What Ethereum’s Turing Completeness has enabled
Many Bitcoin purists have downplayed Ethereum’s utility by arguing that Turing Completeness increases the attack surface of the blockchain while not providing much additional useful functionality.
While the first point is debatable, application developers within the Ethereum space have already demonstrated that the second is not true.
Turing-Completeness has enabled hundreds of automated token sales to take place, and allows anyone to copy paste some code to make their own token (with most using the ERC20 standard). This is an undeniable advance in financial technology brought about by Ethereum’s Turing Completeness.
Moreover, alpha versions of several Dapps like Augur, Status, Melonport and Toshi (to name a few of a great many) have been created that offer a range of functionality that could not exist without Turing-Completeness.
Beyond alpha software, there are now real-live applications on the blockchain that provide real utility and are only possible due to Ethereum’s generalizability. The following is a little more indepth look at a few of these.
Ethereum Name Service
Ethereum’s Turing-Completeness has enabled the creation of the Ethereum Name Service (ENS), which was programmed to do several innovative things:
- automatically release names for registration on a staggered schedule
- use hidden bids that are all revealed during a reveal phase
- require the winning bidder to deposit the winning amount of ETH in the ENS contract for as long as they want to maintain control over the name, thus attaching a rental cost for squatting on a valuable name like exchange.eth, which means the rent charged is proportional to the economic rent extracted by rent-seekers.
- allow peer to peer trade of names
All of these ENS features have been working for months. And this is simply a contract built on Ethereum.
And there are people working on contracts to lend out the ETH held for reserving ENS names, showing there are no limits to what can be done, beyond the value that the application provides being able to justify the cost of the EVM resources the application consumes.
As another illustration of the openness of Ethereum to innovation, here’s a project that automatically created 10,000 unique digital collectables, each a graphical depiction of a cryptopunk character, put them on the Ethereum blockchain, and then let anyone that wanted to, claim them for free:
All 10,000 were claimed and there has already been 486.46 ETH ($136,349.47 USD) worth of cryptopunks purchased from those holding them, and there are currently 178.5 ETH ($50,031.01 USD) in bids for cryptopunks for sale.
While a similar digital collectable scheme could be created using a non-Turing-Complete programming language, it would be constrained by the language’s limitations, and thus limit the expression of creativity by the developers.
On Ethereum, CryptoPunks can expand and develop in an infinite number of ways. For example, one can imagine MMOGs being created with the cryptopunk characters as required character avatars for certain roles in the simulated universe.
With no permission needed to utilize this digital property, and the expressiveness offered by Turing-Completeness, any one with a good idea and the skills to implement it can build on the CryptoPunks ecosystem with their own smart contract. This openness is a recipe for a bounty of innovation.
It’s not just hackers developing innovative Ethereum applications. AXA, one of the largest insurance firms in the world, today announced the released of Fizzy, which it describes as “a 100% automated, 100% secure platform for parametric insurance against delayed flights”:
Here’s how. When you buy flight delay insurance on the fizzy platform, we record the purchase in a tamperproof network…www.axa.com
The application provides trustless execution of insurance contracts against flight delays on the Ethereum blockchain. The automated execution means no phone calls, form-filling or any other headaches to get an insurance payment in the event of a flight delay that one insured against.
Just the beginning
These examples of Ethereum’s utility are only a tiny fraction of the useful and interesting projects currently using the Ethereum blockchain, and this is the very beginning. As time goes on, the applications will multiply in number, and, I think I can confidently predict; the world of tomorrow will be radically transformed by them.