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Blockchain programming language
That list of resolutions may cause the construction of alteration of some side-product. But the authoritative source is always an ordered list of accepted resolutions, from which the state of the side products may mechanically be derived. Keeping an orderly chamber requires organization and hierarchy. The parliamentarian and the hierarchy her rules enshrine may not be neutral. Most obviously, the leadership of a deliberative assembly may be capable of preventing consideration of resolutions that the membership would pass if required to vote on the question.
Traditional rules of order are not up to the task of managing this sort of assembly. Every few minutes, or even seconds, the winner of a new lottery is announced.
The proposal of resolutions is not restricted to miners. They may be submitted by, well, anyone at all. Miners check the resolutions and decide if they are likely to pass. A miner may try to exclude resolutions that are likely to pass but that she herself disagrees with, but that sort of censorship is unlikely to have any effect, since she is unlikely to win the lottery in any particular round.
Once a block of resolutions pass, each participant updates its own personal copy of the list of passed resolutions to include the new ones. Only participants with a fully up-to-date copy of the list may participate in the next lottery. Since winning the lottery and proposing a successful block is financially rewarded, while censoring proposals or ignoring blocks that the majority would accept is ineffectual, participants usually propose anything that they think would pass and go along with anything that has already passed.
It is lucrative to go along with most others would go along with. Understanding the will of the majority of their colleagues and bending to it is the job of each and every legislator. In the most prominent, current blockchains, the norms about what sort of resolution is likely to pass are simple and widely shared.
If so, this transaction is very likely to pass, as the core shared norm of the community of BTC miners is that people should be able to spend their own unspent money however they choose.
Note, though, that this in only a norm. If more than half of the participants in the Bitcoin blockchain suddenly decided that User A was evil and should not, in fact, be permitted to spend her money, then lottery-winners would quickly learn to exclude her resolutions, and that would become a new, communally enforced norm. But majority of whom? Ones weight in the parliament is determined by how much computing power one can bring to bear, and, it turns out, sometimes by the form of the computing power, as Bitcoin for example is best run by very specialized chips.
The legitimacy of blockchains, as of more traditional parliaments, derives in part from notions of participation or at least representation, and also from expectations that they will honor and reinforce communal norms. The power of blockchains, as of more traditional parliaments, may depend to a certain degree on their continued legitimacy, but might also survive a loss of legitimacy by virtue of network effects. Congress itself produces nothing but a set of official minutes, but those minutes create important social facts because we each expect other people to take them seriously, so we ourselves take them seriously, so the contents of those minutes create important social consequences.
The Bitcoin blockchain produces lists of who spent what to whom of an imaginary, artificial, funny money. A blockchain, like a parliament, is much more a social institution than a technological one, although very clever technology was necessary to design blockchain systems that could become socially credible. That was never going to be straightforward, and the DAO hack has beautifully surfaced some the difficulties and contradictions inherent to the enterprise.
More on that soon, I hope. I am a critic, but also an enthusiastic participant in the blockchain hyposphere. I am financially and professionally invested in the Ethereum project in particular.
Nothing that has already been perfected is very interesting. This entry was posted on Sunday, June 19th, at 3: You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2. Both comments and pings are currently closed. I was hoping you would give me another month or two before writing about smart contracts.
This comment was supposed to have a link in it. The DAO hack reveals a weakness that underlies the programming language in which the contract was written, a fundamental weakness in its type system. In some circles this weakness has been understood for a long time, as well as its corollary: I guess sometimes people make their own sense of things. Just as a parliament is much more a social institution than a legal one.
It is a parliament without elected parliamentarians. It is as though parliamentarians were selected according to who could lift the most weight, or run the fastest marathon, or something.
But parliamentarians are inseparable from blockchains as they are from any other sort of parliament. It is the former that validates blockchains but the latter that determines their value.
The nature of blockchains, considered as social institutions, is that technology will never be able to take a back seat. Just because someone once had a majority of Bitcoin hash power, and Bitcoin did not collapse at that time, does not mean that this is a viable social institution going forward. Without the normal social sanctions that operate in ordinary human interactions, blockchains are completely dependent on technical soundness for social stability.
When soundness is replaced with complacency, the institution will be destroyed, as happened to The Dao. Any smart contract is by definition a list of axioms ultimately driven down to the turing machine. Given that you can reduce map any actual instance of a smart contract to an integer, GT applies smart contracts defined by code can be either consistent, or complete in the provability sense, but not both. It simply says that some theorems may never be proved or that some contracts may never end evaluating.
Both attackers and normal users like their contracts to evaluate. To me, the most salient disruptive potential of blockchain-enabled contracts stems from their circumvention of societal constraints: In society as we have known it, many kinds of contracts are unenforceable as a matter of societal policy, and large payments are generally traceable, again as a matter of societal policy.
These policies embody generations of experience that blockchain enthusiasts discount. Enforceable contracts with criminal intent and untraceable payment are a threat that has not yet matured, and ransomware will not be the end of the story of blockchain-enabled extortion.
Can we really judge the scope of criminal innovation in our brave new blockchain world? What realistic benefit could offset this unfathomable threat? We can opt out of blockchain-enabled confusion and fraud, but cannot opt out of blockchain-enabled crime.
A blockchain is just a parliament without a parliamentarian.