Blockchains. Distributed ledger protocols. Bitcoin, bitmessage, and the paranoiac world of digital cryptocurrency. Bitcoin, decred, ripple (?), Etherium, many successors.
A placeholder for where I would write notes on distributed proof-of-work/proof-of-stake protocols if I had any thoughts on such creatures, although I do not in actuality have anything independent to add, nor any deep insights here.
If I had thoughts on this, I would like the thoughts to be upon distributed proof-of-truth protocols, which would be used by news media to verify witnesses and reality of the facts in their stories, which seems timely in the age of fake news, alternative facts, and easy simulation of fake shit.
If you actually want to use blockchains for their current main boring-but-useful purpose (currencies), see transferring money. There are many blockchains of this idea. Bitcoin may be the worst one, but it’s (still somehow?) dominant so you want it for those network effects.
Bitcoin as art is a thing. See Rob Myers on Blockchain Geometries
If you want to use blockchains for (partially) offline internet access for some reason, that is also a thing; see Zeronet, which uses blockchains to implement a certain kind of sneakernet.
Other interesting uses: augur, an online betting exchange. That feels more apposite, somehow. Or constructing direct farmer-to-latte-sipper gourmet ethical coffee markets.
Or: distributed energy markets:
[…]RMI said that a main challenge of the electricity sector is to integrate more renewable energy in a cost-effective fashion in an environment with flat or even falling demand. RMI says the only way to do this is by automating the demand side (consumers) and by allowing many more participants in the grid. That means even more automation at the distribution edge, and integrating this automation with wholesale markets. Blockchain is one part of achieving this goal.
Morris points to at least two potentially significant outcomes. One involves fairly routine accounting by addressing daily issues around utility billing. Blockchain better enables utilities to use individual smart meters and virtual IDs to create a secure and verifiable billing system that can deftly handle dynamic price signals as electric demand changes throughout the day.
A perhaps more interesting idea, Morris says, envisions blockchain as better enabling peer-to-peer energy trading. Individual devices would bid into energy markets and either consume energy or release energy depending on market signals.
Given how much energy bitcoins waste for the planet, there is something pleasingly perverse in this idea. Although why blockchains in particular might solve the problem is mysterious to me. Surely global ledgers are not the appropriate vehicle for local transactions? Isn’t the whole point of markets leveraging local price signals?
Bitcoin and its peers
Bitcoin is what banking looked like in the middle ages — “here’s your libertarian paradise, have a nice day.”
That comparison may be more nuanced than the author intended.
Mr. Lee said the Chinese took quickly to Bitcoin for several reasons. For one thing, the Chinese government had strictly limited other potential investment avenues, giving citizens a hunger for new assets. Also, Mr. Lee said, the Chinese loved the volatile price of Bitcoin, which gave the fledgling currency network the feeling of online gambling, a very popular activity in China.[…]
Peter Ng, a former investment manager, is one of the many people in China who moved from trading Bitcoins to amassing computing power to mine them. First, he mined for himself. More recently he has created data centers across China where other people can pay to set up their own mining computers. He now has 28 such centers, all of them filled with endless racks of servers, tangled cords and fans cooling the machines.
Mr. Ng, 36, said he had become an expert in finding cheap energy, often in places where a coal plant or hydroelectric dam was built to support some industrial project that never happened. The Bitcoin mining machines in his facilities use about 38 megawatts of electricity, he said, enough to power a small city.