Ethereum Developer’s Conference: Unstoppable Zombie Technology

The Ethereum Developers conference was in Paris a few weeks ago, and despite a really, really bad year, optimism seemed to be high.

I haven’t really sorted through all the proposals floated at this conference, but Coindesk reports on several “improvements”, include private blockchains, “supercharged” contracts, and fundamental changes to the basic protocol. These ideas mostly have been seen before, and we’ll see if Ethereum development is any more agile than Bitcoin. (Ethereum certainly has a track record of quick, if disastrous evolution.)

More remarkable and possibly alarming, Alyssa Hertig reports that, “[d]espite the spectacular demise of The DAO, developers are still excited about the concept”. As Hertig trenchantly comments that these ”developers see such promise in a system whereby businesses decisions are automated to a degree that power and bureaucracy can be limited.”

Sigh.

Given the utter catastrophe of The DAO, many of the efforts have rebranded to avoid that particular term, which keeping the same bogus technology. The folks who brought you The DAO even have a new project, supposedly for charity. Old wine, new bottle.  Who can possibly take this seriously??

A similar idea comes from “Aragon” which hopes to be a platform for “unstoppable companies”. (I guess these people probably like the idea of cars with no brakes.)

Luis Cuende of Aragon gushes that, “The blockchain removes intermediaries by making trust obsolete.” (Really?)

Actually, Cuende’s manifesto is unintentionally brilliant throughout, clearly stating some of the often hidden fallacies underlying this whole enterprise. For example, he claims that, “One of the most basic needs in humans’ lives is to transact.” Actually, not, unless you are a fictional human living in an undergraduate microeconomics textbook.

He let’s that cat out of the bag with his analysis of all those pesky overheads companies have to pay because of “the system”.

“Today, companies spend a huge part of their time and capital just dealing with the system.

“Dealing with compliance, know your customer, tax filings, payroll, international payments, cap table management, board approvals…

“And they also spend a notable chunk of their capital in taxes.”

As he says, “Death to paperwork. Avoid useless intermediaries.” Only chumps follow the law or pay taxes. He imagines that executable contracts will somehow be offshore from everywhere.

Another cunning plan is “Colony ” a “task management” system using Ethereum (for payments) and “smart contracts” to run the show. It looks tome like a pretty vanilla crowdsourcing or project management system, except there is no one actually in charge.

The feature set is pretty similar to, say Loomio. The innovations seem to be that voting is managed by executable contracts rather than humans, and there is a cryptocurrency which makes payments, including micro- and nanopayments feasible.

Is that an important improvement? I honestly don’t know. For small scale and/or local collaborations-such as targeted by Loomio-it is unlikely that you need the Ethereum technology. So, what would be the use case for Colony?

At least Colony seems like it might be useful, maybe, unlike the “unstoppable companies” folks, who are just bonkers.

Overall, there wasn’t all that much innovation, and some really bad ideas that just won’t go away no matter how they fail in the real world.

It is difficult to be optimistic about the future of Ethereum.


  1. Colony, Colony Beta Overview, in Medium. 2017. https://blog.colony.io/colony-beta-product-summary-2121a357d61d – .rjtkokfou
  2. Luis Cuende, Introducing Aragon: Unstoppable companies, in Medium. 2017. https://medium.com/aragondec/introducing-aragon-unstoppable-companies-58c1fd2d00ce – .3y7vj015z
  3. Alyssa Hertig,  Rebranding The DAO: The Contentious Blockchain Concept is Back. Coindesk.Feburary 20 2017, http://www.coindesk.com/rebranding-dao-controversial-blockchain-concept-back/

 

Cryptocurrency Thursday

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