One of the most exciting components with Ethereum is the Augur project, or as I call it, “The Bet on ANYTHING” market!”
Yesterday the project released an updated White Paper found here. The technical details are not for most people, but what is exciting is being one step closer to the possibility of two strangers on the internet being able to place trustless bets on almost anything!
The word “betting” has a negative emotion attached to it in American culture, but being able to assign personal stake in prediction models is incredibly valuable. Indeed it is perhaps a much-needed component in our political system.
As I type this, one of the most hated presidents in American history is addressing the nation in a Statue of the Union. The internet is filled back and forth rage about who is “right” and “wrong”. As the fury between two groups grows, perhaps the ultimate test for the truth can be found if the two opponents can form an agreement of what their disagreement is, and bet on it.
Consider how this could be used in economic debates in uncovering the truth. Politicians (particularly in my home state of California) are incredibly dishonest at presenting understated costs of projects to voters around elections. Augur presents an option to expose what politicians truly believe:
“Do you really think that this project is going to be under what the budget states? Let’s bet on it!”
“Do you want to bet if this is going to truly be a temporary tax?”
Additionally, consider how this tool could be used to hold a politician at their word. During a campaign, candidates could leverage this tool to offer promises to voters: “I’m Joe Nobody running for US Congress and I will not vote in favor of any budget that is not balanced, and I’ve placed a $100,000 bet to assure this in the Augur network!” Such a statement would be much more meaningful than the standard “I promise, I’m a good person!” assurance we get from current candidates.
Hopefully, this goes live soon. Here’s an older video showing its possibilities from 2015:
Why is anyone shocked that another data breach results in millions of people’s information falling into the hands of criminals? Stated differently, if Ashley Madison, LinkedIn, and the NSA can’t keep their data secure, what makes people think a credit score entity is going to perform any better
I don’t know the specifics of this Equifax hack and I don’t really care. If I had to guess, I’d say probably inside job. For people that think their data is secure because they trust sites like “Google” they are looking at it the wrong way. A better question is, “do you trust every single employee at Google who has access to your data?” The answer is the same as what the NSA would say if asked if they trusted all of their employees (even before Mr. Snowden left the country), of course not!
The only thing that really matters in this situation is will the public recognize the need for blockchain technology and zero-knowledge services? Steller examples include LastPass, SpiderOak, and Signal all can face data breaches with a much stronger level of confidence because even if someone gets every bit of information on their servers, it is highly unlikely anything useful could be leveraged from it.
We live in the digital age. Signatures made with pens that my 6-year-old could mimic effectively is not security. Entrusting your data to corporations that have human employees, and have human errors will ultimately have data leaked. Hopefully, today’s painful lesson will beef up the requirements to take security more seriously. It’s really pretty easy, trust no one.
I read Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington by Rick Perry while a resident of Texas in 2010. Perry was governor during part of my residency. While the book has lots of sensible limited government material, what I most distinctly remember was reading the below passage and thinking to myself, “bull shit!!!”
Excerpt from book:“Now, cynics will say that I decided to write this book because I seek higher office. They are wrong: I already have the best job in America.”
Sure enough, since publishing this statement, Perry has proven his cynics correct by running for president twice and recently accepted a position as director of the Department of Energy.
Ignoring this foolishly stupid statement (honestly, he didn’t think he was going to run for president less than two years later??) this book has some merit to it. Perry does a successful job highlighting the benefits of vesting powers to states instead of the federal government. Perry discusses how hot-button issues like marijuana legalization and gay marriage should not be determined by the federal government. Including marijuana in this discussion is particularly commendable considering Perry does not favor marijuana legalization, yet correctly advocates its decriminalization at the federal level.
While I mostly enjoyed this book, it’s a bit outdated now (in 2016) and there are countless other books that articulate the advantages of reducing the powers of the federal government. Thus I would not enthusiastically recommend this to someone unless they have a burning interest in Rick Perry personally.
I found an amazing website that does a brilliant job of using a a couple simple concepts to combine for an incredibly useful tool. OriginStamp.org is a true gift to the world by developers André Gernandt and Bela Gipp. In conversation with them they told me, “We started this project just for fun and didn’t expect so many people to use it.”
The site’s popularity doesn’t surprise me — it’s awesome! They have created a FREE service that allows anyone to prove they possessed any type of electronic file before a specific date. The electronic file could be as simple as a string of text, or as massive as a movie file.
I’ll dive into the technical details later, but consider a couple basic applications:
Someone has written an amazing script and wants to have it logged as their work, before sharing with a publisher.
Someone moves into a new rental property, and takes extensive video of the condition of the property, which they want to archive on the day of their move-in. By archiving the footage, the landlord cannot argue that the video was taken on the move out date.
Someone wants to log a text prediction. Example would be if I said, in 2015, “I, PG CodeRider, predict the Cubs will win the 2016 World Series in a game 7 thriller against the Indians!” it would be pretty impressive!
Without OriginStamp, creating verifiable proof of a file’s existence, before a certain date is difficult (having a “saved as” date with the file doesn’t count). Users would likely have to defer to a third party to provide proof of ownership. This lends itself to the following problems:
The third party site likely costs money.
The third party site may disappear.
The third party site may not remain credible to the rest of the world.
The third party site might experience a server crash, hack, or accidentally delete your file.
OriginStamp avoids all of these problems. The simplicity of their approach, combined with their robust method of validation, makes it truly an elegant creation. The site ingeniously leverages the bitcoin blockchain as a point of reference. Because the blockchain is a decentralized entity with literally thousands of people monitoring its integrity, it is impossible to manipulate historical entries. Additionally, due to this same decentralized nature of the blockchain, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where the Blockchain would suddenly cease to exist. Thus a user can rest assured knowing their claim is verifiable so long as the internet remains functional and Bitcoin continues to have even a small percentage of people using it.
How You Can Use This Tool (without actually understanding it)
For those of you that just want to “trust me” and believe this works, without understanding why, here’s a step by step guide of how you can use it:
1) Create a FINAL VERSION of a file or text that you want to verify. It is critical that not a single change occurs in your file, or it won’t be verifiable in the future. Example is if you write a million word novel, once you submit it, you can only reference that version you submitted. A change to a single character will make the entire file incapable of being proven to be your file at the time of the transaction.
I’m going to go through this process by validating a screenshot I created with my 2016 presidential predictions. Again, the “Final Version” is very key, and it’s easy to overlook how it’s possible to accidentally alter. In my case, I cannot simply post a copy of the JPG file of my prediction and maintain the integrity, because when a user downloads the file, certain attributes such as the “saved date” would be different than the original. Thus I have posted a zipped version of my jpg file, which if someone were to download and extract the jpg file, would ultimately be my FINAL VERSION.
It’s also important to note that you include something that references you as the creator in the file, so that no one else can claim it as their work. My file has my name in the screenshot.
In my example, the exact SHA-256 hash of my FINAL VERSION is: 3742fd0fcebd60f38995429e736a1e2f3f040ea367c21ce87cb1b9bcd89e5d89
If you aren’t certain you’ve hashed correctly from a 3rd party site, you could cross check with a single letter of text “a” which should result in: ca978112ca1bbdcafac231b39a23dc4da786eff8147c4e72b9807785afee48bb
Make sure you have a copy of your hash, as well as the original copy of your file.
3) After submitting your file, you will get a notification saying your hash has successfully been created. Note that OriginStamp will not “submit” it to the blockchain until about 7PM East Coast time. They only submit free submissions once a day, to keep their costs down, and depending on how busy the blockchain is it may take up to 2 days to register. If you’re in a hurry to get your hash submitted, they offer a premium service to accomplish this where they wallop you with a colossal fee of $1 to get it in right away.
4) If you trust OriginStamp to remain in existence forever, you need not do anything further. When you need verify the date of your file, go to their website, click Verify Stamp, and enter your hash, or drag in your file, and the site will tell you when it was submitted. However if you wish to be able to validate your file without the existence of Originstamp, you’ll need to collect a few more pieces of information. After waiting a day or two, you’ll need to revisit OriginStamp, click Verify Stamp, enter your hash or upload file and it will take you to a confirmation page. On this page, it will list of all the hash submissions as well as the Check Sum hash. You should store both of this with your final version file. The list of all hashes can be a somewhat long now as the site gains popularity.
Hopefully you would never have to defend the legitimacy of your file, but if you did, you should have a pretty convincing case. Of course, I have no idea how a jury would react to this information, or if it would even be admissible as evidence. However, to illustrate what you have, below is how I would argue the authenticity of my Presidential prediction if someone was accusing me of being a fraud in a court of law
Me: “Your honor, I did in fact create this JPG on 10/31/2016. To prove it I used a site called OriginStamp. This site took my file and hashed it using the SHA-256 method. If you go to OriginStamp, they will confirm this transaction.”
Accuser: “What the heck is OriginStamp?!? Judge, objection! I’ve never heard of this site. How can we trust its validity?”
Me: “Okay forget going to OriginStamp, we can walk through what they did. OriginStamp created an SHA-256 hashed text of my file (see above). OriginStamp then took ANOTHER SHA-256 hash (the Check Sum) of all the other records they received that day. I have a list of these and the SHA-256 hash of these can be conducted on numerous sites.
“As is the nature of SHA-256 hashes, they are relatively easy to calculate in one direction, but impossible to conduct in a reverse manner. Stated differently, I can claim with utmost certainty that no one on the planet can produce any SHA-256 pre-calculation string which results in the same final hash output as any of mine, without using my file or text. Such an effort would take far more than millions of years with today’s computing power.”
Accuser: “So what he has a hash that is unique? What does this prove?”
Me: “It doesn’t prove anything yet, but as a final step, Originstamp used the final Check Sum hash along with Base 58 encoding, to find a Bitcoin address to log a small Bitcoin transaction which cleared on 11/3/2016. This process can also be demonstrated on multiple websites, I have a screenshot from Brainwalletx.Github.io. A user simply needs to enter the Check Sum as the Secret Exponent to generate the address that was used. What this means is that this address was specifically used for this purpose we have outlined. The possibility that this address which comprises a hashed connection to my exact file is incredibly unlikely.”
Accuser: “So you’re saying there’s a chance…”
Me: “Technically yes, but the fact that an active address which I found with my specific JPG hash in it is beyond infinitesimal. There are exactly 2^256 possible bitcoin addresses — that’s far more atoms than there are on earth, sun, and other planets, combined. The likeliness of this series of events happening is less than me playing the Mega Millions Lottery and winning, four times in a row.”
Accuser: “Okay so how do we know you didn’t make the entry after the election?”
Me: “The blockchain’s integrity is maintained by thousands, perhaps millions of computers validating transactions. At the end of Sep 2016, the hash calculation rate per second was 2.6×10^16. This represents far more processing power than any single entity such as the United States government could direct at the blockchain in hopes of manipulating the network. It would be easy for me to find at least a dozen articles on the web, or a computer science professor to testify how unrealistic back-dating entries in the block chain is.”
Accuser: “I still think this is bogus”
Ultimately your argument would likely hinge on testimony of some math expert, but that’s my best effort to simulate how to defend the legitimacy of the transaction. Note the links in the discussion above for reference on how Base58 encoding is conducted.
For about 18 months I’ve been eagerly monitoring a project called Ethereum. It is now slowly going live in phases. It’s difficult to explain its intricacies, but I and many others believe it has the potential to advance liberty on a vast scale. Don’t expect any tectonic shifts immediately, but as time passes there’s a lot of opportunity for:
Private currencies – this is the most exciting to me, as it could be a safe way of transacting lots of services privately. A simple example would be if an airline carrier shifted from frequent flyer miles to “Cyrpto points” they could easily be distributed and passed around with their immediate value remaining stable. I’m sure governments would go crazy if this happened, which makes it all the more fun to think about.
Decentralized Server Hosting – instead of having huge companies like Facebook or google hosting your information.
Prediction Markets – Another one of my favorite concepts, basically allowing open season betting on just about everything that can be verified. “Who will be next president?” Enter a field, and with 10-20 paid monitors, the truth can be achieved, and people can be paid out accordingly. Historically, prediction markets where people have “skin in the game” have proven far more accurate than talking heads on TV.
A quick example I distinctly remember of this was in 2010. At the time, two Tea Party candidates were “considered heavy favorites” by most media “experts” in Senate races in Nevada (against Senate leader Harry Reid) and in Alaska. The site InTrade (eventually shuttered by the US Government) contrast all these talking heads by putting Harry Read as the 2:1 favorite, and a write in candidate as the favorite in Alaska, amazingly with the not so easy name to spell of “Murkowski.” Suffice to say, InTrade was correct.
Decentralized Trading Platforms – We don’t need the Nasdaq to buy and sell %’s of companies.
Decentralized Companies – Having a company that runs on code of laws or by shareholder votes.
I read Atlas Shruggedin college, and it definitely ranks as one of my favorite novels. Growing up in a liberty-leaning household, a lot of the material was not new to me. However, for people who aren’t as exposed to liberty and especially entrepreneurs, this book will strike a cord with you that is not often heard. Common themes such as the “evil of profit” and how “the greater good” always seems to involve your pocketbook being emptied are addressed in this.
Amazingly this book is over 50 years old, and it still paints a very accurate picture of how bureaucrats and central authorities attack businesses, often with smiling, “I’m here to help” mentalities.
This book is a little long, and the author definitely deviates a little on some unrelated topics about sex that is kind of interesting, but could have been excluded in order to keep the book under 900 pages. There’s a speech that goes on for over a hundred pages that essentially retells the message the book already articulates, thus the reader can likely scan this without missing out on much.
If you tend to lean socialist and want central authorities to plan out people’s lives, this book will either change your mind, or make you angry. I have a hard time seeing a communist being able to actually finish this book.
In college, I was bombarded by all kinds of socialist material. I had an economics professor who said all prices from food, home to gas, ultimately need to be regulated by government. Ignoring how insanely oppressive this belief is (why can’t two people voluntarily decide what something cost?), this novel provides a much needed alternative perspective that impressionable college kids should be reading.
As I’m typing this, part of me wonders if a new type of book like this needs to be written for a new generation. Maybe I’ll add that to my to-do list when I have an insane amount of free time, which will probably be in 2040.
Anyway, if you haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, I would encourage you to do.