Some concerning technical and ethical reviews

A lot, has been going on lately. So much so, that I do not even know how to start reviewing it.

I’ll just go ahead and speak about some technical projects and topics that I’ve been briefly involved in and that are giving me a fair amount of concern.

Issue number x: Citizen-facing services of nation states

A while back, I made a “prediction”: the digitalization of citizen facing services will be more present, especially as the pandemic situation is panning out. (here) and (here). I was right.
Well, to be completely honest, it was not really a prediction as I had two side (as a freelancer) projects that were involving exactly this. So I kind of had a small and limited view from inside.

Those projects ended, successfully delivered, and then came the opportunity for more. I kindly declined. Partly because I’m trying to raise a child with my wife, and there’s only so much time in the universe, and partly because I have deep ethical issues with what is happening.

I am not allowed to even mention anything remotely linked with the projects I’ve been involved in, but I will give you a parallel and thus unrelated example, hoping you connect the dots. Unrelated in terms of: I was not even remotely involved in the implementation of the example I’m bringing forward.

The example is: The Romanian STS (Service for Special Telecommunications) introduced the blockchain technology in the process of centralizing and counting citizen votes, in national or regional elections that are happening in Romania. You can read more about it here, and connect the dots for yourselves. You’ll also need to know a fair amount about the Romanian election law, but you’re smart people.

The Issue?

Flinging the blockchain concept to the people so that the people misunderstand it. Creating a more secure image that necessary. Creating a security illusion. Creating the illusion of decentralized control, while implementing the EXACT opposite. I’m not saying this is intentional, oh, no, it is just opportunistic: it happened because of the fast adoption.
Why? Blockchain is supposed to bring decentralization, and what it completely does in the STS implementation is the EXACT opposite: consolidate centralization.

While I have no link with what happened in Romania, I know for a fact that similar things shave happened elsewhere. This is bad.

I do not think that this is happening with any intention. I simply think there is A HUGE AMOUNT of opportunistic implementations going on SIMPLY because of the political pressure to satisfy the PR needs, and maybe, just maybe, give people the opportunity to simplify their lives. But the implementations are opportunistic, and from a security perspective, this is unacceptable!


I think that while we, as a society, tend to focus on the ethics in using AI and whatnot, we are completely forgetting about ethics in terms of increased dependency of IT&C in general. I strongly believe that we have missed a link here. In the security landscape, this is going to cost us. Bigtime.

Blockchaining the energy

Several weeks ago I have finished migrating one of the past projects I have been involved in to the blockchain technology. Back in the day that I was leading that project, blockchain was not the default choice. So, “the guys” called and wanted me to come back and offer some insights while migrating everything to blockchain. Piece of cake. Plus, blockchain was a perfect fit for the job. A real pleasure, and not too much work to do. Easy money, how they call it.

However, this got me thinking. I have a weird passion lately in the area of decentralized energy grids, smart energy grids and grids in general. It was spiked by one of my friends. I haven’t had the chance to work on a serious energy project until now, but this didn’t stop me from fantasizing

What do I fantasize about?

The potential use cases of blockchain within the energy sector. So, here it is:

  1. Auditing and regulatory needs in terms of transparency. Obviously, here the native immutable records of a DL with the proper consensus in the network are the key.
  2. Data transfer problems whithin a smart grid. A smart grid is a very big deal: sensors, metering equipment, EMSs, building monitoring, etc. Theres alot of storage (DLs) and transfer in this environment, and it can all benefit from decentralized integrity. Let’s not even talk about introducing a new energy source in a smart grid, or extending a microgrid by commercial means.
  3. Commercial aspects in localized P2P energy trading. Local energy marketplaces I think is the official buzzword. This is too obvious.
  4. Billing. Well, I don’t need to explain this one, do I?
  5. More dynamic markets in general (not the P2P ones). A smart contract can help in switching providers with the speed of light. Now this is can be good nes even for centralized grids such as ours.
  6. Resource sharing in residential areas. With or W/O a microgrid infrastructure, residential resource sharing (Alternative energy producing infrastructure such as solar panels, EV Charging Stations, etc) can be shared in a more trustworthy environment if equimpents can make use of proper DLs

Now, in terms of the energy market & trading, OMG. I don’t have enough knowledge to even start to scratch that subject, but hey, that’s just another probable area of blockchain in energy.

P.S. the featured image is a representation of the “metil(1R,2R,3S,5S)-3-(benzoiloxi)-8-metil-8-azabiciclo[3.2.1]octane-2-carboxilat” aka “cocaine” molecule. It’s supposed to give you stimuli that you interpret as energy….or so I’ve heard.

Ordering the ubiquitous

Recently, I was about to tell a joke that started like this:

“Two guys walk into a bar, the first one says… “

Someone went all anti-climactic on the storyteller (me), stopping him (me), asking: how do you know which one is the first one?

He was not, at all, trained in mathematics. He does not know that, when order is not important, order can, and often must, be imposed.

I did not bother to explain this, I just rephrased:

“Two guys walk into a bar, one of them says… “

I am a good storyteller, after all.

This got me thinking:

A random first story

I have talked about how, back in 2012-2013, I had had implemented, from scratch, a mechanism for single execution of a mission critical operation. This was before blockchain was KBOOM. Blockchain existed, but I only knew a single and remote person that knew something about blockchain.  Our team chosen to not use this relatively new technology at that point.

Last year, 2018, I was requested by my client to lead the rework of this system, but now, using blockchain. O yeah! We’ve got it done some months ago. This turned out to be the last side-project I took. For this year at least. I have my first child being born soon, and I need a break from these challenges. Anyway, I divert, back on track: single execution, blockchain, and a challenge accompanied by a frustration. We were a team of six people implementing this. Before starting, I wanted to make sure that everyone is on the same page in terms of what we do, and what blockchain is. Turns out, that while explaining bits of the blockchain, some people had troubles understanding the most basic concept: consensus and consensus algorithms. I went all haywire trying to explain concepts like: termination, integrity, agreement and fault tolerant consensus. I immediately remembered that when I was young, some very smart guy, forced me to read a paper called: „Time, Clocks, and the Ordering of Events in a Distributed System” – by Leslie Lamport. I mandated that this shall be read prior to my explanation. Everything went smooth from there on.

Be lucky. It’s your responsibility now.

Part of my daily job is working with the cloud. Large scale, small scale, simple, complicated, doing cloud design, develop cloud solutions, teaching, consulting and whatnot. While doing all this for some time now, I realized that a certain generation of technical, and otherwise very well-trained people, mostly in the software development area, has a very big problem in working with distributed systems over the cloud.

I could not understand this for years. It just did not compute. Why was this happening?

Well, turns out, some people were just not fortunate enough to have a smart guy around while “growing up”, that was able to teach them the basics of distributed computing.

I have repeated the experiment from the first story 9 additional times. Each time the same result. It’s like a veil was unveiled for some people.

So, I dare you, I double dare you, If you feel you don’t quite grasp software developing solutions in a distributed environment, have a read on the same paper. It is a masterpiece from 1976-1977, I promise you.

Cloud is dead

Yes. Cloud is dead. We now have ubiquitous computing. And, to be honest, this is close to be dead soon enough. A non-distributed environment does not exist anymore. I am not sure it ever did.

Be good!