Thursday, March 29, 2018
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
I had a lot of fun applying arithmetic to DNA's prospects as a storage medium. Jamie Powell must have had just as much fun applying arithmetic to the prospect of Bitcoin becoming the world's currency in Sorry Jack, Bitcoin will not become the global currency., which is part of the FT Alphaville's excellent new Someone is wrong on the Internet series. Below the fold, some of the entertainment.
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
A Quantitative Analysis of the Impact of Arbitrary Blockchain Content on Bitcoin by Roman Matzutt et al examines the stuff in the Bitcoin blockchain that isn't a monetary transaction. They:
provide the first systematic analysis of the benefits and threats of arbitrary blockchain content. Our analysis shows that certain content, e.g., illegal pornography, can render the mere possession of a blockchain illegal. Based on these insights, we conduct a thorough quantitative and qualitative analysis of unintended content on Bitcoin's blockchain. Although most data originates from benign extensions to Bitcoin's protocol, our analysis reveals more than 1600 files on the blockchain, over 99% of which are texts or images.Below the fold, some details.
Thursday, March 22, 2018
Bram Cohen, the creator of BitTorrent, gave an EE380 talk entitled Stopping grinding attacks in proofs of space. Two aspects were really interesting:
- A detailed critique of both the Proof of Work system used by most cryptocurrencies and blockchains, and schemes such as Proof of Stake that have been proposed to replace it.
- An alternate scheme for securing blockchains based on combining Proof of Space with Verifiable Delay Functions.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Pre-publication peer review is intended to perform two functions; to prevent bad science being published (gatekeeping), and to improve the science that is published (enhancement). Over the years I've written quite often about how the system is no longer "fit for purpose". Its time for another episode draw attention to two not-so recent contributions:
- Nearly two years ago Martin Klein and co-authors posted Comparing Published Scientific Journal Articles to Their Pre-print Versions to arXiv.org. They had presented the work at the Fall 2015 CNI. I really thought I had written about it at the time, but apparently it slipped through the cracks. I was reminded about it by Glyn Moody, who wrote on the occasion of its "official publication" two weeks ago in the International Journal of Digital Libraries. They show that pre-publication review's effect on article texts is barely detectable.
- Last October Sir Timothy Gowers, Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, had an important article in the Times Literary Supplement entitled The end of an error?, describing how the switch from pre- to post-publication review has improved mathematics research.
Thursday, March 15, 2018
I wanted to draw attention to what looks like a very interesting conference, Rhizome's National Forum on Ethics and Archiving the Web, March 22-24 at the New Museum in New York:
The dramatic rise in the public’s use of the web and social media to document events presents tremendous opportunities to transform the practice of social memory.
Web archives can serve as witness to crimes, corruption, and abuse; they are powerful advocacy tools; they support community memory around moments of political change, cultural expression, or tragedy. At the same time, they can cause harm and facilitate surveillance and oppression.
As new kinds of archives emerge, there is a pressing need for dialogue about the ethical risks and opportunities that they present to both those documenting and those documented. This conversation becomes particularly important as new tools, such as Rhizome’s Webrecorder software, are developed to meet the changing needs of the web archiving field.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
I'm preparing for a meeting next week at the MIT Library on the "Grand Challenges" of digital curation and preservation. MIT, and in particular their library and press, have a commendable tradition of openness, so I've decided to post my input rather than submit it privately. My version of the challenges is below the fold.
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Last November I wrote Techno-hype part 2 on cryptocurrencies and blockchains, reviewing David Gerard's excellent book Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain: Bitcoin, Blockchain, Ethereum & Smart Contracts. A lot has happened since, so its time for an update. Below the fold, I look at three examples of how far these technologies are from being "ready for prime time":
- The Lightning Network, which is supposed to allow Bitcoin to scale to billions of transactions.
- IOTA, which is supposed to be a blockchain capable of supporting the Internet of Things.
- Ethereum, which is supposed to be the infrastructure for "smart contracts".