If Money = Memory, if Society = a Super Computer, if Computation is in Physical Systems, what is a Decentralized Operating System? By Dana Edwards. Posted on Steemit. October 24, 2018.
These concepts are not often discussed so let's have the discussion from the beginning. The first concept to think about is pancomputationalism or put another way the ubiquitous computers which exist everywhere in our environment. We for example can look at physical systems living and non living and see computations taking place all around us. If you look at rocks and trees you can see memory storage. If you look at DNA you can see code and if you look at viruses you can see microscopic programmers adding new codes to DNA. Even when we look at the weather such as a hurricane it is computing.
If you look at nature you see algorithms. You will see learners (yes the same as in AI), also in nature. The process is basically the same for all learning. Consider that everything which is physical is also digital. Consider that the universe is merely information patterns.
If we look at society we can also think of society as a computer. What does society compute though? One way people talk about a society is as a complex adaptive system, but this is also how people might talk about the human body. The human body computes with the purpose of maintaining homeostasis, to persist through time and reproduce copies of itself over time. The human brain computes to promote the survival of the human body. Just as viruses pass on codes to our DNA, the human brain is infected with mind viruses which are called memes. Memes are pieces of information which can alter physically how the brain is working.
The mind isn't limited to the brain. The mind is all the resources the brain can leverage to compute. In other words a person has a brain to compute with but when language was invented this allowed a person to compute not just using their own brain but using the environment itself. To draw on a cave is to use the cave to enhance the memory of the brain. To use mathematics is to use language to enhance the ability of the brain to compute by relying on external storage and symbol manipulation. To use a computer with a programming language is essentially to use mathematics only instead of writing on the cave wall we are writing in 1s and 0s. The mind exists to augment the brain in a constant feedback loop where the brain relies on the mind to improve itself and adapt. If there were no external reality the brain would have no way to evolve itself and improve.
A society in the strictly human sense of the word is the aggregation of minds. This can be at minimum all the human minds in that society. As technology improves the mind capacity increases because each human can remember more, can access more computation resources, can in essence use technology to continuously improve their mind and then leverage the improved mind to improve their brain. The Internet is the pinnacle of this kind of progress but it's obviously not good enough. While the Internet allows for the creation of a global mind by connecting people, things, and minds, it does nothing to actually improve the feedback loop between the mind and the brain, nor does it really offer what could be offered.
Bitcoin came into the picture and perhaps we can think of it as a better memory. A decentralized memory where essentially you can have money. The problem is that money is a very narrow application. It is the start, just as to learn to write on the cave wall was a start, but it's not ambitious enough in my opinion.
Humans in the current blockchain or crypto community do not have many ways where human computation can be exchanged. Human computation is just as valuable as non biological machine computation because there are some kinds of computations which humans can do quite easily which non biological machines still cannot do as well. Translation for example is something non biological machines have a difficult time with but human beings can do well. This means a market will be able to form where humans can sell their computation to translate stuff. If we look at Amazon Mechanical Turk we can see many tasks which humans can do which computer AI cannot yet do, such as labeling and classifying stuff. In order for things to go to the next level we will need markets which allow humans to contribute human computer and or human knowledge in exchange for crypto tokens.
The concept of a decentralized operating system is interesting. First if there are a such thing as social computations (such as collaborative filtering, subjective ranking, waze, etc) then what about the new paradigm of social dispersed computing?
The question becomes what do we want to do with this computing power? Will we use it to extend life? Will we use it to spread life into the cosmos? Will we use it to become wise? To become moral? To become rational? If we want to focus on these kinds of concerns then we definitely need something more than Bitcoin, Ethereum, or even EOS. While EOS does seem to be pursuing the strategy of a decentralized operating system which seems to be the correct course, it does not get everything right.
One problem is as I mentioned before the importance of the feedback loops between minds and brains. The reason I always communicate on the concept of external mind or extended mind is based on that fact that it is the mind which creates the immune system to protect the brain from harmful memes. The brain keeps the body alive. The brain is not really capable of rationality, or morality, or logic, and relies on the mind to achieve this. The mind is essentially all the computation resources that the brain can leverage.
EOS has the problem in the sense that it doesn't seem to improve the user. The user can connect, can join, can earn or sell, can participate, but unless the user can become wiser, more rational, more moral, then EOS has limits. EOS does have Everpedia which is quite interesting but again there are still problems. What can EOS do to improve people in society and thus improve society, if society is a computer and is in need of being upgraded?
Well if society is a computer first what does society compute? What should it compute? I don't even know how to answer those questions. I could suggest that if computation is a commodity along with data then whichever decentralized operating systems that do compete and exist will compete for these commodities. The total brain power of a society is just as important as the amount of connectivity. And the mind of the society is the most important part of a society because it is what can allow the society to become better over time, allow the people in the society to thrive, allow the life forms to continue to evolve avoid extinction.
A decentralized operating system on a technical level would have a kernel or something similar to it. This is the resource management part. For example Aragon promises to offer a decentralized OS and it too mentions having a kernel. A true decentralized operating system has to go further and requires autonomous agents. Autonomous agents which can act on behalf of their owners are philosophically speaking the extended mind. But the resources of a society is still finite, has to be managed, and so a kernel would provide for an ability to allow for resource management.
The total computation ability of a society is likely a massive amount of resources. A lot more than just to connect a bunch of CPUs together. Every member of the society which can compute could participate in a computation market. Of course as we are beginning to see now, the regulators seem concerned about certain kinds of social computations such as prediction markets. So it is unknown how truly decentralized operating systems would be handled but my guess is that if designed right then they could be pro-social, be capable of producing augmented morality by leveraging mass computation, and also by leveraging human computation be able to be compliant. To be compliant is simply to understand the local laws but these can be programmed into the autonomous agents if people think it is necessary.
What is more important is that if a law is clearly bad, and people have enhanced minds, then it will be very clear why the law is bad. This clarity will help people to dispute and seek to change bad laws through the appropriate channels. If there is more wisdom, due to insights from big data, from data scientists, etc, then there can be proposals for law changes which are much wiser and more intelligent. This is something specifically that people in the Tauchain community have realized (that technology can be used to improve policy making).
A lot is still unknown so these writings do not provide clear answers. Consider this just a stream of consciousness about concepts I am deeply contemplating. This is also a way to interpret different technologies.
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.
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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.