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“We already store data. In a database. It works well” (twitter.com)
845 points by susam 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 351 comments

What I find fascinating is that the person pushing Jimmy to use crypto for Wikipedia does not seem to fully grasp the technology they are pitching.

1. He pitches it is great to track people posting illicit content on Wikipedia, then argues that crypto is pseudonymous, So why would you use that when web trackers we have today already know what I had for breakfast

2. Why would anyone want people to post illegal material on a blockchain when it is immutable? Let's assume the culprit goes to jail, but then you have billions of people now able to access illegal content, that can never be removed because it is on a blockchain

What a sales pitch.

What you have to know is that there are thousands of people out there who made windfall gains during the rise of bitcoin and the others. Say you bought or mined 100 bitcoins back when they were a dollar, and somehow didn't sell - they're worth a million today, on paper.

If you can talk up BTC/blockchain in some public place such that someone notable agrees it's useful - Wales qualifies - the crypto press would go nuts. "Wikipedia founder looking into blockchain!!" - anything to get it back in the press/public consciousness. If you can get it up just 10%, that's on paper $100k.

For thousands of people, this is their motivation. Talking up bitcoin is literally their full time job.

I remember reading an article about Bitcoin where the author pointed out: when you buy some bitcoins, you're buying because you're hoping it will go up and you can sell and make profit in the future. So automatically, you're going to be cheerleading and promoting it, in hopes it rises in value...

This is fundamental to trading/speculating on anything.

Buying a stock/bond/asset comes with the intrinsic belief the value will increase. Being more specific, purchasing any speculative asset comes with the belief that the thing I am buying will increase in value relative to the thing I'm buying it.

The reverse is also true for selling a speculative asset.

Now that that is out of the way. Let's continue cherry picking as you've done and consider traders that specialize in short selling companies they deem as bad market actors. What do high profile short sellers do? They go on all sorts of media rants warning about companies/assets ect TO WARN PEOPLE AND INFORM THEM (legitimate or otherwise) for their own gain.

Cherry picking these ideas with respect to crypto is totally naive.

Only if you're speculating on currency.

Some people use BTC to pay for VPNs, drugs, or simply to get cash out of their country. There was a lot of speculation that the big spike in BTC a few years back was the Saudi royalty trying to move cash out before MBS cracked down on them.

99% of Crypto is speculation. 0.5% is darknet markets, 0.25% is crypto ransomware, 0.1% is Saudi princes and rich people moving money out of a country. Somewhere in the remaining fraction of a percentage is legit legal usage.

There are much better ways to move money out of a country than one with locked-down fiat gateways in every first-world country with a fully public ledger. It may for a few thousand dollars but when you're talking Saudi prince money there's much better ways. It's not even good for that lol.

Same with every asset, I would think.

Nope. Assets have a sale value and an ownership value.

Suppose a company makes $100,000 per year and this is expected to continue. How much would you pay for it?

Now, suppose it makes $100,000 per year, but for some reason once you have it, no one will buy it off you. How much would you pay for it?

You'd pay less in the second case, but not that much less. The company has a value which it gives to you for having ownership of it.

Meanwhile, bitcoin produces....$0 per year for owning it. The only value is in sale at a higher price. You have to bet on appreciation.

This is something fundamental people often misunderstand about, say, stocks. The price is set by supply and demand for the stock, but the value is determined by the cashflows. Usually price and value move at least somewhat in sync. But if stock markets went insane and valued everything at $0 for some reason, you'd still want to own companies.

> Now, suppose it makes $100,000 per year, but for some reason once you have it, no one will buy it off you. How much would you pay for it?

Unless the income-producing aspect of the business is dependent on you, there's always someone willing to buy something that produces money.

It was a hypothetical to clarify the issue. Suppose you were cursed by a genie and you could never sell an asset.

In such a world, the $100,000/yr business still has value to you. That was the point.

Hypothetical indeed. Hypothetically, ownership value should be close to sale value.

At the moment I rather see people buying stuff that they think other people might deem valuable in the future, e.g. motivation behind buying TSLA is similar to buying BTC.

The motivation may be the same but TSLA produces electric cars and BTC produces CO2 and crime.

Very close minded on crypto, aren't ya?

I tend to be closed minded towards scams, yes.

If you still put your money down for the stock, the value isn't $0 anymore. It's whatever you value it.

It’s a hypothetical, where the whole world has gone mad except you. Nobody buys. So it has a price you would purchase at, but $0 sale value to you as there are no other buyers. The true value of an asset is separate from the price (which is $0 in this case as you can’t sell it)

A thought experiment to show the difference between price and value. Bitcoin currently has a price. No actual intrinsic value other than the hope of value in the future.

I think it does have intrinsic value - that value lies in allowing some people, in some areas, to circumvent tracking or avoid authorities. To those people, BTC brings value which cannot be had elsewhere. My personal belief is that this is what fuels BTC's value, and the rest is speculation (but then it's similar to stocks).

I don't think that whether it has this property (and value) is in question - the question is how much of BTC's price is fueled by that value.

Fair point. I shouldn’t discount it to zero. (Though in the above example I was arguing it has $0 value to you if you can’t sell it, unlike a company)

What about a company which grows every year but never pays dividends and can't be sold for more than $0? Would you want to buy it for $1? ( I prefer to use $1 because $0 has the problem of indifference )

Even if this company owns the whole world at the end, is it worth even $1?

Yes, because then I am entitled to voting rights so that I can force them to give me the money. Usually, voting rights are a tiny fraction of the stock value.

If I get non-voting shares that do not pay dividends, then these aren't shares, they're just useless scraps of paper. If the only utility I can get from them is being able to point out that I "technically" own the entire world, it is indeed useless.

Maybe I'm willing to pay a dollar for it but certainly not two.

That's a bit like saying what if 0=1. If the company owned the whole world you could launch legal action to make it sell a bit and pay out.

> You'd pay less in the second case, but not that much less.

Given the huge amounts of money that investors will invest in companies that make negative money every year, I think this is (perhaps unfortunately) not at all true in the real world.

> Same with every asset, I would think.

When you buy (e.g.) real estate you can get value out of it without thinking about selling it for a profit later. Especially if it's your primary residence.

Same with most vehicles: they depreciate over time, but there is utilitarian value in the asset. Unless it's Steve McQueen's Mustang or something.

Not every "asset" is about ROI.

That's the difference between assets in general, and investment vehicles, which are a very particular kind of asset regulated by the SEC.

Yes, but most investment vehicles are assets (or are eventually backed by assets).

Real estate, and the various loans and derivatives, all eventually end up at real, productive assets that you might want to own.

Stocks and the various index funds and derivatives, all eventually end up with ownership of a company. A company which, if profitable, can pay dividends back to the owners.

I'd argue that it's a much rarer class of investment vehicle which is purely speculative.

If you have a house you ever intend to sell, you will also try to make the neighborhood it is in sound more attractive, to increase its sale value, regardless of whether you can extract utility from it.

I bought my house to live in, but it has gone up. Many of the stocks I've invested in I purchased because they pay dividends, and I expect they will continue to in the future. As long as that is true, I don't care if the price of the stock increases much. I have a case of fine wine in my basement, most wine doesn't age well, but some do. I expect these will increase in price... But I'm planning to drink more than a few bottles.

Many other assets have at least some intrinsic value.

Not currency, unless you're a forex trader. And not if you're aiming to collect a dividend* or to exert control over a company.

*In the tech hysteria, it's easy to forget that this is where the fundamental value comes from.


And that's why short-selling is so important.

Wow, never thought I'd hear such a good defense of short-selling, but you're right.

Thanks for the compliment. It's pretty much the orthodox standard argument, so no stroke of genius from me.

Orthodox economics is severely underrated.

Oh, and bitcoin got a decent short-selling facility with the futures trading a while back.

(No clue why you are getting downvoted.)

aka "talking one's book"

So, It is a PYRAMID scheme?

No, it's a reverse funnel system.

Got me wondering. What's the largest amount of bitcoin that you can trivially convert into USD in a very short timeframe?

Ie. Can "on paper" millionaires realise that wealth if they choose to?

I think the term for this is "market depth". https://bitcoincharts.com/markets/bitstampUSD_depth.html The 3rd chart (and the 4th which is the same thing but zoomed in) shows: if I'm willing to accept as little as X USD / Y BTC exchange rate, how much BTC can I sell? The answer is the area under the curve above the price you're accepting.

If you have a lot more BTC to sell than could comfortably move on exchanges, auctions are the way to go. Sometimes the feds seize large amounts of BTC and auction them off in large blocks, and they not only sell but they go for above then-current exchange rates.

I think you can do $50-100m in a 24hour period without spooking the market much; that's on regular exchanges. Not sure about the depth of the market where they trade in blocks via some brokers.

Who or what service is going to give you $50mm in real money for Bitcoin in a 24 hr period,

You’ll have to split this amount between 7-10 exchanges. That becomes 5-10m/exchange. Coinbase volume today was $150m. $5m should be feasible over 24hours and btc trades 24/7.

Nobody. You’ll never find an answer and just get mumbles. The truth is crypto trading in actual USD (not tether) is super thin. Everything else is smoke and mirrors.

I actively trade these markets, so I have some insights. While I didn’t do $50m-$100m on a single day, I’m judging by market depth on the different exchanges I trade at.

There many small fish trading with a small ($500k-$1m) capital on a 3-5x leverage. They can do some days 5-10m of volume in usd.

Are you trading in actual dirty government fiat (USD) or fake tether (USDT)? There is a huge difference. And also note that some of the larger exchanges aren’t very upfront about which currency you are actually trading in...

Check out listings on localbitcoins for your region. It's worked well for me in the past (keeping transactions off public exchanges). In my city, it's been trivial to move $20k dollars in a couple hours.

Most online wallets will convert your balance to USD instantly, but limit the rate at which you can transfer the money to your normal bank.

Swapping BTC for dollar-shaped entries in an exchange's database doesn't count.

Yes? Even a billion dollars? I'm not sure you're actually answering my question.

Big amounts, like 25M+ are usually done OTC. Several big companies in the space offer this service and are able to link you with one or multiple buyers to offload 9 digits.

You can easily offload 10M USD worth over 10-20 minutes without having a big effect on the overall market.

Can you link to an exchange that a) has the book depth to handle 10M USD currently and b) has a straightforward way to then move the cash position into a US bank in the same timeframe as an ACH?

It has been years since I looked but that wasn’t available when I did. It would be a positive sign for the maturity of the market.

At this moment, on Coinbase, you can instantly sell approximately 1000 BTC for $9.91M - about 4% under the mid market price against what is on the book. Assuming you are a US person (since you want to move the money to a US bank) and have no problem complying with their KYC policies, you should be able to get the money a day or two if you chose to accept a wire instead of an ACH. Just for comparison, for ACH in particular since you mention it, most traditional trading institutions (etrade, schwab, ameritrade) limit your ACH transfers to 250k/day - coinbase does as well last I checked. So you'd get your money about 10x as fast as if you tried to do it via ACH. Wires are typically unlimited.

Snapshot of live book depth at time of posting: https://imgur.com/a/rhi7ZKL

Taken from here, look for "view exchange": https://pro.coinbase.com/trade/BTC-USD

Coinbase has a $10k per day withdrawal limit. You have to contact them to get more. They don't specify how difficult or time consuming that process is.

It seriously isn't that difficult to get this limit increased.

Speaking as someone who watched a buddy go through this process it took him ~2 days to get his limit increased to the millions for a wire transfer.

In other words, it is not possible.

OTC desks are different than exchanges, and you won't be able to see their books. There are also trading algos meant to push things through the market without being noticed. Of course it comes at a cost, you'll usually pay a discount (up to 5% or so ) to unload a large amount of crypto.

Crypto is an unregulated wild west, so these OTC desks typically don't have BD licenses, might do prop trading and be the counterparty to your transaction and take your position on their books (and then try to unload it themselves at a profit), or might match trades with their own customer lists. It's typically a pretty low-tech operation running on chat rooms.

I've worked with a few of those firms.

Market selling that much Bitcoin in one place isn't quite possible right now, but you could do this in a day on Coinbase and get real dollars in your bank account. If you split it up and sold some on other exchanges like Kraken you could reduce the time required to sell it. You could also trade the BTC for other popular assets like ETH on exchanges without fiat markets then sell that off on exchanges that do.

CMC reports around $37B in global BTC volume right now, but the real figure is probably $2.5 - 3B, and of that it's fragmented in different fiat currencies with different restrictions on where those exchanges are able to send money. So while it's certainly not nothing and it's better than years ago, it's like a quarter of the average daily volume of shares in a single company like Apple.

google bitcoin otc like gemini, even coinbase pro can handle millions in a day. market is pretty large. have you tried?

Oh right. The mysterious “OTC market” that somehow lets people unload their massive gains without affecting the market. Yeah right. $10 million of actual US currency is going to have a massive effect on the BTC market regardless of how it was traded.

If you could somehow unload massive amounts of BTC without affecting the market it would be arbitraged away almost instantly.

People who suggest that it is possible to unload BTC without impacting the market don’t understand finance at all. Not understanding finance, economics, math, computer science, politics and monetary theory is par for course for most BTC supporters.

It’s an illiquid market, I remember during the peak I needed to unload amounts several orders of magnitude lower than the amounts being discussed here. It was not as easy or straightforward as some would have you believe on here. What kind of a fool would trade real world fiat currency for an asset as volatile as Bitcoin? That’s the real question that should be asked.

A lot of places can't do more than 10k a day. So you either try and sell at the peak and eat the risk of them going under, or you sell continuously and leave a lot of money on the table because price fluctuates week to week.

Sort of, the big places do have limits like this, but they can always be lifted by jumping through extra identity verification hoops

Another place I have to say this, but these limits are not difficult to get increased and don't take all that long either.

And all of that made logical sense to me, but it wasn't until I took a job in the crypto space that I appreciated, viscerally, the extent to which it was happening. Dozens of Twitter accounts deriding other projects in the space as shitcoins 24/7. "Bitcoin is 100% not a scam and every other crypto project is 100% a scam" is somehow a position that's taken seriously by sheer memetic force of will. It's wild.

> For thousands of people, this is their motivation. Talking up bitcoin is literally their full time job.

This is why it's a scam.

Such a scam that more than %90 of it's entire price history made profit for anyone that bought it. Such a scam that you don't need any permission to sell or buy and gives you a returns that are not possible in any asset for public. It might not be the best store of value all the time or similar but in certain time frames, it's risk/reward ratio is beyond anything that's exist in investment world. Especially for public.

While I agree about the concept, I think Bitcoin has jumped the shark on this one. It's hopeless to get it to bounce 10% with just that. It still works with alts that their market cap is small and are fairly non-liquid.

> Talking up bitcoin is literally their full time job.


But sometimes true believers don't need a lot of motivation. What motivates Rust or Arch Linux people to talk up their favorite technology 24/7?

Now that's bloody genius. Trick owners/founders of large foundations/corporations into checking out your blockchain, drive hype, ???, profit.

It's called product marketing.

That's very frustrating when arguing against blockchain/cryptocurrencies on the internet (and even in places like HN). For every blockchain enthusiast that has a good understanding of the technology and interesting arguments you have a dozen of people who have barely any understanding of how it works and what it can really do and will spew all sorts nonsense, sometimes even self-contradicting themselves in the process. I suppose that some of them argue in bad faith because they're invested in the technology and want to get rich.

This particular issue of the privacy of the blockchain is one of the best examples, I very commonly see discussions in CC circles where it's both argued that blockchain respects its user's privacy and at the same time that we shouldn't be worried about bad actors abusing an anonymous, unregulated system to fuel corruption or highly illegal stuff because "everything is public on the blockchain, it's completely transparent". I guess that's why many of them have this obsession about quantum resistance, there's clearly a state superposition at play in there somewhere.

An other favorite of mine is "what do you mean cryptocurrency is unpractical? I use it to pay everyday using <centrally operated credit card service provided by a centrally operated cryptocurrency exchange using an off-chain ledger that may or may not eventually be settled in bulk on the blockchain>". Sounds like Visa with extra steps to me.

> ... you have a dozen of people who have barely any understanding of how it works and what it can really do ...

NIST has a really good document, Blockchain Technology Overview (NISTIR 8202):

* https://csrc.nist.gov/publications/detail/nistir/8202/final

Chapter 8, Application Considerations, has a good yes/no flowchart that asks a series of question before saying "maybe Blockchain"

* Do you need a shared, consistent data store?

* Does more than one entity need to contribute data?

* Data records, once written, are never updated or deleted?

* Sensitive identifiers WILL NOT be written to the data store?

* Are the entities with write access having a hard time deciding who should be in control of the data store?

* Do you want a tamperproof log of all writes to the data store?

If the answer to any of the above questions is "no", NIST suggests something else.

* Do you have the resources to secure the network using POW mining?

This is a big "no" for every project excluding bitcoin.

Any other good nist publications you recommend? IT or tech related?

NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a good collection of resources.


It's worth just browsing their "SP" series and seeing what interests you:

* https://csrc.nist.gov/publications/sp

The NISTIR series also worth perusing.

> I suppose that some of them argue in bad faith because they're invested in the technology and want to get rich.

And some of them argue in what they would call good faith, for they have drunk the koolaide, want to believe, for this allows them to believe that they hold a valuable asset, were clever in getting in early, etc.

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

Yes, the people arguing that blockchain has it figured out for regular transactions are fools. Blockchain has a long way to go and many serious challenges to overcome before it can compete with payment networks like Visa.

It does a disservice to say the technology is already there, because it suggests that the current version is as good as it gets. To me, blockchain or something that incorporates its best features (decentralization, immutability) will need to process transactions for:

- Fractions of a cent - Confirm in seconds

So far that is not possible, and there is no clear way to achieve it, but with blockchain as a base there is no doubt that it will eventually be done. At that point, if you have not sacrificed decentralization or immutability, you have something truly amazing.

Really, for me, before I could ever consider using Bitcoin for regular transactions, it would need to become many orders of magnitude more stable. There's no way I could ever use something as a currency replacement when its value still swings up and down by as much as 10% in a week.

I don't think I could ever use Bitcoin for regular transactions, even if it became as stable as USD. As soon as someone gets your bitcoin address they can see your full transaction history and basically your net worth, there's no way anyone wants that!

Arguably you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket, i.e., you'd split it up across many wallets. But I agree with this sentiment. Banks exist for a reason folks, holding your entire net worth in btc across a few thumb drives isn't much different than storing all your retirement funds in a shoebox IMO.

> Arguably you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket, i.e., you'd split it up across many wallets.

Has anybody brought up how user friendly bitcoin is?

I too enjoy having to print bitcoin private keys on archival paper, wrap them in ten ziplock bags, shove that into a watertight container and bury it under the backyard bird feeder. Otherwise somebody would get my keys and take ownership of my entire net worth, leaving me destined for the poor house.

Because with bitcoin, whoever has the key owns the bitcoin.

That's why I brought up banks! They take care of that icky, non-user-friendly part

You’re describing the Lightning Network. There’s still a lot of room for improvement before it’s suitable for non-enthusiasts, but it works and has been live for well over a year now.

Ah yes, LN will has been poised to save bitcoin for the last decade now. The one little secret to bitcoin investors don’t want you to know! Want bitcoin to be a success? Don’t use it!

Too bad it is still vaporware.

You're either misinformed or have an agenda (based on the snark, my guess is the latter), but LN is far from vaporware...

LND 0.4-beta was released March 15, 2018. Today there are 11k nodes, 35k channels, $9,000,000 network capacity:


aren't you describing litecoin?

I think this is representative of a general case of many internet subcultures with a fanatical following. In many of these communities you are deeply into thing X, all problems are always solved by more thing X. Hostility arises to any suggestion that thing X is not a solution to any given problem. Obviously this has nothing to do with how cool, interesting, or beneficial thing X may be. They just lose sight of the fact that there is not really a thing that literally solves all problems and never has any downsides.

Seen it pretty commonly on reddit for various topics.

I'd never connected the dots, but I think you're right. Most developer crypto zealots I know are also zealots about things like: micro services, static typing, the brave browser, and <front-end frameworks du jour>.

> where it's both argued that blockchain respects its user's privacy and at the same time that we shouldn't be worried about bad actors

Bitcoin is not remotely private. Monero is.

I particularly enjoyed (paraphrased) -

  "What exactly are proposing?"
  "That you go away and learn more about blockchain"
I mean wow, what a pitch. You need to use my thing, I can't explain how exactly, or what it'll do for you, you need to figure that out yourself!

I've been on the internet for so long that I genuinely don't know whether this person is serious or trolling hard.

Also that person chiming in calling Jimmy anti-capitalist cracked me up.

Oh an OT: WTF is a cashtag? I'm not using Twitter, the linkified $BSV in the very first message was new to me, and on hover the URL reveals it's a cashtag. I'm feeling old.

Based on the decade of cult-like blockchain advocacy I’ve seen, I’m going with “dead serious”. There are a few - maybe as high as 1-2% - people in that community who genuinely understand the technology and its relevance but it’s dominated by get-rich-quick types. Once you’ve “invested” the only way you make money is by convincing other people to buy in and that usually means turning into a marketing bot pushing it for every problem — basically the nerd equivalent of joining an MLM.

Something that cryptocurrencies changed about the internet is that you can be talking to someone who has $2 invested and is now spending their time shilling a product in bad faith.

The Brave browser suffers from this as well since they went with their own cryptocurrency BAT crap. Every "use brave" you see in the wild had a good chance of the 14-year-old hoping to get rich from their $2 investment. Yet they have all the time in the world to argue with people on the internet. There's no difference between the posts of someone who is excited about the Brave platform vs someone who holds $5 of BAT on Coinbase and thinks it will one day buy them a lambo if they put in the e-time.

It instantly makes your product reek.

meanwhile professors in academia teaching students (who came there to learn from an authoritative source) that blockchain is the future and an important skill in the industry. IMO academia doesn't do enough and is very much complicit in peddling this horse manure.

I've been surprised by the number of blockchain articles in Communications of the ACM and the more practical publication ACM Queue. I expect blockchain is a flash-in-the-pan topic that will get a lot of papers for a few years working on increasingly esoteric details, and then everyone will forget all about it in 5 years.

Being involved in audit/security for quite a while, I do appreciate the benefits of blockchain. Would I tell a large corporation to drop their DBs and switch to BC? Not this decade. As Jimmy Wales wrote "It works well.", and if it ain't broken, don't fix it.

I can imagine a general ledger audit to be 'bullet proof'. Of course there are other issues in a DB's user access management. But we can achieve the same results right here, right now, without having to invest $m to change our software/infrastructure/SIEM, etc. in order to achieve in 5 years, what we are already doing now.

Change will come (as always), but in the right time. Where "right" in this case is benefit largely outweigh costs (build/maintain/support/train/etc.)

What kind of usecase do you imagine for blockchain in audit/security, given that sensitive information can't be put on a public blockchain and the security provided by proof-of-work consensus doesn't work in a smaller private blockchain?

I think he is trolling but doesn't know it yet -- second order trolling if you will...

It's a tag for tickers, also works with stock market tickers, e.g. $GE

I assumed the anti-capitalist thing was a joke, and laughed. Now I'm dubious..

I thought so too. Then I viewed their other tweets :eek:

Personally I had guessed a warped and shallow idea of capitalism from the start - regardless of trolling or sincerity. A "everyone should be greedy as possible and running a free encyclopedia superpasser is anti-capitalist due to not trying to make money from it". Which is wrong / a poor approximation as part of the bloody point of capitalism is to have your spending in both money and effort advocate your views.

Anyway even before checking that sort of view in generic ironically fits both the anti-capitalist and the speculator "Gordon Gecko" types.

> What I find fascinating is that the person pushing Jimmy to use crypto for Wikipedia does not seem to fully grasp the technology they are pitching.

In my experience so far, this seems to be a fairly regular thing when the word "blockchain" crops up in a conversation.

Don't generalize from such a sample please. BSV is a cryptocurrency forked from Bitcoin by supporters of a businessman called Craig Wright[1] who is widely considered as a fraud, even within crypto.

Just like with any nascent, hyped-up field, you will have people who are in it purely for the money. The fact that cryptocurrency makes it trivial to operate and participate in Ponzis exacerbates the issue, but if you went to a random ML/AI conference a few years ago you'd also have been pitched dozens of Ponzis (in the form of nonsensical startups) by opportunists who understand nothing about the technology.

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

There’s a key difference: ML was solving real problems from day one - not everything, not as well as some boosters claimed but real products did useful work. Bitcoin a decade in has … ?

Ransomware? That's been quite successful, and mostly enabled by Bitcoin. :-)

Don’t forget drugs and guns!

What are you implying exactly: that there are no problems with present day currencies, or that Bitcoin doesn't solve any of those problems?

> ML was solving real problems from day one

No, machine learning developped slowly over decades before it could be fit into practical applications.

Bitcoin's launch was more than the launch of a product, it was the first time the ideas in its paper were actually put together. If we put cryptocurrency on the ML R&D timeline, we'd be in 1970 right now.

Of course, in the present day it solves more niche problems than ML which everybody uses through Google, but the fact that it's already used by real people at all is remarkable.

My point was that Bitcoin could disappear tomorrow and nobody other than speculators would have any impact on their lives.

Note that the ML comparison was specific to the last decade mentioned by the person I replied to, not a history of the field. It’s possible that in the future we’ll look back at this period similarly to the first AI winter but I think even that would be disappointing to most participants because whatever succeeds won’t make them rich the way everyone in the space is hoping.

What I really hate about digital currencies is that people call it "crypto" all the time, especially in your context someone can misread it as "cryptography" instead of crypto-money... this is often highly misleading and casts a bad shadow on cryptography (for people who aren't knowledgable in these fields.

This bugs the shit out of me, too, but it is in some sense correct.

Cryptocurrency enjoys a much, much higher mindshare among humans than cryptography. I guess because it's money. And also because it's been this weird but actual bubble, not to mention countless ponzi schemes and debased ICOs and Floyd Mayweather in a private jet and whatever.

I've resigned myself to saying all the syllables and typing all the characters of "cryptography" when I discuss it because I don't think you and I are going to win this one.

Unfortunately I think this fight was officially lost when noted cryptographer Matt Blaze gave in and sold the crypto.com domain to a blockchain company. (I don't blame him for doing so, I just think it's a noteworthy event.)

What I mean is: I agree with you, but I think the crypto ship has sailed.

For what it's worth I started backpacking in the 1990s and back then "crypto" to me meant cryptosporidium, the 2nd biggest concern about drinking backcountry water (after giardia).

And Crypto.com now has to deal with the fallout/news coverage of the Crypto AG infiltration by NSA/BND agencies :-)


Has he been paid with...crypto?

:-) I bet he insisted on cash.

What kills me is that it's not just 'crypto'currency vs 'crypto'graphy and a matter of which term is more popular in the public mind and therefore gets to keep the shorter phrase.

Crypto is ALREADY short for cryptography, as in, cryptographic-currency => crypto-currency.

I really hate this about the term "AI" as well.

sadly, it's pretty much accepted finance jargon now.

You can always think of it, every time you see it, as meaning "cryptosporidium"

I live on a farm. When we talk about cryptosporidium we always just say crypto.

I'm kinda surprised nobody has posted illegal pornography onto the bitcoin block chain, and then issued legal proceedings against anyone they can identify running a node.

Would be a good way to shut down a competing coin.

What I found interesting, though predictable, was that we saw the same wave of "Oh but it's just a set of bits, it's only illegal data if you go looking for the decoder to compile the pieces together". Which could be said about a lot of data formats.

I remember seeing these same justifications 15+ years ago when laws were being tightened up around possession and distribution of child abuse imagery, that it's just a stream of bits, you can't criminalise that... You can, and you should.

(The extent to which it can be pursued, and to which those who are simply running cryptocurrency nodes should have any culpability for propagating said data is very much open to legal argument, of course.)

I think the idea that π contains all possible decimal strings in its expansion [which is highly probable but not proven AIUI] provides a little push back.

If I present the idea "circle", then hypothetically all (!!) you need is a decoder (substring location within π, and video processor) and you've got every illegal image ever made compiled into a handy video stream.

So logically (and I'm fully aware law isn't logic [and probably shouldn't be?]) there seems like you would need something else other than just possession of a number to make that possession illegal. (I'm not arguing that's the current law in any country, fwiw).

tl;dr -- at some point it is just a concatenation of bits.

First off, that has not been proven about pi, but it is heavily theorized. Second, you need the substring index, which, for a large file is guaranteed to exceed the original's file size to begin with. Transmitting that substring index is likely equivalent to compressing the file.

Courts aren't robots and people are judged by other people. Nobody will go to jail for holding a file with all possible files in it. But using that file with a specific substring index to extract something illicit, with intent, will almost certainly not make the courts happy. IANAL.

>But using that file with a specific substring index to extract something illicit, [...] //

The question at hand though, is if you don't extract the illicit thing [from the Blockchain] is possession of the Blockchain enough.

FWIW I think possession has to be the measure used for child pornography and similar content, at present. But what is meant precisely by possession may need some interpretation (does one "possess" a file if one has the magnet link?) and may evolve in the future if such Blockchain attacks become of interest to the legislature.

>you would need something else other than just possession of a number to make that possession illegal.

Yes, the index, which would itself be the encoding of the file. It's just Huffman coding optimising for the ratio between a circle's circumference and its diameter.

It provides no pushback at all when a picture has been taken, jpeg encoded and then sliced into pieces and inserted onto the blockchain as extra data on a number of transactions, in a way easily recognised and easily re-extracts.

Sure, those numbers could have come about some other way, but they didn't.

Your hypothetical decoder is actually going to contain a very large amount of very specific data as well, so much so that the 'circle' part of it is more or less irrelevant. You've just defined a (very poor) data encoding scheme.

If that is the case, then the information will be contained in the "decoder", not in pi itself. So that particular "decoder" should be banned, not pi. Other "decoders" that point to other parts of pi would not be banned.

So, if you don't have the decoder ...?

How about if you have it but never used it, so you have the index but never expanded Pi that far, or doing the expansion would take longer than the age of the Universe, say?

So, how about if you never viewed the 'file' from the Blockchain, aren't we creeping gradually towards saying that would be fine too. Of course the law has elements necessary for practical enforcement too which we generally ignore when waxing philosophical.

Information theory, which the law uses informally and approximately correctly, provides a solution.

Yeah really it is pointing out that the law is stupidly written conceptually as pi technically contains all of the child pornography in the world once you go out enough digits. In the real world it requires a judge to put a stop to utterly stupid abuses like arresting someone for having enough sources of noise on them which through a series of operations could be transformed into child pornography while not dismissing a 1s complimented video file of the defendant presenting their driver's license to a camera before molesting a child as tampered evidence.

Personally I believe the law is long overdue for refactoring but that it would be a twofold nightmare to first actually do it and second getting it approved through the mechanisms of legislation.

>>You can, and you should.

No. Posession of any data should never be criminal. Just like you wouldn't send someone to prison how having a book, you shouldn't send someone to prison for simply having a picture, no matter what it is a picture of.

I don't think I have to say that obviously child rapists are the worst scum of the earth and they should rot in prison forever. But the idea that you can send someone to prison for simply having a picture(or in some countries, a drawing!!!), is just simply idiotic.

> No. Posession of any data should never be criminal.

Nonsense, if that data is national secrets, if it's child abuse photographs, if it's people's stolen credit card numbers, or any number of other types of data, mere possession is a problem.

> Just like you wouldn't send someone to prison how having a book

I would if it was a book full of child abuse photos.

I'm sorry, what is idiotic for you is common sense in most of the western world, you'll have to do more than call the idea stupid to argue a case like that.

Damn this subject is extremely touchy. I remember recently on the r/dataset subreddit, there was an image set that was essentially a set of pornography images. I remember thinking okay there could be a useful image type classification project in here. Then I started noticing some CLEAR ambiguities in the age of the subjects, I made a post on the thread and was told to basically shut the fuck up and I was making something of nothing.

Apparently I also don't take this shit lightly, because immediately reported that shit. All of this to say, prior to this experience I was under the impression that people should be allowed to study / research datasets of questionable morality / ethics but was completely naive and idealistic around researchers being completely benevolent.

I respect much more the ethical hoops required to study/research this type of material and I think other researchers ought to also respect them.

As for drawings, I agree with you. As for actual pictures, I very much disagree. Child porn serves as a violation of the subject's privacy, and its demand encourages more supply. There's a lot of scientific work on how child porn markets online operate.

There's also the argument that it's hard to prove someone has paid for it (either with money, or with another currency - some online CP forums work by trading images rather than money), so the next best alternative is to illegalise simple possession. Granted, this also runs into some problems; the same justification can be used to illegalise child pornographic drawings, which are frequently used to groom children. Because it's very hard to prove grooming of a victim who has already been groomed, the justification would argue that the next best way to ensure child rapists are caught would be to illegalise possession of the drawings.

Therefore, many countries use the strong probability of second-order effects to illegalise both drawings and photos/videos.

In my view, criminalizing the imagination (any imagination) is a severe misstep in itself, if not morally, then on the basis of most Western societies - the harm principle. Real child porn is not a product of the imagination, it is a documentation of real abuse to victims.

>>Real child porn is not a product of the imagination, it is a documentation of real abuse to victims.

Except that obviously some countries take it too far and people have been convicted for production of child pornography for having a picture of themselves on their own phone(say an 18 year old who took a picture of themselves when they were underage). That's not purely theoretical "this could happen, but probably won't because people apply common sense". That does actually happen in real world. And there is no abuse involved, maybe except for the abuse of he justice system. This wouldn't happen if just simply having a picture wasn't criminal in itself.

>>the justification would argue that the next best way to ensure child rapists are caught would be to illegalise possession of the drawings.

Would it? Because I feel that if any one of us came across child porn accidentally the right solution is to burn the machine down and never ever tell anyone about it, since mere fact of having looked at it(downloaded it to your browser) is a jail sentence in most civilized nations. If it was legal I would have absolutely no problem reporting it the police, which I am sure would help actually catching rapists. Which actually brings me to my next point - as far as I know, as long as minors are not involved, posession of pictures of pretty much any illegal act is not in itself illegal. You can go and google a video of couple guys killing another with a screwdriver - perfectly legal to watch. You can probably go on some snuff websites and watch videos of actual rape - not illegal to watch as far as I know. What's the difference? Because someone might masturbate to one of these but not the others? Now I don't believe that for a second, and it's not like the demand argument doesn't apply here either.

> ... pushing Jimmy to use crypto[currency] ...

But to your point, there are hangers-on in the technology space advocating every day for the use of things they don’t understand. It becomes wearisome trying to deal with them. They can never truly explain, beyond market-speak, what they propose. It’s really only troublesome when they’ve sold their snake oil to someone with clout in your company ...

I've noticed that at work about microservices. No, Bob, you don't need microservices for this internal application with a userbase of 20.

All the while throwing out phrases like "byzantine fault tolerant" to add a sprinkle of esotericism to his proposal. The blockchain is cool technology, but it's odd how many people try to force-fit it into domains where it just doesn't belong. I have to wonder if the "investor" side of equation is causing this kind of desperation regarding technical use cases.

Has anybody here ever actually met a human being who has used cryptocurrency in a way other than: (a) speculating (including trying to hype and pump "blockchain technology" on every discussion corner of the internet), or (b) buying drugs on the internet?

I'd be genuinely fascinated to hear your story.

Cryptocurrency has basically single-handedly created and enabled the ransomware industry which has touched the lives of millions of people. Almost every single week someone is using cryptocurrency to pay off a ransom and reclaim their data. This industry wouldn't be possible without cryptocurrency.

I used it once to buy a pizza. It felt like the future and this was the time when BTC was a little less than a dollar and hadn't moved much. And the ledger was 4-5GB. It was fascinating tech and there was some smoke there. What I didn't anticipate was the dark web stuff and speculators vastly exceeding the ledgers capabilities.

Not met, am.

Non-Chinese person living in China. I have helped three PRC citizens buy BTC to pay for VPN service.

Arguably, this is the same category as (b) if you substitute "drugs" with the more generic "prohibited goods and/or services."

Hey now, you can buy guns with them too

In all fairness, the OP seems young -- I remember when I was naive and idealistic too and that the technology I had invested time in learning was so obviously going to be the backbone of everything to come. It's a classic case of starting with technology and trying to shoehorn a use case into it rather than starting from a use case and molding the technology to fit.

Jimmy's reply is basically "you don't understand the use case"; which the OP does not because he's trying to find a use for the cool tech he learned. What I don't understand is why Jimmy is publicly arguing with someone as green as the OP...

To me its weird that immutability is what is focused on. Yes immutability is not really great for Wikipedia; sometimes people accidentally post private info and its nice to be able to redact it. However it seems like the least of the problems of applying a bitcoin fork to hosting wikipedia. Like I can imagine immutable wikipedia being possible even if not desireable. I can't imagine using blockchain as backend database of wikipedia even remotely scaling to something like that.

Heck, the entire pitch for bitcoin sv seems to be we will make bitcoin scale by removing all the limits that give normal bitcoin the slightest chance of scaling. It seems pretty rediculous even by bitcoin standards.

#2 is the weirdest for me. You want a fully immutable, distributed widely by design, system for exploiting children? wtf? I'm much more concerned about the damage done to kids than about providing an additional, likely ineffective, way to identify a distributor.

They're also not seeing the flip-side of paying-to-edit and tracking all editors: it's trivial for a government to then use it do identify anyone they consider a dissident.

> What I find fascinating is that the person pushing Jimmy to use crypto for Wikipedia does not seem to fully grasp the technology they are pitching.

I find this pretty perfectly describes the majority of crypto enthusiasts.

"the person pushing...to use crypto... does not seem to fully grasp the technology they are pitching"

This is a summary of 99% of "blockchain will solve your problem" pitches. Nor they understand the existing state of the art in DBs and other information storage systems. (Technology that's been around since the 70s)

> the person pushing [Jimmy to use] crypto [for Wikipedia] does not seem to fully grasp the technology they are pitching.

Evergreen observation

The sad part is he's not even pitching Bitcoin. He's pitching a forked version created by a guy named Craig


Pitching Bitcoin would be just as sad.

It wouldn't even make sense, the Bitcoin blockchain is intended to be used almost exclusively as a distributed transaction ledger. If you want decentralized storage look at the IPFS or Storj projects

>2. Why would anyone want people to post illegal material on a blockchain when it is immutable? Let's assume the culprit goes to jail, but then you have billions of people now able to access illegal content, that can never be removed because it is on a blockchain

>What a sales pitch.

Makes sense to me. It hampers government censorship by making something illegal. While I'm sure people have exceptions they think should be illegal and inaccessible, the end result with technology is you either have a technology that is resistant to censorship for everything or nothing, and I prefer everything.

It is the same thing with encryption. You can give the government a backdoor just for the super illegal stuff you really want to stop, but the backdoor will exist for all material and thus compromise encryption in general, even if the government super duper pinky promises to only use it on the original illegal stuff.

Too much of this is all or nothing and I think the powers that wish for censorship keep pushing for 'just one exception' for a specific kind of illegal material to get public support for compromising the system for just that one thing, betting on the average individual not realizing that the compromise compromises the whole systems resistance against government censorship at any level.

That's not necessarily a good thing for Wikipedia, run by a well-respected organization that very much wants to remain legally operating and retain the ability to deal with infringing or illegal data and remove it. Just because you want this does not mean Wikipedia does. If that now means you need to convince Wikipedia that, no, they actually want to be associated with this content for eternity, that is the worst sales pitch ever made.

I get that organizations want to avoid the association because of the current social view of the technology. I wanted to give a different view of what the sales pitch could be (for that particular item, my response isn't for the other issue called out).

I don't see why it is considered such an inherently bad sales pitch. It is a sales pitch that involves taking a stand. Just because the cost benefit aren't in line with current organization goals does not make it the worst sales pitch ever. Is it any worse than trying to convince a group to run a tor node, giving all the sorts of illegal things that happen over tor?

There are social and legal ramifications, but that is also true of using tor, and if certain government officials get their way, of using encryption without the government being given a backdoor. Currently data stores that can't forget have a worse view, but I don't really see why people treat it as such a difference of kinds instead of just a difference of degrees.

> 2. Why would anyone want people to post illegal material on a blockchain when it is immutable? Let's assume the culprit goes to jail, but then you have billions of people now able to access illegal content, that can never be removed because it is on a blockchain

I guess that's the whole point of it: illegal doesn't mean it's immoral, and no content could be silenced. But then another issue is who is going to pay for storing terabytes of copies of communist manifesto in-between legitimate edits to articles.

> 2. Why would anyone want people to post illegal material on a blockchain when it is immutable? Let's assume the culprit goes to jail, but then you have billions of people now able to access illegal content, that can never be removed because it is on a blockchain

Obviously he was proposing storing metadata, not the content itself. Typically this kind of system works by storing a checksum of the content, or a link to the resource in an external decentralized-but-mutable store like IPFS. The illegal files would be dropped but there would still be an undeniable record on the blockchain.

I'm not defending the nonsensical use case (decentralizing the attribution part in an otherwise centrally controlled system wouldn't benefit anyone), but you might want to look more into crypto yourself if you care to learn.

EDIT: As expected, anything that's not bashing crypto (preferably with unrelated arguments) rakes in downvotes. Aah the lovely HN hivemind.

> EDIT: As expected, anything that's not bashing crypto (preferably with unrelated arguments) rakes in downvotes. Aah the lovely HN hivemind.

I’m guessing you’re getting downvoted because

1) you’re assuming a lot about what this guy intended and giving him a lot of credit when he clearly didn’t understand the topic, and

2) you end with “you might want to look more into crypto yourself if you care to learn” which almost seems like trolling because it’s essentially what this guy told Wales.

Thanks for the explanation but:

> 1) you’re assuming a lot about what this guy intended and giving him a lot of credit when he clearly didn’t understand the topic

I'll quote Daniel Krawisz's tweets with added emphasis on the points which indicate he wasn't proposing storing content on a blockchain:

> It would be so cheap to record [enough information] about all @Wikipedia interactions on the $BSV blockchain [...]

Key word "enough", suggesting "not all".

> My point is just that because because Bitcoin transactions always leave records, someone who uploaded illegal content would leave you with more [contextual information] that you could track on the blockchain than you would have if there weren't payments associated with their interactions.

"contextual information" == "metadata"

> 2) you end with “you might want to look more into crypto yourself if you care to learn” which almost seems like trolling because it’s essentially what this guy told Wales.

That was more about noticing the irony in GP chastising the tweeter for their ignorance and then showing seemingly greater ignorance about the same topic.

GP perhaps misunderstood the proposal. That doesn’t mean their ignorance is greater. I think the misunderstanding is quite reasonable given that the tweet was proposing a completely nonsensical plan. I think your reading of the intent is correct, but I also think this proposal was so poorly thought through that it doesn’t matter.

Also, don’t use brackets for emphasis. Brackets are used editorially to replace content or leave an editorial note. Using them for emphasis makes it look like you actually changed the core of the quote. And they make it harder to read.

Your edit is against the HN etiquette guidelines.

There's no dedicated place to discuss meta-topics in here, and I feel the virulent anti-blockchain sentiment on HN is more detrimental to the quality of discussion than my small one-liner complaint at the end of an on-topic explanatory comment.

Nope. If you believe HN is anti-blockchain and this is worth discussing, then create a new post or a dedicated comment in a relevant thread about it.

You weren’t starting a conversation about this perceived bias. You were just whining about downvotes.

Oh I suspect the end game here isn't to preserve wikipedia as it is but instead create a system by which they have a wikipedia with facts they approve of and a means to track down anyone who dares correct them.

Pretty much the goal of all these fact checking systems that keep getting offered up. We need protecting, facts need protecting, provided it is all approved facts and people and a means to track down those who are not approved or have ideas that are not approved

Nothing so complicated. His end game here is to make number go up.

> then you have billions of people now able to access illegal content, that can never be removed because it is on a blockchain

It's software. A blockchain can be programmed to accommodate your use case. It can also accommodate preventing bias all powerful editors from destroying or manipulating information without the approval of the community, which wikipedia does not.

How exactly can it do that, while also allowing those same all-powerful entities to unilaterally remove things like illegal content?

I can give you one implementation off the top of my head. You could, in the blockchain, elect some editors that could remove things, but the effect would be subject to a time delay, such as a month for example. So things removed would still be on the blockchain but would be marked with some sort of quarantine bit that is set later in the chain.

When it comes time to remove the offending data, the software that verifies the blockchain would accept in lieu of the actual data, a set of signatures of the elected editors. All nodes would replace the block with banned data with the replaced one.

It really isn't that hard.

For that month, nobody outside of Saudi Arabia and Somalia could accept updates to the blockchain, because it has child pornography on it.

I suppose limiting blockchain updates to one month intervals could help solve the energy problem...

Jesus Christ, I'm not the poster child for this, ok? Just because you can find something you think is a problem with an implementation I came up with on the fly, doesn't mean the whole concept is bad.

Fine, make it instant. People can compare the old data with the new, and notice, and vote out an editor who is abusing their power.

The whole concept is bad, because the goals are paradoxical and mutually exclusive. Providing a way to instantaneously edit past transactions in a blockchain with the proper credentials sacrifices the only useful property that distinguishes blockchains from traditional databases (decentralized verification of/consensus about state).

The concept is bad because you don't want that property; you want a mutable data store with privileged and unprivileged access.

> Providing a way to instantaneously edit past transactions in a blockchain with the proper credentials sacrifices the only useful property that distinguishes blockchains from traditional databases (decentralized verification of/consensus about state).

There are different categories of data. Data which refers to the the chain itself must be immutable, I agree. But data that represents the content of articles posted there does not.

> The concept is bad because you don't want that property; you want a mutable data store with privileged and unprivileged access.

You do want that property for some categories of data. You don't want unaccountability in who can update articles and what changes they can make, but you do want the articles to be changeable.

What this provides is to prevent an organization from being corruptable. A government or powerful corporate entity could pressure wikipedia into changing an article to suit their purposes, and wikipedia could stone wall and refuse to comment on any changes they made for that purpose.

If it was on a blockchain, and an editor was pressured into making such a change, the community would be able to directly vote that editor out and get the original content restored.

If the content isn't on the chain itself then the entire exercise is pointless since the content is the thing that people care about (whether they want the content to stay or go)

When did I say it isn't? The idea is that some blocks can be accepted in lieu of the original if signed by certain entities that have been voted in by the community. In this way you can change previous blocks in the chain.

So you haven't actually achieved anything there, then. You still have certain people that the community elects or appoints by whatever means, that can make retrospective edits unilaterally.

What you're really talking about here is a change of governance model to allow editors to be removed more easily.

A transparent and verifiable governance model. Much better than what we have today.

I can't help but think the next response is "Do you use MongoDB? MongoDB is webscale".

This is just trolling. No thought has gone into whether Wikipedia has a problem to solve, nor whether blockchain has the capabilities to solve any problem. It's just memes.

>Bitcoin can help any system to become more Byzantine fault tolerant

> Bitcoin can help any system to become more Byzantine fault tolerant

Bitcoin, the only tech fad which can prevent you from having weird mad emperors or being invaded by the Turks.

What I kept thinking.

Unfortunately, the original poster appears to genuinely believe in the power of blockchain. Cryptocurrencies seem to attract a certain crowd which is extremely technical but also surprisingly naive about the way humans work. The result is you have a lot of idealistic techies who propose blockchain as the solution to literally every hard societal problem you can think of.

The result is you have...

You know, I'm not quite sure how yet, but I'm almost certain we can fix this problem with blockchain.

Problems that can be solved with blockchain must have a certain value if they get solved, and since blockchains are a good value store, perhaps we could make a blockchain where blocks are mined based on solving blockchain related issues, and the miners who solve these issues then get the rewards. I’m a bit fuzzy on the technical details, so perhaps the first draft can use written contracts and fiat exchanges as placeholder for the blockchain tech, and focus on problems that can be solved using the same. But there’s definitely a great startup idea here if only we can get the billions in investment needed to make this dream a reality!

There are no real problems with Byzantine faults in Wikipedia unless you start adding systems like blockchains. So they're proposing that it will fix a problem that it will cause. Interesting reasoning.

"Yes, but how do you protect your car from flooding without the built-in catch-valve in our car sink?"

I like the addition of the word "more", while Byzantine fault tolerance is really a binary property (albeit with variable thresholds).

The next response was "As well as a Byzantine fault-tolerant system?", which is even better.

There was a Reddit user u/passwordissame whose nodejs mongodb webscale copypasta was very funny to read. Is that you?

There is a famous youtube video the above poster is referencing. Search 'MongoDB is web scale' or something along those lines.

I miss them. Some of the funniest reddit posts ever. The best part is the number of people who took the bait.

Welcome to the future, where a blue cartoon deer can attempt to convince a balding man who runs an encyclopedia that he should change his encyclopedia to run on top of a complicated substrate of unnecessary cryptography, so that the deer's stake in said unnecessary cryptography will become worth more.

I didn't really expect our cyberpunk future to look quite like this

seriously how do I get out of this parody of a Bruce Sterling novel

Feels more Strossian to me.

A stable battle tested database isn’t cool anymore, this is 2020, Jim. /s

Jokes aside, I would rather see a working proof of concept 'Blockchain Wikipedia' being made from this crowd rather than have them shout suggestive buzzwords at Jimmy Wales.

That being said, I wonder if Linus is open to making Git commits work on the bitcoin blockchain, might have to ask him someday.

Actually, Git is technically a blockchain.

Commit hashes are a hash of the previous commit hash + new data. The structure (history) is replicated in a decentralized way on every user's node. The only missing thing is a proof-of-work, but that is optional in the definition of a blockchain.

> Actually, Git is technically a blockchain.


You can say that git reduces to a Merkle tree. And blockchains use Merkle trees.

But you can't say that git is a blockchain.



I would argue the Merkle tree (or any other recursive signature algorithm) is the most important quality of a blockchain. To say that git is technically a blockchain is not entirely inaccurate IMO.

I think you are looking for the other qualities that typically apply to a blockchain such as the implicit need to "mine" its resources. Git simply produces these resources incidentally. I think this is the only major difference.

> I would argue the Merkle tree (or any other recursive signature algorithm)

A Merkle tree is not a recursive signature algorithm, because a hash function is not a signature algorithm.


(Yes, you can build signature algorithms out of hash functions, but definitions matter.)

It's still missing important pieces. They both fall under the superset of "hash chain" / Merkle tree, but cryptocurrency blockchains are designed to deal with the possibility of bad actors. Git can't ensure trust, unless you PGP sign commits.

Git + PGP + some computationally expensive mechanism to broadcast verified PGP key attributions + a consensus algorithm might be a little bit like a blockchain, but I can't think of a good use case for that. Git repos generally aren't intended to be pushed to by the whole world.

A blockchain doesn't ensure trust either. The blockchain "trusts" whoever has the most powerful hash cracking array.

I should've said "attempt to ensure trust".

Incidentally, this is a problem I've worked on previously.


The most important part of a block chain is its consensus mechanism. The merkle tree is relatively trivial.

There's significant difference in opinion of what part of the Bitcoin protocol is the "blockchain". Usually, people talk about the persistent stuff being the blockchain. In that case, bits sitting in storage don't implement a protocol, therefore don't have a consensus mechanism.

In other words, the blockchain is just the data structure, the consensus sits outside of that as a distributed protocol.

Of course, parts of that data structure enable the protocol to work, which is the most interesting property of the blockchain, but that's just blocks, merkle trees, and chained signatures.

If you're focusing on the construction of the term "blockchain", you're already lost. The name is a red herring. It's very clear that the innovative aspect of the technology, the part that enabled all the interesting applications, is the protocol layered on top of the merkle tree. That's the part that needed a new name, and deserved a better one than it got.

I know Git and Blockchains are said to be examples for (usage of) Merkle trees, but I fail to see how they're actually (using) a merkle tree.

Using the hash of a parent node as input to a nodes hash alongside the nodes data creates a link, but it doesn't create a merkle tree. In a Merkle tree the parent node is the hash of the hashes of its child nodes and only leafes have data. These are entirely different definitions and also serve completely different purposes (linking to a parent node vs efficient lookup of membership of some data in a larger dataset).

Could someone clear up my confusion and explain to me where Git/Blockchain use a Merkle tree in their fundamental functionality? Or is the term Merkle tree simply misreferenced a lot?

in bitcoin the transactions are the leaves

Could you please elaborate how that ends up as a Merkle tree?

In a merkle tree the leaves are not linked and they have a tree structure of parent hashes on top. Git and Blockchain nodes are linked and the fundamental architecture doesn't need a tree structure of hashes on top. While this tree structure on top might be useful, it would be an optimization, but not part of the fundamental architecture. Again, what am I missing?

This might be complicated by the fact that "merkle trees" and git/blockchain invert the parent/child relationship. The root of the git/blockchain trees changes every time a commit/block is added, and the child nodes are called "parent commits" in git. Also the shape isn't going to have a wide base or be balanced like a binary search tree or similar.

When you say that "git and blockchain nodes are linked", I think you might be not abstracting the concepts from the form the data usually takes. For instance in git you might be thinking of a commit as a single package with all its source changes, headers, parent details and hash, but it terms of it being a merkle tree the leaf node would be non-hash parts (source code, non-hash headers etc) and the "tree on top" would be the hashes. This tree structure of hashes are absolutely part of the fundamental architecture of git/blockchain.

If Git is a blockchain, the. ZFS is a blockchain too.

Don't tell Oracle

Although Git also uses a chain of hashes, just like a blockchain, I'm not sure using this definition of blockchain (i.e. optional consensus protocol) is very useful, because then we need another word for the kind of thing that Bitcoin is. (On the other hand, perhaps the uselessness of the definition suits the uselessness of the concept itself.)

If Git is like using a hammer to hammer nails, blockchain (with consensus protocol) enables you to write without a pen by using the hammer to hit your thumb until it bleeds. And Wikipedia already has a pen that works.

> I'm not sure using this definition of blockchain (i.e. optional consensus protocol) is very useful

Honestly, "blockchain" as a word feels ill-defined and badly understood at the best of times. You could argue that "blockchain" deconstructs to nothing more than a "chain" of "blocks". What "blocks" actually are is up to the imagination, proof-of-work or other algorithms aside.

I get frustrated when people hail "blockchains" as the solution to everything because the term is so vague in everyday use that it's effectively meaningless.

I always thought it was clear: it was the combination of Merkle chains with a proof of investment (work, stake, etc), since that combination was the real novelty, worthy of a new name. It was quite confusing to see people calling "blockchain" to one of the pre-existing concepts. It's like calling any wheel a "bicycle".

Hashlinked, content-addressed, etc.

Well the commits are proof-of-work; though the validation is done by human (assuming the user doesn't have commit access on the main branch)

However its more of a Merkle tree https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merkle_tree; which blockchain is also.

Proof of work is just some mechanism for a 3rd party to verify you actually invested “value” into the chain. That’s a PR.

Are there any traditional block chains where the proof of work is actually an investment into the chain? Such that the structure of the chain represents something of actual value (not a series of rare hashes), and additions to the chain add to that value? A la git. One potential example would be neural networks on a chain, where the work is training the network, and the value is intrinsic in the well-fitted resultant model.

Saito (saito.tech) pays for routing work rather than hashing work. Requires solution to 50 percent attack but means that all fees pay for the work of running the network rather than unrelated activities like hashing or staking.

There is one in industrial protocols for functional safety. It is called Ethercat Safety.

No, it’s not. The two technologies solve two different problems.

A blockchain is basically a single, global Git repository, where each commit is a “block” and the data inside that block/“commit” are transactions.

The defining difference between Git and a blockchain is that blockchains define which branch (commit history) is the correct one — the branch that you should put your commit on top of.

Blockchain provides a means to arrive at a consensus on which commit history (branch) is correct, while Git does not.

There are no blocks, just bare commits.

There is no chain, it's a DAG.

Off topic but it is considered difficult for NLP models to do sarcasm detection (because it’s a really hard problem, no widely available datasets, some context awareness is required, etc.)

For better or worse, in the last few years we have been generating a dataset on social forums by using “/s” at the end of sarcastic statements.

I’ll try and mine the “/s” statements on HN at least and see if I get somewhere.

That's going to be a great data set! Most people who use "/s" are great at sarcasm.

There is some prior art for this https://arxiv.org/abs/1704.05579

Humans have problems detecting written sarcasm. Not surprising that NLP models struggle with it too.

It's difficult because even if you have the context, the original poster can change classification after being called out by replying "oh, I was just kidding/I was being sarcastic". The same comment may and may not be sarcastic at the same time, Schrödinger's cat style.

That being said, it's an interesting problem. Hope you find something good.

> making Git commits work on the bitcoin blockchain

What does this even mean?

That every Git commit would take few hours and cost you transaction fee in Bitcoins.

At least you have a good excuse to abandon your pet open source projects

On the plus side, the whole world gets to reject your terrible commits?

The lights would go out in a few weeks.

"Blockchain Wikipedia" exists and the co-founder of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger, was involved for a while. It's called Everipedia and it uses the EOS blockchain: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everipedia

> 'Blockchain Wikipedia'

I mean, isn't this basically just Hugo and IPFS behind a Brand?

Yes, but much slower and more expensive.

You forgot environmentally damaging.

I think we should read about blockchains and understand it first. Then only we can actually decide whether it can actually be helpful for a particular problem.

A general rule of thumb is: Don't use blockchain if a database maintained by a single organization (person / company / government ) is sufficient. If multiple people interact, or multiple organizations interact and together want to maintain some data where they all collaborate and take decisions on how the data is changed then only we need blockchain.

So when I think about it, wiki can definitely be helped by blockchains.

Wikipedia does have a database that is in its sole control though. The fact that people outside the organisation interact with that database (as is the case in most uses of databases) is irrelevant; the interaction is controlled and mediated by Wikipedia.

No. "Multiple entities interact" may be a necessary condition for using a blockchain, but it's certainly far from a sufficient condition.

Yes, only when they cannot trust each other.

Agreed. The sufficient condition is you cannot blindly trust all those entities.

That's still far from sufficient.

Existing businesses have coped with that for hundreds of years.

You can have joint-ventures, where all participants send emissaries to, you can negotiate rights to view the books or other ways to create transparency. You can have contracts, backed by a legal system and state courts.

You can do many things. Blockchains are only one of those possibilities.

Most important question when somebody tries to sell you a blockchain: "What's the traditional way to do it?"

Correct answer: "People usually do X, but our blockchain proposal has advantages Y and Z."

Incorrect answer: "Nobody has ever solved that problem before!"

> He has all the world's knowledge in his system yet it doesn't tell him why Bitcoin is useful.

That should perhaps be a sign.

Yikes. It’s full of people doing the same thing. Claiming that it would solve “problems” and confusion as to why others “can’t see that” but making no effort to actually explaining the problem or how a blockchain would solve it.

My favorite reply:

> Please consider the very real possibility that it is you, not him, who is missing something.

it's like a gathering of flat-earthers

Why does every high level tweet of the guy have a gif in it? Is that a new trend? I’d unfollow him for that alone

Why worship Jesus when you can worship Craig? https://mobile.twitter.com/ivmidable/status/1226908612343271...

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