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Monday
Feb162015

Freud, Genetic Programming, and Blockchain

Sigmund Freud was a funny guy [1]. He got famous by asking a bunch of novel questions (or near-novel questions framed well)… then answering them with exactly the wrong answers! Of course no one knew they were wrong at the time. Though everyone should have been more skeptical, as Freud himself repeatedly said he was not using the scientific method to arrive at his answers. He didn’t pose testable hypotheses, let alone test them and publish data and analyses back up or refute the hypotheses.

Genetic programming’s a bit like that too. It asked a bunch of novel questions  (or near-novel questions framed well)… then answering them with a one-size-fits-all technology. The algorithm was able to answer the questions, but usually in a horribly inefficient way. Moore’s Law is a partial answer, but if you’re needing 10,000x speedup to get something usable you probably aren’t willing to wait the decades for Moore’s Law to meet the needs. But I love the questions that GP asked. And to be fair, GP and other evolutionary algorithms are super convenient. I like to think of them as the second-best algorithm for everything: ranked highly because the effort to prototype it is super low, but can never be #1 because it’s (usually) not fast enough for production and there’s going to be a more suitable algorithm for the problem at hand.

I see Bitcoin like Freud too. It’s asked a bunch of novel questions  (or near-novel questions framed well)… then answering them with a one-size-fits-all technology in a horribly inefficient way and (arguably) the wrong answers. A global distributed trusted database is cool. But do you really need all that electricity for consensus? Is a 30Gb database -- small enough for a thumb drive -- really “bloated”? (Ironically, GP has a so-called bloat problem too.) Do you really even need coins if it’s fundamentally just a database? The terminology is admittedly fun – just like “penis envy” was back in the day.

I really do love the questions that Bitcoin has asked. And GP before. And Freud before that. And their related fields. I just prefer thoughtfully engineered solutions. So for now I’m going to call Bitcoin the #2 solution: convenient (now, anyway), but not fast enough for production, and there’s going to be a more suitable technology.

 


[1] Funny interesting more than funny ha-ha

Reader Comments (1)

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July 12, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterhttp://awriter.org

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