Episode 23 - Distributed Autonomous Corporations Find Love in All the Wrong Places

GUESTS :                        none


  • Distributed autonomous corporations
    • in bitcoin community
    • like a bank that isn’t really owned by anyone
    • as long as people are using it it will exist
    • less as currency and more as corporation
  • Twister - twitter clone that uses bitcoin protocol 
  • Bitcloud 
  • Etherium 
    • Platforms for writing bitcoin or twister style applications
    • Tied to a real value, whereas btc is arbitrary
  • SETI from 90s.  Using extra CPU power to look for extra-planetary intelligent life 
  • Lots of languages theoretically dead but you can still learn them (Latin, etc)
  • Chris’s blog post on Her 
    • Thought it was great, connected to polyamorous nature
    • Only one person in whole movie thought it was weird
    • Klint: story about relationships, not about tech.  Then all tech stuff.
  • Digital Rosetta Stone
  • Upstart - like kickstarter for humans. 
    • Klint: much more humane than a student loan
  • “This whole idea of doing what you love is kinda a trap” -- end up doing it all the time and there’s no stop to it.  Can be one dimensional?
    • Klint: I don’t love just one thing.  Totalitarian view of “do what you love.”
  • PR woman dies after tweeting about working 30 hours straight
Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 12.08.38 PM.png
  • Gmail outage
    • “If you want to see frustrated users, have instagram go down”
    • Mashable: "Gmail down, frustrating millions of users
    • Two types, IT people: “look, redundant systems, blah blah”; others: “uhh.. systems fail, no biggie”


Autonomous : Acting independently or having the freedom to do so




Mindful Cyborgs, Contemplative living in the age of quantification, augmentation and acceleration, with your hosts Chris Dancy and Klint Finley.



CD: Welcome to Mindful Cyborgs Episode 23. Hey, it’s Chris and I’m here with the two cyborgs from Portland, Alex Williams and Klint Finley. How are you guys doing?


AW: Great!


KF: Very good.


CD: Lots, lots, lots to cover in our show today. So, let’s just kick right into it. Real quick shout out to listener who in our I think Google + community said “Love the show. Keep up the great work” and that’s Tony Leone/Lennon. So sorry, Tony, if I wrecked your name. Maybe you can like call me and let me know how that’s pronounced.


Going to run through. Got some so much crazy news. Klint, you want to get us started? You got a ton of really good stuff.


KF: Sure. Well, maybe I’ll start with something that I didn’t send you guys yet. Working on a couple of stories that should be up by the time this podcast goes up on an idea that’s spreading through the Bitcoin community called distributed autonomous corporations and the idea is that Bitcoin is actually already one of these things. It’s like a bank that isn’t really owned by anyone and exists on its own. So, as long as at least a few people running the Bitcoin software somewhere in the world is going to keep going. So, pretty much as long as people are using it will exist without anybody really going and shutting it down.


The only people with an ownership stake are the people who own Bitcoin who are the people which is awarded to miners. So, they’re sort of like shareholders in a corporation. So, it kind of rethinks Bitcoin as less as like a currency and more as a corporation that awards stock and there’s a few other of these things.


Alex and I talked about Twister I think last time which is a Twitter clone that uses Bitcoin protocol. Doesn’t actually use Bitcoins at all, the actual Bitcoin network for authentication and uses BitTorrent for distribution. So, it’s a similar thing only it’s a social network that just exists out there running in the world. The miners are just awarded with promoted messages on the network. The only way you get paid is through advertisements, which is a very attention economy sort of idea I guess.


CD: Let’s not go there. Let’s stay away from that one.


KF: There’s a couple of new things in development BitCloud and Etherium that are actually trying to tie their old currencies. They’re actually platforms for writing applications like this, for writing Bitcoin or Twister style applications so that anyone could come up with one. Where they have their own currencies built into it that are actually pegged to how much process or resources you donate to the network to run these applications. So, they’re actually tied to a real value whereas like Bitcoin is like this completely arbitrary thing but the ether which is the currency for Etherium is actually tied to how much resources that you make available on the network for people to run applications which is pretty interesting.


CD: That reminds me of two things. The first thing is I remember back in the 90s there was this website or the software you could get and basically would use your computer’s free CPU cycles to search for intelligent life.




CD: Yeah, it was SETI. Absolutely, it was. You aren’t awarded anything but definitely the concept of having an extra disposable income and just being able to get your ads or whatever so you just build like a little mini server farm at home. To do this is really interesting.


The other thing is when you talked about the distributed autonomous corporation and how it kind of never goes away because someone’s always running it, the first thing my mind went to and I don’t know why was like languages that have died out through history and if they’d been algorithmic, would they have ever died.


KF: What do you mean by algorithmic?


CD: So, as long as few people are mining, I think is the idea behind this then the Bitcoin never really goes away, right?


KF: Right.


CD: So, if languages were somehow algorithmically based and generated or human languages or human communication of some sort, if it was running somewhere some process, then in some ways a language like an Indian tribe in some remote village somewhere in the world would never go away.


KF: Right.


AW: If those languages had APIs.


CD: Yeah or digitized in some way. It’s a stretch.


KF: A lot of languages are theoretically dead but they haven’t disappeared like Latin. Anyone can go and learn Latin but it’s not an act of language though. That’s why we think of it as a dead language. There are languages that have completely disappeared because no one recorded them but it wouldn’t really . . . I think just having an algorithmic language out there somewhere wouldn’t really be the same. It would be like having the Bitcoin network existing but having no one actually trading Bitcoins anywhere just like the machines are just out there.


CD: Couldn’t bots just pick that up at that point? I mean there are so many.


KF: Yeah, but would that mean that the language would be alive in any meaningful sense if there’s just like a bunch of bots out there like chatting with each other.


CD: We’d have to start discussing the movie “Her” because that’s kind of that idea now, isn’t it?


AW: Have you seen it, Chris?


CD: I saw it, yeah.


AW: How was it?


KF: Yeah, I saw it last weekend.


CD: I don’t write a lot. I find that uncomfortable. I actually wrote about it. I thought it was really great. I was really connected to the polyamorous nature of it which I think was so interesting. The other thing I was interested in was there was only one person in the entire movie that didn’t think it was weird to date an OS. Everyone else thought it was just normal.


KF: You mean only one person thought it was weird?


CD: Yeah, only one person thought it was weird. Everyone else . . .


KF: Yeah, his ex-wife. Yeah.


CD: Even though it was a new phenomenon everyone else was so immersed in tech it was like okay, of course you are.


KF: Everyone was secretly doing it. So, then like once somebody confessed to it like they were like oh yeah, I do that too. No other people doing it. Yeah, that was interesting. There’s two parts to the move. There is the story about relationships and that really is not about technology at all. My friend who saw it with me said it was a movie about intimacy and how difficult that can be and there is all the tech stuff that’s added on, that’s fairly interesting.


CD: I didn’t see tech. I saw psychology and polyamory.


KF: Yeah totally. The tech is just there like window dressing or whatever.


CD: By the time the show comes out hopefully enough people have seen this but the breakthrough moment for me was when he says “How many people are you talking to?” I just literally had a chill shoot up my back.


AW: I don’t care what, is this critical to the movie? How many does she say?


CD: It’s pretty critical but…


AW: Okay.


KF: We shouldn’t give spoilers to them, to the audience.


CD: Yeah, because we want maybe Joaquin to come on at some point. Well, Joaquin, would you come on Mindful Cyborgs? I love the concept of a distributor anonymous corporation because first corporation kind of scares me but it kind of makes you wonder. I remember last year at Theorizing the Web when I went to a session on bots. I had no idea how many bots were just running on the internet constantly. Not web crawlers but just in different websites cleaning them up and taking care of things.


There were somebody from Facebook there. There were somebody from Wikipedia there and they both talked about how they have hundreds of bots that are just running through these systems constantly and my mind just couldn’t stop thinking about are they some sort of weird [00:08:33]. Do we need to be aware of them? Who’s maintaining them? Would they keep running? Who knows?


And then at some point what we need for all of this stuff that we’re creating is somebody creating some type of digital Rosetta Stone. I don’t know.


AW: What do you mean by digital Rosetta Stone?


CD: It kind of reminds me like the other day somebody sent me a picture of one of their zip drives. Remember zip drives from the 90s where you could put a media on there. It’s like a super floppy and they were like I don’t know how to get my stuff off of here. I can’t find anything to connect to it and that’s been a problem that’s been around for a while but as we build more APIs and we have more complex systems and we have algorithms, mining currency and bots and everything, there’s going to start to be fragmentation when it comes to how these systems connect and talk to each other.


The other day someone sent me an email and said what wearable device would you buy and I finally broke down and said actually none of them because every single one of them you need to get into their app. It’s like the roach motel for quantified self and there’s nothing, nothing out there allows you that information. I’m just really starting to get frustrated by that.


My point is I worry that will there be somebody or some system probably, a system, an algorithm, Rosetta Stone to backward figure it out or because it’s digitized and we won’t need anything that complex. Don’t know, don’t know. I heard of something kind of cool and maybe you guys have heard of this because I think it’s old but somebody contacted me and said “Hey, could you help me? I want to start a career in tech or something.” I can’t remember what it was.


Have you guys heard of Upstart?


AW: Yeah. I can’t remember. What is Upstart?


CD: It’s like Kickstarter for humans.


KF: Oh yeah.


CD: Yeah, their tagline is Upstart lets you raise money in exchange for small share of your income for the next 10 years. It’s an investment in you, not your idea or business. The guy who approached me told me he was on Upstart and I went and looked at this and I thought this reminds me a little bit of what KmikeyM out of Portland did with selling shares in himself but a group level when I thought well, this is really kind of interesting. Would you go on and accept money from strangers in return for a share of your income for the next 10 years?


AW: Well, I think that actually makes sense. Doesn’t you guys? One of the hardest things to do is to actually get up and running and get going with what you’re trying to do. If you really have some interest in doing that, you will look at different ways to get that money or that training or whatever it is. It makes perfect sense to me.


CD: Me too.


KF: Yeah, it seems sort of dehumanizing at first but when you think about it, if you compare it to a student loan, it seems just so much more humane than a student loan where you get this debt that you can’t get rid of until you pay it off and it doesn’t matter if the economy is terrible or if you have no job. Well, actually, you can defer it for a while if you have no job but you eventually have to pay this money back if you get a student loan. So, there’s no risk for the investor in a student loan like all the risk is on the borrower like you would normally think of an investment. You invest in the company and the company fails well you’re out of money as an investor. There’s no guarantee. It’s a risk for everybody involved but with a student loan there’s no risk for the investor. They’re going to get paid back by hook or by crook.


CD: I wanted to invest in this young man and the first thing I thought was maybe this is the idea behind it but the first thing I thought was I’m going to make sure he finishes this class he wants to take and then make sure he gets a job. It’s like not only was I investing but I wanted to make sure he was successful.


KF: Because you want him to succeed because you want that money.


CD: Yeah.


AW: And you want to make sure he’s getting enough sleep at night and eating well and exercising.


CD: Let me install cameras at your house and I’ll invest.


KF: It’s like KmikeyM like voting on his personal habits.


CD: I don’t think it’s that much far of a stretch.


AW: I was looking at your potential graph and I think it can be optimized a bit better. Are you having your protein shakes in the morning?


CD: My answer would be yes. What’s next, Klint?


KF: Next on our list are . . .


CD: Yeah for you. I’m sorry, not next for you but what . . .


KF: That’s a big question. I already told you what’s next distributed autonomous corporation.


AW: That’s it. That’s it. We’re done.


CD: That’s it. Mindful Cyborgs is off the air.


AW: We’re done. Invest in the persona.


CD: You can find Alex and Klint and I over on Upstart and you can find Mindful Cyborgs in that.


AW: We are now algorithms. We’re exploring ancient languages.


CD: I was kind of interested, Klint, you sent over a story that I really enjoyed about doing what you love kind of this mantra for today’s worker. I think there’s a lot of this kind of . . . almost sounds like fluff talk coming from people but do what you love and be involved but the article kind of went into all the different sides of that and I thought that specifically was really important maybe to be bring up on a show like Mindful Cyborgs. What does it mean to do what you love in today’s world?


AW: Well, I think he brings up some great points in this about like how we have turned kind of this idea of a job and making money into something that you’re supposed to love, right? And I know people who are not tech as we both do and they don’t think of it that way at all in their jobs.


My wife is a nurse and she goes to work, she gets her job done, she works hard at it but she’s not exactly doing what she loves to do. She loves to be in the garden and grow vegetables. So, kind of this whole idea that doing what you love is I think is also kind of a trap too because when you’re doing what you love, you want to essentially kind of do it all the time and I think that’s kind of what happens to a lot of us is like we end up doing what we love but we do it all the time and there’s kind of no stop to it. I think it can become quite one dimensional. I don’t know what you guys think but that was kind of my thought.


KF: Yeah. Well, I mean a big part of it for me is like when I think about it is that I don’t love just one thing. I do love being a journalist even though it’s really hard and some days it does make me miserable but it’s my thing but it’s not the only thing I love doing.


AW: Yeah, and I’m with you.


KF: I also do noise art. I also write fiction. I also love my wife. I also love sitting around and watching movies. I love to go to the pub on Sundays and play trivia with my friends. There’s this totalitarianess about the do what you love thing that so often makes it feel like it’s why would you do anything besides your job, why aren’t you doing your job 16 hours a day because if you love it you should just be so passionate about it that you’re always working. That seems like in the modern like information work or white collar work or world that’s what is getting drilled into us.


CD: Was it last year that PR person in New York tweeted that she was like on hour 16 and she really needed sleep and like she died like an hour later. Do you remember that news story?


KF: Holy shit! No.


AW: Wow!


CD: Yeah, I’ll put it in the show notes. I talked about it in a presentation the end of last year. She tweeted out she had a deadline, she was on hour 16 and she didn’t think she was going to be able to make it and like an hour later she had a massive heart attack.


AW: Oh my gosh!


CD: You can love yourself to death.


KF: Yeah.


CD: So, be careful with that sort of thing.


AW: You can love your work to death.


CD: You can love your work to death. Wrapping up kind of this episode, thoughts on the Gmail outage. I just want to get mine out of my system so I’m going to bring it up.


There seems to be two types of people in the world. The IT people who used the Gmail outage as a rallying cry to say look, I’ve been right all along about redundant systems and then in that same group people say look at how nobody’s being able to get anything done because Gmail’s down and then everyone else who just didn’t say anything because they said, systems fail and that’s kind of like life and I don’t think this is really newsworthy. Thoughts?


AW: I think it reminds me of a lot of what you hear from like at least in what I’ve been covering over the past few years is all about enterprise and there’s this constant struggle about like see it doesn’t work. It went down. It’s not reliable. It doesn’t meet compliance issues and so on and so forth. To me it just seems like the most trivial, trivial thing to kind of spend through the way that people kind of have been analyzing it over the past few days. It just seems like it’s just going to pass.


KF: Yeah, I don’t understand what the big deal is.


CD: Thank you.


KF: How long was it even down for?


CD: The tweets lasted longer than the outage.


AW: Yeah, that’s a good point.


KF: I don’t use Gmail but I was not on Twitter when it went down. I was busy doing some research and then when I came up for air basically Twitter’s probably not a good way to take a break but I go and look at Twitter and there’s all these tweets about Gmail being down and I was like it could not have been down for more than a couple of hours.


CD: But I love it because I follow a bunch of enterprise people and a bunch of regular people and bunch of all sorts of people and I just thought to myself, this is not a rallying cry to say I told you I was right. Whatever. I hope you don’t treat your wife that way when dinner’s late. I can’t imagine the brutality of some of these people’s lives.


KF: Right. Every place I’ve worked that had their own internal corporate email system Microsoft Exchange basically it goes down sometimes. The only thing is that it only goes down for the people in that company. I think with the Gmail outage if it shows us anything it’s that how many people put their trust in this one system. It’s the same thing when Amazon goes down is that you really start to realize like how many things rely on the Amazon cloud.


When Gmail goes down, you see how many people rely on just this one thing for email.


CD: But what are they relying? What’s going to get Gmail to you that you couldn’t get to them in another way?


KF: Right, and what’s 2 hours really.


CD: Go for a walk.


KF: If you’re a stockbroker and you’re doing trades at like light speed or whatever you’re probably using a Bloomberg thing and not Gmail anyway so who cares.


CD: No one at Davos cared. Not a single Davos person tweeted about the outage. When you’ve got a couple of billion the Gmail outage doesn’t really bother you.


AW: On the other side of the coin, here in the US has had some major outages and I remember, Klint, when we covered it at ReadWrite web the servers were down for hours.


KF: It was down for days.


AW: Yeah. It was like 3 days or something, wasn’t it?


KF: Just one small part of it was down for a few days. For most people it was back up an hour or so.


AW: And AWS was pretty much ambivalent about it. They barely said anything about it for quite a while.


CD: Well, did you notice we kind of left that cult of the uptime? 2006 to 2009 there was this cult of uptime, look at our uptime stats and that’s how a lot of cloud services were sold. Maybe they are still sold that way but I know there’s not as much focus on that anymore.


KF: Yeah.


AW: There isn’t but in this case it was like it had a deep effect on a lot of companies and their end users and AWS was they were keeping it updated to some extent but they weren’t really quite forthcoming about things. They can be pretty close vest on stuff like this and I think that’s the other side of it.


It’s one thing for everyone to kind of get all bent out of shape. I was just looking at some of the stories, like this lead from Mashable. It says “Gmail service went down worldwide Friday afternoon frustrating millions of users”. I mean, come on.


CD: If you want to see frustrated end users, have Instagram go down.


KF: Remember the Go Daddy outage?


CD: Yes.


KF: That was huge too. It was another thing where there was just millions and millions of websites on this one plate.


CD: Between Justin Bieber drag racing and Gmail going down I don’t know how we got anything done on Friday.


Guys, do you have any events coming up we can plug into the calendar? I’m kind of behind on checking with you.


KF: I don’t have anything new, no.


CD: All right. So, we’ve got just some crazy things I’ll be at and we’ll all be at at some point. We’ve got the Model View thing - that will be over by the time this comes - launch party. RootsTech - its genealogy conference February 5th I’ll be there. South by Southwest - some of us will be there. We’re just trying figure out which cyborgs are going. Theorizing the Web - I’m desperately trying to drag both of our cyborgs to that and that’s April 25th in Brooklyn. Cyborg camp MIT in Boston and then Buddhist Geeks conference.


We’d like to thank Aaron Jasinski for the Mindful Cyborgs logo, Ross Nelson: Brown Hound Studios for the mixing.


You can find us on every social media possible. Thanks so much and we will see everybody next time. Thanks guys.


AW: Great! Thank you.


KF: Bye.