What’s Your Metagame? An Open Letter to the Crypto Community

It IS a community, you know. It’s an epistemic community, which is a ten-dollar phrase mean

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  1. As John Kenneth Galbraith said: “There is nothing reliable to be learned about making money. If there were, study would be intense and everyone with a positive IQ would be rich.”

  2. … as opposed to much of the electorate’s “everyone who’s rich is really smart” …
    … as opposed to much of the electorate’s “nobody who’s not rich can’t be very smart” …
    … which creates the seemingly-credible conclusion, “intelligence and wealth go hand-in-hand” …
    … which creates support for Ms. Rand’s fictional backing of that concept and the non-party based on it.
    I think this is global thinking. Not a pleasant thought for me.

    But here’s something less pleasant … and IMHO true …
    Galbraith was wrong (and he surely knew it). There are VERY reliable ways, methods, schemes for making money. Some are called crimes by statute; others with different names and faces are called legitimate, by statute or by other legal maneuvering. Some are by prohibition of popular vices, some by the nudging of reformists and do-gooders. (btw, ‘reform’ is my primary candidate for mass education as to the real purpose of using that term.) They all are exploitive of the “rest of us” unless you or I, overtly or covertly or indirectly, join in the exploitation. They are all devious, whatever the perceived goal. All require due diligence.

  3. These are the reported rantings of ultra-rich survivors of the money wars, figuring out that cash isn’t king, nor ironically is power. Big deal, I say - just pathetic.

    But to me, the story emphasizes the negative impact of full-on Capitalism (read on, please), rather than a warning about the egos of the very rich. The most recent (say, 21st century) attitude of Us v. Them regarding the ultra-rich ignores gov’t refusal and/or inability to reign in out-of-control corporations, no matter how popular, has enabled the ostentatious FB or the slightly more subtle GOOGL to soar to 2Big2Fail status. We were warned by Adam Smith at the beginning of capitalism that regulation is required, though to how great extent he could not have grokked, given the relative pace of tech v. bureaucratic action, even in a roughly democratic society. Regulation, as we and the EU know it, has a huge challenge in maintaining values (social and economical) in the face of technological raccoons ready to sell your soul for their riches. This isn’t Marx or Lenin or Mao, nor is it any of the current autocracies attempting to exclude capital as a legitimate element of government. It is about reasonable and effective control by people, by citizens of any country, of LIMITS on all economic extremes. The cries from the towers can be heard even now …

  4. “Money aint got no owners. Only spenders”

  5. “wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.”
    Harmless as doves is not much of a rallying cry.

    The money business may attract bureaucratic scrutiny, but that’s precisely what makes it such a fantastic area for disruption. You aren’t going to see financial institutions tolerate true change, so you need to build a full workaround clever enough to evade the whole system, something only a true fearless innovator can even think about. Crypto v2, probably another decade away, is going to be lasting. The raccoons and the suckers will be long gone by then.

  6. Ben
    I am wondering if gold belongs to Caesar? Roosevelt seemed to think it did…

  7. Crypto, is an implementation of Blockchain. Blockchain is simply a communications platform. It’s a very immature one, that is worse than other platforms, except that it has one advantage; it enables self-verifying integrity of a message. If blockchain’s ability to self-verify the integrity of the message proves to be important enough, all the other issues tied to the immaturity of the platform will be worked out.

    Intuitively, blockchain is simple. Think of when you played Telephone as a child. In the game of Telephone, one kid whispers something in the kid next to him and then that kid repeats it to the kid sitting next to him and so-forth down the line. Now, make one adjustment to the game, and you understand blockchain. In this adjustment, every time a kid whispers the word or phrase to the kid sitting next to him, every kid in the line writes down on a piece of paper what that kid said. If there’s ever a question about what was said, every kid looks down at his own piece of paper and says what they wrote down that the kid said. If there’s a dispute, whatever has 50% of the vote plus 1 wins and that’s what’s used going forward. That’s how the blockchain enables self-verifying integrity of what was said. It’s simply every kid writing down on a piece of paper what one kid said to the next kid and how disputes are resolved via vote.

    Crypto currencies happen to be an implementation of blockchain. Are they the best implementation? Maybe, maybe not. It’s is a very immature communications platform. But think, how different would Twitter be if it validated the integrity of its messages? How different would the exchange of ideas be, if the source of the ideas accumulated credibility for their ideas?

    An epistemic community grants integrity to the people presenting ideas, because they’ve been vetted and admitted to the community prior to presenting any ideas, what if the communications platform provided a method of doing that vetting?

    My two-cents worth,


  8. Appreciate your two cents but would love to add my two satoshis (0.00000002 Bitcoin).

    You’ve explained part of how a blockchain works, but because you focused on the non-monetary message portion, it’s only part of the whole, and thus has to remain in the conceptual. Without an attached incentive for successful consensus within the telephone game, why continue to play when you get bored, why not cheat to make the message benefit you exclusively?

    Each player has to have a chance (proportionate to the work he or she did writing down the messages) to be rewarded for being the first to initiate the next round of message up for group consensus. The face value of that reward is hard-coded into the software, and subject to the same consensus as the messages themselves; if someone tries to cheat by changing the rules, they’d better have [50% +1] participants backing up the proposition to cheat or they’re wasting their work on something that will never achieve consensus. The relative value of that reward… well, that’s subject to all the economic theorizing, comparisons to existing assets/currencies, and market-based price discovery on which so much attention has been focused through Bitcoin’s history.

    What I’m driving at is, despite what you might have read from proponents of a hamfisted “blockchain not Bitcoin” narrative, there’s no practical way to separate blockchain out from Bitcoin (or any other nonzero-valued currency/asset running on a distributed, permissionless consensus mechanism). So cryptocurrencies/cryptoassets are no more an implementation of blockchain than a smile is an implementation of upturned corners of a mouth. If you attempt to separate the two, you don’t really end up in a useful place. Smiles are well-understood. Permissionless, trustless, decentralized assets and consensus: less so.

    But hell yeah we can build an epistemic community ON TOP of this, a quality-filtered version of Twitter where message integrity-- which I’m taking to mean peer-reviewed quality of contribution to a discussion, as opposed to message input matching message output-- can trustlessly, equitably vetted by virtue of the platform’s inherent design, is not only possible, it’s being built right now. (There’s an added side effect of message permanence and immutability which may itself change how we build and evaluate mistakes, vetting, and reputation, but that’s another mountain to climb.) Have a look at the way Peepeth is building a Twitter analogue.

    This is my first post in ET Premium and I expect I will be writing a lot of posts like this, clearing up such oversimplifications regarding Blockchain and providing the best window I can, past the maddening price talk crowd, into solid understanding of what this piece of technology is/isn’t, and what of meaningful value can be, is being, and should be built with it.

  9. @notsofastcrypto I generally agree with your assessments of incentives in proof of work distributed systems.

    My struggle with most decentralized proof of work or proof of stake systems (most crypto as it exists today) is that they’re horribly inefficient. Today it really doesn’t currently make sense to build high throughput systems on top of them (payment networks, databases, etc). This may change in the future, there is lots of good work going along to scale these networks. But remember, we tried internet video 15 years ago and it really only started to work recently because of significant throughput, development platforms and edge caching technology, which allowed Netflix to prosper.

    Decentralization does not mean we get a better world for free. It takes hard work. Most of bitcoin is controlled by a few very large miners, one who almost got to the 50%+1 level. I’m not sure how well “distributed” this system is.

    I strongly believe in that regulation and centralized mandates should be a last resort. As no one has a crystal ball the unintended consequences of regulation and centralized decisions can sometimes be worse, as they eliminate entire solutions spaces from ever emerging.

    We also need to come to terms that many people simply do not want a purely decentralized system, they want someone to be held accountable for mistakes. Today, I think the value for bitcoin and other decentralized systems, is to play as a power check against a lot of the centralized and fiat institutions of today.

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