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Image by Sasha Katz (2016)

(Online Research)

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The Many Promises of Blockchain

“ […] Bauwens wants to show how the economy is moving from an extractive model to a generative model – one of value production – and insists that there is a real bottom up transition movement towards new systems of value that are not based on market costs but on social benefit. P-2-P values and initiatives towards a new commons have gained a lot of traction in different communities around the world and can be followed on the website http://commonstransition.org/. Bauwens uses the term ‘net-archical’ to describe the extractive mechanisms of major online platforms such as Facebook & Twitter and articulates the extractive & plundering nature of share economy services such as Uber and Airb’n’b. Bauwens makes clear distinctions between what he calls ‘Net-archical capitalism’ (Facebook, Uber) that are centralized companies interested in profit and ‘Global Commons’ initiatives such as Wikipedia & Couchsurfing, which are not for profit and geared towards collective social benefit.

After clarifying the blurred lines between share economy principles and digital monopolies Bauwens goes on to address some common misconceptions about the crypto-currency Bitcoin. Bauwens highlights how Bitcoin, in attempting to be completely de-regulated from the central banks, has become completely dependent on free-market capitalism. For him, Bitcoin as a currency has turned into a de-centralized, distributed form of free market capitalism that should not be viewed as a new form of value exchange, but as another currency that is traded on the stock market. It is Bauwens’ reservations about Bitcoin that frame his vision for a post-capitalist society and new value regime(s) that can be created by Blockchain, not Bitcoin. In light of this, Bauwens is confident that Blockchain technology (the technology that powers Bitcoin) can transform how value is produced and exchanged in the way we exchange physical and material goods similar to how networked technologies enabled the knowledge commons in the rise of the information age. For Bauwens, the application of Blockchain is an opportunity for de-centralized peer produced initiatives to take hold in the physical material world through logistics, transport and smart technology. Initiatives such as sustainable energy that can be collectively managed and distributed via a Blockchain ledger, or car-pooling where the profits are automatically distributed within social groups. He argues that we can create a new value system by taking the generative, open, p2p models of the Internet and integrating them into physical and material goods with Blockchain applications.”

How The Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Going To Change The Lives Of The Bottom Billion

“Perhaps it’s hard to imagine bitcoin making the world a better place. For the general public, the cryptocurrency is mostly associated with felons like Ross William Ulbricht, of Silk Road darknet fame, and failures like the Mt. Gox exchange, which closed in 2014 having misplaced thousands of bitcoin units. Bitcoin is used to buy illegal drugs, traffic in arms and people, and to hide criminal gains. And it hasn’t been stable: The price has shuffled around a lot, invoking something more like a casino, rather than something to build a prosperous, steady future on.

This, though, is to underestimate the significance of bitcoin technology. According to many smart and knowledgeable people, this underlying system, known as the blockchain, is an idea of historical importance, with the potential to solve big social problems. In fact, it could be what makes the Internet what it was supposed to be before it was overrun by Facebook, the NSA, and countless scam artists. If blockchain believers are right, the technology will enable an era of radical transparency, frictionless commerce, and genuine economic abundance.

‘We believe that blockchain technology is a powerful tool for creating global prosperity,” says Alex Tapscott, who co-authored the forthcoming book Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World with his father, Don Tapscott. “We’re seeing a big problem where the world economy is growing unabated, but fewer and fewer people are benefiting, and we think blockchain could hold solutions to that.'”

Can Ethereum Restore Online Freedom and Transform the Internet? (New at Reason)

‘”If you think the Internet has affected your life, Ethereum will have that same pervasive influence on our communications and our entire information infrastructure,” says Joseph Lubin, who’s the founder of the Brooklyn-based software-production studio ConsenSys. “It will impact every aspect of our existence.”

ConsenSys, which employs 68 people in nine countries, is developing applications to run on this ambitious new computing platform.

On Ethereum, the same types of services offered by companies like Facebook, Google, Ebay, and Amazon, will be provided instead by computers distributed around the globe. But how does Ethereum bring together these scattered nodes into one network? By using the groundbreaking organizational system known as a blockchain, which The Economist has aptly dubbed “the trust machine.”

It’s the same technology that makes possible peer-to-peer exchange of Bitcoins without a bank keeping track of who owns what. Ethereum is controlled by a different kind of blockchain that’s specifically designed to keep this decentralized network in sync, forming one powerful global computer that could one day match the capabilities of a Facebook or a Google.

To find out more about how Ethereum could transform the Internet, watch the story above. For downloadable versions, click the link below.’

 

A typical day in a blockchain-enabled world circa 2030

In 1687, Isaac Newton published his Principia, arguably the single greatest piece of intellectual writing in the history of mankind. This book made Newton famous because for the first time in history, someone had discovered simple mathematical formulas that could precisely describe the motion of the planets and other objects under the influence of gravity.

As great as this achievement was, the Principia had hidden within it another idea of even greater significance: the idea of infinitesimal calculus.2. Most of the technology on which modern society depends—computers, cell phones, and even atom bombs—could have existed in a world without a theory of gravitation; however, it is highly unlikely this technology could have existed in a world without calculus.

In 17th century Europe, not everyone could appreciate the value of calculus. Newton had crafted this very abstract innovation almost solely as a tool to solve the far more romantic and poetic problem of explaining the motions of the planets for the first time.

Certainly, it is far too early to estimate where and whether Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper will appear in the annals of important scientific publications. But one fact is clear: In the same way that Newton had to first discover calculus to explain the motions of the stars, so Satoshi had to first discover the idea of a distributed anonymous ledger, the blockchain, to invent the idealistic notion of a fully distributed cryptocurrency.

However, unlike calculus and the laws of gravitation, the concepts of a blockchain and cryptocurrency are inextricably linked; they are yin and yang. A distributed form of money simply cannot exist without the security provided to it by the blockchain. Similarly, a blockchain cannot be created without giving people incentives to create it, and the only possible incentive that could work is a distributed form of money!

There’s a blockchain for that!

“The code that secures Bitcoin could also power an alternate Internet. First, though, it has to work.

There’s this hopelessly geeky new technology. It’s too hard to understand and use. How could it ever break the mass market? Yet developers are excited, venture capital is pouring in, and industry players are taking note. Something big might be happening.

That is exactly how the Web looked back in 1994 — right before it exploded. Two decades later, it’s beginning to feel like we might be at a similar liminal moment. Our new contender for the Next Big Thing is the blockchain — the baffling yet alluring innovation that underlies the Bitcoin digital currency.

Wait a minute and I’ll explain exactly how the blockchain works. (Or at least try.) For now, think of it as a way of transferring a digital message from one party to another, where both parties can count on the integrity of the message, even when they don’t trust, or even know, each other. Right now, these messages are mostly virtual cash. But they could be any kind of information.

On an Internet where your inbox is besieged with spam, your credit card number’s about to be poached, and you can’t possibly remember all your passwords, this could be extremely useful. But it could be even more.

There is a contingent on today’s Internet—a minority, perhaps, but influential—who believe that the industry took a wrong turn over the past decade. That an Internet dominated by a few big companies is an unhealthy one. That the centralized-computing paradigm—of privately owned data silos housed in giant server farms that harvest our personal data in order to sell ads—is one that needs to change.

The entrepreneurs, coders and crypto experts leading the blockchain charge — I shall call them blockchainiacs, because they need a name — see this new technology as an antidote, and they are hopped up on dizzying visions of a disrupted future.”

What the Internet was for your parents, the blockchain will be for you

“When the Internet became mainstream in the mid-1990s, it was difficult to fully grasp the impact the transformative technology would have on society. Policymakers didn’t know how to regulate it, partly because they didn’t understand what it was capable of. At its onset, if a flurry of conflicting regulations from different government agencies had been imposed on this burgeoning technology, the Internet as we know it today might not exist.  Instead, we have this extraordinary source of information and a vessel of global commerce that is an essential aspect of everyday life for so many of us.

Now, a new disruptive innovation is emerging. Blockchain technology is re-imagining the way we transfer, store, and secure assets, including currencies, commodities, property, and identity.

In only a few short years, a technology that began as an alternative digital currency (bitcoin) that is sometimes associated with nefarious activity and fraud has managed to capture the imaginations of thousands of innovators and investors around the globe. If allowed to flourish, this technology has the potential to benefit consumers and enterprise on the scale other transformative inventions like railroads, automobiles, telephones, computers, and the Internet itself.”

Perspectives on Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies

“Many are looking to the blockchain to solve many decentralization and consensus problems. I believe the infrastructure people are seeking is possible to build, but not in the way blockchain and cryptocurrencies have been approaching it so far. There are fundamental flaws to the current popular approach that will keep it from ever reaching the scale on which we need collective intelligence, currencies, sense-making and distributed computing infrastructure to operate.

Of course, this is why we’ve been building Ceptr  — to provide the necessary infrastructure for these kinds of distributed systems. It solves all the same problems, but has been built from fundamentally different initial assumptions, so the more you know about cryptocurrencies, the harder it can be to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

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