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The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2019 год
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      The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything
Paul Vigna

Michael J. Casey

From the authors of the fascinating The Age of Cryptocurrency, comes the definitive work on the Internet’s next big thing: the blockchain.Many of the ‘legacy systems’ once designed to make our lives easier and our economy more efficient are no longer up to the task; big banks have grown more entrenched, privacy exists only until the next hack, and credit card fraud has become a fact of life. However, there is a way past all this―a new kind of operating system with the potential to revolutionise our economy: the blockchain.In The Truth Machine, Michael J. Casey and Paul Vigna demystify the blockchain and explain why it can restore personal control over our data, assets, and identities; grant billions of excluded people access to the global economy; and shift the balance of power to revive society’s faith in itself. They reveal the empowerment possible when self-interested middlemen give way to the transparency of the blockchain, while highlighting the job losses, assertion of special interests, and threat to social cohesion that will accompany this shift. With a balanced perspective, Casey and Vigna show why we all must care about the path that blockchain technology takes―moving humanity forward, not backward.

Copyright (#ulink_fd3f58ea-c591-5b6d-8e4d-07fd4f26626f)

HarperCollinsPublishers

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF

www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk)

First published in the US by St Martin’s Press 2018

This UK edition published by HarperCollinsPublishers 2018

FIRST EDITION

© Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey 2018

Cover photograph (Locks) © Tatiana Popova/Shutterstock.com

Cover design by Rob Grom

A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library

Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey assert the moral right to be identified as the authors of this work

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

Find out about HarperCollins and the environment at www.harpercollins.co.uk/green (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/green)

Source ISBN: 9780008301774

Ebook Edition © March 2018 ISBN: 9780008301781

Version 2018-03-01

Dedication (#ulink_58b713f4-d965-572b-83a8-ca897c6a5205)

For Liz, Jenny, Sarah, and Di

—MC

For my mom and dad

—PV

Contents

Cover (#u459a8d03-436f-501c-99f9-28094efbeaed)

Title Page (#u9f9c691f-ead6-5fa2-813f-82c82c956d54)

Copyright (#ulink_10ac37ee-8f5b-55e3-9850-e4773b884be7)

Dedication (#ulink_0aad1593-a22e-56bb-b738-e7d94cd46be5)

A Note from the Authors (#ud312e4e1-883c-5d12-9bfe-09f125e0aa20)

Preface (#ulink_453dba34-9c38-52bc-8852-1ab948643181)

Introduction: A Society-Building Tool (#ulink_5e9aa0f0-ec6d-53a5-88ae-5ed9a7478793)

1. The God Protocol (#ulink_5d596e09-d2bb-5570-8c4f-671004411363)

2. “Governing” the Digital Economy (#ulink_c7687d37-ce08-500f-9581-1b1d0bf2cbe5)

3. The Plumbing and the Politics (#ulink_37170406-e5b7-5242-82ea-b89757e74f44)

4. The Token Economy (#litres_trial_promo)

5. Enabling the Fourth Industrial Revolution (#litres_trial_promo)

6. The Old Guard’s New Makeover (#litres_trial_promo)

7. Blockchains for Good (#litres_trial_promo)

8. A Self-Sovereign Identity (#litres_trial_promo)

9. Everyone’s a Creator (#litres_trial_promo)

10. A New Constitution for the Digital Age (#litres_trial_promo)

Notes (#litres_trial_promo)

List of Searchable Terms (#litres_trial_promo)

Acknowledgments (#litres_trial_promo)

Other Books By (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)

A Note from the Authors (#ud79c80d2-5b8e-5620-b793-30842acab34d)

Throughout this book you will see a distinction between “bitcoin” written with a lowercase “b” and “Bitcoin” with an uppercase “B.” The former refers to bitcoin’s status as a currency, the latter is a reference to the overarching system and protocol that underpins that currency and other uses for the Bitcoin blockchain ledger.

Addressing an inconsistency in popular parlance, we generally employ three distinct usages of the word “blockchain”: “The blockchain,” which refers to Bitcoin’s original distributed ledger; “a blockchain”— or, pluralized, “blockchains”— to cover a variety of more recent distributed ledgers that share Bitcoin’s chain-of-blocks structure; and “blockchain technology,” referring to the overall field. We also use “distributed ledger technology” to encompass both blockchain and non-blockchain distributed ledgers. We mostly avoid the popular construct of “blockchain” as a non-countable noun. We view a blockchain, like any ledger, as a distinct, identifiable thing, not a process. The book’s title uses the definite article form to acknowledge the catalytic role that the original Bitcoin blockchain played in unleashing this field.

Preface (#ulink_5708b6b7-c602-5b71-acf0-750af2a3bb72)

In The Age of Cryptocurrency, we explored the digital currency bitcoin and its promise of a fairer global payments system, one that functions without banks and other financial intermediaries. As that book was going to print, Bitcoin’s wider application—how its core operating system can help resolve problems of trust between individuals and businesses when they trade assets, enter into contracts, assert claims to property, or share valuable or sensitive information—came to the fore. Within companies, governments, and the media, a groundswell of interest, including a fair bit of hype, turned toward what became known as “blockchain technology.”

In resolving longstanding problems of trust and enabling a community to track its transactions without entrusting that record-keeping process to a central intermediary, the blockchain idea promised a way to bypass the various gatekeepers who control society’s exchanges of value. It could, for instance, let a neighborhood of “prosumers”—households that both consume power and produce it with solar panels on their roofs—trade energy among themselves within a decentralized marketplace and without a profit-driven utility company setting the rates. Similarly, property owners, buyers, and mortgage lenders would not have to trust an unreliable government registry as the only record of deeds and liens when a more trustworthy one could be built on an immutable database managed by a decentralized network with less risk of corruption, human failure, or theft. These are just some of the many new applications that attracted people’s attention to this innovative idea.

The zeitgeist of public awareness had two big impacts on our lives. The first was that one of us—Michael Casey—got so excited about blockchain technology’s potential to change the world that he quit a twenty-three-year career in journalism to work on it full time. Less than six months after The Age of Cryptocurrency was published, Mike left The Wall Street Journal for MIT’s Media Lab. The lab’s frenetic director, Joichi Ito, who is commonly known as Joi, had recognized parallels between Bitcoin’s emergence and the software development he’d witnessed during the early days of the Internet. Sensing a similar enthusiasm for a new, decentralizing architecture, Ito hatched a plan to bring powerful academic and financial resources to the vital task of developing this nascent technology. The result was MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative, a center where leading academics and students in the fields of cryptography, engineering, and finance could collaborate with Fortune 500 strategists, innovative startups, philanthropists, and government officials to design the digital architecture of a new “Internet of Value.” When Mike received an offer to join this initiative, he saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an economic revolution.

The second impact is the book you are reading. In The Age of Cryptocurrency, we focused primarily on a single application of Bitcoin’s core technology, on its potential to upend currency and payments. Since the book’s publication, though, we have learned there’s a risk in writing about technology: it changes, while the words on the page do not. So much has changed in three years, in fact, that we were compelled to write another book. The Truth Machine expands the conversation we began in 2015 and takes it to a level higher. It explores how Bitcoin’s technology and its various offshoots point to a general redesign of social organizations, fostering many more alternative applications.

In the modern economy, to control information is to control the world. This is seen in the ever-growing influence of tech behemoths like Google and Facebook, constantly accumulating data that’s pertinent to who we are and how we interact with each other. In this twenty-first-century economy, power is defined by whoever has authority to collect, store, and share data. Currently, that authority is centralized. It is concentrated among a narrow number of giant tech companies. If you’re wondering why that’s problematic, just think of the influence that Facebook’s hidden algorithm, which prioritizes the company’s business model above all other objectives, has had on our politics. In incentivizing the creation and sharing of often-dubious information to trigger dopamine releases among social networks of like-minded people, its algorithm played an instrumental role in the bombshell U.S. elections of 2016.

The ideas behind the blockchain have now unleashed a struggle to turn that structure of concentrated power on its head, to figure out how the capacity to control and manage information might shift to a decentralized system that no one controls. It lets us imagine a world that’s not dominated by Google, Facebook, or, for that matter, the NSA, one where we, the people, the core components of global society, get to say how our data is managed.

We felt it was important to get that message across. The Truth Machine is our attempt to convey it.
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