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Showing posts from September, 2018

The last mile problem in trust

Blockchains are supposed to solve the trust problem. But blockchains attack only the easy part of the trust problem, and avoid the hard part. The easy part is to store the transactions in a tamper-resistant database. The hard part is to attest to physical world actions and state.

The blockchain is a database technology and it does not attempt to attest to physical world actions/state. It solves the problem of tamper-proofing the state after it is added to the database. It doesn't attempt to validate/test/certify if the state is correct as it is added to the database. If humans create the state, there is inherently a trust problem: Were the lettuce bad before it was loaded to the trucks, or are the truck conditions to blame? Did the farmer or the trucker lie?

If sensors create the state, this is still a very hard problem, but not because the sensors may have been tampered with ---that is a relatively easy problem to solve in hardware. The problem is hard because of the corner-cases…

Book review. Ignorance: How it drives science

I picked this up from my local library, because the title was interesting. I wrote about this earlier.
Once you get a B.S., you think "you know everything". Once you get an M.S., you realize "you know nothing". Once you get a Ph.D., you realize that "yes, you know nothing, but that is not a problem, because nobody knows anything!" This turned out to be a nice read. The author, Stuart Firestein, has a very interesting background. He was working at a theater, and started a biology undergraduate at 30, and got his PhD at 40.

Here are some tidbits from the book.

Leibniz. page 38
The 17th-century German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz, one of the inventors of calculus, had a lifelong project to construct a "basic alphabet of human thoughts" that would allow one to take combinations of simple thoughts and form any complex idea, just as a limited number of words can be combined endlessly to form any sentence -- including sentences never b…

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