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Blockchain is the Lovechild of a Committed 30-Year-Old Community

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The community has more to do with the continued success of cryptocurrency than anything else. Many of the founders of cryptocurrency were libertarian, many were cypherpunks, some were both.

Satoshi Nakamoto, Linus Torvalds, and Steve Jobs are immortal because nothing was ever the same after they gifted the world with Bitcoin, GNU/Linux, and Apple, respectively. I’m including Steve Jobs because he’s often accused of being more visionary hype man than actual technical wizard messiah.

“Successful blockchain efforts don’t begin with technology. Instead, they begin with a community.” —W. Scott Stornetta

There is no doubt that Satoshi Nakamoto (whoever you are, singular or plural) gave birth to Bitcoin in 2008; however, W. Scott Stornetta asserts that bits and pieces of the decentralized ledger and other parts of digital currency have been around for over thirty years, due “to the significant work done by Tim, David, Nick, Satoshi, J.R., David, Blythe, Caitlin, Vitalik, Joe, Dan, Ned, and many, many others.”

The same thing can be said about the father of Linux, Linus Torvalds. Linus didn’t invent anything, per-se, but was able transmutate closed source, proprietary, enterprise-level software operating systems, applications, servers, databases, and drivers using the alchemy of both the philosophy and development methodology of open source.

The philosophy of the open source movement isn’t restricted to Linux; however, both Linux and Open Source share the ethos of “many hands make light work,” which is to say, leveraging community. Wikipedia states:

“The largest part of the work on Linux is performed by the community: the thousands of programmers around the world that use Linux and send their suggested improvements to the maintainers.”

The future of the decentralized ledger technology in general and Satoshi Nakamoto’s Blockchain (and, of course, Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum blockchain as well) in particular lies in the community.

“Tens of millions or even billions of suitably incentivized users would be a force with which to be reckoned.” —W. Scott Stornetta

The community has more to do with the continued success of cryptocurrency than anything else. Many of the founders of cryptocurrency were libertarian, many were cypherpunks, some were both. The cypherpunk ethos is decidedly pro-extreme privacy. According to Wikipedia:

“A cypherpunk is any activist advocating widespread use of strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies as a route to social and political change.”

While this might just be my own personal interpretation of what that means, but it’s surely a little anti-social and sounds very Benjamin Franklin: “those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

By definition, libertarianism is an “extreme laissez-faire political philosophy advocating only minimal state intervention in the lives of citizens.”

While maybe not necessarily Fight Club Tyler Durden levels of anti-corporate and anti-banking revolutionary zeal, it’s surely an ethos that is either held up by the community who develop the Bitcoin Core or it isn’t.

“Tim May and others of the cypherpunk community who helped create that community’s sense of shared purpose had as much to do with bitcoin’s early rise as did the technical merits of Satoshi’s work. This point, often lost on those who didn’t live through the pre-bitcoin days, leads many to draw the wrong conclusions about the reason for bitcoin’s early rise. Its community was primed to embrace a peer-to-peer currency and was thus willing to accept bitcoin weaknesses along with its strengths.” —W. Scott Stornetta

Cryptography, ciphers, Public Key Encryption, and the immutability of the Blockchain are all most vulnerable to social engineering—the use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes—and to mutiny—an open rebellion against the proper authorities—that will break the back of cryptocurrencies, cryptotechnologies, and cryptoeconomics much more readily than the probability of a properly maintained and distributed blockchain.

If a ship is immutable and secure, simply replace a noble Captain piloting the Ship with an ignoble Captain with ulterior motives and that Bizarro Captain can simply steer the ship into a shoal rather than figure out how to storm the ship from the sea or air.

The very nature of development, evolution, contribution, and community support make project usurpation extremely probable. Men in our 30s call it “selling out.”  I assume that cypherpunks were leather biker jackets, smoke unfiltered Gitanes, slouchy black berets, skinny blue jeans, and white shirts with horizontal blue stripes. One day, khakis and blue button downs and maybe, sooner than later, a blue blazer, then a bespoke Henry Poole gray suit.

“New blockchain efforts should begin with a community that shares a common interest and purpose. This is the fundamental promise of the blockchain: a shared, immutable record that allows communities to achieve their collective hopes in a peer-to-peer, transparent and efficient way.” —W. Scott Stornetta

While there will always be the Orthodox and the Originalists (in much the same way that we Americans can’t ask the Fathers of the Constitution what they meant by the Second Amendment in the context of 2018, we really can’t ask the Ghost of absentee dad, Satoshi Nakamoto, what his true vision of the next steps of Blockchain are), GNU/Linux and Python and PHP and MySQL—and in many ways, Apple, too—are living documents and all go through iterations, version, revisions, from little updates to extreme evolutions.

“Successful leaders listen to what users are saying and pivot accordingly.” —W. Scott Stornetta

In Still a Blockchain Romantic into 2019 and Beyond part 1 and part 2 I engaged Elly Zhang’s assertion that the Achilles heel, the chink in the armor, of blockchain is that there’s a panacea complex associated with the entire decentralized ledger technology (DLT) and there’s not enough sober realism as to how much of the world blockchain technologies will actually disrupt.

If I were to boil down Elly’s disappointment with actual rather than the potential of Satoshi Nakamoto’s bouncing baby Bitcoin, I wouldn’t say it is in the flaw of decentralization, per se, I would say her frustration is that it’s either too decentralized or not decentralized enough.

What I mean by that is that she asserts that while the technology is designed to be as decentralized and autonomous as possible, it still doesn’t have enough of a savvy mainstream user base—enough of a mass adoption at the full node level—to allow Bitcoin and Ethereum, at the extremely popular, successful, side of the bell curve, to be on enough nodes at any one time to ensure actual (and not theoretical or potential) decentralization (everywhereness)—and this doesn’t include the thousands of altcoins and shitcoins that are almost completely irrelevant and certainly very much extremely low-volume and low-value.

“To realize the promise of a fairer, more transparent, peer-to-peer world, we must put community first, focus on solving present-day problems, continue to refine incentives and governance, and respond with flexibility as needs and circumstances change.” —W. Scott Stornetta

If everyone who is buying and selling Bitcoin, for example, are only popping in and out of Coinbase, a centralized exchange, and aren’t taking any responsibility for becoming or hosting a node, then Bitcoin and all the rest surely could lose a lot of their valuable everywhereness (maybe I really should buy myself a Bitseed and be part of the solution instead of the problem) and as a result, become less impressive as a must-have panacea everything to everyone and just, rather, become just an alternate technology next to hundreds of other technologies that already solve the same problems—maybe with less novelty or hype, but perfectly satisfactorily, cheaply, safely, securely, and quickly.

Crypto Blockchain

Originally posted on Newconomy

Dec 30, 2018 08:00 AM