Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Bitcoin "Lab Leak" Theory

In the late '80s and early '90s electronic cash was a hot topic among cryptographers. People such as David Chaum published extensively in journals such as Springer's Advances in Cryptology. Staff at the US National Security Agency (NSA) were naturally interested in developments in cryptography, so on 18th June 1996 the NSA's Laurie Law, Susan Sabett and Jerry Solinas reviewed the academic literature on electronic cash and published HOW TO MAKE A MINT: THE CRYPTOGRAPHY OF ANONYMOUS ELECTRONIC CASH :
This report has surveyed the academic literature for cryptographic techniques for implementing secure electronic cash systems. Several innovative payment schemes providing user anonymity and payment untraceability have been found. Although no particular payment system has been thoroughly analyzed, the cryptography itself appears to be sound and to deliver the promised anonymity.

These schemes are far less satisfactory, however, from a law enforcement point of view. In particular, the dangers of money laundering and counterfeiting are potentially far more serious than with paper cash. These problems exist in any electronic payment system, but they are made much worse by the presence of anonymity.
Alas, this understandable effort by NSA staff has become the keystone in a bizarre theory that Satoshi Nakamoto is an alias for the NSA, who developed Bitcoin in secrecy as a "monetary bioweapon" a decade before it somehow leaked and infected the world.

I must apologize that, below the fold, I devote an entire post to this conspiracy theory.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Brief Remarks to IOSCO DeFi WG

Earlier this year I was invited to take part in a meeting of the DeFi Working Group of the International Organization of Securities Commissions' Fintech Task Force. IOSCO is the organization that links securities regulators worldwide. The goal of the meeting was to provide input for a follow-up to IOSCO's Decentralized Finance Report from March 2022. I was asked to keep this confidential until the report was published, which has now happened; Policy Recommendations for Decentralized Finance (DeFi): Consultation Report.

Below the fold is the text of my brief introductory remarks with links to the sources. I will discuss the report in a subsequent post once I have studied it.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Microsoft Keys

Back in 2021 I gave a Talk At Berkeley's Information Access Seminar that summarized two long posts from two years before that:
On Friday 25th Dan Goodin had two posts documenting that even the biggest software companies haven't fixed the problems I was talking about:
Below the fold I update this sorry state of affairs, which I first started cataloging a decade ago.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Prof. Hilary Allen On Venture Capital

After writing Predatory Pricing, via David Gerard, I found Prof. Hilary Allen's Interest Rates, Venture Capital, and Financial Stability. In the abstract she writes:
This Article illuminates one path through which the prolonged period of low interest rates from 2009-2021 has impacted financial stability: it traces how yield-seeking behavior in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis and Covid pandemic led to a bubble in the venture capital industry, which in turn spawned a crypto bubble as well as a run on the VC-favored Silicon Valley Bank.
It argues for increased monitoring of the venture capital industry by financial stability regulators, given that venture capital is well-positioned to generate asset bubbles now and in the future. More specifically, it argues for more aggressive enforcement of the securities laws to tamp down on the present crypto bubble, as well as for structural separation between crypto and the traditional financial system.
Prof. Allen describes yet another of the many ways the current venture capital industry is malfunctioning, and calls for increased oversight of these risks to financial stability. Below the fold I discuss this and one of the papers it cites.

Thursday, August 24, 2023


Two of my favorite authors are making the same point. First, Kim Stanley Robinson in passing during a fascinating interview by Oscar Boyd and Akshat Rathi:
Capitalism is the name of a power relationship of the few over the many. It is a hierarchy. It is feudalism liquidified, where money has replaced land as the source of power, but there's still the powerful and there's still the weak, and there's still incredible inequality in the world system.
Second, in Autoenshittification Cory Doctorow writes:
In his forthcoming book, Techno Feudalism: What Killed Capitalism, Yanis Varoufakis proposes that capitalism has died – but it wasn't replaced by socialism. Rather, capitalism has given way to feudalism:


Under capitalism, capital is the prime mover. The people who own and mobilize capital – the capitalists – organize the economy and take the lion's share of its returns. But it wasn't always this way: for hundreds of years, European civilization was dominated by rents, not markets.
Below the fold some discussion of this idea.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Optical Media Durability Update

Five years ago I posted Optical Media Durability and discovered:
Surprisingly, I'm getting good data from CD-Rs more than 14 years old, and from DVD-Rs nearly 12 years old. Your mileage may vary.
Four years ago I repeated the mind-numbing process of feeding 45 disks through the reader and verifying their checksums. Three years ago I did it again, and then again two years ago, and then again a year ago.

It is time again for this annual chore, and yet again this year every single MD5 was successfully verified. Below the fold, the details.