- Computer corporations
- DAC attack
- Jan 28th 2014, 12:45 by J.M.P.|MONTEVIDEO
- MITT ROMNEY, the defeated American presidential candidate, once declared while campaigning that “corporations are people”. Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and distributed computing mean that Mr Romney’s statement may soon be literally true. Decentralised Autonomous Corporations–also called Distributed Autonomous Corporations, or DACs—are in the works, and bring new meaning to the term "artificial person".
- Imagine a corporation that engages in economic activity without guidance or direction from humans. Programmed with a mission statement—maximize profit for shareholders from the sale of widgets, for example—the corporation could own capital, enter contracts, and employ robots. People could even be hired for more creative tasks. Such an entity would live on the Internet, distributed across thousands or millions of nodes (stakeholders who host the DAC on their computer).
- DACs hold the potential to reduce friction in many markets, allowing for instantaneous, trust-less business transactions across the globe. Near-term applications of the DACs concept include peer-to-peer bond and stock trading, verifiable-yet-anonymous voting, and decentralised currency exchange. A DAC also wouldn't have to employ a board of directors, and a CEO's hefty pay cheque could be returned to shareholders in the form of dividends.
- Programmed with an incorruptible set of publicly-available business rules (open source code), a DAC would be more trustworthy than a human-run corporation. You could, of course, develop firms with more dodgy practices in mind, but, as Dan Larimer of Invictus Innovations explains: "although DACs can still be designed to have a robotically inviolable intention to rob you blind, to enter the open source arena they must be honest about their plans to do so."
- The concept of a DAC first appeared on a Bitcoin forum in 2011, and interest in them has increased over the past year. In fact, Bitcoin's blockchain model—a cryptographically-secure open ledger of all transactions distributed to every node—was the critical innovation that opened the door to DAC research.
- Some even go so far as to call Bitcoin a DAC. As Mr Larimer puts it,"Bitcoin is a shareholder-owned, employee-run, not-for-profit crypto-corporation." In some ways, he's right. Bitcoin is an autonomous system that engineers a rational incentive for people to do things—host nodes, build infrastructure, write code and promote the crypto-currency.
- Others disagree. "Lots of people will throw the term [DACs] around without really understanding it," says Mike Hearn, a Google engineer and Bitcoin developer. He prefers the term "autonomous agent" - https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Agents - as a more useful metaphor. For such agents to exist, he says, "you need trusted computing to work well and it never has. So it'd require new hardware to be deployed."
- In Mr Hearn's view, no true DAC currently exists. He speculates that the first will be some form of decentralised online storage, a kind of "distributed DropBox" - http://garzikrants.blogspot.com/2013/01/storj-and-bitcoin-autonomous-agents.html .
- In the long term artificial persons may one day be your employers, trading partners, or business associates. But computers are not known for their intuition or creativity. While DACs and other robots could eventually replace labourers with repetitive tasks, the very innovation required to make DACs a reality suggests computers will always need humans.
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