Smart Life ( part 1) - Why Ethereum is not smart enough as a platform for contracts.
Smart life is a new term I will use to describe what I perceive as the next and ultimate step in the evolution of the blockchain technology. In fact I don't believe that a decentralized smart contract platform will ever be able to become a trusted platform unless created as Smart Life.
In the next few entries I will try to explore in details the theoretical prospect of a fully decentralized platform which will act as the first Smart Life platform.
At the moment Tauchain represent best that direction to which I like to point you. However my proposition goes to the roots of what now seems to hold back Tauchain from finalizing its code: The logic of the language by which that code should be written.
The complexities Tauchain is dealing with are very well expressed in that article and I will refer to it in the following entry which will deal with the trustless truth system we call science. But first we need to understand what a smart contract really means.
First of all, a fully decentralized platform for a smart contracts, which describe the form of agreements between individuals, based on the blockchain distributed messaging system requires a fully automated function of execution in the future.
The meaning of such requirement, a fully automated function of execution in the future, goes far beyond the requirement of the bitcoin protocol. It would be like asserting that nothing will ever be allowed to change in the protocol itself since the protocol is in fact the agreement between the users in the network.
On the bitcoin network there is one contract agreement only. This contract's terms set the number of coin and rate of distribution. It also describe the terms of distributing the new coins into the miners wallets and the terms of transactions between users. Each of these terms of the contract can be change at any time by the ones who control the core code and accepted or rejected by the miners. This means that each of the users who do not mine or have an excess to the core code, in fact have very little power if any deciding the fate of the contract's features in the future. However since bitcoin itself as an asset represent the a value given to it by the users community as a whole, the intensives to maintain the majority of users happy with any changes made, is leading much of the decisions made about the protocol, and thus is quite successful.
On the contrary, when considering a platform which will carry many different contracts between many individual parties, one have to trust that the protocol which can effect his own contract will never be changed unless he will personalty consent to it knowing it will not hurt its interests.
The Ethereum case, in which the main root of the Ethereum protocol forked in order to role back a contract executed on the DAO (using a loophole), gives us a glimpse to the future of such contracts. Just imaging an exploitation on some other contract platform like the DAO in which many agreements have been formed before the exploitation was discovered. Then imagine having to trust Ethereum foundation decision whether to roll back and dismiss all contracts and asset locked in them. You may expect the foundation to rule in favor of secondary contracts and re-institute them on a legitimate Child DAO for instance, yet that means the platform become in actual a fully centralized trusted entity.
Yet in Ethereum much like in bitcoin the miners have much power as well and the users community and like we have seen in the ETC (ether clasic), the exchanges power which was reviled in its full glory in the conundrum flowing the fork, matters a lot too.
would you as an individual be whiling to place your trust in such a complex semi decentralized system? Would you ever trust putting any contract involving your personal assets such as your home on such a platform? I don't think so, unless you have many homes and are whiling to experiment with it.
In fact this case of the Ethereum fork reviled the fundamental paradox rooted in the idea of smart contract. and that is the contradiction between the need to allow changes in the future to fix mistake made in the present, yet allow to trust the future by assuming it will never change.
This paradox reflects the true major paradox of life itself : How can I make a decision about the future knowing that things may change in the future? Or in other words: How can I make the next step in order to move foreword if I don't know where is it taking me?
One answer that we often propose is to follow someone that we trust. But this answer alone can not satisfy us since if it did we would never had to come to create and use a decentralized platform.
The second answer comes by rephrasing our question this way: How can I make the decision about my next step if I can't trust the future to be the same as I predict it to be?
Devising a prediction mechanism which increase my chances to make the right decision is a good strategy we use a lot. But that strategy also requires great efforts invested in learning everything related, thus often resorts to trust other's knowledge and follow them.
There is also a third option, one which manipulate the disadvantages of an arbitrary choice in order to resolve the need for trusted experts. That third option is the one I would like to propose and attempt to explain in the next entry which will be titled: Smart Life (part 2) - Resolving the Godel's paradox on the blockchain as a solution for a trusted protocol.