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Technical: The Path to Taproot Activation
Taproot! Everybody wants to have it, somebody wants to make it, nobody knows how to get it! (If you are asking why everybody wants it, see: Technical: Taproot: Why Activate?) (Pedants: I mostly elide over lockin times) Briefly, Taproot is that neat new thing that gets us:
Multisignatures (n-of-n, k-of-n) that are just 1 signature (1-of-1) in length!! (MuSig/Schnorr)
Better privacy!! If all contract participants can agree, just use a multisignature. If there is a dispute, show the contract publicly and have the Bitcoin network resolve it (Taproot/MAST).
Activation lets devs work get back to work on the even newer stuff like!!!
Cross-input signature aggregation!! (transaction with multiple inputs can have a single signature for all inputs) --- needs Schnorr, but some more work needed to ensure that the interactions with SCRIPT are okay.
Block validation - Schnorr signatures for all taproot spends in a block can be validated in a single operation instead of for each transaction!! Speed up validation and maybe we can actually afford to increase block sizes (maybe)!!
SIGHASH_ANYPREVOUT - you know, for Decker-Russell-Osuntokun ("eltoo") magic!!!
OP_CHECKTEMPLATEVERIFY - vaulty vaults without requiring storing signatures, just transaction details!!
So yes, let's activate taproot!
The SegWit Wars
The biggest problem with activating Taproot is PTSD from the previous softfork, SegWit. Pieter Wuille, one of the authors of the current Taproot proposal, has consistently held the position that he will not discuss activation, and will accept whatever activation process is imposed on Taproot. Other developers have expressed similar opinions. So what happened with SegWit activation that was so traumatic? SegWit used the BIP9 activation method. Let's dive into BIP9!
bit - A field in the block header, the nVersion, has a number of bits. By setting a particular bit, the miner making the block indicates that it has upgraded its software to support a particular soft fork. The bit parameter for a BIP9 activation is which bit in this nVersion is used to indicate that the miner has upgraded software for a particular soft fork.
timeout - a time limit, expressed as an end date. If this timeout is reached without sufficient number of miners signaling that they upgraded, then the activation fails and Bitcoin Core goes back to the drawing board.
Now there are other parameters (name, starttime) but they are not anywhere near as important as the above two. A number that is not a parameter, is 95%. Basically, activation of a BIP9 softfork is considered as actually succeeding if at least 95% of blocks in the last 2 weeks had the specified bit in the nVersion set. If less than 95% had this bit set before the timeout, then the upgrade fails and never goes into the network. This is not a parameter: it is a constant defined by BIP9, and developers using BIP9 activation cannot change this. So, first some simple questions and their answers:
Why not just set a day when everyone starts imposing the new rules of the softfork?
This was done classically (in the days when Satoshi was still among us). But this might argued to put too much power to developers, since there would be no way to reject an upgrade without possible bad consequences. For example, developers might package an upgrade that the users do not want, together with vital security bugfixes. Either you live without vital security bugfixes and hire some other developers to fix it for you (which can be difficult, presumably the best developers are already the ones working on the codebase) or you get the vital security bugfixes and implicitly support the upgrade you might not want.
Sure, you could fork the code yourself (the ultimate threat in the FOSS world) and hire another set of developers who aren't assholes to do the dreary maintenance work of fixing security bugs, but Bitcoin needs strong bug-for-bug compatibility so everyone should really congregate around a single codebase.
Basically: even the devs do not want this power, because they fear being coerced into putting "upgrades" that are detrimental to users. Satoshi got a pass because nobody knew who he was and how to coerce him.
Suppose the threshold were lower, like 51%. If so, after activation, somebody can disrupt the Bitcoin network by creating a transaction that is valid under the pre-softfork rules, but are invalid under the post-softfork rules. Upgraded nodes would reject it, but 49% of miners would accept it and include it in a block (which makes the block invalid) And then the same 49% would accept the invalid block and build on top of that, possibly creating a short chain of doomed invalid blocks that confirm an invalid spend. This can confuse SPV wallets, who might see multiple confirmations of a transaction and accept the funds, but later find that in fact it is invalid under the now-activated softfork rules.
Thus, a very high threshold was imposed. 95% is considered safe. 50% is definitely not safe. Due to variance in the mining process, 80% could also be potentially unsafe (i.e. 80% of blocks signaling might have a good chance of coming from only 60% of miners), so a threshold of 95% was considered "safe enough for Bitcoin work".
Why have a timeout that disables the upgrade?
Before BIP9, what was used was either flag day or BIP34. BIP34 had no flag day of activation or a bit, instead, it was just a 95% threshold to signal an nVersion value greater than a specific value. Actually, it was two thresholds: at 75%, blocks with the new nVersion would have the new softfork rules imposed, but at 95% blocks with the old nVersion would be rejected (and only the new blocks, with the new softfork rules, were accepted). For one, between 75% and 95%, there was a situation where the softfork was only "partially imposed", only blocks signaling the new rules would actually have those rules, but blocks with the old rules were still valid. This was fine for BIP34, which only added rules for miners with negligible use for non-miners.
The reasons miners signalled support was because they felt they were being pressured to signal support. So they signalled support, with plans to actually upgrade later, but because of the widespread signalling, the new BIP66 version locked in before upgrade plans were finished. Thus, the timeout that disables the upgrade was added in BIP9 to allow miners an escape hatch.
The Great Battles of the SegWit Wars
SegWit not only fixed transaction malleability, it also created a practical softforkable blocksize increase that also rebalanced weights so that the cost of spending a UTXO is about the same as the cost of creating UTXOs (and spending UTXOs is "better" since it limits the size of the UTXO set that every fullnode has to maintain). So SegWit was written, the activation was decided to be BIP9, and then.... miner signalling stalled at below 75%. Thus were the Great SegWit Wars started.
BIP9 Feature Hostage
If you are a miner with at least 5% global hashpower, you can hold a BIP9-activated softfork hostage. You might even secretly want the softfork to actually push through. But you might want to extract concession from the users and the developers. Like removing the halvening. Or raising or even removing the block size caps (which helps larger miners more than smaller miners, making it easier to become a bigger fish that eats all the smaller fishes). Or whatever. With BIP9, you can hold the softfork hostage. You just hold out and refuse to signal. You tell everyone you will signal, if and only if certain concessions are given to you. This ability by miners to hold a feature hostage was enabled because of the miner-exit allowed by the timeout on BIP9. Prior to that, miners were considered little more than expendable security guards, paid for the risk they take to secure the network, but not special in the grand scheme of Bitcoin.
ASICBoost was a novel way of optimizing SHA256 mining, by taking advantage of the structure of the 80-byte header that is hashed in order to perform proof-of-work. The details of ASICBoost are out-of-scope here but you can read about it elsewhere Here is a short summary of the two types of ASICBoost, relevant to the activation discussion.
Overt ASICBoost - Manipulates the unused bits in nVersion to reduce power consumption in mining.
Covert ASICBoost - Manipulates the order of transactions in the block to reduce power consumption in mining.
Now, "overt" means "obvious", while "covert" means hidden. Overt ASICBoost is obvious because nVersion bits that are not currently in use for BIP9 activations are usually 0 by default, so setting those bits to 1 makes it obvious that you are doing something weird (namely, Overt ASICBoost). Covert ASICBoost is non-obvious because the order of transactions in a block are up to the miner anyway, so the miner rearranging the transactions in order to get lower power consumption is not going to be detected. Unfortunately, while Overt ASICBoost was compatible with SegWit, Covert ASICBoost was not. This is because, pre-SegWit, only the block header Merkle tree committed to the transaction ordering. However, with SegWit, another Merkle tree exists, which commits to transaction ordering as well. Covert ASICBoost would require more computation to manipulate two Merkle trees, obviating the power benefits of Covert ASICBoost anyway. Now, miners want to use ASICBoost (indeed, about 60->70% of current miners probably use the Overt ASICBoost nowadays; if you have a Bitcoin fullnode running you will see the logs with lots of "60 of last 100 blocks had unexpected versions" which is exactly what you would see with the nVersion manipulation that Overt ASICBoost does). But remember: ASICBoost was, at around the time, a novel improvement. Not all miners had ASICBoost hardware. Those who did, did not want it known that they had ASICBoost hardware, and wanted to do Covert ASICBoost! But Covert ASICBoost is incompatible with SegWit, because SegWit actually has two Merkle trees of transaction data, and Covert ASICBoost works by fudging around with transaction ordering in a block, and recomputing two Merkle Trees is more expensive than recomputing just one (and loses the ASICBoost advantage). Of course, those miners that wanted Covert ASICBoost did not want to openly admit that they had ASICBoost hardware, they wanted to keep their advantage secret because miners are strongly competitive in a very tight market. And doing ASICBoost Covertly was just the ticket, but they could not work post-SegWit. Fortunately, due to the BIP9 activation process, they could hold SegWit hostage while covertly taking advantage of Covert ASICBoost!
UASF: BIP148 and BIP8
When the incompatibility between Covert ASICBoost and SegWit was realized, still, activation of SegWit stalled, and miners were still not openly claiming that ASICBoost was related to non-activation of SegWit. Eventually, a new proposal was created: BIP148. With this rule, 3 months before the end of the SegWit timeout, nodes would reject blocks that did not signal SegWit. Thus, 3 months before SegWit timeout, BIP148 would force activation of SegWit. This proposal was not accepted by Bitcoin Core, due to the shortening of the timeout (it effectively times out 3 months before the initial SegWit timeout). Instead, a fork of Bitcoin Core was created which added the patch to comply with BIP148. This was claimed as a User Activated Soft Fork, UASF, since users could freely download the alternate fork rather than sticking with the developers of Bitcoin Core. Now, BIP148 effectively is just a BIP9 activation, except at its (earlier) timeout, the new rules would be activated anyway (instead of the BIP9-mandated behavior that the upgrade is cancelled at the end of the timeout). BIP148 was actually inspired by the BIP8 proposal (the link here is a historical version; BIP8 has been updated recently, precisely in preparation for Taproot activation). BIP8 is basically BIP9, but at the end of timeout, the softfork is activated anyway rather than cancelled. This removed the ability of miners to hold the softfork hostage. At best, they can delay the activation, but not stop it entirely by holding out as in BIP9. Of course, this implies risk that not all miners have upgraded before activation, leading to possible losses for SPV users, as well as again re-pressuring miners to signal activation, possibly without the miners actually upgrading their software to properly impose the new softfork rules.
BIP91, SegWit2X, and The Aftermath
BIP148 inspired countermeasures, possibly from the Covert ASiCBoost miners, possibly from concerned users who wanted to offer concessions to miners. To this day, the common name for BIP148 - UASF - remains an emotionally-charged rallying cry for parts of the Bitcoin community. One of these was SegWit2X. This was brokered in a deal between some Bitcoin personalities at a conference in New York, and thus part of the so-called "New York Agreement" or NYA, another emotionally-charged acronym. The text of the NYA was basically:
Set up a new activation threshold at 80% signalled at bit 4 (vs bit 1 for SegWit).
When this 80% signalling was reached, miners would require that bit 1 for SegWit be signalled to achive the 95% activation needed for SegWit.
If the bit 4 signalling reached 80%, increase the block weight limit from the SegWit 4000000 to the SegWit2X 8000000, 6 months after bit 1 activation.
The first item above was coded in BIP91. Unfortunately, if you read the BIP91, independently of NYA, you might come to the conclusion that BIP91 was only about lowering the threshold to 80%. In particular, BIP91 never mentions anything about the second point above, it never mentions that bit 4 80% threshold would also signal for a later hardfork increase in weight limit. Because of this, even though there are claims that NYA (SegWit2X) reached 80% dominance, a close reading of BIP91 shows that the 80% dominance was only for SegWit activation, without necessarily a later 2x capacity hardfork (SegWit2X). This ambiguity of bit 4 (NYA says it includes a 2x capacity hardfork, BIP91 says it does not) has continued to be a thorn in blocksize debates later. Economically speaking, Bitcoin futures between SegWit and SegWit2X showed strong economic dominance in favor of SegWit (SegWit2X futures were traded at a fraction in value of SegWit futures: I personally made a tidy but small amount of money betting against SegWit2X in the futures market), so suggesting that NYA achieved 80% dominance even in mining is laughable, but the NYA text that ties bit 4 to SegWit2X still exists. Historically, BIP91 triggered which caused SegWit to activate before the BIP148 shorter timeout. BIP148 proponents continue to hold this day that it was the BIP148 shorter timeout and no-compromises-activate-on-August-1 that made miners flock to BIP91 as a face-saving tactic that actually removed the second clause of NYA. NYA supporters keep pointing to the bit 4 text in the NYA and the historical activation of BIP91 as a failed promise by Bitcoin developers.
We have discussed BIP8: roughly, it has bit and timeout, if 95% of miners signal bit it activates, at the end of timeout it activates. (EDIT: BIP8 has had recent updates: at the end of timeout it can now activate or fail. For the most part, in the below text "BIP8", means BIP8-and-activate-at-timeout, and "BIP9" means BIP8-and-fail-at-timeout) So let's take a look at Modern Softfork Activation!
Modern Softfork Activation
This is a more complex activation method, composed of BIP9 and BIP8 as supcomponents.
First have a 12-month BIP9 (fail at timeout).
If the above fails to activate, have a 6-month discussion period during which users and developers and miners discuss whether to continue to step 3.
Have a 24-month BIP8 (activate at timeout).
The total above is 42 months, if you are counting: 3.5 years worst-case activation. The logic here is that if there are no problems, BIP9 will work just fine anyway. And if there are problems, the 6-month period should weed it out. Finally, miners cannot hold the feature hostage since the 24-month BIP8 period will exist anyway.
PSA: Being Resilient to Upgrades
Software is very birttle. Anyone who has been using software for a long time has experienced something like this:
You hear a new version of your favorite software has a nice new feature.
Excited, you install the new version.
You find that the new version has subtle incompatibilities with your current workflow.
You are sad and downgrade to the older version.
You find out that the new version has changed your files in incompatible ways that the old version cannot work with anymore.
You tearfully reinstall the newer version and figure out how to get your lost productivity now that you have to adapt to a new workflow
If you are a technically-competent user, you might codify your workflow into a bunch of programs. And then you upgrade one of the external pieces of software you are using, and find that it has a subtle incompatibility with your current workflow which is based on a bunch of simple programs you wrote yourself. And if those simple programs are used as the basis of some important production system, you hve just screwed up because you upgraded software on an important production system. And well, one of the issues with new softfork activation is that if not enough people (users and miners) upgrade to the newest Bitcoin software, the security of the new softfork rules are at risk. Upgrading software of any kind is always a risk, and the more software you build on top of the software-being-upgraded, the greater you risk your tower of software collapsing while you change its foundations. So if you have some complex Bitcoin-manipulating system with Bitcoin somewhere at the foundations, consider running two Bitcoin nodes:
One is a "stable-version" Bitcoin node. Once it has synced, set it up to connect=x.x.x.x to the second node below (so that your ISP bandwidth is only spent on the second node). Use this node to run all your software: it's a stable version that you don't change for long periods of time. Enable txiindex, disable pruning, whatever your software needs.
The other is an "always-up-to-date" Bitcoin Node. Keep its stoarge down with pruning (initially sync it off the "stable-version" node). You can't use blocksonly if your "stable-version" node needs to send transactions, but otherwise this "always-up-to-date" Bitcoin node can be kept as a low-resource node, so you can run both nodes in the same machine.
When a new Bitcoin version comes up, you just upgrade the "always-up-to-date" Bitcoin node. This protects you if a future softfork activates, you will only receive valid Bitcoin blocks and transactions. Since this node has nothing running on top of it, it is just a special peer of the "stable-version" node, any software incompatibilities with your system software do not exist. Your "stable-version" Bitcoin node remains the same version until you are ready to actually upgrade this node and are prepared to rewrite most of the software you have running on top of it due to version compatibility problems. When upgrading the "always-up-to-date", you can bring it down safely and then start it later. Your "stable-version" wil keep running, disconnected from the network, but otherwise still available for whatever queries. You do need some system to stop the "always-up-to-date" node if for any reason the "stable-version" goes down (otherwisee if the "always-up-to-date" advances its pruning window past what your "stable-version" has, the "stable-version" cannot sync afterwards), but if you are technically competent enough that you need to do this, you are technically competent enough to write such a trivial monitor program (EDIT: gmax notes you can adjust the pruning window by RPC commands to help with this as well). This recommendation is from gmaxwell on IRC, by the way.
So I'm looking through my old yearbooks, and I'm realizing that I missed out on a crucial part of my life: during high school, I was supposed to have a punk phase. I can't believe I missed it! It seemed like everyone was rocking their unruly hair, their unkempt clothes, and their general disaffection towards life. Man, Green Day released new records, and there was an unrelenting hatred for all types of authority figures... Wait, this is just a slab of concrete with newspaper articles from 2020 stapled to it, isn't it. Regardless, the universe is telling me it's time for me to reclaim my lost childhood experiences; to go back to a better time. Unfortunately, latent legal issues surrounding my controversial "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" sign prevent me from going within 500 feet of any type of school, so winning the basketball championship and visiting the aquarium are right out. But I can still be the moodiest, edgiest, darkest person on the planet, and now that I've beaten Shadow the Hedgehog all the way through and went to Hot Topic, it's time to build a commander deck that's truly me. Presenting: RAMSESO V E R D A R K!
Ramses is the bad boy your mother would never let take you to IHOP. Not that he'd care; his business is killing, and he's efficient at it too, costing the least out of any commander I've ever written about. You want to sit around and drink tea with your little enchanted princess friends? Ramses Overdark is here to tell you how the real world works. Nothing personnel, kid.
Commander For You
Like a TI-83 Silver Edition, Ramses is a stone-cold calculating problem solver, but he only gets that way with some preparation. See, killing is a business, Ramses' business, and the one thing every business needs is synergy. So call me Nathan Fielder, because I'm going to unveil the plan that will keep this enterprise running smoothly:
Procure the payment.
Keep your friends close.
Keep your enemies closer.
Go to work.
As a teenager, I procrastinated from my task of being edgy by protesting government-backed financial institutions with the Bitcoin community, and one thing you learn there very quickly is that assassination ain't cheap. The first and most obvious barrier to breaking 18 U.S. Code § 1117 is his six mana casting cost, and unlike Gabriel, Ramses demands something a little more tangible than a green thumb to appease him. We're going to use the usual fare: rings, trinkets, stones, lockets, relics... archives... spheres? With you as an investor, Ramses' business (which is killing) will make a killing, letting us take full advantage of Revel in Riches as both a ramp tool and backup win condition. Ramses will also often require additional gas to keep going, whether it be finding a steady stream of enchantments to throw onto enemies, or to finding ways to close out games.
And don't forget about the artifacts that sacrifice themselves for cards: In a pinch, you can throw Curator's Ward onto them instead of Ramses.
Enchantment payoffs are few and far between in Dimir, so we're keeping this build a bit creature-light; but the ones we take with are absolutely vital for our success. While Ramses is no Cleopatra, he's still managed to form relationships with some important Greek allies:
Hateful Eidolon is another great draw engine. You're going to be enchanting enemy creatures constantly, so it'll be a steady stream of card advantage.
Protean Thaumaturge can transform into copies of anything on the board, and since you're usually targeting huge threats, he's straight value.
If you prefer just taking creatures instead of becoming them, Rootwater Matriarch is the mother everyone wants to follow, as she takes control of enemy enchanted creatures.
Man, she's way cooler than my mom. Incidentally, these control changing effects can go away, so lets include a sacrifice outlet, like Blasting Station.
Nighthowler is both the name of my new punk band and a decent Bestow creature. Cast it as a creature directly, or use it to build up Ramses' hit-list first.
Blightcaster lets you snipe less relevant creatures while you go for the big ones. I like saying "pew!" when I ping things. Please, take me seriously.
Grim Guardian is an Aristocrats-style payoff for enchantments, which is exactly the sort of talent Ramses' agents should be recruiting.
Rootwater Shaman gives your enchantments flash, making your targets subtle and you s n e a k y. Pretty sus, bro.
Agent of Erebos is repeatable graveyard exile, which isn't necessarily worth a slot but it pisses off Sandy, my Muldrotha-playing ex-wife.
Our deck only runs sixteen creatures, and while being a lone-wolf is edgy, it's not the type of edge I want to be. I feel like I'm a Halloween bobbing apple -- razor edgy; the type of edge that speaks to people, in the very depths of their soul, and causes them to rebel against the man. In the end, I will be so edgy that even those rotten adults will realize I'm right. Enchant opposing creatures with reanimation-on-death enchantments:
Once opposing creatures are enchanted with one of these Auras, they become juicy targets for Ramses, as killing them will put them into play under your control. Unfortunately, six isn't a critical mass for Ramses; to ensure that Ramses' business isn't killed by a lack of clientele, let's use some recursive enchantments.
Remember Dragon Fangs from the last article? Dragon Shadow and Dragon Wings come back to haunt your opponents, auto-enchanting beefy boys at your discretion to give Ramses a target.
Echoing Fallen Angel from Ramses' set League of Legends, Fallen Ideal is a recursive enchantment that's also a sacrifice outlet.
The "Most 2020 Mood Award" goes to Despondency, which lowers a creature's power and keeps comin' back, again and again.
Screams from Within is unique in that it will auto-attach after death instead of coming back to your hand. Be aware that if you've got no enemy targets, it's gonna end up on Ramses.
Slow Motion's Pendrell-type effect might be enough to save you a Ramses activation if your opponent doesn't care enough to pay the toll.
Rounding out the auras, we've got a few utility spells we can play for neat effects:
Ramses' weapon of choice is obviously the Doom Blade, which he'll cast for you if his target is enchanted with Chime of Night.
If you prefer opponents to discard cards instead, Dying Wail's got you covered.
Your opponents will be at world's end when you exile their big threats off the top of their deck with Dead Man's Chest. This is the type of luxury even Gonti's jealous of!
And here's some spicy tech for you: Ensoul Artifact lets Ramses remove an artifact with his ability.
A lot of creatures are going to end up dead, which makes Rise of the Dark Realms a great end-game finisher. But that's boring. Are you ready to learn Ramses' true dark secret? Because here's where I blow your mind.
...lets you sacrifice Iridescent Drake to Blasting Station which...
...deals 1 damage and triggers the enchantment which means...
..Iridescent Drake goes onto the battlefield, returning...
This combo will make you feel like Joker, because your opponents will never see it coming. You've got some redundancy in the deck in case things don't pan out: use Fallen Ideal as your sacrifice outlet and win condition to swing with an evasive infinity/infinity attacker, or deal damage using Grim Guardian's Constellation trigger. Should Iridescent Drake be interacted with (which is illegal, by the way), use Ill Gotten Gains to get your combo pieces back to hand and recur some protective counterspells. I'm not a punk, I'm a goddamn dragon genius. Finally, the deck is truly me!
In conclusion, the Ramses Overdark deck for the Commander format is a fun and powerful budget deck for you to try. I hope you enjoyed reading my paper as much as I enjoyed writing- ...Buh? Oh. I guess I reverted to hastily written high school paper writing. Is that really what I sounded like? You know, people say you never really realize what you have until it's gone. It's easy to look to memories of better days and feel that melancholy drop in your stomach. It's natural to feel wistful for a time past when rain drips down the window. But the truth is also that you don't really realize what you don't have until you obtain it. Our experiences may be painful now, but that's no reason to give up hope. You can get over darkness. Look forward instead of back, because in that future lies a wiser you.
Flatten the Curve. #49. Let's Dig into Jade Helm. AI. The Surveillance State. Internet of Things. FISA. Pentagon Preparing for Mass Civil Breakdown. What is Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio? Stay Aware and Get Ahead of the Curve.
Flatten the Curve. Part 48. Source Here It's getting crazier day by day now, so are you following the Boy Scout motto? On this topic, Baden-Powell says: Remember your motto, "Be Prepared." Be prepared for accidents by learning beforehand what you ought to do in the different kinds that are likely to occur. Be prepared to do that thing the moment the accident does occur. In Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell wrote that to Be Prepared means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” Why should you be prepared? Because TPTB have been preparing, that’s why.
June 12, 2014: The Guardian • Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown. Social science is being militarised to develop 'operational tools' to target peaceful activists and protest movements Source Here
Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown. It seemed ludicrous back in 2014, didn't it? Inconceivable. Sure some preppers believed it, but they're always getting ready and nothing happened. Doomsday was always right around the corner, and then the next corner, and on and on. Televangelists have probably accused more politicians of being the antichrist than the number of politicians went to Epstein's Island. But why would they be preparing for mass civil breakdown? Could it be the same reason as why the miltary is preparing for war, droughts and famines brought about by environmental collapse?
February 20, 2020: History Network • Here’s Why These Six Ancient Civilizations Mysteriously Collapsed. From the Maya to Greenland’s Vikings, check out six civilizations that seemingly disappeared without a trace. Source Here
All of these civilizations vanished because of some combination of exhausting their natural resources, drought, plauge, and the little ice age. Sound familiar? Don't tell me that the Rockefeller Foundation and BlackRock became environmentally aware out of a sense of obligation to the planet. They're setting the groundwork for what's coming down the pipe. This isn't about money anymore, this is about control and survival. Throw out the rulebook because the rules no longer apply. Do you think the surveillance system is for your protection, or the protection of the state? Don't you think that an era of upcoming calamities will severely damage the communication networks, and thus the surveillance system? It might be prudent to consider that Starlink is being established to make the system redundant, so that they never lose track of the precious worker bees before they can be connected to the AI hive mind, right Elon? Neuralink, don't leave home without it. But let's not forget about the wonderful world of the Internet of Things.
March 15, 2012 • More and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet, from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches. CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them. Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an "Internet of Things" -- that is, wired devices -- at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture capital firm. "'Transformational' is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies," Petraeus enthused, "particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft." All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you're a "person of interest" to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the "smart home," you'd be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room's ambiance. "Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters -- all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing," Petraeus said, "the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing." Petraeus allowed that these household spy devices "change our notions of secrecy" and prompt a rethink of "our notions of identity and secrecy." All of which is true -- if convenient for a CIA director. The CIA has a lot of legal restrictions against spying on American citizens. But collecting ambient geolocation data from devices is a grayer area, especially after the 2008 carve-outs to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Hardware manufacturers, it turns out, store a trove of geolocation data; and some legislators have grown alarmed at how easy it is for the government to track you through your phone or PlayStation. That's not the only data exploit intriguing Petraeus. He's interested in creating new online identities for his undercover spies -- and sweeping away the "digital footprints" of agents who suddenly need to vanish. "Proud parents document the arrival and growth of their future CIA officer in all forms of social media that the world can access for decades to come," Petraeus observed. "Moreover, we have to figure out how to create the digital footprint for new identities for some officers." Source Here December 19, 2019: New York Times • THE DATA REVIEWED BY TIMES OPINION didn’t come from a telecom or giant tech company, nor did it come from a governmental surveillance operation. It originated from a location data company, one of dozens quietly collecting precise movements using software slipped onto mobile phone apps. You’ve probably never heard of most of the companies — and yet to anyone who has access to this data, your life is an open book. They can see the places you go every moment of the day, whom you meet with or spend the night with, where you pray, whether you visit a methadone clinic, a psychiatrist’s office or a massage parlor. The Times and other news organizations have reported on smartphone tracking in the past. But never with a data set so large. Even still, this file represents just a small slice of what’s collected and sold every day by the location tracking industry — surveillance so omnipresent in our digital lives that it now seems impossible for anyone to avoid. It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure the powers such always-on surveillance can provide an authoritarian regime like China’s. Within America’s own representative democracy, citizens would surely rise up in outrage if the government attempted to mandate that every person above the age of 12 carry a tracking device that revealed their location 24 hours a day. Yet, in the decade since Apple’s App Store was created, Americans have, app by app, consented to just such a system run by private companies. Now, as the decade ends, tens of millions of Americans, including many children, find themselves carrying spies in their pockets during the day and leaving them beside their beds at night — even though the corporations that control their data are far less accountable than the government would be. Source Here
The IoT should be renamed to IoTT (Internet of Tracking Things), shouldn't it. But we can't have people figure out what's really happening, can we? It's a good thing that quantum computing isn't too close, isn’t it?
April 5, 2018: Global News • (Project Maven) Over 3,000 Google employees have a signed a petition in protest against the company’s involvement with a U.S. Department of Defense artificial intelligence (AI) project that studies imagery and could eventually be used to improve drone strikes in the battlefield. Source Here
December 12, 2019 • Palantir took over Project Maven defense contract after Google backed out. Source Here
December 29, 2020: Input • Palantir exec says its work is on par with the Manhattan Project. Comparing AI to most lethal weapon in human history isn’t comforting. SourceHere
August 14, 2020: Venture: • Google researchers use quantum computing to help improve image classification. Source Here
Hmmm. Maybe Apple will be for the little guy? They have always valued privacy rights, right?
October 2, 2013: Vice News • The hacktivist group Anonymous released a video statement with an accompanying Pastebin document claiming that there are definitive links between AuthenTec, the company that developed the iPhone 5S’s fingerprint scanner, and the US government. Source Here
An apple a day helps the NSA. Or Google. Or Microsoft. Or Amazon. Take your pick from the basket, because dem Apple's are all the same. But at least we have fundamental rights, right? Foreign agent declaration not required • No mention of foreign agent status is made in the Protect America Act of 2007. Under prior FISA rules, persons targeted for surveillance must have been declared as foreign agents before a FISA warrant would be accorded by the FISC court. 'Quasi-anti-terrorism law' for all-forms of intelligence collection • Vastly marketed by U.S. federal and military agencies as a law to prevent terror attacks, the Protect America Act was actually a law focused on the 'acquisition' of desired intelligence information, of unspecified nature. The sole requirement is geolocation outside the United States at time of Directive invocation; pursuant to Authorization or Order invocation, surveillance Directives can be undertaken towards persons targeted for intelligence information gathering. Implementation of Directives can take place inside the United States or outside the United States. No criminal or terrorism investigation of the person need be in play at time of the Directive. All that need be required is that the target be related to an official desire for intelligence information gathering for actions on part of persons involved in surveillance to be granted full immunity from U.S. criminal or civil procedures, under Section 105B(l) of the Act. Removal of FISA Strictures from warrant authorization; warrants not required • But the most striking aspect of the Protect America Act was the notation that any information gathering did not comprise electronic surveillance. This wording had the effect of removing FISA-related strictures from Protect America Act 2007-related Directives, serving to remove a number of protections for persons targeted, and requirements for persons working for U.S. intelligence agencies. The acquisition does not constitute electronic surveillance • The removal of the term electronic surveillance from any Protect America Act Directive implied that the FISC court approval was no longer required, as FISA warrants were no longer required. In the place of a warrant was a certification, made by U.S. intelligence officers, which was copied to the Court. In effect, the FISC became less of a court than a registry of pre-approved certifications.Certifications (in place of FISA warrants) were able to be levied ex post facto, in writing to the Court no more than 72 hours after it was made. The Attorney General was to transmit as soon as possible to the Court a sealed copy of the certification that would remain sealed unless the certification was needed to determine the legality of the acquisition.Source Here Oh. FISA is basically a rubber stamp. And even if it the stage play wasn't pretending to follow the script, would it matter? Who could actually stop it at this point? The cat's out of the bag and Pandoras Box is open.
Controversial debates arose as the Protect America Act was published. Constitutional lawyers and civil liberties experts expressed concerns that this Act authorized massive, wide-ranging information gathering with no oversight. Whereas it placed much focus on communications, the Act allowed for information gathering of all shapes and forms. The ACLU called it the "Police America Act" – "authorized a massive surveillance dragnet", calling the blank-check oversight provisions "meaningless," and calling them a "phony court review of secret procedures."
So the surveillance state doesn't have checks and balances anymore. The state is preparing for Massive Civil Breakdown. They keep warning us about environmental collapse. Got it? Good. Let's keep on keeping on.
The District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871 created a single new district corporation governing the entire federal territory, called the District of Columbia, thus dissolving the three major political subdivisions of the District (Port of Georgetown, the City of Washington, and Washington County) and their governments. Source Here)
The first big leap in corporate personhood from holding mere property and contract rights to possessing more expansive rights was a claim that the Equal Protection Clause applied to corporations. One of the strangest twists in American constitutional law was the moment that corporations gained personhood under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It occurred in a case called Santa Clara County, and what was odd was that the Supreme Court did not really even decide the matter in the actual opinion. It only appeared in a footnote to the case. What we are likely to have at the conclusion of the Supreme Court term is corporations that are empowered to spend in American elections because of Bellotti and Citizens United; corporations that can make religious objections thanks to Hobby Lobby; and if Jesner turns out as badly as I predict, corporations will be able to aid and abet human rights violations abroad with impunity. Source Here
"Having a corporation would allow people to put property into a collective ownership that could be held with perpetual existence," she says. "So it wouldn't be tied to any one person's lifespan, or subject necessarily to laws regarding inheriting property." Later on, in the United States and elsewhere, the advantages of incorporation were essential to efficient and secure economic development. Unlike partnerships, the corporation continued to exist even if a partner died; there was no unanimity required to do something; shareholders could not be sued individually, only the corporation as a whole, so investors only risked as much as they put into buying shares. Source Here
The way that the Arab Bank may get away with this alleged morally troubling behavior, even though it has a New York branch, is by reasserting the basic argument that was made in Nestle USA and Kiobel II: that the federal Alien Tort Statute was not intended to apply to corporations full stop. Given other cases in this area like Mohamad v. PLO, which held the word “individual” in the Torture Victim Protection Act means a natural person and does not impose any liability against organizations, the Arab Bank’s procorporate argument may well prevail. There are multiple federal Circuit Courts which have shot down the argument that corporations are immune from suit under the Alien Tort Statute. The lone outlier is the Second Circuit, which decided in 2010 that corporations are excused from suit in Kiobel I. This is the case that was appealed to the Supreme Court and became Kiobel II. Jesner v. Arab Bank was litigated in the Second Circuit. One question in Jesner was what exactly did Kiobel II do to Kiobel I. So far in the litigation, Jesner concluded that Kiobel I and its conclusion that corporations can’t be sued in federal court using the Alien Tort Statute remained the controlling law of the Second Circuit.
There's a reason people call lawyers snakes, it's because most of them speak with forked tounges. So the corporation isn't being held liable, but the shareholders can't be held liable either. That's too insane to even be called a Catch 22. We are literally being set up to have no recourse because there isn’t anybody who can be held responsible. Why is that important when I've been talking about the surveillance state?
July 14, 2020: The Intercept • Microsoft’s police surveillance services are often opaque because the company sells little in the way of its own policing products. It instead offers an array of “general purpose” Azure cloud services, such as machine learning and predictive analytics tools like Power BI (business intelligence) and Cognitive Services, which can be used by law enforcement agencies and surveillance vendors to build their own software or solutions. A rich array of Microsoft’s cloud-based offerings is on full display with a concept called “The Connected Officer.” Microsoft situates this concept as part of the Internet of Things, or IoT, in which gadgets are connected to online servers and thus made more useful. “The Connected Officer,” Microsoft has written, will “bring IoT to policing.” With the Internet of Things, physical objects are assigned unique identifiers and transfer data over networks in an automated fashion. If a police officer draws a gun from its holster, for example, a notification can be sent over the network to alert other officers there may be danger. Real Time Crime Centers could then locate the officer on a map and monitor the situation from a command and control center. Source Here
Uhm, I guess it's really is all connected, isn’t it?
June 18, 2020: The Guardian • How Target, Google, Bank of America and Microsoft quietly fund police through private donations. More than 25 large corporations in the past three years have contributed funding to private police foundations, new report says. Source Here
Long live the Military Industrial Techno Surveillance State. If you have nothing to hide, than you have nothing to worry about. Really? Are we still believing that line? Cause it's a load of crap. If we have nothing to worry about, then why are they worried enough to be implementing surveillance systems with corresponding units on the ground? Got your attention there, didn't I?
August 19, 2019: Big Think • Though the term "Orwellian" easily applies to such a technology, Michel's illuminating reporting touches something deeper. Numerous American cities have already been surveilled using these god-like cameras, including Gorgon Stare, a camera-enabled drone that can track individuals over a 50-square kilometer radius from 20,000 feet. Here's the real rub: the feature that allows users to pinch and zoom on Instagram is similar to what WAMI allows. Anything within those 50-square kilometers is now under the microscope. If this sounds like some futuristic tech, think again: Derivations of this camera system have been tested in numerous American cities. Say there is a big public protest. With this camera you can follow thousands of protesters back to their homes. Now you have a list of the home addresses of all the people involved in a political movement. If on their way home you witness them committing some crime—breaking a traffic regulation or frequenting a location that is known to be involved in the drug trade—you can use that surveillance data against them to essentially shut them up. That's why we have laws that prevent the use of surveillance technologies because it is human instinct to abuse them. That's why we need controls. Source Here
Want to know more about the Gorgon Stare? Flatten the Curve. Part 12. Source Here Now, I'm not sure if you remember or know any Greek Mythology, but the Gorgons were three sisters, and one sister had Snakes on her head (she wasn't a lawyer) and she turned people to stone when she looked at them.
MEDUSA (Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio) is a directed-energy non-lethal weapon designed by WaveBand Corporation in 2003-2004 for temporary personnel incapacitation. The weapon is based on the microwave auditory effect resulting in a strong sound sensation in the human head when it is subject to certain kinds of pulsed/modulated microwave radiation. The developers claimed that through the combination of pulse parameters and pulse power, it is possible to raise the auditory sensation to a “discomfort” level, deterring personnel from entering a protected perimeter or, if necessary, temporarily incapacitating particular individuals. In 2005, Sierra Nevada Corporation acquired WaveBand Corporation.
Ok. Get it? The Gorgon eye in the sky stares at you while the Medusa makes you immobile. Not good, but at least it'll just freeze you in your tracks.
July 6, 2008: Gizmodo • The Sierra Nevada Corporation claimed this week that it is ready to begin production on the MEDUSA, a damned scary ray gun that uses the "microwave audio effect" to implant sounds and perhaps even specific messages inside people's heads. Short for Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio, MEDUSA creates the audio effect with short microwave pulses. The pulses create a shockwave inside the skull that's detected by the ears, and basically makes you think you're going balls-to-the-wall batshit insane. Source Here
Uhm. And drive you insane.
July 26, 2008: Gizmodo • The MEDUSA crowd control ray gun we reported on earlier this month sounded like some pretty amazing-and downright scary-technology. Using the microwave auditory effect, the beam, in theory, would have put sounds and voice-like noises in your head, thereby driving you away from the area. Crowd control via voices in your head. Sounds cool. However, it turns out that the beam would actually kill you before any of that happy stuff started taking place, most likely by frying or cooking your brain inside your skull. Can you imagine if this thing made it out into the field? Awkward! Source Here
Annnnnnnndddddd it'll kill you. Guys, they're prepared. They've been prepared. They're ready. Remember the Doomsday Bunkers? The military moving into Cheyenne Mountain? Deep Underground Military Bunkers? The rapid rolling out of 5G? BITCOIN and UBI so neatly inserted into our minds over the last five years? They've directly told us to have three months of supplies in our homes. 2020 isn't going to be an anomaly? It's the start of the collapse of our natural resources. Take a look on Reddit and all the posts about crazy weather. Cyanobacteria blooms killing dogs and people. Toxic Super Pollution caused by atmospheric inversions killing people. This isn’t normal, this is New Normal. And they know it. They've known it for a while. Let me show you one last thing before I wrap it up.
From the earliest Chinese dynasties to the present, the jade deposits most used were not only those of Khotan in the Western Chinese province of Xinjiang but other parts of China as well, such as Lantian, Shaanxi.
Remember, words matter. Look at Gorgon Stare and Medusa. They don't randomly grab names out of a hat, or pick them because they think it sounds dystopian. They pick words for a reason.
July 7, 2017: The Warzone • There only appears to be one official news story on this exercise at all and it's available on the website of Air Mobility Command’s Eighteenth Air Force, situated at Joint Base Charleston. At the time of writing, a google shows that there were more than a half dozen more copies on other Air Force pages, as well as number of photographs. For some reason, someone appears to have taken these offline or otherwise broken all the links. Using Google to search the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System, which is the main U.S. military's public affairs hub, brings up more broken links. Oh, and unless there's been some sort of mistake, JADE HELM actually stands for the amazingly obtuse Joint Assistance for Deployment Execution Homeland Eradication of Local Militants. A separate web search for this phrase does not turn up any other results. Source Here
Now, using an acronym that indicates training to Eradicate Local Militants seems pretty dumb. It may be used in that manner if environmental collapse triggers riots, but i don't think they would warn everyone ahead of time, do you? So I dug a little bit more. Joint Assistant for Development and Execution (JADE) is a U.S. military system used for planning the deployment of military forces in crisis situations. The U.S. military developed this automated planning software system in order to expedite the creation of the detailed planning needed to deploy military forces for a military operation. JADE uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology combining user input, a knowledge base of stored plans, and suggestions by the system to provide the ability to develop large-scale and complex plans in minimal time. JADE is a knowledge-based system that uses highly structured information that takes advantage of data hierarchies. An official 2016 document approved for public release titled Human Systems Roadmap Review describes plans to create autonomous weapon systems that analyze social media and make decisions, including the use of lethal force, with minimal human involvement. This type of system is referred to as a Lethal Autonomous Weapon System (LAWS). The name "JADE" comes from the jade green color seen on the island of Oahu in Hawaii where the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) is headquartered. PACOM? Why isn't that command group responsible for the South China Sea? Formerly known as United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) since its inception, the command was renamed to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command on 30 May 2018, in recognition of the greater emphasis on South Asia, especially India. Now doesn't it look like Jade Helm is preparing for an invasion? And possibly insurrection later. Or at the same time? Or riots over WW3? Or food riots? And start thinking about why the laws are starting to exclude corporations? Then think about the mercenaries that are being contracted out by the government.
October 17, 2018: The Carolinan • In 2016, 75 percent of American forces were private contractors. In 2017, Erik Prince, former head of Blackwater, and Stephen Feinberg, head of Dyncorp, discussed plans for contractors completely taking over U.S. operations in Afghanistan. Although ultimately unsuccessful, it remains to be seen if the current administration will change its mind. Contractors are involved in almost every military task, such as intelligence analysis, logistics and training allied soldiers. Contractors are even involved in U.S. special ops missions. This is because contractors are essentially untraceable and unaccountable. Most are born in other countries; only 33 percent are registered U.S. citizens. Private military firms don’t have to report their actions to Congress, unlike the military or intelligence agencies. They also aren’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act, so private citizens and journalists aren’t allowed to access their internal documents. There are also no international laws to regulate private military firms. It’s been proven that many contractors are involved in illegal activities. The larger multinational companies sometimes hire local subcontractors. These contractors sometimes aren’t background-checked. A 2010 investigation by the Senate found that many subcontractors were linked to murders, kidnappings, bribery and anti-coalition activities. Some subcontractors even formed their own unlicensed mercenary groups after coalition forces leave. A 2010 House investigation showed evidence that the Department of Defense had hired local warlords for security services. In 2007, Blackwater contractors massacred 17 civilians. This eventually led Blackwater to being restructured and renamed as Academi. Source Here
Military Exercises. Private Defense Firms. No oversight. And it's all coming soon. Read more at Flatten the Curve. Part 20. Upcoming war and catastrophes. Source Here Nah. I'm just fear mongering and Doomscrolling again. Heads up and eyes open. Talk soon.
Testing the Tide | Monthly FIRE Portfolio Update - June 2020
We would rather be ruined than changed. -W H Auden, The Age of Anxiety This is my forty-third portfolio update. I complete this update monthly to check my progress against my goal. Portfolio goal My objective is to reach a portfolio of $2 180 000 by 1 July 2021. This would produce a real annual income of about $87 000 (in 2020 dollars). This portfolio objective is based on an expected average real return of 3.99 per cent, or a nominal return of 6.49 per cent. Portfolio summary Vanguard Lifestrategy High Growth Fund – $726 306 Vanguard Lifestrategy Growth Fund – $42 118 Vanguard Lifestrategy Balanced Fund – $78 730 Vanguard Diversified Bonds Fund – $111 691 Vanguard Australian Shares ETF (VAS) – $201 745 Vanguard International Shares ETF (VGS) – $39 357 Betashares Australia 200 ETF (A200) – $231 269 Telstra shares (TLS) – $1 668 Insurance Australia Group shares (IAG) – $7 310 NIB Holdings shares (NHF) – $5 532 Gold ETF (GOLD.ASX) – $117 757 Secured physical gold – $18 913 Ratesetter (P2P lending) – $10 479 Bitcoin – $148 990 Raiz app (Aggressive portfolio) – $16 841 Spaceship Voyager app (Index portfolio) – $2 553 BrickX (P2P rental real estate) – $4 484 Total portfolio value: $1 765 743 (+$8 485 or 0.5%) Asset allocation Australian shares – 42.2% (2.8% under) Global shares – 22.0% Emerging markets shares – 2.3% International small companies – 3.0% Total international shares – 27.3% (2.7% under) Total shares – 69.5% (5.5% under) Total property securities – 0.3% (0.3% over) Australian bonds – 4.7% International bonds – 9.4% Total bonds – 14.0% (1.0% under) Gold – 7.7% Bitcoin – 8.4% Gold and alternatives – 16.2% (6.2% over) Presented visually, below is a high-level view of the current asset allocation of the portfolio. [Chart] Comments The overall portfolio increased slightly over the month. This has continued to move the portfolio beyond the lows seen in late March. The modest portfolio growth of $8 000, or 0.5 per cent, maintains its value at around that achieved at the beginning of the year. [Chart] The limited growth this month largely reflects an increase in the value of my current equity holdings, in VAS and A200 and the Vanguard retail funds. This has outweighed a small decline in the value of Bitcoin and global shares. The value of the bond holdings also increased modestly, pushing them to their highest value since around early 2017. [Chart] There still appears to be an air of unreality around recent asset price increases and the broader economic context. Britain's Bank of England has on some indicators shown that the aftermath of the pandemic and lockdown represent the most challenging financial crisis in around 300 years. What is clear is that investor perceptions and fear around the coronavirus pandemic are a substantial ongoing force driving volatility in equity markets (pdf). A somewhat optimistic view is provided here that the recovery could look more like the recovery from a natural disaster, rather than a traditional recession. Yet there are few certainties on offer. Negative oil prices, and effective offers by US equity investors to bail out Hertz creditors at no cost appear to be signs of a financial system under significant strains. As this Reserve Bank article highlights, while some Australian households are well-placed to weather the storm ahead, the timing and severity of what lays ahead is an important unknown that will itself feed into changes in household wealth from here. Investments this month have been exclusively in the Australian shares exchange-traded fund (VAS) using Selfwealth.* This has been to bring my actual asset allocation more closely in line with the target split between Australian and global shares. A moving azimuth: falling spending continues Monthly expenses on the credit card have continued their downward trajectory across the past month. [Chart] The rolling average of monthly credit card spending is now at its lowest point over the period of the journey. This is despite the end of lockdown, and a slow resumption of some more normal aspects of spending. This has continued the brief period since April of the achievement of a notional and contingent kind of financial independence. The below chart illustrates this temporary state, setting out the degree to which portfolio distributions cover estimated total expenses, measured month to month. [Chart] There are two sources of volatility underlying its movement. The first is the level of expenses, which can vary, and the second is the fact that it is based on financial year distributions, which are themselves volatile. Importantly, the distributions over the last twelve months of this chart is only an estimate - and hence the next few weeks will affect the precision of this analysis across its last 12 observations. Estimating 2019-20 financial year portfolio distributions Since the beginning of the journey, this time of year usually has sense of waiting for events to unfold - in particular, finding out the level of half-year distributions to June. These represent the bulk of distributions, usually averaging 60-65 per cent of total distributions received. They are an important and tangible signpost of progress on the financial independence journey. This is no simple task, as distributions have varied in size considerably. A part of this variation has been the important role of sometimes large and lumpy capital distributions - which have made up between 30 to 48 per cent of total distributions in recent years, and an average of around 15 per cent across the last two decades. I have experimented with many different approaches, most of which have relied on averaging over multi-year periods to even out the 'peaks and troughs' of how market movements may have affected distributions. The main approaches have been:
An 'adjusted income' approach - stripping out the capital gains components of Vanguard funds to reach an estimate of underlying income generation, both across the entire investment period, and during the sharpest low of the Global Financial Crisis
A long-term asset class approach - relying on long-term historical data on averages of the income produced by various asset classes
A 'tax method' approach - this derives an income estimate as a percentage of the portfolio by drawing on taxable investment income totals from tax return records
Simple historical rolling average - this is a rolling three-year measure, based on the actual distributions record of the portfolio
Average distribution rate approach - this method uses a long-term average of annual distributions received as a percentage of the total portfolio since 1999
Each of these have their particular simplifications, advantages and drawbacks. Developing new navigation tools Over the past month I have also developed more fully an alternate 'model' for estimating returns. This simply derives a median value across a set of historical 'cents per unit' distribution data for June and December payouts for the Vanguard funds and exchange traded funds. These make up over 96 per cent of income producing portfolio assets. In other words, this model essentially assumes that each Vanguard fund and ETF owned pays out the 'average' level of distributions this half-year, with the average being based on distribution records that typically go back between 5 to 10 years. Mapping the distribution estimates The chart below sets out the estimate produced by each approach for the June distributions that are to come. [Chart] Some observations on these findings can be made. The lowest estimate is the 'adjusted GFC income' observation, which essentially assumes that the income for this period is as low as experienced by the equity and bond portfolio during the Global Financial Crisis. Just due to timing differences of the period observed, this seems to be a 'worst case' lower bound estimate, which I do not currently place significant weight on. Similarly, at the highest end, the 'average distribution rate' approach simply assumes June distributions deliver a distribution equal to the median that the entire portfolio has delivered since 1999. With higher interest rates, and larger fixed income holdings across much of that time, this seems an objectively unlikely outcome. Similarly, the delivery of exactly the income suggested by long-term averages measured across decades and even centuries would be a matter of chance, rather than the basis for rational expectations. Central estimates of the line of position This leaves the estimates towards the centre of the chart - estimates of between around $28 000 to $43 000 as representing the more likely range. I attach less weight to the historical three-year average due to the high contribution of distributed capital gains over that period of growth, where at least across equities some capital losses are likely to be in greater presence. My preferred central estimate is the model estimate (green) , as it is based in historical data directly from the investment vehicles rather than my own evolving portfolio. The data it is based on in some cases goes back to the Global Financial Crisis. This estimate is also quite close to the raw average of all the alternative approaches (red). It sits a little above the 'adjusted income' measure. None of these estimates, it should be noted, contain any explicit adjustment for the earnings and dividend reductions or delays arising from COVID-19. They may, therefore represent a modest over-estimate for likely June distributions, to the extent that these effects are more negative than those experienced on average across the period of the underlying data. These are difficult to estimate, but dividend reductions could easily be in the order of 20-30 per cent, plausibly lowering distributions to the $23 000 to $27 000 range. The recently announced forecast dividend for the Vanguard Australian Shares ETF (VAS) is, for example, the lowest in four years. As seen from chart above, there is a wide band of estimates, which grow wider still should capital gains be unexpectedly distributed from the Vanguard retail funds. These have represented a source of considerable volatility. Given this, it may seem fruitless to seek to estimate these forthcoming distributions, compared to just waiting for them to arrive. Yet this exercise helps by setting out reasoning and positions, before hindsight bias urgently arrives to inform me that I knew the right answer all along. It also potentially helps clearly 'reject' some models over time, if the predictions they make prove to be systematically incorrect. Progress Progress against the objective, and the additional measures I have reached is set out below. Measure Portfolio All Assets Portfolio objective – $2 180 000 (or $87 000 pa) 81.0% 109.4% Credit card purchases – $71 000 pa 98.8% 133.5% Total expenses – $89 000 pa 79.2% 106.9% Summary The current coronavirus conditions are affecting all aspects of the journey to financial independence - changing spending habits, leading to volatility in equity markets and sequencing risks, and perhaps dramatically altering the expected pattern of portfolio distributions. Although history can provide some guidance, there is simply no definitive way to know whether any or all of these changes will be fundamental and permanent alterations, or simply data points on a post-natural disaster path to a different post-pandemic set of conditions. There is the temptation to fit past crises imperfectly into the modern picture, as this Of Dollars and Data post illustrates well. Taking a longer 100 year view, this piece 'The Allegory of the Hawk and Serpent' is a reminder that our entire set of received truths about constructing a portfolio to survive for the long-term can be a product of a sample size of one - actual past history - and subject to recency bias. This month has felt like one of quiet routines, muted events compared to the past few months, and waiting to understand more fully the shape of the new. Nonetheless, with each new investment, or week of lower expenditure than implied in my FI target, the nature of the journey is incrementally changing - beneath the surface. Small milestones are being passed - such as over 40 per cent of my equity holdings being outside of the the Vanguard retail funds. Or these these retail funds - which once formed over 95 per cent of the portfolio - now making up less than half. With a significant part of the financial independence journey being about repeated small actions producing outsized results with time, the issue of maintaining good routines while exploring beneficial changes is real. Adding to the complexity is that embarking on the financial journey itself is likely to change who one is. This idea, of the difficulty or impossibility of knowing the preferences of a future self, is explored in a fascinating way in this Econtalk podcast episode with a philosophical thought experiment about vampires. It poses the question: perhaps we can never know ourselves at the destination? And yet, who would rationally choose ruin over any change? The post, links and full charts can be seen here.
Scaling Reddit Community Points with Arbitrum Rollup: a piece of cake
https://preview.redd.it/b80c05tnb9e51.jpg?width=2550&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=850282c1a3962466ed44f73886dae1c8872d0f31 Submitted for consideration toThe Great Reddit Scaling Bake-Off Baked by the pastry chefs atOffchain Labs Please send questions or comments to [[email protected] ](mailto:[email protected]) 1. Overview We're excited to submit Arbitrum Rollup for consideration to The Great Reddit Scaling Bake-Off. Arbitrum Rollup is the only Ethereum scaling solution that supports arbitrary smart contracts without compromising on Ethereum's security or adding points of centralization. For Reddit, this means that Arbitrum can not only scale the minting and transfer of Community Points, but it can foster a creative ecosystem built around Reddit Community Points enabling points to be used in a wide variety of third party applications. That's right -- you can have your cake and eat it too! Arbitrum Rollup isn't just Ethereum-style. Its Layer 2 transactions are byte-for-byte identical to Ethereum, which means Ethereum users can continue to use their existing addresses and wallets, and Ethereum developers can continue to use their favorite toolchains and development environments out-of-the-box with Arbitrum. Coupling Arbitrum’s tooling-compatibility with its trustless asset interoperability, Reddit not only can scale but can onboard the entire Ethereum community at no cost by giving them the same experience they already know and love (well, certainly know). To benchmark how Arbitrum can scale Reddit Community Points, we launched the Reddit contracts on an Arbitrum Rollup chain. Since Arbitrum provides full Solidity support, we didn't have to rewrite the Reddit contracts or try to mimic their functionality using an unfamiliar paradigm. Nope, none of that. We launched the Reddit contracts unmodified on Arbitrum Rollup complete with support for minting and distributing points. Like every Arbitrum Rollup chain, the chain included a bridge interface in which users can transfer Community Points or any other asset between the L1 and L2 chains. Arbitrum Rollup chains also support dynamic contract loading, which would allow third-party developers to launch custom ecosystem apps that integrate with Community Points on the very same chain that runs the Reddit contracts. 1.1 Why Ethereum Perhaps the most exciting benefit of distributing Community Points using a blockchain is the ability to seamlessly port points to other applications and use them in a wide variety of contexts. Applications may include simple transfers such as a restaurant that allows Redditors to spend points on drinks. Or it may include complex smart contracts -- such as placing Community Points as a wager for a multiparty game or as collateral in a financial contract. The common denominator between all of the fun uses of Reddit points is that it needs a thriving ecosystem of both users and developers, and the Ethereum blockchain is perhaps the only smart contract platform with significant adoption today. While many Layer 1 blockchains boast lower cost or higher throughput than the Ethereum blockchain, more often than not, these attributes mask the reality of little usage, weaker security, or both. Perhaps another platform with significant usage will rise in the future. But today, Ethereum captures the mindshare of the blockchain community, and for Community Points to provide the most utility, the Ethereum blockchain is the natural choice. 1.2 Why Arbitrum While Ethereum's ecosystem is unmatched, the reality is that fees are high and capacity is too low to support the scale of Reddit Community Points. Enter Arbitrum. Arbitrum Rollup provides all of the ecosystem benefits of Ethereum, but with orders of magnitude more capacity and at a fraction of the cost of native Ethereum smart contracts. And most of all, we don't change the experience from users. They continue to use the same wallets, addresses, languages, and tools. Arbitrum Rollup is not the only solution that can scale payments, but it is the only developed solution that can scale both payments and arbitrary smart contracts trustlessly, which means that third party users can build highly scalable add-on apps that can be used without withdrawing money from the Rollup chain. If you believe that Reddit users will want to use their Community Points in smart contracts--and we believe they will--then it makes the most sense to choose a single scaling solution that can support the entire ecosystem, eliminating friction for users. We view being able to run smart contracts in the same scaling solution as fundamentally critical since if there's significant demand in running smart contracts from Reddit's ecosystem, this would be a load on Ethereum and would itself require a scaling solution. Moreover, having different scaling solutions for the minting/distribution/spending of points and for third party apps would be burdensome for users as they'd have to constantly shuffle their Points back and forth. 2. Arbitrum at a glance Arbitrum Rollup has a unique value proposition as it offers a combination of features that no other scaling solution achieves. Here we highlight its core attributes. Decentralized. Arbitrum Rollup is as decentralized as Ethereum. Unlike some other Layer 2 scaling projects, Arbitrum Rollup doesn't have any centralized components or centralized operators who can censor users or delay transactions. Even in non-custodial systems, centralized components provide a risk as the operators are generally incentivized to increase their profit by extracting rent from users often in ways that severely degrade user experience. Even if centralized operators are altruistic, centralized components are subject to hacking, coercion, and potential liability. Massive Scaling. Arbitrum achieves order of magnitude scaling over Ethereum's L1 smart contracts. Our software currently supports 453 transactions-per-second for basic transactions (at 1616 Ethereum gas per tx). We have a lot of room left to optimize (e.g. aggregating signatures), and over the next several months capacity will increase significantly. As described in detail below, Arbitrum can easily support and surpass Reddit's anticipated initial load, and its capacity will continue to improve as Reddit's capacity needs grow. Low cost. The cost of running Arbitrum Rollup is quite low compared to L1 Ethereum and other scaling solutions such as those based on zero-knowledge proofs. Layer 2 fees are low, fixed, and predictable and should not be overly burdensome for Reddit to cover. Nobody needs to use special equipment or high-end machines. Arbitrum requires validators, which is a permissionless role that can be run on any reasonable on-line machine. Although anybody can act as a validator, in order to protect against a “tragedy of the commons” and make sure reputable validators are participating, we support a notion of “invited validators” that are compensated for their costs. In general, users pay (low) fees to cover the invited validators’ costs, but we imagine that Reddit may cover this cost for its users. See more on the costs and validator options below. Ethereum Developer Experience. Not only does Arbitrum support EVM smart contracts, but the developer experience is identical to that of L1 Ethereum contracts and fully compatible with Ethereum tooling. Developers can port existing Solidity apps or write new ones using their favorite and familiar toolchains (e.g. Truffle, Buidler). There are no new languages or coding paradigms to learn. Ethereum wallet compatibility. Just as in Ethereum, Arbitrum users need only hold keys, but do not have to store any coin history or additional data to protect or access their funds. Since Arbitrum transactions are semantically identical to Ethereum L1 transactions, existing Ethereum users can use their existing Ethereum keys with their existing wallet software such as Metamask. Token interoperability. Users can easily transfer their ETH, ERC-20 and ERC-721 tokens between Ethereum and the Arbitrum Rollup chain. As we explain in detail below, it is possible to mint tokens in L2 that can subsequently be withdrawn and recognized by the L1 token contract. Fast finality. Transactions complete with the same finality time as Ethereum L1 (and it's possible to get faster finality guarantees by trading away trust assumptions; see the Arbitrum Rollup whitepaper for details). Non-custodial. Arbitrum Rollup is a non-custodial scaling solution, so users control their funds/points and neither Reddit nor anyone else can ever access or revoke points held by users. Censorship Resistant. Since it's completely decentralized, and the Arbitrum protocol guarantees progress trustlessly, Arbitrum Rollup is just as censorship-proof as Ethereum. Block explorer. The Arbitrum Rollup block explorer allows users to view and analyze transactions on the Rollup chain. Limitations Although this is a bake-off, we're not going to sugar coat anything. Arbitrum Rollup, like any Optimistic Rollup protocol, does have one limitation, and that's the delay on withdrawals. As for the concrete length of the delay, we've done a good deal of internal modeling and have blogged about this as well. Our current modeling suggests a 3-hour delay is sufficient (but as discussed in the linked post there is a tradeoff space between the length of the challenge period and the size of the validators’ deposit). Note that this doesn't mean that the chain is delayed for three hours. Arbitrum Rollup supports pipelining of execution, which means that validators can keep building new states even while previous ones are “in the pipeline” for confirmation. As the challenge delays expire for each update, a new state will be confirmed (read more about this here). So activity and progress on the chain are not delayed by the challenge period. The only thing that's delayed is the consummation of withdrawals. Recall though that any single honest validator knows immediately (at the speed of L1 finality) which state updates are correct and can guarantee that they will eventually be confirmed, so once a valid withdrawal has been requested on-chain, every honest party knows that the withdrawal will definitely happen. There's a natural place here for a liquidity market in which a validator (or someone who trusts a validator) can provide withdrawal loans for a small interest fee. This is a no-risk business for them as they know which withdrawals will be confirmed (and can force their confirmation trustlessly no matter what anyone else does) but are just waiting for on-chain finality. 3. The recipe: How Arbitrum Rollup works For a description of the technical components of Arbitrum Rollup and how they interact to create a highly scalable protocol with a developer experience that is identical to Ethereum, please refer to the following documents: Arbitrum Rollup Whitepaper Arbitrum academic paper (describes a previous version of Arbitrum) 4. Developer docs and APIs For full details about how to set up and interact with an Arbitrum Rollup chain or validator, please refer to our developer docs, which can be found at https://developer.offchainlabs.com/. Note that the Arbitrum version described on that site is older and will soon be replaced by the version we are entering in Reddit Bake-Off, which is still undergoing internal testing before public release. 5. Who are the validators? As with any Layer 2 protocol, advancing the protocol correctly requires at least one validator (sometimes called block producers) that is honest and available. A natural question is: who are the validators? Recall that the validator set for an Arbitrum chain is open and permissionless; anyone can start or stop validating at will. (A useful analogy is to full nodes on an L1 chain.) But we understand that even though anyone can participate, Reddit may want to guarantee that highly reputable nodes are validating their chain. Reddit may choose to validate the chain themselves and/or hire third-party validators.To this end, we have begun building a marketplace for validator-for-hire services so that dapp developers can outsource validation services to reputable nodes with high up-time. We've announced a partnership in which Chainlink nodes will provide Arbitrum validation services, and we expect to announce more partnerships shortly with other blockchain infrastructure providers. Although there is no requirement that validators are paid, Arbitrum’s economic model tracks validators’ costs (e.g. amount of computation and storage) and can charge small fees on user transactions, using a gas-type system, to cover those costs. Alternatively, a single party such as Reddit can agree to cover the costs of invited validators. 6. Reddit Contract Support Since Arbitrum contracts and transactions are byte-for-byte compatible with Ethereum, supporting the Reddit contracts is as simple as launching them on an Arbitrum chain. Minting. Arbitrum Rollup supports hybrid L1/L2 tokens which can be minted in L2 and then withdrawn onto the L1. An L1 contract at address A can make a special call to the EthBridge which deploys a "buddy contract" to the same address A on an Arbitrum chain. Since it's deployed at the same address, users can know that the L2 contract is the authorized "buddy" of the L1 contract on the Arbitrum chain. For minting, the L1 contract is a standard ERC-20 contract which mints and burns tokens when requested by the L2 contract. It is paired with an ERC-20 contract in L2 which mints tokens based on whatever programmer provided minting facility is desired and burns tokens when they are withdrawn from the rollup chain. Given this base infrastructure, Arbitrum can support any smart contract based method for minting tokens in L2, and indeed we directly support Reddit's signature/claim based minting in L2. Batch minting. What's better than a mint cookie? A whole batch! In addition to supporting Reddit’s current minting/claiming scheme, we built a second minting design, which we believe outperforms the signature/claim system in many scenarios. In the current system, Reddit periodically issues signed statements to users, who then take those statements to the blockchain to claim their tokens. An alternative approach would have Reddit directly submit the list of users/amounts to the blockchain and distribute the tokens to the users without the signature/claim process. To optimize the cost efficiency of this approach, we designed an application-specific compression scheme to minimize the size of the batch distribution list. We analyzed the data from Reddit's previous distributions and found that the data is highly compressible since token amounts are small and repeated, and addresses appear multiple times. Our function groups transactions by size, and replaces previously-seen addresses with a shorter index value. We wrote client code to compress the data, wrote a Solidity decompressing function, and integrated that function into Reddit’s contract running on Arbitrum. When we ran the compression function on the previous Reddit distribution data, we found that we could compress batched minting data down to to 11.8 bytes per minting event (averaged over a 6-month trace of Reddit’s historical token grants)compared with roughly 174 bytes of on-chain data needed for the signature claim approach to minting (roughly 43 for an RLP-encoded null transaction + 65 for Reddit's signature + 65 for the user's signature + roughly 8 for the number of Points) . The relative benefit of the two approaches with respect to on-chain call data cost depends on the percentage of users that will actually claim their tokens on chain. With the above figures, batch minting will be cheaper if roughly 5% of users redeem their claims. We stress that our compression scheme is not Arbitrum-specific and would be beneficial in any general-purpose smart contract platform. 8. Benchmarks and costs In this section, we give the full costs of operating the Reddit contracts on an Arbitrum Rollup chain including the L1 gas costs for the Rollup chain, the costs of computation and storage for the L2 validators as well as the capital lockup requirements for staking. Arbitrum Rollup is still on testnet, so we did not run mainnet benchmarks. Instead, we measured the L1 gas cost and L2 workload for Reddit operations on Arbitrum and calculated the total cost assuming current Ethereum gas prices. As noted below in detail, our measurements do not assume that Arbitrum is consuming the entire capacity of Ethereum. We will present the details of our model now, but for full transparency you can also play around with it yourself and adjust the parameters, by copying the spreadsheet found here. Our cost model is based on measurements of Reddit’s contracts, running unmodified (except for the addition of a batch minting function) on Arbitrum Rollup on top of Ethereum. On the distribution of transactions and frequency of assertions. Reddit's instructions specify the following minimum parameters that submissions should support: Over a 5 day period, your scaling PoC should be able to handle:
100,000 point claims (minting & distributing points)
75,000 one-off points burning
We provide the full costs of operating an Arbitrum Rollup chain with this usage under the assumption that tokens are minted or granted to users in batches, but other transactions are uniformly distributed over the 5 day period. Unlike some other submissions, we do not make unrealistic assumptions that all operations can be submitted in enormous batches. We assume that batch minting is done in batches that use only a few percent on an L1 block’s gas, and that other operations come in evenly over time and are submitted in batches, with one batch every five minutes to keep latency reasonable. (Users are probably already waiting for L1 finality, which takes at least that long to achieve.) We note that assuming that there are only 300,000 transactions that arrive uniformly over the 5 day period will make our benchmark numbers lower, but we believe that this will reflect the true cost of running the system. To see why, say that batches are submitted every five minutes (20 L1 blocks) and there's a fixed overhead of c bytes of calldata per batch, the cost of which will get amortized over all transactions executed in that batch. Assume that each individual transaction adds a marginal cost of t. Lastly assume the capacity of the scaling system is high enough that it can support all of Reddit's 300,000 transactions within a single 20-block batch (i.e. that there is more than c + 300,000*t byes of calldata available in 20 blocks). Consider what happens if c, the per-batch overhead, is large (which it is in some systems, but not in Arbitrum). In the scenario that transactions actually arrive at the system's capacity and each batch is full, then c gets amortized over 300,000 transactions. But if we assume that the system is not running at capacity--and only receives 300,000 transactions arriving uniformly over 5 days-- then each 20-block assertion will contain about 200 transactions, and thus each transaction will pay a nontrivial cost due to c. We are aware that other proposals presented scaling numbers assuming that 300,000 transactions arrived at maximum capacity and was executed in a single mega-transaction, but according to our estimates, for at least one such report, this led to a reported gas price that was 2-3 orders of magnitude lower than it would have been assuming uniform arrival. We make more realistic batching assumptions, and we believe Arbitrum compares well when batch sizes are realistic. Our model. Our cost model includes several sources of cost:
L1 gas costs: This is the cost of posting transactions as calldata on the L1 chain, as well as the overhead associated with each batch of transactions, and the L1 cost of settling transactions in the Arbitrum protocol.
Validator’s staking costs: In normal operation, one validator will need to be staked. The stake is assumed to be 0.2% of the total value of the chain (which is assumed to be $1 per user who is eligible to claim points). The cost of staking is the interest that could be earned on the money if it were not staked.
Validator computation and storage: Every validator must do computation to track the chain’s processing of transactions, and must maintain storage to keep track of the contracts’ EVM storage. The cost of computation and storage are estimated based on measurements, with the dollar cost of resources based on Amazon Web Services pricing.
It’s clear from our modeling that the predominant cost is for L1 calldata. This will probably be true for any plausible rollup-based system. Our model also shows that Arbitrum can scale to workloads much larger than Reddit’s nominal workload, without exhausting L1 or L2 resources. The scaling bottleneck will ultimately be calldata on the L1 chain. We believe that cost could be reduced substantially if necessary by clever encoding of data. (In our design any compression / decompression of L2 transaction calldata would be done by client software and L2 programs, never by an L1 contract.) 9. Status of Arbitrum Rollup Arbitrum Rollup is live on Ethereum testnet. All of the code written to date including everything included in the Reddit demo is open source and permissively licensed under the Apache V2 license. The first testnet version of Arbitrum Rollup was released on testnet in February. Our current internal version, which we used to benchmark the Reddit contracts, will be released soon and will be a major upgrade. Both the Arbitrum design as well as the implementation are heavily audited by independent third parties. The Arbitrum academic paper was published at USENIX Security, a top-tier peer-reviewed academic venue. For the Arbitrum software, we have engaged Trail of Bits for a security audit, which is currently ongoing, and we are committed to have a clean report before launching on Ethereum mainnet. 10. Reddit Universe Arbitrum Rollup Chain The benchmarks described in this document were all measured using the latest internal build of our software. When we release the new software upgrade publicly we will launch a Reddit Universe Arbitrum Rollup chain as a public demo, which will contain the Reddit contracts as well as a Uniswap instance and a Connext Hub, demonstrating how Community Points can be integrated into third party apps. We will also allow members of the public to dynamically launch ecosystem contracts. We at Offchain Labs will cover the validating costs for the Reddit Universe public demo. If the folks at Reddit would like to evaluate our software prior to our public demo, please email us at [email protected] and we'd be more than happy to provide early access. 11. Even more scaling: Arbitrum Sidechains Rollups are an excellent approach to scaling, and we are excited about Arbitrum Rollup which far surpasses Reddit's scaling needs. But looking forward to Reddit's eventual goal of supporting hundreds of millions of users, there will likely come a time when Reddit needs more scaling than any Rollup protocol can provide. While Rollups greatly reduce costs, they don't break the linear barrier. That is, all transactions have an on-chain footprint (because all calldata must be posted on-chain), albeit a far smaller one than on native Ethereum, and the L1 limitations end up being the bottleneck for capacity and cost. Since Ethereum has limited capacity, this linear use of on-chain resources means that costs will eventually increase superlinearly with traffic. The good news is that we at Offchain Labs have a solution in our roadmap that can satisfy this extreme-scaling setting as well: Arbitrum AnyTrust Sidechains. Arbitrum Sidechains are similar to Arbitrum Rollup, but deviate in that they name a permissioned set of validators. When a chain’s validators agree off-chain, they can greatly reduce the on-chain footprint of the protocol and require almost no data to be put on-chain. When validators can't reach unanimous agreement off-chain, the protocol reverts to Arbitrum Rollup. Technically, Arbitrum Sidechains can be viewed as a hybrid between state channels and Rollup, switching back and forth as necessary, and combining the performance and cost that state channels can achieve in the optimistic case, with the robustness of Rollup in other cases. The core technical challenge is how to switch seamlessly between modes and how to guarantee that security is maintained throughout. Arbitrum Sidechains break through this linear barrier, while still maintaining a high level of security and decentralization. Arbitrum Sidechains provide the AnyTrust guarantee, which says that as long as any one validator is honest and available (even if you don't know which one will be), the L2 chain is guaranteed to execute correctly according to its code and guaranteed to make progress. Unlike in a state channel, offchain progress does not require unanimous consent, and liveness is preserved as long as there is a single honest validator. Note that the trust model for Arbitrum Sidechains is much stronger than for typical BFT-style chains which introduce a consensus "voting" protocols among a small permissioned group of validators. BFT-based protocols require a supermajority (more than 2/3) of validators to agree. In Arbitrum Sidechains, by contrast, all you need is a single honest validator to achieve guaranteed correctness and progress. Notice that in Arbitrum adding validators strictly increases security since the AnyTrust guarantee provides correctness as long as any one validator is honest and available. By contrast, in BFT-style protocols, adding nodes can be dangerous as a coalition of dishonest nodes can break the protocol. Like Arbitrum Rollup, the developer and user experiences for Arbitrum Sidechains will be identical to that of Ethereum. Reddit would be able to choose a large and diverse set of validators, and all that they would need to guarantee to break through the scaling barrier is that a single one of them will remain honest. We hope to have Arbitrum Sidechains in production in early 2021, and thus when Reddit reaches the scale that surpasses the capacity of Rollups, Arbitrum Sidechains will be waiting and ready to help. While the idea to switch between channels and Rollup to get the best of both worlds is conceptually simple, getting the details right and making sure that the switch does not introduce any attack vectors is highly non-trivial and has been the subject of years of our research (indeed, we were working on this design for years before the term Rollup was even coined). 12. How Arbitrum compares We include a comparison to several other categories as well as specific projects when appropriate. and explain why we believe that Arbitrum is best suited for Reddit's purposes. We focus our attention on other Ethereum projects. Payment only Rollups. Compared to Arbitrum Rollup, ZK-Rollups and other Rollups that only support token transfers have several disadvantages:
As outlined throughout the proposal, we believe that the entire draw of Ethereum is in its rich smart contracts support which is simply not achievable with today's zero-knowledge proof technology. Indeed, scaling with a ZK-Rollup will add friction to the deployment of smart contracts that interact with Community Points as users will have to withdraw their coins from the ZK-Rollup and transfer them to a smart contract system (like Arbitrum). The community will be best served if Reddit builds on a platform that has built-in, frictionless smart-contract support.
All other Rollup protocols of which we are aware employ a centralized operator. While it's true that users retain custody of their coins, the centralized operator can often profit from censoring, reordering, or delaying transactions. A common misconception is that since they're non-custodial protocols, a centralized sequencer does not pose a risk but this is incorrect as the sequencer can wreak havoc or shake down users for side payments without directly stealing funds.
Sidechain type protocols can eliminate some of these issues, but they are not trustless. Instead, they require trust in some quorum of a committee, often requiring two-third of the committee to be honest, compared to rollup protocols like Arbitrum that require only a single honest party. In addition, not all sidechain type protocols have committees that are diverse, or even non-centralized, in practice.
Plasma-style protocols have a centralized operator and do not support general smart contracts.
13. Concluding Remarks While it's ultimately up to the judges’ palate, we believe that Arbitrum Rollup is the bakeoff choice that Reddit kneads. We far surpass Reddit's specified workload requirement at present, have much room to optimize Arbitrum Rollup in the near term, and have a clear path to get Reddit to hundreds of millions of users. Furthermore, we are the only project that gives developers and users the identical interface as the Ethereum blockchain and is fully interoperable and tooling-compatible, and we do this all without any new trust assumptions or centralized components. But no matter how the cookie crumbles, we're glad to have participated in this bake-off and we thank you for your consideration. About Offchain Labs Offchain Labs, Inc. is a venture-funded New York company that spun out of Princeton University research, and is building the Arbitrum platform to usher in the next generation of scalable, interoperable, and compatible smart contracts. Offchain Labs is backed by Pantera Capital, Compound VC, Coinbase Ventures, and others. Leadership Team Ed Felten Ed Felten is Co-founder and Chief Scientist at Offchain Labs. He is on leave from Princeton University, where he is the Robert E. Kahn Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs. From 2015 to 2017 he served at the White House as Deputy United States Chief Technology Officer and senior advisor to the President. He is an ACM Fellow and member of the National Academy of Engineering. Outside of work, he is an avid runner, cook, and L.A. Dodgers fan. Steven Goldfeder Steven Goldfeder is Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Offchain Labs. He holds a PhD from Princeton University, where he worked at the intersection of cryptography and cryptocurrencies including threshold cryptography, zero-knowledge proof systems, and post-quantum signatures. He is a co-author of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies, the leading textbook on cryptocurrencies, and he has previously worked at Google and Microsoft Research, where he co-invented the Picnic signature algorithm. When not working, you can find Steven spending time with his family, taking a nature walk, or twisting balloons. Harry Kalodner Harry Kalodner is Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Offchain Labs where he leads the engineering team. Before the company he attended Princeton as a Ph.D candidate where his research explored economics, anonymity, and incentive compatibility of cryptocurrencies, and he also has worked at Apple. When not up at 3:00am writing code, Harry occasionally sleeps.
When we were a much smaller society, people could trade in the community pretty easily, but as the distance in our trade grew, we ended up inventing institutions such as banks, markets, stocks etc. that help us to conduct financial transactions. The currencies we are operating with nowadays are bills or coins, controlled by a centralized authority and tracked by previously mentioned financial institutions. The thing is, having a third party in our money transactions is not always what we wish for. But fortunately, today we have a tool that allows us to make fast and save financial transactions without any middlemen, it has no central authority and it is regulated by math. Sounds cool, right? Cryptocurrency is this tool. It is quite a peculiar system, so let’s take a closer look at it. by StealthEX
Layers of a crypto-cake
Layer 1: Blockchain
First of all – any cryptocurrency is based on the blockchain. In simple words, blockchain is a kind of a database. It stores information in batches, called blocks that are linked together in a chronological way. As the blockchain is not located in one place but rather on thousands of computers around the globe, the blockchain and the transactions thus are decentralized, they have no head center. The newest blocks of transaction are continuously added on (or changed) to all the previous blocks. That’s how you get a cryptocurrency blockchain. The technology’s name is a compound of the words “block” and “chain”, as the “blocks” of information are linked together in a “chain”. That’s how crypto security works – the information in the recently created block depends on the previous one. It means that no block can be changed without affecting the others, this system prevents a blockchain from being hacked. There are 2 kinds of blockchain: private and public. Public, as goes by its name, is publicly available blockchain, whereas private blockchain is permissioned, which only a limited number of people have access to.
Layer 2: Transaction
In fact, everything begins with the intention of someone to complete a transaction. A transaction itself is a file that consists of the sender’s and recipient’s public keys (wallet addresses) and the amount of coins transferred. The sender begins by logging in into his cryptocurrency wallet with the private key – a unique combination of letters and numbers, something you would call a personal password in a bank. Now the transaction is signed and the first step which is called basic public key cryptography is completed. Then the signed (encrypted) transaction is shared with everyone in the cryptocurrency network, meaning it gets to every other peer. We should mention that the transaction is firstly queued up to be added to the public ledger. Then, when it’s broadcasted to the public ledger, all the computers add a new transaction to a shared list of recent transactions, known as blocks. Having a ledger forces everyone to “play fair” and reduce the risk of spending extra. The numbers of transactions are publicly available, but the information about senders and receivers is encrypted. Each transaction holds on to a unique set of keys. Whoever owns a set of keys, owns the amount of cryptocurrency associated with those keys (just like whoever owns a bank account owns the money in it). This is how peer-to-peer technology works.
Layer 3: Mining
Now let’s talk about mining. Once confirmed, the transaction is forever captured into the blockchain history**.** The verification of the block is done by Cryptocurrency Miners – they verify and then add blocks to the public ledger. To verify them, miners go down on the road of solving a very difficult math puzzle using powerful software, which is that the computer needs to produce the correct sequence number – “hash” – that is specific to the given block, there is not much chance of finding it. Whoever solves the puzzle first, gets the opportunity to officially add a block of transactions to the ledger and get fresh and new coins as reward. The reward is given in whatever cryptocurrency’s blockchain miners are operating into. For example, BTC originally used to reward miners in 50 BTC, but after the first halving it decreased to 25 BTC, and at present time it is 6.25 BTC. The process of miners competing against each other in order to complete the transactions on the network and get rewarded is known as the Proof-of-Work (PoW) algorithm, which is natural for BTC and many other cryptocurrencies. Also there are another consensus mechanisms: Proof-of-Stake (PoS), Delegated Proof-of-Stake (dPoS), Proof-of-Authority (PoA), Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT), Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance (pBFT), Federated Byzantine Agreement (FBA) and Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance (dBFT). Still, all of them are used to facilitate an agreement between network participants. The way that system works – when many computers try to verify a block – guarantees that no computer is going to monopolize a cryptocurrency market. To ensure the competition stays fair, the puzzle becomes harder as more computers join in. Summing it up, let’s say that mining is responsible for two aspects of the crypto mechanism: producing the proof and allowing more coins to enter circulation.
Types of cryptocurrency
In the virtual currency world there are a bunch of different cryptocurrency types with their own distinctive features. The first cryptocurrency is, of course, Bitcoin. Bitcoin is the first crypto coin ever created and used. BTC is the most liquid cryptocurrency in the market and has the highest market cap among all the cryptocurrencies.
The term ‘altcoins’ means ‘alternatives’ of Bitcoin. The first altcoin Namecoin was created in 2011 and later on hundreds of them appeared in crypto-world, among them are Ravencoin, Dogecoin, Litecoin, Syscoin etc. Altcoins were initially launched with a purpose to overcome Bitcoin’s weak points and become upgraded substitutes of Bitcoin. Altcoins usually stand an independent blockchain and have their own miners and wallets. Some altcoins actually have boosted features yet none of them gained popularity akin to Bitcoin. More about altcoins in our article.
Token is a unit of account that is used to represent the digital balance of an asset. Basically tokens represent an asset or utility that usually are made on another blockchain. Tokens are registered in a database based on blockchain technology, and they are accessed through special applications using electronic signature schemes. Tokens and cryptocurrencies are not the same thing. Let’s explain it more detailed: • First of all, unlike cryptocurrencies, tokens can be issued and managed both centralized and decentralized. • The verification of the token transactions can be conducted both centralized and decentralized, when cryptocurrencies’ verification is only decentralized. • Tokens do not necessarily run their own blockchain, but for cryptocurrencies having their own blockchain is compulsory. • Tokens’ prices can be affected by a vast range of factors such as demand and supply, tokens’ additional emission, or binding to other assets. On the other hand, the price of cryptocurrencies is completely regulated by the market. Tokens can be: • Utility tokens – something that accesses a user to a product or service and support dApps built on the blockchain. • Governance tokens – fuel for voting systems executed on the blockchain. • Transactional tokens – serve as a unit of accounts and used for trading. • Security tokens – represent legal ownership of an asset, can be used in addition to or in place of a password. Tokens are usually created through smart contracts and are often adapted to an ICO – initial coin offering, which is a means of crowdfunding. It is much easier to create tokens, that is why they make a majority of coins in existence. Altcoin and token blockchains work on the concept of smart contracts or decentralized applications, where the programmable, self-executing code is ruling the transactions within a blockchain. By the way, the vast majority of tokens were distributed on the Ethereum platform.
Generally a fork occurs when a protocol code, on which the blockchain is operating, is being changed, modified and updated by developers or users. Due to the changes, the blockchain splits into 2 paths: an old way of doing things and a new way. These changes may happen because: a disagreement between users and creators; a major hack, as it was with Ethereum; developers’ decision to fix errors and add new functionality. The blockchain mainly splits into hard forks and soft forks. Shortly speaking, coin hard forks cannot work with older versions while soft forks still can work with older versions. Hard fork – after a hard fork, a new version is completely separated from the previous one, there’s no connection between them anymore, although the new version keeps the data of all the previous transactions but now on, each version will have its own transaction history. In order to use the new versions, every node has to upgrade their software. A hard fork requires majority support (or consensus) from coin holders with a connection to the coin network. If enough users don’t update then you will be unable to get a clean upgrade which could lead to a break in the blockchain. Soft fork – a protocol change, but with backward compatibility. The rules of the network have been changed, but nodes running the old software will still be able to validate transactions, but those updated nodes won’t be able to mine new blocks. So to be used and useful, soft forks require the majority of the network’s hash power. Otherwise, they risk becoming set out and anyway ending up as a hard fork.
As it comes from the name, stablecoins are price-stabilized that are becoming big in the crypto world. Still enjoying most of the “typical-cryptocurrency” benefits, it is standing out as a fixed and stable coin, not volatile at all. Stablecoins’ values are stabilized by pegging them to other assets such as the US Dollar or gold. Stablecoins include Tether (USDT), Standard (PAX), Gemini Dollar (GUSD) which are backed by the US Dollar and approved by the New York State Department of Financial Services.
Now that we hacked into cryptocurrency, you probably understand that it is much less mysterious than it first seemed. Nowadays, cryptocurrencies are making the revolution of the financial institution. For example, Bitcoin is currently used in 96 countries and growing, with more than 12,000 transactions per hour. More and more investors are involved, banks and governments realize that these cutting edge technologies are prone to draw their control away. Cryptocurrencies are slowly changing the world and you can choose – either stand beside and observe or become part of history in the making. And remember if you need to exchange your coins StealthEX is here for you. We provide a selection of more than 300 coins and constantly updating the cryptocurrency list so that our customers will find a suitable option. Our service does not require registration and allows you to remain anonymous. Why don’t you check it out? Just go to StealthEX and follow these easy steps: ✔ Choose the pair and the amount for your exchange. For example BTC to ETH. ✔ Press the “Start exchange” button. ✔ Provide the recipient address to which the coins will be transferred. ✔ Move your cryptocurrency for the exchange. ✔ Receive your coins. Follow us on Medium, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit to get StealthEX.io updates and the latest news about the crypto world. For all requests message us via [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]). The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision. Original article was posted onhttps://stealthex.io/blog/2020/09/29/how-does-cryptocurrency-works/
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