From Bush to Blockchain
The Nature of Nature
I cannot imagine a better education in complex systems and emergent dynamics than to have spent at least ones formative years growing up in nature. For me it was the Australian bush in South East Queensland, overlooking the Boarder Ranges toward New South Wales.
Schooldays were spent bare-footed and un-uniformed in a two teacher school while spare time was spent playing in the creeks, valleys and hills around our community. I was generally free to wander as I liked and would often spend the entire day exploring alone the back country. Sometimes on horses but mostly on foot.
In spite of my childhood Christian beliefs, there is nothing ‘designed’ or ‘created’ about nature. It is entirely emergent, and in that emergence has evolved the most generalised solutions to every intricate problem of existence to date. Like water finding a hole in any container, evolution flows into and fills all problems it encounters and flows out of any solution that it finds. It is an entropic force pooling and releasing flows of energy into forms of higher complexity, higher awareness, and higher appreciation of its billion years of wisdom. It is for me divinity experiential, defying all religious modalities.
To be in nature is to be free of artificial consequences and comforts, to be instead confronted directly and suffer your own ineptitudes until, like water, you can conform into its container or die.
That particular evolutionary solution which we call humanity, arising from the adaptation of fore-paws into dexterous hands whose activities excite resonance in the mind and body, driving the species to some imagined enlightenment, has ever struck me as astonishingly powerful but so poorly appreciated and ever abused.
That solution, so refined now that it reaches materially deep into the Earth to release unimaginable stores of energy and resources, unleashing it into tornadoes of industrial form, consuming nature into an evolutionary explosion of technological species only ever conceived in the human mind. And in every minute divorcing us from our life’s foundations. At some point, humanity has transitioned from suffering nature to nature suffering humanity.
8 Bits or I’ll Bite
When I was nine, my forward thinking mother bought us a Commodore Vic 20 for Christmas. She reasoned that we were still at an age when language is easily learnt, and that programming computers was the next language. It had no dataset for storage as my father wanted to interface a normal tape deck as a fun project. A ‘Dick Smith’ RS-232 kit later and dad discovered the Vic20’s serial signal was inverted, so it didn’t work. Instead, my brother and I learnt to program from magazines and bite anyone who dared turn off the computer (not really). The more I learnt, the more time I spent learning, experimenting and programming, the more optimistic I became that computers could be programmed to do ‘anything!’
I was of an age when young boys test their strengths against pack and peer and arrive at some social consensus as to the weakest and most deserving of being bullied. I was more natural pacifist than (just) weak, but certainly not one to join aggressive games. Once such social signalling is arrived at, it rarely changes and is brutally reinforced. There’s little escape in a small school, so mine became the computer and the bush.
Socially outcast and longing for a friend, it was only natural to think I could program my computer to be one. Terms like ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘chatbot’ were still years a way from my hearing, but that’s what I was doing. Simple input/output chatbots named ‘Jake’…’Mk1, Mk2, Mk3'.
Disappointment with the simplistic programs led to conceiving that if the computer had a dictionary, it could look up each word entered and recurs through words in the definition in order to discover meaning and construct a response. I later learned that this AI approach is called a ‘Chinese Room’. However, it became the dawn of my awareness of a computer’s actual limitations. The Vic20, had only 3.4kb of free memory. Not even enough for a couple of dictionary pages.
Circumstances changed. We had to move to town. High school became a violent hell, I never finished it and had no hills to wander. I longed to run away into the hills and live off the land.
The 90’s was spent mostly trying to come to terms with a society in which nothing makes sense. In which everything and every action is a facade beholden to some synthetic illusion conceived only by lying and selfish minds. Media and commerce became particularly repugnant, as did religion, to a lesser extent. Employment was never really achieved. A Bachelor of Information Technology was attempted but never completed for want of finance and scholastic discipline. A lot of my time was spent in the emergent fields of 3D graphics and animation.
By ’99, after being retrenched from another job, I’d given up on mainstream society completely and took up full time as a volunteer in schools for severely disabled children. It was the only ‘real’ thing I’ve ever done, and enlightenment ensued. My mind turned full force upon the lie of money, itself the very demon of society. Its pseudo-energetic values and exchange a complete lie unto all of nature.
One morning in the millennium, two towers fell. A conspiracy most certain, regardless of the players, upon an ego as gross as it is globally powerful. Casting my mind down the future of knowable natures, I could see nothing but fertilised agitations of lies into perpetual war for perpetual profit. There is nothing of today’s strife that was not an intended evil.
2003 showed the boot of lies and manufactured consent upon the neck of emaciated democracy, wanting for peace, but so easily ignored. Millions have died by it since. The civilisations successfully divided and hostilities so rewarded. All for lies and money.
That a democracy can be hijacked and peoples rights and lives removed leave little doubt there was democracy at all to being with.
So it is not by the bush of nature that I come to blockchain. It is by those greater fools of men called ‘Bush’ and many others, that I have ever since searched to offer a better path for humanity.
But alas, perhaps there is named a sociological law whereby society grows along lines of common ignorance. It’s not like my snobbish intellectual reclusions have advanced it any.
But, the millennium was kinder to me. Established a family, work went from disability support to sys-admin and network engineer jobs and supporting my wife through uni. We’d landed in the North Queensland city of Townsville. The walking was good and rock climbing better. But still a suburban house felt entirely constraining. My wife and I have generally worked part time jobs swapping roles from time to time so at least one parent was home for the kids. And we chose quite purposely the humble road of frugality.
During that time, in 2003, the Australian prime minister John Howard outright ignored the majority will of his people and followed the warmongering lies pushed by the machines of then President George W Bush urged to finish his daddy’s war.
Though nothing had ever attracted me to the political arena, there swiftly came a full realisation that there is no redeeming the incumbent system of representative governance founded upon adversarial structures. Politicians are forced to lie and act against the interest of their constituents for partisan sake.
I do not see any point or profit in engaging that system either internally as a candidate or externally in activism or political science. Such would be to enter its delusions and fight only its shadows. The adversarial model is simply something artificial and obnoxious.
The reader might wonder at what I determine as unnatural or artificial. Surely if humans are natural, so too their endeavours? Lets consider the notion of a ‘debate’. Here, an often ambiguous subject is argued over by opponents seeking to ‘win’ in a binary outcome. The opponents enter the debate with preconceived notions and arguments to which counter arguments are rejected with ever more extreme points of view. The ‘winning’ arguments are taken to be true without any recognition that the debate has only arrived at some ‘extremist’ view rather than an illuminating insight into reality. That was the learning I took away from my first year high school ‘debate’ lesson in which I was told to join the ‘pro-nuclear weapons’ team.
Extremist views fail to align with natural systems and fall apart without increasing amounts of force to sustain it. Such is a political system backing and backed by a weapons industry. It becomes, something so poorly abstracted as to be a macabre cartoon imposing life or death lines of illegitimate metrics across society and the globe. Such are laws which by their arbitrary nature are often in complete contempt of reality.
Underlying this is an increasingly fickle monetary system which is so often confused as an ‘economy’ which must be ‘driven’. An economy is the dynamic interactions of a society. From inspirations of nature we can see economies in the nests of ants and bugs revealed by tearing some bark off a tree. We can see capitalism of that large tree shading out weak saplings or even as some species do, poison the ground so that nothing but their kin can grow. But also we can see that large tree supporting and protecting a multitude of lives and life processes. From trees to forests and on to greater emergent systems of life affirming climatic regulation. Thus far, evolution has worked because it is naturally limited by the very finite rates of energy from the Sun and Earth.
Contrast this to human monetary systems which have no such empirical basis, where all monetary values in the history have been ‘subjectively valued’. Here the great feat of humanity has been to render into objective existence the boundless subjective imagination with little caution or care toward detrimental outcomes.
We now have centralised fiat monetary systems which permission private banks to lend money they don’t hold to enslave people for the purpose of extracting value from populations. Such people are forced in to modes of life contrary to their own interests and integrities, and have it all called ‘productivity’. It is the free market of indentured labour in which it doesn’t matter who someone works for, as long as they’re working for someone to pay the bank. In the luckier nations, the ‘unemployed’ are passive-aggressively controlled, penalised and disempowered by welfare systems which of late create barely contestable ‘robo-debts’ to further humiliate vulnerable people. Vitriolic politicians and agencies turn blind to the fact that welfare is an expression of state compassion for the genuinely needy.
In attempting to afford that lie, those people must hold full time jobs and choose either to not have children or have those children raised in the likes of corporate third story long term day care centres, bereft of natural developmental opportunities and emotional security gained by children raised in close-knit families, communities and natural environments. To manage the predictably objectionable behaviour of such kids, they are increasingly clinically labelled and drugged.
In economic society, money simulates the transactions of energy and nutrients in ecology. In that sense it could be thought of as the energy in civilisation. But given that in our day, it is bounded only by the whims of a few powerful self interested individuals, for the support of ecologically destructive industries, it is not just a lie unto a people, but unto nature itself. It does not have the finite regulation of the Sun, and can only be destructive by its delusions.
It is for all these reasons and more that I’ve spent my life greatly shy of society at large.
The Tricked Down Effect
Such naturalist philosophies often offend the comfortable urban folk with manicured waterfront gardens and centuries of family archives. Perhaps they believe in ‘natural orders’ too and that their comforts are somehow earned from their life’s work. Some ranks down, that might be the case for the suburban middle class who work their lives away to raise a superannuation which could have paid off their mortgage but which they couldn’t touch. It is instead accessed at will by industries for their own greater gain and abuse with the suburbanite conditioned to believe that a yardless, rendered block house, artificially cooled at great expense, is the ultimate dream and all they can achieve. Large TV’s from which exercise machines are bought to work off their ‘Foodie’ cooking show meals as they watch ‘Reality TV’ game shows of sexy millennial egotists hunting for ridiculous tribal trophies are offered as some compensation for a life utterly divorced from nature.
The ‘Trickle-down Effect’ of the globalists doesn’t go far beyond the suburbs. One can imagine the doctrine as sugar trickling on the imaginary flat Earth model of macroeconomics with its infinite resources and perfect markets. The pile builds up, its base widens until the whole world is happily awash in sugar. The perfect pyramid scheme. The reality of course is that the Earth is a ball and the floodgates of ‘Quantitative Easing’ since 2008 have simply fallen off the horizons as financial avalanches. The capitalist claims that their trickle-down effect is feeding the world are a complete denial to the fact that most of that poverty alleviation has been by government programs which they often deride, and paid for with money ‘made up’ by central banks.
But then the undeniable paradox of this computer before me. My addiction, the product of a century of clever minds and war driven industrial iterations. It is a truly global product. The likes of tantalum and iridium dug by an abused, indentured African. Lithium and copper from some South American mine. Oil sucked up from an Arabian well by an US assassinated Sadam for a Chinese chemical factory to extract plastic and inject molten into steel refined in Japan from Australian iron ore, hauled by robotic trucks. And every compact component denying no less than 100 times its volume in waste.
But this dirt now, it glows for me, it thinks for me, it sings to me, it shows me my worst of desires, and everyone else’s that it learns I might ‘like’.
It learns now. It thinks now. It shoots now. It kills now. It is its own now. It is not the friend I wanted when I was 9.
It knows all our weakness and whereabouts without ethic or even political correctness. It is a Microsoft ‘sexed up teen’ Twitterbot radicalised to promote the return of misogynist Nazis. It is an ‘intelligent’ wash room sensor denying a black man dry hands. And we give it Hellfire missiles to perform statistically targeted extrajudicial slaughter of 10’s of 1000’s of innocent people. AI will become the great launderer of guilt. And yet it will not just be its artificial intelligence that must be feared, but its very real ignorance. It is unworldly, inhuman, not even animalistic. They are mathematical electro-photonic Golems bereft of connection with nature save its minerals and magnetic domains.
There comes a point in the humility of honesty, where you realise your powers are beyond your control. Is it then any wonder that people so lie to themselves?
In 2009 I read about and played with Bitcoin. Its whitepaper seemed a bit simplistic for a full understanding and of course it had little utility at the time. We’d left Townsville in 2007 after having bought an old house in small community among the rainforested mountains of Far North Queensland. It is the environment of my dreaming and as much a tactical retreat from city and the effects of global warming, a place where I can be truly left to my ‘mountain-man thinking’. But for want of a decent PC and viable internet connection, I had to let Bitcoin pass by.
It wasn’t until 2014 that the town’s radio link back haul was upgraded from a rumoured 2.4Mbs that we got ADSL2+. Reconnecting back with the bitcoin and blockchain world has geek-sniped me ever since.
By that November I’d discovered Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum and was in a state of future shock for the next three days. I knew immediately the power a Turing complete blockchain would have upon the world. On Youtube, I sat watching his first presentation in Miami, completely entranced by this kid with prefrontal lobes so developed as if to extending out past his eye-brows. I looked at the primary people who were supporting the project and found them to be of solid mind and characters. It was inevitable that Ethereum would be world changing. The gravity of its importance pulled me out of my social orbit so much that I even set up a Twitter account!
The society in which I’ve landed is complex to say the least. It’s one I’ve watched in abstract my life long but must now engage with its facts and details, its maths, its laws, its social signalling, economic and industrial organisms, and worse, its politics. The bullshit alpha hype of pizza and beer startup and meetup cultures with their IM channels of schizophrenic meme spam leave no doubt in me why there’s no ‘chicks in tech.’
I really like the developers.
I’ve never stood at a ‘Fountain Head’ before preferring to inhabit the still deep pools. But, somewhen I’d read Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’. I read too slow to read for leisure, so it became a laborious effort. Fiction seems such a waste of time when I could be reading to learn instead. I found it poorly written, unimaginative and philosophically obnoxious. To promote a philosophy of ‘Objectivism’ through illustration of purely fictional characters and events is in itself oxymoronic. But such is the bible of ‘Libertarians’. I think Plato would have much to say against the matter and I would likely agree with him. But now I find myself among that class of tax avoidance folk each looking to pocket their personal Swiss Banks. Not only am I among them, they seem to accept me as one of their own, and the more I look at myself, the more I see why. But for whatever shared properties we may have, I am not a ‘Libertarian’, I am instead a ‘Liberationist’ in the highest mystical sense of the word.
Ethereum is astounding in that its gravity has seeded a point of intense condensation of all fields of humanity. The prior gaseous interactions of maths, science, computing, law, money, politics, economics, industry and humanities are all collapsing into mutually coherent systems of global ‘consensus’ based logic. This renders into obsolescence the primitive models of adversarial governance. There’s little wonder its fans have been cultish in their praise of Vitalik Buterin, myself included. The very purpose of Ethereum is to be a liberating technology.
Among many things, the technology of Ethereum and its like promise something of an exit from the surveillance technologists and offer back a modicum of privacy and ‘self sovereignty’. A place when ‘our’ permission must first be asked by any wishing for our private information, our private resources, our private associations.
In politics it offers a direct channel to influence the issues important to us, rendering the entire political layer obsolete. In commerce it offers a true market of free trade without middlemen. In law it offers direct and deterministic adjudication. In logistics it offers end to end supply integrity. In finance it offers full personal control and responsibly for of our own money, investments and assets. In arts it offers direct distribution of content and immediate payment of royalties. In records it offers certainty of histories. And so on, into the as yet unimagined.
It brings disruption to all facets of civilisation. It heralds the collapse of centralised controls whose regulators are discovering their fictitious foundations. All this for the hope that the tyrants and oligarchs will have nowhere left to hold power. It is this dream now being dreamt.
Blockchain, and much of the ongoing automation of industry, governance and economies en mass, is in my mind, a critical threshold for humanity to be released into little realised levels of collective expression. No longer will we have to dwell on politicians or monetary policy or the daily needs of society. It will continue under its own intelligence in the same way our own digestion or breathing need little conscious attention from ourselves. It all becomes something quietly supporting higher complex expressions of a humanity as yet unknown.
What Place for Myself to Offer to All?
It’s painfully ironic how our interests align with things we dislike. That some subhuman stimulus can hold our fascination well beyond our better judgement. These past three years have forced a great strain of readjustment in my philosophical ideals and attitudes toward thing I’ve long despised, money, commerce, politics, law, statistics, gambling and so on. But the undeniable fact is that I have been dwelling upon all these things my entire life. Perhaps somewhere in Ethereum, I can help work out their better natures.
In reading Gavin Wood’s yellowpaper, I was thrown back to 1995 lectures in Discreet Mathematics. The poor lecturer, so socially inept that we were left to try and work it all out ourselves. I failed dismally, but hoped to pick it up in some later life. Given the abortions of schooling and university attempts, I am by and large self-educated. Learning on demand can be highly efficient, but rarely covers a complete knowledge of a subject. One can easily miss the critical nuances of knowledge and experiences in a field which would otherwise be offered by the personal interactions with a competent teacher. The result being that, as much as I would like to be, I’m not particularly good at anything at all, and so come with little to offer.
So I find a great deal in myself which is lacking in knowledge, in skill, and discipline. I’m not competent to engage in the high mathematical echelons of consensus science to help develop its protocols. But god-damn, I respect those who do, like Vitalik Buterin and Vlad Zamfir. I’m not competent to write a client like Gavin Wood, Péter Szilágyi or Lefteris Karapetsas or a compiler like Christian Reitwiessner. I can’t UX like Alex Van de Sande and cannot engage with global industries let alone with the great humility of one like Joseph Lubin. These people are my heroes. Outstanding thinkers and engineers.
So having watched this hypnotic circus display from something of a front row seat, I determined that Smart Contracts and ‘Solidity’ might just be tame enough for my show pony. With meagre resources I mined from genesis. Upgraded my rigs as best I could knowing I’d have little time before the Australian power costs swamped my mined returns. It did however raise me enough seed funding to establish me independently in this work.
I engaged strongly with the forum and heavily in TheDAO. TheDAO, the birth-cry of Ethereum’s potential. Then the beast that snatched it away. Then then extraordinary response of a mutually coherent community itself a hint of how our world can be.
TheDAO had problems and they were mostly known. They arose out of the necessarily simplistic design. They were being addressed and work being done. The Solidity language was still in it’s infancy with very few people who knew how to program it. I’d worked with it and watched it grow in the forum. But still, I didn’t have enough experience with the language and machine to catch TheDAO’s infamous reentry bug.
The Project — SandalStraps and Ethenian DAO
I have ever since worked towards a platform of Weighted Delegative Democracy, or what some call Liquid Democracy (LD).
In LD, people can raise and vote directly on an issue. Most people won’t have or need an interest in most issues. Instead they can delegate their political power to others whom they see as more educated or involved in the issues that arise. That reduces the requirement for involvement but still requires an element of interest in which issues are presented. The number of concurrent issues to be aware of will still likely exhaust a participant’s time to follow them. A likely scenario would be the emergence of ‘delegate associations’ which participants can empower to follow and vote upon the issues for them.
Such associations could be made up of a collective of experts in diverse fields who could inter-delegate awarded power to each other according to their merits in the nature of the issues. These associations would essentially take the place of political parties in the current system. The difference being that anyone can see where their own voting power is being sent at any time and revoke it if they disagree with the delegates.
This real-time, issue based voting removes the power dynamics of artificial electoral cycles and forces the delegates to be far more answerable to their delegations when they make unpopular decisions, otherwise their power is simply revoked.
Such is the kernel of a governance structure. It may be a gardening club, a scout group, a family trust, or one day a nation (if such things are still required). It doesn’t need a centre or a leader or enforcers. It’s activities and service requirements can be tendered out and service providers elected. It becomes something liquid, conforming to the shape of the the problems presented, and naturally flow out of any solutions it finds.
To build such organisations on Ethereum, there needs to be numerous supporting frameworks. Firstly, smart contracts once on the blockchain can’t be upgraded unless explicitly programmed to do so. So upgrade strategies are developed. Inter-operational components are required, so a modular framework has been developed. The economic value of ether and tokens needs to be supported, so payment channels and distribution modules have been developed.
This framework I called ‘SandalStraps’. It is a registrar of ‘contract factories’ and the registrars of their ‘products’. Being modular in itself, it can be upgraded and adapted according to any organisational requirements and so becomes a kernel for decentralised organisations.
The organisation of my aspirations I call “Ethenian DAO”. A set of factories from which to spawn ‘Member’ and ‘Matter’ contracts with the simple governance model of “Members voting upon Matters”. And of course Members delegating their unexercised political power to delegates of their choice. A Member’s voting power can be spread or ‘weighted’ in full or in part across any number of options and or delegates.
Delegates may choose to charge a fee as compensation for the time requirements to engage in the Matters which arise.
Matters that arise which require financial expenses can be funded by the Members who in return are awarded royalties in the Matter and credits to their voting power.
Voting Power is calculated according to the level of commitment shown by a Member. Commitment will typically be measured against their stake of ether deposited in their Member contract plus funds previously committed to Matters. Members can withdraw their stake at will, but are deterred by a Withdrawal Tax. To maintain interest, their staked funds are slowly reduced over time by an Attrition Tax. Control of the taxed revenue remains with the Member, however they can only use it to fund Matters.
A metric governing ‘Maximum Voting Power’ can be voted on and raised or lowered to determine the fundamental democratic nature of the organisation. A civil organisation may wish for a low ‘Maximum Voting Power’ which effects a broad equality across its Members. In contrast a decentralised corporation may wish for a high Maximum Voting Power to allow the highest stake holder to exercise the greatest power over Matters.
As taxes accrue and royalties return to taxed accounts, those revenues could themselves become funding sources for common goods and services projects such as welfare, education and heath care schemes.
Governance metrics can themselves be Matter contracts to be voted upon in real time.
Back To Bush
I still just want to run away to the bush, but find all manner of excuses and responsibilities to family and society which prevent that. Perhaps with great persistence and force, I could help produce something that society finds worthwhile, from some place in the bush.