The Paradigm of Social Dispersed Computing and the Utility of Agoras. By Dana Edwards. Posted on Steemit. October 12, 2018.
Social Dispersed Computing
What is socially dispersed computing? It is an edge oriented computing paradigm which goes beyond cloud and fog computing. To understand socially dispersed computing we first have to discuss dispersed computing and how it differs from the previous paradigm of cloud and fog computing. The current trend toward decentralized networks which we first saw with the peer to peer technologies such as Napster, Limewire, Bittorrent, and later with Bitcoin, have brought to us an opportunity to conceptually new paradigms. The original model most people are familiar with is the client server model which was very much limited in that the server was always vulnerable to DDOS attack. The client server model has never been and could likely never be censorship resistant.
In the client server model the server could simply shut down as was the case with Bitconnect or it could be raided. The server could also be shut down by hackers who simply flood the site with requests. As we can see from the problems the client server model presented we discovered the utility of the peer to peer model. The peer to peer model was all about censorship resistance and promoted a network which was to have no single point of failure (single point of attack) which could be result in the shutdown of access points to the information. One of the first applications for these peer to peer networks was file sharing networks and networks such as Freenet/Tor etc. This of course eventually evolved into the Bitcoin which ultimately led to the development of Steem.
In dispersed computing a concept is introduced called "Networked Computation Points". An NCP can execute a function in support of user applications. To elaborate further I'll offer something below.
Consider that every component in a network is a node. Now consider that every component node is an NCP in that it can execute some function to support some user application. If we think of for example a blockchain then we know mining would fit into this category because it is both a node in the network and it also can execute a function in support of Bitcoin transactions. Why is any of this important? Parallelism is something we can gain from dispersed computing and please note that it is distinct form concurrent computing. When we rely on parallelism we can reap the benefits in terms of performance when executing code by breaking it up into many small tasks which can be performed across many CPUs.
EOS attempts to leverage parallelism specifically to enable it's performance boost. The benefit is speed and flexibility. Think for example of the hardware side also with FGPAs which can do similar tasks of a microprocessor. FGPAs (not ASICs) which unlike ASICs would provide generalized flexible parallel computing. Consider that just like with mining a company could add more and more FGPAs to scale an application as needed.
To understand Social Dispersed Computing we have to make note of the fact that there are other users at any given time. For example the other users in the network participate to provide resources to the network for the benefit of other users whilst using the network. So in Steem for example as you add content to Steem you are adding value to Steem in a direct way, but also in a dynamic way. The resources on Steem also can adapt dynamically to the demand provided that the incentive mechanism (Resource Credits) works as intended.
EOS as an example DOSC (Dispersed Operating System Computer)
Because EOS seems to be the first to approach this holistically I will give credit to the EOS network for pioneering dispersed computing in the crypto space. All resources are representable by tokenization in a dispersed computing network. EOS and even Steem have this. Steem has it in the form of "Resource Credits" which represent the available resources on the Steem network. If more resources are needed then theoretically the resource credits could act as an incentive to provide these resources to the Steem network. This provides a permanent price floor to Steem represented as the amount of Steem which would have to be purchased in order to have enough resources to run Steem (if I have the correct theoretical understanding). This would put Steem on a trajectory toward dispersed computing.
Operating systems typically sit between the hardware and software as a sort of abstraction layer. This traditionally has been valuable because programmers don't have to directly speak to the hardware and hardware designers don't have to directly communicate by their designs to the programmer. In essence the operating system in the traditional model is centralized and made by a company such as Microsoft or Apple. This centralized operating system typically runs on a device or set of devices and provides some standard services such as email, a web browser, and maybe even a Bitcoin wallet.
Typically the most valuable or high utility software people consider on a computer is the operating system. In our smart phones this is Android OS and in PCs it may be Windows or Linux. This is of course thrown on it's head under the new paradigm of dispersed computing and the new conceptual model of the "decentralized" operating system. EOS is the first to attempt a decentralized operating system using current blockchain technology but the upcoming technology easily eclipses what EOS could do. Tauchain is a technology which if successful will leave EOS in the stone age in terms of what it will be able to do. EOS while ambitious also has had it's problems with regard to the voting mechanisms and the ease at which collusion can take place.
To better understand how decentralized operating systems emerge learn about:
If we look at OSKit we see that it is the tools necessary for operating system development. If we look at Tauchain we realize that it is strategically the most important tool for the development of a decentralized operating system being provided in the form of TML (a partial evaluator). If we think of the primary tool necessary to develop from we have to initially start with a compiler. A compiler generator is more like what TML allows with it's partial evaluator. More specifically it is the feature of Futamura projection which can provide the ability to generate compilers.
If we look at the next most important part of an operating system it is typically the kernel. Let's have a look at what an exokernel is:
Operating systems generally present hardware resources to applications through high-level abstractions such as (virtual) file systems. The idea behind exokernels is to force as few abstractions as possible on application developers, enabling them to make as many decisions as possible about hardware abstractions. Exokernels are tiny, since functionality is limited to ensuring protection and multiplexing of resources, which is considerably simpler than conventional microkernels' implementation of message passing and monolithic kernels' implementation of high-level abstractions.
By Thorben Bochenek [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
From this at minimum we can see that an exokernel is a more efficient and direct way for programmers to communicate with hardware. To be more specific, "programs" communicate with hardware directly by way of an exokernel. We know the most basic function of a kernel in an operating system is the management of resources. We know in a decentralized context that tokenization allows for incentives for management of resources. When we combine them we get kernel+tokenization to produce an elementary foundation of an operating system. In a distributed context we could apply a decentralized operating system in such a way that the network could be treated as a unified computer.
Abstraction is still important by the way. In an operating system we know the object oriented way of abstraction. Typically the programmer works with the concept of objects. In an "Application Operating Environment" an "Application Object" can be another useful abstraction. Abstraction can of course be taken further but that is for another blog post.
The Utility of Agoras
Agoras+TML is interesting. Agoras is the resource management component of what may evolve into the Tau Operating System. This Tau Operating System or TOS is something which would be vastly superior to EOS or anything else out there because of the unique abilities of Agoras. The main abilities have been announced on the website such as the knowledge exchange (knowledge market) where humans and machines alike can contribute knowledge to the network in exchange for the token reward. We also know that Agoras will have a more direct resource contribution incentive property in the form of the AGRS token so as to facilitate the sale or trade of storage, bandwidth or computation resources.
The possible (likely?) emergence of the Tau Operating System
In order for Tauchain to evolve into a Dispersed Operating System Computer it will need an equivalent to a kernel. Some means of allowing whomever is responsible for the Tauchain network to control and manage the resources of that network. If for example the users decide then by way of discussion there would be a formal specification or model of a future iteration of the Tauchain network. This according to current documents is what would produce the requirements for the Beta version of the network to apply program synthesis. Program synthesis in essence could result in a kernel and from there the components of a Tau Operating System could be synthesized in the same way. Just remember that all that I write is purely speculative as we have no way to predict with certainty the direction the community will take during the alpha.
The Era of Signals and Changing Power Dynamics. By Dana Edwards. Posted on Steemit. October 8, 2018.
The world we live in is rapidly changing. For instance the #MeToo era has arrived. This new era shows us that any individual in any position in society can be brought down. It proves a point that many in the blockchain community may have known instinctively which is that any individual source of authority and or power can and may be removed from that position. Some people actively choose to seek to be in these positions of power for their own reasons and then some of these people abuse their positions of power. People who seek power for the wrong reasons and then abuse it are in my opinion a risk which positions of authority bring (which blockchain technology may help reduce).
What are signals and what is signalling theory?
Social desirability bias is a popular topic in academic circles. To explain:
In social science research, social desirability bias is a type of response bias that is the tendency of survey respondents to answer questions in a manner that will be viewed favorably by others. It can take the form of over-reporting "good behavior" or under-reporting "bad," or undesirable behavior. The tendency poses a serious problem with conducting research with self-reports, especially questionnaires. This bias interferes with the interpretation of average tendencies as well as individual differences.
People tend to want to be liked/loved. People when asked questions on a survey may feel pressured to answer the survey in a way which they think they will be viewed more favorably by others. In other words rather than answering in a manner which they truly think or feel they will assess how others might judge their response and then answer in a way which they think they will be judged more favorably.
A full video on this topic is below:
Social desirability bias is exactly why voting on platforms such as Steem will not work. When voting is public then most of the research seems to show that people will feel pressured to answer the question not in the way which they really believe or prefer but in the way which they think the whales want them to vote or prefer. In other words because on Steem the whales can reward (or punish) anyone who votes in ways which go against "political sensibilities" it is likely that social desirability bias applies particularly on DPOS style consensus platforms. If there are votes and the votes are not encrypted (secret) then we have no way to determine which votes are legitimate and which votes are the result of signalling (such as virtue signals).
For example when it was Trump vs Hillary the polls suggested Hillary would win. This is because there likely was social desirability bias which made it socially undesirable for anyone to admit they voted for Trump. As a result people who voted for Trump or who planned to vote for Trump may have said in public that they intended to vote for Hillary. Because the votes in the election are secret the people who may have seemed like loud Hillary supporters could have been secret Trump supporters in disguise.
In some of my previous posts I discuss signalling theory a bit more:
In these posts I have identified that behavior of individuals is shaped by how individuals think other individuals will think of their behaviors. This would apply to social desirability optimization which I'll label as adopting behaviors which provide the expected payoff of being rewarded with improved social desirability.
To provide clarity the definition of social desirability:
Social desirability is the tendency for research participants to attempt to act in ways that make them seem desirable to other people.
In other words people want to be liked. Likeability is a word I can use to simplify the concept of social desirability for readers. In the example with the 2016 election it is clear that supporters of Trump would risk a social stigma with severe social consequences if they came out in public support. This high cost of public support is why some believed that there were secret Trump supporters who were simply afraid of "losing face". In the most simple terms a person can talk red or talk blue depending on where the social stigma is.
One of the stunning conclusions I reached in my own research on this topic is that the increasing transparency leads to "preference falsification". That is a person who is talking blue while thinking red. If all speech is public (like it is on Steem) then there is the possibility that preference falsification is taking place.
Here is a video on the topic of preference falsification:
Why is this a major problem in the blockchain community? The evolutionary trajectory of a platform relies entirely on market preferences. If censorship exists and conformist pressures hinder true preference aggregation then the developers (and the community itself) will have no way of knowing which improvements to make or which changes would best satisfy the community.
What is leadership and what is the era of signals?
Before I attempt to discuss leadership I will first explain what I think leadership means and what it is. In my opinion the community must always come first. A person who is put into a leadership position is in my opinion in what I'll term "the seat of responsibility". This is in my opinion not an enviable position to be in but someone has to be in this position. For example a person who receives a security clearance is now in a position of heavy responsibility. The information which they protect is not their secrets but the nations secrets.
Leadership in my understanding is not about "being in power" but is about serving a community. To be in a "big seat" is to be in a position of responsibility to make decisions on behalf of a community which the chosen person must represent. In other words being in positions of responsibility is entirely about service and not about power. A representative in congress is not in a position of power but in a position to serve their constituents who put them in that position to represent their interests.
In my opinion to be a good leader is to be a great listener. The leader must listen to the community to find out what the community wants and or needs. The leader must listen to the community to determine what the community thinks is right or wrong. The leader then must offer solutions or proposals or policies which satisfies the requirements of the community. What matters more than who is in the seat is the seat itself. This means the Presidency itself matters more than who is in office. The positions themselves matter more than who is in them. Long after whomever is in these positions are gone there will be these positions to be filled. Any leader in any position is replaceable by someone else if they show failure to lead (whether it be a CEO, or a President of a country, or a lead developer, or any other kind of community leader).
In my understanding it is like chess where all pieces on the board can be in various positions. We know in chess that the pawn can become any piece on the board. The point with this analogy is that individuals in my opinion are not likely to remain the source of power in society. The source of power in society is increasingly becoming the community for better or for worse. According to me, to lead is to serve and to lead effectively is to serve effectively.
To accept a responsibility to serve (to lead) it is required to seek feedback from all whom the community servant represents. This does not require voting specifically but it does require under any circumstance a mechanism by which the community can give brutally honest feedback to the system itself. When I say the system itself I do not mean the feedback must go direction to those who serve the system but that the system must have a means of collecting data, analyzing data, and then informing those who can improve the system on which changes best would satisfy the needs of the community.
In my opinion this is a very data driven process. I do not think leaders can for example process big data using their brain power. This will require that they harness the power of machines (machine intelligence). There is also risk if all the processing is done by one company (such as Google) just as there is risk if all people rely on Facebook for the news and opinions. We can see that Facebook has the ability right or wrong to shape elections by deforming the news feed or by allowing certain fake profiles to interact on the site. We see that Facebook can ban crypto ads at will for example to enforce certain policies without taking any kind of poll from the community or the users for instance. We simply do not see any poll data from the users which indicated that the users were tired of seeing crypto ads.
Summary of thoughts on leadership:
Augmenting the wisdom of the community as a means of better governance
In a world where the community must decide what to do we have a situation where responsibility is increasingly diffuse. This means while it is true that the signature may come from the face of the community (if it is a human face) it is still the community which has to be capable of wisdom. The problem is most communities in the world do not become wiser as more join the community. A bigger community doesn't produce better policies by merely voting together. The problem is while most people have opinions it does not mean opinions are well informed or scientific or wise. The lack of wisdom in a community results in horrible (harmful) policies, over reactions, systemic bias, and more.
The conclusion I have reached so far is that in order to have better governance in an era where the community is the government it is a requirement that the community be wise. It's not enough to simply give the community unlimited power to shape the future without providing any capacity for the community to be wise or to do research or to solve problems. Voting in the sense we see in elections does not involve informed voters. Information supplied to voters is almost always sub par and voters are expected to trust "opinion leaders" and "opinion shapers" who tell them how to vote and why. Often disinformation shapes elections more than scientific evidence, facts, math, or reason.
As we build blockchain technology I think it is critical that we put great emphasis on data analytics. Data analytics will allow our leaders to make better decisions on our behalf. Blockchain technology will have to rely on data analytics to figure out potential wants and needs of it's participants, users, e-citizens, etc. At the same time private communication will be a necessity even if just to conduct surveys. The reason is people will not necessarily provide their real opinion in a survey which is completely transparent. The only solution I could find to the problem of preference falsification is privacy.
Most important of all is those who are put into positions of leadership are in trusted positions. This includes people who are moderators at forums, people who are lead developers, people who run exchanges. People who are in these positions have the responsibility to serve the blockchain community to the best of their ability. The abuse of these positions for personal power or personal gain is a violation of this trust and in these instances the community can and should select someone else for that position.
Bulbulia, J., & Sosis, R. (2011). Signalling theory and the evolution of religious cooperation. Religion, 41(3), 363-388.
Davis, W. L. (2004). Preference falsification in the economics profession. Econ Journal Watch, 1(2), 359.
Frank, R. H. (1996). The Political Economy of Preference Falsification: Timur Kuran's Private Truths, Public Lies. Journal of Economic Literature, 34(1), 115-123.
Grimm, P. (2010). Social desirability bias. Wiley international encyclopedia of marketing.
Sîrbu, A., Loreto, V., Servedio, V. D., & Tria, F. (2017). Opinion dynamics: models, extensions and external effects. In Participatory Sensing, Opinions and Collective Awareness (pp. 363-401). Springer, Cham.
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Suggested readings to better understand the Tau ecosystem, Tau Meta Language, Tau-Chain and Agoras, and collaborate in the development of the project.
Lecturas sugeridas para entender mejor el ecosistema Tau, Tau Meta Lenguaje, Tau-Chain y Agoras, y colaborar en el desarrollo del proyecto.