out of metacurrency project came Ceptr 2006
Interact/transact with anyone else without intermediary
Required a reinvention of most of the communications stack. Modeling on nature - biomimicry
Prototyped for rewrite of computation, communication, commerce
Took piece of Ceptr and built Holochain, completed in Go in 2017
Bitcoin neither blindsided nor felt like a culmination of work
Seemed like a ham handed design
Has captured a large following
Has not achieved what Arthur Brock wants to achieve
Not to dismiss blockchain - if nothing else it has prepared public consciousness and awareness for dealing with these problems.
Blockchain has altered the discourse
Pulled discourse in a crazy direction
Recreates unhealthy patterns turbocharged
Definitely need new money but need to do it in a manor that does not amplify volatility and wealth concentration
Recreating old problems won't get us somewhere new
Core issue is validation, not consensus
Everyone must use the same validation scheme to participate in consensus [validation is more fundamental than consensus]
Push for global state is a lazy way of modeling problems
In reality there is no global state or time. Only relative state and time.
Holochain uses an Agent Centric approach rather than a Data Centric approach.
Each agent has their own chain for an application, only tracking the agents activity.
Genesis block of each chain includes a hash of the source code of the application.
The Third Web #16 - Urbit, Your New Server
The range of third-web platforms in development today is greater than ever. From data-centric blockchain based approaches to agent-centric designs like Secure Scuttlebut, the potential futures of the third web are rapidly expanding.
Today we look at another approach with the Urbit platform. Like Secure Scuttlebutt, Urbit is agent centric. It is a deterministic operating system designed to be the filter between a user and the online services they use.
I last covered Urbit in 2016 and the project is now nearing public launch. Galen Wolf-Pauly explains.
What is Urbit?
A personal Server
A secure computer that
you actually own
Stores an event log of everything that has ever happened to it
That’s designed to live on any cloud server
But be controlled by a private key that you actually own
Your Urbit is meant to replace all of the consumer cloud software that you already use
How can it possibly be better than all of the expensive software that has already been created?
The basic thesis is that everything we use today runs on top of a unix of some kind.
The reason we wound up in this centralised world of cloud-based software is that Unix is too complicated.
Because the Unix is complicated, complicated layers between Unix and the application are needed.
The Urbit solution is to rip all of that out and create a single, extremely simple, complex system.
Urbit is a virtual machine, programming language, and operating system in 30,000 lines of code.
For comparison, Wordpress, an application that runs on Unix is 500,000 lines of code
Technical simplicity should turn into user interface simplicity.
Additionally, by hosting your Urbit in the cloud you no longer have a middleman serving you applications, Instead you only need them to host your virtual computer.
What does an Urbit future look like?
A single platform allows tighter integration of, for example, productivity software like Git & Asana.
As a designer, Galen looks forward to interface standardisation, -having messaging, documenting, code collaboration, task management and other consumer software working seamlessly as one system.
Rather than interfaces built for many people.
Do we need a new back end for a new front end? Hasn’t Wechat done this?
Today we use many services that have unified UIs
Google has both email and documents but do you really trust Google to have total control and visibility into your use of those services?
What if Google goes away?
Being able to run a server myself that I trust will be around a long time and is secure to me makes me feel alot better. [Platform Risk]
Wechat is a really great achievement
Apps are more like modules
But you have given total power to a single company
The decentralised Wechat pitch has gotten tired but Urbit is very much targeting that problem.
The future of cloud computing does look like that but makes no compromises in privacy or durability.
The Third Web #15 - Edgeware & Parity, Infrastructure on Top of Infrastructure
What is Edgeware
Edgeware being developed by an entity called Commonwealth Labs
Built on Parity’s Substrate
Grandpa finality tool
Scripting built in.
Using Web Assembly (Wasm)
Building on Substrate
People used to build their own web servers, now they use the cloud.
People used to build new chains, now they can use Substrate.
This enables builders to focus on the area of their expertise.
One month after development began a test net was operational
Three months the project was live.
EOS was too centralised
Ethereum was not flexible enough
Being able to use Rust or C++ is great
Still being experimented with
The Polkadot and Substrate ecosystem
Friendly and helpful community
20 projects underway
100 planned for the end of the year
Platform still stabilizing
People are building now planning to switch to the security of the Polkadot chain.
Securing the edgeware chain
Delegated PoS aiming to move to Nominated PoS as Sybil resistance mechanism
Grandpa for finality
Round Robin leader selection
The ultimate goal is to rely on the security of Polkadot
The problem of governance
It’s a problem that has been pursued by humanity for all time
Blockchains increase social scalability
Enables new organisations
These new organisations need new governance systems
Blockchains are new so there is naturally experimentation and opportunity.
Want to further this human endeavour in the blockchain world
How does edgeware actually do governance?
Allocate tokens using a “Lock Drop” of ether.
One token one vote.
Vote can be allocated
Focusing on core changes to the network/protocol, allocation of on-chain treasury that is bootstrapped by the block reward.
The Lock Drop
Initial token distribution is the linchpin of effective network governance
Require the belief in the economic value of the token
Previous ways of doing this were an ICO or airdropping a token
The Livepeer Merkle Mine was an interesting experiment
Edgeware hopes to get the same effect of distributing tokens to people who want to actively participate without the bloat of a Merkle Mine.
Ether tokens are locked in a contract that prevents the tokens from moving for a period of 3, 6, or 12 months. The registry of locked tokens is used to initiate the Edgeware chain with additional tokens allocated to individuals who locked their tokens up for longer periods.
Infrastructure on top of infrastructure
Are we locked in an infrastructure phase?
The Third Web #14 - Dawn Of An Ecosystem: Substrate & Polkadot
Care of DFINITY I was privileged to attend the Web 3 Summit in Berlin last year. While there I interviewed Aeron Buchanan, the Executive Vice President of the Web 3 Foundation and Gavin Wood, Founder of Ethereum, Parity, and the Web 3 Foundation. These guys are two of the individuals that launched the programmable blockchain revolution and these interviews plot a course from the founding of Ethereum to their vision of the decentralized web and give us a trajectory beyond.
A quick production note. These interviews were filmed in the style of the other filmed interviews on The Third Web, unfortunately the footage was lost to a dead macbook leaving only the audio. As I usually cut myself out of the filmed interviews my contribution is less geared for production.
Visit https://web3.foundation/ , https://www.parity.io/ for more information
Executive vice president of Web 3 Foundation
Masters in Computer science with a focus on engineering at Oxford
Worked in film
Then completed a PHD in computer vision
Became algorytm designer
Tell us about your time at Ethereum
Ethereum was initial exciting
Went from raising interest to actually delivering and things changed a lot
Aareon ran most of Eth Dev
Was Ming Chan hard to work with?
Eventually delivery of Ethereum was on course.
A CEO or COO type role was needed.
Eth foundation was not doing much at the time.
The plan was to transition EthDev responsibilities to foundation
After a worldwide search Vitalik chose Ming Chan
Aeron transitioned out shortly thereafter
Web 3 Foundation
Drives the development and deployment of polkadot.
Parity is building the rust implementation
The runtime of polkadot is Parity’s Substrate.
What is Web 3?
Web 3 is different things to different people.
To The Web 3 foundation Web 3 is the deentralized web.
The Web 3 foundation aims to map out and build the technologies needed.
This seems very blockchain focussed
Yes, and polkadot is blockchain platform
The blockchain platform part is only part.
There needs to be a large number of other components to build the decentralized web
How do you build decentralised messaging and storage?
We are leaving that to others like IPFS.
Proof of replication is something that people who looked at proof of storafge instead of proof of work overlooked.
Whisper and Secure scuttlebutt are interesting options
Coordination can happen on the blockchain but messaging on the blockchain is a non-starter.
When will all this stuff come together to make ausable platform?
We are not yet at a stage of maturity.
The technologists building all of this know we are not at the end yet.
We started with scripting
Moved to scalability, reputation, messaging & everything else. We are not yet through the checklist.
Polkadot takes us 95% of the way to scalability
The next one is reputation. No clear solution yet.
Whats the challenge with reputation?
Proposals look at the result rather than the approach.
Reputation is different in different contexts.
There must not be an originator. Reputation must be decentralized.
Founded Web 3 Foundation
Lead of Polkadot.
The Third Web #13 - Consensus Primer with Aparna Krishnan
Aparna Krishnan is head of education at Blockchain at Berkeley and co-founder of Mechanism Labs, an open source blockchain research lab. Earlier this year, Aparna was awarded a scholarship by the DFINITY Foundation for Mechanism Labs’ research into consensus mechanisms. This episode is essentially a primer for advanced discussion of consensus in decentralized networks.
Co-founder mechanism labs open source research lab
All work and research is on Github
Co-founder of the education team at Blockchain Berkeley
Teaches executive education courses
Proof of Work
Proof of Stake
Cynthia Dwork developed stronger adversarial models
Did not have many applications
Blockchain has brought cryptography and consensus into the mainstream eye
Focus has been on proof of stake protocols
Mining may not be sustainable
Long term sustainabilities and lack of externalities is important
Proof of stake offers efficiently
As does proof of elapsed time and proof of space and time
Coming to agreement relies on traditional consensus
PoS, PoW refer to the sybil control mechanism
PoS - Putting down capital
Financial penalty for misbehavior
Token holders are participants
PoW - burning energy
One cpu, one vote
No connection between token custody and rewards
P o Elapsed Time
Proof of Authority placing reputation
A cost of playing ball
Traditional Consensus (PBFT)
No concept of probabilistic finality
All honest nodes come to final agreement
All nodes may with a high degree of probability agree
A probabilistic guarantee
Longest Chain Rule
Longest sequence of blocks is the
Can be attacked by a stealthy entity
Open, permissionless, decentralized
Better liveness properties
Early PoS 2013
State grinding attack vulnerable
Randomness derived from blockhashes
Uses threshold relay decentralized randomness
Has social layer fallback
Hides the block creator until the block has been created
In Tendermint a minority below the assumption cannot break finality
In Bitcoin >10% can change the finality through threatening to censor
Hard to get both economic and cryptographic security. Not clear that bribing and collusion attacks have been solved. No protocols have shown sophisticated economic models.
Focussing on incentive schemes
What does it mean to have a stable, scalable protocol
Proof of Replication
Recent work with Verifiable delay functions
In commit/reveal schemes there is an opportunity to manipulate by giving only one person the ability to reveal the randomness
Verifiable delay functions allow anyone to reveal the randomness
ASIC resistance because not parallelizable
The Third Web #12 - The Actor Model
Subodh Sharma is a professor of computer science at IIT Delhi, one of the most prestigious universities in India. While he’s not teaching, Subodh conducts research into the formal verification of distributed systems, and his work on the automated formal verification of smart contacts has drawn international interest.
I called up Subodh because I was looking for someone to explain an approach to writing software called the actor model. The actor model essentially involves sandboxing tasks in such a way that complexity is minimized and all behaviors of a software system can be known under all conditions.
Currently the actor model is applied to the management of telecommunications networks through the Erlang language, and also in secure servers. Understanding the way robust distributed systems are constructed assists in the assessment of platform designs and gives us a view into the future of the ultimate distributed system - the Third Web.