future

Showing 21 posts tagged future

Automated Network Investment Contracts: Ownership in the 21st century.

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The past year, I’ve delved deep into the blockchain rabbit hole, exploring all the opportunities (from building on payment channels, launching an altcoin to starting a payment search engine).

A lot of the ideas I worked on (from tipping, to creating new networks of value, to thinking about personal currencies and VR in the blockchain) has collided, and eventually lead to something new I want to introduce.

It’s called an Automated Network Investment Contract (tentative name). Other phrases could be: Automated Profit Share Contracts, Networked Investment Contracts, Automated Networked Sustainability Incentive Contracts. This is a continuation of CPDAOs I posted about previously.

It comes down to the following: automatically generating new wealth from being involved in different networks. The term “network” is purposefully open to interpretation as it can be anything: from people, to ideas, to companies, to cities, to artists, to fans, to nature, anything. Anything that has a network effect. And that is myriad. For the most part of our history, we’ve only really managed to capture networks of value in terms of a company (property is another). That made the most sense. We construct a set of rules to allow ownership in companies, so that the owners can generate income from it. What essentially happens is, is the value flows *through* the company and some of that profit is distributed to the stakeholders. As we know, very, very few people have access to enough capital to own parts of companies unless they eventually go public. Even then, the people that require ownership stake in things that produce “profit share”, won’t be able to buy any of it. While a person in a poor, rural community CAN buy public stock, they often don’t have enough wealth/money/knowledge to do that.

We’ve built monolothic institutions to maintain this, because that’s all we’ve known and *could* build.

But with cryptocurrencies, we can remove all the cruft and risk and generate automated investment contracts: allowing ownership in a lot of things not possible before.

One of the problems I’ve had with the idea of 7 billion personal currencies is the concept of liquidity between all the different networks of value. Exchanging large amounts of value between low liquidity networks introduces a lot more risk. The maintenance of all these tokens would be a UX nightmare. Not even mentioning the possibility of people to prematurely short a famous person’s stock just before they assassinate them. Or, for that matter, the possible embarrassing scenario where a person’s stock loses value and they don’t want to be involved with it anymore (ie, no “sunsetting” possibility). 

An Automated Network Investment Contract does away with a lot of these problems, doesn’t require new tokens and allows any network to be quantified (its up to the imagination of the people). Here’s how it works. It is surprisingly simple.

When you send money to the owner of the ANIC, part of the money goes to the owner, and part of the money goes straight to the stakeholders. You then automatically become a stakeholder. You then earn revenue from any subsequent payments to the ANIC up to a certain point.

It is thus collapsing the usual actions of having an ownership token (“stock”) and distributing “profit share” to it, in one action. There are thus no concept of a “stock” or a “token” of ownership. You are involved only as much as the contribution you make to the ANIC. Depending on the timeframe of the contract (depth of allowed stakeholders), you automatically leave it after some time, which represents your involvement with it. If you go the ANIC again for something, you re-enter your involvement.

This is a much more natural order of things. We ALL contribute to networks of value simply by “being”. By posting on this blog, I promote Tumblr and its success, however I’m not getting any profit share from it. Suddenly, in a world where we thrive on the value being produced by the zero marginal cost society, we become the products and we have to rely on something like advertising to sustain a network. Additionally, all the value that’s being created is only captured by a select few, which is completely lopsided. We are becoming the most creative society in history. We value a great tweet. We value a great photo on instagram. We do on some level understand that what the person has contributed should probably be correlated to a social IOU they should use to sustain themselves (rent, food, etc). But the current networks of value just doesn’t add up to that.

So, to go more in depth, here’s an example.

You frequent a coffee shop every day. Every time you buy a cup of coffee you pay the coffee shop. They take say 90% of the money, and the 10% gets distributed to the previous stakeholders (people who bought coffee before you). As you usually would, you tell your friends about the place, because it has great coffee (note: there would still be incentive to be honest as lying to get a return reduces the impact of your recommendations). The network of the coffee shop grows, and new payments to the ANIC of the coffee shops produces value for you. In some cases, you could generate the coffee you bought back. If you bought a meal, your investment would be automatically bigger (but only in relation to the fact that people mostly buy coffees there). It’s a relative difference to the usual payment amounts stored in the ANIC.

Similarly, an ANIC could be used for *any* payment endpoint, which can catalyse ideas & movements because people can get involved and share ownership where it wasn’t possible before. For example: tipping. If you like a piece of content, you can tip said creator. They receive 90% of it, and you will receive returns in the near future from subsequent tips. So, in other words, it creates incentive for value to flow simply to ideas. It can be a way for us to pull ideas more quickly into reality and give rise to movements automatically without any required existing tools.

For example. An ANIC can automatically send any funds it generates to a multi-sig address controlled by say 5 people leading an agency to promote the emphasis on sustainability.

An ANIC could even pay out automatically other ANICs to create smaller pockets/networks of value. For example, a band could release and album, and that album would have its own ANIC. Payouts to it will automatically flow into the band’s main ANIC (to promote ownership in both).

Similarly, someone can create only an *idea* for an ANIC. The ANIC would be a catch-all contract. An “environmental” umbrella ANIC would automatically split the revenue to several other ANICs. So the owners of that ANIC won’t generate any value from it. They simply helped to combine smaller networks into a bigger one.

Following on from this. Something we already take for granted and know. Our reputation is becoming more and more important… but we simply can’t buy a beer with a “chunk” of our reputation. The thing about an ANIC system is that your OWN network effect becomes a tool to create value. Simply by being involved with a lot of things, you can create value for yourself.

So, hopefully this creates a lot more liquid world where ownership is possible (and unlocked) for everyone. A local corner store. A person. An idea. Anything.

Ultimately. What it comes down to. To explain it in more understandable terms. We create “companies” of everything. We remove the organisational complexity of “stock” and collapse it into a simple automated contract for sharing ownership. To create the most wealth in this world will still be the domain of the creators as it always have (because an ANIC pays out constantly to the owner of it). Except, we unlock new networks of value that simply wasn’t possible before.

How will this work technically? Here comes the fun part.

I’ve given some thought about this. Currently, I’m having trouble thinking of ways to do this in Bitcoin. However, with the upcoming Ethereum platform, where “contracts are 1st-class citizens” it is much easier.

In short. The basic idea and parameters are as follows: There is a depth of how many stakeholders are in the contract at the same time. 10. 100. 1000. 10000, etc. It is a queue (first-in-first-out). If you pay, you get in at the top. Depending on your proportion relative to others, you receive income from each new payment through the ANIC.

The ANIC owner can set the percentage difference. 10% revenue share to 90% revenue share. Whatever works. I suspect an optimum will be found (might be different depending on different concepts). A marketplace could also exist. A new coffeeshop might increase their revenue share portion of it to attract new customers. Another thing to consider is liquidity. If you pay a popular ANIC contract you generate money quite quickly. This means popular contracts will attract more people. Marginally you want to promote people finding new things (with lower liquidity). Either that will be solved by market behaviour (owners of ANICs set depth and percentage), or the ANIC automatically adapts over time (smaller depth with higher liquidity for example).

Since Ethereum allows contracts to store information, this concept seems relatively trivial to implement. I just need to get around to learning the ropes.

Conclusion:

At the end of the day. This seems like a definite possibility to allow people to automatically partake in revenue sharing in every network they form a part of.

A lot of my thinking this year has mostly been looking at what potential the blockchain has to increase agency of people, especially in a world where “software is eating the world”. We need to invent new ways to represent social debt to each other.

Thanks to the people from The Cypherfunks, Humint (see Spinjar) & Ethereum for all the epic brainstorming over the past year.

P.S. Perhaps I should call this the “Web of Wealth”, both in reference to WWW and Dogecoin (which started a lot of all of this thinking).

Thoughts on Ethereum.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

Mihai Alisie (from Ethereum) nails it with post: dreaming with open minds. Lots of awesome nuggets in that post.

Back in December when I was researching personal coin ideas, just like Vitalik, I discovered that, at that stage, doing any kind of colored coin system on the Bitcoin blockchain will be possible, but very, very ‘hack’-y. I even came up with an overly complicated decentralized altcoin process (that probably has millions of holes). It was spammy and didn’t really feel like it would fit. And the odd combination of having to keep normal btc to transfer colored coins. It’s messy.

I was glad to discover that Vitalik started Ethereum: solving exactly those problems. And it is on the surface, a simple proposition: move the ‘unit of account’ to a processing unit. Ether, is the ‘gas’ to process multitude of smart contracts.

In Bitcoin’s case, the ‘transaction fee’ was what was paid to change state of the currency unit, processing a relatively simple contract on the ledger.

In Ethereum, this contract can become much more complex and a lot more can be changed in the state besides a “currency unit”. But now, a transaction fee in the case of Bitcoin won’t suffice [pay per kb], as more complex contracts would not match linearly with increase in size. And thus, ‘ether’ is used to process these contracts and state changes.

If you are up for some reading on this fine Thursday, do read the white paper: https://github.com/ethereum/wiki/wiki/%5BEnglish%5D-White-Paper.

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The potential this has is immense. I’m especially looking forward to working on decentralized reputation systems (so you could hopefully tap it more easily into systems such as OpenBazaar), and again working on personal coins.

But, that’s probably just low hanging fruit with Ethereum. I’m so so excited about what will happen, and what will be created. Here’s even a basic experiment in defining art with a dash of behavioural economics in a contract (by Rob Myers): http://bitcoinagile.com/5E897/ethereum-art-is_stream. Because why not?

The jury is still out on the economics of this system [including the concept of a pre-sale of ether]. But to able to figure it out is a really, really difficult problem.

At the end of the day, I take my hat off to the Ethereum guys. I like supporting people who create, and are passionate about what they are creating. Doing something so monumental is no easy task. There’s technical, economical, cryptographic & legal problems, and then you have to deal with the haters as well [don’t be a hater, be a creator].

As humanity, we are paving our way to defeating the entropy of large social systems, and whether Ethereum fails or succeeds, it’s a historical step.

I bought some ether so I can do some cool contracts when it launches and saying thanks to the hard-working team for doing epic shit. Not much, as I need to still bootstrap this new company I’m busy with. ;)

The blueprints for a decentralized Uber.

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Uber recently received $1.2 Billion in investment at a $17 Billion valuation. Kudos to them. Fundamentally, they provide a great service. They could become much bigger, filling into the niche of every “transport as a service”. If so, $17 billion is still low. Even though it is only just 4 years old, it already claims huge revenue.

It comes down to our revenue numbers, the growth of those numbers and our business model itself. … The [numbers] are incredibly compelling.

But. And here’s a thought experiment… We have a company in the business of market-making: matching up people to transport. They provide additional services that make it a more compelling experience: a reputation system for drivers, decent cars, vehicle tracking & instant payment through an app.

Like Michael Arrington states in this 2010 post about Uber, it solves the following annoyances:

In my order, that’s flagging one down, finding the cash to pay, and being in a sometimes disgusting car.

It brings the hallmarks of the ‘sharing economy’ to the transport industry: identity/reputation systems, and ease of transferring value. The same with Airbnb. Bringing in an ID/reputation system with the ease of value transfer. Apartment/home rentals abroad were often confusing & unorganised.

Fundamentally though, the services these companies provide alleviate some of the inefficiencies in bringing it all together: tying in reputation to a specific subset of a market (past time/space constraints), being a trusted brand & being the payment processor. Rightfully so, they take a cut for their services.

On a smaller scale, you wouldn’t require a third party, as the market would be efficient enough. There’s enough trust between participants so that people would be content to use normal means of “market making”. Take the example of a small seaside town. If you have friends that want to come visit you over the holidays, local knowledge, know-how and connection to the locals in the area is enough to find out who has a place free for your friends to come and stay. Once the scale becomes larger, and larger, these efficiencies become too large, and internet-scale services such as Airbnb & Uber are required.

So, what it it comes down to: when the scale becomes larger, we need third parties such as Airbnb & Uber to help us in market making… and we pay them for it.

There thus exists a hole in the market. An internet-scale decentralized, reputation-based marketplace (for everything). Immense costs will be cut. A more globally efficient market.

Ever since, I heard Mike Hearn talk about the possibility of a “TradeNet” (slides), I’ve been keeping an eye on this problem. A decentralized marketplace for everything (including machines posting jobs for machines). I’ve been slowly educating myself in the esoteric parts of how such a system could function, reading up things like Kademlia DHTs. By no means am I equipped yet to understand how it would work technically, but thankfully there’s people considerably smarter than I am!

And it is coming. It’s called OpenBazaar. OpenBazaar is a fork of DarkMarket. DarkMarket’s slant is decidedly more political. I’m much more a fan of the neutral-sounding OpenBazaar. It’s not just about being to sell anything, it’s also about solving efficiencies in global scale market making. It’s not just about being to able sell drugs. The media already looks at DarkMarket like it is only for that.

Brian Hoffman, current lead dev on the project, puts it succinctly:

“The goal is not to make it simple to find drugs or guns. Period. I am not spending my time contributing to something to help others buy drugs, I’m trying to help sellers save money on transaction and payment processing costs, and open up new customer bases. There’s a lot more here than drug or gun sales.”

OpenBazaar

In short, it is a p2p market. Cut one part of the hydra off, and it remains alive. It will have secure p2p merchants, anonymous rating systems & 3rd-party arbitration.

Without going into too technical detail, it will hopefully be possible for someone to build a global reputation for a specific market need (driving people around), and won’t require a third-party to bring it together.

A decentralized Uber could thus use OpenBazaar as its “back-end”, and then someone would build the additional features such as tracking of taxis. Others could use the same back-end and innovate. It could all be open-source too.

Of course, this would be simplifying parts of the process, and perhaps it wouldn’t necessarily be as close to Uber, but it is definitely possible, and it is definitely coming. If market efficiencies make it better for the driver and the passenger: cost cutting & saving on fees, it could be adopted like wildfire. It could also mean that markets could become more efficient. Uber’s top-down “surge pricing” might not be the most efficient.

It’s going to create rippling ramifications in the political/legal sphere. Uber & Airbnb are already bashing against them. But what will happen when all this gets decentralized? And what happens when not only humans start using this OpenBazaar, but autonomous agents as well [self-driving cars picking up packages and delivering them]? Also, imagine a permissionless, global marketplace? “Permissionless innovation” is a buzz-word, but seriously, imagine the possibilities?

All I know is, it will most likely create a world that will be more cost effective, and bring people closer. And that’s an experiment worth trying. Now, I just need to copy myself, so I can work on more of these awesome projects!

Thoughts?

Currency as language.

On this wonderful journey of cryptocurrencies, I explained why in the next decade there will be a currency for everything (even people).

One of the rising protagonists of the cryptocurrency movement is Andreas Antonopoulos. He shares my vision of a world where there will be thousands of currencies. He has a knack for distilling some of the concepts into succinct terms. During the recent Coinsummit conference, he mentioned this future again and used a term that so aptly describes what is going to happen.

Currency will become a language.

Because (soon) anyone can create a currency that is instantly global and more to secure to counterfeiting than any other form of money we’ve seen. And when this happens, people will have free choice to affiliate their monetary value to any community they wish.

When you are faced with an option to use equally secure forms of money with equal monetary value, you are going to use the one that speaks to you: that represents the ideas you want to affiliate with. For example: let’s say there is a currency for death-metal fans & a currency for jazz fans. If you had the option to (without financial risk*) to use one that speaks to you (jazz), you’ll use that one. It becomes a vote for that community. It is the glue & lifeblood that builds a foundation for those networks of value. I like putting it in terms of this other post I made about music & people’s disdain for when artists go mainstream. The “law of hipster connection” states: 

The more obscure and deeper down the rabbit hole of music you go, the deeper and more intimate connections between individuals become.

Replace “music” with any “meme” (in the Dawkins sense of the word). I use art as an explanation as well.

Understanding others through a cultural meme is sort like a proof-of-work for connection. If I like something, and someone else likes it as well, it speaks to what has happened in our life and the roads we unknowingly shared to be able to come together and appreciate that meme (note. Again, I’m using meme in the correct way here, not referring to funny internet jokes).

This week, through serendipity of the internet, Marc, a musician from Johannesburg called me to explain just how excited he is about “The Cypherfunks" (internet band & cryptocurrency community). It is inevitable then that barriers of trust are completely destroyed, because we both "get" it. It is a wonderful feeling.

And so, currencies will become languages: indirect votes of the community you affiliate with. If I use Dogecoin, it represents the welcome, light-hearted and charitable community we’ve come to know and love. If I use FUNK, it represents the community of musicians coming together to make music with others across the world. The currency becomes loaded with meaning, and that meaning speaks.

And that is so exciting. So incredibly exciting. It speaks to people in terms of agency & in terms of connection. The great inventions of the world bring us closer, because deep down, one of our greatest desires is to rally against this shell that is our body. We touch. We talk. We fall in love so that the barrier between us and others fall down. And that makes these experiments all the more worthwhile.

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*Just a note on financial risk. Of course, if we assume a very liquid world containing various networked currencies, there’s going to be some risk in holding a currency. The natural order of things is for communities to arise and die, but sometimes your propensity of risk is to not necessarily want to be financially involved. There are however ways to mitigate this, and it is already becoming possible. An example is Coinbase’s (apparently) upcoming feature that when people spend their Bitcoin, it immediately transfers your dollars in your Bank account (through ACH) to Bitcoin and pays with that (or replenishes it, straight afterwards). This means. When faced with a situation to pay for something, you can choose a currency, as long as it is immediately exchanged into the other. For those with less propensity of risk , they can keep their currency in a system that is currently more stable, and then when paying, it becomes a vote for a more specific community. Paying with Bitcoin through Coinbase using this method is a vote for Bitcoin: a community that represents this potential. In the future, it could even be from Bitcoin -> other currency networks.

A blockchain as host for a decentralized virtual/augmented reality.

So. Now that Facebook has acquired Oculus, there’s talk (on the Oculus) sub-reddit about metaverses. Facebook could make & build a metaverse. And they suspect that, of course, there will be multiple metaverses created by different companies. However, we stare slap-bang right into a problem of ownership & centralization… Something humanity has managed to solve in the form of… a blockchain.

Bitcoin is a shared ledger, currently used for currency. But that shared ledger technology can be used for almost anything. The incentive of the “tokens” used in it, should just be aligned with incentives to keep the blockchain alive. So, an example of this is Namecoin: a tool store decentralized dns. But which has also now been used to create a decentralized directory of people: onename.io.

Now. Thinking about virtual (& augmented reality for example), there WILL be incentives to create a metaverse not controlled by a central authority (such as Facebook). We’ll want to create objects in these spaces that are decentralized, and we have the technology to do so. Pure virtual reality might be some time off (as it is perhaps a bit more complex), but let’s look at augmented reality. If I place an augmented chocolate on the ground in front of my house, and someone else walks by with their (say Google Glass), they will need to be able to see it. So a bare minimum, this is already possible. You create a key-value system, similar to Namecoin, but call it AugmentedCoin. Similarly, you need AugCoins to store the coordinates of these virtual objects. The extra part is the reference to how this augmented object acts in the augmented space [if the reference is missing, it disappears?].

The beauty of this system too, is that proof-of-work can act as spam control. In order words, you can’t just place a shitload of bananas all over the meta-layer [over earth]. The basic form is that transaction fees limit continuous placing of objects. But you could also add another layer, where the higher fee becomes the first object (form of proof-of-sacrfice)?

Anyway. Just some quick thoughts. I do however think this is inevitable. It might some time to eke out the details (economics & technology), but it is entirely possible. If it can be decentralized, it WILL be decentralized.

The Cypherfunks. One month in.

Wow. What a crazy few weeks it’s been.

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[Thanks to Frederick for the photo]

On the 21st of February, the genesis block for The Cypherfunks was created: an internet band and currency. A project for musicians from around the world to come together and make music under one name [no permission is required]. The currency acts as quantification of the network.

Since then it has gotten wings in ways I did not imagine. As you can see from the photo above, never did I think I would be on national news in South Africa talking about it.

In other ways, it’s been more difficult than I imagined. Let’s talk about that first… Considering that this project comprises of 2 different communities, it’s been difficult to convince either of the benefit it provides. For the cryptocurrency, cypherfunks, is technically NOT an altcoin. It’s not supposed to compete with Bitcoin, Litecoin or Dogecoin. It’s a new way of crowdfunding, and it is using cryptocurrency as the method. For the musicians, explaining cryptocurrencies have also been an upwards battle. But it’s also more than that, it’s also explaining why cryptocurrencies is an effective way to attempt this experiment vs other forms of crowdfunding (in short: both are decentralized, that’s why crypto is better).

Chances are, the support behind this project is more than the price reflects (which is good and bad). Good, because there’s definitely support here that’s not obvious, but bad, because it’s not revealed in the price. For a project like this to succeed, liquidity is needed (from speculators).

On the plus side. It’s been amazing to see people from across the world get involved with project! 23 songs have been released, and people from Europe, Africa, America and Asia have gotten involved. It’s been exciting to see. Creatively, it’s also been a wonderful adventure (in just a month). I’m really proud about this collab (a totally original production fully within “The Cypherfunks”): https://soundcloud.com/simon-segfault/the-cypherfunks-weavers.

Such a nice blend of chillwave/electro-pop. Just the style I like. And it was birthed solely thanks to this project. In wonderful moments of serendipity, I met a journalist, Justin, at an informal dinner at one of Stellenbosch Unversity’s new student housings (which I was invited to thanks to Johannes). He invited me to an interview on RSG about the project. It was fun! And then the national news wanted an insert (thanks Naledi!). So odd, and wonderful at the same time.

Word of the project is proliferating to musicians across the world. For one month, it’s been such a great experience. I’ve met so many great people, listened to great music, appeared on national tv. And it’s only starting. So excited for where this will lead! Worth every penny so far!

It’s also birthed an entirely new start-up I’m so excited about, doing it with the coolest people. Will share it soon, once we have a prototype going.

We are the cypherfunks.

Bitcoin’s biggest innovation.

There’s so many facets to cryptocurrencies. Since I’ve been deep into the trenches, there’s just so many new great things about it that hasn’t been able before.

Things like smart property, decentralized contracts (that can disrupt civil law, arbitration, etc), payment channels, colored coins, decentralized autonomous corporations (2), trust-less storage and autonomous agents. I lose track sometimes. I’m sure I missed some.

When you can decentralize trust into a shared ledger, it brings about quite interesting new features as you can see by the examples above.

But. There’s one part of the cryptocurrency revolution that stands out.

Just like the web brought about the democratization of information and communication, so cryptocurrencies will do to value.

Let me reiterate:

Web - Democratization of information.

Cryptocurrencies - Democratization of value.

In humanity’s history, the systems that were capable of sustaining a currency were your larger institutions: governments (and more recently, banks). The reason was: only they were capable of protecting the currency from being counterfeited. Part of the faith required in using any form of currency is the belief that it is prohibitively difficult to counterfeit. If I on my own, start printing some paper money, and tell people to use it, they are going to laugh at me. The only way to make sure people don’t laugh at you, is to make sure you are big enough (in systems scale), so that faith can be put in your capability that it is not being counterfeited.

Even the mightiest institutions in the world have to constantly keep up: with an estimated $60 - $100 million counterfeit USD alone being in circulation (of the $1,29 trillion in circulation). Not a lot: a respectable 0.01 of cash in circulation. But, where does that leave any other institution? Nearly impossible. A lot of smaller banks failed due to the troubles of counterfeit bonds, and notes. It has been left to the devices of a select few institutions.

When you look at what the world of information looked like before the web, the pattern shows its colours. While it was easier than making a currency, information was still locked up in institutions that had the power to spread it. Media was in control: book publishers, newspapers, TV stations, radio, etc. The power of the man on the street was classifieds in their local newspaper and word-of-mouth.

We all know how that story played out. Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia. FREE information sharing, instantly across the globe. And we are all better off because of it.

Now, when you see what’s happening with cryptocurrencies, the same pattern emerges. Cryptocurrencies allow anyone to create one where counterfeiting IS NOT POSSIBLE. All you need is an electronic device to do some hashing (even smartphones can churn).

The power of the value maintainers are given to the hands of anyone and everyone. Currently, you can even create an altcoin with just a form. And it just going to become A LOT easier. Soon Jimmy in primary school can create a currency that’s STRONGER in terms of trust/security than any fiat currency.

Can we even fathom what this entails?

As Andreas Antonopoulos, eloquently stated: “We can now decouple monetary value from a currency”.

This will give freedom of choice, and agency to everyone who wants to opt-in. Freedom to store value wherever you decide it to be. The first obvious choice would be to take your value away from corrupt regimes and countries that mismanage a currency. People were once powerless against information spread by the media, and now we have the choice to make up our mind, enquire and research on our own. It doesn’t even have to be anti-statist, just like mass media now is still around (in a different form). It’s about empowering people.

People around the world have in JUST 2 months put their value ($50 million of it), in Dogecoin. And if you are a part of it, you know it’s (primarily) not about “sticking it to the man” and “regaining back control”. It’s fun, a great community, giving and welcoming. They’ve donated money to service dogs and olympians. It’s about people choosing to put value where people want their value to be.

You might scoff, and wonder “why the fuck would people do that”? And the beauty of it: you don’t HAVE to join. The information revolution brought about people sharing weird erotic fanfiction with others. Being a part of this information revolution doesn’t mean YOU have to read it. But it gives CHOICE, and freedom that you can find that information. With cryptocurrencies, it will be the same: freedom to affiliate value wherever you want it to be.

Just like some people have used the freedom of information to topple corrupt regimes, a lot of it was also about human connection (blogging, social networks, etc), and empowering others (wikipedia). Then there’s also doge and funny cat videos.

We’ll see cryptocurrencies undergo the same use cases: to subvert monetary mismanagement (see Argentina), but to also create the Dogecoin’s of the world AND all of the above will make it all worthwhile.

In what seems like a fun joke, the Dogecoin community had a big party in NYC recently, and put the Doge face on the Wall Street Bull.

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In the next decade, we’ll look back and realise just how much this picture meant. Now, we don’t quite know just what we are in for.

It’s a grand time to be alive.

Announcing Simoncoin - world’s first individual altcoin.

In the previous post, I explain how it came to this. I’m going to run this experiment, and it’s going to be risky, but I would love to see this future come to fruition.

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Simoncoin is an investment in me, and my capability to make the world a better place.

It’s an experiment that I have conviction on! The cat is out of the bag. Whether this is how the future will look, it remains to be seen, but I do believe that individual cryptocurrencies lights up a path to a future where we can invest in each other’s capability to make the world a better place. Someone won’t have to work menial jobs just to get by. You can become a very ‘wealthy’ person simply by being altruistic: giving back to a community, helping elders across the street or fighting injustices.

Perhaps the future versions will be different: minting colored coins on the Bitcoin blockchain, or using systems such as Open Transactions. But for now, let’s start with this.

For now. Simoncoin is going to be launched in January 2014. I’m busy creating my own fork, setting the monetary policy, creating wallets, creating a block explorer, pools and so on, before the launch. Most of the basic altcoin code is done. I need to set up the rest of the infrastructure though, as well generate the merkle root. But I’m going on holiday with the family soon, and I want to be present and not want to worry about fixing bugs.

Allowing people to easily create their own cryptocoins is a next step: and then creating an exchange for all of them is what I want to work on for next year. If you like this idea and want to get in touch (as developer or investor, don’t hesitate to contact me).

After this, creating a system where each altcoin can float and make it possible to pay with any altcoin (no matter how new) at any store. (ie altcoin -> BTC -> Bitpay).

In the far future, if this idea takes off, creating a system where buying another person’s coins could simply be as easy as walking past them: making it possible to easily and quickly invest in small gestures of goodwill.

EDIT (23 January).

Simoncoin is on hold for now. I’m trying to figure out the best way implement this idea. I believe the current way is probably not the best implementation.

In the future, everyone will have their own cryptocurrency.

Everyone in the next 10 - 20 years will have their own altcoin (or derivative of it). I’ll have a simoncoin.

In what sounds like an odd turn of events, recently launched dogecoin made me think deeply of how we ascribe value. Due to the ease of launching currencies (thanks to Bitcoin), it was inevitable that something like dogecoin would come along. However, looking at all the previous cryptocoins, all of them have been centered on some an idea: that is for the most part arbitrary. You have ‘feathercoin’, ‘worldcoin’, ‘litecoin’, ‘sexcoin’ etc. The strength of these coins as currency is its ability to kickstart and sustain a network effect (big or small). Having stronger concepts (and backing), allows it to sustain and continue to have value.

With Dogecoin however… there’s no lofty theme, or concept, other than doge: the meme. It’s currently very big on the net. Doge harnesses a strong existing network effect. Its usefulness as a currency is exactly that. It seems as if ‘money’ (or value) is a correlation to a network effect. Speaking to Bryce Weiner on twitter, he mentioned the idea of creating a cryptomarket based on celebrities.

And then the next step fell in place. What if Justin Bieber decides to back and launch his own altcoin? Buying and owning a part of Biebercoin is an investment in his network effect. There will be many teenagers wanting to pay and use Biebercoin as currency, and it will make sense for vendors to adopt and use it (in stores, in apps, etc). As investors, you’ll want to be a part of his success and thus own some of it. In other words, what if you saw Justin Bieber in his video ages ago, you could’ve bought some Biebercoin and took part in his success?

Jokingly, I told me friends about this, and they mentioned: imagine if there was there was a Mandelacoin right now?

And then it dawned on me…

Why not mint a cryptocurrency for each person? Mandelacoin and Biebercoin will be valuable by virtue of their achievements. But there are lesser (and other achievements) in life as well… and its value will be directly tied to the person’s ability to generate a network effect.

The beauty of this concept goes into another direction as well. We are continuously living in a world being eaten by software, where people are losing jobs left, right and center. Valuing the work being done, and getting paid for it is becoming a cock-up. If your net worth is simply tied to your network effect, you can become anything!

If you live a life of altruism, simply helping people in grand ways, you’ll generate a network effect and your net worth will grow as a result of it. You can be an artist. You can be a great mother in a community. You can contribute to open source software. All of the previously pure altruistic gestures will now generate wealth for an individual.

It also goes for the inverse. If you behave evil (what people perceive as evil), you will lose your net worth, as your money will be a direct vote on other people’s behaviour: a fluid ‘vote’ on people’s actions. In South Africa, our president Zuma, is squandering tax funds to build himself a massive home. The problem is: due to inefficiencies with how money and value flows, he’s locked up that net worth and power. Even if he behaves badly, ‘karma’ will take longer to decrease his power. It will have to lead to a breaking point, where the populace will get up and revolt. With this system, the populace can discreetly sell the Zumacoins they’ve accrued (when he was a more genuine leader), and let his wealth and power plummet.

So here’s an idea: create platforms, tools and suites to make it easy for people to launch their own coins. And then allow them easily exchange value between all the different coins. Make it float easily, so that I can pay with simoncoin at a store, even if they do not accept it explicitly. Or rather, fluidly spend the value of the coins I own of several people (ie spending Biebercoin for now, due it to having increased in value). Tipping and buying parts of other people could also be made extremely easy. Meet a kind stranger on the street one day, you can immediately then and there, discreetly buy some of their coins.

Value for now will probably be tied to its value in Bitcoin (as most altcoins are currently being valued) or the current reserve currency in the world: ie USD. However, into the future due the fluidity of the network of value, prices would probably be start being displayed specifically to you, perhaps as a percentage? ie, this beer will cost 0.0003% if your current net worth (whatever coins you hold).

Who’s in? Let’s do this!

For now, the going will be slow. We will start seeing (mostly tech) people slowly but surely minting their own coins (probably creating litecoin/scrypt forks), until a platform exists for anyone to easily create one, and allowing easier and quicker exchange between them.

Ideally, people would start minting their coins when they are born. At that stage, family would most likely be mining it for the first few years: allowing the child to eventually own their wealth when they come of age. If there is sign of genius, others could start buying some of the coin. But for now, we’ll have to go from here. Hopefully I get the most of my own coins. ;)

For established people, this process might be a bit more difficult. If Bieber releases his Biebercoin, he will have to contend with miners coming in and usurping his coin. But having a strong network effect could mean, he could either pre-mine some of it (to a reasonable degree), or simply through the wealth that he has buy it up as it comes into circulation.

There are some flaws to having millions of small coins: mainly security of the chains. Perhaps this idea will take some other form, in colored coins on the Bitcoin blockchain (best security) or through Open Transactions.

All I know is. It’s going to be a very interesting road ahead. And thus, I’m announcing Simoncoin. Launching in January 2014.

EDIT:

@gvrooyen, the director of the MIH Media Lab where I was at for the past 3 years, added a follow-up post: Cryptocurrencies as public shareholding, which is also worth a read.

What am I’m busy with, where I’m going, and Bitcoin powered, low-trust storage.

The past 2 months (since I handed in my thesis on the 2nd of September), I’ve been busy thinking: what next? As any early 20-something probably experiences, you are suddenly faced with immense opportunity, and you frankly are overwhelmed. I don’t want to say this with any form of ‘bragging’ or ‘ego’ attached, but being a coder/developer/programmer, the opportunities are even more pronounced. In the past 2 months, I’ve already been approached to join amazing people, doing fucking cool shit. I’m grateful. Immensely.

I’ve been enjoying the #funemployed life, which has basically been the same stuff I’ve been doing anyway, except with 3-4hours each day working on a thesis. Those 3 - 4 hours has mostly been replaced with reading, which I’ve neglected. I’m still busy making music, trawling the web, hacking on something and trying to meet people and hear the stories they have to tell.

As I’m coming closer to to the end of the year, some roads are becoming more clearer, and some have disappeared (*romantic interests*). I need and want to make a decision coming closer to December and thus I feel when I wrote a blog post about (articulating my thoughts), I come closer to those decisions, and hopefully gather insight and advice from the great people I’ve met through the web.

So here’s what I’m thinking. Each day, I’m just absolutely enamored with Bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies in general). It is just so exciting. On every level (economics, philosophy, politics, computer science, systems). I feel empowered when I think about Bitcoin. The potential is immense, and it hasn’t even started yet. My daily routine when waking up, contains checking Twitter, Email, Facebook and then r/Bitcoin, Bitcointalk, prices (BTC and LTC) and Bitcoin Foundation forums.

One of these ideas pertain to Bitcoin’s potential to allow programs to function autonomously as agents (https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Agents). It allows programs to function on an equal level to humans (and other programs). Separated from the need of a human actor to exist, programs can fulfill new and exciting roles in our lives. Here’s some example that’s been discussed:

1) Electric self-driving cars not owned by anyone. They own themselves. They earn money by driving people around (and potentially goods). They spend these Bitcoins to charge themselves at stations. All done automatically without the need of humans.

2) A website that earns money by providing a service to humans. This website then automatically pays its hosting service in Bitcoin to ‘exist’. All automatically.

3) A coffee machine. You pay Bitcoin per coffee. Once empty, it automatically orders more coffee from the vendor. No need for a human (or credit card).

I’m sure this idea is also very new, and there could be some very interesting new use cases that come about from the question: What would be able if programs/machines didn’t need humans to function? What would they be capable of providing?

I’ve had the pleasure of discussing some of these possibilities with Mike Hearn, one of the Bitcoin core developers and creator of the Bitcoinj library.

There’s more, but this is just some of examples. Watch this video where Mike discusses some of this:

One of these possibilities towards creating this autonomous economy of programs, is the “low hanging fruit” of providing autonomous, low-trust storage.

What would a service look like that can provide storage to programs without the need of a human (with a credit card)? Can a program easily access cloud storage with just a Bitcoin wallet at their disposal? Theoretically, yes, because with Bitcoin, they don’t need a human actor.

So, for the past 2 weeks, I’ve been looking at all the ways in which this is possible (discussing some of it with Mike). Bitcoin’s very clever scripting language (in outputs), allows very, very interesting use cases.

One of these methods are micropayment channels, that has been developed by Mike and recently put into the Bitcoinj library. What a micropayment channel allows, is a connection between a client and a server to transact on a pre-determined manner continuously without flooding the Bitcoin blockchain with small and large amounts of transactions. It does this by first locking up Bitcoin in multi-signature contract, and the creating a refund transaction back to client. The client then changes this refund transaction (more to server, and less to client) as time goes on, and the server verifies it. Once done, the server or client broadcasts this transaction to the Bitcoin network. It is a bit more technical, but that is the basic gist. Here is an example of what it allows:

You connect to a wifi router, and pay exactly for how long you are online. It is low-trust, because the transaction process immediately starts once you connect (and confirm), and you pay for each second, minute or hour you are using the wifi. No need to fund an account with a credit card, or sign up to a monthly service. All you need is a Bitcoin wallet, and you have immediate access to a wifi hotspot providing this service.

So, using micropayment channels, a form of low-trust connection can be created between a client (the program) and the server to store files.

Here’s how it would work (thanks to Mike for the help fleshing this out):

1) Open up micropayment channel between client and server.

2) Client pre-calculates a host of hash challenges of a file which it wants to upload. Hash challenges are used to make sure the server keeps the file, and does not immediately delete the file once it is uploaded.

3) Upload the file.

4) If server says, it is done, do a hash challenge to see if the file is there.

5) Client starts incrementing on the micropayment channel for the pre-determined amount of time it wants to keep the file on the server.

6) Server checks each increment to see if the client is behaving (paying for the correct amount of time the file is being hosted).

7) Clients does occasional hash challenges to see if the server is behaving (keeping the file).

8) If either misbehaves, they stop the connection, and broadcast the refund transaction as is at that point. If client misbehaved, the server revokes access to the file. If the server misbehaved, the client simply moves away (possibly to another file host that complies).

This allows programs to store files on a low-trust manner.

There are a lot of pieces towards creating an autonomous economy for programs, and I feel this is one such service that will have to exist: the AWS S3 for programs.

I’ve started working with the Bitcoinj library. Not very far, as I haven’t worked with Java in 4 years. I want to build such a service. But. This type of service is admittedly ‘far’ into the future. Autonomous programs have only recently started to become a possibility and all the puzzle pieces have to be built. The problem however, that I’m struggling with, is that such a service has to be both easier than requiring a human with a credit card, and relatively easy to implement for a programmer that wants to automate their program.

I’m very wary of creating something technical, that is cool to tech people, but does not really solve a problem. Creating a low-trust micropayment channel to host files autonomously is very cool, but if programmers rather just want to stick to hosting files on S3, then what is the point? Until programs can exist completely autonomously (a lot of puzzle pieces), using S3 will always be an easy option.

So. What I’m envisioning, on a code level is that just using something like (pseudocode), “file.upload(‘epic.txt’);”, it automatically connects to the Bitcoin wallet on that client, uploads to my service, initiates a channel and hosts the file for a day. THAT is much easier than having to require an S3 account, and requiring keys. So in that sense, it is hopefully easier for a human, and enables programs more mobility.

In this way, you solve the immediate need of making an easier alternative to S3, but also providing the scope for a future where programs will be fully autonomous.

So. Here I am. Trying to figure out this puzzle. I haven’t done something this technical since freshman year when I coded up a compiler. It is exciting, challenging and very, very interesting.

For November, I’m mainly planning on exploring this further, trying to reconcile the needs of such a service with programs and human users, and delving deeper into Bitcoinj, trying to create the technical side of it as well.

Once I’m further along with this, protruding this concept into existence, I can gather some more conviction on it. If it seems feasible, I want to continue with this, because it is just so fun and cool. Hopefully find some seed funding.

The other path is to anyway continue with this sort of experimentation… while I work for an awesome company doing epic shit with Bitcoin.

There’s always the distant other path of just making music, and disappearing into sunsets. ;)