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Muneeb
Writings
I currently focus on crypto and internet protocols. You can read the Stacks papers here. A full list of publications is on Google Scholar. My PhD thesis was on the foundations of a crypto internet.

Some recent writings:

Decentralized systems are currently poorly defined and often misunderstood. In this post, I iteratively build up a clear definition of decentralized systems, and describe key properties.

Google has a famous motto "Don't be evil." But maybe it should be "Can't be evil." No company on the internet should have so much power that they get to debate if they should be evil today or not.

The next wave of computing is going to be a massive shift away from cloud computing. In this post, I'll present my prediction for what the next major wave of computing will be.

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This year we saw a major spike in funding using crypto tokens with over $3 Billion raised in 2017 alone [1]. I think that token sales can potentially disrupt the traditional venture capital model, but they have a long way to go. We’re in the “honeymoon phase” of token sales, and there are challenges that need to be sorted out.

Social Security Numbers and personal data of 143 million people have recently been breached in a hack of Equifax. That’s almost half of the US population. The consumer outrage and media stories after the hack are not fully grasping the root problem.

Google has a famous motto "Don't be evil." But maybe it should be "Can't be evil." No company on the internet should have so much power that they get to debate if they should be evil today or not.

The next wave of computing is going to be a massive shift away from cloud computing. In this post, I'll present my prediction for what the next major wave of computing will be.

I’ve been working in the blockchain industry since late 2013, and a lot of friends have recently started asking about how should they evaluate new protocol tokens. Here is a 5-star system that I use:

Eight years ago, I moved to the US and witnessed the election of Barack Obama — the first African-American President. Emotions were running high that day. I remember the tears rolling down the face of an old black man when Obama was starting his victory speech in Chicago. It felt like being part of history.

t’s not just the toasters. They have friends. A large group of cameras, DVD players, thermostats, and, yes, toasters are attacking us. They’re breaking the Internet. It’s not science fiction. The toasters don’t particularly hate us. At least, we hope they don’t. They’ve been hacked and organized into an army of tiny devices. On the attacker’s command, this army attacks a victim.

The Ethereum hard fork was quickly declared a success, but consensus has many complicated layers and I don’t think we’re done with the fork yet. The hard fork attempt provided a fascinating look into fork dynamics.

Another issue in Solidity, a JavaScript-like language that Ethereum uses for smart contracts, has been highlighted that can impact any Ethereum contract, not just the DAO. This issue is specifically a problem with the design of the Solidity language. There is a rich body of research on formal languages for contracts (see this survey or this post by Nick Szabo). Ethereum, however, decided to use a JavaScript-like language instead.

Ethereum has generated a lot of excitement lately as a single world computer that can’t be shut down and can verifiably run applications. What I Love About Ethereum: First, let’s separate Ethereum the technology from the Ethereum community. The success of an open-source project depends on community involvement as much as the technology. Compared to Bitcoin...

I’m starting to see a lot of developers getting excited about building all sorts of applications using blockchains. That’s great. I’d like to point out that blockchains are not magic. You cannot put unlimited data or computations in a blockchain. There are theoretical limitations and fundamental tradeoffs that are unavoidable.

AI is getting a lot more attention from engineers and technology investors than quantum computing. Open AI’s 1 Billion fund comes to mind. Advances in AI seem more real, exciting, and harmless. In Part I of this post, I argued that humans face a serious threat of going extinct if strong AI becomes a reality. In comparison, quantum computing is

Quantum computing and strong AI are two scientific advancements that can potentially change humanity forever. It’s important to analyze the potentially damaging impact of these technologies on society and to estimate rough timelines on major scientific breakthroughs that can make them a reality.

Internet pioneer David Clark recently gave a lecture at Princeton and talked about how they didn’t have a good model for security in the design of the Internet and how we can take a systems/architecture approach to security.

There has been debate lately about having a more diverse eco-system of Bitcoin implementations. The different implementations can technically be compatible with each other, but we’re far away from a future like this. Forking a stand-alone software, like a browser or OS, and implementing changes is quite different from pushing changes to a networking protocol.

Mike Hearn’s recent article along with the NY Times piece is attracting attention from people who don’t pay attention to Bitcoin these days. Even savvy Bitcoin investors like Fred Wilson seem to think that the days of Bitcoin Core are numbered.

The Economist has a cover story on how Bitcoin itself may or may not survive but blockchain, the underlying trust technology, is the real innovation. Unlike The Economist article, I believe that Bitcoin is extremely important and it’s not just about the blockchain.

The rate at which startups make decisions is an order of magnitude faster than large companies. To truly benefit from this advantage, startup founders/employees need to polish their decision making skills, both for speed and quality. Most people don’t explicitly recognize the effect of the size of decision space and frequency of making decisions on their daily lives.

John Nash, the famous Mathematician died earlier today in a car accident in New Jersey. Most people know him from the movie “A Beautiful Mind” and don’t know that Nash was living a fairly typical life at Princeton. The movie is actually not a documentary and some of the most memorable scenes from the movie are fictional.

Today, I got an iMac for my office and got rid of my laptop from my daily commute. I started thinking about this after reading Danielle’s post. Like Danielle, I also want to walk more and NYC is the perfect city for doing that. Carrying a laptop bag is a hassle in the subway and you always have to keep an eye on it if you go to a restaurant/meeting after work.

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. When I started graduate school at Princeton, I was obsessed with nailing grad school and getting a faculty offer at a top university. I knew that it’s going to take an insane amount of effort and I was ready for it. To become more efficient and productive I wanted to track my daily routine. So I started a simple system.

Pursuit of the American Dream is probably the most visible in Silicon Valley than any other place. You hear inspiring stories about entrepreneurs who risked everything they had and struggled for years before eventually becoming successful. The dream is still alive in the Valley where people are willing to back underdogs and give them a chance to prove themselves.

Depends on how you measure it. But the Bitcoin network is becoming large enough that even companies like Google can’t take it down with their current infrastructure. The soundbite in the Coindesk article doesn’t get into the technicality that Bitcoin mining rigs are mostly specialized ASICs that can only do SHA256 calculations and cannot be used as general-purpose compute devices. Putting that...

The recent Slack hack is another example of a fundamentally flawed model where a centralized company holds user data and provides access control. I love Slack. It’s an awesome product. My co-founder Ryan Shea and I switched over to Slack from Flowdock last summer and love using the product everyday. I just noticed this tweet: This is one of my nightmares coming true.