Video Of The Week: Crypto Singularity

This is a talk that Muneeb Ali, co-founder and CEO of our portfolio company Blockstack, gave at their “Can’t Be Evil” summit last month in the bay area.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    Very good talk (I had watched it earlier).The case for owning one’s data and knowing it is decentralized and not controlled by central databases is a strong one.

    1. pointsnfigures

      exactly, Chinese citizens might tell you that…

    2. Michael Brill

      Disagree. People are lazy and will sell their data cheaply. The rest will be harvested. Nothing will change except that innovation will slow absent today’s financial incentives.

      1. William Mougayar

        It needs to be done right of course. Selling your data is different from owning it or not (and the right to sell it). Currently, central powers can use your data in ways you don’t know about and without your explicit permission. I’d love to sell some of my data, if I knew exactly what I’m selling, how it will be used, and what derived benefits would ensue.

        1. Michael Brill

          Yes, that makes sense. You don’t need to Own the data to control how it is used and to be compensated for its use. But that solution is rooted in standards and perhaps regulation that existing service providers can implement to give us that control. That could be done in the short term with 0% blockchain anything.

          1. William Mougayar

            True we’ll see that applied with and without the blockchain. Facebook was clever to have initiated their pay for research data initiative.

    3. JLM

      .The Chinese have already launched a system — the Chinese Social Credit System beginning in 2014 and to be completed this year — that ranks each of its 1.4B people on a continuum of “trustworthy/obedient to untrustworthy/disobedient”.If you end up on the untrustworthy/disobedient blacklist, your life will be Hell.How does a Chinese person get there?1. Dishonest, fraudulent behavior as determined by the Bank of China2. Negative credit ratings3. Playing loud music4. Eating in a rapid transit vehicle5. Jaywalking6. Driving violations like running a red light7. Making reservations at hotels or restaurants and not showing up8. Failing to recycle correctly9. Using another’s transportation ID card or authorization10. Protesting or objecting to government behavior — talking to you Hong Kong11. Writing objectionable content12. Standing in a crowd of protestorsYou can also get positive points –1. Donating blood to the government2. Donating to government approved charities3. Volunteering to provide services for government entitiesSo what happens?Your rating determines whether you — and your children — are allowed to fly anywhere — more than 30MM untrustworthy persons had their airline tickets cancelled while another 7MM train travelers felt the same heat in 2018.Apartments, schools, academic majors, travel, buying luxury goods — all dependent upon your social credit score.In addition, the Chinese are the most video controlled country using a new high resolution/facial recognition camera that can find you in a crowd of 10,000 in less than 3 minutes.No masks in Hong Kong? Why? Now, you know.The Chinese say their aim is to regulate social behavior, to improve the citizen’s quality of life, and to promote high moral values. The same high moral values that have 3MM Uyghers in re-education camps and that support the government organ harvesting and transplantation business.This is what evil looks like.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. William Mougayar

        Wow. That’s scary control.

        1. JLM

          .They are doing the same thing with foreign companies who want to manufacture and sell in China. This is all about stealing tech and maintaining control.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    4. Matt A. Myers

      No case was given to counter why using authority through democratically elected government to enforce companies obey data ownership laws (to come) – which is the legitimate “competition” – solution, to the problem.

    5. Muneeb Ali

      Thanks, William!The not your keys, no your money analogy can easily be extended to data and digital assets.

      1. William Mougayar

        Exactly. Keep making it easier for everybody to do that.

  2. marvinavilez

    This is a good talk and I appreciate the views. Decentralized and ownership (I have a key) make for a powerful platform from both a technology and philosophy point of view. My only comment is more around the idea of how he closes the conversation. Not everyone at google (or maybe anyone) is evil. Just because you work at google does not make you wrong. I just wish he would leave that concept alone and focus on doing what they set out to do.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Except as a propagandist cheerleader that’s his role. He could have instead excited the crowd with real life examples if they had any exciting enough – but they don’t have anything really exciting to share.I still have NO IDEA how much it cost to use any of these systems. He didn’t give any examples about HOW they’re ensuring security is secure. And why not bring up efforts of government and laws, the alternative and actual solution, to protecting people’s data from big companies, e.g. Presidential candidate Andrew Yang who has a data ownership policy? The answer is because they’re marketing and not working the solution, and they’re narrow-selfish minded. You can argue that’s the role of a company, to think about and view the world from their own perspective, however isn’t that actually the behaviour problems that come from these big companies they’re claiming to fight against?

      1. Muneeb Ali

        For an overview of how Blockstack is built, I’d recommend this talk instead:…The above linked talk is more general and not about how Blockstack works.RE cost to use systems, this is an open-source alternatives to big tech. We enable developers to build a new type of “user-controlled” apps. The main cost is how users choose to store their data and there are free options available for encrypted data storage. You can try out some of the apps here:

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Re: VideoFirst, thank you for engaging.There were no examples for costs explained, shared in the video – overall or related to storage costs like with Gaia? E.g. If I was to use all of the “apps” to store all of my data, encrypted or not, what are those costs? What is the flow, step 1 to 10 (how many steps?) from purchasing tokens (how much?) to downloading the browser to be able to use the Blockstack system fully? Initial costs + ongoing costs?Can these “dapps” connect or work with a different system other than Blockstack or is it fixed to Blockstack and the STX token? The payment mechanism is through people spending their STX tokens, correct? And the STX token has a similar structure to Bitcoin where value is pegged to what – what people are willing to pay?I’m concerned about ethics, how deep or well thought through your ecosystem is: I don’t understand why it pains you to give a SEC disclaimer? I hope you understand the bad behaviour that the SEC prevents with the regulations. Do you not think those bad behaviours need to be kept in check? If yes, then how do you propose doing so without a centralized organization like the SEC? If you can’t answer this question then your “can’t be evil” mantra is automatically propaganda that hasn’t been critically thought through – propaganda that then is just continuing to indoctrinate people, a tagline just as bad and meaningless as “do no evil.”

  3. Richard

    Let’s get consistent. 27 and on your parents insurance … your parents should own the data

  4. jason wright

    Gov was worried about encryption denying it access to private communications. Gov is now worried about quantum computing breaking its own encrypted communications. What does that say about the true nature of gov?Is Blockstack resistant to quantum computing? Does Muneeb see the danger that lies ahead?

    1. Muneeb Ali

      I’m personally not yet worried about quantum computing. As far as our work is concerned it mainly impacts encryption algorithms, and us along with the rest of the world will need to start moving towards post-quantum algorithms. The world will have enough of a warning and time to do such upgrades.

      1. jason wright…“In the public discourse, people are saying it will be 10 to 20 years until we have the first full commercially available quantum computer,” says Mr Cheng. “In the cyber security domain, they say it will be more like five to 10 years, but the intelligence community [has] become worried . . . over the past two years. They believe a working quantum computer will arrive much earlier than we think.”I wonder if the same intelligence community isn’t misdirecting people here, and that it may perhaps already have its own working prototype quantum computer. No one knew about the Manhattan Project, the Enigma codebreakers, Crypto AG, et.c. at the time. The NSA doesn’t need to crack my bitcoin private keys, but i wonder if it could?

  5. Dennis Mykytyn

    When did every two-bit conference become a “summit”? Another example of the pervasive grade inflation in today’s society. ;-)Definition of summit1: TOP, APEXespecially : the highest point : PEAK2: the topmost level attainablethe summit of human fame3a: the highest level of officialsespecially : the diplomatic level of heads of governmentb: a conference of highest-level officials (such as heads of government)an economic summit

  6. JLM

    .The Nazis, Auschwitz — evil.Google owning and lending out some of your data — an inconvenience, the price of being in the Internet Age, not evil.There is no privacy left in the world. We killed it. Now, we want it back, but that isn’t going to happen.This is no longer the 1950s and y’all weren’t alive then anyway. It was OK, but this is way better.Deal with a world in which the NSA has every phone call, every key stroke, every email, every text message you ever made.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Matt A. Myers

      The root cause of why Google et al having access to our data and being able to monetize it through ads, I believe, is that ads are shallow manipulation – and it’s bad to incentivize a system to do such.

      1. JLM

        .Bad is in the eye of the beholder. Yesterday, Black Friday (which for the record I think is racist), saw millions of persons buy bargains directed toward them with targeted advertising of the type you describe.In the market place, sellers offered goods through targeted ads. In the same market place, buyers sought out bargains, most of which came to their attention through targeted ads.Sellers have to pay for ads. Whoever sells them these ads is going to make a lot of money. Any behavior that makes you a lot of money is going to be expanded, and duplicated.It is called business. It has been around a long time and it is how Jesus Christ sought out his carpentry clients back when he was in the kitchen remodeling business in Jerusalem.Everybody pretends they hate ads. Some folks will pay to get rid of the ads. Then, Black Friday (racist) comes around and we all go ugly on an ape.Google is selling to us and to the sellers of products/service exactly what we have asked them to sell to us.In the meantime, they find out I like pickle juice martinis and my feed is filled to overflowing with pickle juice on sale at Amazon.Is this a great country or what?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. Rick Mason

      Where there’s a need entrepreneurs will provide it.Introducing Winston

      1. Girish Mehta


      2. JLM

        .That’s a damn good video and product.Thanks.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Girish Mehta

          Just on the video, if you compare it to the “enemy” video posted Friday (different products obviously), this is better done. Idea+ Scripting + Storyboarding. Better Production Values.

      3. SFG

        They sold me, what a great ad.

    3. jason wright

      Are you having a bad bear day?

  7. Matt A. Myers

    What happens in scenario that someone kidnaps you or your family – and unless you give them your keys they’ll start cutting off your children’s limbs? Your assets and net worth are now lost – or you need a central authority regardless to cope with the situation? I wish at minimum the crypto-“currency” community, their thought leaders (or cheerleaders) would discuss and include these real-life scenarios; they otherwise seem allergic to referencing the need for centralization, authority, security services, in a lame attempt to maintain the Holy Grail of decentralization. I wish he’d reference actual concrete examples, too. Maybe that wasn’t his role for his speech – so more so a cheerleader then.These types of events really starting to remind me of the co-opting of methods of the bad actors who took over the Republican party – sponsored by corporate money, many decades ago. Noam Chomsky explains this well in ~10 minutes here –… – the embedded video autoplays the 10 mins I’m referring to (scroll down a bit) at ~48 mins in but the whole video is worth watching.Re: “Make money off your data” argument – It’s an assumption held to maintain that people will want to sell their data to be advertised to, ads being a shallow form of manipulation. I think we’re completely moving away from the unnatural manipulation of shallow knowledge distribution that ads allow back to the natural mechanisms of revering thought and community leaders by active engagement and passionate interest: people will be conscious at all times, present in the moment as their mind and heart when open won’t be bombarded by shit/waste, thoughtlessness and carelessness that require a person to have their ego mind guard constantly on or at attention.People are opening up to realize how toxic ads are – and that when their ego mind guard is actively blocking to protect, you’re not able to take in everything in your environment – which is our natural state of rest, when there is no real threat to cause stress in our body, stress which leads to all dis-ease states; inflammation is tied into stress as well, and word wise I’ve continued to see the similarity between inflammation and inflation – inflation being in essence paying a higher cost than something is in fact worth (sounds like all of crypto-“currency” history too).And pretty sure he contradict his own “don’t be evil” – software that can’t be evil – statement. Likewise, it’s not even true – crypto-“currencies” allow known bad actors to transfer funds, that otherwise democratically elected governments hold accountable with their real currency system. It’s 100% disingenuous when these examples are ignored to maintain the fluffy propaganda narrative.There’s potential for strong leaders in the crypto space, I haven’t seen any yet though.

    1. Muneeb Ali

      RE the kidnapping scenario, have you seen Coinbase Custody? Withdrawing crypto assets from there is fairly similar to withdrawing assets from a highly-secure bank.For background on the “can’t be evil” statement, I’d encourage this blog post:…The main point is about removing unnecessary trusted parties so those trusted parties “can’t be evil”.

      1. Michael Brill

        Hey Muneeb. One difference between Blockstack and, say, Google is that Google is providing full applications, not just application services. To get application functionality on Blockstack, you need 3rd party application developers who can be arbitrarily evil. Is there something flawed with that thinking?

        1. Muneeb Ali

          The 3rd party developers can absolutely try to do malicious things. And the software on your computer should try to defend you from such things. See this post by Larry:…Basically a big shift from blindly trusting cloud/remote software to having a minimal layer of open-source core software that then helps you protect against other malicious apps.

          1. Michael Brill

            Thx. Read it. I just don’t get it. You can lock down the browser (and create a poor user experience), but EvilBooks can just find other ways to shuttle data to partners on the server side. I find myself strangely agreeing with @mattamyers:disqus that contractual solutions seem more feasible than a world that introduces a level of individual responsibility that ultimately very few will want to assume. OTOH, maybe we’ll see functionality that is enabled through federated identity and ownership of data that isn’t feasible with today’s siloed model. I always found myself more engaged with folks like Doc Searls when the focus was on new value vs. privacy. Maybe both will happen.

  8. awaldstein

    Useful.I am unclear whether the mass market cares about privacy.I am very clear that decentralized will become a meaningful term over time and that no one is talking about it in with any intent to speak to the broader market.Big fan of the possibilities, souring greatly on the communications approach that the early adopter and pundits have adopted.

    1. Michael Brill

      When the mass market figures out that this requires them to do all the work and take on all the risk, the first thing they’ll do is hire someone else to manage it for them. I know I will.