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Question: did you know about hashcash before you knew about bitcoin?
yes heard about hashcash before bitcoin - 21 (38.2%)
no heard about bitcoin first - 26 (47.3%)
whats hashcash? - 8 (14.5%)
Total Voters: 55

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Author Topic: could you be Satoshi - #1 did you learn about hashcash before bitcoin?  (Read 3004 times)
adam3us
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December 28, 2014, 01:34:42 PM
 #1

see also second question of poll https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=906867.0 #2 did it occur to you hashcash was like virtual gold

A recurring sub-topic in the who could Satoshi be debate is what knowledge would have been required and what communities discussed and were exposed to the required building blocks before bitcoin.

The assumption about the need to have known about b-money (because it is cited in the bitcoin paper), is seemingly invalid as from various Satoshi emails it seems he wasnt aware of b-money until after the paper was written and added the citation after it was pointed out to him (by me).  See eg https://www.gwern.net/docs/2008-nakamoto   Similarly bit-gold isnt cited, and the same Gwern post quotes Wei Dai saying Satoshi didnt seem to know about bit-gold either.  See also footnote 34 of gwern's blog article http://www.gwern.net/Bitcoin%20is%20Worse%20is%20Better  Similarly Hal Finney's RPOW wasnt cited either.  (b-money was announced originally in 1998 on the cypherpunks list.)

One of my contentions with people who asked me what I thought about that line of thinking (must have been on this or that mailing list) has been that well lots of people knew about hashcash before bitcoin, going back to 1997.  In the context of anti-spam (much tech news and tech magazines online and offline, discussion forum coverage existed at that time, probably suffered some bitrot since) and blog-spam (wp-hashcash) and namespace protection (in i2c tor-like FOSS competitor) and anti-DoS protection (in tangler, in interactive protocols etc) but I suspect that many 10,000s of internet programmers & technically minded people knew about it.  Eg. It was a fairly common experience for me to recognised by name at security conferences "hey you're the guy who did hashcash".

There is an implied secondary assumption about oh but who would think of using hashcash for electronic cash.  Well actually hashcash was proposed as a form of electronic cash and the announce itself compares features with Chaum's ecash http://hashcash.org/papers/announce.txt.  Also at the time of hashcash initial announce multiple people independently commented immediately that hashcash was like digital gold (and punned about bits) and then a number of people explored (unsuccessfully) how to control inflation which would run at moore's law etc.  The idea of trying to control inflation wasnt new either (but succeeding is!)  I discussed some hierarchical variant to  control inflation (eg a group of people could benchmark equipment and push out a new difficulty level via DNS), however that was unsatisfying as that would make them the central-bank.  In the end I opted to leave that to recipient policy (recipients would gradually increase their minimum stamp size over time so there was a decentralised consensus on what is appropriate to curtail spam).  This was possible because hashcash was mainly used to increase the non-spam score - lower required was fuzzy so you'd still receive the email with a lower than required (if it was relatively non-spammy).  

Wei's b-money relates to that in proposing to make hashcash respendable and one of the inflation control proposals and Nick Szabo's bit-gold has a different inflation control proposal.


Anyway I claim the hard part about bitcoin is the decentralised secure inflation control (and sybil resistant byzantine generals solution.)  But the idea that PoW is some kind of virtual gold and it would be useful to figure out how to control inflation to make it respendable seem to have been ideas that immediately reached out and grabbed many people.  Or thats my claim!  That is topic of following poll.


It would be interesting to see if the assumption that many people heard about hashcash before bitcoin is valid.  The few people I asked informally said yes they'd heard of hashcash long before bitcoin.

Adam

ps the answer to what's hashcash http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashcash and https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Hashcash and http://hashcash.org

hashcash, committed transactions, homomorphic values, blind kdf; researching decentralization, scalability and fungibility/anonymity
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December 29, 2014, 12:31:09 AM
 #2

You imply that Satoshi neither relied on hashcash and b-money as example for what became known as Bitcoin, right? That makes his invention of Bitcoin even harder to understand, since he is not relying on historical solutions that could have led to Bitcoin.

But to answer your question, no, I did not hear about hashcash before I heard about Bitcoin. I think that is because Bitcoin, vs other solutions solved everything needed for a decentral monetary system in "one go".

<helo> funny that this proposal grows the maximum block size to 8GB, and is seen as a compromise
<helo> oh, you don't like a 20x increase? well how about 8192x increase?
<JackH> lmao
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December 29, 2014, 07:56:07 AM
 #3

You imply that Satoshi neither relied on hashcash and b-money as example for what became known as Bitcoin, right? That makes his invention of Bitcoin even harder to understand, since he is not relying on historical solutions that could have led to Bitcoin.

No what I am saying is Satoshi did know about and use hashcash, because he cited it (and wrote to me in aug 2008 to ask for the correct citation).  But seemingly he didnt know about B-money from what he told me & Wei Dai, and seemingly didnt know about bit-gold either from what he told Wei.  I put links to those things above in the OP, which were collected by Gwern on his blog.

My point is lots of smart internet protocol aware / programmer type people knew about hashcash for 11 years before bitcoin was announced.  If hashcash was the only novel required building block (other than very widely known things like digital signatures and hash functions) then the number of people who can code, are interested in internet technology and knew about hashcash is hard to enumerate but must be in the 10,000s if not 100,000s range.

To be clear Satoshi solved some difficult problems that others had tried and failed to find answers for (how to build a distributed ecash system with hashcash mining without creating a centralised mining inflation rate control, ie how to control inflation (bitcoin solves a different problem supply side inflation which is mathematically controlled - others tried to design around price inflation, which seems impossible).  But there were others who tried, and independently thought of the problem that needed to be solved.  The sybil resistant consensus system reusing the proof-of-work is a neat innovation too.

Adam

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December 29, 2014, 08:06:42 AM
 #4

If hashcash was the only novel required building block (other than very widely known things like digital signatures and hash functions)

But it isn't. Bitcoin doesn't use hash cash only to limit the amount of Bitcoins. It uses it to build a block chain of transactions. Does B-money or bitgold have that?

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December 29, 2014, 10:13:20 AM
 #5

Does B-money or bitgold have that?

I looked it up, they both don't:
  • The Bit Gold p2p transaction log is based on network addresses.
  • B-money design A is assuming that you have perfect communication which distributes the same transaction to everybody synchronously and doesn't need it.
  • B-money design B is uses “servers” to keep track of transactions. Setup of new servers is limited by requiring money to create one.

The real interesting new thing about Bitcoin is not the scarcity of the coins, but the decentralized ledger. The coin scarcity is a side effect.

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December 29, 2014, 10:50:08 AM
 #6

Thats the point Adam is making. "Anyway I claim the hard part about bitcoin is the decentralised secure inflation control (and sybil resistant byzantine generals solution.) "

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December 29, 2014, 01:59:46 PM
 #7

Thats the point Adam is making. "Anyway I claim the hard part about bitcoin is the decentralised secure inflation control (and sybil resistant byzantine generals solution.) "

Yes.  And the second part (sybil resistant BGP solution) is maybe not as critical - ie if we imagine that Satoshi didnt find that solution, or it were broken unexpectedly, could we repair bitcoin and have it still work, just not as elegantly/securely whatever?

I think the answer is probably yes: use a conventional identity based BGP solution (of which there are existing eg Lamport himself in the original paper up to 1/3 malicious players) and work-around the identity problem by copying what i2p did for its identities from 1998 or  the nymservers  (pseudonymous mixmaster related mail service) did - require hashcash to create identities.  You might need to tune some stuff - eg the identities must be timestamped, time-limited use etc but probably you could make that work.  Doesnt seem so removed from how bitcoin sybil resistant BGP works even so maybe thats how Satoshi arrived at it.

The former question though decentralised secure inflation control, people who were trying to figure this out in 1997/1998 were mostly aiming for $-adjusted zero inflation which isnt possible without exeternal price feeds which are not decenralised/machine-measurable.

Adam

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December 29, 2014, 02:05:41 PM
 #8

What I find interesting is how Satoshi seems to have reached a conclusion on the fixed parameters of Bitcoin.

The deflation and halving of block reward, coupled with fixed amount of resource, made it stand out to more than just a PoW, blockchain based cryptographic system. It was actually a monetary system with rules in place from day one. Probably why it caught on this fast, as it could somewhat be explained in layman terms.

<helo> funny that this proposal grows the maximum block size to 8GB, and is seen as a compromise
<helo> oh, you don't like a 20x increase? well how about 8192x increase?
<JackH> lmao
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December 29, 2014, 04:49:39 PM
 #9

My point is lots of smart internet protocol aware / programmer type people knew about hashcash for 11 years before bitcoin was announced.
If you want to know what tech people were exposed to around the turn of the century, Slashdot is the best place to look.

Found a couple interesting links:

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/01/04/19/0411201/hash-cash

http://slashdot.org/story/04/08/18/1345258/rpow---reusable-proofs-of-work
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December 30, 2014, 05:59:57 AM
 #10

I am in that group of people who knew about your crypto primitive before Bitcoin.  I knew it as just an email spam prevention technique that didn't take off because people wanted to get mail from mailing lists.  When I read about Bitcoin, I thought it was a neat application of that primitive which hadn't gained traction in the original use case.  I don't remember ever thinking about hashcash being used as money, and thinking it was a funny name for something that wasn't meant to be cash, just anti-spam.
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December 30, 2014, 10:07:15 PM
 #11

Thats the point Adam is making. "Anyway I claim the hard part about bitcoin is the decentralised secure inflation control (and sybil resistant byzantine generals solution.) "

Yes.  And the second part (sybil resistant BGP solution) is maybe not as critical - ie if we imagine that Satoshi didnt find that solution, or it were broken unexpectedly, could we repair bitcoin and have it still work, just not as elegantly/securely whatever?

I think the answer is probably yes: use a conventional identity based BGP solution (of which there are existing eg Lamport himself in the original paper up to 1/3 malicious players) and work-around the identity problem by copying what i2p did for its identities from 1998 or  the nymservers  (pseudonymous mixmaster related mail service) did - require hashcash to create identities.  You might need to tune some stuff - eg the identities must be timestamped, time-limited use etc but probably you could make that work.  Doesnt seem so removed from how bitcoin sybil resistant BGP works even so maybe thats how Satoshi arrived at it.

The former question though decentralised secure inflation control, people who were trying to figure this out in 1997/1998 were mostly aiming for $-adjusted zero inflation which isnt possible without exeternal price feeds which are not decenralised/machine-measurable.

Adam


I remember knowing about HashCash being related to email, I just didn't remember the name of it until BitCoin....

Szabo(BitGold), and apparently Satoshi(BitCoin), had figured out that Hal Finneys “RPOW” could be used to solve the Byzantine General’s Problem, a problem in ordinary computing that demonstrates through “game theory” how a group of potential co-operators can come to the best consensus even with the possibility of having malicious operators among them. This was the final piece to the BitGold/Bitcoin puzzle.
http://cryptome.org/rpow.htm

“RPOW” was added on top of Adam Back’s “HashCash”. (The solution for the Byzantine General’s Problem which allows BitGold/Bitcoin to be completed).

Note: BitCoin was released anonymous. There are reasons BitGold and RPOW are not mentioned. Why was Bmoney cited?

The first credit to Bitcoin in the white paper was a citation for Wei Dai’s “bmoney”.

The first paragraph of “bmoney”: (read carefully)

“I am fascinated by Tim May’s crypto-anarchy. Unlike the communities traditionally associated with the word “anarchy”, in a crypto-anarchy the government is not temporarily destroyed but permanently forbidden and permanently unnecessary. It’s a community where the threat of violence is impotent because violence is impossible, and violence is impossible because its participants cannot be linked to their true names or physical locations”. ~Wei Dai

Why......
The Internet and Bitcoin were created to allow people to solve social problems in a novel way: Instead of the ancient formula of “the strongest wins and then beats the crap out of the loser” we all can achieve a peaceful society where both rich and poor, strong and weak can protect their property and freedom on more equal grounds without relying on violent institutions like governments.

Why anonymous?
Tim May: “Anyone contemplating building such a system, or entity, or cybercorporation, should think long and hard about the wisdom of ever having an identifiable nexus of attack. Money must be collected in untraceable ways. This is what I meant about it being time to rethink the theory of the corporation.”

"Where once a corporation existed to both protect the rights of shareholders (against lawsuits and partners having to pay for losses) and to enable the group participation of many workers, corporations for the things Cypherpunks think are interesting is just a bad idea. And given the growing trend toward trying to prosecute the V.P of Yahoo-Europe because some bit of Nazi history was sold to some German citizen, etc., corporations are becoming a liability in cyberspace”.

"The answer is to vanish into cyberspace. Not an easy task, maybe, given the state of today’s tools, but the long term trend".

Note: it seems BitCoin was mostly created in the comment sections of the "Nanobarter", "BitGold" & "BitGold-Markets" papers(look at "url's" for correct dates). What happened in private emails and Meet-ups may never be known. Szabo & Zooko or maybe Jim McCoy? We may never know. IMHO...Szabo and Hal made all this possible in one way or another. They had dedicated their lives since at least 1993 to bring an anonymous digital currency to us.

Thank you for HashCash. Without it BitCoin would not exist.

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December 31, 2014, 11:23:00 AM
 #12

Thats the point Adam is making. "Anyway I claim the hard part about bitcoin is the decentralised secure inflation control (and sybil resistant byzantine generals solution.) "

And I strongly disagree with that point. The inflation control is not the interesting part at all. Without decentralization, inflation control is not a problem at all. It is the decentralization that makes the big difference from previous digital monies.

You might need to tune some stuff - eg the identities must be timestamped, time-limited use etc but probably you could make that work.

What does time even mean if you don't have the block chain or a central authority?

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January 01, 2015, 12:01:52 AM
 #13

Would anyone mind commenting on the relationship between these proto-Bitcoin systems, such as the brilliant hashcash, and the 1996 "nsamint?"
http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/classes/6.805/articles/money/nsamint/nsamint.htm
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January 01, 2015, 10:29:53 PM
 #14

I knew of it but again only went with Bitcoin when I did as still didn't really understand what Bitcoin was when it first come out hashcash is in a way the same as BTC but it didn't really take of and not many really know about it more underground than BTC is.

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January 02, 2015, 02:54:55 PM
 #15

What if you made this same poll with people from facebook Cheesy I wonder if your results would be different?

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January 02, 2015, 03:14:58 PM
 #16

What if you made this same poll with people from facebook Cheesy I wonder if your results would be different?

Undoubtedly.  The "what is hashcash?" % would be way higher.  Not sure you'd quite need a "what is bitcoin?"

The poll was generally aimed at technical people who can think about algorithms or code, related to the what skills and insight would be needed to invent bitcoin line of Satoshi could be reasoning.

Adam

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January 03, 2015, 08:47:50 AM
 #17

oh i forgot hashcash was that email spam thing... yea i heard of it...

from this guy http://erights.org/elib/distrib/vattp/VLS.html

then when i read an article about bitcoin when BTC hit $1, i immediately got the link between the two


(there should be one +1 in the yes, and -1 in the no... sorry for my brain lapse)

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