DarkFi – Let There Be Dark (Part 1 of 2)
DarkFi is a new DeFi platform that prioritizes privacy. As a base layer for anonymous applications and smart contracts, it’s a multichain interoperable, and open source product that anyone can build any type of application on utilising zero knowledge proof. The goal is to create a universe that anyone can access irrespective of their nationality or political beliefs.
Amir Taaki, Rachel-Rose O’Leary and Ivan Jelincic, the members of the squad, joined us to chat about the importance of darkness and privacy within crypto utilizing zero knowledge proof technology. This is a 2-part series and in the next episode we explore AMMs, and the Free Assange DAO
Topics discussed in the episode
- An introduction to the DarkFi team and how they got into crypto
- Darkness and why it’s important
- The crisis of civilization in the West
- Crypto anarchy
- The connection between crypto and moral fiber
- The problems within crypto DarkFi is aiming to solve and how they are doing it
Brian: So thanks so much for joining us all, we have three guests which are unusual. Normally we shouldn’t have so many but let’s do it, I think it will be fun. Maybe you can just start by everyone introducing themselves.
Amir: So, I’m Amir Taaki and I’ve been in Bitcoin since 2010, I was working a lot on Bitcoin implementations software, doing a lot of the protocol development with a specialty on privacy techniques.
So our team implemented the first coin join implementation and stealth addresses which have become outdated now. But at the time, they became standardized techniques and in terms of DarkFi, which is our project now, I focus a lot on doing research and applied cryptography development, mainly around zero-knowledge, but not just strictly to zero-knowledge, we’re concerned with combining many different techniques to leverage to create anonymous applications.
Rose: I’m Rose, I got into crypto in 2015 when I read the Assange book Cyberpunks. And since then I’ve worked on a few different things. I was the lead tech writer for the coin desk for a couple of years. Where I was mostly writing on Ethereum and privacy coins.
During that time. I travelled a lot to different Ethereum conferences and it was an interesting moment in the space, but I also started to feel very concerned about the emphasis on transparency that allowed the Ethereum projects and also, the Ethereum philosophy. So in 2018 I left, went to Java, learned programming and the following year started contributing to DarkFi.
So I helped build the prototype that we just released and I’m also a researcher, I research mainly DeFi and token engineering,
Ivan: My turn. I’ve been a free software developer for maybe almost 15 years now. When I was 18, I moved to the Netherlands. Started working on free software with this non-profit foundation called Dyne.
There we developed many projects, both crypto-related and not crypto-related mostly regarding the European Union and privacy aspects of various software and politics. So we were also involved with cities and municipalities. We’ve developed many different projects that helped people integrate privately into society in some way.
When it comes to crypto I found out about Bitcoin I think in 2012 or something like this and immediately loved it, started mining it, and hung out a lot on the Bitcoin forums. I took a break around 2014 or 2015 when mining wasn’t as profitable anymore. So I just stagnated and kept working on free software.
In the meantime, I founded a couple of projects. There was a Linux operating system called Devuan, which is now one of the most popular Linux distributions used in the world. Spawned from this there were two different projects as well. One was called Heads OS with a big focus on anonymity and privacy and the other one is now still in development, My-Mo which is a mobile operating system designed from scratch to escape the clutches of Apple and Google duopolies.
Right now I’m thinking of how to also involve these projects with crypto. When it comes to DarkFi, Amir introduced me to zero-knowledge and just we started learning together now we’re just having a lot of fun, building new things, and being on the leading edge of tech, so it’s challenging but also very, very rewarding.
Brian: I want to start with, so in the manifesto, it talks about darkness and the importance of darkness, and can you explain what does that means?
Rose: So we put this emphasis on the darkness within our thesis, not as something necessarily bad and scary but something that’s empowering. So, it’s within the context that we’re currently in which is the whole of the technological Paradigm is defined by surveillance.
Which is the kind of whiteness all-pervasive whiteness, which has the effect of flattening any kind of discourse and it cancels out political differences in the worst-case scenario which we’re heading towards, inside crypto people from certain jurisdictions kind of access the systems due to KYC and other processes that restrict the kind of users who can use those tools.
So darkness is a counterpoint to this. It’s a universe where which anyone can access irrespective of their nationality or political beliefs. So, it’s a resistance to this kind of all-pervasive whiteness, and it’s also a kind of new beginning. So it’s like a new dawn of a new kind of Paradigm of technology that we see coming into play as a reaction to this Paradigm of surveillance, but also increasingly enabled by zero-knowledge cryptography.
Which offers incredibly flexible programmable privacy. So, the two kinds of symbols that I used to talk about is this dark versus the whiteness of surveillance is kind of like a forest and a desert.
So forests offer a kind of coverage where within a forest, the people are protected so they can organize, they can and they have this tree coverage that protects them from attacks. And it’s also a kind of sanctuary for ecosystems. It’s a natural environment, incredibly diverse, and very dark. But also very natural.
Then on the other side, we have a desert, which is this kind of encroachment of this kind of lifelessness, in a desert, everything is completely surveilled and under the monopolizing view of the sun. So they’re the kind of two symbols that we can use. So, it’s dark in the sense of, as a forest or like under deep underwater or the outer space.
Amir: Yeah, in our conception of history, there is a conflict. The existence, the origin of civilization between State based forms, and what we call the Democratic nation, which the value that comes from in Society. It comes from this Democratic tendency and The State exists, this is hierarchical or social stratification, this complexification of social relations between people and they’ve always been in conflict.
History is not a straight line from you know, tribal society to centralized society. There were many reversions and swings, both ways have many strong examples. Like in England, we had the Digger movement. There’s also the Boudicca who fought against the Romans. There were the Cossacks which were military communes that fought against the Russian Empire. The ninja, the Democratic ninja provinces of Igo and Kobe in Japan was where the ninjas came from, where these Democratic provinces were run by peasants.
Also, the Iroquois Confederation is a huge Confederation that lasted many Centuries in North America. So as Rose alluded to there is this concept of the dark forest and the idea that we have is there are forests or Mountain topologies where you go around the environment and everything is distinct, there’s distinctness around you, and the kind of mindset that Fosters is a polytheistic mindset. It’s one of diversity and alliances between people and this is kind of the squad wealth thesis of crypto or the tribal kind of conception of DeFi, or what DeFi’s enabling.
But the other one is the monotheistic desert tendency, which is the flat ground where you are in the center and you see to the horizon and everything that you see is around you is with you at the center.
So this is where sun worship comes from. The sun is a hot, static object in the sky that represents authority. The sun god, so that is the other rectify side of crypto that we see this emerging. It’s kind of interesting because, in the bull phases of the market, the market starts to become saturated with this cheap, they are credit the spreaders printed and it starts to flow in and valuation, start to flow up and the VC’s that are largely based in the U.S start to have this undo ideological influence on Crypto rather.
They will use the coercive force of capital of money and you get a lot of these projects where we just saw this last VC pump cycle or just before this last if I exited because I kind of sensed that retail was exhausted from the last one.
We saw ridiculous projects getting funded like Soul chicks or also sort of ZK projects which got 30 million, and I was like, well, who’s this team? Nobody knows this team and the Silicon Valley, VC scam pump, you know, scam other VCs.
So you get these projects to have a huge amount of money, and they hire all these line managers and bureaucracy. And people who do nonsense work and they just occupy positions in this hierarchy.
You have these devs at the bottom, and the devs just get orders from the top. They don’t even like to follow anything that’s going on, they are just tools, little robots. The consequence of that is the projects become very inefficient, you haven’t got this convergence between the devs who know ZK and DeFi token engineers to build solid projects. It just becomes this inefficiency.
In many degrees of separation, coordination, and this more and more money and it’s this monster that grows and the bureaucracy class, just like in large is relative to the other classes. So we see that in the bull market phases of the model of the market.
It kind of reminds me of major extinction events in prehistory where you see these complex ecosystems which get wiped out, just get blown away. Then there’s this bacteria, I mean, the Permian Triassic Extinction, where there were one species of animal, like a pig which was around for 20 million years, literally ninety percent of all life on the land was this one species of animal of this major Extinction event and it was just non-specialized. It just ate grass and bits of crap.
So we kind of see that happen, which is these complex social hierarchies care to get pushed into a very kind of flat hierarchy, and the strategy shifts from optimizing for profit to competing for market share. So all these new niches open up because the big dinosaurs died off and everybody starts racing to occupy those niches, and you have to be adaptable, that’s the organisms that do succeed after major extinction events is they have lots of young and they don’t invest much time in their young but they, like cockroaches they can like eat toothpaste. They can survive nuclear blasts, you know, they can live in extreme cold.
So there are two major theses for crypto. One is the supercycle meme which we kind of see as the case where crypto gets co-opted by this influx of cheap credit and it loses its ideological edge. But we’re banking on the other one, which is the regulatory extinction event, which I will create this kind of winter, but it’s good for the crypto you because structurally it’s bullish. After all, it hones its ideological edge and allows the more meaningful, really interesting design space of ZK and other crypto primitives that are being conceptualized now to fully embody or realize itself.
The problem with the kind of bull market stuff is projects with an edge get starved of resources. It’s suffocated out of existence.
Sunny: Quickly, go back to the forest analogy. Make sure I understand it, say the term dark forest means almost something different in crypto or now because of the MEV stuff. But I’d argue that it’s almost the opposite where the issue with the Dark Forest refers to this thing in most blockchains with MEV attacks where you can see the Mempool, but arguably, in my opinion, that’s an issue of an overly white forest, right?
Where the problem in my opinion is that the Mempool is too visible and everyone can surveil it and see exactly what everyone else is doing and that’s kind of a problem. That’s sort of what I expect a lot of my time working on is, how do we create encrypted Mempools.
But anyways about how this relates to history, I’ve talked to Zuko a bunch about this. How do you think that is also related to this idea about legibility I’m sure you know there’s a famous book, ‘Seeing Like A State’ and it claims that these systems of legibility are used to allow The State to be more pervasive in people’s everyday life.
Zuko doesn’t like to share his address for example, with anyone partially for privacy security reasons, but also partially he claims the ideas of addresses and last names are ways that help The State organize people, which then, in turn, makes them easier to survey.
Is this concept related or do you see this as different from your view of like dark spaces saying something different than this legibility concept?
Rose: No, I think it’s connected and I would also say to your point about the Dark Forest in the book, The Dark Forest the solution to the Dark Forest, the fact that the universe is a Dark Forest.
So essentially for those who don’t know the Sci-Fi three-body problem three-part series. It says that the universe is full of life and because of this there are these complex game theories that play where the best strategy is to instantly destroy life as it emerges because otherwise, it might attack you.
So you have these civilizations, the most advanced ones which are just surveilling the entire universe and just waiting for life to emerge to send nukes. But the solution to the Dark Forest in the book is that the earth needs to evolve like a shield, kind of a membrane around it that protects it. So it’s also a situation, it’s kind of a misnomer because In the sense of how we’re using dark, because for us dark implies encryption, like defense membranes, but in the case of the book, the dark applies exposure, that everyone’s hiding behind these forests, these trees, but if they’re if they move their head, they’ll get killed.
About your question, I think it’s part of the same kind of collection of ideas. So, when I talk about the forest I usually give an anecdote which is, in after the late Ice Age so 10,000 years ago. All of Europe was covered in forest, and in Ireland, where I’m from, over time these forests evolved to be the center of society.
So, out of 16,000 place names in Ireland, 13,000 of them refer to trees in the name, and many Irish people, their names have trees also reference in the name. Even the Irish alphabet first was named after trees.
So trees had this amazing legacy in Irish history.
They are also the spiritual center of society. So there are sacred places and what happened was they were community-owned and actually in the law, it said that the trees were collectively owned, and if you damage them, you’d face high penalties.
Anyway, during British colonization, these trees were cleared and they were cleared because it was very profitable, but also because they were where Irish people lived but also organized and were able to stage guerrilla attacks, so they were the primary line of defense for our people and after that, the process of colonization was easy because there were no defenses.
So I see a kind of thing happening now in the interaction between surveillance and society, is this kind of encroachment, which is removing the ability of people to resist or to even have like sanctuary and spirituality in the digital world.
I haven’t thought about it about the book you mentioned on legibility. I haven’t read it, but I think it’s part of the same response, the same feeling
Brian: One thing I also remember from the manifesto, it talks about creating this space that’s, impenetrable by law enforcement. Law enforcement is very much something that’s politically connected within nation-states today mostly. I’m curious what this forest/desert analogy and maybe in general in terms of this intersection between this world and today’s nation-states and political systems. I’m curious what your thoughts are on that.
Ivan: I think our goal is mostly to create these dark safe spaces. I remember the US said they kill people based on metadata, this was a famous quote. I think what we’re creating is these safe ecosystems where we can, not hide but just live safely and with these, we can express our full freedom in our financial systems and our political systems. Zero-knowledge technology allows us to do this in a very proper way.
Amir: I just have one thing to add to what Ivan said about killing people based on metadata, is they have a new type of U.S drone now, which is called the rx9 and I heard about it in concept like two years ago, but one month ago is the first example I’ve seen of it being used in the field and what this drone is, is instead of exploding on impact like a missile, what it does it, it has a ninja missile and the swords come and they slice up a single human target. So they have ninja-like missiles drones that are run by artificial intelligence.
So it’s automated weaponry and these can fly in the sky for hours and hours on end tracking like a huge area of ground and when the AI detects someone whose face matches a certain profile. It launched a missile and the missile go with these ninja swords. They had a picture of the body of the person. It was sliced into pieces, his hand was here, a bit of his arm was here, literally cut into little cubes by these swords. It’s just one person. It doesn’t cause any collateral damage.
So, also China unveiled now that they’ve made their version of Boston Dynamics. If people search China Big Dog on YouTube that if you have rows of these, so, for me, that’s a terrorist scenario where, they’re using these ninja weapons on brown people in the Middle East, who cares but, what’s the threshold? When the economy’s going bad? They’re trying to extract more wealth from people but it’s not working. People are becoming poorer, things become more unstable, what’s the threshold before they cross over into using ninja missiles on people in developed nations in their backyard.
I saw a video today on Facebook’s metaverse where they were essentially bringing up all of these conflicts in the developing world, the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia, which is an old conflict about ideology between, different factions that have long-term history, but the documentary reduced it down to, ‘Oh they are brown people killing each other.
Facebook doesn’t have censorship there and they had a token brown person crying on camera and it was like this call for like surveillance censorship architecture to be policing people on the internet. So then we’re heading in that direction, they’re pushing for it. The strange thing is it used to be the liberal classes that were defending the freedom of speech. Now, they’re the ones calling for censorship.
So crypto is our best hedge against that AI surveillance censorship future. I say, let’s push for maximum defense, let’s push for maximum equipping of the people everybody should be a minute, man. The old ideal of, there’s no army you are the army, the best defense is not on the edges in the periphery, it’s throughout the entire organism, a good immune system, where people have a sense of community, people are in touch with each other or are looking at what happens in their local neighborhoods.
This is the vision of the future that crypto is transpiring. The vision of the AI Mega machine is one of, you know that meme people talk about which is the great reset, they have their website and they took the video down but the website it had a video and in the quote within a video was, ‘you will own nothing and you will be happy that’s the future they’re giving.
I thought we are just constantly moving around place-to-place living on the edges, doing odd jobs to survive. Anything we need, we have to rent it, exploited by paying rent to landlords, our parent’s generation who got stuck in this algorithm where they get credit from the bank and they buy a property and they just buy and hold the properties like Bitcoin.
Well, then the rest of us, the millennials, the Zoomers, we’re paying these exorbitant rents that just keep skyrocketing.
Brian: I mean, you mentioning drones and these robots and these things, and of course, those are things in the physical reality, these other things, with crypto, you can make your transaction from your phone, your computer. You can have some activity there but you are still subject to wherever you live.
I remember whenever to solve an individual, this book that predicted so many things right? And one of the things that were also in this book was that there would be an explosion in the number of Nation-States and you would kind of have these big States kind of crumble, and there would be this Renaissance where people like to create new countries with different rules and different ideas.
So I’m wondering, do you think this is something possible? You see something like that coming or is it focused more fully on this metaverse or digital?
Amir: Yes, I’m very optimistic about that because the Ethereum Foundation, tried to create this radical market vision from the top down and it never really got adopted by the community, there was no enthusiasm. There’s no latent enthusiasm for that, the DeFi side offer something that was very nihilistic, it was rather just making gains and it still is the large part of it.
But what we see is that some democratic tendencies exist, these are threads that kind of need to be drawn out, so that’s what we’re trying to do.
The important thing is these networks are very real. And we can see now with the FreeRoss style, they just raised 14 million and that’s very real and impactful.
I think it was the owner of Aave who was talking in Eth CC? He was talking about how, a rallying cry to DeFi users that we have this liquidity, and we need to start branching this liquidity to local communities.
We need to start making things move, making things happen. So This process that you talked about, the feudal breakup, which happens at the end of an Empire, which happened for example, with the Roman Empire when it broke up. It’s something that’s in the process like we’re seeing in Europe. With the breakdown of the European Union, the rise of these nationalistic feudal entities, Europe is heading towards a feudal reality.
Also, the big unipolar, U.S.-centric world where a lot of their dominance and power is based on the Petrodollar financial network, which is now being challenged by these emerging powers of Russia and China. But also this emergent crypto class which although we’re quite small in terms of significance we are exponentially increasing and there’s something to be said for a technology whose time has come.
In the past, the printing press came or many new technologies came and an old class whose power is threatened wanted to stop that technology from embodying or manifesting. But they may have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future against their own will.
But it happened and you know the thing is, we don’t have to worry about crypto adoption happening or not happening because it’s going to happen. It’s practically inevitability based on the strength and latent power of this technology.
What we do have to worry about though, I think about is how is it going to manifest itself in the future? Like what is going to be the result, we have at the base of this thing, the ability to shape its outcome through the paradigm. The mental paradigms that we form, which is how typically the scientific conception of scientific revolutions.
For example, when the Copernican theory first came about, it did not explain the motions of the stars and the planets better than the Ptolemaic model. But all Copernicus was saying is that you know here is another theory which I feel is more elegant, a better explanation, but it still took a lot of research and development of that model by scientists to make it competitive with the Ptolemaic model and eventually take over the from the Ptolemaic model.
Usually, in a dominant scientific Paradigm, there are enough paradoxes and inconsistencies that start to arise about the model, then the dominant mental model has to be patched so much that it starts to start to sag under its weight. Then what gives the impetus for this shifting, the consensus among the scientific community is when an opposition voice that has been promoting another paradigm starts to win games.
You see the same thing with many historical struggles. Where there was a missionary, a small group of people that were a minority voice and maybe struggling for a long time, but then an event starts to shift the balance in their favor because their thesis became validated.
We have a thesis about the crypto market which is that crypto is fundamentally antagonistic with these powers. There’s no way of resolving it, you can clip the wings of every crypto project in the space and try to toe the line, but essentially the only vision of crypto that will be tolerated is a crypto that is harmless, which has been defined.
We know we might be saying that’s suicidal because the U.S. is losing its edge and it has so much intellectual Capital not only intellectual capital, that’s the main thing of crypto-based in the U.S. and yet they want to cull their edge over the rest of the world.
But we’re not dealing with a Russian elite class, we are dealing with a self-interested Neo-liberal elite class, that wants to maintain global hegemony. Trump tried to withdraw from an overextended U.S Empire but what we saw is that the deep state is too powerful. Like the deep state has its interests that are orthogonal to the interests of the popular.
Sunny: So, you mentioned this multipolar world, and, reading your stuff I know you’re a big advocate of anarchism and I’m a big fan of multipolar systems. One view on society is that effect, I think that when you get in a sort of hyper anarchist system, what ends up happening is that you’ll get people who step into these, whether it’s through demagoguery or hyper anarchism leads to popularity. Which then leads to high levels of centralization and dictatorship.
While, when you instead go for something that’s more multipolar you can play the game theory of it against each other to prevent the rise of a single centralized system. So, my theories are, if you try to make something too decentralized, what ends up happening is you go in these cycles of hyper decentralization and hyper-centralization and these big swings that keep going forever.
But meanwhile, if you start something that’s somewhere in the middle you can sort of dampening the level of that swing. That’s kind of what I think was sort of brilliant of the original founding system of the United States where it was designed as this republic rather than a democracy, knowing that a pure anarchic democratic system will lead to hyper populism. So, by having this, sort of multipolar Republic system, you can do that.
I think the same thing applies to economics where I think that hyper-competition leads to monopolies, the way to prevent monopolies is to allow for oligopolies to form. Where these powers are holding each other in check and I think the same thing applies in a geopolitical sense, which is kind of what you’re talking about.
Yeah. What do you think about this? how do you reconcile your views on anarchism with these like empirical swings that we’ve seen historically?
Amir: So we’re not anarchists, we do have a lot of sympathy for the anarchist’s position, we are democratic federalists, we’re big fans of Abdul Archelon who was the leader of the BKK and wrote a series of three books called a Manifesto for a Democratic Civilization.
So, let’s talk about first the good points of anarchism that we sympathize with. So, first of all, the anarchists, said in the time of The Enlightenment, the ideology of liberalism was one main contender and then there was the ideology of socialism, and nationalism was an outgrowth of the socialist movement. Another contender was the anarchists and the anarchists did not achieve power in any meaningful way, they also criticized capitalism.
But from the side of the extreme left, and so whereas the Marxist said that capitalism would be progressive the anarchists saw the system, was emerging of something that was ultimately doomed to decay.
But, they also had compared to the Marxists. They had a much more realistic concern. Option of power and The State of critique, which of the Marxist which was that you would end up with a bureaucratic state, which would be more dangerous than capitalism itself, which is what happened and they were also right in that The Nation-State was a huge loss for the values of equality, and freedom and they argued instead for confederalism.
Also, their views and criticism of bureaucratization, industrialization, and urbanization were for large parts, spot on and correct. They had an ecological dimension to their critique and they’re also correct about their analysis of the Marxists, not as being a new form of bureaucratic state capitalism.
So now, about anarchism, where it starts to go wrong is anarchists came from the Enlightenment and they were kind of corrupted by positivism. So, part of that was their demand for The State to be abolished immediately and at all costs, which was completely unrealistic and Utopian.
A big obstacle was their opposition to any type of authority even legitimate forms of authority, which meant that they cannot conceptualize what a system, for what we were talking about, The Democratic Nation would look like and how we can work together to enable that vision, to put the steps forward to have a strategy to enable that vision.
So we criticize the anarchist movement on that basis, yes, there needs to be some type of strategic form, there needs to be some form of leadership, needs to be some way of people moving together but in terms of the values or the critique, we agree with those.
Rose: I just had to quickly add some thoughts on that because I thought Sunny, the way you formed the question was very interesting in terms of this kind of going to ebbs and flows of history, and it’s kind of Marxists in a way, but then I agree with you, and I think history does have phases and it shouldn’t be our goal to work against that kind of ebbs and flows of history.
So the issue that we have with the concept of Utopia’, which is sometimes promoted by people in the crypto space where Utopia assumes that you have a perfect future society. So it’s unchanging, which says a really bad thing, it says authoritarian Mega State.
So instead, we should have this kind of future which is subject to the natural ebbs and flows of history, and in terms of that kind of phases, I think we’re in the midst of a shift at the moment from this kind of materialist era into something more ideational. This is a pattern we see throughout history and where we have these kinds of religious ideational phases which are followed by more material phases.
And we just had in the west this kind of flip recently. You know, we had the Middle Ages followed by the Enlightenment and followed by modernity. Where The Enlightenment was kind of a mixed-phase that mixed religious elements with materialist elements and we see throughout history that these moments of transition are the most generative.
I think we’re in the midst of a kind of transition era, where we have both these materialist tendencies and the idea of natural tendencies. Crypto is a really good example of a movement, which demonstrates both aspects,
But there’s also a kind of pattern that we see a lot with this kind of revolution, especially recently, revolutions get captured by more organized groups. So, all across the Arab Springs, various revolutions one after the other co-opted by militant Islam, there’s also the risk that crypto is vulnerable to a similar kind of take over. So really emphasize that crypto development is its kind of ideological position. Its voice, and so that it’s organized enough, both practically, but also philosophically to resist that kind of take over.
Brian: Another thing I think was mentioned in the manifesto maybe or somewhere else, but this idea of moral fiber and civilization having a moral fiber, what’s the connection between crypto and moral fiber?
Rose: This is a version of the philosophy again by Archelon, especially his third book, where he talks about the moral and political fabric of society. That’s a really interesting concept, because he kind of talks about it, he says there’s something outside of the Nation-State which is society, but what constitutes that society and its values.
He tries to do a kind of history of nations where this kind of ideological consistencies by the people’s political will is expressed, and so, that’s what moral and political society is. It’s the emergent political and moral properties of the society that they are polled.
It offers a kind of new axis on which to build governance systems, and that’s what we were referring to in the manifesto.
Amir: Yes, if you look up the definition of society on Wikipedia, it will say society is defined as the social relations between a group of people, but underneath a dominant morality and politics. So, when we talk about the empowerment of society, a big question is, how is that political system? And what is that moral framework? Does it exist to empower society or does it exist to disempower society in favor of this Nation-State?
So, in terms of and what Archelon. So typically, when people talk about politics, the way people talk about politics is, politics is the study of power, it’s the practice of power but that is kind of corruption, which is a consequence of the ideology of the system that we live in today because politics is the activity that we as people engage in are concerned with. Concerning our freedom, our security, our well-being.
The way that the system conceptualizes politics now is that political people have innate desires that they’re born with and that they can’t be changed. But, the way that you design your political system or your institution can have this kind of feedback loop with the kind of values that people have in society, and the way that you design your political framework can assist people in becoming more individuated people, to become more spiritual, to develop a more public nature.
When the goal of politics essentially is to multiply public spaces because when we are engaging in this kind of discourse of politics with other people, what we’re essentially doing is, we’re learning to empathize with other people and learning about how to negotiate for our interests. We’re learning about how to do discourse, so that kind of nature is a very healthy tendency to encourage in terms of society.
So when we talk about morality, we’re essentially talking about the ideational aspect, the belief system, because we were talking earlier about paradigms and how paradigms act as a form of consensus that gets people who know techniques. We have this form of power over the material world, to get them to kind of work together in a coordinated way towards realizing some kind of vision of the future and that’s important to instill into people.
Otherwise, you get this reality where you have the visionary is like a dictator at the top and you’ve got bureaucracy, and you’ve got Devs at the bottom who are just essentially tools being used to implement the will of somebody else like a giant mechanism.
The consequence of that form of human social organization is that it leads to a type of technology that becomes overly complex, which is a type of mega technique.
So that’s why the systems that we use today are very inhumane because they’re made by gigantic corporations, which enslave developers. For developers they’re just all in a bigger process, we need to get away from this vision of technology. Both the user and the developer need to become synonymous; people need to participate in constructing the paradigm.
Ivan: Just to add about morality, we as skilled developers must feel the need to do to help our society. The people we live with and to, Amir mentions that programmers are being degraded into robots by their oppressors who are usually young bosses in a company, crypto allows us to fight against this.
So we can finally capture value in our projects. Not having to work for a paycheck every month, but, if we’re skilled enough, we can fulfill our moral needs to help our society.
Sunny: So it sounds like there’s a claim here that’s being made and that’s society as a civilization, has these ups and downs, there’s a book that I like by Peter Turchin, and it’s called Secular Cycles. And it kind of shows that society does have these, very clear ups and downs and there’s this quote, which is the ‘Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak man, a weak man creates hard times’
Amir: from the friend create many attendees, many attendees create weak friends, weak friends create few attendees, you claim that.
Sunny: It’s because of this sort of moral degradation of society. And the question is, is there a way of reversing that? Do you think that we can fight against these cyclical trends or is it sort of inevitable?
I know that your Twitter bio has the quote about a society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and fighting by fools.
I guess obviously in a way personified this idea with your stint in Harbour and stuff you think that there’s a way of reversing the moral direction of society or is it inevitable?
Rose: I just want to say quickly before I pass. There’s that and there’s also a kind of geography to this discussion, where different parts of the world undergo. That are different parts of the cycle of the same time. So, I think we’re seeing a shift from the western-centric paradigm toward societies emerging in Africa and the Middle East. I think possibly the worst is beyond saving maybe but there are new societies that we can put our attention on that are in a really good position. Also for adopting everything that’s happening now in crypto.
Sunny: Jordan Peterson seems to be on this mission to see a new narrative, structuring to re-instill moral fibers within society. Is this a worthwhile cause that can be accomplished?
Amir: If you know John McCarthy, he’s the guy that invented the term artificial intelligence. He also invented the concept of the time-sharing operating system and computer networks. The reason why he invented that was that he was a communist, and essentially, what he was seeing were these giant computers. If you wanted to use them, you had to make an appointment and they were owned by the military and industry,
He had the idea, he was like, what if a computer was shared between everybody? What if a computer was like an electrical utility, you just go, you plug it into the wall and you can use a bit of that computer. The outcome of that was the forming of the project by JR. Licklider, which I forgot the name of right now, but that project led to the development of ARPAnet which led to the development of the internet as a direct lineage.
Then also formed the basis of the modern conception of the operating system, which became realized with Unix, so that blip in computer architecture design happened because of a guy who had a certain ideological leak and mentally the other people were not able to think about.
I give another example, I read all of the letters of Ada Lovelace between her sister and other people including Charles Babbage. Charles Babbage created, he designed the first computer. Now the computer did not get built because he was very autistic and he kept changing the design and kept arguing with people you can see in Ada’s letters that she was very frustrated because she realized that this was something of huge magnitude. This was in the 1840s.
The first computer would not be built until World War Two in the 1950s when it was built for the war effort, but in the 1840s, Ada Lovelace was trying to get Babbage’s computer to be realized she was the first programmer. She was designing computer programs on paper, and she was a woman. She was obsessed with mathematical beauty and the social nature of reality.
In her papers, you can see her writing where she’s saying that a computer is a tool that will have tremendous significance. There should be one in every single person’s home, the people will be able to create music on them, people will be able to create artworks with them. The thing is that at the time nobody was able to see the importance of the computer except Ada Lovelace.
Everybody else thought it was just an interesting kind of tool for industrial applications. They didn’t realize that there was a greater social magnitude. So there wasn’t as big a push to get this device realized. It was one person who sadly was way ahead of her time. It would not be until 150 years later, 50 years after the computer was built in the 1950s when people would start using computers to make computer graphics and artwork etc.
So, often when I look at the VCS now, there’s a lot of mid IQ range VCS who go. What’s next? What’s the next big thing in crypto and FTS blockchain gaming, they’re just saying whatever cool thing that they’ve heard around, they’re not able to imagine what the future is.
Whereas what we’re seeing now with ZK is like, holy crap it opened up huge new design space, an untapped design space. There are so many great things that we can create that we dreamed about 20 years ago, and the vision of the Unix operating system that they wanted to make back in the 80s was constrained by resources, by the tools that they had available to them then, they didn’t have ZK cryptography, they didn’t have consensus algorithms.
But they built something, that changed the world of computing. What we have now, is have the tooling and the economic resources, and the computer power to fully realize that vision that was started in the 80s.
There’s been a big break, the computer has not changed since the 80s. We were still using the same type of operating system. I mean, if I want to edit something on a document, people use Google Docs, if I want to edit a picture, create the picture and send it to someone but now we can network the computers. We can create applications that enable new forms of human activity, that one before wasn’t possible.
Ross Ulbricht when made the Silk Road in the beginning. He said I’m just making an economic simulation. Let’s see where this goes. That’s what he said when he announced it, I’m working on an economic simulation, let 1,000 simulations bloom.
Sunny: I guess maybe this kind of leads into DarkFi and what you guys are building right now. So, what do you see as the big problems that need to be tackled?
Yeah. What do you think is a big idea is that crypto can help fix? There’s this idea of privacy but even within the privacy. What do you think, it’s the privacy of exchange, the privacy of communication, what are the problems that you hope to be able to solve?
Ivan: Well, we firstly want to solve the thing of getting back our sovereignty, all the current chains are just being surveilled and controlled and people just don’t have their privacy left anymore. Finally, we have these zero-knowledge mechanisms that are built and were able to use them properly.
Also in DarkFi one of our goals is empowering developers. So we are building simplified tooling and simplified mechanisms for developers to just be able to use and write their ZK algorithms on products, so we can build with zero knowledge. Most of these things are completely anonymous, so we can finally have anonymous voting, anonymous DAOs, can have futures markets with different kinds of liquidation dungeons. Amir has a cool design for this.
We can also help journalists and whistleblowers to delete data, to encrypt and sell this data in zero-knowledge, and this is all finally hidden from any kind of adversary who is just watching what’s happening on the chain and you avoid any consequences.
Also by using mixnets and parallel networks, I spoke to one of them earlier last week, Nym and it’s a mixnet that also allows us to do hide our traffic. So then these mixnets combined with zero-knowledge gives us the ultimate power of just being able to hide anything we’re doing on the internet and be safe and to be sovereign.
Rose: Yeah, I think that was beautifully said and just to add to that, from the technical side the main problem that we’re trying to solve is that we have this incredible technology, which has been developed throughout crypto, which is ZK.
But so far it’s very obscure and it’s very hard for developers to use or understand. So the main problem now is to make tooling that is very easy for developers to make any kind of privacy application. There are many problems from the product side that light developers can solve, like Ivan mentioned the whole technical paradigm right now is run by surveillance. So for each tool that’s based on data harvesting, you can build an anonymous decentralized, and unlike crypto, incentivized alternative. And that’s a big concern for us.
Ivan: Yes. Continuing zero-knowledge. We are building a smart contract language, a virtual machine that executes these, and also an optimizing compiler because it’s very difficult to write circuits in zero-knowledge. You have to deeply know algebra and how things work. But since we want people to prototype and build products.
We decided instead of doing these optimizations by hand, we can actually just build a compiler and probably the computer is faster than the brain and can figure these optimizations out and make these zero-knowledge circuits a lot faster.
The thing about the language we’re building is a C-like syntax. So basically, anyone who knows anything about programming can just implement this. Implement a product in this language. It’s succinct as well, so there is no kind of circuit configuration. You don’t have to think about this, the compiler solves this for you.
You just implement your algorithm, your logic, or what you want to do. So in our documentation, we have examples of this zero-knowledge, and we’re using Halo 2.
We did some research on the community and what they want, even Halo 2 is a bit slower permutation of the ZK mechanism for the ZK algorithm. The big point is there is no trusted setup and immediately there is an implication of being a more trustless system, like many other projects are building with Intel SGX, or they’re building with trusted setups. They might be fast, but they will always be a black box and you cannot always trust black boxes even though they might be just fine.
Amir: In turn. So, I’ve mainly been focused on reviewing the research and applying the research. So we have several lines of research. One of them is in terms of the ZK algorithms themselves. So, right now, Halo 2 is an algorithm that’s very much optimized for anonymous payments.
That’s why the algorithm was developed by Zcash guys, but we’re more interested in the whole kind of gamma of applied ZK. So, there are other trade-offs you can make with other ZK ALGOs, which, for example, can allow complex data structures to exist inside of ZK. So as long as you have the basic primitives of a set, then from a set, you can construct a hashmap, then from a hash map, you can construct any sort of complex data structure.
There are different ways of optimizing ZK algorithms, one of which is unknown order groups. So we’re interested in keeping the same keep because right now everything is based on elliptic curves, but there are other types of unknown order groups which use other mathematical primitives, for example of ideal class groups you have a more risky, newer construction, which is Jacobi and hyperelliptic curves. We also kind of prototype our algorithms in Sage math.
Another interesting idea is that the compiler that we make right now is very much tied to the Halo 2 back end, but if we want it to be customizable with different algorithms on the back end, then what we could do is we can develop a sage-like intermediate like a polynomial kind of tooling, an algebraic kind of compiler and then you like Implement the ALGO’s on the back end.
I think this is the approach that Iden3 has taken with their compiler, it enables them with algorithms very quickly and there are different types of recursivity. So the recursivity which is used in Halo 2 is that you have these two added curves, which can wear the scalar field, it is the base field of the other and vice versa.
You can create a verifying circuit inside of ZK and then construct all these proofs that you amortized, you’d combine them into one using the bulletproof trick. But there are other ways of doing that, for example, people build a Stark verifier inside of ZK ALGO like Halo 2 or Groth16 and then, Starks is recursive.
So that’s one way of it. Also, ZK users create the proof, but if you have some kind of state that needs to be updated based on secret information, then you need a way to poke the smart contracts that update The State. So that’s where other mechanisms start to come in which we are kind of developing.
For example, the AMM, it’s impossible to make an anonymous AMM because you have these two pools of the capital where The State gets updated and that’s globally visible to everyone. So the main technique that people use to solve that is batching, but the problem is, if the batch is too small it’s not anonymous. If the batch is too big, then the price moves against you and is capital inefficient.
So the actual market mechanisms that we build in ZK have to be completely different because we have a different set of constraints. To not have to deal with these constraints, there are the complex data structures that we’re researching earlier, but also you have to have a fast blockchain.
So then they kind of shift the focus heavily onto bridges. We’re very much thinking like the Cosmos model where you have different nodes that run very fast and you have bridges that execute functions on the different smart contracts. I know a lot of people are in favor of the ETH L2 model I just don’t see that as the future, especially given the kind of shift in the mindset of curves are away from this single-chain model to this, multi-asset many-to-many paradigm.
We’re doing a lot of kind of theoretical research on the side, then in a pipeline applying that, and then prototype research making it into main where it goes into products. So we can currently have all these tracks simultaneously.
There are also some interesting things that Rose is also doing with token engineering which is another technique that you can use to get around restrictions with anonymity. So for example, the way Tornado cash distributes rewards to the people staking, is they have this AMM. The reward is dripped into one side, but everybody who’s faking an Epoch gets a minted token 1 to 1.
So that’s a financial solution to a technical problem. So we can also leverage that. So in terms of what’s possible with the tech, actually a lot is possible, it’s just being able to think differently and that’s the new design space. We talked about it, it’s a door, which is opened and it’s there to be explored for everyone and we want to bootstrap this ecosystem.
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