I don’t know who needs to hear this but…

Privacy isn’t:

- A premium feature
- A setting you must configure
- About having something to hide

Privacy is:

- A basic human right.

Privacy (noun): the basic human right to decide what you keep to yourself and what you share with others.

Bloody hell, the crowd have discovered my latest privacy post. So listen up: a billion identical copies of a database isn’t decentralisation. It isn’t a prerequisite for privacy. And if it destroys our habitat, it’s a crime against humanity. You can show yourselves out.

@aral But will you ever get privacy, without taking action, again and again?

@aral to me everything after human right makes little sense to me as definition, that's more like secrecy / confidentiality. Imo privacy is being visible to others / in the public space and those others / the public space not doing anything with the information about me that is available to them. I have a right of expectation that that is how others will behave. (This imo is why GDPR doesn't use the word privacy either, but talks about data protection, an activity to be regulated)

@ton @aral interesting idea about trusting that information in public space is not used. I never thought of it that way, but I know that if I could have that trust, I would be a lot happier. Also I like the reply from @dredmorbius which has a few definition that look compatible with this view.

@Hrastnik "The right to be left alone", effectively, not to be hounded in public, or over what you've done, even if in public, so long as it is benign and not itself a public nuisance / disturbing the peace, was central to Warren & Brandeis's original "Right to Privacy".

Another argument I've made is that privacy is an emergent right that develops directly in response to ever-more invasive technologies.

In Brandeis's time, notably, of photography and newspapers.

Our technologies are more advanced. Our privacy rights must be stronger.

@ton @aral

@Hrastnik @aral @dredmorbius I don't have that trust, I merely wanted to point out that privacy is key in those situations (in the public sphere out on the street, on a website) where you don't have control over your visibility, whereas in my own home having that control is the default, outside it's the opposite.

@aral I've arrived at "the ability to define and enforce boundaries on information disclosure".

That includes what you disclose, to whom, and their own obligations to confidence.

Eva Galperin (EFF) has the more concise "Privacy is power over your information".

In her video "Internet Expert Debunks Cybersecurity Myths".

@aral The NSPCC have a talk pants campaign to get across to kids that private parts remain private

we need to find a way to perhaps extend this to say private data remains private, perhaps use the idea you put things such as your pin number in your pants (not literally) but to suggest a pin number, passwords and information that can identify you (or used to steal ID) remains private.

@aral in this day and age, basic human rights are premium feature.

@aral One of the ironies of the blockchain bro approach to everything is that they want centralization via a single source of truth. They just want some kind of algorithmic consensus to arrive there. The real world isn't like that, we constantly navigate multiple conflicting truths. The desire to reduce this to a single one is understandable, but not only the epitome of centralization, it's also doomed to fail at modelling how people (want to) interact.

@aral Conflicting truths are unpleasant, they create cognitive dissonance. You can escape that by either rejecting some inputs, or by looking towards a meta-truth that leaves room for both.

Raising kids, you first need to tell them a single truth (you are the source) - they need to learn to keep their imagination that they're e.g. fireproof apart from the reality that contains the hot stove. When they grow older, they take on conflicting truths. Your job then is to give them the tools to...

@aral ... resolve cognitive dissonance as above. Your job is no longer to tell them which truth to choose. When they choose meta-truth that leaves room for opposing facts, they will come to the conclusion, like Descartes, that they know nothing.

Few people do purely that. It's hard to live by.

But IMHO there's a case to be made that a mature/adult mind is at least aware that this is occasionally the necessary path forward. I can reject something for myself, but if someone else does not, it...

@aral ... would be arrogant to assume I know better than them (some of the time, maybe, but not all the time).

Again, *only* living with having to balance conflicting truths is near-impossibly exhausting. I get not wanting that.

But at the opposite end of that spectrum there's a mind that is comfortable only with unambiguous, single truths. That strikes me as fundamentally immature.

It's kind of shocking that it's the kind of system that permits only this that blockchains try to produce.

@jens @aral How else would you create a FOSS, permissionless currency?
Everyone's gotta agree on who has what.
Maybe it's not *decentralised* in the specific idiosyncratic way that you mean, but it is (supposed to be) *permissionless*, and that's what matters.
Or meant to be, at least: I have had my doubts about #Bitcoin's claim to decentralisation and permissionlessness ever since mining centralised in China.
@jens @aral this is a valid criticism of bitcoin maxis (and other maxis too) but not crypto as a whole imo, I mean just look how many different blockchains exist these days.

@Upjohn94 @aral I've seen a few.

Unless they explicitly permit diverging branches, they're looking to create single sources of truth.

Some chains do permit diverging branches. All of the ones I've seen do that preach about eventual consistency - they treat divergence as an optimization mechanism that will accelerate localized consensus, which then should get eventually merged into global consensus.

The direction is still the same, even if the means are a bit different.

@jens @aral the new trend is interoperability, so exactly the fix you want. Some examples: Polkadot, Cosmos, Avalanche, Cardano, Secret, Polygon, Harmony, BSC, xDai, even Ethereum have all been bridged to many other blockchains. And that list is far from exhaustive.

In fact Polkadot and Cosmos in particular are designed specifically to be SDKs for interconnected blockchains. This idea is taking off, during the last bull run they gained massively.

Avalanche allows anyone to use their platform to create their own blockchain, either using Avalanche's existing nodes (easier but more expensive) or using your own nodes (you need to write code and convince people to run nodes for your blockchain, but you don't need to pay Avalanche to use their resources).

Other blockchains not explicitly designed for interoperability have still been bridged together for example Ethereum has been bridged with Polygon, Harmony, Avalanche, BSC, xDai, and plenty more I can't list off the top of my head.

@Upjohn94 @aral I'm not looking for interoperability; that's not my criticism.

The interop angle is at least two years old. I don't know how much progress has been made on it in actual fact, but it was one of the main arguments being made at the time.

@jens @aral

Lots of progress, it's being used out in the wild by multiple projects, that's why I mentioned it.

I'm not sure how it isn't a valid answer to your concern either. You dislike the idea of centralising the store of truth to a single shared database. This is a valid criticism.

If instead you have networks of databases independent of each other that can still share information amongst one another, what part of your criticism is this not addressing?

@Upjohn94 @aral Each database is a relatively static group consensus of truth. It's good that they can exchange information and modify each other, but it's far from adequate for modelling people concerns.

When you've arrived at the level of flexibility where each individual is represented by its own database, and they can dip in and out of multiple overlapping and conflicting ad hoc consensus groups, you'll get closer to something that reflects how people actually interact.

@Upjohn94 @aral At that point, though, if you want to keep up with some kind of verified ancestry for each data point, you're far away from a block chain, and you're also far away from a DAG. You'll have an undirected, possibly cyclic graph. And consensus making is a completely local decision with no necessary global effect.

At that point, you can do away with so much of what makes a blockchain a blockchain, you might as well give up on it and call it something else entirely.

@jens @aral

It sounds like you're describing NANO. Each account is its own blockchain and it's designed to do away with the bloat of traditional blockchains by instead actually distributing the data to what's created by/required for each user, so instead of there being "a blockchain" each user has a database of their own account. It is based on DAG as you mention.

This type of thing is getting more popular too as it makes use on mobile devices much easier. There's another project, can't remember the name off the top of my head but it's in production and works, where instead of downloading a blockchain or relying on a remote node, you simply verify a hash of the chain, that's all you keep track of. This is of course a tiny amount of data.

@Upjohn94 @aral And why do I have to verify a hash of anything to come to a local decision?

@jens @aral because it's not only local, if you hold cryptocurrency (or indeed any other data) on a blockchain it's on a distributed ledger, so the ledger is checked in order for the software to know what data is assigned to your account.

If that still bothers you, sounds like Nano is exactly what you're after. Your account has it's own blockchain only for the transactions you send and receive.

@Upjohn94 @aral I can assure you it's not what I'm after. It also doesn't match my description.

@jens @aral you can fork the bitcoin blockchain if you don't like the consensus, it's happened many times now.

@Moon @aral ... or I can just stay the fuck away from blockchain. I'd call that a win-win, no fuckery and no work :)

@aral @glynmoody I found This Machine Greens to give quite compelling arguments:

Mostly, no one knows what #Bitcoin 's footprint is. There's no way to determine that from energy usage. Electrical energy comes in a range of footprints, even negative ones. If we can get mining to go where footprints are lowest, perhaps even stimulate development of new sources like that, it's impact could be positive.

Also, getting rid of the petrodollar should happen yesterday.

@stevenroose @aral the argument I've seen against that is simply that even if bitcoin mining moves to lower energy sources, it is using up those resources, and they stop something else moving. so no net gain... they could stimulate more, but at the moment, people are reopening coal stations instead...

@glynmoody @aral I'd be curious to see hear of who is reopening coal stations..
About that argument, that never really holds. A ton of either produced energy can't find a user or potentially freely produced energy is not produced because uncertainty of finding a user.
Bitcoin Mining helps projects building, mostly renewable (because lowest marginal cost), energy production because they are a reliable buyer of the energy.

@glynmoody @aral People easily forget that electrical energy isn't very transportable. It's not so that a kWh used for #Bitcoin mining somewhere, could have instead been put on the consumer market to lower its energy price (or footprint). This is very often not the case. In fact, energy is cheapest exactly where that is not the case. And since mining is so mobile, it will naturally move to those places.
That are remote renewables like hydro, wind, geothermal; or abandoned industrial sites.

@stevenroose @glynmoody @aral

I never understand how this sounds like a valid argument to people, that "energy is hard to transport so you might as well use it for a blockchain".

Such energy sounds like THE perfect place to host our websites, our servers and anything else that could use the energy and is connected to the internet - instead, the green energy immediately gets swallowed by the energy hungry cryptominers.

If the crypto community truly cared about their footprint, they'd give everyone else a chance to use the energy AND THEN use it if unclaimed.

@bram @glynmoody @aral Datacenters need a lot more maintenance than mining. So you probably don't want to build your datacenter in some remote mountain next to a hydro plant. Also, #Bitcoin mining barely needs bandwidth. It can be done over a satellite link. No datacenter can.
It's a fact that a vast share of all electricity generated is wasted. Sure, perhaps some other use-case could also tap that resource. Doubt if it'd be more useful than stateless money, but that's subjective, sure.

@bram @glynmoody @aral
No matter your opinion, #Bitcoin is an important development. If you study the history of monies, humans have been using hard monies for thousands of years, from shells to stones to gold. Until we stopped doing so 50 years ago. Bitcoin is a form of hard money that's digital and it's the only of its kind.
So whether it turns out useful on the long run or not, it'll always be an important part of history.
And to be fair, it can't be much worse than what we have today. IMHO.

@bram @stevenroose @glynmoody Nice article but he’s wrong about one thing: “It’s not money, though it has money-like properties. It’s not anything except a set of markings.”

Money today works exactly the same way. It’s just markings in the ledger of a bank. e.g., Banks basically create money out of thin air any time they lend you some.

A good/accessible read on all this is anything by Yanis Varoufakis.

@bram @glynmoody @aral Well history will probably teach us if it is. I don't think it's comparable with real estate in any form.

@stevenroose @glynmoody @aral

Datacenters wouldn't work if you try to centralize your service, like with Google, Facebook or even a *cough* blockchain. (Yes, blockchains aren't decentralised. Look up the CAP theorem.)

Remote power plants are usually meant for remote locations. The datacenters could easily be used for remote IPFS, Matrix, XMPP, Mastodon and other decentralised services so that those economies barely suffer from a poor connection.

@bram @glynmoody @aral I don't understand your argument I think. Are you saying the remote datacenter could power the remote community's digital needs? You really barely need electricity for that though. A bunch of servers really don't use thst much energy. And remote places are called remote usually because of the lack of community 😅

@bram @glynmoody @aral
About blockchains not being decentralized. #Bitcoin isn't a blockchain. It's a protocol for people to build one. Sure, it's not fully p2p like what a digital hawala could look like, but it serves a different purpose. It serves as a hard money. And it's valuable in providing a digital hard money. Many p2p debt-based economies had hard monies on the side. Graeber's debt actually points that out in the sections on "human economies".
A digital hawala would be very cool, sure!


We don't have enough green power to power the world without bitcoin (yet).
And we definitely don't have enough green energy to power the world with bitcoin.
If one uses green energy for mining bitcoins it's just missing at another place. So there's no benefit.

@aral @glynmoody

@JuleLe @aral @glynmoody With all due respect, but you don't seem to have read the thread, I detail a bit more here:

But watching the documentary would also help.

@stevenroose Building actual things using the cheap energy seems more effective for society that burning it as proof of waste.

Iceland for example has very cheap geothermal energy. They use a lot of it to create wind power parts that can then be used in other parts of the world that don't have cheap geothermal but have wind.

A friend calls them "Icelandic batteries".

@aral @glynmoody @JuleLe

Another better use of surplus green energy is producing green hydrogen. That's something that we really need (in contrast to crypto).

And a problem for both hydrogen production and crypto mining is that the hardware is expensive.
It's hard/impossible to make the plant cost-efficient when it's only producing while green energy is excessive.

@aral @glynmoody @stevenroose

@clacke @aral @glynmoody @JuleLe Again, you don't seem to have watched the documentary.
Since always, money has required energy to create, for good reasons. Because if it doesn't, it's not money. The "money" we use today isn't real money and the only reason we use it is because governments force us to with violence.

Think about people digging gold that could do other work or crafting shell necklaces or searching for glass beads. Their energy isn't wasted, it's necessary to have a working money.

@aral Thanks for helping expand my blockchain... I mean blocklist :P

@aral "What have you got to hide?" always sounded to me like something asked by giant organisations that wish to track your every move while using bureaucracy to be as opaque as possible. Very few multinational corporations or authoritarian leaning entities are prepared to be fully transparent, ethical and take the necessary steps to plugging up their own ocean of hypocrisy. But when it comes to you they would like to guilt you into allowing them to track you every step of the way.

@Upjohn94 @aral ROFL

Well I'm not in the States but this goes for many places I suppose.

@wizard @aral goes for pretty much any country in the world haha
Sign in to participate in the conversation
Aral’s Mastodon

This is my personal Mastodon.