What Did Satoshi Do That Was So Great?

It’s a great feeling to understand what problem Satoshi solved.  To understand the spark that led to the implementation of Bitcoin.  That missing link that took so long to figure out. To solve the impossible problem.

Bitcoin's creator, Satoshi Nakomoto, solved the Byzantine General's Problem

In mathematics or network theory there is a question called the Byzantine General’s Problem.  A version of it goes like this:  There are five Byzantine armies that are surrounding a Bulgarian stronghold.  The general at one of the camps want to order all Byzantine armies to attack at the same time.  How can the general get the word out, and know that all armies will follow the same instructions?  How can the armies know the other armies will follow the same instructions?  How can the Byzantines do this with the Bulgarians sending their own messages to the Byzantine armies? If they attack in a coordinated way they will win, but if they are disorganized then each army will meet its own demise.

Satoshi Nakomoto—the anonymous coder or group of coders that created Bitcoin—is credited with solving this problem.  Satoshi’s solution is that any Byzantine general publish their attack time along with the solution of a problem using the attack time that takes some time to solve.  The other armies then encode the attack time and publish a solution of a problem using the encoded time.  Then the armies encode the encoding of the attack time and publish a solution of a problem with the encoding of the encoding.  This forms a chain of encodings each taking some time to establish the next step.  After some time, the Byzantines will attack with at the time that have the longest chain attached.

When the Byzantines attack with this method as long as the Byzantines publish their plans first there is a low chance that the Bulgarians will ever be able to catch up and create a longer chain.  After some time, it’s almost impossible that the Byzantine armies will attack at different times.  Each step in the chain increases the certainty that all Byzantines will attack at the same time.

The first application of this was indeed Bitcoin.  In this application the goal was not to agree on a time to attack, but rather the state of a distributed ledger.   Each block has all the transactions that change the state of the ledger.  As a new block gets published it contains an encoding of the previous block. With each block the transactions before it become more certain to stay on the longest chain.  As time goes by, it’s almost impossible to create a longer chain than the one already ahead of a transaction, and we can be certain of the state of the ledger.

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On Forks & Hard Forks: Eschew Obfuscation & Watch Your Language

Blockchain hard forks & soft forks: Bitcoin & EthereumLanguage certainly is an important part of the life of a human. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that the structure of a language determines or greatly influences the modes of thought and behavior characteristic of the culture in which it is spoken. In my study of mathematics, we would often joke that we were really studying language.

In all areas of language, we need clear definitions. The same holds true for math; every concept of mathematics needs to be clearly defined. Without clear definitions, we are forever doomed to nonsensical communication. Some proofs require clear definitions of new objects.

Language can also be used to obfuscate, complicate, or hide information. Presenting information in a confusing or contradicting way can influence an argument, and ultimately be used to try to control the thoughts of others. The current prevailing monetary system is riddled with terms that deliberately hide what’s really being done. New monetary systems should avoid duplicating this aspect of their central banking predecessors; transparency and clarity should be valued traits.

Currently, I find that the meaning of the word fork is either not clear to people or purposely being blurred. The meaning of fork that I find blurred is the same meaning the word has when describing a fork in the road. A fork is a situation where one path or way becomes two paths going in different directions. An open source programing project could fork when it is found that there is another purpose that it could apply to. A project could also fork when there is a disagreement of which way it should go. Forking is the ultimate “Why not both?”

The word fork can also apply to a blockchain. Any block in a chain has a previous block and a next block. When there are two possibilities for the next block, that could be considered a fork. Usually, it’s called a fork in the chain if people are actively building on both possible blocks. If there is a next block which is ignored, that is usually called an orphan block. If an orphan block has a handful of blocks built on top of it but is abandoned, it’s called an orphan chain.

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Editorial: Blockchains Will Become the DNA of Our Future Society

Stream this bonus podcast episode:

or Direct Download the podcast as an MP3 – JJ Editorial: Blockchains Will Become the DNA of Our Future Society

An Editorial from Co-founder and co-host JJ Epic. Views expressed here represent only about one third of the shows views.

Darren and I started Neocash Radio to talk about Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies as our main focus. Talking about the future of money today. What we ended up talking about was the future of technology, the future of software development, and the future information security.

While on one hand you have a few ever growing corporate behemoths on the other hand you have an array of new innovations created by individuals. The old model and the new. The old model required the consolidation of resources due to the scarcity of those resources. The resources include people and equipment which made sense to pack closely together into localized hubs. The new model is a sea of individuals directed by their own desires and passion, each working on a very small piece of a much larger puzzle. Like individual cells in a larger organism.

Bitcoin and open source development have created a new kind of money. A currency controlled by a protocol and a distributed ledger — a blockchain. Blockchains will become the DNA of our future society. A log of all the decisions made, the consequences, and the resulting sum. Using this technology for money was a master stroke. Now that the Blockchain is proven and widely adapted money will never be the same.

But it’s not really about money. It’s about the action created, the signal sent, and the time spent. Ultimately time is the only real currency. The rest are tokens for convenience. Or tokens of time, as in the hourly wage. What we are actually talking about the the future of humankind today, the future given the effect of the human actions created up to and including now. Whether sitting in front of a TV or driving a race car, in each case an action was created, a purchase was made, and time was spent.

With time, everybody starts out rich and ends up poor.

With near-instant communication, open source development, blockchains, and the rise of peer-to-peer protocols humankind can more closely mimic a well known, durable, proven system: the human body or carbon based organisms in general.

Individuals working together like cells forming an organ, all part of a greater organism. The Blockchain is the critical component. Like DNA, everyone gets a copy and there is no need to trust someone else. You can trust the DNA.

The trust that comes from the Blockchain is a by-product of consensus. The nodes and miners build a block through consensus and the network verifies it. In mere seconds a decentralized open source protocol gets everyone to agree on the same thing. A feat no man could hope to accomplish. With a divergent spectrum of proven and emerging blockchains, the future of choosing the right blockchain for you might look like trying on shoes.

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