Crypto-Current (062)

§5.861 — The early 1990s saw the conceptual innovation of robust (or ‘append-only’) data-structures capable of providing secure ledgers. Such structures introduce a gradient. They make data-bases sedimentary, and time-like.[1] The past is protected against revision, as a type of artificial, hard or ideal memory. Irrevocable commitments were thus digitally supportable. Since backing out of an executed deal is the typical mode of double-spending, a capability for the hardening of commitments has special relevance to the implementation of cryptocurrency. Indeed, its importance is such that there is a tendency among much Bitcoin commentary to reduce the innovation to ‘the blockchain’ which is itself then summarized as a distributed, revision-resistant ledger. Remaining within the Narayanan and Clark schema, the technological lineages leading to the emergence of such decentralized chronotypic databases are themselves susceptible to further triadic classification. Specifically, they assemble advances in the fields of linked time-stamping, Merkle trees, and byzantine fault tolerance.

[1] Narayanan and Clark capture the philosophical essentials well. “In a simplified version of Haber and Stornetta’s proposal, documents are constantly being created and broadcast. The creator of each document asserts a time of creation and signs the document, its timestamp, and the previously broadcast document. This previous document has signed its own predecessor, so the documents form a long chain with pointers backwards in time. An outside user cannot alter a timestamped message since it is signed by the creator, and the creator cannot alter the message without also altering the entire chain of messages that follows. Thus, if you are given a single item in the chain by a trusted source (e.g., another user or a specialized timestamping service), the entire chain up to that point is locked in, immutable, and temporally ordered.”

Crypto-Current (061)

§5.86 — Arvind Narayanan and Jeremy Clark helpfully decompose cryptocurrency – as initiated by the Bitcoin synthesis – into three functional modules, which can be traced back along distinct technical lines. Crossing the threshold into cryptocurrency requires bringing together a resilient decentralized registry, secure value-tokens, and a gauge of computational contribution, in a fully-converged operational singularity.[1] Within this combination, each thread exposes its complicity with an abstracted realization of money, in one of its three ineliminable semiotic aspects. The index of value-storage, the sign of accountancy, and the token of actual payment (i.e. exchange), are the exhaustive, irreducible, indispensable, and mutually-dependent features of any functional monetary order.

[1] See: Arvind Narayanan and Jeremy Clark, ‘Bitcoin’s Academic Pedigree’ (2017). Bitcoin is a triadic dynamo. “In bitcoin, a secure ledger is necessary to prevent double spending and thus ensure that the currency has value. A valuable currency is necessary to reward miners. In turn, strength of mining power is necessary to secure the ledger. Without it, an adversary could amass more than 50 percent of the global mining power and thereby be able to generate blocks faster than the rest of the network, double-spend transactions, and effectively rewrite history, overrunning the system. Thus, bitcoin is bootstrapped, with a circular dependence among these three components.”

Crypto-Current (060)

§5.854 — Chaum has a reputation for prickliness which intrudes into the story-line, at least insofar as it led him to turn down an offer of US$100 million from Microsoft to incorporate DigiCash into Windows 95. It is difficult not to see history fork here. An alternative history exists in which cryptocurrency was mainstreamed by the late 20th Century. With cryptocurrency having missed this early turn-off into actuality, the types now arriving are almost certainly harder, and more socially abrasive, than they might have been. It seems as if the Ultras booked a pre-emptive win.