December 27, 2018 § Leave a comment
While for humans it may be true that in the beginning there is the word, in a more general perspective one can also say that in the end everything is information. Well, and sorry for that, probably that was kind of a biblical utterance, and hence also one a bit too coarse.
Yet, the aspect of information may turn out to be much more important and ubiquitous than it is usually acknowledged. In some way, the realm of information and its relevance for human beings is, in general, neither well understood nor is it comprehended or consequently applied. The concept of causality is still much more prominent in the structure of human life. We already were discussing this in an earlier article, and we won’t repeat it here.
Here we will focus on some new technologies that all focus on new ways to deal with information, mainly in order to create profit, that is, differential money. The technologies we are referring to are the fields named as
– Block Chain,
– Data Science, and
– Artificial Intelligence.
Interestingly, but at the same time not really surprising, if one understands the universal and supra-human trend towards informatization, all of those developed issues that relate to trust. Many people, particularly those not involved in producing them, start to feel at least uneasy with them. Facebook, NSA, Google, Amazon, and even Apple appear in the headlines regarding their trustworthiness when it comes to the handling of data, which notably are data about humans and their behavior. As a reaction, engineers and politicians started public initiatives in order to find guidelines that would render those technologies trustable. We will return to this matter as well.
Before we can approach any significant discussion of that, however, we first have to understand any of those technologies; hence we will briefly describe what they are able to deliver and what not.
This then also will shed some light on the informational aspect of us humans. And since those technologies involve machine-based processing of information, we also will meet, and meet it again, the question of the relation between humans and their machines.
Those three technologies also share a further property: They got assigned heavy illusions. To put it short, Block Chain, and so Bitcoin etc. is not about money, Data Science is neither a science – not at all and at least not yet – nor is it an analytic undertaking, and Artificial Intelligence is a brutal misnomer for the field, with serious consequences just due to this misnaming.
So let us start with a brief description of those technologies.
1.1. Block Chain
Basically, Block Chain is a technology for book keeping. When implemented, it defines a finite universe of tokens, that is, there is a limited number of uniquely identifiable things that can be defined. Things, tokens and the globally unique id are the same thing. Just do not forget that “global” refers to the whole limited set of tokens. Tokens need to be prepared by calculating an encrypted place for it. This is easy in the beginning, but can be expensive in terms of time and energy for the last slots.
The value of such tokens derives from the possibility to acquire tokens as a representative of a likewise unique physical item. This of course implies the necessity to exchange tokens with physical goods or money. In this way, tokens of block chains also may be conceived as kind of ensured contracts between private peers, notably without trust-providing 3rd party instance.
Acquired tokens are kept in a personal storage, secured by a password, that represents kind of a virtual wallet. Once a password is lost, all the tokens in the affected virtual wallet are lost as well, forever.
Tokens can be moved between wallets. This is called a transaction. The unique point now with block chain is that these transactions are not registered on a central server. There is no central ledger. They are registered in a network of servers, in a distributed ledger.
There are two main consequences of this distributed public book keeping. First, it is impossible to control it for whatever reason. Once a token and a transaction is in the ledger, it cannot be changed. It collects events as irreversible entries. That safety is due to structure, not due to secrecy. The system itself provides an instance of trustworthiness, because it is safe and because everything can be traced. This holds true even if we have to consider that the population of wallets may be conceived as kind of a pool. Yet, if it is providing a pool, it is not an anonymous one.
Second, the system is slow, and it is getting slower the bigger the ledger grows. Instead of a handful of events per transactions in the case of a centralized ledger, possibly millions of computer events are necessary for block chain ledgers. It may take hours until a single transaction of passing a token from one wallet to another is getting confirmed. Obviously, it also takes huge amounts of energy to update the public distributed ledger.
Block chain ledgers are not made for extracting or re-arranging information. Quite to the contrary, as any ledger system, they have the property of being quasi-physical due to the fact that nobody can revert anything in them.
2. Application and Use Cases
2.1. Block Chain
<stay tuned, more to follow soon>
(editorial note: this time, I will publish the article piece by piece, while writing it)