Thanks to everyone who attended this morning’s ShEquality talk about predicting bias in decentralized environments.
This project is on the back burner atm, but this whitepaper may still be interesting to some. For me, the art of writing whitepapers kind of lost its luster when I went to a women’s networking event in San Francisco and learned that many startups hired freelance contractors (often, women) to write their whitepapers for them, rather than having the founders and information architects prepare these critical blueprints.
Anyway, the work below is mine. Not sure how relevant any of this will be in the near future, but cryptocurrency doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.
We built a simple demo of ABC, forking off Litecoin and shared it at the BIEN Conference in Seoul, Korea in July 2016. Should we continue with this project in the future, the long term goal for Attention Based Currency is to integrate with Holochain — an eco-friendly cryptocurrency that does not rely on either mining or a consensus protocol. Thanks to collaborator Nico D’Amico for some early work investigating this path, and thanks to Chad Furman for clueing me in about lbry.io. Not many people have reviewed this draft, so I apologize in advance for any typos it contains.
See PDF Version for images.
ATTENTION BASED CURRENCY
April 4, 2021
by Rose C.
Attention Based Currency (ABC) is a non-random, pattern-based system of allocating rewards for blockchain transaction processing. The algorithm can be implemented in combination with Proof of Work, Proof of Stake, or a hybrid system such as Gridcoin. ABC adds to the cryptocurrency ecosystem by delivering:
1) more efficient energy consumption; 2) lower transaction fees; 3) improved network decentralization and node density; 4) global access for billions to a new class of cryptocurrency assets.
A successful ABC integration will consist of the following:
Proof-of-Play (PoP) – In contrast to mining or consensus based protocols, PoP delivers rewards based on interactions with a streaming music application. Listeners use PCs, gaming consoles, and mobile devices to process block transactions, in exchange for free access to streaming music and occasional algorithmically determined payouts.
Lotus Petal Architecture – A trend-based algorithm for allocating rewards, based on data generated and allocated by the system being measured. Petal architecture vectorizes points of available data, mapping data points that match system-defined parameters to a predefined curve. The intersection of points on homologous curves generates payouts for a subset of participating nodes.
“Everybody Gets a Trophy” – Under most existing cryptocurrency schemas, ordinary consumer electronics would quickly be outcompeted by specialized mining rigs. Even the heat generated by these computation could be damaging. Thus, we must introduce a rule to level the playing field. An equalizing principle allows us to expand the number of participating nodes by several orders of magnitude, creating a far more resilient, far less centralized network. Using song length as the interval against which system work is paced, we can easily integrate this principle with PoP.
ABC is an inflationary currency, but one with that contains scarcity constraints as a counterbalance (chiefly, limitations on bandwidth and limitations on time). The general public is becoming more curious about Bitcoin, but its purchase is out of reach to most. ABC holds the potential to make cryptocurrency universal.
The ABC rewards system supplies a missing part of the equation, providing a new way to incentivize the circulation and use of non-fiat currencies. Unlike revenue from transaction fees, mining, and speculation, ABC is sustainable for the long term.
The “Way of the Lotus Petal” makes possible a global decentralized money system where any human being with a cell phone and a set of headphones can be a stakeholder.
All forms of exchange gain their value from scarcity. Whether we speak of gold mined in remote areas of the world, or the supply of dollars in circulation controlled by the Federal Reserve, traditional mediums of exchange would have no value if their quantity were not limited. Hyperinflation is the curse of an overabundance of currency – if a government begins printing too many bills to finance its own debts in times of war or economic distress, consumers pay the price.
More recently, the invention of the decentralized Internet currency known as Bitcoin represents a way to build the property of scarcity into an apparently limitless electronic medium. Individuals “mine” Bitcoin and other related crypto-currencies by solving a series of complex cryptographic hash equations. The activity of Bitcoin mining is time-consuming and processor-intensive. The value of Bitcoin has risen dramatically since its inception in 2009, with a live market capitalization just over $1 trillion, as of the time of this writing.
Attention Based Currency (ABC) seeks to utilize a different scarce resource: the attention span of human beings. Specifically, ABC measures the interactions of users with an online streaming music service, and rewards listeners and hosts with currency units based upon these interactions. From an end user’s perspective, mining ABC depends on the simple act of listening to a song. User choice and interaction with the system introduces a social variable that prevents the system from becoming too deterministic or predictable.
ABC is a microcurrency designed for online transactions of information-based products whose value will most often be less than a dollar ($USD 1). In other words, the ABC microcurrency is a way to monetize and capture value for information-based products and services currently “too cheap to meter,” whose value is most often not realized for investors or creators, except through the inefficient, imprecise, and fraud-prone medium of online advertising.
Examples of “weightless products” well suited to exchange for ABC include: digital images, videos, “apps” or software applications, electronic books, online gaming tokens, site subscriptions, and music downloads.
Why not measure viewers’ responses to video? Or games? Or fantasy football?
Lower Transaction Fees
Volatility in transaction fees has been a thorn in the side of nearly every major blockchain cryptocurrency. Bitcoin fees have risen more than 1200% since March 2015. Whether the currency in question is Ethereum, Blockchain, or Blockchain Cash (Fig. 3), there is no programmatic guarantee ensuring that transaction fees will remain low, or even stable. As these fees are correlated closely with a currency’s market capitalization, market forces result in a nearly impossible dilemma—the success of a currency as an investment vehicle undermines its usefulness as an actual medium of exchange. In particular, uncontrolled fluctuations in transaction fees render cryptocurrencies nearly useless for small transactions and micropayments. Even if one processes such transactions in bulk, these per unit costs may easily drive a merchant underwater.
We envision an implementation of ABC where the vast majority of mining may occur on consumer thin client devices (including but not limited to cell phones, tablets, video game consoles, mp3 players, and personal computers) rather than on specialized mining rigs.
Distributed computing is much more than a curiosity. Stanford University, for instance, harnessed the power of the Sony Playstation to study protein folding in its Folding@home microbiology project. The current ABC Proof of Concept (PoC) is a simple fork of Litecoin with a modified wallet structure. It is also possible to mine Litecoin on personal computers or even on a Raspberry Pi.
KEY ATTRIBUTES OF ABC
The model below refers to the combination of secure online microcurrency with a streaming music application, or “online jukebox” that generates currency based upon plays of songs. This currency is referred to as Attention Based Currency (ABC).
Proof of Play
The “Proof of Play” algorithm is designed to:
As our seed variable, we are trying to introduce a pattern that is delicate and difficult to predict—humans’ unfiltered aesthetic musical taste. To deliver rewards, the system relies on morphological analysis rather than quantitative goalposts.
Lotus Petal Architecture
For an in-depth discussion of Lotus Petal Architecture, please see Page 2.
Why overlay Proof-of-Play on top of Proof-of-Work?
It creates a set of patterns that are 1) mathematically observable, 2) difficult to game or fake, and 3) can be observed and evaluated algorithmically by the system itself.
This leads to a better rewards system.
Also, more people get to play.
Are Bots necessarily a bad thing?
Bot participation does not necessarily disrupt the system of ABC mining, and may in fact make the system more efficient, provided that mining incentives are structured properly, such that human listeners remain able to earn and spend ABC.
Aspiring pop stars will no doubt purchase fake listens on the ABC system, much as they now purchase fake “likes” and “follows” on Facebook and Instagram. If non-human agents want to “pretend” to listen to a song and process transactions on the network without expending bandwidth, this efficient use of resources does no harm. Similarly, there is no penalty if a user chooses to turn off the sound but continue processing transactions on their Client Streaming Application.
Issues ensue if bots receive a disproportionate share of payouts, collude with hosts to gain an unfair advantage (51% attack); and/or crowd out human listeners. We expect that many ABC hosts will employ captchas and other identity verification tools to prevent song plays from falling on deaf ears.
The Proof of Play algorithm does not attempt to weed out nonhuman users on an individual level; rather it defines the reward structure such that actions outside of expected listening behavior (totally random plays or flooding the system with plays of one particular song) while permitted, will not result in a payout.
In order to generate currency, the user (listener) must download and install a Client Application (CA) to play music and connect to a participating ABC server. This thin client may be available for multiple platforms (desktop, tablet, and mobile) and must be connected to the Internet in order to earn ABC.
This is where the “Everybody Gets a Trophy” rule comes into play. The rule uses song structure to handicap fast processors and give slower processors a chance to share some of the processing load, as only a set block of transactions will be processed during each varying song interval.
Each time a user plays a song, the CA solves hash equations in the background in order to validate block transactions. All songs are defined to have a minimum and maximum length. For example the system may define “songs” as audio files between 2:00 and 10:00 minutes. Listeners must play the entire song in order for listener and host to be eligible for a payout. Transaction processing begins upon play of a new song. The CA is assigned only a single block for processing. Block size and difficulty are set so that the processors in consumer electronics will be able to finish the block in less time than the minimum defined song length. The CA lets the device “rest” after the initial block is completed; they do not have to process another block until the next song begins.
Songs with fewer plays will be more heavily weighted to return rewards, rewarding listeners who seek out new and unfamiliar artists, and hosts who play a wide variety of artists. This system uses the blockchain to create a database with a sequential record of all transactions and song plays. This enables the payout system to function; providing an extra level of incentive to participate in the network (above and beyond free streaming music). Special care must be taken to protect the privacy of all user accounts and prevent the release of personally identifying information associated with user accounts and/or specific listening patterns.
Using the Client Streaming Application
The CA will function in most ways so as to be indistinguishable from a standard online jukebox or music streaming application.
It may include such features as:
It is anticipated that many listeners will simply use the CA as their preferred musical listening platform and may not wish to track or closely monitor the currency mining functionality. In keeping with market-based incentives, the systems are structured so that individuals with the most conventional listening tastes (e.g. the majority of listeners) will reap comparatively fewer rewards from ABC “mining” while hosts retain a greater proportion of currency. Conversely, users who seek out independent and less well-known artists, whether for musical or currency-seeking motives, will be rewarded for their more adventurous tastes. Beyoncé fans and Charles Mingus fans will both earn currency; however Mingus fans will reap a somewhat greater proportion of payouts.
Users may install the CA on more than one device; however only one device may generate currency at a time for a given user account identifier. All currency-generating transactions are assigned a timestamp. A feature may be implemented allowing users to listen to their favorite tracks offline; however, offline listens will not count toward generating currency.
The system is set up so that all users have a Dashboard to check their online balance and recent listening history. Statistics on returns from popular and trending songs and on the quantity and current value of currency generated system-wide will also be accessible through this dashboard.
In addition, users can check their ABC balance by logging in via the web or their cell phones to their secure wallet, which is synced in real-time with the client CA.
The host may at times wish to award ABC currency as a bonus or one-time incentive to users (for instance, when running a contest or funding initial account signups with a starting balance). Specific algorithms for mining and awarding ABC may shift and evolve over time, but must remain consistent throughout all streaming music host and listener nodes.
Demographic user listening data may be shared with outside sources, but only anonymously, in the aggregate.
Definition of a Song
For the purposes of this document, a “song” is considered to be any audio selection less than 10 minutes in length. Songs may also include spoken word, comedy, hip-hop, etc. Longer selections (e.g. audiobooks or podcasts) may also be included as part of the ABC online streaming audio selection. Selections over 10 minutes in length would be broken into smaller units in order to match the CA’s processing requirements.
At the time of account signup, a secure individual ABC Wallet is created, with a unique login and user identifier. This Wallet can be used to make purchases and track account activity across different devices and on any Internet website accepting ABC as currency. This Wallet may be funded through one of several sources:
This ABC Wallet may be accessed online through any web browser or supported mobile device. In addition, the Wallet may be integrated with leading social networks and online experience sites. (For example, a user might employ the ABC Wallet to purchase game credits, or to download a news article. In both cases, no additional credit card or login information would be needed.)
Credit card or bank account information is not necessary to create an ABC account or use the Wallet; however the user may supply this information if they wish to exchange ABC for cash, or purchase additional ABC units for future transactions.
Each music node (host) for Attention Based Currency contains a streaming media server with a database that may range anywhere from a few dozen to several million songs. In exchange for hosting the music, the server operator receives a share of the currency generated from its listeners (users). The current PoC utilizes the open source Ampache Streaming Application, equivalent in functionality to Spotify and other commercial streaming music services. It is assumed that server operators will use material either licensed through Creative Commons or with full permission from the original artists.
A unique identifier is created for every song in the ABC database, and must be associated with an artist name and wallet account in order to be included. Artist wallet accounts may represent one individual or a group of individuals.
The user signs up for an ABC account using a secure web form to provide an email address and optional other form of identifications. No further identity verification is required; however hosts may implement other methods at their own discretion. A unique listener wallet ID is created for every individual ABC wallet.
Listening history may be shared in the aggregate, but it will never be tied to an individual’s name or other identifying information. Double encryption is utilized to ensure that when ABC wallet hosts store personally identifying information (ex. link an individual’s wallet to a bank or credit card account) that information cannot be traced back to the individual’s wallet ID. The goal is a system that ensures at least as much anonymity as the current Bitcoin blockchain, and ideally much more.
Future Issues to Be Addressed
First-generation streaming music hosts are encouraged to use music available through the Creative Commons system or licensed directly from the artists themselves. A number of different certification, identity verification, and naming solutions may be employed. ABC’s model relies on the concept that the blockchain makes all transactions between hosts and artist wallets visible and traceable. See the ClaimTrie implementation in lbry.io, another blockchain-based media project (currently in beta) for one potential approach to the problem of resolving competing claims to artist names.
Be aware that streaming music hosts must still find a way to reach listeners. In a situation where users pay nothing to listen to their favorite artists, and in fact gain by listening, it is to be expected that listeners will choose hosts that are endorsed rather than blacklisted by the musicians they admire.
The ABC system has the potential to be disruptive, creating a new source of wealth for artists and “cutting out the middleman.” In this vision of the future, record labels can easily reinvent themselves to become streaming music hosts. Given full transparency and access to information, market forces are capable of providing better rewards to artists participating in Attention Based Currency than would otherwise be available through the current deeply flawed music industry regime.
RELATED TOPICS FOR CONSIDERATION
API and Licensing
ABC may at some point include an API enabling listeners to other commercial streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora to participate in generating ABC. Currency units mind would be subject to the same rules and standards as those defined for the original ABC blockchain protocol.
Another potential application is the ability to designate a portion of ABC spending and/or proceeds to a given business, individual, or charity. (ex. A musical artist can designate their Artist Share of currency generated go to the charity of their choice.)
Comparison to IOTA
Non-blockchain cryptocurrencies such as IOTA’s Tangle claim to offer a zero transaction fee model. While IOTA’s model holds promise, a few concerns emerge:
How is this different from a Bitcoin fountain?
Rewards are not arbitrary, but are algorithmically tied to the entire transaction processing model. There can be no working implementation of ABC without trends based rewards and payouts. Similarly:
ABC is not gambling because no betting is required to participate.
ABC differs from airline miles or credit card “points” systems, in that:
Additional implementations and applications of Attention Based Currency include:
Universal Basic Income
ABC has significant potential to decrease the tax burden of implementing Universal Basic Income on a national or local basis, while increasing the ability of those without employment to generate assets and wealth. Even more intriguing, it can be deployed as a standalone market-based Universal Basic Income solution without requiring public-sector investment. For further discussion and economic modeling, please see journal article published by the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) and first presented at BIEN’s July 2016 conference in Seoul, South Korea.
This is something anyone who owns an iPhone or recent Android mobile device should be aware of. Biometrics such as fingerprint sensors are generally considered more secure than password protection, but they have a high potential for failure. It happened to me.
Last Monday, I found that Signal on my Android phone had locked up. I don’t know whether it was a malicious actor or, far more likely, a configuration/hardware glitch. But I was locked out and completely unable to access my messages or contacts without reinstalling. The issue is, biometrics sensors can break or be disabled. Repair is much more difficult than resetting a password.
On March 9, I was a guest on Joseph Ady’s excellent People of Portland podcast. Listen here.
This is me presenting about how better UX can help musicians, creators, and coders find their audience online and integrate with AI for more powerful, fine-tuned predictive systems.
Talk presented at the SCaLE conference in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, March 8. Click here for the full abstract and notes.