What Blockchain gets wrong: Carbon vs Silicon

Blockchain theorists are adamant and insistent on many features of the requirements for something to be true blockchain. Several of them are totally wrong. At least they are wrong if you want humans to use them. Here is my list of things they get wrong.

A blockchain is perfect and flawless. Always in balance. Always trusted. Always immutable. Eternal. The greatest Silicon invention ever.

However, for it to succeed it needs to interface well with the Carbon-based systems that came before it. Humans. And humans are basically the exact opposite. And that creates some obvious problems that we will eventually need to account for as we design the blockchain of the future.

These are in my mind the use cases for the “Carbon-Ready Blockchain”

Humans die, and we expect to be able to pass those things we own onto our heirs.

The blockchain is immutable and forever. And if you lose your private key you lose access to everything in that wallet. Which would be great in a world where I live forever and never die unexpectedly.

I have personally seen this. I knew a successful business owner who ran a small online service as a one-man shop. He passed away suddenly and unexpectedly leaving behind his company to his non-technical wife who had prior to that no experience with the product or the code. Or as it turns out, she did not have his passwords to his computer or its password encrypted hard drive. Which meant although that site was her livelihood going forward, she could not access any of the source code or admin controls.

if we are going to put digital title to everything in the blockchain, and it is going to be the future gold. it cannot get there unless it accounts for sudden death and inheritance in a better way than it does today.

Carbon-Ready Use case: How do we transfer assets and tokens, if the owner has died?

Humans are not trustworthy and are some are total criminals

This goes without saying, and certainly if you look at the bitcoin and exchange hacks that have marked and triggered some of the largest bitcoin selloffs that is a confirmed reality for blockchain.

People may hold hostages, may hack, steal, or otherwise take a digital coin in an illegal way. And if you fully are an anarchist, maybe you replace illegal with some lack of community accepted and agreed term that means that the actor that benefits from the transaction violated community norms to make it happen. But the same issue at the end of the day: How do you as a community right that wrong?

Ethereum did it with a hard fork. That did not go over well. They also tried to put in an EIP to address it. also did not go over well. But the problem continues and at leas they are trying to address it.

this summarizes the conundrum:

The core developers had a choice between either:

  1. Accepting the reality that the hack occurred and nothing can be done since the blockchain is an immutable ledger or;
  2. Implementing a ‘hard fork’ in order to ‘wipe’ the transaction and stop the hackers from getting away with the money, basically reversing the transaction

However, there was a solid segment of the community that did not agree with this approach under the philosophy that the Ethereum blockchain should remain immutable.

My contention is until there is a 3rd option that everyone can agree on, blockchain’s use in a world populated by humans will be limited.

Carbon-Ready Use case: How do we address a transaction that was created through physical coercion or criminal hacking and theft?

Humans love justice and people who commit crimes in one area should not have the ability to hide ill-gotten gains.

This is related to the last one. But slightly different. What I have in mind here is someone who is a total scoundrel in another area. Like, say real estate. And they lie cheat and steal their way to a small fortune. And then as part of their criminal plan to hide their crimes, put a large chunk of that money into numbered Swiss bank accounts, and some more into a Panama papers style off-shore account. And then put some more into a Zk-SNARKs cryptocurrency.

Now later let’s say this person is caught, tried, convicted and is ordered to make restitution to their victims.

Our normal sense of justice would indicate that we communally would not allow this person to keep their gains just because they were able to 1. hide them. 2. only they can move their funds later, despite due process.

Again we are at a point where most human rules for civil society would point to something that current implementations of blockchains and smart contract do not account for. This is another use case we can apply in our “Carbon Ready blockchain” test.

Carbon-Ready Use case: How do we see all the assets that a criminal has available to seize?


There are several more, but I think this is a good start. In my next post related to this I will explore the myth of peer to peer. But What do you think?

Does due process have a place in the next generation of Carbon-ready blockchains?

What would that model look like?

Does something like a mechanics lien, a cloud on the title or a salvage title need to have an equivalent baked in at the protocol layer for the token of the future?

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