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    It’s iffy, but I’m not removing this article because it’s about comparing the existing technical trade-offs to those of new/proposed systems clumped under “web3” rather than skipping over them to talk about business, scams, and other stuff that’s not topical here. Those two areas are so interdependent that I’m at a loss to offer a bright line dividing them; it’s not even clear which is driving which. Both HN and Reddit have large, broad conversations responding to this article, though, so that conversation is available if you want it. Let’s try to keep Lobsters focused on the technical discussion. (If you can draw a line between the two areas to define topicality in a way that’s reasonably predictable to boosters and skeptics alike, my inbox is open; please also note which religion you would like me to nominate you for sainthood in.)

    Also, I’m applying the merkle-trees (nee cryptocurrency) tag. It is our second-most filtered-out tag: currently 293 users, after meta at 1,367.

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      I didn’t see this until now.

      Let’s try to keep Lobsters focused on the technical discussion.

      That’s kind of difficult. What even is a system? And, our political criticism of it is founded in technical concerns (efficiency, scarcity, externalities).

      But I’ll take a break. I hope people don’t mistake that break as assent of web3.

      As frightening as it is to focus on the technical details of something like this, I do see the value in the strict focus Lobsters has. I’ll turn my computer off and go to bed. Thank you.

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        I’m applying the merkle-trees (nee cryptocurrency) tag. It is our second-most filtered-out tag

        People who filter out cryptocurrency posts, i.e. people who don’t like cryptocurrencies, will automatically filter out this post, and miss out on a technical analysis that provides a solid argument against it. I think it would be better to give them a chance to see this post.

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          People who filter out cryptocurrency posts probably don’t want to read a technical analysis about it at all, speaking as one of them

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        The author is a world expert academic on computer security and distributed systems. I’m grateful to see people like him speak out in a platform like Usenix against the increasing mania of Web3. I’d be all for experimenting with new kinds of decentralized systems if the root of it all wasn’t a giant financial fraud.

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          The best argument for NFTs for me has been listening to the No Plans to Merge podcast where one of the hosts got into flipping Solana swine: https://noplanstomerge.com/92

          What I take away from that is that at its best, NFTs can be real money Neopets. Trading Neopets is fun. Playing the old Drug Wars game on a calculator is fun. Playing gatcha games on your phone for waifus is fun. Buying low and selling high is fun. Gambling is fun. Using real money for gambling instead of game tokens is fun.

          But gambling also has a real social cost in terms of addiction and fraud, and shouldn’t be left unregulated. If there are people who want to trade NFTs for fun instead of doing dollar stocks or whatever, that’s fine, but there needs to be caps on these things to keep people from getting hurt when the sellers are all trading inside information and fleecing the gambling addicts.

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            This is a very poorly written article even ignoring the consistent misspelling of Sybil. It would be far better without the attempts to prejudice the reader (or “suckers” if they are interested in trying it out) with the charged language.

            The technical argument, when extracted from the surrounding pathos, seems akin to that used in around 1999 when the web was deemed too slow/clunky/expensive to replace desktop applications.

            That said, it does highlight the problematic role of gatekeepers but glosses over the fundamental issue of who appoints them and somehow ends up praising them, especially the financial gatekeepers. Someone should check in with the hundreds of thousands of sex workers whose legal incomes are in the hands of the moral pressure groups targeting mastercard and visa.

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              Someone should check in with the hundreds of thousands of sex workers whose legal incomes are in the hands of the moral pressure groups targeting mastercard and visa.

              One of my close friends is a sex worker who is very, very tired of this argument. According to her, everybody saying “crypto is good for sex workers!” don’t actually know anything about the realities of sex work.

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                Most arguments for cryptocurrencies in other spaces (helping the “unbanked”, remittances, even simple payments) seem to made by people who have only learned about these business practices from particularly insular web fora.

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                  I’m arguing against gatekeepers, not for crypto

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                    If it helps, an example I actually have first-hand experience with is the case of cannabis dispensaries. Cannabis remains federally illegal in the US but individual states allow cannabis usage to varying degrees. The states in the US have a patchwork of differing regulations regarding product storage and certification. Most importantly, many of these dispensaries have a hard time entering the regular banking system and have to store a lot of money in cash. As such many of these dispensaries are frequent targets for robberies and break-ins because they make such lucrative targets. Many who run these dispensaries have enough on their plates as-is managing the complicated requirements of the industry, and managing cash is really not their thing (at least the ones I know.) Cryptocurrency is a fairly good solution for this space.

                    (P.S. I don’t really want to draw this out into a huge flamewar or start discussing the meta opinions of “blockchain people” or “not blockchain people” and the spaces they frequent as happens on most tech aggregators. I find those exhausting and my comment is as-is almost completely off-topic for this site. I don’t mean that specifically to you as much as to the general audience of the site. I probably won’t respond to this. Apologies in advance.)

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                    And the problem are not the moral pressure groups? But VISA itself? What do you think will happen once all sex workers move to the new shiny solution? That they won’t try to ban that next? Judicial courts don’t care that something is very technically uncensorable, they’ll take the whole damn blockchain down if they have to.

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                      Right, this is kindof an important point; it’s not hard to come up with illicit-but-sympathetic use cases, whether it’s supporting things that are illegal but shouldn’t be, or are just marginalized by the existing financial system but shouldn’t be.

                      I was sympathetic to bitcoin early on, not in the least because in 2010 – about a year after bitcoin was new – Chelsea Manning & Wikileaks leaked video of the US military murdering Iraqi civilians. The major payment processors at the time all shut down donations to Wikileaks. This is in a country where freedom of the press is better protected than it is in most places. Watching that made it very easy to buy into the idea that uncensorable financial transactions were a very good idea.

                      …but effective anti-censorship technologies need uncontroversial use cases for cover. E.g. encryption is critical for hiding credit card numbers in flight, and providing government back doors would seriously weaken the technology, and likely be a boon for criminals. There are many non-illicit reasons why one might want privacy in one’s communications, and government censorship is only one of them.

                      So, even if you’re of the opinion that the anti-censorship angle is enough to make cryptocurrency good in principle, it is doomed unless you can find something less controversial that is also compelling. So far, I haven’t seen anything like that, and that’s before getting into all of the actual problems with cryptocurrencies.

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                    The only “utility” for a cryptocurrency (outside criminal transactions and financial frauds) is what someone else will pay for it and anything to pretend a possible real-word utility exists to help find new suckers.

                    It’s also useful for making transactions that are strictly legal under the laws of the state, but that the people running the common payment processors don’t want you to make (possibly due to some amount of informal, off-the-record coercion from the government, or possibly on their own volition). I’ve personally used cryptocurrency transactions to send money to people who were being informally blacklisted by certain parts of the financial system.

                    In any case, I don’t think that the utility of being able to make criminal transactions is worthy of casual dismissal. There are lots of states in the world, with lots of laws regulating financial activity, either for its own sake or in order to accomplish some other state goal, and I don’t trust that all such laws are actually good.

                    It’s true that you can use cryptocurrency to commit fraud; but you can also do that with electronic fiat currency, or physical cash or gold or Ea-Nasir’s famous copper ingots. That’s not an argument against using cryptocurrency specifically.

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                      In any case, I don’t think that the utility of being able to make criminal transactions is worthy of casual dismissal.

                      I do. People bring this up as a defense of web3, but it’s libertarian insanity. Government is a thing we do together. If government is broken, that’s the problem. You don’t fix the problem by having people flout the law. That’s just adding a second problem instead of fixing the first!

                      It’s like saying there’s a tiger in my house, but it’s okay because all the windows are smashed. Tigers are extremely bad, and you should not tolerate them! Broken glass is also very bad (not as bad as tigers, but quite bad!), and while yes, the tiger does make having a broken window seem useful, it’s not actually helping in any way. Also, the tiger can just jump out the window and eat you anyway! (In the analogy, a bad government can still force you to not do crypto transactions by use of force. Crypto only mitigates against bad but lazy governments.)

                      At the end of the day, there’s no alternative to society. Lone human beings die. At the very least you need a decade of training to learn how to survive in the woods alone, and then you need unoccupied woods! If your society is bad, you can try to change it or you can join a different society, but you can’t just ignore it and think you’ve solved things.

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                        Government is a thing we do together. If government is broken, that’s the problem.

                        I agree, but sadly, this is a version of reality exclusive to relatively-well-functioning democracies. Lots of people don’t live in those. That said, cryptocurrency probably isn’t necessarily going to help those people much either.

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                          Government is a thing we do together everywhere. The reason democracy is good is that it has a mechanism built in to acknowledge this reality, but even in e.g. North Korea, the system doesn’t work without apparatchiks who do whatever Kim Jong-un tells them to do. In every case, government is based on the consent of the governed. In any event, crypto in NK just helps the state evade global currency controls, but does not help the man on the street who is not able to afford or allowed to have an internet connected computer.

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                            In every case, government is based on the consent of the governed.

                            This is true for some definition of “consent”, but I don’t think it’s a very useful definition. Indeed, in repressive regimes the choice is often “live your life as well as you can under the circumstances”, or “fight the system and almost certainly die or be imprisoned”. I don’t think it’s at all fair to claim that NK governs “by consent of its people” when this is the situation for most of those people.

                            There is of course always a question of whether a given technology is helpful or harmful to those who might want to change the government, and it’s not clear to me which way this goes with respect to decentralized currency and apps - it seems highly contingent on facts about each regime and its citizens.

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                              It’s a semantic argument about the meaning of “consent”. Certainly, in dictatorships where the Schelling point changes, the dictator ends up hung in a town square. If you want to use a different word for that than a withdraw of “consent” fine, but no government works without 80%+ of people going with the flow.

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                          I’m on my phone so I am not going to be able to give as good a response as I’d like but I believe you are making a unfair assumption about the means of fixing government (namely you assume it is always good and possible to fix government using government) however I think that in certain (extreme!) situations it is necessary to essentially “rewrite it” furthermore I believe we just happen to be living in such an extreme time so I am sympathetic to the “crime must be possible” viewpoint because we certainly have not made a sound+complete system of law and our governance is failing to adjust to various changes (mostly internet right now but global warming is also an elephant in the room).

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                            namely you assume it is always good and possible to fix government using government

                            I am not assuming that.

                            furthermore I believe we just happen to be living in such an extreme time

                            LOL, not if you live in the United States or the EU. Not even close.

                            mostly internet right now but global warming is also an elephant in the room

                            Climate change is an international coordination problem. Making it easier to evade national rules does not help with international coordination. The opposite, in fact.

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                              Our premise is not compatible, I’d be curious how you define coordination because from how you use it I read it almost as a synonym for “benevolent dictator” - one concept that may nudge your premise closer to mine is “evolving to extinction” - the “high modernism” of monoculture agriculture + GMO + pesticide / antibiotics are examples of these hyper-efficient but very brittle optimizations that can blow up in out face if the climate shifts a bit (or any of our current assumptions gets invalidated).

                              Web3 is nonsense (or at least the way it is marketed) and PoS/PoW as a consensus mechanism are also not a solution to the real problems but that doesn’t mean that you are right about these other points you make; evading national rules will likely become a necessity in some places (arguably already has).

                              Anyway all your responses are just catchy soundbites I don’t see any real point being made.

                              Flouting national law is exactly going to be a very important thing to do if we want the international coordination required to react to climate problems (fwict).

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                                Are you proposing wildcat geoengineering? I mean, if you think it’s come to that, wow, but I don’t think so, and to the extent we do climate hacking, it should be with international treaties and as much democracy as possible because we all share the same planet.

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                                  No I am suggesting that the economic system is the driver of pollution and that by rights it shouldn’t be considered legitimate, countries that could perfectly well stand on their own are in ruins due to economic policies that citizen should be able to subvert or circumvent in order to organize into actually functioning communities and economies for dealing with the actual problems.

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                                    I see. I agree that capitalism is problematic and needs to be constrained because the core assumption of endless growth is not healthy. OTOH, the Soviets literally erased the Aral Sea by mismanaging their economy, so I don’t want make the mistake of assuming that something else is going to work just because it purports to be different. It’s not a good situation when there’s one huge, seemingly impossible problem, and then someone says, Oh, to solve that problem we just need to solve this other huge, seemingly impossible problem.

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                            In the analogy, a bad government can still force you to not do crypto transactions by use of force.

                            Offering up that choice is exactly the point. Eroding a bad government’s ability to masquerade as a good one is a means of social change.

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                            That’s not an argument against using cryptocurrency specifically.

                            So what we’re saying isn’t that “cryptocurrency can be used to buy illegal drugs and therefore crypto is bad”. We’re saying “one of the few use cases of cryptocurrency is to buy illegal drugs”.

                            Cryptocurrency has other problems (efficiency, climate impact, cost, volatility), some of which are outlined in the article.

                            If the only point in cryptocurrency’s favor (scoring some tabs on the DL) is getting misinterpreted as an argument against it, then that’s saying something about how awful cryptocurrency is overall.

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                              And I’m saying that the ability to buy “illegal drugs” is actually a really important use case that itself justifies the use of cryptocurrencies - especially when you extend the category to any type of transactions that is illegal or informally restricted by payment processors.

                              My point was about fraud though - I don’t care that it is possible to defraud people using cryptocurrency, because it has always been possible to defraud people with non-cryptocurrencies. Mitigating the possibility of fraud is something that has been a consideration for every economic transaction we’ve ever done in our lives, going back 4000 years to the Ea-Nasir tablet. Cryptocurrencies allow both new types of fraud and new ways to mitigate fraud; they are not fundamentally a fraud-prone medium of exchange distinct from other ways of implementing money.

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                                We’re still talking past each other.

                                You don’t need to convince me that enabling restricted transactions is a pro (although your defensiveness around it tells me that it’s a kind of iffy pro).

                                Instead, look at the enormity of what’s more unambiguously in “con” column.

                                We who hate cryptocurrency are arguing against a world computer weaker than a Raspberry Pi, insane energy waste and electronics waste..

                                That’s what tech dorks urgently need to have a conversation about.

                                The web3 hype as a whole with its weak and flaky tech is a scam to suck bagholders into crypto.

                                The article is about web3, about wack stuff like Reddit tying upvotes and karma into proof of work blockchain tokens etc. That kind of kooky BS is what we need to put a kibosh to because it’ll eat the Earth.

                                The tech stack sucks and is fraudulently oversold.

                                That’s a bigger problem than getting the best dope stash on the cinder.

                                If someone says “the only use case (outside of foo) is bad, and there’s these thirty thousand other horrible showstopping problems” there’s no point in trying to convince them that “foo is good”. They said outside of foo,

                                Like, my foot is pretty good and important but If someone said “The only reason (outside of you getting to keep your foot) that you should take this new medicine is that we’ll make money, because the drawbacks include your head falling off and your heart stopping and your tongue turning to ash”. I don’t wanna hear about how good it is to have a foot, I’m not ready to lose my head over it!

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                                  We who hate cryptocurrency are arguing against a world computer weaker than a Raspberry Pi, insane energy waste and electronics waste..

                                  It doesn’t bother me that the Ethereum blockchain is a weaker computer than a RasPi in some sense, any more so than it bothers me that the RasPi is weaker in some sense than a commercial server rack. These are different constructs designed for different tasks, and there’s no reason why I can’t use all of them at different times for different purposes. The point of the Ethereum blockchain is that it’s a censorship-resistant global smart contract platform, which is not a thing an individual RasPi can do. It doesn’t matter that the Ethereum blockchain would be bad at doing things I might do with my RasPi, like running my home automation system. Of course I’m not arguing that it would be bad if the Ethereum blockchain had higher computational throughput, or that Ethereum specifically is the best smart contract platform.

                                  I also don’t care that some people think the existence of blockchains constitutes energy and hardware waste. Whether or not you view the use of some resource as waste depends on your judgment of the ends to which those resources are put, which is the actual thing we disagree about. It takes a lot of energy and raw materials to manufacture Raspberry Pi’s, but I wouldn’t call that waste because RasPi’s are a product people are willing to pay money for to accomplish goals, just like blockchain computations.

                                  That’s what tech dorks urgently need to have a conversation about.

                                  As a tech dork (I prefer the term “professional computer programmer”), I deliberately decided to seek software developer jobs at companies working on cryptocurrency-adjacent technologies, because I think this technology is important and I want to work on making it better. If other technologists think that cryptocurrency is bad and that I shouldn’t do this, then I do so in defiance of those people. If other people want to impose political changes in polities I live in to try to make it harder to legally work with cryptocurrencies, I will fight them on the political level.

                                  The article is about web3, about wack stuff like Reddit tying upvotes and karma into proof of work blockchain tokens etc. That kind of kooky BS is what we need to put a kibosh to because it’ll eat the Earth.

                                  I don’t think it is a bad idea for a Reddit-like communication platform to be implemented using smart contracts, although I am skeptical of the motivations of Reddit as a company in doing so. A lot of the problems with Reddit are precisely that a single, rather-small private firm controls the canonical database holding the upvotes and karma and so forth, and can mess with them in arbitrary ways, including ways that the userbase disapproves of. A smart-contract based solution removes the single point of control, which is worth the computational efficiency hit.

                                  See also here for interesting ideas about practical applications of blockchains to create better versions of existing internet technologies (in this particular case, user logins).

                                  The tech stack sucks and is fraudulently oversold.

                                  I don’t think it is actually true that the tech stack is fraudulently oversold, and that it “sucks” only in the sense that the technology is in its infancy right now. This is the same point of view that someone could reasonably have taken about any number of particular technological innovations in computing, in their early days.

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                                    I also don’t care that some people think the existence of blockchains constitutes energy and hardware waste. Whether or not you view the use of some resource as waste depends on your judgment of the ends to which those resources are put

                                    Unlike any other human endeavor, proof-of-work is exceptionally inefficient and wasteful, and it’s wasteful by design: if humanity comes up with a more efficient process to mine, the difficulty factor increases to meet that ten minute dream time, immediately wasting all that newfound efficency. If everyone were mining on like a hand-cranked soroban they’d get the same rate as if everyone were mining on a 1.21 gigawatt beowulf cluster of skyscrapers-sized hypercubes. All efforts of making it more efficient is inherently wasted (but because of prisoner’s dilemma, miners are still incentivized to pour more and more juice in).

                                    A product people are willing to pay money for to accomplish goals, just like blockchain computations.

                                    A transaction that doesn’t adequately account for the cost in externalities (such as planets being wrecked up). That’s why the “it’s none of your business what we wanna spend resources on” doesn’t apply. It’s one world, we all need to take care of it.

                                    If other people want to impose political changes in polities I live in to try to make it harder to legally work with cryptocurrencies

                                    OMG yes that’s what I want! Specifically proof of work needs to be banned.

                                    I don’t think it is a bad idea for a Reddit-like communication platform to be implemented using smart contracts

                                    What I’m specifically arguing against is the proposed implementation which is going to suck and which is going to be a layer-2 app on the original proof-of-work iteration of Etherium. For the third time: I’m not saying that the promised benefits are bad: if someone would’ve told me a few years ago that Reddit was going federated and decentralized like email or Jabber I would’ve been overjoyed. It’s burning down the world to do it that I don’t quite think is worth it. I don’t wanna have the smartest contracts on the cinder.

                                    A smart-contract based solution removes the single point of control, which is worth the computational efficiency hit.

                                    We’re not talking about a bounded efficiency trade-off that we could reason about, do LCA on, or try to mitigate or offset. Instead, it’s a runaway inefficency spiral. No programmer would willingly leave memory leaks in their code.

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                                      For the third time: I’m not saying that the promised benefits are bad: if someone would’ve told me a few years ago that Reddit was going federated and decentralized like email or Jabber I would’ve been overjoyed. It’s burning down the world to do it that I don’t quite think is worth it. I don’t wanna have the smartest contracts on the cinder.

                                      Notably, Lemmy already provides a federated and decentralized Reddit-alike, without any Web3 nonsense — it uses ActivityPub for federation. Obviously, that means trusting your local admin to some extent, and other site admins to a lesser extent, but I don’t really think “trustlessness” as an ideal or as a practical matter is a good thing, and certainly not worth the costs of cryptocurrency. I don’t need to have the most censorship-resistant shitposting site on the cinder, either.

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                                        For that matter, I don’t trust the crypto admins either. I mean, you mine shit these days in pools? There, I have to give trust. Just like in the article. We don’t remove anything technologically, we only add a lot of complexity (and burn the planet as a bonus) and I still have to trust someone.

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                                  And I’m saying that the ability to buy “illegal drugs” is actually a really important use case that itself justifies the use of cryptocurrencies - especially when you extend the category to any type of transactions that is illegal or informally restricted by payment processors.

                                  Buying illegal drugs (and ethically-produced artisanal porn) are good, but blockchains are so bad that even being able to use them to buy illegal drugs and pay a fursuited femboy to read “State and Revolution” to me in a throaty whisper when PayPal won’t let me pay them still isn’t enough to justify their use. Like ~snan said, I don’t want the best drug and porn stash on the cinder.

                                  Obviously, this mainly applies to proof-of-work, which is an existential threat to human civilization; proof-of-stake has other, separate, intolerable problems.

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                                    I don’t care that it is possible to defraud people using cryptocurrency, because it has always been possible to defraud people with non-cryptocurrencies

                                    The big selling point for centralised payment processing systems is that it’s possible to reverse fraud. If someone empties my bank account, my bank has a mechanism for reversing the transaction. This has, itself, been used as a mechanism for fraud where someone sends you a million dollars and asks you to send them a hundred thousand as a processing fee, you send them a hundred thousand and at the end of the window to reverse the transaction, they pull back the million and unless you notice immediately you’re too late to pull back the hundred thousand. Aside from cases like that, it’s very useful. I can spend money on my credit card knowing that, if the seller doesn’t actually deliver the goods or if they’re defective, then I can reverse the transaction. With a crypto currency, the only way that I can reverse a transaction is if 50% of the participants agree. In theory, you can implement this kind of thing with smart contracts, but you then need a trusted arbiter who will decide whether the transaction should be reverted. At this point, you’ve just reinvented a centralised system (that arbiter could just be a bank) but with all of the inefficiencies of cryptocurrencies.

                                    Most of the regulations surrounding consumer banking exist because they address problems that impact consumers in an unregulated banking system (not all, some exist to promote lock in, as happens in any system susceptible to regulatory capture). Any system that wants to replace the banking system and be useful to normal people will need to provide the same protections.

                                    For drug buying, it’s effectively an incredibly inefficient way of implementing unbacked IOUs. It may be useful in removing the Mafia (who traditionally provide backing for IOUs used for black-market transactions) from the equation.

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                                      In any money transfer system where it’s possible for some party to reverse a fraudulent transaction, it’s possible for that same party to fraudulently declare a legitimate transaction fraudulent, and commit fraud in the other direction. It’s sometimes useful to be able to engage in a monetary transaction where all parties to the transaction know it is impossible to reverse (e.g. if one or both of those parties does not trust the centralized bank system). For other cases, it is possible to build arbitrarily complex trusted arbiter systems with smart contracts, including systems that haven’t yet been tried in traditional banking.

                                      For drug buying, it’s effectively an incredibly inefficient way of implementing unbacked IOUs. It may be useful in removing the Mafia (who traditionally provide backing for IOUs used for black-market transactions) from the equation.

                                      “drug buying” needs to be understood as synechdoche for a large class of transactions, not all of which are actually illegal, just opposed to the political and moral sensibilities of private payment processing firms. But in any case, what’s a more efficient way of implementing unbacked IOUs? The ability to facilitate monetary transactions between parties that don’t trust each other is exactly the technological innovation that blockchains make possible; they can serve as a replacement for informal mafia violence backing black- or grey-market IOUs for the exactly the same reason they can serve as a replacement for the (usually) implicit state violence backing fiat currencies.

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                                        In any money transfer system where it’s possible for some party to reverse a fraudulent transaction, it’s possible for that same party to fraudulently declare a legitimate transaction fraudulent, and commit fraud in the other direction.

                                        Fraud is rare in existing centralized systems due to many externalities, and recovering from it is possible and normal. Fraud is categorically more common in decentralized systems due in large part to the lack of those externalities, and recovering from it is extremely difficult at best and usually literally impossible.

                                        Pointing out that fraud exists in both models and other similar equivocations are not convincing arguments, because the fundamental point being made is about degree, not mere existence.

                                        It’s sometimes useful to be able to engage in a monetary transaction where all parties to the transaction know it is impossible to reverse

                                        “Sometimes” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in this sentence. In fact these situations are extraordinarily rare.

                                        For other cases, it is possible to build arbitrarily complex trusted arbiter systems with smart contracts, including systems that haven’t yet been tried in traditional banking.

                                        It certainly is. And when you burn through enough iterations of those things, stomp out all of the bugs and fraud and graft and incentives for malicious actors, build in protections for users to make the systems humane, what you end up with will be an inefficient clone of the current monetary system. And a whole new generation of cynics fed up with its idiosyncrasies, chomping at the bit to reinvent it all over again.

                                        The ability to regulate a system to constrain it is actually good and important and necessary if that system will serve humanity. A system that can’t be regulated is actually a bad system!

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                                  Also the quote applies to state fiat currency just as much as to cryptocurrency.

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                                  The technical underpinnings are so terrible that it is clear they exist only to hype the underlying cryptocurrencies.

                                  Is this the author’s first trip down the hype cycle? How is “reinvent everything with distributed consensus” any different from “reinvent everything over http” or “rewrite everything in Java” or any other hype cycle? People use tech they are excited about to do things the tech is only marginally good at and then claim it is a revolution. Welcome to SPAs

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                                    Hype cycles don’t usually do as much damage as crypto is doing to our world.

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                                      One specific difference between those other tulipmanias and AI summers is that this time, a subset of the hype are driven by those who are long in coin and will benefit from the hype being bought into.

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                                        You also don’t have to reinvent literally every technology that existed in 1991 in HTTP for HTTP to be a useful and widespread protocol today; or rewrite every piece of software that existed in 1995 for Java to be useful. I’m not actually a particular fan of Java as a language and I’m willing to believe that it was overhyped at the time, but that doesn’t imply that it was bad for people to work on the JVM or that there are zero problems that it solved successfully.

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                                          How is “reinvent everything with distributed consensus” any different from “reinvent everything over http” or “rewrite everything in Java” or any other hype cycle?

                                          Most of these hype cycles are targeting CTOs and sometimes ground-level programmers. A company might go bankrupt as a result of jumping on the latest hype bandwagon, some folks might develop useless skills, and some credulous VCs might lose a load of money, but by and large they’re fairly self contained in their damage. Cryptocurrency hype is targeting non-technical people by pretending that it is serious technology. That has much wider impact.

                                          Bitcoin is also consuming more electricity than a small country, to handle a transaction throughput rate that a single Raspberry Pi with PostgreSQL could manage with a 99% idle CPU, which causes a lot of environmental damage (both from the power consumption and the specialised semiconductor manufacturing).

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                                            Bitcoin is also consuming more electricity than a small country, to handle a transaction throughput rate that a single Raspberry Pi with PostgreSQL could manage with a 99% idle CPU,

                                            I assume you know this, but for posterity: Bitcoind can also handle the same transaction volume if only a single raspi is running it. The transaction volume doesn’t meaningfully affect the power consumption.

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                                              That is not my understanding of how Bitcoin works. As I understand it, each transaction in the system completes by being signed on the end of the block chain, which requires completing a proof of work. The difficulty of the proof of work becomes harder over time (or, rather, as the length of the blockchain increases, so as more transactions take place). The whole thing is probabilistic and so to achieve a transaction rate of N/s you must have sufficient hashes being computed that the probability of N being found per second in the entire network approaches 1.

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                                                Difficulty goes up (and down!) as more computers doing hashes are added (or removed)

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                                                  ..so only a select few should be allowed to mine?

                                        2. 3

                                          What pisses me off about the people promoting “web3” is that they assume the future of the web is artificial scarcity. It’s a 180 from the promise and reality of the web - that information, on the margin, is free to reproduce infinitely. Instead of the values of open source and CC0 content we’re supposed to believe that card collectors and stock speculators are the ones to shape the future.

                                          There is nothing in the debased vision that these people present that attracts me - and I say that as someone who is fully prepared to pay money for goods and services online. I refuse to pay inflated prices to greedy middlemen who will just clear-cut field after field of creative endeavor to pump their useless tokens.

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                                            Stopped reading at

                                            “But first some terminology. A distributed system is composed of multiple, identified, and nameable entities. DNS is an example of such a distributed system…”

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                                              Please point out what’s wrong about this. DNS is definitionally descentralized. “Decentralised systems” that go down along with AWS contrastingly, are not.

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                                                This is about being a distributed system, and not so much about decentralization. It is a balant oversimplification written in a condescending tone of “let me tell you what this is and what it is not”. Nothing technically wrong, just off putting imo.

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                                                  I think the author is just trying to establish what he considers part of the definition to achieve a common ground for the rest of the article

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                                                    No, this is ideology driven.

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                                                      So DNS isn’t distributed?

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                                                        Facts can often seem like ideology when people have vested interests that make the facts inconvenient.

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                                                          It isn’t a fact that a distributed system has identified and nameable entities by definition. Many distributed systems do but not all. This doesn’t make the author wrong per se, but it does make the work undeniably ideological.

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                                                  For comparison, consider my recent definition:

                                                  Distributed computing, as a subfield, studies how individual computers behave when they are one of many computers which simultaneously access some common resources. … [A] distributed system is a collection of computers which are all acting as a distributed computer because they happen to access some common resource. This is a subtle change in what I said before, but it is through the systems view of objects; we want to look at properties of the entire system under study and not just properties of a single machine or resource.

                                                  A Bitcoin miner is part of a distributed computer; Bitcoin is a distributed system. A DNS nameserver is part of a distributed computer, a collection of DNS nameservers is a distributed computer, and DNS is a distributed system.

                                                  The author assumes that we know all of this, but is not prescribing some new usage of these existing terms.

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                                                    Your definition is very good.

                                                    The author might be assuming, however also happens to be oversimplifying them to the extreme of numbness. “But first some terminology. A distributed system is composed of multiple, identified, and nameable entities.” goes a bit far from “terminology” and even further away from DNS which is a very specific system.

                                                    What else could we fit into such “terminology”, the universe? biology? The whole field of mathematics? All of Physics? Human politics? It is that vague, and DNS is valid, because why not? it kind of fits the bill of what is intended to bring down (Web3 I assume).

                                                    I haven’t read the whole article, so I’m not sure if this was the case of wanting to bring down a piece of tech that is being commonly argued against (groupthink). It felt like a very dishonest technical argumentation from that point onwards to me.

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                                                  Where does the gas bill go? I can’t imagine it goes to /dev/null. If it goes to a person, then there must be some type of behavior in which these enormous bills get amortized. What does that behavior look like?

                                                  Disclaimer: I have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m just calling out things that “smell” wrong. I found this article informative, because I know nothing about this area, but there seem to be big holes in the article.

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                                                    Even if it goes to /dev/null it still goes to people in the form of prices going up. Supply and demand and all that

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                                                      i think you’re saying that prices go up when the system is used. normally supply and demand only drive prices up when they’re out of balance. if it’s true that ethereum becomes more expensive when it’s used more, that seems like a gigantic scalability bottleneck (there’s clearly a maximum size that the block chain can grow to)

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                                                        I don’t know it ETH specifically works that way, I was making a general economic point. The “max block chain size” problem may someday bite any chain without a compression model, but probably we’ll replace them all before it hits that with new ones with different problems.

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                                                          so is the plan to implement some sort of cellular architecture, where the currency is partitioned into an arbitrary number (thousands) of sub-currencies? that seems like it would mitigate the max size problem, but at the expense of adding a huge amount of complexity (at least in comparison to a traditional currency)

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                                                            I doubt there is any plan like this, the whole industry is a baby and just trying to solve short term problems for now, it seems