A typical day in a blockchain-enabled world circa 2030


#1

[Read the post]


#2

Yelp becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to patch the blockchain code. Yelp fights back. It downrates all but the most popular food trucks out of business. Hipsters starve, more than usual I mean.


#4

Summary: A world where you don’t own your lawn mower, car, or anything else. A world where…

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be monetizing you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be monetizing you

Consider that many new homes come with leased water heaters. Sure, it’s momentarily convenient when it needs replacement. But it’ll also cost you far more in the long run.

Technology takes this to the micro-level. Businesses will accept micropayments once they believe that they can make far more money off you in the long run. With middle-men: Apple Pay and Google Payments exist so that Apple and Google can get a slice of every transaction you make - in addition to the bank’s and the store’s slice.

A world of easy micropayments enables a world where there’s a micropayment required for everything. Often to multiple companies per transaction.


#5

And, if you can’t afford micro-payments, oh, well, enjoy the (brief) experience of being surplus population.


#6

I agree. Most of the wonders in this article sound like terrible, privacy-destroying ideas. Suppose you want to buy something and you don’t want it to be a matter of public record? Cash will still be king, and I don’t think they will ever succeed in outlawing cash.


#7
But after reading the awesome description of a day in the life of a typical bitcoiner in the year 2030, where everything operates via Bitcoin, we’re sure your worries have been conclusively put to rest.

#8

This story makes it far worse: It’s not that your purchase of an alarm clock is public record. In this story, just in the first few minutes of your day, your vital signs and hangover are public record. What time you wake up and how long you shower are public record. That you missed the bus is public record.


#9

Not sure if writer is being ironic. . .

or is being paid a bitcoin to tout the brave new block chained world.


#10

Ah, micropayments.

(this was 15 years ago. sheesh)


#11

Hello, Poe’s Law!

I’m glad I’m not the first person to look at this proposal, and recoil in horror at the ultra-capitalist glibertarian fantasy dystopia proposed, where privacy is meaningless and every tiny human interaction with the world is marketised, monetised and rationed.


#12

Yeah, I was half-wondering if this was deliberate anti-propaganda, designed to undermine the whole concept.


#13

I to have considered this idea, basically it’s the idea of a “digitally signed society” where cryptographic signatures underlie everyday transactions, no matter how minute.

Aside from the fact that it would require teaching kids from K on up how this works, which is doable, here’s the real problem:

What happens when I lose my keys? Are they stored on some chips embedded in my body? Wouldn’t that mean that someone could just pry that chip out and liquidate my assets and launder them away before I can raise alarm? What if I get in a traumatic accident and my chips are crushed right along with my pelvis? Did I just lose ownership of my home and all my money? This is why “smart cards” which contain a chip that says how much money you have never caught on, stealing the card, or losing the card, means you literally lost all the money. It’s a terrible idea because it takes the best thing about digital information (the fact that its existence is abstracted into an array of mirrored backups, no one being “the real one”) and takes it away, reduces it to something like cash. The key difference being that it would be somewhat difficult to misplace, move, or steal a lot of money in cash-form, but very easy to misplace, move, or steal a lot of money when it’s on a microscopic object.

Maybe all the keys are on the cloud, and I just remember a login. Hope I never forget it, or no one steals it, since my entire net worth is now something hackers can potentially get at. Hasn’t this actually already happened to some bitcoiners? Dead diskdrives, poor backups, lazy passwords, house-fires, etc., is it a good idea to keep everything in a centralized digital form?

And if this is the case, then my identity itself is the key right? I mean, if I lose my keys or forget my password, no one can fix that. Today if I lost my driver’s license, or my Social Security card I could get a new one, usually by using a more trusted form of ID like a birth certificate. Not everyone has a birth certificate though, and even if you have absolutely nothing, it eventually comes down to whether you can convince a judge or bureaucrat you are who you say you are. Other people you know can help you with this and its a problem we have systems for dealing with, because…

The gov’t is the ultimate trusted key. Everyone agrees (willingly or not) that the gov’t has the right to overrule things. Invalid contracts, extortion, blackmail, theft, can all be un-done by the gov’t. You could break in and steal my car-title, perfectly forge my signature, and then sell it for cash. All I would have to do would be to tell a judge that I did not sign that form, show them a police report that my home was broken into, point to your inability to backup that I actually signed that form, and the judge will undo everything. Maybe the car is long gone, but the money can be recovered at least. (note: identity theft isn’t always this easy to fix, but there are systems in place which can in theory fix it).

You can’t just forge my name on a contract (even if its a perfect forgery) and expect to hold me to it. You have to have more than my signature in place to really prove I did something.

With blockchains though, no one can fix it. The signature is everything. Currently ownership and identity are essentially subjective things. When it comes down to it, the gov’t (usually courts) decide if these kinds of agreements are valid and enforceable. It all hinges on the rational and considered argument of a human.

So for this to work, these blockchains would have to allow gov’ts to override transactions at will, but that seems against the whole idea. Sure there could, and likely will be (in some form) a gov’t sanctioned blockchain. However the IT infrastructure and security risks of this would be enormous. We’d be turning concrete objects (contracts, wills, deeds, titles, stock certificates, insurance policies, etc.) into digital things. Digital things, no matter how encrypted are generally less secure than physical objects because anyone with an internet connection can have a go at them.

Does it really seem wise to have an entire society of forgetful, flawed humans keep everything they own and claim to be in some future Ashley Madison hack-job?

So sure, maybe the gov’t has the “master key”, but then the gov’t is awfully powerful isn’t it? Eminent domain is just signing over your property, taxes are just an automatic deduction. The potential for abuse is enormous and dangerous.

The only way this would work is if it was regulated by our new AI gods or something.


#14

What could possibly go wrong?


#15

eh forget blockchains, I’m tripped out by the fact that by 2030 CROCODILES WILL BE LIVING AND WORKING AMONG US


#16

Late stage capitalism


#17

How is Bitcoin compatible with Fractional Reserve Banking? If Bitcoins can only be created by solving a hash problem, does that impede the ability of commercial banks to create money as debt?


#18

It isn’t. The limited supply of bitcoins is a supposed “feature”. It’s deflation by design- kind of like the gold standard on steroids, where every krugerrand comes with its own receipt.


#19

It was also completely wrong. Penny Arcade had this whole sneering thing at the time about how micropayments were practically and logistically impossible and Scott McCloud was smoking crack. But here in 2016, for better or worse, micropayments are a major part of the global digital economy.


#20

As I remember, Tycho/Holkins was super ignorant about McCloud’s intentions and the man in general. But after a very earnest rebuttal, a nice phone call, and (apparently) a lot of people telling him how wrong he was, he changed his mind and admitted it in the next blog post.

As a fan of the writing of both comic artists, I found it a strangely satisfying bit of early internet drama to see unfolding at the time. You don’t see this kind of resolution very often nowadays, I think. Looking back it feels like an artifact of a quainter, simpler early virtual superhighway cyber-surfing culture.

Of course, now I just feel old.

To be fair, with the fifteen-year hindsight I think McCloud was ultimately proven very, very wrong about micropayments being the salvation for the “people don’t want to pay for content in the internet so creators don’t get paid” problem. That’s far from solved, no?

All I’m saying is that the ideas in Reinventing Comics didn’t age very well at all compared to the ones in Understanding Comics, which are genius and eternal as far as I’m concerned.

Yes, but as far as I know only in the ironically very Penny-Arcade-fodder-ish context of videogames designed to rip people off, either via questionable downloadable content or the odious “free to play” model. Did I miss anything?


#21

Indeed; financially successful webcomickers have mostly turned out to make their money off of ads, merchandise, and freeform donations–it didn’t really happen how McCloud envisioned it.

The funny thing is: Patreon. Just in the last couple years, it’s become possible to sign up to pay a content creator $1 (or whatever) per posted page (or whatever), and apparently people are actually doing it. So McCloud may turn out to have been right after all, in a very delayed and roundabout way.