Daily Balajisms - The ledger of record
Bad feeds can kill us. Good feeds can free us.
Balaji Srinivasan presents his idea of the ledger of record as a better alternative to the paper of record – BTC over NYT, paradigmatically. The argument from cryptography replaces the argument from authority. The Gray Lady Winked by Ashley Rindsberg details misreporting of the NYT over decades.
Balaji posits cryptoinformation, secured by blockchains and provided by crypto-oracles, against fiat information, backed by prestige and popularity and prone to cancelation, alteration and retraction.
Bitcoin is not just a digitally-native form of money but less obviously also a truth machine. Even sworn enemies can agree who sent what amount and when.
With decentralized social networks and crypto oracles, we will see more and more data feeds put on-chain. The news making will split into two functions – oracles and advocates, thinks Balaji.
Bad feeds can kill us, says Balaji. We have seen the downstream media and public health officials repeatedly change narrative on Covid-19, often based on political convenience (mask didn’t work before they did), or tribal logic (when Trump feared the virus, media claimed “it was just a flew”, then they switched narratives), and not facts (the lab leak theory was very probable, very early, see Rootclaim).
Just to repeat - at the very critical time, during the onset of the pandemic, media downplayed its severity and risk – for clicks. This wasn’t just evil (zero-sum), it was stupid (negative-sum), thinks Balaji. Journalists were putting also their own lives at risk, just for clicks.
Balaji and other tech people were painted as lunatics by “just-the-flu” journalists for taking precautions very early, with articles like “No handshakes, please: The tech industry is terrified of the coronavirus” by Recode/Vox.
Downstream media employ a school of fish strategy, explains Balaji. They condemn the lab leak theory in unison, when it is politically correct, just to oppose the other tribe domestically. And they flip to embrace it, once it becomes politically useful for attacking China. They operate on the third level of Baudrillard’s simulacra (pandering to their tribe/subscribers), disinterested in truth seeking.
Balaji says, that financial media can be seen as wrappers around ticker symbols, sports media as wrappers around box scores, and political media are becoming increasingly wrappers around tweets. And a tweet is a data structure with metadata.
The ledger of record combines the immutability and decentralization of blockchains with the reputation of crypto-oracles who provide the data feeds. The decentralized and truly reproducible research, underpinned by cryptography, replaces the argument from a centralized authority (legacy institutions).
Balaji suggests that the oracle-problem could be first solved in the context of reporting inflation – as there are lots of incentives to misreport prices. Once the inflation dashboard use case (see Truflation) for the ledger of record is successfully demonstrated, it can be generalized to other domains.
Our information supply chain is broken, says Balaji. Who controls the past, controls the future and who controls present controls the past, said Orwell.
In order to bootstrap a desired and technologically-progressive future, we need to make the leap from online reporting, prone to cancellation, to immutable on-chain reporting.
Better feeds and cryptohistory will set us free.