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Sarah Jamie Lewis
+ Your AuthorsArchive @SarahJamieLewis Executive Director @OpenPriv. Cryptography and Privacy Researcher. @cwtch_im icyt7rvdsdci42h6si2ibtwucdmjrlcb2ezkecuagtquiiflbkxf2cqd May. 23, 2021 7 min read

Need a break from research, ask me any cryptocurrency/blockchain related question and I will give you my honest, unfiltered answer.

Only if we consider all transactions as equally valuable to store - which their not. Ultimately blockchain space is a limited resource and is subject to the same economic constraints as other limited resources.

Any legitimacy that smart contracts might have had died when the DAO was reversed. Either code is law damn the consequences, or smart contracts are just as fragile as any other mechanism when it comes to mob justice.

Monero is a great example of good being better than perfect. It's tech is somewhat dated compared to what is now state of the art but it's was there then, and now. We accept #xmr at @OpenPriv for donations because the monero community care about privacy.

No idea. I was buying bathbombs with bitcoin when Tether was still called Realcoin and I've never really understood why people get so excited about the whole stablecoin dynamic. Whenever it happens I think Bitcoin will be better for it.

Cryptocurrency is too cool to change. Blockchain should have never been given a name - too many people have gotten very confused by thinking a linked list with cryptographic integrity is somehow the important part.

I honestly have no thoughts on Cardano, I've never been motivated enough to look into it.

The large number of projects that have defrauded non-technical people out of large sums of money, promising systems with properties proven impossible in the 1970s.

What I want to say: Privacy and Decentralization.

Actually: Convincing people that PoW provides decentralized sybil resistance that simply can't be replaced with PoS and that has a meaningful impact on safety, security and liabilities of the network.

As Monero is one of the 3 cryptocurrencies that @OpenPriv accepts and manages assets I keep an eye on it.

See a few tweets above RE: general monero opinion.

I would hope it's because people are waiting on actual technical improvements and general adoption before valuation. But that would imply some rationality to the market that I know is not there.

Actual answer: The narrative around PoW and Tether.

Defi is sold as a sports car and is delivered as tricycle held together by packaging tape. The vision is great, the technical realities of what "decentralized" actually means is less so.

Assuming that TEE is Trusted Execution Environments. If you have to trust someone then it isn't a smart contract it's a regular escrow service. Definitely some interesting tooling happening there, but people should truthfully advertise what they sell.

The cryptographer in me loves MPC and any kind homomorphic encryption, the security engineer in me struggles to accept any of the practical threat models in the context of open, adversarial systems.

Years ago as part of @OnionScan I did a lot of research into Bitcoin traceability and using Bitcoin addresses to correlate darknet sites...Very. Public ledgers are always gonna fail open with general use. The future must be zero knowledge.

Good question! I still think we've not really grappled with what "decentralization" actually should mean in terms of power distribution both in maintaining networks, and using them as economic systems.

Last year I wrote this:  which is a sketch of an attack pattern I think applies to the consensus constructs that Avalanche is based on - still debating with myself how relevant such a weakness is in context.

I'm not sure most projects ever get to the state where ecological impacts become meaningful - I think the whole blockchain/eco discourse is a distraction from the conversations we should be having RE: dependence on oil, factory farms and non-local food.

Decentralization requires economic incentives to construct and to stave of emergent centralization (in addition to ongoing safety and security). All projects want to move there, but most roadmaps trends towards Zeno.

See above.

Not without an(other) novel breakthrough in decentralized sybil resistance. Either that or we all learn to live with more mini-oligarcharcial systems.

I really think that people need to think more deeply about the ramifications of moralizing energy use. It leads to some very dark, authoritarian places before it leads to climate justice.

-Sarah note: now skipping duplicate questions. Feel free to ask specific follow ups though -

"trust minimized" is a mostly meaningless label that attempts to quantify a concept that is ultimately very personal and different for each person. There are only untrusted systems and trust assumption.

I believe in risk management and harm reduction and neither has much room for putting all your eggs in one basket, no matter how much you like the basket.

Smart contracts require consensus and any use of TEE to establish consensus is ultimately binding the correctness of your system to some underlying trust assumption that rests on a third party - I see little difference between that and an escrow service.

Cryptocurrencies didn't invent extortion, and if they didn't exist I'm sure people would find other ways to monetize infrastructure compromise.

Ideally the end game is a balance and distribution of power such that any significant shift via resource allocation is sufficiently expensive that the overall rate of resources consumed by the system slows.

Something something feudalism and predictability....

I'd may slightly more for storage if it meant being able to buy graphics cards again. That's not really a project opinion though...

It's a great buzzword to throw about in whitepaper. It looks great in big bold letters on a website. It's also motivated some of the funniest "technical" writing I've ever read.

To quote David Graeber "A debt is just the perversion of a promise. It is a promise corrupted by both math and violence."

I doubt we can undo the math, but perhaps we can mitigate some of the violence...

Bitcoin achieves more practical privacy via decentralized exchanges and p2p exchanges than it does via any larger layer 2 initiative - at best the latter is an approximation of the former.

Miners are active participants in directing the future of any network they are apart of and as such I don't think we can model the problem as a "carry capacity" because ultimately they have the power to shape the environment they operate it.

I have always held that sharding solutions invoke circular logic in the context of global consensus. Trying to scale global consensus by splitting security resources never made any kind of security or scalability sense to me.

Last I checked my sex life is considered a "criminal behaviour" in 71 countries - most of what we label crime is state violence directed at marginalized communities.

Technology that subverts state violence is not only good, it's necessary.

It was funny until I started getting emails from German lawyers offering to help me file a complain regarding criminal commercial extortion...then it was hilarious, and then it went very quiet.

Some ETH applications are really cool and not possible in any other context (s/o to Augur). That being said ETH has a lot of expectations built on it and I'm not sure how much longer that tower of cards can carry the hopes and dreams it is holding up.

Sceptical of anyone who thinks the solution to ransomware involves states having more power v.s. institutions actually taking responsibility and investing in security engineering their shit.

I have a thread somewhere about the costs of non profits chasing grants v.s. encouraging individual donations.

tl;dr As great as some grant schemes are even the best ones struggle to have as much impact per dollar as a large pool of individual donations.

I think everything I said at  is still relevant.

I occasionally catch myself up though I think there are fundamental problems around incentives engineering that are left untouched by much of the technical back-and-forth.

Offer a breakthrough in decentralized consensus that Bitcoin couldn't adopt within a reasonable period of time.

Nothing I've read has convinced me that they understand the security implications of the system they've proposed - not do I think it could ever exist in a secure, decentralized state.

But I'm sure it's coming "soon"

They are both a new tool, and a necessary counterpoint to the ever more centralized, censored and surveilled global financial system. They promise that another world might be possible, even if they sometimes struggle to deliver.

I think the critique misses the forest for the trees. Any vision of financial decentralization beyond the surveillance state is going to have an ugly side - I struggle to sympathize with people who think censorship is a solution.

Honestly, I think we need to start assuming more technical competence of people. Systems aren't getting less complicated, and glossy, watered down interfaces only serve to widen the power gap between technical experts and everyone else.

More thoughts on that last answer from an older thread:

Wow this has been going for 4 hours...I'm glad everyone is enjoying, though I'm going to need more interesting questions.

Going to drop this thread in here since it is relevant to many of the answers.

You can follow @SarahJamieLewis.


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