Friday, April 22, 2016

A New Theory of Time: X-tention is Simultaneously Discrete and Continuous

Time has been conceived mainly as either discrete or continuous, but not widely as a simultaneity of the two. I would like to articulate a new theory of time in which time is reconceived as a ‘raw material’ whose natural state is both discrete and continuous. This is a “middle third” position that extends Husserl’s theory of internal time consciousness by being a new form of time in the middle between and connecting retention-protention (which are continuous) and recollection-expectation (which are discrete). What I am naming X-tention is this middle kind of time, existing in a primordial state that is simultaneously discrete and continuous, with the capacity to solidify into either in the case of a specific situation. Time could be analogous to another fundamental physical element, light, which exists in a superposition state of both particle and wave before collapsing into one or the other per observation.

Husserl's theory of internal time structure 
In The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness (1893-1917), Husserl expounds his theory of the structure of time. His core claim is that any present-now moment is comprised of three elements. There is a primal impression, the pure perception of the present now, plus a link to what this perception retains of just-recently past-now moments (retention) and what it anticipates of quickly-upcoming future-now moments (protention). Husserl distinguishes between two kinds of memory, primary memory as retention and secondary memory as recollection. Retention does not break continuity with the present-now moment; it is the part of a temporal object that contemplates its pastness and allows the present to emerge from the temporal background. Recollection does break continuity with the present; the current moment is interrupted to recall and re-represent past memory. Husserl’s theory is depicted in Figure 1.

A new middle third form of time: X-tention
Retention-protention is continuous; recollection-expectation is discrete. Recollection and expectation are piled-up snapshots of discrete past moments and imagined future events. When brought to mind, they are reproduced in a new present-now flow, but exist prior to recall or replay as un-presented discrete elements. The structure of the present-now moment, on the other hand, is a continuous flow of the intentional unity of primal impression and retention-protention. How far the retention-protention horizon extends is unclear. It might only encompass the most immediate recent-pasts and near-futures surrounding the primal impression of the present-now moment, or it might extend to include all previous and future experiences in the realms of recollection and expectation. I posit the conception of a middle third form of time, X-tention, to sit respectively between recollection and retention, and protention and expectation. My addition to Husserl’s theory is illustrated in Figure 2. Whereas protention and retention are continuous, and recollection and expectation are discrete, X-tention as the middle form of time is simultaneously discrete and continuous.

X-tention: a superposition of raw time collapsible into discreteness or continuousness
X-tention as the middle third conception of time is conceptually similar to light’s wave-particle duality. Like light, the idea is not that time is an either/or kind of a thing. Light is not the kind of thing that is a particle or a wave, light is the kind of a thing that is more fundamentally not either, and may behave like a wave or particle depending on the situation. Likewise, the nature of time could be that it is fundamentally a kind of a thing that is more malleable in its core state, and that may behave as discrete or continuous based on the situation. X-tentive time thus exists as a possibility space where time is simultaneously discrete and continuous, a superposition of the possibility of both until collapsed into a reality situation of one or the other. The metaphor is that of Schrödinger’s cat, which exists in a quantum superposition state of being simultaneously both dead and alive until an observer looks into the box and the state collapses into one or the other. With X-tention too, it is possible to “look into the box,” i.e.; force the superposition state of dual time possibility to collapse into a reality instance of either discreteness (recollection-expectation) or continuousness (retention-protention). The possibility state collapses into one determination or the other. Since time is a function of the intentional act of meaning, for Husserl, in the case of time, “observing” would be applying an intentional act of meaning. Applying an act of meaning, in the sense of directing intentionality toward an object or objective, would collapse the potential time instance into either retention-impression-protention (continuous) or recollection-expectation (discrete).

Why is a middle third position of time needed? 
It may well be queried why a middle third position of time might be needed. How is it that Husserl did not more explicitly connect the two time regimes? Likewise, while other subsequent thinkers of time such as Heidegger and Derrida have critiqued many aspects of Husserl's theory, they essentially adopted wholesale the time structure of continuous retention-impression-protention and discrete recollection-expectation. However, I think that the discrete and the continuous are too disjoint, and do not seem to connect closely ontologically, methodologically, or practically to each other. Even just the posited structure of time as a binary “either-or” state is an indication that these might not be the only states, or that like light, the more foundational nature of the phenomenon is such that discreteness and continuousness are merely proximate behavioral dimensions of a more profound underlying phenomenon. Conceiving of time as simultaneously both discrete and continuous might also more closely correspond to the real-life phenomenological experience of time, which can seem to be both simultaneously snapshot and flow in the course of lived experience. Moreover, this is congruent with the Husserlian project of phenomenology, describing “how” things are experienced, not “what” is experienced. In summary, the concept of the middle third term of time, X-tention, is simultaneous time duality, where one of time’s properties is discreteness versus continuousness. "Raw time" or "pure time" exists simultaneously in a superposition of both states before an intentional act of meaning collapses it into one or the other state. X-tention can be seen as a perdurant (e.g.; temporal object-based) temporality of complexity because indeterminacy (as non-determinacy) is a key property. A temporality of complexity is important as we are now starting to have the understanding and technological tools to approach reality in the more nuanced manner of complex systems (non-linear, dynamic, emergent, open, unknowable at the outset, interdependent, self-organizing) as opposed to situations of simple linear causality.

Matter, energy, and light vs. space and time
I am positing the case of light wave-particle duality as a metaphor, not necessarily as justificatory grounds for my conjecture of a middle third designation for time. Just because duality is true for light does not mean that duality would be true for time. For one thing, matter, energy, and light are one class of physical phenomena, while space and time are another. Matter, energy, and light are ‘what is there,’ while space and time are the composition of the background. It is not that light is grounds for time, but it could be that many or even all physical phenomena ultimately turn out to have a property of duality or multiplicity. At small enough scales, many phenomena in physics might have a duality or multiplicity of states and behaviors, or more broadly indeterminacy as a general property that collapses from possibility to actuality per certain conditions. The presence of an observer is also a dynamic that is not yet fully understood. Matter, energy, and light are inter-translatable per Einstein’s equivalency of E=mc2, and thus perhaps all subject to wave-particle duality in some sense.

Physics: Scientific formulations of time as simultaneously discrete and continuous 
The conceptualization of time as simultaneously discrete and continuous is an under-explored notion in the philosophy of time, but is enjoying some degree of investigation in physics. One interesting paper notes that information is a quantity which is both discrete and continuous, where time and other physical phenomena might be reconceived as simultaneously discrete and continuous with an information theoretic formulation. The specific calculation involves Shannon’s sampling theory, which is essentially scaling any ‘analog’ phenomenon down to a digital’ formulation, and translating between the two. Another theory, loop quantum gravity, also holds that time might be simultaneously discrete and continuous at small enough scales, like the smallest scale, the Planck length (1×10−35 m). Nanotechnology, the precise placement of atoms in positional nanoassembly as a comparison for example, takes place at the (1×10−9 m) scale. At the Planck scale, fundamental building blocks of spacetime might be composable like Legos into different spacetime fabrics, such as those of “regular” baryonic matter, dark matter, and dark energy.

More information: Temporality of the Future

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Blockchain Travel Apps

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and blockchain technology could have many useful and novel applications in the travel industry, for both individuals and business travelers, and also host destinations that are interested in attracting visitors.

1. Money - The first and most obvious blockchain travel application is money, taking advantage of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies for digital payments. Foreign currency exchange is an expensive hassle, and it could be much easier to pay with Bitcoin directly from a smartphone, when possible. If it is not possible to pay with Bitcoin, another crypto money application is obtaining local currency through worldwide Bitcoin ATMs or converting money from Bitcoin to local currency through a crypto exchange. Loyalty programs could be another crypto application, where blockchains could track point-garnering activity as it occurs, possibly denominated in crypto token that could be easily fungible and readily convertible to awards.

2. Passport - Another crypto travel application is storing important documents on the blockchain such as passports, visas, permits, identification cards, and driver’s licenses. One benefit is that documents presented in person could be confirmed with an Internet look-up of their blockchain-registered version. Another benefit is having easily-accessible back-up copies in the event of loss. Other new ideas expand the traditional notion of identity, for example beyond nation state citizenship, world citizenship (projects proposed by Bitnation and Chris Ellis) and Estonia’s e-Residency program. Beyond identity documents, it could also be helpful to have immunization records and EMRs (electronic medical records) accessible by blockchain.  

3. Reservations - Managing all of the many details of travel - flight, accommodation, transportation, and tour reservations – can require a lot of coordination that might be managed seamlessly by a Travel DAC (distributed autonomous corporation). This blockchain-based package of smart contracts could track, orchestrate, and update changes in travel details and keep travelers on top of their schedules. This would be like having a more extensive version of TripIt (multiple travel reservations in one application including automated status-updating) with blockchain-based AI functionality. A Travel DAC for business travelers could feature expense-tracking and reimbursement. Other Travel DAC applications could include monitoring airline prices for optimal dates or routes, and suggesting vendors per user preferences, such as those that accept cryptocurrency (for example LaZooz as opposed to Uber, or decentralized alternatives to Airbnb).  

4. Insurance and Provenance - Travel insurance could be selected through decentralized peer-to-peer based alternatives to traditional insurance that might be cheaper and offer more certainty in the case of claims payout dates and amounts. Blockchain-based peer-to-peer dispute resolution mechanisms also might be employed to adjudicate travel claims. Another application when purchasing an item for example, could be validating the item’s provenance (origin) through a quick blockchain look-up using item-tracking functionality from Provenance (or in industrial use cases, SKU Chain).

5. Disaster - In special cases such as natural disasters, blockchain-based applications could be indispensable in coordinating and tracking aid donations and supplies to their end recipients. ‘Disaster chains’ could also be used to help in managing volunteers, facilitating rescue-tracking, and even possibly getting around the scalability issues of overly-taxed communications networks in the case of disasters (with lighter-weight communications messaging).

Monday, March 14, 2016

Satoshi Roundtable: Is Bitcoin Dead due to Scalability Issues?

Scalability was the most prominent issue discussed at the February 26-28, 2016 Satoshi Roundtable (the Bitcoin industry's annual technical meeting).

This is expected as scalability is an ongoing issue to be resolved for any cryptocurrency to achieve mainstream adoption.

Bitcoin as the most mature and liquid cryptocurrency is being pushed towards current limits which prompts urgency to attend to scalability and other issues.

Scalability is a hard problem, and needs to be resolved at some point if cryptocurrencies are to succeed, here with Bitcoin, or in future iterations of other cryptocurrencies.

There are different technical proposals for Bitcoin and it is not clear which might be best, or even if these are the right type of solutions.

However, it is also clear that we might not know without trying, so one or more solutions will need to be implemented.

One scalability design question for example is whether to knit together activity from large bodies of side chains, or have one monolithic processing architecture.

There could already be a split to industry-specific chains that implement different forms of scalability functionality.

A need for more robust prototyping environments and multiple core developer teams has been suggested, which could be good as cryptocurrencies are fundamentally new territory.

Whatever solutions arrive for Bitcoin may not be the final solutions for all cryptocurrencies and the bigger potential economic future of ubiquitous digital payments.

There are always a host of technical issues in the rapidly-evolving cryptocurrency space, and another concern is the reward structure for Bitcoin miners, which is due to change in July.

Compared to scalability, this is not as big of a concern impacting Bitcoin's overall viability as the mining market tends to resiliently resettle around different set points of miner demand, supply, and rewards.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Cloudworld: A Hegelian Theory of Complexity and Algorithmic Reality

Philosophy could be an important conceptual resource in the determination of human-technology interactions for several reasons. First, philosophy concerns the topics of world, reality, self, society, aspirations, and meaning, all of which we are hoping to reconfigure and accentuate in our relations with technology. Improving human lives is after all one of the main purposes of technology. Second, philosophy relates to thinking, logic, reasoning, and being, which are the key properties of what we would like our technology entities to do. We would like our technology entities to be more like persons: pre-uncanny valley but fully-fledged tech others; thinker helpers, empathic listeners, coaches, optimizers; a new kind of technology-presenced companion. However, ensconced in recent computational advances, it has been neglected to look to thinking about thinking as a primary resource. Third, philosophy treats the grasping and naming of new things in the world, which is precisely helpful in the case of new and quickly-emerging technological realities.

Hegel could be a potentially helpful position in the consideration of the governance of emerging technologies. This is because the Hegelian reference point is specifically a moving dialogical expanding and not a pre-specified moment in response to unfolding situations. The Hegelian method involves triads: there is the thing itself, its negation, and a bigger third position that sublates the truth content out of the two previous positions into a new shape of its own consciousness. This kind of conceptual robustness could help in articulating more nuanced positions regarding emerging technologies and moving beyond stark binaries like ‘adopt-or-don’t adopt,’ technological dualism that ‘any technology has both good and evil uses,’ and a seemingly inevitable hopelessness in the face of existential risk.

The current situation of emerging technology is one of algorithmic reality. Not only are more new kinds of technology entities having a substantial presence in our human reality, where we are interacting with them on a regular basis, there is a sense of a quickening progression of these entities. There are drones, self-driving cars, personal home robots, quantified-self gadgets, Siri-commanded mobile phones, blockchain smart contract DACs, tradenets, deep-learning algorithms, big data clouds, brain-computer interfaces, neural hacking devices, augmented reality headsets, and deep-learning gaming worlds. Further, each of these technology classes is itself a platform, network, and app store, where the implication is cloudworld. Cloudworld is the notion of a deep multiplicity of networks as a compositional element of new algorithmic realities, where every network is a Turing-complete general computational substrate for every other. Any technology can immediately ‘grok,’ simulate, and run any other; the meaning of which from our human standpoint is vastly unclear. Derivatively, any sort of cloudmind (clustered interactions between multiple human minds or entities (e.g.; artificial intelligence) coordinated via the Internet cloud) might run on any platform.

A Hegelian theory of algorithmic reality is a complexity philosophy position, meaning that it has the properties of a complex adaptive system in being nonlinear, emergent, dynamic, open, unknowable, self-organizing, and interdependent. A complexity philosophy position is required to congruently correspond to the underlying reality which is itself complex. Algorithmic reality is not just an increasing degree of human-technology entity interaction but a multiplicity and proliferation of classes of network technology entities. The Hegelian position is exactly one that might constitute a bigger yes-and collaboration space that expansively accommodates all parties.

Inspiration: Minsky's legacy in the context of contemporary and near-future AI

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Magic Blockchains, but for Time? Blocktime Arbitrage

There is no doubt that blockchains are a reality-making technology, a mode and means of implementing as many flavors of our own crypto-enlightenments as we can imagine! This includes newer, flatter, more autonomous economic, political, ethical, scientific, and community systems. But not just in the familiar human social constructs like economics and politics, possibly in physical realities too like time. Blocktime’s temporal multiplicity and malleability suggest a reality feature we have never had access to before – making more time.

Blocktime: A General Temporality of Blockchains
Blocktime as blockchains’ own temporality allows the tantalizing possibility of rejiggering time and making it a malleable property of blockchains. The in-built time clock in blockchains is blocktime, the chain of time by which a certain number of blocks will have been confirmed. Time is specified in units of transaction block confirmation times, not minutes or hours like in a human time system. Block confirmation times are convertible to minutes, but these conversion metrics might change over time.

Blocktime Arbitrage
One key point is that the notion of blocktime, as an extension of computing clocktime more generally, creates a differential. Blocktime and human time already exist as different time schemas. A differential suggests that the two different systems might be used to reinforce each other, or that the differential could be exploited, arbitraging the two time frameworks. Through the differential too is the way to ‘make more time,’ by accessing events in another time trajectory. The conceptualization of time in computer science is already different than human time. Computing clocktime has more dimensions (discrete time, no time, asynchronous time, etc.) than human physical and biological time, which is continuous. Clocktime has always been different than human time. What is different with blocktime is that it builds in even more variability, and the future assignability of time through dapps and smart contracts. For example, MTL (machine trust language) time primitives might be assigned to a micropayment channel dapp as a time arbiter.
Time has not been future-specifiable before, in the way that it can be assigned in blocktime smart contracts.
Temporality as a Smart Contract Feature
Time speed-ups, slow-downs, event-waiting, and event-positing (a true futures-class technology) could become de rigueur blocktime specifications. Even the blocktime regime itself could be a contract-specifiable parameter per drop-down menu, just like legal regime. Temporality becomes a feature as smart contracts are launched and await events or changes in conditions to update contract states. Time malleability could itself be a feature, arbitraging blocktime with real time. An example of a time schema differential arising could be for example, a decentralized peer-to-peer loan that is coming due in blocktime, but where there have not been enough physical-world time cycles available for generating the ‘fiat resources’ to repay the loan. 

Blocktime Standards
In blocktime, the time interval at which things are done is by block. This is the time that it takes blocks to confirm, so blockchain system processes like those involving smart contracts are ordered around the conception of blocktime quanta or units. This is a different temporal paradigm than human lived time (whether Bergsonian doubled duration (the internal sense of time passing) or external measurable clocktime). The human time paradigm is one that is more variable and contingent. Human time is divided and unitized by the vagaries of human experience, by parameters such as day and night; week, weekend, and holiday; seasons; and more contingently, crises, eras, and historical events.

Since blocktime is an inherent blockchain feature, one of the easiest ways to programmatically specify future time intervals for event conditions and state changes in blockchain-based events is via blocktime. Arguably, it is easier, and more congruent and efficient, to call a time measure from within a system rather than from outside. It could be prohibitively costly for example, to specify an external programmatic call to NIST or another time oracle. Possibly the emerging convention could be to call NIST, including as a backup, confirmation, or comparison for blocktime. Currently, blockchain systems do not necessarily synchronize their internal clocktime with NIST, but the possibility of a vast web of worldwide smart contracts suggests the value and necessity of external time oracles, and raises new issues about global time measurement more generally. Especially since each different blockchain might have its own blocktime, there could be some standard means of coordinating blocktime synchronizations for interoperability, maybe via a time sidechain for example.

Novel Temporalities of Computing (Discontinuous) and Big Data (Predictive)
First computing clocktime made time malleable through its different discontinuous forms. Then machine learning and big data facilitated a new temporality, one oriented to the present and future, instead of responding to just the past. There was a shift from only being able to react to events retrospectively after they had passed, to now being able to model, simulate, plan, and act in real-time as events occur, and proactively structure future events. The current change is that blockchains and particularly smart contracts add exponential power to this; they are in some sense a future reality-making technology on steroids. Whole classes of industries (like mortgage servicing) might be outsourced to the seamless orchestration of blockchain dapps and DACs in the next phases of the automation economy. While Bitcoin is the spot market for transactions in the present moment, smart contracts are a robust futures market for locking in the automated orchestration of vast areas of digital activity.

Blockchain Historicity: Computer Memory of Human Events
Blockchain logs are a human event memory server. Blockchains are already event history keepers, and now with blocktime have even more responsibility as the memory computer of human events. It is now possible to think in terms of blockchain time sequences, in the anticipation and scoping of future events and activities, as blockchain reality unfolds, as opposed to human time scales and events. For example, there are normal human time sequences, like a one-year lease agreement. Other sequentiality is based on human-experienced conditions like ‘the park is open until dark,’ which makes little sense in a blocktime schema. There are time guidelines that vary per lived experience in human realities. Likewise, there could be analogs in lived experience in blockchain realities. Different events could mark the historicity of blockchains, for example, the time elapsed since the genesis block, and other metrics regarding number, amount, and the speed of transactions. In cryptophilosophy, Hegel, Benjamin, Holderlin, and Heidegger’s conceptions of historicity and temporality might be instantiated in the blocktime paradigm, where, in ecstatic temporality, historicity is the event from the future reaching back to present now (Heidegger, Being and Time, 474).

Related Crypto-philosophy Talk: Swan, M. “Bergson’s Qualitative, Kant’s Time and Imagination, and Blocktime Smart Contracts.” Spatiality & Temporality Conference. 11-13 December 2015. Warsaw, Poland. 

Monday, November 02, 2015

Machine Trust Language (MTL): Human-Machine Collaboration

Andreas Antonopoulos’s articulation of network-enforced trust primitives (Oct 2015, Feb 2014) could be extended more broadly into the concept of Machine Trust Language (MTL). While blockchains are being popularly conceived as trust machines, and as a new mode of creating societal shared trust, Andreas addresses how at the compositional level, this trust is being generated. The key idea is thinking in terms of a language of trust, of its primitives, its quanta, its elemental pieces, its phonemes, words, and grammar that can be assembled into a computational trust system.

Blockchains are a network-centric trust system that can make and enforce promises. A network is not just a decentralized architecture; a network can have functional properties built into it. Network-centric or network-enforced functionality can thus enable a more complex level of activity. As XML standardized, facilitated, and undergirded Internet I: the Internet of information transfer, MTL could similarly for the Internet II: the Internet of value transfer.

Trust Primitives: Technical Details
The atomistic building blocks of trust, trust primitives, arise from blockchain scripting languages; they are the programming functions or opcodes used to specify different situations. Some examples are OP_CHECKSIG (a script opcode used to verify that a signature is valid) and OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY (a script opcode used for a transaction output to be made unspendable until some point in the future).

As human language components are aggregated into different levels (phonemes, morphemes, lexemes, syntax, and context), so too can blockchain trust primitives. These indivisible blockchain trust particles, trust quanta, can be assembled into larger trust structures like payments. One example could be a micropayment channel with bidirectional settlement for vendor payment, for example entered in 1000 blocktime confirmations for 10 millibits. There could be libraries of standard trust primitives that are always included, for example, to verify the signature or multi-signature status of any transaction. The possibility of fine-grained trust primitives is limitless – a very small instruction set can be used as a toolkit for innovation that is composed into infinitely complex macro expressions. Some other examples Andreas mentions in addition to payment channels are stealth addresses, payment codes, and multisig escrows.

More sophisticated examples of in-built blockchain trust are already starting to become conceptual standards. One is Lighthouse, a cryptowallet that has crowdfunding (the ability to pledge funds to an address) as an incorporated feature; essentially a decentralized network Kickstarter program. The Kickstarter functionality is in the program (there is no custodian); just as Bitcoin allows digital currency transfers without a central bank, so too the Lighthouse wallet coordinates crowdfunding for projects without a central intermediary like Kickstarter. A whole series of similar network primitives with embedded trust functionality can be envisioned. These could include crowdfunding, reputation-checking, backfeeding (emergent collaboration), insurance, multisig, payment channels, peer-to-peer tipping (ProTip), compensation, remuneration, micropayments, IP tracking, backup (specified blockchain transaction record-keeping and archival), and advocacy (via third-party oracle like Smart Contract and Early Temple).

Trust as a Feature: Human-Machine Social Contracting
When trust becomes a ‘mere’ assumed included feature as opposed to a marveled at and explicitly designed functionality, we will have really arrived somewhere as a species. In some sense, the entire apparatus and infrastructure known as society has been produced to instill and manage trust. Deception had an evolutionary benefit, but is perhaps a quality that can be reconfigured, first in machine-mediated human interaction, and later in human biology. The longer-term endgame of blockchains-as-algorithmic-trust is human-machine collaboration, particularly in the application of shifting from the labor economy to the actualization economy. Given the increasing potential prevalence of machines in human existence, a looming topic is the kinds of social contracts that may be appropriate to establish between machines and humans. For example, consider what trust primitives might be needed to write a smart contract with your personalized home robot. To open a payment channel with your home robot, first could be identifying the relevant exchange streams for services and data. These might include personal data, life-logging, backup, diagnostics, advice, empathy, sound-boarding, home maintenance services, payments, and record-keeping; a list of operations that make sense to conduct in a ‘payment channel’ structure (e.g.; two-way open transfer over time of value between parties per triggering events).

A New Kind of Language
Here the concept would be considering the possibility space of all language and noticing that there could likely be a bigger range of language than has come into existence so far. There are human languages, computational languages, math, logic, and other systems of semantics and signifying. As seen with examples like math (Husserl), computing algorithms (Wolfram), intelligence (Yudkowsky), and self-assembled locomotion (Lipson) and life forms, what has been seen through the human example may be but a few nodes in a larger possibility space. The bigger query would be what new kinds of language can be made with blockchain trust primitives. Not just solving human problems (e.g.; creating automated trust structures) but creating new languages from these new functionalities. One next step could be applying linguistic theory (Chomsky, etc.), concept theory (Lakoff, Kant, etc.), and mathematics, logic, computation, complexity math, machine-learning, and deep-learning theory to creating platforms for the emergence of new kinds of language. The first task might be to optimize for obvious new types of trust language that might be possible and that might solve low-hanging fruit problems like offloading the cognitive and behavioral energy effort of deception to move to Brin’s Transparent Society. Blockchain trust could be for society what the quantified self fourth-person perspective was for the individual (a trustable independent objective arbitrator of information about reality).

Philosophy: A New Kind of Qualitative Language
A language of trust is undeniably qualitative. Trust is exactly the qualitative easing necessary for society to function, including in more intensive human-machine collaborations, and in larger scale universally-global and extraterrestrial singularity-class endeavors. Is it possible to reach a place with computational language to say what cannot be said with human language? Perhaps not in traditional 1s/0s computational language, but with a new kind of language of qualitative trust primitives, maybe yes. Wittgenstein famously said (the type of) all there is that can be said in the Tractatus, and in this crystallization pointed to what cannot be said, in three domains, ethics, aesthetics, and religion. Now thinking in terms of trust primitives and other qualitative primitives changes the question of what kinds of sentences and language can be written; the grammar and Wittgensteinian language games that can be enacted with blockchains; in an AI DAC and other applications. There could be many diverse blockchain cliometrics implementations in MTL; e.g.; the measurement of social qualitative factors like the amount of liberty in a political system. The notion is qualitative primitives and qualitative machine language; having a pourable bag of trust elements as components. There are trust primitives, and possibly many other kinds of qualitative primitives, for example freedom, autonomy, and choice primitives; idea primitives and innovation primitives; all of these could be on tap in a multi-faceted qualitative machine language to configure a life of crypto enlightenment

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Crypto Enlightenment: A Social Theory of Blockchains

There is something new and fundamental happening in the world which could be the start of the next enlightenment period. The core of this is shifting from centralized to decentralized models in all aspects of our lives, both individual and societally.

Cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin), blockchains, and decentralization) are not just about 1) digitizing and modernizing money, payments, economics, assets, legal contracts, and governance, thereby 2) accelerating the transition to the automation and actualization economy from the labor economy, but 3) more fundamentally, these factors are allowing us to re-explore our reality, and specify it as more internally-determined than externally-determined.

Societal Shared Trust is Algorithmic Trust
The tip of the iceberg is Bitcoin – digital money. Bitcoin runs on software called blockchain technology, which is a distributed ledger, a decentralized computational memory of human interactions. As individuals, we can place our trust in the computational system, and no longer need to trust institutions, third-party intermediaries like banks and governments, to coordinate our patterns of activity. Blockchains are a more trustworthy trust: algorithmic trust, not institutional trust.

Blockchain technology is technical (cryptographic ledgers); economic and political (a flatter more-extensible mode of organization); and psychological, sociological, and philosophical (new ways of conceiving reality). The real invitation and potentiality of blockchain technology is to radically rethink reality – what is it to decentralize everything we do and reconstitute life through a frame of abundance and immanence, attending to what is possible and desirable mindfully, not merely a reaction to a reality which seems determined by scarcity.

A New Philosophy of Economic Theory
A philosophy of economic theory is necessary since nearly all existing economic theories have taken scarcity as a central precept. These antiquated models configured by scarcity are weak philosophically because they are conceptually limited, and are also weak empirically since there is emerging and existing evidence of situations in the world where scarcity is not a parameter, and not the governing parameter. A ready example of this is digital goods, such as software or digital images, where there is essentially zero cost to producing another unit by copying the goods electronically.

Crypto Enlightenment is a Rethinking of Authority
There have been some paradigm-shifting moments in human history. The Enlightenment (1650-1800) concerned knowledge, and also importantly, authority. While there has been much rethinking and progression regarding knowledge, there has been less regarding authority since the modern notion of the individual as an agent in society arose during the Enlightenment. Now with the advent of blockchain technology and decentralized models, there can be a new consideration of authority. There is a possibility of constructing alternatives to centralized institutional power which has become a juggernaut of extraction instead of support; a less-trustworthy diminisher of rights and social goods instead of an extender and promulgator. Decentralized models empower the individual in radical new ways and call for the rethinking of authority for both the individual and society. Per the Internet revolution, we as individuals now taking self-responsibility for many activities such as deciding what and how we consume news media, entertainment, financial services, (stock-trading, credit services, portfolio management), and health services. Next is economic and governance systems.

To rethink the place and definition of authority, a philosophy of immanence is helpful and necessary. Immanence is the idea of self-determination from within; everything comes from within in a system, world, or person; structure and content are emergent and not pre-specified. Immanence contrasts with transcendence where everything comes from outside a system, world, or person; pre-determining the system externally per fixed specifications. One way of seeing reality is as immanence and transcendence; there is one side that is focused on recouping a pre-specified baseline ideal, and the other of open-ended immanence. Human emotion is an example from the natural world of baseline-immanence, where negative emotions (fear, anger) physiologically narrow possible pathways of action to fight, flight, or flee, where as positive emotions (love, compassion) trigger general, non-directional cognitive activation, a widened range of unspecified novel, creative, and unscripted courses of thought and action.

Much of human psychological activity might be said to be concerned with the attempt to attaining a baseline ideal that has been pre-specified and externally imposed, and as an ideal impossible to ever attain. Some of the contexts where these ideals impossibly govern behavior and psychology are ethics, justice, equality, liberty, subjectivation, and the pursuit of the good life. Attaining the baseline is an idea rooted in fixity, where the form (morphology) one begins with pre-determines possible outcomes. Baseline is a stance oriented to negating and critiquing, to narrowing, circumscribing, and closing-off; a ‘no’ energy. Certainly ideas of ideals may come from outside an individual, and the distinction is not acquiescing and adopting them wholesale, but introspecting as to how they would be useful appropriated individually for me; internally, reworked and reclaimed with autonomy to empower the individual. (Seeing how immanence and transcendence interact, Hegel terms this dialectics, or conversation of appropriation, as an immanent process of transcendence.)

The other side of reality is immanence, a determining from within. This is the open-ended stance of novel construction up and out from baseline into new territory; “yes-and” improvisation energy, collaboration, creativity, novelty, the new, thinking out-of-the box, greenfield, emergent, dynamic, serendipitous, flow, complexity, fractalization, and multi-dimensionality. Moving out open-endedly from baseline is an idea rooted in capability; growth is dictated by capacity (which can grow) and not morphology (which is fixed); capability and attitude determine possibility. Immanence is a stance oriented towards the affirmation of the positive, to “yes-and” energy.

Cryptocitizen Sensibility
The sensibility of the cryptocitizen is being in a stance of immanence with ourselves; trusting our internal selves more. There is more self-responsibility-taking; questioning, deciding, and designing which economic systems, political systems, communities, and labor systems (productive work effort) in which we would like to participate. The distinction is between ‘selecting governance services’ and ‘being governed,’ where increasingly, there is the possibility of a much higher degree of self-determination and self-creation in selecting the communities and structures in which we participate, particularly those related to economics and politics. Per a singularity-class technology like decentralized cryptographic models, these systems for organizing multi-party activity can scale way down to backgrounded trust-invoking microlevels in ways that were not previously possible in hierarchical models.

Abundance Theory of Flourishing
Theories of flourishing address how we might organize ourselves individually and societally towards the endeavor of the good life. Leaving aside the problematic language and valorization of the ‘good’ life, there are been three traditional types of theories of flourishing (Parfit, Reasons and Persons, 1984). Theories of flourishing have been hedonistic (seeking the greatest balance of pleasure over pain), conative (seeking desire fulfillment), and objective list theoretic (seeking to list other aspects that might constitute well-being in addition to pleasure and desire fulfillment).

1. Immanent Flourishing of Abundance: Sustenance + Actualization
A new theory can be proposed in line with modern themes, an Abundance Theory of Flourishing. An abundance theory of flourishing can be developed first through the baseline-immanence framework. The traditional conception of abundance has most-often been one-sided, focusing exclusively on reaching the baseline of post-scarcity, having all needs for material goods satisfied. Instead, an immanence theory also envisions the open-ended upside of potentiality that is now possible with this baseline of material goods satisfaction having been reached. An abundance theory of flourishing includes the two sides of reality, focusing on both survival and actualization. To count as flourishing, there is not just an alleviating of suffering in the form of having sustenance needs met, there would also need to be something in the positive register of immanence, allowing new and emergent potentiality to develop; this would constitute a true immanent flourishing of abundance.

2. Scarcity is a Social Pathology
An abundance theory of flourishing can be developed second through conceiving of scarcity as a social pathology. The conceptualization is that scarcity is not merely a constitutive parameter of existing economic theory, but that more pervasively, the notion of scarcity has been a psychologically harmful construct of thinking that needs to be overcome for a fuller realization of human potential. In an abundance theory of flourishing, scarcity is a social pathology to be resolved. Part of the justification for seeing scarcity as a social pathology is noticing the new and contributive social goods that are unavailable in the scarcity model and created by abundance. Some of these social goods include certainty, availability, reduced contingency, willingness, and cognitive easing and cognitive surplus.

Abundance creates a psychology of certainty and availability, a reliable ongoing feeling of certainty that material survival needs will be met, as opposed to the continuous uncertainty and attending-to required by scarcity. Much current human cognitive and physical effort (as individuals and groups; families, corporations, institutions, and nation-states) is devoted to anti-scarcity measures: hoarding, manipulation, and control for the purpose of ascertaining the future availability of resources. It is like doing for emotional and cognitive attending what just-in-time inventories did for manufacturing; it is an invoking of certainty and reliance about the real-time availability for need fulfillment. Through abundance, there could be the considerable social good of relief and certainty, where a whole class of cognitively-exertional activities drop off the reality of what has to be considered for basic living. This would be unprecedented in human history, a trustable source of having basic needs met such that we do not even have to think about this.

Cryptosustainability: Collaborating in the Self-sustaining Micropolis
The cryptocitizen sensibility of the individual extends to embodying new ways for the individual to be in society. Reviving the notion of the Greek statesman, there is a sense of civic duty to serve the republic. This can be recast as the self-directed cryptocitizen’s sense of civic collaboration, where part of meaning and purpose may be derived from participating in community sustainability. The new polis could be the micropolis as groups of individuals form self-sustaining cryptocommunities.

Peergrid Cryptosustaining Micropolises
The cryptocitizen’s civic collaboration is through providing peergrid resources. Here in communities of 20-50, I have a solar panel on my roof, my neighbor has a City Blooms hydroponic greens unit, the next person has a Tesla power wall, the next person is an ISP and hosts a Bitcoind node; etc. Each of us provides a piece of peergrid infrastructure supporting the overall sustainability of us as a community. The kids paper route of the future is maintaining the hydroponic greens unit. Individuals are civic infrastructure providers. Peergrids then are local community mesh networks of all needed resources including physical (energy, ICT, food, infrastructure) and emotional (empathy, belonging, contribution, meaning). Peergrid cryptosustaining micropolises can then federate, so the smartcity becomes a federation of local autonomous self-sustained communities. Blockchains are the trustable unobtrusive system for managing all of this in the background, allowing communities to move beyond free rider problems and other concerns that have prohibited easeful cooperative collaborations. Blockchains facilitate the ownership of community infrastructure (financing, transferring, operating, drawing assessments) in a community-based manner.

Crypto-Enlightenment Governance
Thus through the volitional responsibility-taking of the cryptocitizen as an individual self-determining economic and political systems of choice, and as an individual in society, collaboratively participating in self-sustaining micropolises, governance can be recast as a process of support (immanence) as opposed to extraction (baseline erosion). The actualization economy can thereby focus on (1) sustainable material survival and (2) the social goods of liberation: self-respect, self-esteem, and self-realization. Cryptosustainability communities are finally a means of prescriptively destabilizing non-value-added elites, implementing the original esprit of Rousseau, Rawls, and Locke.

Blockchains: a Grey Goo-Resistant Singularity-class Technology
The crypto-enlightenment includes seeing the potential impact of blockchains beyond the flexible recasting of human economic and political processes; blockchains are singularity-class technologies. A singularity-class technology is a technology for the large-scale trustful automated orchestration of vast and detailed processes. The power of singularity-class technologies, this level of technological orchestration of processes, possibly without our human participation, has given way to the fear of runaway technologies. The fear of runaway technology is in the same form, and persists across all singularity-class technologies, that AIs, robots, nanobots, 3D printers, matter compilers, space terraformers, synthetically-replicating bioengineered life, etc. will take over the world.

Blockchains are a potential solution to the fear of runway technology in any of these areas. The fear of runaway technology can be allayed in noticing that the very nature and design principles of singularity-class technologies, certainly blockchains, and by extension, perhaps any singularity-class technology, are that the large-scale orchestration cannot proceed otherwise than through a system of checks and balances. The key blockchain functionality principles are being a very-large scale automated system of checks and balances where all ‘transactions’ must be validated, confirm via a reputation or other mechanism, employing algorithmic trust and smartnetwork consensus mechanisms.

Singularity-class Technology Safety: Consensus Signing and Design Signing
This structure can carry into the implementation of singularity-class projects like friendly AI, autonomous lab robots (on-chain DAC IP discovery tracking), blockchain nano-compilers (Grey Goo worry: unchecked nanotech proliferation). Two key safety design principles in singularity-class technologies are 1) the required confirmation of any transaction or activity by smartnetwork consensus mechanisms which prevents non-bona fide behavior, and 2) signing; all transactions cannot help but be signed. Just as physical-world engineers sign the bridges they build (literally, as a claiming and responsibility mechanism), synbio, AI, space, etc. engineers cannot help but ‘sign’ their own building blocks like DNA designs. With traces as an inherent feature of technology, signing is unavoidable, so singularity-class technologies like propositional nanotech constructions would be either 1) signed by bona fide engineers, and 2) not be able to avoid having a traceable signature by befouled players (intentionally malicious or otherwise).

Spacechains: Blockchains in Space
A further as yet unconsidered application area for singularity-class technologies like blcockhains is spacechains: blockchains in space. The idea is that blockchains are not just an Earth-class technology, but also an extra-terrestrial-class technology for space projects. Blockchains can be used to coordinate very-large Earth-class terrestrial projects like billion-member DNA databanks and EMRs, and space-class problems too. Some of the many potential space applications of blockchains include space settlement, terraforming, asteroid mining, fuel generation, bombardment monitoring, and basic science observation. There could be colored-coin ledgers for energy, settlement, transport, and supplies. Further, spacechains are a fragility alleviation mechanism for terrestrial applications. It is surprising that we do not yet have backup for many terrestrial operations. Spacechains could help with this, providing data center back-up, geomagnetic solar protection, existential risk reduction, and Bitcoins in space (where there is an articulated project, (BitSats (like CubeSats)).

Curious what "Bitcoin and Blockchain are? Educational Resources: 
What can Blockchain do for you?
The real value of bitcoin and crypto currency technology - The Blockchain explained

Monday, October 05, 2015

Blockchain Financial Networks: Rethinking Risk and Finance with Automated Value Transfer

Internet transfers Information, and now Value
Blockchains are important because they constitute the next phase of the Internet, not just transferring information, but now transferring value: money, assets, and contracts. Blockchains are secure distributed ledgers, which can be implemented as globally-distributed financial networks. Ultimately, blockchain financial networks could automatically and independently confirm and monitor transactions, without central parties like banks or governments.

Fast-moving Crypto-economy

The crypto-economy is evolving quickly and it is crucial to watch and actively participate because
the uptake of blockchains could be extremely rapid, particularly by institutions. The crypto-economy is important to watch because:

  1. whereas a year ago crypto-technology was heresy, it is now becoming commonplace
  2. blockchains as a modernizing technology have a pervasive reach – including all cash, financial instruments, and contracts in economics and finance; and all legal, legislative, political, and governance operations 
  3. the decentralized structure of crypto-technology implies a reorganization of the existing financial system; and eventually, political system

The key benefit of blockchains as a modernizing technology is that they allow assets to be transferred immediately, not taking 3 days to settle (t=0, not t+3). This has a number of efficiency improvements including decreasing counterparty risk, reducing cost, improving liquidity, and instilling trust in the system.

Rethinking Risk
Blockchains, crypto-economics, and decentralization invite an explicit reconsideration of risk. Four risk regimes can be identified ranging from 1) traditional mutuality risk models (Lloyd’s of London) to 2) classical portfolio theory (CAPM, efficient frontiers, trinomial tress, value-at-risk) to 3) black swan risk models (more frequent unpredictable outsized events) to now 4) decentralized risk models. As we rethink the world of science through complexity, now too complexity is a model for rethinking risk. Part of the more robust consideration of risk is moving to a conceptualization of causality that is not exclusively straightforward and linear. Complexity math allows a rethinking of risk in decentralized network models of consensus trust.

Rethinking Finance
An institutional crypto-economy also calls into question the definition of finance. Finance can be seen as a spot and future contingency management system for assets and liabilities. In this definition, blockchains are improved form of contingency management, with greater precision, automation, and lower-risk. The Internet becomes a contingency management system with programmable money, smart contracts DACs, and distributed ledger transactions, all contributing to automated value transfer.

Realizing the Automation Economy
Distributed ledgers allow a more serious move into the Automation Economy, via secure value transfer previously unavailable with the Internet. Internet 1.0, the ‘non-secure’ Internet allowed the automation of several sectors such as news, information, entertainment, manufacturing, and to some extent health. Now Internet 2.0 seen as secure value transfer networks could facilitate the automation of the entire economic, money, finance sectors, as well as government, politics, and legal services. What is at stake is a fair and orderly transition from the Labor Economy to the Automation and Actualization Economy.
Automated value transfer is the bigger project of decentralization, algorithmic trust, and the automation economy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Blockchain Crypto-economics: The Actualization Economy of Immanence

Phase I: P2P Economies
There is considerable room for exploration in defining what the new possibility space of personalized, self-defined, emergent economic systems might comprise. Opening up economic systems could have different stages and phases. The first position could be having the same structure of current economic systems, but opening up the parties, interaction types, and business models. The idea of ‘decentralized reddit’ is an example of one such first position. It is still the same Internet pipes, providing the same news items to consumers. What could be different is the hosting, pricing, and business model. The web property reddit could be hosted in a decentralized manner, p2p-hosted by community peers, as opposed to being centrally-served by the company, reddit, Inc. Once the content is hosted by peers, the business model too can change. Instead of indirect advertising-supported centralized models coordinating the serving of eyeballs to vendors, direct pay-for-consumption or freely-contributed content models could go more naturally with a p2p-based content community. This means perhaps leaner economic models with greater price rationalization and value assessment of consumption by users.

Phase II: Rethinking Economic Systems as Coordination Systems
However, what is possible is not just different economic systems from a business model perspective, but something more fundamentally radical, a blueprint for a new economy. All of the first position, ‘decentralized reddit,’ no matter how decentralized, is still in the same structure, in the traditional structure of how economics has been conceived – of some parties producing goods of value consumed by others for some price (including for free in gift-economies). Extending this, the fully-fledged second position challenges and redesigns what is meant by economic systems, and claims that the purpose and value of economic systems is much broader. Markets have been the only application of economic systems, but the concept is more extensive.
Economics is a coordination system, of resources, but more broadly, of reality. 
Economics is a mediating and coordination system of our interactions with reality. Elements of economic theory might still make sense, like inputs, outputs, and resources, within this broader conceptualization of mediating reality. Resources could be more expansively defined, such as 'what resources are needed as inputs to brains being able to have ideas' as opposed to 'number of units of lumber sold.' Economics, instead of being defined as the production and consumption of scarce goods and services, could be reconceived more generally as a facilitation response to reality, concretized as a discovery and interaction process where something is discovered and valorized by a party, possibly in acknowledgement, interaction, and exchange with another party.

Phase III: Crypto-economics Facilitates the Shift from the Labor Economy to the Actualization Economy
Reconceiving economics as the more generalized form of (ontologically) what it is, a coordination system, allows its purpose to be substantially opened. The primary focus of what economics is about can shift. The locus of focus can change from how scarce goods are produced and distributed to instead, something much more generalized, to what our experience of reality is, and therefore to what kinds of responses to reality we would like to facilitate and enable. The notion of reality mediation design is so greenfield that the first question is 'what is important?' Economics can become a greenfield design frame about what might be possible in general in the world.

Yes-and! Abundance Economies of Immanence expand Reality
There are arguably two levels of ‘what is important’ – sustenance and actualization. First, certainly one dimension that is important is a post-scarcity situation for the material inputs required for healthy, flourishing human lives. The blockchain automation economy is making great strides towards this. Second, once basic needs are met, the focus can become one of immanence: open-ended expansion up from baseline survival to actualization in terms of growth, learning, creativity, collaboration, and contribution. True abundance is having these two levels; not just having survival-level needs met but also and more importantly, entering more fully into an existence of immanence, of open-ended upside potentiality - the actualization economy - and spending more cognitive time in this space. Abundance Theory Studies recognizes both of these dimensions: the immanent potentiality upside of existence, together with the baseline-attaining post-scarcity situation for material goods. True Abundance Economies focus on expanding the position of yes-and improvisation energy directed to self-expression, creativity, and novelty; expanding reality in ways that matter.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

DIYastronomy Drones and Vertical DAS (Distributed Autonomous Space)

The Planetary Science Institute has announced plans for the Atsa Suborbital Observatory. Suborbital observatories are a new category of infrastructure that fits into the overall landscape of astronomical observational infrastructure between sounding rockets (expensive with only a momentary window for observation) and higher-altitude space-based observatories (Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, Webb). Atsa is airborne-based, in this sense similar to SOFIA, though Atsa is able to access 3-5 minutes of zero-g, and is more modular, flying infrared, ultraviolet, and visible range observational equipment. For perhaps as low as $125,000, you might be able to specify your own commercial observing flight, possibly crowdfunded through Fiat Physica (‘kickstarter for physics’); in a sort of community supercomputing for astronomy.

DIYdrones and Vertical DAS (Distributed Autonomous Space)
The idea of on-demand modular observatories suggests the notion of "distributed autonomous space in space" more generally. Distributed autonomous space (self-delivering pod spaces, like mobile Airbnb for lodging, co-working, etc.) could be terrestrial, and also aerial. There is the idea of airsteading, the vertical analog to seasteading, maybe with self-flying dockable airpods; a potential feature of the future along with the road-steading one might do with self-driving vehicles. Short of funding one’s own concierge observations on Atsa, personalized drones might be employed for DIYastronomy (including via QS mind-controlled rigs). Personalized drone observatories might significantly expand the reach of both professional and amateur astronomers. There is also the possibility of adding astronomical observational nodes to space elevator stations. 3-5 minutes of zero-g time, even if expanded to 9-15 minutes by coordinated Atsa flights from Florida, Texas, and California; essentially a very-large array telescope in space, is still just a few minutes. Instead, modular, ubiquitous space elevator infrastructure might provide continual observational functionality, and other self-financing uses like solar power generation.

Cryptocitizen Decentralization Sensibility: Providing Peer Infrastructure
The emerging mindset of decentralization could include participating in networks by providing infrastructure. Citizen-supported infrastructure could supplement and eventually supplant government institution-provided infrastructure. Resilient community infrastructure and the idea of supplying peer node hosting for network resources was a hope of WiFi mesh networks. The concept of community-provided infrastructure did deploy in peer-to-peer file-sharing with Napster and BitTorrent, and community supercomputing projects like SETI@home and Protein Folding@home, and is now being considered for more kinds of infrastructure. Peer-hosted networks might be more resilient both technically and sociopolitically. Decentralized networks are more technologically sustainable and extensible. There is also a sense of self-empowerment and economic self-determination in peer-provided infrastructure, particularly as an important counterweight to corporate power in the developing blockchain industry.

Some examples of community-supported infrastructure could include self-hosted Bitcoin blockchain full transaction-history nodes (Bitcoind), (decentralized reddit), and personalized drone observation cams. DIYastronomy drones could give the world a mesh network architecture for asteroid watch and the monitoring of other space debris, and also the capture of terrestrial-based events and phenomena. Thus, the sensibility of the digital cryptocitizen could include participating in peer-supported network infrastructure for any variety of affinities; whether DIYastronomy drones for asteroid watch, blockchain ledger hosting, content hosting, decentralized Uber-Airbnb space providing, sustainable foodagtech microgreens hydroponic units, or other activities.