|Oct 13||Public post|| 2|
Blockchain in healthcare updates
UNICEF, which is the United Nations Children’s Fund, launched a fund to receive, hold and distribute donations of Bitcoin and Ether (!) with the aim to back open source technology for children around the world. This is a first for the United Nations and it’s amazing they would associate themselves with crypto. That would have been unthinkable very recently.
Anyway, the first donations came from the Ethereum Foundation (non-profit developing and supporting the Ethereum blockchain) who donated 100 ether (~$18,000 at current prices). Among the awardees from this round was Prescrypto, a prescription tracking startup.
Cumberland will be the preferred systems integration partner for MediLedger.
Decent has been making progress this month, also being added to the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange, allowing independent attorneys to access their insurance plans. You can read about how they are using blockchain here.
The grant was for work on the blockchain protocol level, integrating recent innovations into their technology.
I’m at the Global Community Bio Summit and have been amazed and inspired by the community here. It’s full of biotech enthusiasts and includes everyone from your DIY in a garage hacker to the heads of venerable labs. My jaw dropped several times from the stories people relayed to me of the work they were doing, both because of the reasons why they did what they did but also the amazing science behind their projects. I’m sure I’m not the first to observe this, but it feels like something important and big is happening in this community.
I’ll save the details for a blog post some other time, but my other observation is that there is a non-intuitive degree of alignment between the crypto and community bio communities. I deeply enjoyed presenting about blockchains to this community (I’m probably the first/only person to share the genesis block at a biotech conference?) and in particular DAOs/distributed organizations. I wanted to articulate that anyone, even non-technical people, could start and manage a community governed digital organization with a few clicks, and that there was an entire alternative financial system that they could access and no one could stop them. To that end I launched a DAO live in ~5 minutes with 30 eager participants during a workshop by using Aragon. We are planning to continue working on it and try to make something valuable for the community. A working group is being formed and if you’re interested joining that feel free to send me a message.
What I'm reading this weekend
Smart contracts and ETH2.0
One day I hope to be as productive as Vitalik! During the middle of the biggest Ethereum conference of the year he put out six blog posts full of insight on ETH2.0. Here and here are two I spent the most time on, you can find the other four on linked on his Twitter. Each one of these could be a few paragraphs here but I'll focus on what I found to be the most important idea of the six.
The original Ethereum was built on the idea of one single world state and every node on the network verified every transaction that was applied to this state. But in some ways Ethereum has become a victim of its own success; it is used enough that the network can get congested. When that happens transaction costs and times go up, which leads to a bad user experience. So there is a desire to relax the constraint of having every node verifying every transaction, which would help Ethereum scale.
Ethereum is transitioning to “Ethereum 2.0,” which is a new and upgraded Etheruem chain. It will have a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism as well as a scaling solution called “sharding.” As you might be able to surmise, this breaking the previously homogeneous state of the Ethereum blockchain into many “shards” which will enable parallel transactions, thus increasing throughput. Each shard will be like its own mini blockchain with its own nodes validating that shard.
Developers worry that this will break “composability,” or the ability to put smart contract together like LEGOs to build higher order applications that weren’t possible without their components. Intuitively this concern makes sense because, well, you’re breaking the blockchain up into a bunch of pieces. Smart contracts will have to live on individual shards, and since these are like mini blockchains it will be more difficult to communicate between them than the status quo, where all smart contracts live on one giant homogenous blockchain. While this enables parallel transactions, and thus increases throughput, it adds complexity. As Vitalik points out this isn’t an insurmountable challenge but it requires developing smart contracts in a different way.
I think that this general problem of having some state (data) somewhere (a blockchain, a layer 2 solution, a shard) and act on some state elsewhere (another blockchain, a different layer 2 solution, a different shard) will be increasingly common in the medium term and not limited to ETH2.0. Developers should think about how to plan for this future state when designing their solutions today. Details on how to do this are too long to describe here, but Vitalik’s posts are a good place to start.
This week in Libra news…
Some big names in crypto forked the Libra code base and are planning to launch “OpenLibra” on Cosmos.
Mercado Pago, Visa, eBay, Stripe, and, Mastercard left Libra. Visa, Mastercard, and Stripe were recently pressured by US Senators to do so.
German finance minister calls for a digital Euro, referencing Libra
Tomorrow a private governance meeting happens where members formally sign charters to join the Libra Association.
The exits of former members are not a good thing, but nonetheless I don’t think it spells the end for Libra. It was interesting to see David Marcus go back and forth with crypto legend Nick Szabo (there are theories that he is Satoshi) on Twitter. Given this exchange, perhaps Marcus will come back with a proposal for a more decentralized version of Libra, and thus one where its corporate members can’t be pressured as much.
I’m a big fan of their tech and recently won a hackathon using NuCypher’s proxy re-encryption scheme. Definitely a company to watch.
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