Tuesday, February 06, 2018


I think The Ramblers could have been another term for The Wanderers, and maybe is, in some parallel universe (in science fiction).  Dr. Nick Consoletti was a Saunterer, so The Saunterers might have made do.  Whether we wander, ramble, or saunter, we end up learning more about our world, which is sort of the point I suppose.

Speaking of points, I've been envisioning myself as a vector in a phase space, the vector sum from previous frames. Elastic Interval Geometry taught me a lot about weighted sums, how the most tensed vector would be like the most important neuron in some hidden layer.  Back propagation is accomplished simply by yielding to forces in EIG.  Compromises get made.  Learning happens.  Reshaping occurs.

EIG was pioneered in the wake of Tensegrity, computer modeling a lot of the same concepts.  Gerald de Jong was consciously inspired by one of Kenneth Snelson's sculptures. He joined us in Seattle at Russ' and Deb's place, along with Karl, Braley (not Brawley) and several others (me too), and much work got done.  I was a big EIG aficionado in those days.  Those creepy-crawlies of Darwin at Home got under my skin.

I purchased an O'Reilly book about Bitcoin at Hawthorne Powell's yesterday, and stayed up late reading it, after finishing teaching. My students were learning all about TLS last night, Transport Layer Security, which involves browser and server employing the latest and greatest cryptographic techniques to make transactions secure.  We call it HTTPS and see the little padlock or other icon appear, next the the URL in the address bar.  I promised to apply all this knowledge to crypto-currencies when next we meet.

I've been a fairly accomplished explainer of RSA for awhile now, getting turned on the cryptography anew by Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon awhile back.  The whole story of how the NSA initially resisted declassification of this technique is fascinating in the rear view mirror.  The Web hadn't become established yet, so the future needs of eCommerce were not featuring in the vector sum. People were worried about "activists" i.e. Daniel Ellsberg types, more than they were thinking about the likes of WalMart and Amazon.

These days, Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) has made deep inroads when it comes to initializing the session.  That's where Bob and Alice establish a common secretly shared key they might then use for AES, or Advanced Encryption System, the winner of an international contest in the wake of the demise of DES.  Bitcoin, and the blockchain in general, use a lot of the same ideas.

People sometimes think encryption is all about evading scrutiny and carrying on with major transactions completely behind the scenes and off radar.  To some extent that's a misconception, as the transactions may be reported in the news, entered into ledgers, kept for future analysts.  A company without a coherent internal story is not in a strong position.

The encryption step is more about preventing hacks, subtle tricks, which could alter the course of history by corrupting the transaction.  Hacks lead to higher entropy, as what should have made sense now no longer does.

Put another way, it's fine for the public to find out about all these transactions later on.  What's important is that at the time of their occurrence, there's no way to interfere with their content, such as by changing some charged amount or remittance, or substituting a new recipient.

The act itself needs shielding, not from the prying eyes of historians necessarily, but from the shenanigans of entropy creators.  Cryptography is about authentication, verifying the transaction is not counterfeit.  Bob might be completely sincere, but what does that matter if Alice gets the wrong message, one Bob didn't send?  Some forms of breakage aren't that easy to mend, as investors (stakeholders) of all types have come to discover for themselves.

For me, these blogs are more like Quaker journals, which pre-internet were kept somewhat like diaries, and not necessarily published, or were shared only posthumously.  Blogging is different, but nevertheless doesn't have to be about events now occurring in real time.  Whether the stock market is up or down needn't be our theme.

Blogs and the blogosphere tend to be more timeless in their focus, on average, than either newspapers or radio talk shows, less about what's special case.  We could say "more philosophical".  Rovers... Rangers...