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Introducing Erasure Bay

Erasure’s new information marketplace

Max Novendstern
Jul 23, 2019 · 6 min read

Erasure Bay is an open market for information of any kind, built on the Erasure protocol. It’s Numerai’s first non-finance product. It’s our bid to save the Web.

“Davos is a good place to announce that Facebook’s days are numbered.”— George Soros

It’s the fake news era. Facebook’s complicity — in election fraud and genocide, in data leaks and mass addiction—has been called criminal, but clearly the problem isn’t Facebook.

The problem is the architecture of the Web. The Web’s solved information scarcity; we can all communicate. It’s not solved information verifiability; we can’t trust what’s said, who said it, or how the data’s used.

Erasure can help.

When Bitcoin launched it looked like a new type of money. It took time to realize that it’s also—if you stare, until the gestalt shift—a new type of Internet. On the Bitcoin network, information is uncensorable, trusted, and lasts forever. Erasure’s question: can we bring this to the Web?

Like Bitcoin, Erasure looks like a finance tool. But also like Bitcoin, the goal is broader. Erasure seeks to inject the trust-building primitives of crypto — staking, time-stamping, and public-key identities — into the Web itself, to make civilization’s central tool for coordination more trustworthy.

You trust that news isn’t fake on Erasure because:

  1. Reputation is permanent — all activity is etched into the blockchain, including what you knew and when, tied permanently to your identity
  2. Money is at stake — sellers of information back their claims with capital, which buyers can burn to the ground, as recourse outside the law
  3. Transactions are atomic — money (cryptocurrency) and goods (information) are exchanged in an instantaneous swap

Erasure Bay is the second dapp on the Erasure protocol. It’s a marketplace for information of any kind. It’s Numerai’s demonstration of the power of Erasure to improve the Web itself.

How it Works

“If it’s useless and decentralized, it’s still useless.”— Richard Craib

Erasure Bay brings the “decentralized Web” down to earth. We picked a light color for our logo, and featured cryptokitties in our commercial, because we want Erasure to be so easy kids can use it. ;-)

Erasure Bay will be a series of firsts for many. Post data to storage that no one owns. Stake money on your claims. Encrypt them, then reveal them, to prove you knew something. Sell them under a smart contract that must be enforced. Watch your money get burned. Hell, browse a website with no server — that’s just a frontend on top of commonly owned infrastructure.

Twitter enabled people to feel what global communication was like. Erasure Bay will enable people to feel what verifiable communication is like.

To what end? Stories we like:

  • Deal ideas: You’re exploring ways to get exposure to the fast-growing macroeconomics of a developing country as an investor. You put up a bounty for deal ideas from local analysts. Someone replies with a bank special situation — price target of 5x in five years. You’re intrigued. You see this address has been predicting bank earnings for months on Erasure Bay with lots of success. You believe they know of what they speak. Plus, they’ve staked money on their claims. You know they’re here for business. And it’s nice that you can move money to the analyst instantly (because cryptocurrency) and you’re guaranteed to get the information (because smart contract).
  • Due diligence: You’re a venture capitalist making a deal. It’s become standard to put up anonymous bounties on Erasure Bay for evidence of fraud at any company you invest in — it’s just good due diligence practice. Suddenly, someone claims they have something (this has never happened before), and that changes everything.
  • Whistleblowing: You’re witnessing crime at the factory you work at. You post on Erasure Bay. A journalist begins communicating with you, and you get the story out and justice is served.

But we hope to be surprised.

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Read the Erasure Protocol

Data on Erasure is rendered by querying the blockchain service sitting between the frontend and the Erasure contracts. We like The Graph. Query by stake, costs, the implicit reputation of the post (their activity), or by tags — #Tesla or #Biden and so on. We’ll display the query code on the frontend so you can run it locally.

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Post to the Erasure Protocol

When posting a file to Erasure, a hash of the file is sent to Ethereum and an encrypted version of the file is sent to IPFS. The hash builds reputation by proving you had the file at a given point in time. The encrypted file allows you to retrieve the file when a buyer shows interest.

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struct Data {
MultiHash proofHash;
address owner;
bytes metadata;
}

Erasure’s “Smart Agreements”

To sell data, two parties sign a “smart agreement.” Discussions can happen off-chain, but the end-state is an agreement on parameters, like price, stake amount (both buyer and seller can stake!), “grief ratio” (the amount to pay to burn the other’s stake), and the time window for griefing. When the contract is signed, money is moved into escrow, and released when the file is sent.

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struct Agreement {
address buyer;
uint256 buyerStake;
uint256 buyerGriefRatio;
address seller;
uint256 sellerStake;
uint256 sellerGriefRatio;
uint256 griefingDeadline;
bytes metadata;
}

Whole Earth Redoux

“When Margulis told me that human beings, like Gause’s protozoa, would wipe themselves out, she was affirming her belief in Darwin’s view: biological laws apply to every creature.” — Charles Mann, “The Edge of the Petri Dish

Everyone has a story of how they got redpilled by crypto. Mine started in Ethiopia. We were building an M-Pesa-style bank in the Somaliland Region. Then the government shut us down. We evacuated the country and faced (if briefly) the prospect of destroying people’s money. I started to “get” Bitcoin. I was in Africa at all because it’s where the population growth will be, where the energy scale-up must happen. We’re the “load capacity generation.” When I was born, population and per-capita energy use was ripping up the S-curve. When I die, I expect both to be plateauing. I got into crypto because I thought it could help drive capital into the frontiers. If Bitcoin is a better asset, if Ethereum is a better way to securitize assets, then tournaments like Erasure Quant are better ways to diligence them. Erasure qua tool for finance.

But these days, I think of another story. We’re also the “boot loader generation.” When I was born, no one was plugged in. When I die, everyone will be. We’ll witness “the merge.” This story and the other intersect. For the human project to last — call it “Type II Civilization” grandly, or “sustainability” banally — we’ll need tools of coordination. The Web is, in this sense, our medium for Enlightenment. It’s what distinguishes us from Lynn Margulis bacteria, which eat all the food in their Petri dish then die. Our platform for global coordination should be trusted. It should be permanent, uncensorable, peer-to-peer, transparent, and Sybil resistant — which is to say, verifiable. Here’s our attempt. Erasure qua tool for the Web.

Numerai

A new kind of hedge fund built by a network of data…

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