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Building a universal ledger. To blockchain or not to blockchain.

I spend a lot of time in banks these days and there is a lot of discussion about blockchains. Described another way, there is a lot of discussion about what the appropriate way is to technically store data for the purpose of reducing risk and increasing transaction speed.

It’s interesting to me because most bank business units that are considering various technologies don’t actually care how it works. 

They just want it to work and they don’t want it to get them in trouble.

There are 2 separate problems to be solved:

  1. What the fastest way is to settle and clear payments or trades.
  2. What the best way is to record something happened without creating new compliance or regulatory problems.

These are 2 separate issues entirely. Something has to move the actual assets and something needs to record that the asset was exchanged and reflect who owns it. Continue Reading

The Prioritization Paradox

Prioritization is pretty simple in theory but can be incredibly complex. Whenever I talk to someone about what they’re capable of doing with the time they have I always try to make it clear that the time is limited.

Imagine you have 1 unit. You can not do 2 things with that 1 unit. For the sake of this post, 1 unit is time. Here’s how that works.

  • Walk dog. 1 unit.
  • Read book. 1 unit.

I selected the dog and the book because I think many adults have cleaned up after a pet and probably have had to prepare something for school or work before that is important.

If you walk the dog and read the book. 2 units. Assuming each takes an hour, we’ll treat them as equal.

Basic, right? Continue Reading

Dwolla White Paper

What I learned contributing to a white paper

I’ve never written or contributed to a white paper before. I’ve always viewed them largely as an academic exercise. Since I have little to no background in academia it didn’t make a lot of sense to me until now.

A few months ago Arjun and the team decided we needed to produce one for the purpose of educating partners who did have academic backgrounds.

We went down that road and it’s been a great exercise synthesizing our view of the market as well as how we solve problems within it. Importantly, not to everyone in the market but to a core audience.

Here is the abstract.

Digital payment technologies, particularly in the United States, have made accelerated progress in recent years.
Currencies have been created by people simply writing code, and both large and small businesses have adopted new payment platforms. These new payment technologies are unique in their application within the United
States due to the lack of dramatic upgrades to the U.S. payment system and the integral role of the U.S. Dollar
in global economies. The approaching shift to instantaneous liquidity of the U.S. Dollar will inevitably affect the rest of the world. The creation of these new payment technologies presents global financial markets with many opportunities and challenges. Some of the new technologies are able to demonstrate distributed trust but do not have the necessary interface for law enforcement, regulatory bodies, or existing financial frameworks. Other payment technologies may have the necessary interface for participants, but lack speed, privacy, or adoption.

Continue Reading

What I’m reading this week

I’ve been traveling in Asia this week which affords me more time than usual to read. Either the other side of the world is asleep or I’m stuck in transit constantly without wifi so I write, and read. Here’s what I’m reading this week:

Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom

I had a unique opportunity to meet Nick in Munich not too long ago and didn’t realize that the man I met wrote this book until after I started reading it, and looked at the back cover.

Nick is pretty far out there. He writes and talks about the development of the digital or virtual mind as something that is already real. As someone described to me, it’s because in his mind it’s a guarantee these things exist in the future. The book is entirely about what happens when digital brains or AI start to develop in the world and the ramifications for the rest of us walking around in these organic suits, so to speak.

One of the things I truly appreciate about this book is the healthy use of the notes section in the back of the book. Nick repeatedly beats you over the head with facts and cites their source and meaning. I’d hate to get stuck in a debate with him about why what he believes may or may not be possible.

The book is written like a computer wrote it. The notes are referenced by what feels like a computer making sure that us humans aren’t confused by reading it since we don’t know as much as the computer.

On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss

I’ve been trying to finish this book for a while. The author writes so eloquently that I feel the need to re-read sentences quite frequently not because of the complexity but because of how thoughtful they are.

The book, is really what reads as a memoir and internal thoughts of whether or not vaccination is good written by an extremely eloquent and intelligent author.

The most intriguing sections to me are the parts of the book that consider the effects of that which we can’t know, describe, or measure yet. The things which medical science allows us to measure may actually be exceeded by the things which it can’t. It’s thoughtful.

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