Ethereum Q&A: Programmable Money, Smart Contracts and DAOs

[ANDREAS] This is the internet of money.
It is not just money for the internet.
Once you realize that, you can build applications
on top of this. Currency is just the first application.
It is like email on the internet: good enough to change
the world and [attract] everyone to adopt the internet.
[INTERVIEWER] It is just the beginning.
[ANDREAS] You don’t even imagine what comes next.
Twitter, Facebook, the World Wide Web.
We haven’t built [the equivalent of] those things yet.
Some people here are building them: contract
platforms based on systems like Ethereum.
Multiple currencies can be built on top of Bitcoin,
and transferred in decentralized exchange of value.
Programmable money is really interesting.
Let me give you just one example, which
I think your audience will like very much.
The concept of a distributed autonomous corporation.
At the moment, every payment and currency system
in the world requires that the ownership of money…
is associated with personhood.
Money can be controlled by [individual] persons
or associations, artificial personhood.
Corporations manage money on behalf of individual
shareholders through institutional controls.
You can’t have autonomous systems manage money.
They must be attached to a person.
Bitcoin doesn’t see personhood.
It is not designed to go around personhood;
it simply doesn’t [require] personhood [by default].
It doesn’t see people anymore than it
sees borders, just like on the internet.
There is a famous saying,
“On the internet, no one knows that you are a dog.”
That is from a cartoon [by Peter Steiner in 1993].
It essentially removes personhood from the equation.
That means you can have autonomous
systems that control and manage money.
What comes out of that is the concept
of a distributed autonomous corporation,
which is an autonomous [governance] system
that owns resources (money) on the internet,
through Bitcoin or some related technology.
It will act in the interests of shareholders, which
may be people or other autonomous systems.
It doesn’t matter. It will make decisions about
how to spend money and allocate resources.
Let me give you a post-singularity example…
[INTERVIEWER] It almost sounds
like money for artificial intelligence.
[ANDREAS] Imagine a weak AI system whose
goal is to optimize the publishing of content.
It can use a bitcoin account to pay for hosting on
a cloud computing service like Amazon Elastic Cloud.
It could buy a month of hosting and establish
a number of blogs that harvest news off the web.
It can also collect micro-payments
from the readers of those blogs.
If one of the sites it builds is popular and successful,
it will collect more micro-payments [than others],
then spin off as a subsidiary that divests and
launches more news sites based on that code pattern.
It will buy more hosting and bandwidth capability
for the next month, if it is really successful.
Presumably, it could also improve its own code
simply by posting ads on forums to hire developers.
It could do A/B testing with different versions of code
written by two developers by [running them in the wild].
Whichever one thrives in delivering the product
or service, by collecting more payments from users,
[will be chosen], while the ones that don’t will lose
the ability to pay for their own hosting and die off.
If you do that on a large enough scale, you now have
an evolutionary environment for artificial intelligence…
which can manage its own resources.
You could literally have a self-evolving autonomous
system in action, expanding when it is successful,
contracting when it is failing, and spawn
new generations that are self-improving.

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