As part of our continuing examination of Cryptocurrencies and our partnership with Coincentral, we’re taking a look at a new piece they have by Wilton Thornburg. You can see Thornburg’s article here:
Thornburg is discussing an idea by Andreas Antonopoulos who has two interesting metaphors about cryptocurrency and social systems.
First that the efforts to protect the crypto network is analogous to a Bubble Boy. The Bubble Boy is famous from an episode of Seinfeld.* The idea of the Bubble Boy is that by not being in anyway attached to the network, the Bubble Boy is safe from viruses and/or hacks.
The other metaphor is the sewer rat. The sewer rat is the animal that though repugnant, has been exposed to so many viruses it has developed a healthy immune system. Thornburg sees this as the open platforms that thrive on being open to input and manipulation by users.
Thornburg describes it like this: “In this lecture, he explores centralized systems as a “bubble boy”–a system created to be secure by isolating it from external forces. Eventually, the bubble bursts, exposing the system, and living in isolation prevented that system from building an immunity to attacks.”
And: “On the other hand, Andreas argues that open blockchains like Bitcoin are “sewer rats.” They live in the wild subject to untold hostile forces. Consequently, they build immune systems by necessity. Hacks happen, but the solutions serve to harden the system against future attacks.”
What we take from this is a consistent aspect of human consciousness. Consider the following: an archeological team was hard at work excavating the ruins of an ancient city in Mesopotamia. The had found the remains of homes and temples and markets. They had marked where the ancient walls had stood and found broken swords, pottery, statues and tablets full of elaborate inventories.
They also found a pair of six-sided dice. The marks 1 through 6 were still visible. Quite naturally they rolled the dice and were amazed to see that they came up sixes. They rolled them again and were again amused to see the numbers repeat. They rolled them again and when they again showed sixes they became curious.
The dice were rolled one hundred times. Each time the dice came up sixes. They had the dice x-rayed and, as expected, they discovered the dice were loaded; there were small weights imbedded in the dice.
Thornburg quotes Andreas that “All forms of cryptography can be broken. All forms of cryptography are eventually broken. That is a truism… including that currently behind Bitcoin, yes. The question again is time scale… We expect cryptography to be broken. We expect every system and subsystem within Bitcoin eventually to be weakened. What we need to do is 1) make sure that any such weaknesses are not systemic and complete. Then [2)] identify the weaknesses early enough to start addressing them so they don’t become systemic. The best way you do that is by existing in an open, collaborative environment where you learn about those weaknesses.”
Language is a code. All interaction is a system and all systems rely on codes. It is a truism that all codes are a combination of Bubble and Sewer – the known and the unknown, the open source and the hidden.
The idea that, per Andreas that the aim must be: “We expect every system and subsystem within Bitcoin eventually to be weakened. What we need to do is 1) make sure that any such weaknesses are not systemic and complete. Then [2)] identify the weaknesses early enough to start addressing them so they don’t become systemic”
This is accurate and impossible. The loaded dice are a system and a sign. The system was broken but it continues in endlessly alternating form with a constant symbiosis between bubble and sewer.
The one thing they all have in common is the meta-system on which they all rely – humans. And human beings have, since day one strived to be both open and closed systems; adaptive and fixed.
Cryptocurrencies are loaded dice because all systems devised by the primary system called humans – are loaded dice. There are those who know the dice are loaded and those who don’t – the bubble and the sewer.
*It’s worth noting that one of the primary engines or plot devices in the Bubble Boy episode of Seinfeld is a typo in a trivia game which results in the argument that in turn breaks the Bubble Boy’s containment field, exposing him to germs for which he has no immunity. Cheating, mistakes, and the connection between systems are hardwired into the meta-system.