Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Crypto Currencies

At the code school last night, I pumped Ben for insights regarding crypto-currencies, as I've raised with NPYM Friends the possibility of accepting bitcoin in some contexts.

Ben immediately directed my attention to Ethereum, a Web 3.0 initiative.  I've been immersing myself in that subculture, mostly using YouTube for that purpose.

For those just joining us, Quakerism is a decentralized role playing denomination, a network application based in 1600s innovations within the namespace of Christianity.  Power is not concentrated in any one individual.  Management is by rotation.

The Monthly Meeting, with a monthly business meeting is the Node for this network.  That our Meetings might want to develop internal currencies is no surprise in hindsight.

Perhaps it sounds paradoxical that a practice with a reputation for encouraging honesty is so interested in systems that do not require trust except in mathematical and physical principles.

"Gaming" or "scamming" or "undermining" a blockchain or other well-designed consensus protocol is difficult to impossible in a correctly implemented system, which doesn't mean bitcoin and ether are prohibiting gamification of businesses (those are different meanings of "game").

Cheating in a malicious sense can't be done against physical laws.  Illusionists give the impression it can be.

Why I in particular am researching in this direction is two-fold:

(A) I'm the clerk of the NPYM IT Committee (Oct 1, 2015 to Sept 30, 2017)


(B) DWA (the bookkeeping partnership I worked with) was a trusted third party of the kind Ethereum aims to replace, as no longer necessary.

Ethereum contracts are self-policing one might say.  However the trusted third parties of my generation would do well to wrap their minds around these new consensual systems and sign off, warn against, make claims of various types and so on.  Elders get looked to for such feedback, at least in the Quaker experience.

Dawn Wicca was the professional bookkeeper, the DW in DWA, passing the torch to her apprentice (not me), whereas I was an applications developer (mostly xBase / FoxPro) and curriculum designer (lots of Python).  Nonetheless, a lot of Dawn's bookkeeping savvy rubbed off by osmosis, informing my understanding of business, the socially responsible ones especially (DWA worked for idealistic nonprofits by and large).

Good to hear from Judy Smith as I was heading towards code school, stuck at a freight train crossing.  I hope to get over to Terrebonne, Oregon one of these days, in a code school bizmo maybe, provided Oregon State has a fleet ready, or were those to be 100% private sector?

Think of crypto-currency / crypto-law as ACID-compliance on steroids?  The move to distributed databases, distributed version control, led to this concept of an immutable growing code base, signature verified using hash functions to protect against bit flipping.

These crytographer-actuaries have a lot of euphemisms for people dying and losing access to private keys that way.  Instead it's always Bob losing his private key (wallet), not an instance of Bob not taking it with him.  We could say this euphemism is justifiable as whatever the circumstances, Bob is no longer able to use his wallet.  We hope he's made arrangements for this eventuality.

Wishes Upon Death is considered Oversight business in a Monthly Meeting.  I served on that committee numerous times and always encouraged polling Friends regarding how to manage cyber-credentials.  Do you wish us to retire your Facebook account?  What sort of web presence does a Friend wish to maintain?  In many cases these wishes are handled by family, however a Meeting is generally set up to serve in place of family members when appropriate.