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Blockchain study finds zero success rate and vendors don't call back (theregister.co.uk)
276 points by howard941 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 235 comments

Blockchains make no sense when the "asset" they are tracking have to be imported from the outside world because they lose the trustless property which is the whole point.

For example supply line tracking blockchains. "Look this piece of beef was at place X on time Y with temperature Z, I have a hash and everything". Yes but how do I know that you didn't swap the barcodes or you didn't fiddle with the GPS or the thermometer was working or a million other things ?

Blockchain only makes sense if the asset is internal (i.e it gets created in it) because that makes it publicly auditable and you don't have to trust anyone. Cryptocurrency is the perfect use case and the reason they were invented.

I think blockchains can help minimize trust even if it's dealing with assets outside the blockchain.

Let's use your beef example. The beef might come from a farm. It's certified organic. It gets shipped off to a distributor. The distributor sells it to a store. You go to a store and buy it.

In the current system, if the store is a bad actor (e.g. selling beef it claims is organic, when it's actually not) then you don't really have a way of knowing.

However, if the beef was tracked on the blockchain and transferred to you on the blockchain at the point of purchase, then you are no longer relying on just the store telling you it's organic. The claim is verified by chain of custody on the blockchain. So now multiple parties (the farm, distributor, and store) would have to cooperate to dupe you. You can still get defrauded by the store if they completely swap the beef. But, they would STILL have to purchase legitimate beef and transfer it on the blockchain to you. It would be harder to get away with it vs. just changing the label.

That's just one example of where it can minimize trust. But once more assets are tracked on the blockchain, you can start to do REALLY COOL things with them.

For example, imagine using real estate to get decentralized collateral backed loans on MakerDAO.

I can go on and on about this stuff...but it's really cool and we're just getting our feet wet with the technology.

Replace the word blockchain with database and describe how your example works any differently. I'll give you a hint: it doesn't. There is nothing in your example that requires the use of a blockchain. If that beef was tracked in a standard database they would still need to buy beef that was "legit" as far as the database is concerned if they wanted to make a legit claim.

Tracking external assets requires trust, period. And that being the case, what advantage does blockchain bring to the solution?

actually it does, in a blockchain it's theoretical impossible to change past values, in a database one or many actors could easily change past events and nobody could proof that they did (If you say, ok then let's apply checksums or hashes to past events you just ended up with making it (kind of) a blockchain again

There are people that will argue any form of sequential data signing is a "blockchain". But now secure messengers are blockchaining, ZFS is blockchaining, bitcoin had no technical novelty... I think it's a bad definition. If the system can still run without a consensus algorithm, it's far from being a blockchain.

"I'll give you a hint: it doesn't"

It surprises me how much anger and claims of authority people that don't like blockchain show. Just be modest and open to potential uses of a technology. Are you a coder? Have you ever used Javascript? If yes then it's creator is a big proponent of blockchains. Take a moment to think about this. Numerous other examples too.

Its creator also opposes same sex marriage. Perhaps creating a programming language doesn't mean you're right in all other contexts.

you are confusing social with technical

I'm not confused. Do you honestly believe that all programming language creators agree on all technical subjects? They can't even agree on curly braces vs whitespace sensitive. And blockchain is a different subject than programming languages, they can't make an argument from authority.

Answering a rhetorical question to the detriment of the other person's argument isn't anger.

This already exists without blockchain. And blockchain adds nothing. China has a huge issue with fake milk powder. That milk powder now comes in a container with a unique identifier that you can look up and vertify that it’s come from the manufacturer and not some other source. There is no added value in tampering with the container and if it’s faked it cannot be verified.

Nothing about the blockchain can tell you whether somebody switched the labels, or who did it. And the not-guilty parties probably have no way of verifying what they received, either.

Having movements logged in a federated database has all the same properties.

What do you think is easier: making several companies run on their servers a federated databases or using a worldwide publicly available one?

What do you think is easier: convincing farms to send a cheap message to a federated database when they ship out products, or have them buy up insane quantities of computational power to compute crypto hashes, using insane amounts of power to do it?

Blockchain is crazy expensive to run. Why would anyone pay for that when there's dirt cheap alternatives that are every bit as effective at solving the problem?

who is paying for the federated database? i didn't know there are free ones.do you actually know the cost of an ethereum transaction? I'll help its 0.01$ and you don't have to do it all the time if you just run a side chain

Could you elaborate on the real estate one. Sounds like you're talking about home equity loans.

The idea of real estate on the blockchain runs into a bunch of problems interfacing with the real world. For example if Russian hackers get your private keys do you now have to move out of your house so they can let it? If you are lending against property tokens how do you know if the person in physical possession of the property has not quietly sold it or mortgaged it or burnt it down and so on? Not that it's impossible but there are a lot of complications.

I always say "the moment you need to verify that a human did something outside the system, your blockchain is broken."

I extend it further: the moment you need to verify that something happened outside the system, your blockchain is broken.

There are ideas around trusted oracles and consensus recommendation ratings for oracles that aren't terrible and may work (no comment on scalability, of course).

It's worked so far for the Dai, a USD tethered stablecoin based on Ethereum. Smart contracts buy or sell Dai against ETH to keep the price around US$1, the oracles feed in the USD/ETH rate from various exchanges. No actual USD are bought or sold by the Dai contracts.


Trusted is the opposite of trustless.

The point is that in a trustless system trust can be earned by reputation, which is distributable and relatively trustless. Sure, you are taking the risk that you'll get screwed, but that risk factor should be calculable.

I cannot trust a system that trusts an oracle.

What if it is a trustless Oracle? Augur kind of tries to be this, and appears to do well within a limited scope.

Very limited, i.e. they're down to a few tens of people bothering to vote daily.

The amount of people “voting” seems to be less important than the amount at stake, as if it was a large stake proved incorrectly somebody may come in and fix that. $1.2m trades in 1 market with $800k open interest isn’t that bad.

This is not necessarily true. You can create a marketplace for facts (eg: oracles or prediction markets) and therefore create incentives for bystanders to bring facts to blockchain. Sure, it doesn't have 100% guarantees, but it might improve on the current scenario in certain cases.

Your claim is remarkably hypothetical and lacking in details.

That said, even then - when would it be cheaper just to bribe the voters?

That's why people stake claims, and the more money they put up, the more they bet on what they claim, the more you can be sure that it's not just a troll, not a hoax, not someone trying to move the market, not someone bought and paid for (so not a Sybil attack).

But staking is naturally limited by the amount of money one has -- so it would be a great advantage for big corps with PR budgets and a disadvantage for individuals. Do we really want that?

Hypothetical example:

- The Citizen (on blockchain): EvilCorp is dumping toxic waste on my property! They are making millions of dollars from my ruin! I stake all of my available money -- $20,000 -- on this statement.

- EvilCorp (on blockchain): No we are not. We stake 1% of our discretionary PR budget -- $200,000 -- on this statement.

- PR firm (on blockchain): We stake $200,000 to support EvilCorp. They are our biggest customer, and we can handle the (unlikely) money loss if this means good relationship.

- Other citizens of the town: yeah, that sludge looks really nasty.. but EvilCorp has a ton of money. That guy has almost nothing, I do not think he is going to win. If we support him, we will likely lose our stake. So it makes financial sense to side with EvilCorp.

- Blockchain decides EvilCorp is correct. The Citizen now has backyard full of toxic sludge and broke.

- EvilCorp and PR firm both get even more money.

Good example, and that's why the last few years in block-graph land comprised of going from "just stake it man" to token-curated-registries-of-oracles and other kinds of governance problems modeled and explored. Game theory, handling adversarial edge cases, the good old sharding and securing problem (irrevocable staking to secure "side chains" and whatever Ethereum/Vitalik is working on, but maybe called Casper: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1029900695925706753.html )

I have not read this very carefully, but these conversations seem to be worried about classical cryptocurrency attacks -- we have rational agents who try to maximize their money. A threat of someone loosing all of their money will prevent one from doing something.

However, in my example, this is not the case at all. A PR firm or EvilCorp does not care about success of cryptocurrency, they just want to make sure that "The Citizen" will fail. For example, your link talks about "penalizing both sides hard" like it is unavoidable -- but this is exactly what EvilCorp would want.

I don't think I have seen analysis of the prediction markets which assumes actors who are willing to lose money to get the desired results.

That is assuming everyone is moved by money and everything works in perfectly rational way. The problem is - humans are irrational.

No, that's a very bad model. Humans have a hidden utility function and they maximize that. (See also bounded rationality, weak revealed preference axiom for market modeling.)

if you need accurate verification, or it boils down to a single person, agreed. (though that's not often possible, e.g. bribery)

if you need to know the final consensus (or lack thereof) about that verification, regardless of how consensus is determined, it's not a deal-breaker. multi-party signatures, basically, which is what ethereum is designed to do.

(for context tho: broadly I agree, blockchains make zero sense in very nearly all potential scenarios)

That is great.

They make sense when the primary vulnerability isn't the person doing the recording but the possibility that the data might be tampered with or misrepresented before it gets to the consumer.

Consider, for example, the problem of restaurant reviews. We know that one person's review of a restaurant isn't going to be 100% accurate, because it's subjective. Socially, we've figured out ways of getting around that, like soliciting reviews from many different people, looking for reviews from people with tastes like ours, looking at the specific details they post, etc. They're also not generally incentivized to lie, because they've already eaten there and their review isn't likely to influence their service in the future.

All this falls apart if, say, the platform responsible for collecting these reviews has a business model where they are incentivized to bury negative reviews and manipulate scores upwards, but only for restaurants that have given them money. It'd be a much more trustworthy system if the reviewers could receive currency directly for the information they provide, provided by the potential customers who benefit directly from that information. Alas, basically nothing on the web works that way.

If only current blockchain implementations had acceptable performance to handle terabytes of data on mobile phones...

What makes your proposed system immune from abuse?

"reviewers could receive currency directly for the information they provide, provided by the potential customers who benefit directly"

The greatest benefit goes to restaurants with positive reviews, which are thereby incentivized to game the system.

Blockchain might have solved the problem of trustless consensus with proof-of-work, but you are now introducing a new situation in which any number of fake, anonymous contributors can distort the review system. If the review reader pays the review writer directly, upvoting their own phony reviews doesn't cost the corrupt restaurant anything.

It's not immune from abuse. It's immune from abuse of the particular sort I describe.

I'm not so naive as to think that all problems are magically fixed by blockchain, but given the number of posts on HN and elsewhere who complain about the power of big tech companies and assume they're tampering with or misrepresenting data for their own profit, it seems like people consider this problem to be important.

Blockchain can't fix the problem of lack of trust, where it is trust that is desired.

The trustless consensus idea is inherently abstract and paranoid, for better or worse. But life in human society requires constant acts of concrete trust and mutual consideration.

The cypherpunks who invented the blockchain don't seem to have explored the idea taken to its "logical" conclusion of ripping out all trusted entities and (somehow) replacing them with exchange of anonymous cryptographic tokens. The blatant truth is that doing away with trust altogether would paralyse every aspect of civilization.

Why not just use a git repo for reviews? You can clone it and all that good stuff...

What, specifically, does a review system gain with The BlockChain?

And who pays for it? Blockchain’s aren’t cheap!

Also doesn't address astroturfing or spam, which are more of a problem without a gatekeeper.

> Yes but how do I know that you didn't swap the barcodes or you didn't fiddle with the GPS or the thermometer was working or a million other things?

Game theory. Without DLT you make more money by doing these things. With DLT it just becomes the cream skimming problem, where you're just paying money to shuffle assets around but you're actually losing money because the total value of all the assets is still the same.

E.g. if you replace Wagyu beef with flank steak, A) you can only do that once rather than infinite times, like you can currently, because each asset still needs to have been originated somewhere B) you now have to either sell Wagyu beef as flank steak or else sell it into an unregulated market as a potential lemon, where you'll take a huge price hit anyway.

So it certainly doesn't eliminate all fraud, but it eliminates the vast majority of fraud by A) ensuring you can only commit fraud at most once per genuine item produced B) vastly reducing the profitability of any fraud you do commit.

Keep in mind that once DLT is common place, what's a status symbol isn't going to be the watch itself or whatever, but rather it's going to be having your purchase of the watch recorded in the DLT. This means that even if you do defeat all the tamper proof mechanisms or whatever, the original item is going to be basically worthless.

Whether it's going to eliminate 99% of fraud or only 97.5% of fraud or whatever in each industry is difficult to say, but regardless of the exact number it's going to be high enough that everything not on the DLT is going to be both considered a potential lemon and also carry substantial legal risk, and as such will priced accordingly.

The fact that a blockchain can’t always be guaranteed to always represent the ground truth about physical assets is certainly a limitation. But I agree with you. This isn’t about 100% guarantees. It’s about making fraud harder and more expensive, increasing visibility, and streamlining the whole process. I remain something of a skeptic but there’s certainly a lot of interest in and money for things like provenance and supply chain tracking. Just reducing fraud and otherwise cutting costs could be a big win.

> Just reducing fraud and otherwise cutting costs could be a big win.

I mean that alone is a several trillion dollar a year improvement that will continue on indefinitely, and that's only one of the many applications for blockchain.

Consider that roughly 75% of American adults of working age are either unemployed or underemployed, and in most countries it's vastly worse than that. The reason most of them are unemployed or underemployed isn't (for the most part) that they're unable or unwilling to work or that they don't have valuable skills, but rather that double entry accounting doesn't enable a broad enough spectrum of economic relationships to capture the long tail of human talent.

When I say this is going to be a multi-quadrillion dollar technology I'm not kidding around. 99% of the stuff you own today wouldn't have been possible without the invention of double entry accounting, which vastly expanded the types of economic relationships that were possible and thereby vastly expanded the types of goods and services that could be produced. DLT isn't a replacement for your MySQL instance, it's a replacement for double entry accounting, and a 10x improvement at that. When people look back 500 years from now they're going to see that the vast majority of the (then) modern world wouldn't have been possible without it.

It's going to largely replace the middle class in the same way that automation has largely replaced the working class, because if you go down the Bureau of Labor Statistics list of jobs it's pretty clear that most middle class American jobs are basically just fulfilling glorified accounting functions.

Even just considering supply chain, as the profitability of creating counterfeit items decreases that doesn't just reduce the percentage of things you buy that are counterfeit, but it also makes it possible to make entirely new classes of (genuine) products that wouldn't have been economically viable previously.

Mind telling the world what the hell “DLT” means?

Dynamic link tracking? Database Local Transformation?

And let’s be honest here, I’m gonna assume it is a clever buzzword designed to sell the failed blockchain technology to a new set of rubes, right?

Distributed ledger technology. This is the preferred industry term because there are many newer systems that offer or claim to offer the same guarantees as blockchains but that are implemented in different ways under the hood.

Wait, you think 75% of working age adults are unemployed or underemployed? Where'd you come up with that?

And from the naked eye it definitely doesn't look like "most" middle class jobs are accounting - I see teachers, engineers, architects, healthcare, legal workers, protective services ..


So my skepticism about your assessment of our labor situation and needs bleeds over to your enthusiasm about DLT.

I doubt distributed ledgers will do any of that. Maybe if you swapped AI for DLT it would be closer to the truth.

> It’s about making fraud harder and more expensive, increasing visibility, and streamlining the whole process

It may cut fraud costs, but there are other ways to do that. Blockchain replicates computing costs relative to centralized data stores, so implementations have non-zero scaling costs.

> Blockchain replicates computing costs.

Which is about as relevant as the cost of tea in china.

Or, to steal another analogy, counting on database efficiency as the competitive advantage for your business is like picking up nickels in front of a steamroller. Especially since DLT efficiency will eventually be figured out. Even if it takes another five or ten years or even twenty years, that's nothing in the grand scheme of things.

> Especially since DLT efficiency will eventually be figured out.

Lol. The BlockChain is inefficient by design! It is that exact inefficiency that makes it trustless.

Yes, it is. But to be fair to the DLT people, distributed ledgers could be useful without proof of work. They simply need a different, domain-specific consensus mechanism.

Git is basically a distributed ledger without the proof of work inefficiency.

Right. But that's just distributed info, it's more or less a solved problem for many things (P2P, git, etc.). The proof of work is the "value add" of the enterprise, as it were, and there are certainly valuable use cases. But the implementation of distributed, cryptographically secure ledgers are not without tradeoffs--there is no free lunch.

What does DLT stand for?

Distributed ledger technology.

What we need is an edible blockchain, perhaps based on a proof of steak model.

I alluded to this problem in my comment. This is the crux of the oracle-problem.

There is no way to reliably (key word here: reliably) take non-cryptographically provable information and achieve consensus on it in a decentralized manner.

To some degree the block chain is not 100% reliable, there is a vanishing but nonzero likelihood that you are not on the correct chain of maximal likelihood. You can calculate this likelihood and feel settled that your ledger transaction is "secure enough" after some time has passed. One could imagine a trusted oracle system that operates on similar "eventually vanishing lack of confidence" principle if the oracle's actions are generally, independently verifiable.

It will of course be less scalable than the blockchain itself as a generalization.

If (there are trackers for supply chains already) then { blockchain is surely better because it is immutable and can have multiple validators }

and there are trackers for supply chain already run on centralized databases that can be tampered.

You don't need blockchain for immutable log with multiple validators, you just need system like the one Certificate Transparency does [1].

It looks pretty similar to blockchain, but it has lots of advantages for supply chain tracking: much better scaleability, no energy waste, no need for full chain, ability to only care about specific subset of entries, and so on.

There are a number of current CT servers, and they are generally free -- they are so cheap that a large company can run one as a public service. For supply chain, have a few competing companies and govt's of US, Russia and EU run it, and you would have very tamper-proof system.

[1] http://www.certificate-transparency.org/log-proofs-work

Sure, cryptocurrency is the perfect use case if for some reason you think currency should not be be tied to anything of physical value in the non-digital world.

Ah! I keep hearing people talking about blockchain and supply chain and it makes zero sense to me. So we agree that this is bullshit?

Cryptocurrency and proof of work/stake and automated conteacts make no sense in the context of the supply chain.

A distributed database ("ledger") might make sense in the context of supply chains.

The competing technology is to have a central clearinghouse for the relevant data. Or to just not track the data at all.

Part bullshit. I'd say the jury is still out.

You do make a valid point - however, there are ways to ameliorate (or even eliminate) this risk introduced into the blockchain, by relying on external verification.

One way would be to have each "verified" transaction to be associated with an individual or entity who is providing the "verification", with legally enforceable dire penalties for "submitting" a transaction that is later found to be fraudulent.

So, if a transaction is found to be fraudulent, it can be traced back down to the first transaction in which a fraudulent transaction was submitted as "verified".

I've been working on DLT / enterprise blockchain technologies since 2014 and have insight into hundreds of projects, a small number of which made it to live production. Here is the bottom line: yes, it's mostly hype, but this technology does have genuine use cases - when you want to build an interparty database-driven application, and cannot find a suitable place to put the database, because of business concerns or regulation. This is fairly niche, perhaps 1% of all interorganizational database applications, but there are certainly cases where it is the right solution. The majority of blockchain projects undertaken still do not make sense, but this is gradually getting better over time.

Can you let me know how these "private" blockchains utilize proof of X to determine consensus? E.g. proof of work, or proof of stake, or something else?

The thing I never understood with private blockchain tech is that the "traditional" blockchain (i.e. Bitcoin) relies on proof of work, and the only way this is viable is to have tons of resources working on these proofs so that you don't get a 51% attack (there have even been a bunch of articles about how smaller coins actually are very susceptible to a 51% attack by a decently funded attacker).

For a private blockchain, though, it never made sense to me as to who would serve the role of the miners with sufficient incentive to prevent a nefarious attacker. If on the other hand you are in a system where the participants agree as to how they will trust each other, well then you'd be back to a situation where the byzantine model isn't really necessary and you can just go back to a cryptographically signed ledger a la the Quantum Ledger DB that AWS just announced.

Would really appreciate someone explaining this one to me!

A useful term here is "Nakamoto consensus," which I think refers to the proof of X thing you're talking about -- consensus schemes that are resistant to sybil attacks among anonymous validators.

And I think you're right -- adding Nakamoto consensus to private blockchains makes no sense, because by definition they don't have arbitrary validators. And without Nakamoto consensus, "blockchain" is just rebranding of old and boring tech.

> rebranding of old and boring tech

A distributed merkle-chain database is still pretty innovative. A good example is git. I think what many private groups want is a "binary git for transaction data". Everybody can review their own copy of the shared chain with signing of new links in the chain.

Now that isn't really a full blockchain, but is a different kind of thing from a central RDMS.

That is a blockchain, and provides the validation and history integrity that is core to (and where the name 'blockchain') comes from.

Except the issue is that Git, which includes validation and history integrity, was invented in 2005 and predates the publication of the bitcoin whitepaper by 3 years.

The point being that all the hype about "blockchain everywhere" came about because of bitcoin. If people are now starting to refer to just the "hash of blocks with previous blocks" (i.e. the "Timestamp Server" section of the original bitcoin whitepaper) as blockchain withOUT the proof of work/stake part, well then you really are just rebranding old tech as blockchain, because it was the proof of work part that was really the new thing in bitcoin.

Can someone correct me if I'm wrong?

Proof of work is required for distributed consensus; without that you need a centralized repository like GitHub or Linus to bless the current state of the database?

Well proof of work is used to get consensus and prevent double spend in cryptocurrency though there are other mechanisms being tried like proof of stake.

With Git for code you don't really need consensus - I can have my fork and you can have yours.

Unless what you're trying to do is actually achieve and maintain consensus without a single entity controlling the database?

There are a variety of formal consensus algorithms uses for enterprise blockchains, but they are all some variant of voting schemes based on validator signatures. Nothing like proof-of-work is needed to ensure that one bad actor, or a small number of bad actors, cannot break the network's consensus. If you have just one validator, like QLDB, then you're back to a centralized scenario.

The problem is that having a non-BFT consensus is the same that using database nodes and if you use BFT consensus you don't have the performance required for most use cases. BFT-SMaRT supposely achieve 80k tps for a few nodes but when you scale to more nodes the performance degrades substantially.

Another issue against the DLT hype is that the blockchain does not provide security where 90% of the whole architecture is outside the blockchain, less if there are many few nodes.

There might be some constant factor penalty, but we can shard BFT systems much like we do with Paxos etc. See Shasper for example -- it won't have any practical limits on throughput.

Shasper[1] "Note: This is an experimental project. Everything will break, and it may disappear without any notice!" (sic).

Until we don't see a community working on adversarial attacks, we will not know if it is secure of not. There is concrete research about BFT since 1982.

[1] https://github.com/paritytech/shasper

Is your concern that the algorithms involved in schemes like Shasper might not be correct, or that their economic assumptions about attacks might fail?

I think it's very unlikely that any of the theoretical ideas behind Shasper are incorrect. Casper itself is simple and comes with a simple proof, and it's similar to an old algorithm by DLS [1], which also comes with a proof. Sharding does introduce some other machinery, like VDFs for randomness (specifically [2]), but that has been vetted by plenty of cryptographers such as Dan Boneh's group.

So even though there aren't any large-scale deployments of BFT algorithms yet, the approach is widely thought to be sound. I'm working on a blockchain based on sharded BFT, as is Ethereum, RapidChain, NEAR Protocol, and others.

It's always possible that our economic assumptions will fail, but they're not radically different from Bitcoin's. You can attack Bitcoin by buying 51% of all hash power, or you can attack a BFT system by buying 34% of all stake. Either way it comes down to making an assumption about the attacker's funding.

[1] https://groups.csail.mit.edu/tds/papers/Lynch/jacm88.pdf

[2] https://eprint.iacr.org/2018/623.pdf

> Casper itself is simple and comes with a simple proof

When I read the updates about Casper[1] there are plenty of issues presented, so don't sure why you are saying Casper itself is simple.

Fine you are working in the "Sigma Network", we are working with one of the projects mentioned there.

[1] https://medium.com/prysmatic-labs/

The 'corporate blockchain' described above would probably be a federated one. Participants would use private keys to sign and validate transactions, with full knowledge about who else is in the network. It's a simple quorum mechanism, or some elaboration thereof.

It is not 'trustless', but it is decentralized. You're basically relying on a majority of participants to behave ethically and not collude. In a situation where collusion is impractical or has little reward, this can function fine.

An example of this is Blockstream's 'Liquid' crypto which is validated by crypto exchanges. The security model of this coin isn't great compared to Bitcoin, but it arguably has advantages over the simple custodian model.

If the participants trust each other not to gang up on a minority but otherwise don't trust each other then BFT consensus is appropriate. As the OP said, that's around 1% of cases but maybe those cases are valuable.

HN discussion about 51% attacks: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17173051

> when you want to build an interparty database-driven application, and cannot find a suitable place to put the database, because of business concerns or regulation

If you're operating a legal business, a centralized database hosted by an industry mutual or regulator beats a blockchain.

Yes, that's true. But in some cases an industry mutual doesn't exist, and the regulator doesn't want to manage the database. Then what? It can be cheaper and easier to deploy a blockchain than to build the necessary organizational structure to run a central database. Like I said, it's niche but it happens.

> in some cases an industry mutual doesn't exist, and the regulator doesn't want to manage the database. Then what?

If you're at the scale where broad co-ordination is a problem, you're at the scale where the big boys can arrange a meeting. Alternatively, if you're at a scale where someone can get everyone on a blockchain, you're at the scale to create an industry organization.

I'm sorry but this does not always apply in the real world. Someone getting everyone onto a blockchain is a one-time project, perhaps with an annual maintenance fee. Running an industry organization is an order of magnitude (or two) more expensive. Trusting someone to build an (open source) application is not the same as trusting them to centrally host it.

How about a thing that's almost-but-not-quite a blockchain? E.g. a decentralized multi-master Event Sourcing datastore. No proof-of-work, no mining, no ledger. Anyone who can connect to the network (i.e. is whitelisted) can append whatever they like, and it'll get replicated to everybody. But nobody can delete/overwrite (without losing consensus); and every event is signed by its emitter. It's just an append-only log file that happens to exist in several (geographically distant) places at once.

Get the actors together to standardize a format for the messages everyone's emitting, and then make some software (one shared implementation, many different ones, doesn't matter) to parse the log stream into a point-in-time representation you can load into an analytics tool.

Seems to me that that sort of technology would fit this use-case a lot more closely than an Actual Blockchain™ would.

> It's just an append-only log file that happens to exist in several (geographically distant) places at once.

That's the idea. Just add a proof of causality for the transactions that span more than one peer, and you've got a blockchain.

No. A log file under Paxos, for example, is not a blockchain.

A blockchain is a chain of blocks. A block is a persistent record of all the information required for the consensus process, which is held onto by a node after the consensus process has completed for that node. A new blockchain node bootstrap-syncs to the network by just receiving blocks at random from peers and then evaluating the consensus rules against those blocks in order to decide what its deduced copy of the "chain" shall look like. And you can never throw those blocks away (just keeping the transaction log), either, because a new peer might want to bootstrap itself from you.

This is not how multi-master sync in e.g. etcd or Postgres works. In those, consensus is a process that happens between all the nodes registered to a given cluster at any point in time. Each consensus-step happens between a known, fixed set of peers (fixed for the duration of that step, that is), consuming a fixed set of data that must be the same on all peers (the database before the update), and producing a new artifact (the updated database) that should be identical on all peers. After the consensus step completes, the inputs required to re-evaluate that particular consensus step are discarded by all peers. You can't go back and "watch history" happen again. You can only know what you've got right now.

But, luckily, since what you've got right now is an append-only file, you can just read it and see everything that's happened historically. It's just a logical history, though, not the history of the consensus process itself.

New nodes in such a system don't re-evaluate history to "reach consensus." They just pick a bootstrap peer to trust and slave themselves to it, synchronizing until they're an exact mirror of it. But—because all the nodes in the cluster keep their state in lockstep under consensus anyway—every node that is "in consensus" is as good as any other node that is "in consensus" for bootstrapping from. (And if you happen to bootstrap from a node that is lying about being "in consensus", then you'll quickly find that you can't obey the consensus protocol with the rest of the cluster using the data you bootstrapped.)

A blockchain is a very specific kind of distributed database architecture. Just having a distributed append-only database does not automatically make something a blockchain. You can have distributed append-only databases that aren't blockchains.

(Heck, there's an even more trivial case: a distributed append-only database owned by one party. How do you build that? Just deploy a master and some read-replicas, and tell the master to be append-only by policy! It should be pretty obvious, I hope, that that is not a blockchain.)

> No. A log file under Paxos, for example, is not a blockchain.

Ok, it's not. It also does not have verifiable causality, because it's formed by a set of registries with no explicit relation between them.

so ... sort of like git?

Nah, git retains its commit history, so it's actually closer to a blockchain approach than what I'm describing. Plus, with git, the syncs [with git-push and git-fetch] are async, such that a "cluster" of git-using nodes is never "in consensus" as a whole.

Picture instead, something more like a document synced in realtime using Operational Transformations (via SubEthaEdit, Etherpad, Google Docs, etc.), purely peer-to-peer (so specifically like SubEthaEdit) and without any peer expected to retain any history of the OT sync process itself (so you can't "wind back" the document like you can on Google Docs.) Except, now, also picture that if you try to broadcast any OT events other than an insert OT, the other nodes will just ignore those OT events, causing your document to fall out of sync with everyone else's. So the document itself can only ever grow, and nothing can be redacted or changed once it has been inserted.

So now you've got this single document that everyone can "write" to (but never change anything that's already been "written.") Now just make everyone always put their new writes at the end, so they're not breaking up anyone else's message. Now you've got a durable, distributed message bus.

(If you've ever used a wiki Talk page—or the old original C2 wiki where every page was a Talk page—the rule there for posting a new "chat message" to a page, is that you should append them onto the end of the existing "chat messages" of everyone else. If you put it anywhere else, another editor will revert your edit. This rule by itself is enough to allow for a functional chat system/forum with a complete logical "conversation" history! Same idea here—just that it's the database-node software that's automatically "reverting" bad edits. In all other senses, it's just a regular distributed file.)

Git is a DAG where each child of a hashed node is equally valid. For transactions and assets, what we need is a linked list (a chain) and therefore, some rule like "the longest chain is the TRUE chain".

Blockchains are also DAGs. This is the basis of the 51% attack. It is completely possible for a blockchains to fork. The consensus algorithm is how a particular branch is chosen as the winner. But the reason you need them is because blocks fire DAGs.

Every successful cryptocurrency has had protocol upgrades which require governance and I imagine private blockchains will be similar. You can't just let it run. So if you have an industry organization to perform ongoing governance of the blockchain then it is probably cheaper to have that organization run a database.

Can you please give a more specific example to illustrate the case?

From my perspective, blockchains are suitable for two things: People who want to misbehave(therefore they don't have legal recourse, independent of the morality of the extralegal actions) and people at war with each other that still need to have a relationship with each other.

It's kind of the perfect technology for a collapsed civilization or the revolutionaries and criminals in the current world order.

people at war with each other that still need to have a relationship with each other

So Wall Street banks?

No, not really :) More like Iran and Israel when they want to resolve a difficult situation in Syria where fighting is not preferred by both of the parties but they don't have a trusted 3rd party to handle the orderly resolution.

> But in some cases an industry mutual doesn't exist, and the regulator doesn't want to manage the database. Then what?

Then you have a people & process problem, not a technical one. The Blockchain, A Real Database™ or even a CSV file won't solve your problems here.

> it's niche but it happens.

Do you have an actual example?

I've only worked on a single blockchain application, but this was my experience too. I was actually pretty skeptical when I was told we'd be working on it and figured it was just a hype thing, but the use case involved a B2B process that was well-established and used a paid intermediary to correlate data across businesses. We were pretty happy with the result. I doubt we'll ever see a middleman-free decentralized utopia, but I agree that it's a technology with some genuine applications.

What was it and where? If what you're saying is true, then this is noteworthy and I'd love to look more closely at the details.

The source for the article's "Blockchain study finds 0.00% success rate" headline is "We documented 43 blockchain use-cases through internet searches ... we found no documentation or evidence of the results blockchain was purported to have achieved"[0]. That isn't a huge sample size, and "internet searches" may have skewed the results towards the more dubious projects spending large amounts on SEO.

But never-the-less I'd echo the interest in reading details of a successfully implemented use-case for public blockchain technology, beyond cryptocurrencies. Based on some of the comments here hinting that there might be some, and assuming they do indeed exist, I suspect that they are not solutions that could be achieved only with blockchain technology (like cryptocurrencies), or even solutions that are significantly better (in terms of cost, effort, time to market or some other metric) with blockchain technology, but simply solutions where blockchain has been made to work (i.e. other approaches could have been too and some of those may have been as good if not better).

[0] http://merltech.org/blockchain-for-international-development...

Sounds a little like the NoSQL trend where everybody jumped on it only to find out that NoSQL is only applicable for a few use cases.

I dont use NoSQL that much, but I also dont use relational databases much either. most of my work is in pyspark / spark on top of s3.

what?!?!? I hope that's sarcasm.

Not really. A few years ago there was a lot of hype around NoSQL and everybody wanted to jump on it only to find out that in many cases NoSQL didn't make anything better.

Yes I guess developers never really took to MongoDB, Memcache, Redis and such. Not to mention object stores like Amazon S3 which are also a kind of NoSQL database and are totally useless.

I've always seen it as the following equation: is the cost of distrusting the other parties in the transaction lower than the cost of running a decentralized ledger? if yes, you shouldn't use blockchain. this is obviously oversimplification but i think you get my point.

Yea sometimes I believe the word "enterprise blockchain" makes about as much since as a "dry rain". Basically saying that the problems that blockchain solves are usually not problems that enterprises run into often, or can't solve using some readily available alternative (e.g., SQL). Blockchain clearly satisfies a need. It's just that the great majority of enterprises clearly don't have that need.

The only successful applications of business blockchain I've seen is in businesses where nobody trusts the brokers. For example, the diamond business has to keep track of where the diamonds came from and nobody trusts the brokers to not lie, so blockchain works here.

How does the blockchain keep brokers from lying?

Maybe you trust the source, but not the broker?

Exactly - if the diamond mines are honest then you don't really need to trust the middlemen. You could also see how many diamonds a certain mine was claiming to produce, and if that number seemed disproportionate to the size of the mine, people might stop treating diamonds coming from that mine.

I've never encountered a system where an un-trusted middleman didn't get out-competed, driven out by the buyers or (in one case) actually killed.

Hasidim don't seem like they have that problem.

Wasn’t this type of stuff around well before the hype of the blockchain? E.g distributed hash tables?

when you want to build an interparty database-driven application, and cannot find a suitable place to put the database, because of business concerns or regulation

Technology can't solve this problem.

If multiple entities need to coordinate inside a mutually used product don't trust each other, then the problem is structural and needs to be solved with interpersonal, regulatory or political action.

Annnnd... if you have a structural problem which cannot be corrected via interpersonal, regulatory, or political action, then what do you do?

Quit and start over, or move. That's why people migrate between countries or quit jobs.

Ah, if only it were that simple.

No need to be glib. The kinds of situations that are being discussed as the best for blockchain are literally the most intractable - hence why I said it was not a technology solution.

If you're in a situation where cryptocurrency is the best solution for currency, then you're probably in a lawless wasteland with abjectly destructive governance systems.

Seems like in that circumstance moving is the right answer.

I'm not being glib, I'm observing that the global system of passports and visa controls makes "moving" nearly impossible. I nearly pulled it off just over twenty years ago, but I failed, and now I'm permanently stuck back "home". Cryptocurrencies won't help, they're just another way to do capitalism.

Yep, i've been trying to explain this to people on here for quite a while now. This is correct. Blockchains allow data and co-operation to be domiciled nowhere, which allows competitive actors to agree and co-operate.

It also enables otherwise untrusted actors to make trustable claims, bypassing the gatekeepers that would otherwise have mediated those claims. One tangible example is ICOs bypassing not just regulators, but banks and the financial industry that would normally have had to underwrite them. Obviously this particular example has some serious kinks to work out, but the ability to bypass the corporate gatekeepers (not so much the regulators) has value, I think.

So can you help the authors of this article with their quest to find any success stories at all?

> This is fairly niche, perhaps 1% of all interorganizational database applications, but there are certainly cases where it is the right solution.

So I personally think DLT is going to be one of those multi-quadrillion dollar technologies that come around every few hundred years. The real benefit of DLT is that it enables new types of human relationships. So thinking about it in terms of what percentage of your existing databases should be replaced by it isn't going to give an especially impressive result, because by definition your existing databases are going to model your existing relationships.

Think about what percentage of the stuff in your house you would own without the invention of double entry accounting. Unless you happen to have some veggies from the farmer's market or a sweater one of your relatives knit you, the answer is probably 0.00%. It simply isn't possible to manufacture things like the iPhone without double entry accounting, because without double entry it would be impossible to form the sorts of human relationships needed to produce such a complex product. And if we asked someone to take a look at all the stuff in their house a couple hundred years from now, I'm guessing that a similar 0.00 percentage of the stuff they own will have not have been created as the result of DLT.

The fact is that once DLT becomes ubiquitous it will no longer be cost competitive to manufacture and distribute products using only the sorts of relationships and techniques enabled by double entry accounting. And if anyone even tries it's going to be like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

I can’t tell if you are being sarcastic or not, so I assume this is a serious comment.

Can you share some examples of use cases where DLT is going to be transformative?

I mean a good example of the need for DLT is the fact that no one in the country can buy romaine lettuce right now. Does it really make any sense whatsoever that no one in the country can eat lettuce for the next couple months just because one farm got contaminated with E. coli?

You seem to be suggesting that a distributed ledger would have made it possible for regulators or buyers to track the specific source of the contamination and pull it out of the food system. DLTs are starting to be used for that level of tracking for diamonds, but key to that system is the ability to establish a "fingerprint" for each diamond that involves a laser-inscribed serial number on each diamond.

So to apply that, wouldn't we have to somehow register each individual head of lettuce with a tamperproof fingerprint? Just registering the bags the lettuce came in isn't good enough; the "farm" selling you their romaine might actually be selling you romaine from somewhere else that they've repackaged. (If that wasn't the case, we wouldn't be having this lettuce problem to start with.) And this is setting aside the possibility that lettuce might be leaved/shredded before packing and shipping, because now we have to put that tamperproof fingerprint on each and every leaf.

Oh, also there's the thing about all the leaves actually being in contact with one another as they're shipped, so by the time the consumer actually eats the leaf and gets sick, the best you could possibly do is say "we think it's from one of these packagers."

Maybe you're envisioning some other way entirely for Distributed Lettuce Technology* to solve this problem, I dunno. But I have trouble seeing it.

*I'm sorry, but cut me some slack, the joke is RIGHT THERE

> the "farm" selling you their romaine might actually be selling you romaine from somewhere else that they've repackaged.

Think about it from a game theory perspective. Under the status quo, each party in the supply chain maximizes their profit by lying about where their supplies came from. Whereas with DLT, each party maximizes their profit by being honest about where their supplies came from.

As an example, let's say you hijack you a truck and swap out expensive lettuce for cheap lettuce in a way that circumvents whatever tamper proofing technology has been applied. Stuff like this happens all the time currently, and is wildly profitable. (That's why if you go to a sushi restaurant and get a bunch of assorted sushi pieces or rolls, there is roughly a 0% chance that your meal will actually consist of what you ordered.)

With DLT though this is no longer profitable, because if you sell the cheap lettuce as expensive lettuce then you now have to sell the expensive lettuce as cheap lettuce, because each head or crate or whatever still needs to be traceable back to the source. This means that your total profit from the transaction is just whatever you would have made without cheating, plus your costs of hijacking the truck. So all in all, a substantial net loss.

Doesn't this require you to trust the source? And if you trust the source, there is no need for a blockchain?

Well, even if you trust the source, you still need to be able to access the transaction records.

You don't really need a distributed ledger for that,a centralised database run by an industry clearinghouse could serve the purpose just fine.

But maybe there are cases where a distributed ledger is easier or cheaper to establish than such a clearinghouse.

> Doesn't this require you to trust the source?

It allows you to know the source, which enables you to make a data-informed decision about whether or not you trust the source.

As opposed to the current status quo, where you can never even know the source so trust doesn't even come into the picture.

Could you talk me through how a blockchain solution would help avoid this in a bit more detail?

I've seen lots of vague "blockchain for supply chains is a great idea" pronouncements but I don't get how it would actually work.

Sure, so each party in the supply chain registers their private key with a PKI by going to the PKI's website (e.g. GoDaddy) and sticking their USB fob into their computer. The PKI associates the private key with an identity, and allows private keys to be voided and replaced if they get lost or whatever.

Then as each head of lettuce is picked, it goes into a crate that's securely sealed and then signed with the farmer's private key in a way that originates that crate of produce on the ledger. When the farmer sells their produce to the middleman that transaction is also recorded, and so on, all the way to the end consumer who buys the produce in a grocery store or in a restaurant. (And consumers would just use their phones or credit cards for this, rather than using any sort of external fob.)

Then when the first person gets sick they report their illness as per usual. Nothing happens at this stage, because there's no way to narrow down what made the person sick. By by the time the second person gets sick (with E. coli of the same genetic signature), now you can find the furthest place back in the supply chain where both people's purchases intercept. So you can now see if e.g. the contamination came from a single farm, and if so only recall lettuce from that farm rather than all romaine lettuce produced worldwide.

Because the database is open anyone can download a copy, and there is no risk of a single entity imposing a 30% Apple tax on each head of lettuce or whatever. And each person benefits from participating, because it's a pareto improvement in terms of their profitability. (Now their products only get recalled when they are at fault, rather than their products getting recalled when anyone is at fault.)

How about the types of products that can't be stored in a secure package from producer to consumer through the supply chain but need somehow be processed within the supply chain? You know, at least something like 99.9999% of the products...

I'm not sure secure sealing is done or necessary. If you get ecoli then just asking who the lettuce supplier was is probably enough. The government inspectors can then go check them.

Suppliers at every step of the chain enter data into a blockchain. Every organization runs a node. Therefore they can’t lie later and tamper with records when something goes wrong. Investigators can trace provenance easier. That’s it really. An append-only cryptographically secure database would do that same thing, but that’s just another name for a blockchain, which is a rebranding of a specific type of distributed database that has enhanced trust properties.

Blockchain requires distribution for trustless implementation though, which is the duplicated expense (versus an append-only secure database).

> Blockchain requires distribution for trustless implementation though, which is the duplicated expense

Trust scales with something like Metcalfe's Law. E.g. a consortium of ten independent banks is probably 99% less likely to steal my money than just Wells Fargo. The idea that we need millions of independent entities to get substantially better security than the status quo is just propaganda that gets spread by Bitcoin maximalists.

There is a cost of duplication, but at the level of duplication you actually need the cost isn't that much compared to the benefit.

Putting lies into a blockchain doesn't make them true. Lettuce can still kill you in a post-blockchain society.

No, but it isn’t about lying as a matter of business, that would easily be detected and caught in most cases, and a large amount of work to continually lie effectively. If you have employees and machines writing lots of data it’s infeasible to tamper with it in real-time.

The tampering comes after the fact when a legal issue arises. The immutable nature of the ledger makes it an improvement over the past by preventing later tampering.

So why not use a central database and allow all stakeholders to replicate and keep their own logs of edits. It would be far more efficient. It would lack a certain buzzword though.

A blockchain is a database optimized for that use case. Your desire to avoid the word blockchain is because you don’t like the connotations.

A blockchain isn't optimal for anything. If it was there should be some evidence of it improving something in the real world, no? Something other than a cult of buzzwords and speculation.

What was probably the original blockchain was created for bitcoin and is good for that. Though the paper didn't coin the word blockchain, it described it "As later blocks are chained after it, the work to change the block would include redoing all the blocks after it."

Then after bitcoin had gone up the marketing guys saw visions of billions in free money and started saying blockchain, blockchain!

It is optimal for situations where you don’t want to trust a central institution. An asset worth $70bil from zero in a decade (Bitcoin) should be considered a successful experiment even if it disappeared tomorrow. Pure computer science, math, and game theory created it, and it’s quite impressive.

I’m not sure that the creation of an asset bubble is a good metric for success. How do you feel about pets.com and tulips?

We are far beyond anyone reading this thread other than us, and I am happy to continue discussing because I hope I can convince you that novel technology is being created to solve real problems. It isn't the panacea that fraudsters have been pushing, but I believe interesting solutions and companies will come of this.

If you look at Bitcoin and the Proof of Work mining algorithm that was created to solve its BFT problem, what you have is a globally dispersed group of participants driving the cost of SHA2 hashing to as close to zero as possible. Electricity combined with computers can be converted to Bitcoin, which has value because a group of people believe it has value. You are optimizing everyone to solve that problem, and people are responding naturally to economic incentives.

I believe other problems can be reduced to a Proof of Work distributed problem to drive the cost to zero. LivePeer ( https://livepeer.org/ ) is a recently launched protocol built on Ethereum to drive down the cost of transcoding live video. This is a computationally intensive process full of proprietary technology and patents that forces video streamers to become beholden to centralized third-parties such as YouTube, Twitch, etc. LivePeer solves this problem by incentivizing global participants to commit transcoding resources to an open network, ultimately driving the cost of this to zero. This will reduce censorship and costs.

Beyond computationally intensive work and protocols, I believe that smart contracts will open up a range on novel use cases. For starters, pure digital assets will become a way to fund development of videogames. Free to play games like League of Legends and Fortnite sell in-game assets, but these are not unique - they sell as many copies as people buy. While this works for big players as a business model, I believe new, novel games will come from making game assets provably unique.

These are just a few examples, but many very smart, non-crazy non-scammy people are working in this industry and creating new technologies. It's sad that the fraud has poisoned the conversation so much, especially on tech places like HN.

I know people from Ethereum Foundation personally and it only strengthens my negative view of the space. You can believe whatever you want, but I'm interested in results and actually useful products. Currently there are zero. There are many who share your religious beliefs though.

Nothing I stated is a "religious" belief unless you think that technology predictions such as cloud computing taking over corporate data centers or the internet disrupting mail-order catalogs are also religious beliefs. I stated that Bitcoin drove the cost of SHA2 hashing to near-zero and similar mechanisms can be used for other more-useful problems. It seems from your post history that you have a knee-jerk hatred of cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies and nothing anyone says will change it.

That's bad. I thought someone would be using a blockchain for some kind of back-end settlement system somewhere, but apparently not.

On the ICO front, the SEC is now cracking down effectively. First they went after the outright frauds, such as the coin backed by nonexistent land and diamonds. They won in court. Then they went after the ones that promised big returns and didn't deliver. The SEC won again. That settled the issue of whether an ICO is a security. It is if it passes the Howey Test.[1]

With the legal ambiguity resolved, the SEC started sending inquiry letters to new ICO proponents with some pointed questions. Many new issuers backed off. Now the SEC has an assembly-line enforcement process running for ICOs; issuers can either buy the tokens back and shut down, register as a real security, or get hammered in court.

List of 934 dead coins.[2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEC_v._W._J._Howey_Co.

[2] https://deadcoins.com/

> That's bad. I thought someone would be using a blockchain for some kind of back-end settlement system somewhere, but apparently not.

The problem in that area is not the previous lack of available technology, it is institutional inertia. You don't need a blockchain to speed up settlements, because the technology to do it did exist before. What you need is buy-in from a bunch of old and conservatively run institutions that do not particularly like change.

The primary fallacy of all these blockchain proponents is only seeing problems as technical in nature when they really lie somewhere else. The same applies especially to smart contracts.

> The primary fallacy of all these blockchain proponents is only seeing problems as technical in nature when they really lie somewhere else. The same applies especially to smart contracts.

This is a great point, especially with smart contracts, the problem of the wet code is massively more complex than that of the dry code.

> What you need is buy-in from a bunch of old and conservatively run institutions that do not particularly like change.

They are currently paying someone to shuttle certificates/titles/deeds/bonds as a part of settlements. This involves expense and risk and probably gates outstanding trade activity and maybe even the exchange's duty cycle to some extent. There's opportunity to those institutions to save some expense here (taking on [not insignificant] new kinds of risk).

>>Then they went after the ones that promised big returns and didn't deliver. The SEC won again. That settled the issue of whether an ICO is a security. It is if it passes the Howey Test.[1]

As far as I know, they never won in court. Everything was settled out of court.

A case recently went to court and they lost a key argument:


Former securities lawyer Louis Cammarosano claimed back in July 2017 that 1. token sales are a threat to Silicon Valley and Wall Street, 2. that the SEC doesn't want to bring an enforcement action if their case is not ironclad because they fear that a court will disagree with their interpretation:


Actual court decision.[1]

This is just a rejection of a preliminary injunction. The ICO sale hadn't started yet. The court indicated that the line set by the Howey test had not yet been crossed. The ICO issuer agreed to cancel the ICO and not try again without notifying the SEC first. So the judge ruled that there wasn't an imminent threat justifying an injunction. This is not "ICOs are legal, go go go!", despite hype on crypto sites.

The big ICO case so far is [2]. This was a criminal prosecution. It didn't go to trial, the scammer pled guilty after the preliminary ruling that an ICO was a security.[3] Zaslavskiy gets sentenced soon.

We're way past that claim from July 2017.

[1] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SODrcousHlAKdFRd8Gj32U7lQc-...

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-11/u-s-judge...

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-15/first-fra...

Yes, the Tweet storm I linked to said as much. The point is when tested by a court, one of the SEC's arguments was rejected. Yes the argument wasn't about the traditional token sale - it was the SEC trying to classify airdrops as a securities issuance - but it does show that the SEC's arguments are not law. Only courts decide what is law.

The big ICO case [2] involved blatant fraud, and looked nothing like the tokens being issued in most token sales, so doesn't set a precedent that affects most of the token sales.

Everything else has been settled out of court, with none of the SEC's claims accepted by a court. So your claim that "That settled the issue of whether an ICO is a security" is wrong. An out of court settlement does not settle the law.

With respect to [2], this is what the tokens represented:

>>The ruling came in a criminal case against a man charged with promoting digital currencies backed by investments in real estate and diamonds that prosecutors said didn’t exist.

That's a traditional security, with the tokens representing physical assets. It is not like most token sales, which are pre-functional utility tokens, which do not purport to confer a legal claim to any asset.

Moreover, the individual selling these tokens was blatantly lying about the existence of the real estate and diamonds.

So your initial comment is wildly off the mark with respect to what has been "settled" with respect to token sales.

I said this in another thread but I'll say it again here.

I am downright shocked at just how much of a failure this technology has turned out to be. How can this many brilliant people work on an area for this long and produce almost nothing of value?

I suppose it happens in areas of "pathological science" like infinite energy machines, but those are areas where the tech doesn't work and probably violates laws of physics. In this case the tech does work in the general sense but seems to have little to no utility in most cases. When you consider scams and fraud it may even have negative utility.

I'd like to be proven wrong. I keep waiting for that killer cryptocurrency app but it never arrives. Meanwhile the core use case of digital money seems almost abandoned.

It's not even that good anymore for black and grey market commerce. It was in the beginning because the authorities didn't understand it. It was security through obscurity. Now they're developing both expertise and legal frameworks for dealing with it. It's no longer a free-for-all.

I have trouble thinking of another technology that actually works that has attracted this much hype, brains, and investment and then failed this badly to deliver.

It's not like fusion, which has a very clear use case but faces so far insurmountable technical challenges. It's not like nuclear fission power which works, has a clear use, but has downsides.

I think the nearest comparison I can come up with are failed government mega-projects like the US Reagan-era "Star Wars" laser missile defense system, airplane-like space shuttles, or giant planned utopian cities that get built and then sit vacant.

I'm also shocked and a little horrified at just how much fraud there is in this space. I'd expect some, but the sheer volume of fraud is breathtaking. Almost all ICOs seem to be scams. Many exchanges are likely scams. Tether looks like a scam. It makes me disappointed in humanity that there are this many bad actors out there just waiting for a new way to fleece people.

Just... wow. What a waste.

> suppose it happens in areas of "pathological science" like infinite energy machines

I'd draw analogies to pyramid-schemes and "multi-level marketing", which are both "successful" but not in a good way.

I feel the collective "blockchain" mind-scape is absolutely dominated by nontechnical aspects, like the idea you can "get rich quick", and the assumption that you can find a "greater fool" to ensure your profit from a dodgy-product or speculative buying. This crowds out "actual engineering" and tends to corrupt whatever is left.

Well said. I got swept up in the hype and my job suffered for it. This is a negative value.

But I do think in terms of vision and coordination, blockchain has extended the horizons of what can be achieved.

FYI: the "Star Wars" laser missile defense system was not entirely a failure.

There were 2 parts to SDI:

1) space-based rocket-based ABM, which worked well. You can watch the SDI video:


2) laser missile interception, which did not work at the time.

However, with recent improvements in fiber optic transmission efficiency, this works on ships today.

The Russians have an ABM ring around Moscow based on ABM rockets.

Both Reagan and the Russian leadership did not accept the MAD doctrine, hence the above defense programs.

> How can this many brilliant people work on an area for this long and produce almost nothing of value?

To be fair, it made some folks who got lucky and bought in early nice and wealthy. Which then attracted a gaggle of shysters, hucksters and fraudsters.

When you drill down the key thing that gets people sucked in to Satoshi's Blockchain, it is naked greed. Everything layered on top about the technology, or "DLT" or whatever buzzwords these people spout is just window dressing. All of them want to Get Rich Quick and drive off into the sunset in a lambo from their bitcoin gainz.

If money is the root of all evil, give technologists and futurists the ability to print money they can swindle muggles into pouring their life savings into as a get rich quick scheme or espouse at a pitch about how life changing it is and how much excessive amounts of money they need to get paid to copy paste half the Bitcoin Core or Etherium repo.

You see pretty fast the dissolution of values in the face of potential fortune. Its an ancient aspect of humanity - the first European explorers in the Americas would slaughter whole countries on the whisper of treasure to be had.

Good point about the conquistadors. I've always thought that many of them probably did come here with utopian ideals about founding pure societies and bringing the word of God to the natives (in a positive way at least as they thought of it), but once they got a whiff of gold and riches greed took over and pretty soon they were committing genocide.

People really do get weird around lots of money, especially if there's an opportunity to get rich quick. I think some really atavistic predator instincts can kick in.

Actually, it is the love of money (φιλαργυρία) that is stated to be the root of all evil.

It's only been ten years and it takes on average around 40 years for a new technology to become useful. And this technology is much bigger and more complicated than the average new breakthrough technology, like the semiconductor or whatever.

Where did you get your 40 year claim? Plenty of research claims otherwise, e.g., https://hbr.org/2013/11/the-pace-of-technology-adoption-is-s...

Even your semiconductor example was immediately adopted and used. A decade into Blockchain and it's still all claim and no adoption, as this study found.

From the famous Carlotta Perez book.

The reason tech adoption looks like it’s speeding up is that in that chart is just that they’re looking at more and more trivial examples. E.g. the cell phone might create huge changes in human behavior, but they’re not really a foundational technology. They’re more of an incrementally better version of a phone and a computer.

How is block chain not also a trivial example and an incrementally better version of previous technology? It addresses a tiny, tiny problem compared to items on that chart. If you're claiming that things on that chart are shorter because they're less important, then blockchain, being even less important no matter how you believe it, falls into the same argument.

That chart has for recent things gaining widespread adoption: internet, cellphone, computer, (left off web adoption), microwave. Do you think the blockchain is actually bigger than any of those?

Or is it more likely what it has shown so far - nearly zero benefit compared to the claims? It's not like it hasn't had ample time to blossom and get integrated into everywhere. It simply solves a problem almost no one needs solved.

I don't think you can compare Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency to semiconductors at all. Cryptocurrency is really not all that complex a technology. Once you grasp it it's pretty simple, especially if you understand cryptography and a little bit of game theory.

I do still hold out some hope that the tech will evolve and eventually catch on, or that it will lead to something else, but the first big incarnation cycle of cryptocurrency seems like a total failure to a shocking degree.

> I do still hold out some hope that the tech will evolve and eventually catch on

I'd posit it's not possible for DLT to fail any more than it was possible for email to fail. Yeah adoption could have been slower if the first email clients were shittier or whatever, but at the end of the day one-to-one or one-to-many instant written communication solves a real problem and I just don't see any possible universe where the idea wouldn't have eventually worked.

The conceptual breakthrough of DLT is basically using an algorithm to mathematically guarantee that two numbers sum to zero rather than taking the word of a supposedly neutral (and very expensive) third-party. Once you make that discovery there just isn't any universe where that doesn't outcompete the status quo, any more than we have globally competitive societies who haven't adopted things like fire or the wheel.

The reason it's taking so long to get real products (let alone adoption) is that it requires basically reorganizing our entire society, which doesn't exactly move on a dime.

Part of the problem though is that the algorithm is fantastically expensive, possibly more so than managing, policing, and occasionally replacing central organizations.

There is no tech to evolve.

Bitcoin was made of old, already-existing pieces. All the parts existed by 2001, but it wasn't until 2008 that someone put them together to make a system that could exchange unique tokens without a central authority.

Trouble is, the term "blockchain technology" is a way of fudging the fact that none of the good bits are new. And whether the new bits are good, well, there's a 10-year track record of not a lot so far apart from asset bubbles.

I'm really not surprised. The most interesting thing about your business shouldn't be your choice in data-store.

But what about the Emerging CD-ROM Industry? (I want to know more about Bill Gate's goat!)


The 1988 Microsoft CD-ROM Conference held in Seattle in March, attracted about 2,000 industry insiders. The tone and ambience of the conference reflect a definite change in the industry. Most companies were represented not only by top management, but by their marketing personnel. Few blue-jeaned engineers or techies were found in the crowds. CD-ROM appears to have arrived.


In his keynote address, Bill Gates, Microsoft's founder and chairman, reiterated his goat of making computers affordable and attractive enough to be "on every desk, in every home." Gates reported that less than 50,000 CD-ROM drives are currently in the marketplace. These are either in very narrow vertical markets, such as libraries, or are being used by the industry itself. The problem of low drive sales is compounded by the high cost of developing a multimedia product. Gates estimated that it costs $1 million for each disk product, an investment that many companies have been unwilling or unable to make.

The lack of a "rich standard for audio-visual" components of CD-ROM development, and the limited tools available to developers today, are two other important reasons Gates cited for the slow growth of the CD-ROM industry.

CD-ROM and "multimedia" was useful in the era before internet speeds caught up with the capability of computers to show video and sound. My "Time Almanac 1990s" CD-ROM was useful, and would probably be on par with what's available online now, in quality and production values.

Bill Gates' current goat is indeed… goats: https://www.ifad.org/web/latest/news-detail/asset/40266618

That actually was a thriving industry for a few years in the 90s.

Yeah CD ROMs were fantastic technology. I had a full encyclopedia on my personal computer! And so many great games!

They filled the gap very nicely until broadband spread widely enough to allow the web to destroy any need for them.

But it's immutable (until it isn't)!

Hear hear.

And this assessment is cause for optimism. Look at many of the upcoming cohort of blockchain-based projects: LivePeer, Fluence, Augur, dare I say NuCypher (I'm on this team) - all of them have far more interesting things to offer than their use of blockchain tech. They render unto the blockchain what is the blockchain's, but all do way more interesting things.

Well put. Block chain certainly has applications but they're almost entirely a design choice.

The reality of block chains is that they'll always be complicated enough that there will always be a man in the middle. Mt. Gox demonstrated that block chains will always be exploitable because the man in the middle is easily compromised. And anything that's worth going to the trouble of protecting with block chain is worth compromising.

Not really surprising, to be honest.

I'm really tired of the overused "blockchains are really slow databases" phrase. They're not, and if you're using one as that, you're doing it wrong almost 90% of the time.

Here's a great question to ask yourself if you need a blockchain: Do I need game theoretical enforced security?

There are many networks and protocols that can be improved with such security mechanisms. There are more that can't be improved. Just in another thread, someone asked the question if Tor could be improved with it. There's plenty to experiment with here and figure out what makes a blockchain application great.

The entire idea is that you can incentivize good behavior and disincentivize or punish bad behavior. Consensus comes into play here when deciding, "Was this operation done correctly? If so, do this. If not, do that." This has the ability of enforcing correct operation in decentralized networks. My associates and I have taken to calling these "Decentralized Incentive Networks". Yes, there are many problems that have yet to be solved, but people are working on them. I'm really interested in seeing solutions to the oracle-problem, but I'm unsure if it will ever be solvable.

Even then, a lot of these applications won't be fit for enterprise (or even small business) use. Many of these applications will benefit (and survive) from community adoption and rely on being open source.

Hopefully, when the hype is gone, we will have made some really great technological advancements to peer-to-peer and distributed applications. This is where I think blockchain apps will find their niche.

The singular point of blockchain is to establish a paper trail. The singular point of Tor is not to have a paper trail.

Those are literally opposites. Blockchain + Tor would be the sort of complete nonsense the article is talking about.

Blockchain has nothing to do with security. It's not a security technology. It's a permanence technology. It ensures that something is never modified in the absence of a trusted authority which it does with security technology and distributed proof of work.

You've completely missed the point. There are people who are using Onion routing with nodes who are economically incentivized to behave in a non-malicious fashion. If caught acting malicious, then your node can be penalized. It's not like you're actively putting all traffic on the blockchain. You're arguing a strawman here.

I'm not going to speak for these projects directly because I know very little about them, but I can speak as to how you would incentivize non-malicious behavior.

> You're arguing a strawman here.

You didn't really provide anything to actually talk about. You took two literally opposite techs and slapped them together and then acted like it was obvious what that meant.

Blockchain has no application to Onion routing nodes, either. That, again, would be the sort of thing you don't want a permanent record to track. Tor is specifically designed for the routing to not be stable and not be known. It is fundamentallly the polar opposite of blockchain.

Blockchain is a public list of immutable data, identical for everyone.

TOR nodes form a private list of ephemeral data, fleeting and ever changing. Unique to everyone.

> If caught acting malicious, then your node can be penalized.

Blockchain literally has nothing to do with this. It has no such capabilities of any kind. Hell, it was literally built so that you can't have penalties as that's governance.

> I can speak as to how you would incentivize non-malicious behavior.

Blockchain doesn't do this, at all. If anything malicious actors love blockchain because there's largely no capability to recover from a successful attack.


There's quite a few people working on the oracle problem. But there's always risk at some level.

And even oracle solutions get broken down into decentralized/centralized platforms.

I met a blockchain researcher this summer, I was asking her what sort of stuff she was working on and she started talking about supply chains. Like drexlspivey mentioned there are a whole host of problems with relying on data from the real world. My first thought was just... why do you need an immutable ledger for that? Not to throw buzzwords out, but why not just store transaction data in a database that scales well? If you're willing to spend all of these resources on developing some insane database for your supply chain you must have some real trust issues with your suppliers. I've never worked in an industry like that but I feel like being able to trust your suppliers is pretty important, and provided that you do trust them you could just use a conventional database for all of this and save tons of time and effort.

We decided a couple decades ago that an 'immutable ledger' would indeed be useful. And you don't have to expend tremendous amounts of time an energy creating such a thing. See Hash Chain[1] at Wikipedia, and notice the second sentence.

1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hash_chain

I used blockchain in a project successfully, but it is not a distributed consensus application. My problem was file sharing. Torrent files send a big list of SHA1 hashes, one for each piece of the file. I replaced that idea with a single block which contains the hash of the next block (as well as two other blocks so verification isn't linear one block to the next). This allows a single block to represent the entire file, allowing you to get blocks from many peers while verifying them. You can just send out a coverage map of what you have, and your peers can calculate what you can verify and send you a random block from that set.

If anyone is interested, [1] and [2] are the project. No one is using it, but it's a peer to peer chat and file sharing system.

1. https://party-line.lol 2. https://github.com/tacixat/party-line

If I understand your short description, this sounds more like a Merkle tree[1] than a blockchain.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merkle_tree

Depending on how you define "blockchain", it's either the same thing as a merkle tree or most non-bitcoin things that claim to be using blockchains actually are just using merkle trees.

> Depending on how you define "blockchain"

i.e.: Depending on whether the person saying "blockchain" is lying to make a quick buck from the hype-train.

Sometimes they're just genuinely unaware of the prior art and think that chained hashing is a new thing.

if I understand both Merkle trees and their short description, they would be better served by using a Merkle tree than their scheme.

That's not normally what people are currently calling blockchain. That's just chained hashing, which has been around for 30 years at least.

You should look at Merkle trees. They are a component of Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies.

You might wanna look into Scuttlebutt, Dat or IPFS. All help solve that initial problem you mentioned, but in different ways.

Can a serious project really succeed with a .lol TLD?

It's not a very serious project.

I've spoken to a number of vendors and come across similar findings as well. Though of course, this is just observational on my part and not a detailed investigation or study, but I have been getting much the same impression. There's a lot of unnecessary hype and people jumping on the bandwagon just because it's currently a buzzword. That said, I still have a lot of faith in what Blockchain will eventually be able to achieve. It might just take longer to get there than we thought.

I remember when I was studying computer science in 1999, even though the internet had been out a while and there had been lots of talk about e-commerce no one had really solved the problem particularly well in terms of providing a platform to the average Joe, but by 2005 things were very different and then by 2015 there was no looking back. I think it's going to be the same for Blockchain.

> That said, I still have a lot of faith in what Blockchain will eventually be able to achieve. It might just take longer to get there than we thought.

Why should anyone care more than say... the adoption rate of SkipLists or Bloom Filters?

Blockchain IS a usable datastructure with some interesting properties. But so are Cuckoo Hashes. But no one is going around talking about how Cuckoo Hashes will take over the world.

Its like XML or SOAP, or any other buzzword technology. There's certainly a benefit to the technology, but ultimately the engineering of stuff that uses it is relatively boring.

> in 1999, even though the internet had been out a while and there had been lots of talk about e-commerce no one had really solved the problem particularly well in terms of providing a platform to the average Joe

I'm not sure why you focused on e-commerce as a use case, as well as the average Joe as the user. The article in question talks about them trying to find ANY industry use case. The Internet was useful pretty much from day 1. In the early 70s it already enabled digital file transfers and email communication. The use cases were easy to find...

The percentage of people saying blockchain doesn't have a substantial use case, is about the same percentage as there were in the late 70's or early 80's saying the internet didn't have a substantial use case.

Initially, few people thought file transfer over the internet was a substantive use case because the transmission speed was too slow. Then throughput capacity picked up, but people then shifted the argument to something like, "It's good for medium size file transfer, and I guess I can sometimes send this clunky email thing instead of picking up the phone or sending a fax." This process repeats itself, with goalposts ever shifting, until someone talks about the possibility of selling everything over the internet, starting with books, and most think it's nutty, but believe hearing "you've got mail" every morning might get mass adoption.

I'm not sure whether 'blockchain' is a database or a universal computer or a new software primitive. Or whether we can even tell. What I know is that it is at the very least some sort of network infrastructure (in the most abstract sense of the term). Just like with the internet (another network infrastructure), the space of substantial use cases increases as more people and technologies are connected to it.

Could it end up being a dud apart from some random use cases? Emphatically yes. Could it end up being pretty important? Possibly (we don't know).

Ironically, the best evidence I have for being agnostic about the potential of 'blockchain' is the number of educated and non-educated people making wild claims about the benefits of decentralization, etc.

When the telegraph arrived, a substantial mass of people said it would usher in world peace. When the internet arrived, a substantial mass of people made wild claims about breaking us free from corporate power, educating the masses, etc.

> The percentage of people saying blockchain doesn't have a substantial use case, is about the same percentage as there were in the late 70's or early 80's saying the internet didn't have a substantial use case.

Cite some numbers.

Even claiming the Internet is a reasonable comparison is a leap you haven't justified.

Why is it comparable to, ooh, let's just pick a completely random example, this HUGELY SUCCESSFUL THING?

Why not some other technology? e.g.

* blockchain: the Apple e-World of distributed databases

* blockchain: the Ford Pinto gas tank of distributed databases

* blockchain: the cold fusion of distributed databases

> I still have a lot of faith in what Blockchain will eventually be able to achieve.

What does this even mean? Its a really beautiful solution its just lacking a good problem.

Faith is required to sustain belief in promises that are never delivered.

The solution offered is: "But instead of giving full maintenance or full publishing rights to new collaborators, the original developer would give new maintainers or a CI system only signing rights. So they would sign their releases and after a careful review the original author would countersign stating that he checked and approves these changes."

This is 100% equivalent to the maintainer merging a pull request. The other half of the solution is "we need to pay open source maintainers," which doesn't need a blockchain either.

Blockchain doesn't help this scenario at all.

> We need an easier way to automatically distribute payments based on certain rules to open source developers.

Has almost nothing to do with Blockchain. This is just called "micropayments"- and blockchains suck for them. At best, you end up doing little payments outside the blockchain, and then settling them occasionally on the blockchain.

You may notice this same approach works quite well for "do little payments outside the existing financial system, and settle them periodically."

> Code and modules need to be multi-signed and certificates should be inexpensive to get and easy to validate.

Code signing is unrelated to blockchain.

Certificates are already easy to get. GPG is free. Certificates signed by a CA sometimes cost money- code signing certs, at least in theory (in practice? hah, not really), cost because they need to be able to verify your actual identity.

Certificates being easy to validate... this is a PKI problem. Blockchain provides nothing of value here.

You might be able to do something like what Keybase does- having some centralized "identity" and making changes to same auditable- with a degenerate Merkle tree. You know what else does this? A HSM from like 2006, which, in each audit log entry, includes the hash of the previous one, to establish exactly this property- changes and edits can be detected.

> One of our dependencies could become a malicious package in the same way we saw it with event-stream. But instead of giving full maintenance or full publishing rights to new collaborators, the original developer would give new maintainers or a CI system only signing rights. So they would sign their releases and after a careful review the original author would countersign stating that he checked and approves these changes.

Not only has this got nothing to do with Blockchain, the proposal here is just "a new maintainer needs to ask the old maintainer for permission to publish for a while", which is quite silly- if the old maintainer is tired of bothering with the maintenance bit, the LAST thing they want to do is careful code audits.

> Later, if our fictional project received an in-app payment there could be some logic within the runtime environment that based on the impact or contribution of this open source module to our project would automatically distribute a couple of cents of each payment to the author who can be determined based on the certificate.

Well, no, the author can't be determined based on the certificate on your binary. The person (or persons) who signed it can be. Asking every contributor to sign every release in perpetuity is silly, of course. Incentivize them to do it with a cut of the profits? Great, now they just rubber stamp everything.

Now, if you mean the maintainer of the module, sure. You know what else works quite nicely for this? Just having a payment address in your Git repo in some file with a well-known name. There's no point in the certificate, here!

"Aha- a payment address! PayPal won't work, not much else that exists will, either. For those smaller payments, only a Blockchain-based approach would work." Well, that's true- for now. Similarly, "free, rapid person-to-person transfers" was largely just Venmo for a while. Then the sleeping giants that are the financial industry woke up, threw some pocket change at the problem, and created Zelle / Early Warning, which does the exact same thing.

There isn't a good way to do microtransactions today because there isn't that much demand for microtransactions. If there is, it'll pop up quite quickly.

This entire article is just... clown shoes. The parts that might work aren't novel and don't require anything besides a degenerate Merkle tree, and the parts that are novel or require a Real Blockchain(TM) are useless.

Why is this? Because the article itself was written backwards! The author started out with "I like and know Blockchain. (more cynically, 'I benefit when $ETH goes up'.) Here is a problem. How can we apply Blockchain to it, and make the world more secure (and more cynically, 'make me richer and my skills more in demand')?"

In so far as this article attempts to solve any problem, the problem is "Blockchain isn't used as much as I'd like it to be."

I find it a bit odd that this entire article and every comment (so far) doesn't even mention HyperLedger? [0]

The open source private blockchain project championed by IBM, Intel, Cisco, etc...

It's powering CLSNet right now. [1]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperledger

[1] https://www.coindesk.com/goldman-morgan-stanley-go-live-with...

My favourite terrible blockchain idea is real estate on the blockchain.

Because presumably that means that if someone guesses or steals my password, they now own my house.

Presumably, if this were really implemented, the way it would work would be something like this: you'd upload your legal documents to the blockchain, and sign them with your private key, your notary's/lawyer's public keys, the realtor's public keys, and the hash of the previous owner's legal documents, and so on.

But of course this isn't really a blockchain, it's just a CMS with a PKI interface.

> Because presumably that means that if someone guesses or steals my password, they now own my house.

You'll register your private keys with a PKI. In practice the worst case scenario would be needing to go to the DMV to register your new phone or something.

So if government can change my private keys, this is no longer decentralized system. How is it different from current system, where county office has a big database of all the documents?

The way it works now is you rely on a third party to guarantee the property isn't owned by someone else, and then you buy insurance to protect the lender in case the third party screwed up.

I remember random recruiters talking me into speaking with 4 blockchain companies for remote gigs. I had a hard time understanding the value proposition and asked the founders types of questions like, why is this knowledge base better than stack overflow or why does this rating system work better than other systems? It came down to answer the question because "blockchain blah blah". Not giving the actual value to the consumer. It was more touting what the technology allows rather than real value. The killer app of blockchain is crypto currency at this point IMO. Not much else but I'm rooting for Vitalik as that dude is a genius and I still feel like something amazing will come out of his work. I would guess if you are going to use blockchain for something, make it something that cannot function without it and is one of a kind in being a new thing that people will want, not a clone of an existing tech + blockchain.

Related, NIST's answer to do you need a block chain.


I worked on a project called GNU Ring (https://www.ring.cx) and we used a blockchain for the distributed name service (match strings to crypto signatures). By default there is a name server, but if you really, really care about getting tiny more anonymity, you can spend some CPU cycles and run your own name service locally or on a server you own.

It also share the cost of running a distributed database among those who care about privacy while letting those who care less enjoy a simpler stack. A win, win.

Does it share the cost, or does it duplicate the cost?

It shares it. Each person pays for one node, not all the nodes.

This study is clearly flawed because they didn't consider the real use case of blockchain: illegal activity.

Blockchain has truly transformed the fields of child pornography, ransomware, drug markets, and ponzi schemes. Regardless of your opinions of those fields, you simply have to accept that those areas wouldn't be possible to the extent they are now without Blockchain based cryptocurrencies.

All that operated just fine before, with WebMoney, Paypal and some turkish mules that would take the prison time to cash it all out.

I feel that ransomware at least would not be possible without Bitcoin. Before Bitcoin, there were no safe way to get ransom -- Paypal/Western Union would get blocked real fast, and physical transactions were detected in an old-fashioned way.

I find this to be a little short sighted stufy. Perhaps he should ask the citizens of venezuela if it works? Or people paying taxes in bitcoin in Australia?

No doubt, there is a lot of hype. No doubt, a lot of people, including techies, have lost sight of what is important. No doubt, many in the space are impatient, and do not understand that blockchain development, the real blockchain development is more like development of aircraft frames. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. No doubt, people are trying to apply it where it is not necessary.

There are, however, a plethora of other use cases. The key though, in my opinion, is placing all of it under the hood, invisible to the user except where it is absolutely needed (ie, hi user! here is your wallet).

The truth is that many businesses already run replicated, distributed databases on replicated, distributed servers, and it is plenty fast since they don't have to worry about solving advanced cryptographic math equations for incentive purposes. However, one problem facing generalized platform blockchains, such as ethereum, is that the current entire concept of business and how its modeled is far behind what a blockchain can deliver to a business and its interested parties. The problem, as I see it, is primarily one of control, and secondly, one of trust.. I mentioned the replicated distributed stuff earlier, and I think it safe to say no current business will ever open nodes to outside participants (such as customers, or resellers), or even inside participants (shareholders, employees). Unless shareholders demand it (for instance, to ensure a fair number of shares can ever be created), a completely internalized blockchain is pointless and no more trustworthy to society than what we already have.

Another large problem is obviously power consumption. Every bitcoin maximalist needs to come to the realization that one of the strongest ways the established players will fight a new paradigm is by controlling power costs. For many in the developed world, bitcoin is out of reach, as mining equipment is expensive, and power makes it impossible to turn a profit. The best solution to this is green, _affordable_ energy sources and affordable mining equipment. Proof of Stake is not completely the answer.

Finally, I point to this part of the "study":

> We documented 43 blockchain use-cases through internet searches,

No wonder they got terrible results. Doctors tell patients all of the time to not google your symptoms, it always ends with cancer. Does this mean doctors are a failure?

The established financial systems took a thousand years to formulate into what we know today. Patience is power.

Tim Bray made a comment at re:invent this week that most of Amazon's internal work loads rely on DynamoDB and a ledger database that is the pre-cursor to the new QLDB service Amazon released this week.

To qualify this, when Tim used the word 'most' I don't know if he meant "most data stored" or "most DB instances". He also didn't give any percentages, so it very well could be 99% Dynamo and 1% ledger DB. Lastly, Bray didn't include Aurora or Redshift in that list of "most used database at Amazon", but Dr Vogel's keynote alluded to a ton of internal Aurora usage.

So, at least some people are claiming successful usage of blockchain in production. It's just not clear how much. Amazon seems to think there is a future in it, since they just released 2 new blockchain related services this week.

Oh Boy!! Another case of pre-determined surveys. CLS has already moved to production on blockchain. De Beers has done the same with Diamonds. Multiple insurance companies including our start-up are leveraging BC for direct claims settlement. Is it really difficult to understand that BC technology is not a hammer and all the use cases are not nails. You are trying to get rid of Big intermediaries, people. They are not going to make it easy. Every interaction between parties is going to be more difficult than the previous until critical mass is attained. But succeed it will and will most likely happen before we die.

title: "Where is your distributed ledger technology now?"

Just being rational and before reading the article, you can deduct there is some kind of bias.

"Any claim made for blockchain could be made for databases"

We can deduct here that author has no deep understanding of the technology.

"that's something we can confidently tell you for nothing: no, it isn't"

Author is dismissive and angry (didn't adopt early?)

Great level of precision in this measurement.

IMO the killer blockchain app is voting. It makes use of the features that are unique to blockchain: censorship resistance, decentralization, and trustless transactions. I've been working on a paper for the last 6 months that details a system that makes use of crypto innovations like zk-snarks and some other novel technologies that lays a blueprint for how to use this tech to provide a voting system that would be beyond any central party's influence and would securely allow for voting from mobile devices and a host of other things that are beyond the capabilities of centralized tech - at least beyond the ability to be done in a manner that anyone would trust.

I've been watching the space since 2010 and can honestly say most projects are solutions in search of a problem.

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