Modified “Locked” from the Noun Project

Privacy is part of the zeitgeist of this moment. Our headlines are dominated with high profile privacy scandals and there is no indication that this is going to slow down anytime soon. On the other hand, advances in data science and the creation of incredibly powerful new platforms offer increasingly large benefits to their users. We’re struggling to grapple with the growing demand for our data at the same time as growing calls for privacy.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that it is a false paradigm that we must give up our privacy to gain the benefits of our…

Taken from Unsplash

I have a prediction to make: within 5 years the unauthorized sale or otherwise usage of deidentified health data will be illegal. There is legislation in Oregon and Maryland that does just that. Expect these to be the first of many bills to come.

The greatest irony of the status quo is although you may not have access to your health records there are a handful of other people that probably do. Today a vast and murky market exists for the trafficking of your health data.

If health data is deidentified, that is, if there is no reasonable basis to…

There are endless use cases for either blockchain or AI, but more important than any specific use case is a paradigm shift that rests at the confluence of both technologies: decentralized data ownership and the decoupling of data from the applications and services that generate it.

Where we are

Today the Internet is dominated by technology companies that have monopolies on our data. The likes of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook are ruthlessly competing to be the stewards of users’ data. They suck up as much data as possible onto their permissioned platforms where they can dictate how it’s used and by…

Much ado has been written about giving users more control of and value from their data. Without spending too much time on the forces beyond this movement, people have lost trust in the institutions stewarding their data and feel a sense of inequity as these institutions benefit off what’s perceived to be an extension of individuals.

I like the idea of data unions. Just like credit unions pool money together for the collective benefit of their members, data unions would pool data together. These would be owned and managed by their members and any profits would go back to their…

If you’ve ever put together a piece of furniture you’ve probably experienced pride welling up inside of you when it’s finally finished. “I did that” you think to yourself as you smile; your labor leading to love. In a well documented mental bias called The Ikea Effect the task of constructing something leads people to value (and over value!) their creations.

Of course, the Ikea Effect isn’t limited to furniture. Broadly speaking, anything that requires labor to complete can induce an Ikea Effect in the subsequent construction. In the 1950s when instant cake mixes entered the average American household people…

In the past few years we’ve seen the emergence of cryptoeconomic primitives using markets. Instead of relying on an individual or a group, these systems use decentralized market mechanisms to achieve their goals. Two examples I’ll explore here are curation markets and prediction markets. I believe these are the tip of the iceberg and that we are going to see a flood of market-based solutions in the future.

A few innovations are enabling this trend:

  1. Smart contracts let us create trustless coordination mechanisms (example: token curated registries).
  2. Standards that allow anyone to deploy their own cryptocurrency or non-fungible token…

I put this list together because I haven’t seen enough discussion around behavioral economics in the cryptocurrency space. There are a lot of arguments, and even entire systems, built on the assumption that people act with cold hard economic rationality. That assumption is simply not true.

People make decisions in strange ways. We are constrained by effort, evolutionary oddities, our inability to focus, and time. As a result, we are as Dan Ariely puts it, predictably irrational. I’ve sought to outline some key terms from the field of behavioral economics as well as give examples of how they are…

A core value proposition of cryptocurrencies is that they are uncensorable. That is, no single actor controls these currencies and no single actor can censor payments made using them. To be specific, the government cannot stop you from sending anyone money at anytime anywhere around the world. Nor can they seize your funds. The only way for someone else to gain access to your money is for them to steal your private key somehow.

The property of uncensorability is fundamentally a very important thing for money. But it equally important for markets as well. Platforms like Ethereum and EOS…

We are in the early stages of designing and deploying cryptocurrencies, and if you believe the Fat Protocol Hypothesis, there are billions of dollars at stake. Naturally, cryptocurrencies and their adherents will seek to defend their positions from challengers. Fundamentally this is a very different game in the crypto space than it is in traditional business because of the open source nature of cryptocurrencies and the ability to fork blockchains. Together, these things mean the cost to compete with cryptocurrencies is extremely low.

In this environment how do cryptocurrencies seek to defend themselves from competition? What are the defensible…

The below is a compilation of the assigned readings NYU’s class “ Digital Currency, Blockchains, and the Future of the Financial Services Industry.” Links are provided where appropriate but there is a fair amount of reading done in textbooks.

Required textbooks

Carnell, Macey & Miller, The Law of Financial Institutions (6th edition, forthcoming).

Narayanan et al., Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies. A draft manuscript of this text can be found here.

Goldman Sachs Equity Research, 2016, “Profiles in Innovation: Blockchain.”

Required readings

Jan 31st — Course Introduction — Miller

The Economist, 2015, “The Great Chain of Being Sure About Things.”

Feb 2nd — Payment Systems…

Robert Miller

I write about blockchains, data, and healthcare. Sign up for my newsletter here ->

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