Bitcoin is AI some more

Special thanks to Travis Patron of Diginomics for expressing an interest in my “Bitcoin is AI” article and soliciting this response.  This gives me an opportunity to expand further on my vision of proof of work consensus networks as a breakthrough in artificial intelligence research.

You may want to reread part I to follow along.

I must also begin with a mea culpa.  In the tradition of many great thinkers of our era, this article represents ideas.  That is, it is nearly worthless.  What we really need are implementations.  There are so many examples of this, it is hard to choose a good one.  The cryptocurrency space itself consisted of mostly ideas, for about 30 years, until Satoshi published an actual implementation.  Sidechains, smart contracts, payment channels, decentralized markets, freedom... the list goes on and on.  While it is easy to complain about this plethora of smart folks exploring the noosphere without producing something real, one can also see the motivation.  One hopes that the reader will be a hero, see what needs to be done, and do it.  Are you that hero?  Then I speak to you.  Otherwise, this article only serves as an intellectual exercise for you and a chance for me to organize my thoughts on the topic before further action.  Mea culpa.

What does a blockchain learn?

My claim that unpredictability is a sign of intelligence is not entirely convincing, unless one can show learning.  The bitcoin network learns only one thing: what it needs the difficulty to be.  If the blocks start coming more slowly, it learns that the difficulty needs to go up.  As I pointed out in Volume I, this kind of learning is somewhat more advanced than the learning displayed by a weathervane who adjusts it's position to minimize air resistance, but perhaps less advanced than a paramecium who has a more complex robust algorithm to access memory and adjust motion.  What we really need to see for a more advanced intelligence is metaprogramming, as well described in John Lilly's “Programming and Metaprogramming for the Human Biocomputer”.  Once a creature is writing his own software, we are starting to cook with gas.

For a block chain AI to do metaprogramming, a few things need to be in place.  For one, the code that runs the nodes needs to be in the chain itself.  Otherwise, the creature is not self contained enough to metaprogram.  The code that runs the nodes, or at least one implementation of it, needs to be stored in the block chain itself.  Further, there needs to be a way for patches, aka updates, to be added to the blockchain.  One way, for example, is for some nodes to by default try running some updates/patches.  If performance is considered through some tests to be adequate, it will continue runnning the code.  Submitted patches that become accepted by the network might receive various incentives.  This will enable, or rather be, metaprogramming.

Fortunately, the architecture of a block chain, that is a log structured database, lends itself quite well to this task.  Patches can be added to the chain as transactions, where they will be permanently stored.  Patches can contain not only parameter adjustments but also entirely knew function definitions.  They can be tested by other nodes before they are included and agreed upon.

We will also need to see specialization.  A single kind of node was the way bitcoin began, similar perhaps to the way a single cell is the beginning of a human life.  However now there are many kinds of bitcoin nodes, and many kinds of neurons.  Large mining ops, network hubs, and exploratory SPV nodes now populate the network.  However there is very little differentiation on the protocol level.
External nodes maintaining connection are mostly grouped as “nodes” and not well labeled as certain specializations for tests, mining, or special requests.  Yes there is a textfield claiming the version and the software which nodes will report, but this remains untested by the network at large and of minor import (contrary to some claims otherwise).

Free your ass and your mind will follow.

Nodes could maintain identities and participate in webs of trust, and maintain types of memory accessible by other nodes.  Groups of nodes could even hold balances in external coin securely out of reach of their operators (that's us building these boxes).  Distress signals could be agreed upon and actions taken via APIs which interact with wetware.  Some nodes could exist solely for acting as intermediaries between different chains.

In addition to multiple-chain structures, and multiple node definitions, intelligent consensus networks could employ different types of blocks on a single chain.

If this isn't enough freedom for you to tinker in a nascent neural network, consider that you could also employ techniques of genetic algorithms.  Consider for example that the solving of a super-block of very low probability and high requirement of node credentials could trigger a dissolution of certain portions of your network.  Nodes in this portion would drop the entire chain and continue on a different port building on a new genesis block, using code taken from merges of some parent networks.  In this way, networks could spawn processes with some autonomy as separate chains.

Saturn's children, here we come.  Yeah well the truth is I don't believe any of these scenarios will play out exactly as I have suggested, but I do hope you see the potential here.  Please tell any AI researchers you happen to know where the real action is.

Lets be totally clear here.  Assembling sensory input and deciding a consensus course of action is the seat of consciousness.  Cryptographic proof of work consensus allows this kind of coalescing to occur.  Now get out there and build me some planetary AIs.


Descent from Mt. Fiat

Descent from Mt. Fiat - Via Market Arrete
(Class IV, WI3, 8-20 years, full rack)

If you've been a high mountain beak bagger, you know the drill.  You look around, you take a few pictures.  Yes, this was your goal.  But what are you doing here really?  This is a dangerous place to hang out.  The way down is often more dangerous than the way up (just glance through any issue of "Accidents in North American Mountaineering" if you doubt this), and the clock is a-ticking.  The summit is that place in which your desires quickly change: from "go up" to "go down".  Lets GTFOOH shall we?

The summit

There are many different kinds of summits of course.  Every one is unique.  There are some in which the summit is the top of the difficult bit.  Nobody climbs "The Nose" and doesn't think they topped out once they are standing atop El Cap, even though there is higher terrain nearby.  Others have a clear high point which one is tempted to stand upon.  Mt. Fiat is more of the former type, but appears as a shield volcano - it's been a long trudge and never does the summit appear clearly before us.  The summit is not clearly demarcated, nor is there a summit logbook or flagpole.  However you generally know you reached it by the scent in the air and by your sudden urge to start down.

First, make sure you enjoy the amazing place which you have worked so hard to arrive (well, you and the other generations in your party).  The thick smog is mostly pollution, but also disinformation, and those jagged peaks you see around are construction cranes, the Chinese national bird.  Treeline is far below..  up here is pavement, and large empty buildings.  Break out the champagne and the cocaine because this is it.  Enjoy it!

The descent - overview

Like any mountain, there are many ways down.  We will describe the easiest route - the market arrete.  This arrete is a standard knife blade arrete, but is quite treacherous in places.  You are likely to encounter unstable cornices and the exposure is at times dizzying.  There will be many safe places to camp, so don't be in too much of a rush.  Remember, while one is generally safer spending less time on the mountain, the very thing we are trying to avoid is a "too fast" descent.  Tumbling a thousand meters down a scree slope will get you down quickly but isn't recommended.  Glissading is strongly discouraged anywhere on this route.

Unfortunately the main danger on this route is subjective, caused by the popularity of the route.  Large roped parties are common and with them comes the usual problem of dislodged rocks, falling climbers, and decisions such as what to do when one comes upon injured or disabled climbers.  These decisions are outside the scope of this guide but one is advised to read other literature on the topic and be ready with contingency plans.

Most people attempt this descent when roped in extremely large parties, hoping for safety in numbers.  This works until it doesn't, at which point catastrophe ensues.  My personal preference in the mountains is small teams of two or three roped together, allowing quick responses and more nimble movements.  Extremely confident climbers will prefer to solo as in this case their safety is never directly compromised by the skills of another.  However the uncertain terrain and corniced arrete makes this approach unadviseable for much of the route.  Further, the length of the route lends itself to large parties of diverse technical skills.

The Arrete Itself

While it might not always be obvious from the climber's perspective, from the air the geography is clear.  On the south, giant gaping cliffs lead into Italy: the massive verglassed sheer walls of hyperinflation.  To the north, the dropoff is also impressive.  The cliffs might not be quite as steep but they are just as dangerous, as deflation buttress and other faces lead down into Switzerland.  The climbers goal is to descend in an Easterly direction, straddling this arrete, avoiding a fall on either side.  One wishes to trade the thin Mt. Fiat air for stable grounded sound money in a controlled manner.  A false move to either side and, you'd better hope you have a competent partner to set themselves firmly on the arrete in the opposite direction to the one you have fallen.

You will see base jumpers, who have prepared a fast descent, in the form of self-sufficient farms and communities - who can simply abandon money with ease.  Unless you are so prepared, don't consider such a foolish move.  Without support you will accelerate quickly and typically in such instances the casualties are not just the one who took the first fall but also those in his or her party who have been pulled along.

In the end, a descent is a bit like returning to the surface of the ocean after a long tankless dive.  You know you will always make it up, because there is no other choice.  The only difference is, in this case, you don't want to go too fast.  Tankless divers go as fast as they can.  Mountain climbers in descent must control their speed.

So enjoy those trollboxes, those IRC moments, and indeed the remarkable views as you descend from the infamous Mt. Fiat.  Perhaps you'll get to hear the rare alpenhorn jubilee.

Personal guiding is available on request.



Don't interrupt your enemy while he's making a mistake

So, you may have heard something about various folks going around claiming they are going to ban encryption.  If you have any idea about what communication is of course, you find this extremely amusing.  Basically, these folks are standing up on podiums and saying something along the lines of:

"Hi!  I'd like to be important, but I'm not.  And on this topic which I know nothing, that's right I've never even thought about what it means let alone cracked a book about it, I would like to speak.  I'm an idiot.  Thank you very much".

That's basically how it goes.  Insomuch as we would like people to be smart, we let idiots like this fall on their face.  This way other people will know they are idiots and be sure not to pay attention to them ever again.

So far so good.  However, there comes a point at which it becomes time to speak up.  Time to turn around and push your enemy's face a bit further into the mud puddle which he has just fallen in.  We want to make it extra clear they are an idiot, especially because children's lives are at stake here.  That time is now.

You see some people wearing hats that say "Australia Government" ((don't get me wrong, they may also be dangerous, they claim to be and likely are orcs)) have published a list called the "Defense and Stategic Goods List".  Trawling through this list reveals dangerous items such as:

a.  A “symmetric algorithm” employing a key length in excess of 56 bits;

It's said that when taken together with various other regulations written by other folks with Australia Government hats, these things forbid the teaching of encryption with draconian penalties if caught.

Well to be honest with you I couldn't quite stomach going through the various DSGL documents and their clauses and exceptions ((apparently it's ok if there's a copy of the dictionary or how-to-use-gpg available for "sale" somewhere on the planet?  or maybe not?))  to verify if these rumors are true.

For the sake of argument lets just say they are.

Now these guys have just made it illegal to teach their own children English!  Isn't that great?  After all, encoding meaning into words is encryption, as all communication requires encryption.  Claude Shannon pointed this out in great detail in his mathematical theory of communication, and anyone who has ever thought about it for a moment will confirm.  And guess what: the English dictionary is more than 56 bits!  Yup, it's strong encryption.  And it really is strong too, if you've ever been trying to get around Beijing or Tokyo only speaking English you have seen.  Encryption works, sometimes even when you don't want it to.  According to this guy, the documents also call for a ban on learning how to perform arithmetic division.  Well yeah, we wouldn't want people learning that would we!  What would be next, French?  It's a gateway encryption! Best nip that in the bud, son.  Communication is for them thar terrurists.

OK so we've made it pretty clear these guys are not the sharpest bulbs in the toolchest upstairs 🙂  But lets also consider for a moment the damage this could do if somewhere, somehow, somebody took it seriously.

Consider the direction that society has been headed, technologically, with the rise of the internet and reliance on communication.  Can you imagine how hopeless our children would be if we didn't teach them as many techniques of encryption and authentication as possible?  I mean, not only languages, as many as possible, but also - authentication protocols, key management, and various essential cryptographic primitives?  Without this fundamental knowledge they would be totally lost in the world.

And these guys wanted to ban not only encryption, but teaching encryption.

Just lol.  LMFAO.  No really.


In which a couple internet conspiracy theories are debunked.

You will find these memes all over the place.  It's likely not worth our attention so let's be brief.  Here they are in an oversimplified format: "Banks controlled by Jews".  "Illuminati controls Hollywood / Music Indoostr33z".

First of all, by debunked here I mean "finally and permanently discredited" ((Do you know who I am quoting?  I am quoting the last great king.  Forty years after his death, there are people in every corner of the earth who sing his praises and their loyalty.  He passed away right around the time that public key cyrpto was first published.)) in their strong form to those in pursuit of reason.

The first one is already debunked if you don't believe there is a vast banking conspiracy, which in fact there is not necessarily a clear reason to believe, as people acting as individuals could also explain the situation we find ourselves in.  However if you think there is one, the proposal of its Jewishness is still quickly debunked by asking: "where were the Jubilees?".  Let me explain the logic to you if that's still not clear.

1) By "Jews" we mean people who ascribe to the Judaic religion and its teachings, be they Talmudic, Rabinnical, whatever.

2) Judaic teachings demand a Jubilee (forgiving of all debts public and private), for social and ecological recovery, and describe its required frequency.

3) If it exists, a vast banking conspiracy would be in a position to enact a jubilee.

4) There has been no Jubilee for 100+ years.

See what I mean?  It's not exactly a Jewish banking conspiracy, is it. ((Yeah it's tempting to mention the Israelcorp orcery and the orthodox who fight it but lets move on.))

We can quickly debunk the second bit of nonsense by simply noting "Illuminati" means "enlightened".  So, you see, the proposition about Hollywood and "the music industry" isn't exactly true is it.  The logic for you:

1) Illuminati refers to people who are enlightened, that is something along the lines of: intelligent - recognizing of their nature - seeing what is going on around them - knowing what is important - etc.  (you don't have to be currently feeling enlightened to have some idea of what the concept means)

2) Hollywood and music industry control is to some degree about promoting garbage and fooling people into believing things, exerting control over a business for financial gain, or some other such behavior.

3) Not exactly enlightened is it.  Where is the Hollywood push towards movies about the importance of saving biodiversity, free software, the work of Euler and Weyl, nutrition, and the importance of keeping our children away from moving pictures?  Look, I could be a really slow rather useless unenlightened dwarf and still I would know that enlightenment is unlikely to take the form of banality and mediocrity.  Promoting fiat currency can't possibly be enlightened my brothers.

Sure, you could once again try to argue these individual points, perhaps saying "a group of people calling themselves the Illuminati" or "a group of people who call themselves Jews under the following caveats" but whatever, there's no point in arguing with that stuff.  Just get out the way of large moving objects, don't argue with them.  My purpose here is only to make rational arguments, which have their place only in rational discussion.  Hollywood's not exactly an Illuminati conspiracy, is it.


The Infosec Bucket

Yup! That hold water, like drizzle in a paper cup
This one etched in stone, the chisel with the paper up

I need a cut: a taper-up, edge-up
Niggas can't measure up, I'm here to get the treasure up



Information is water in an infosec bucket.

How well does your bucket hold water?

We're going to push this analogy for all it's worth, spinning the bucket around in circles to centrifuge our data if we have to, touching on bitcoin of course, so buckle in.

Information security can occasionally be a bit like running from a man-eating bear.  You don't have to be able to outrun the bear, you only have to be able to outrun the slowest camper.

Basically, if you are spending a lot of time patching holes in your bucket in the upper half, while all leaks you have witnessed are happening to people in the lower half of their buckets, even with the same or more valuable information, you are probably wasting your time.

Lets step back a bit before I get too far with this, and look at the larger picture:

There is no perfect bucket.

That is to say there is no absolute information security.  Chances are a few neutrinos made it through your bucket and it's conceivable that one could use them to figure out what's inside.  That's a leak.  There are meteors, cosmic rays, and nuclear bombs, in addition to regular old RF emanations.  There is an actual world out there, which is unpredictable (yes I am a nagualist).  As you get to the top of the bucket, it's basically open.  We also have to remember that we have our own taps put on the thing, so we can take a drink when we need to.  Those taps can be leaky as well.

Sounds tricky doesn't it.  If there's no perfect bucket, why do we even try?  Well, we have specific goals.  Some of us might lock our doors, even though we know that tanks exist and laugh at our door locks.  We try because we have to.  We climb because the mountain is there.  We live even though we know we will die.  We try because we don't want to be that slowest camper.

So, lets take a look at a few common infosec objects and see how they look when we bucketize them.

Proprietary Software  

Proprietary software, that is, software that is not open source, is very simple: it is a hose tapped directly into the bottom of your bucket.  Some people refer to this kind of software as "backdoored".  This can be a bit confusing because open source software could also be backdoored.  The difference is that so-called "proprietary" software is declared as backdoored.  The bucket has a nice shiny labeled tap right on the bottom and a decently secured hose coming out of it.  Sound like a bad idea?  Well, yeah.  It really is.  There is no need for this nonsense at all apart from a very broken pathway of human psychology which incidentally is that one which says "anything I can label as 'power' is always good".  Gotta have more power right?  So you can like, control things!  MMhhmm.  Couldn't leave well enough alone could you, had to "control" things.  Children.  But I digress.


Information can be at once both much easier to dam than water, and much more difficult.  Being massless and teleportable is a bit of a strain on the analogy, but hey we have already established that we will pursue the unattainable.  Encryption is essential in any information bucket.  Without a cup, water spills on the Earth and is absorbed.  Without encryption we have no information.  We have no communication, as Claude Shannon first told us.  Language is encryption.  Putting ones and zeros into memory is encryption.  The immediate question is, who has the key?  Wait where did I put those keys again?  Oh you locked them.  And where are those keys?  Oh in that safe.  The combination?

For the purposes of this essay, we will leave this remarkable topic for later, when we return to drink from the swiss cheese infobucket with a broken straw.  Amazingly this shit not only works but tastes great.



Contact info with PGP pubkey

You can find me on freenode IRC using nick funkenstein or funkenstein_ in #woodcoin or #bitcoin-assets.

If you aren't familiar with IRC use this link.

You can email me using: funkenstein [\aT$$

This is my 4096 bit PGP public key:

Version: GnuPG v1


The Bachthropic Principle

Mea Culpa

This post is a parody of the anthropic principle.  However, it is also intended to be educational on the topic of the even tempered scale, aka "equal temperament".

Why is pi > 3?

There exist various mathematical spaces in which circles' circumferences vary in different ways.  On the surface of a sphere for example.  If you start to make a circle of radius r big enough on the surface of a sphere of radius R, the circumference will be a bit less than 2*pi*r.  Once r=pi*R/2 you will get a circumference of 4r, and from there increasing the radius of the circle actually decreases the circumfrence.  Cool huh?  There is however a clearly defined notion of "flat", in terms of how objects behave (inertial motion).  Flat space pi is flat space pi, right?  Well, maybe.  Imagination is a hell of a drug.

The Bachthropic Principle

Lets get right to the heart of the matter.  Have you ever wondered why the twelfth root of two to the seventh power is almost exactly three halves (it's off by about 0.1 percent)?  Have you ever wondered why the twelth root of two to the fifth power is almost exactly four thirds (it's off by a similar amount)?  I sure have.  And I found an answer.  Let me tell you why.  It's because if those numbers weren't incredibly close to corresponding Pythagorean rational numbers (in this case, the fifth and the major third) we wouldn't have the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.  The even tempered scale wouldn't work out, we wouldn't have the current tonal view of the world, and we wouldn't be here - as we are now - to observe these numbers.  Why is two to the one sixth almost exactly nine eighths?  The Bachthropic principle explains these seeming numeric coincidences.  Now you have a new tool with which you can pretend to explain the world around you.  Have fun!