Holochain has been a project simminging in the background of the blockchain space for several years now. The promise has been a panaceaic solution to the performance and scalability issues facing decentralised hosting platforms. It’s an oft heard claim, but, as founder Arthur Brock expounds in this interview, by giving up our insistence on global consensus in favor of discoverable and verifiable local state, a world of options is opened to us.
This kind of discussion follows from the Secure Scuttlebutt and Urbit episodes. It raises, and offers answers, to questions of data vs agent based ontologies. But most interesting of all, it forces us to reconsider why we wanted to use a blockchain in the first place.
Arthur Brock from Denver Colorado
Interested in alternative currencies in 2001
Self organising companies are just a form of currency hacking
Discovered what a huge leverage point for change currency is
Change the business incentives and all business will reshape towards those incentives
The Future of Money, Bernard Leotard
2003 alternative currency became main gig
Metacurrency project 2004
Met Harris Brown
Currencies as more than money - symbol systems that we use to coordinate at scale
Out of metacurrency project came Ceptr 2006
Interact/transact with anyone else without intermediary
Required a reinvention of most of the communications stack. Modeling on nature - biomimicry
Prototyped for rewrite of computation, communication, commerce
Took piece of Ceptr and built Holochain, completed in Go in 2017
Bitcoin neither blindsided nor felt like a culmination of work
Seemed like a ham handed design
Has captured a large following
Has not achieved what Arthur Brock wants to achieve
Not to dismiss blockchain - if nothing else it has prepared public consciousness and awareness for dealing with these problems.
Blockchain has altered the discourse
Pulled discourse in a crazy direction
Recreates unhealthy patterns turbocharged
Definitely need new money but need to do it in a manor that does not amplify volatility and wealth concentration
Recreating old problems won't get us somewhere new
Core issue is validation, not consensus
Everyone must use the same validation scheme to participate in consensus [validation is more fundamental than consensus]
Push for global state is a lazy way of modeling problems
In reality there is no global state or time. Only relative state and time.
Holochain uses an Agent Centric approach rather than a Data Centric approach.
Each agent has their own chain for an application, only tracking the agents activity.
Genesis block of each chain includes a hash of the source code of the application.
The range of third-web platforms in development today is greater than ever. From data-centric blockchain based approaches to agent-centric designs like Secure Scuttlebut, the potential futures of the third web are rapidly expanding.
Today we look at another approach with the Urbit platform. Like Secure Scuttlebutt, Urbit is agent centric. It is a deterministic operating system designed to be the filter between a user and the online services they use.
I last covered Urbit in 2016 and the project is now nearing public launch. Galen Wolf-Pauly explains.
What is Urbit?
A personal Server
A secure computer that
you actually own
Stores an event log of everything that has ever happened to it
That’s designed to live on any cloud server
But be controlled by a private key that you actually own
Your Urbit is meant to replace all of the consumer cloud software that you already use
How can it possibly be better than all of the expensive software that has already been created?
The basic thesis is that everything we use today runs on top of a unix of some kind.
The reason we wound up in this centralised world of cloud-based software is that Unix is too complicated.
Because the Unix is complicated, complicated layers between Unix and the application are needed.
The Urbit solution is to rip all of that out and create a single, extremely simple, complex system.
Urbit is a virtual machine, programming language, and operating system in 30,000 lines of code.
For comparison, Wordpress, an application that runs on Unix is 500,000 lines of code
Technical simplicity should turn into user interface simplicity.
Additionally, by hosting your Urbit in the cloud you no longer have a middleman serving you applications, Instead you only need them to host your virtual computer.
What does an Urbit future look like?
A single platform allows tighter integration of, for example, productivity software like Git & Asana.
As a designer, Galen looks forward to interface standardisation, -having messaging, documenting, code collaboration, task management and other consumer software working seamlessly as one system.
Rather than interfaces built for many people.
Do we need a new back end for a new front end? Hasn’t Wechat done this?
Today we use many services that have unified UIs
Google has both email and documents but do you really trust Google to have total control and visibility into your use of those services?
What if Google goes away?
Being able to run a server myself that I trust will be around a long time and is secure to me makes me feel alot better. [Platform Risk]
Wechat is a really great achievement
Apps are more like modules
But you have given total power to a single company
The decentralised Wechat pitch has gotten tired but Urbit is very much targeting that problem.
The future of cloud computing does look like that but makes no compromises in privacy or durability.
What is Edgeware
Edgeware being developed by an entity called Commonwealth Labs
Built on Parity’s Substrate
Grandpa finality tool
Scripting built in.
Using Web Assembly (Wasm)
Building on Substrate
People used to build their own web servers, now they use the cloud.
People used to build new chains, now they can use Substrate.
This enables builders to focus on the area of their expertise.
One month after development began a test net was operational
Three months the project was live.
EOS was too centralised
Ethereum was not flexible enough
Being able to use Rust or C++ is great
Still being experimented with
The Polkadot and Substrate ecosystem
Friendly and helpful community
20 projects underway
100 planned for the end of the year
Platform still stabilizing
People are building now planning to switch to the security of the Polkadot chain.
Securing the edgeware chain
Delegated PoS aiming to move to Nominated PoS as Sybil resistance mechanism
Grandpa for finality
Round Robin leader selection
The ultimate goal is to rely on the security of Polkadot
The problem of governance
It’s a problem that has been pursued by humanity for all time
Blockchains increase social scalability
Enables new organisations
These new organisations need new governance systems
Blockchains are new so there is naturally experimentation and opportunity.
Want to further this human endeavour in the blockchain world
How does edgeware actually do governance?
Allocate tokens using a “Lock Drop” of ether.
One token one vote.
Vote can be allocated
Focusing on core changes to the network/protocol, allocation of on-chain treasury that is bootstrapped by the block reward.
The Lock Drop
Initial token distribution is the linchpin of effective network governance
Require the belief in the economic value of the token
Previous ways of doing this were an ICO or airdropping a token
The Livepeer Merkle Mine was an interesting experiment
Edgeware hopes to get the same effect of distributing tokens to people who want to actively participate without the bloat of a Merkle Mine.
Ether tokens are locked in a contract that prevents the tokens from moving for a period of 3, 6, or 12 months. The registry of locked tokens is used to initiate the Edgeware chain with additional tokens allocated to individuals who locked their tokens up for longer periods.
Infrastructure on top of infrastructure
Are we locked in an infrastructure phase?
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