Solidity Smart Contracts Primer

A couple of months ago I gave a technical talk about blockchains at a local Ethereum meetup. The presentation is essentially a knowledge remix of all the publicly available Solidity reference material with some software engineering concepts, architectural suggestions, challenges and detailed breakdown of the DAO hack thrown in for good measure.

You can view slides from the talk here or over on github. If you've ever wanted to get started writing software for Ethereum - or blockchains in general - then I highly recommend you take a look and save yourself some research! (more)

The DAO, and what it means for capitalism

About a month ago, I started idly looking through a piece of code called "The Standard DAO Framework". It's a weird piece of code-

  • It's written in a language not many people have heard of yet (github doesn't even have syntax highlighting, which makes it a bit annoying to read there).
  • The language only runs on a super-slow virtual computer about the speed of a 1998 cellphone.
  • The virtual computer is simulated by everyone together simultaneously, is everywhere and nowhere and is owned by no-one.

This article is about the piece of code, what it does and what it means. The short version is that a DAO represents a single collective entity - like a company, a government, a trust or a marriage. The "Standard DAO Framework" is a higher abstraction for society, if you will, created as software to simulate the way trust must work internally between all the individuals involved in these groups in order to achieve a fair and just shared outcome. It is not an AI - it has no will or direction of its own - it merely encodes the logic all parties have agreed must be adhered to into an incorruptible and deterministic process that no flawed human can subvert. (more)

Injustice, Ethereum and the information renaissance

Do you ever stop to think about the ways we communicate?

When you talk over the phone your call can easily be monitored or recorded. Your private life is potentially exposed, but just for a brief moment. No big deal, right? Nobody is going to be listening to you unless you're doing something wrong. But the call itself and the fact that it happened is retained for a few years by your phone company. Thus that window into your life is widened, just a little bit.

When you send someone a text message the person you're texting, your location and the message itself are also retained for a few years by your phone company. When you visit any website or use any app which requires an internet connection the same thing happens and could soon be mandatory. The window widens again.

When you chat on Facebook literally everything you're saying and in some cases what is going on in the room around you is recorded. Forever. If not by Facebook then by the governments tapped into the internet backbone. When you use Google Hangouts you record your face, what you're doing and the environment around you and hand that over forever too. It happened with Yahoo Chat, and it will happen again. When you sync your files to Drive or iCloud or OneDrive or Dropbox, you give away the very real and substantial value of the contents of your hard drive. When you sit in front of a Kinect, you invite Microsoft and probably the US government into your home to study you in intricate high-def three-dimensional detail. When you post and tag those photos of your night out on Facebook or Instagram you provide structured information to assist a powerful AI in enhancing its detailed 3D maps of you and your friend's faces and predictive models of your behaviour. And when we start wearing Google Glass around and buying devices like the Amazon Fire, we will be handing over the world around us in real-time.

Truly. Legitimately. Non-crazy like. As described in the NSA's own documents as “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” Petabytes of it every day. Handing over our data until, as Google's CEO said, “We don't need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less know what you're thinking about.”

It's as if we want to do away with the window completely. (more)