The Weekend Read: June 26

Not enough to swing the vote

Not enough to swing the vote

[Ed. Note: As I was away all week, busy playing Forrest Gump (accidental tourist of history) in London during the Brexit vote, I have asked the estimable Kathleen Breitman to step in for this week's Read. My only contributions are the pithy photos, which to be honest is usually much stronger than my prose. Enjoy. - Todd]

1. The law of TheDAO is being what it is

Several weeks ago, a group of former Ethereum developers raised over $150 mn to create a kickstarter-esque investment platform "governed by code." Despite pleas for a temporary moratorium on TheDAO by computer scientists who spotted several deficiencies with it, TheDAO management went forth with their platform and it was soon hacked to the tune of $50 mn. Lesson learned: if you outsource a sophisticated operation in governance, like a venture capital organization, to a scripting language and a non-deterministic compiler, you're gonna have a bad time. 

As we published our last edition of the Weekend Read, TheDAO hack was a nascent pool of mixed accounts and attributions. Over the last week, a few people have given rich accounts of what went wrong with TheDAO. Here are my suggestions for primers and opinions:
Phil Daian's analysis at Hacking Distributed  
Peter Vessenes' prescient observations of Ethereum attacks 
Emin Gun Sirer's presentation to the IC3 meetup in NY this week (in ppt form for consultants)
Our own Ian Grigg's color commentary on smart contracts

Setting aside what happened with TheDAO, the hack has spurred a fruitful conversation on smart contracts and our brave new world of codified value transfer. As I mentioned on a panel earlier this week, I think TheDAO hack has been a wakeup call to the "blockchain" community to think more seriously about security and governance in distributed systems.

On that note, I recommend that everyone check out litigator-turned-coder-turned-ad-tech-enterpreneur Bill Marino's recent post on Smart Contract Escape Hatches. The post is inspired by Bill's work at Cornell and some approaches to contract recourse provided by the last ~2,000 years of exchanging goods. I also shamelessly recommend my husband's recent interview at Epicenter Bitcoin where he discusses Tezos, a cryptographic ledger which can instantiate innovations at the protocol level through a native voting mechanism. (While using formally specified smart contracts to boot!) 


2. The Three Comma Club

This week, Greenwich Associates published a survey of 134 actors in and around the blockchain-for-capital markets space. Unsurprisingly, most financial services firms have heard about "blockchain." To my surprise, Greenwich also reports that the projected cumulative spend on the technology will hit the $1 bn mark among these actors in 2016. I hope that these dollars yield deeper understandings and insights into 2017. As of now, I still hear too many falsehoods about the technology to believe that the industry has matured enough from 2015. 

3. Miscellaneous News