Allow me, for a moment, to wax historical a bit.

The invention of Calculus was a rather heated one, given the current conditions at the time – while most attribute the crucial invention to none other than Isaac Newton, there was a heated debate at the time going on about who actually made it first. You see, Gottfried Leibniz also staked his claim to the invention of Calculus – the two going on to have a rather competitive battle over the claimant of the discovery. That’s not the only time this strange phenomenon of multiple discovery has happened – all over the world throughout time it appears that separate people with no real connections arrive at similar concepts almost at the same time. Tesla and the Marconi with the radio, oxygen being claimed by numerous persons and even Bitcoin itself having similar concepts arising around the same time period.

To this writer, it appears that many of mankind’s greatest inventions arrive almost as a result of consequence rather than accident, having a future as inexorably destined as its past. Sure, individuals may change a few mechanics of a discovery – perhaps taking a left turn instead of a right – but the ultimate destination remains the same. This kind of discovery is one in which I believe to be destined for success – the kind of idea that simply cannot be stopped, corrupted, or otherwise impeded. Which brings me to Ceptr.

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I talked a little bit about how the Internet was broken in a previous piece that I made about the Urbit project – and frankly, the two have many of the same hallmarks that look to change the very fundamental layers of the Internet itself (mm, that delicious multiple discovery again!). Ceptr is taking this kind of concept, and going even deeper.

See, while Urbit is trying to change the way the Internet works and give power back to the users, Ceptr is taking on this concept at the very fundamental level of PC architecture and computing. Ceptr has a base philosophy of “receptor-based” computation(that’s where the name comes from). Everything in the real world essentially functions as receptors that provide output based on any given input. Our eyes for example, receive input of light that then send output to our brains, so on and so forth. This kind of design philosophy means that it resembles the real world very closely, and makes computation and programming make much more sense on a logical level:

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Ceptr allows for nested receptors within other receptors that create an informational structure and hierarchy – much like real life. The receptors that are your eyes are nested within the receptor of your brain, which is nested within the receptor of your body, so on and so forth. It’s a pretty genius step forward, as it looks at nature and the real world and brings those concepts down to the virtual. Science!

Ceptr is a protocol for protocols. It’s a low-level, fundamental protocol for how to structure data, organize processing, and communicate. In other words: TCP/IP for wealth.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a team of supergeeks if there wasn’t yet another level to what they’re trying to build.

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On trees, semantics, and semantic trees

Ceptr functions on a core programmatic level as semantic trees – coincidentally, this is also something that Leibniz was working on, only in the space of logic instead of computers that didn’t exist at the time. See, a semantic tree is essentially a form of logic that at its base starts out with the most important and “largest” information about a subject and then goes on to form descriptions and micro arguments as “branches” of this tree. In logic, this can be used for something as simple as learning (Elon Musk loves semantic trees). For computing, it actually looks something like this:

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Stolen shamelessly from Wikipedia

This is already something that our IDE’s do once we start to compile code that we’ve written, but it isn’t the way programs are made at a human level. Having worked myself with DAG infrastructures (which is not a semantic tree, but similar in design flow), I can attest to the linking up of nodes and small parts in the creation of the whole is a much more efficient and dare I say logical method of program creation. In fact, we’re basically evolving toward this method of coding with all of the snippets, drag and drops, and Intellisense that we use when designing our programs today – Ceptr takes this concept and goes all the way, allowing for much more efficient/simple/better code creation.

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So what does this all have to do with Holochain?

Blockchain Version 3

Holochain is essentially the “blockchain” component that runs on top of Ceptr. It has many of the same functions that a contemporary blockchain like, say Ethereum, might posses. You can run distributed apps on Holochain, create smart contracts, serve web sites, and just about anything else you can imagine. The key differences here, of course, are all of the great benefits that I mentioned above for coders. For users, Holochain also boasts many superior features when compared to the standard. For example, Holochain apps can have a level of “immutability” that can be set depending on how much the developer (or user!) actually desires.

Speaking of which, there already a few apps that the Holochain team has created to back up their project. Looking at the code review by Andre Cronje, we can see that they already have several things in the pipeline for Holochain. Clutter is their decentralized Twitter, Holochat will serve as their replacement for Slack, along with several other apps to kickstart the Holochain ecosystem. These guys aren’t just bringing you an MVP – they’re bringing you an entire platform, complete with several projects almost ready for deployment.

See, the great innovation of blockchain was also its biggest drawback. For a brief, impossible moment we thought that maybe our entire lives could be recorded across a single immutable transaction on a distributed ledger. But you see, most distributed apps have no need for consensus with the whole world. If I want to book your room, you & I have to make an agreement, no more. This seems to be more in line with decentralization than what Ethereum or Bitcoin can provide – because it also makes the system so much more lightweight.

So lightweight, in fact, that the Holochain developers claim that it’s at least (thanks Moritz) ten thousand times more efficient than Ethereum. And while the current iteration requires Holo Fuel from users who will “rent” computation or hosting power from their Holo “Ports”, in the future, once everyone moves to Holochain/Ceptr, this will all be completely free, forever. That’s because users host nodes on their own local devices instead of having to use someone else’s PC – in fact, the Holochain team states that you can run up to fifty full nodes on a smart phone or Raspberry Pi. If that’s not lightweight and peer to peer, I don’t know what is!

Multiple Realities

Building off of the “sharding” of a public ledger, Holochain allows you to make your immutability as small as just you and me. We can create our own version of events and act according to them. Maybe I lend you five dollars for some donuts – well we can record that transaction on our own two nodes. If I were to lend you a million dollars? Maybe that calls for a bit more “immutability” – at which point I can simply have my transaction verified by more full nodes across the network. If there’s ever a malicious actor that tries to say “no! you really didn’t lend me a million!” then the safety net of an “immutable ledger” exists, without us actually requiring to have one.

In fact, this is how we humans work There are varying “realities” that we all subscribe to and abide by, and they don’t necessarily need to be in congruence with everyone else’s reality. We just need enough stability (in this case, immutability) so that we are sure of what’s actually going on in our own business deal, neighborhood, state, etc. Ultimately recording Bob and Alice’s transaction in India sounds nice, but it’s immutability for the sake of immutability. No one in India is likely to ever care about Bob and Alices transaction, and chances are not even Bob and Alice will ever require verification of their transaction. That’s what Ceptr and Holochain are all about.

We can build in rules and guidelines that everyone follows locally – we don’t need to take our business global, like Ethereum or Bitcoin. This makes the entire system much more scalable – and importantly, much more true to the real world. The truth is that we’ve had these kind of systems in the real world all along. The real innovation was right in front of us.

Hashgraph Is Awesome

Hashgraph has been making the rounds as of late in the bid to win the “scalability wars” that are taking place. Everyone essentially is picking a horse in taking hedges against Ethereum and its ability to scale to thousands or even hundreds of thousands of transactions. Hashgraph takes the current infrastructure of blockchain, and adds their own spin to it, accepting that current theories about blockchain scalability simply won’t allow it to grow as big or as fast as it needs to get in order to become this truly transformative thing that we all think it can be.

In this post by Arthur Brock, he mentions Hashgraph and its differences from Holochain. Particularly interesting is that Brock mentions that Hashgraph, while a great project, is only going halfway between the true vision of something like Holochain and previous iterations of blockchain. It’s a nice middle ground in between the two – but Arthur claims that Holochain is the real next step that is necessary, going all the way towards their “multiple realities” concept and taking Hashgraph’s ideas to the next level.

So, we have a project here that has been in development for almost ten years, and it’s already deprecating Hashgraph before it even comes out. It’s enough to make any investors mouth water, and the tech guys probably didn’t even finish reading this article before going off to learn more about the great Holochain ideal.

Antifragile

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The immune system of the body is a wonderful thing. It has the flexibility to provide us with homeostasis, keeping us at a comfy 98.6 (or 37 C) degrees, allows us to live in all manner of environments, and also protects us against foreign agents and bad actors. Whenever a foreign bacteria, virus, or otherwise DOES enter the body it triggers the immune response and the entire system works to fight it off to remove the threat. Neat huh?

This is in fact exactly how Holochain works and deals with threats. Whenever there is a bad node giving out bad data (your tweet said *this* not *that*), the local verifying nodes can easily spot that out as not matching up with what their own previously verified data contained and then cast that node out of the network. The only way you can control the data flow of the network is if you own /all/ of the nodes, and even then, all the nodes following the rules have to do is simply fork away into their own version of “reality”. It’s this way that reputation works in the system and if you are a bad actor you will quickly either get ignored (blackballed) from the network or forked off from having any kind of interaction with the network you’re looking to affect.

It’s much like the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Sure, you can lie – you can even damage others with your bad data – but only for a short while. Eventually, the immune response will kick in and boot you off the network. It’s this aspect that makes Holochain not resilient, but antifragile. Because we humans in the real world do lie to each other, we do manipulate our networks, and we do have the capability to break the rules. We simply do so at the cost of our reputation, social interactions, and respect in the community. Holochain implements this system right at the base level, and by allowing for these kind of fail states, it will open up the path for true scaling.

With Holochain, we will finally be able to run our own full, decentralized nodes, have parties communicate with each other in a truly peer to peer format, and have all sorts of new possibilities begin to spring up. Holochain is our virtual Prometheus, taking fire from the gods themselves and giving it for all of humanity to grow and prosper.

And isn’t that what decentralization is all about?

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3 COMMENTS

  1. So, if I understand correctly, Holochain is comparing itself to public blockchains and not to consortium blockchains. I feel somewhat cheated…
    And on public blockchains, what about DPoS?
    We’re just hearing marketing talk. IOTA did it, Hashgraph is (and its arguments are similarly questionable), and now it would be Holochain’s turn?
    No. Each technology has its uses, and Holochain will not be better than x or y, just like x or y is not. Please stop pretending you believe otherwise to cheat our vision.

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