Saturday, 1 December 2018

What is Blockchain? Part II


If participants in that process are preselected, the ledger is permissioned. If the process is open to everyone, the ledger is described as unpermissioned.

The purpose, and great strength of unpermissioned ledgers is that they cannot be owned by anyone. A good example of this is the Bitcoin ledger. So, while, anyone to contribute data to the ledger, such as a record of a financial transaction, there us no single owner and everyone in possession of the ledger to has identical copies.

This is a major reason why blockchain represents a challenge to institutional power structures and existing industries, and many governments and financial institutions have reacted strongly against this new method of doing business. For example an unpermissioned blockchain has censorship resistance, which means that no one can prevent a transaction from being added to the ledger. The integrity of the ledger is not maintained by an authority or single device but by all users reaching a consensus about its state. This means that unpermissioned ledgers can be used as a global record that cannot be edited: for recording financial transactions, declaring a last will and testament, for example, or assigning property ownership.

One of the fascinating features of blockchain technology is that an additional feature in implemented which makes it more than just a database. Rules can be set about any transaction, sometimes referred to as business logic can be associated with each transaction. This is not only much more powerful than a conventional databases, where the rules may be set at the entire database level.

In contrast to Unpermissioned ledgers, permissioned ledgers are ones that may have one or many owners. When a new record is added, the ledger’s integrity is checked by a limited consensus process. This is carried out by what are known as trusted actors, for example government departments or banks. The consensus process means that permissioned blockchains provide readily verifiable data sets. The mechanism is that the consensus process creates a digital signature, which can be tested and verified by anyone. This method is also faster and more compact as it does not have to store irrelevant records or be checked by slow or inaccessible machines on the network.

In the example of healthcare, requiring many hospitals or even many doctors and healthcare professional’s medical records systems to validate a record (without necessarily hands on help from a human) gives a high degree of confidence in the record’s security. In contrast to the current situation where paper records can be lost or destroyed or databases an be ‘cleaned’ or deleted changing the official record the permissioned record is not subject to whims or influence of an individual or small number of people.

Other interesting alternatives are Distributed ledgers, which are a type of database that is spread across multiple sites, countries or institutions, and is typically public. In a distributed database, records are stored in order in a continuous ledger, rather than sorted into blocks. New records can only be added when the participants reach a quorum. An example of a distributed ledger is the global financial transactions system Ripple. In Ripple a list of validators known as Unique Node Validators is selected from up to 200 known, unknown or partially known validators who are trusted not to collude in defrauding the actors in a transaction. This requires greater trust in the validators or operators of the ledger. The advantage is that it is significantly faster than a system like Bitcoin, but is considered less censorship resistant.
In contrast, a more general concept is that of the shared ledger, typically refers to any database and application that is shared by an industry or private consortium, or that is open to the public.
Interestingly, a shared ledger may use a distributed ledger or block chain as its underlying database, but will often layer on permissions for different types of users. As such, ‘shared ledger’ represents a spectrum of possible ledger or database designs that are permissioned at some level. An industry’s shared ledger may have a limited number of fixed validators who are trusted to maintain the ledger, which can offer significant benefits of quality while maintaining trustworthiness.

Perhaps most interestingly, and not just the cherry in the top, are smart contracts. Smart contracts are contracts whose terms are written in a formalized language that can be executed by a computer or microchip when the blockchain is accessed. This means that they are effectively business logic coded in a specialized computer language instead of legal language. In effect, smart contracts are automatically executed by a computing system, such as a suitable distributed ledger system. The potential benefits of smart contracts include low contracting, enforcement, and compliance costs; consequently it becomes economically viable to form contracts over numerous low-value transactions. The potential risks include a reliance on the computing system that executes the contract and the correct and error free writing of the smart contract.

So hopefully this has been a useful guide to blockchain as a useful technology with potentially widespread influence and helps better understanding. And in summary I think I can’t do better than to quote the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser in recommending that “Algorithms that enable the creation of distributed ledgers are powerful, disruptive innovations that could transform the delivery of public and private services and enhance productivity through a wide range of applications.”

Thursday, 1 November 2018

What is Blockchain? Part I

If you’ve not been in frozen sleep since 2016 it's likely that you’ve heard far more that you could possibly want to about something called Bitcoin, and perhaps something else called block chain. You’ve probably had it all mixed up together and you may have heard that Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan describing bitcoin as a “fraud”. He then went on to say that he would fire any employee from his firm who traded in digital currency for being “stupid.” . Of course that was famously followed up by JP Morgan Securities Ltd., and Morgan Stanley buying millions of euro of XBT note shares which track the price of BitCoin.

So you may be puzzled about the hype.  So to help clear up the confusion I thought I’d give a simple overview of what blockchain actually is. There seem to be as many different ‘expert opinions’ in the field as there are individuals so I’ve used the definitions given by the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser in the National report on “Distributed Ledger Technology.”

So what is a Blockchain? Simply put is a way to store information. It is a type of database that takes a number of records and puts them in what is known as a block. This is rather like collating them on to a single piece paper. Each block is then connected to the next block in a process called chaining. This chaining uses a cryptographic or digital signature, which is a unique number that identifies a particular document or action.

Chaining blocks together like this allows block chains to be used like a ‘ledger’ or accounting book. The advantage over a paper one is that this type can be shared and corroborated by anyone with the appropriate permissions. In the period between 2008 and 2010 a ledger of this sort was set up and publically shared for financial transactions. This is what we call the Bitcoin BTC. There are now a large number of other ledgers of this type (or blockchains) used for a number of processes. If they are financial instruments or used for payment then they are typically called cryptocurrencies.

In the process of using blockchains copies of the ledger are normally shared. There are many ways to corroborate the accuracy of the copies of the ledger, but they are broadly known as consensus. In some cases, for example in Bitcoin, the term ‘mining’ is used for this process.

more soon!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Are MediChain Tokens linked to the Bitcoin in value?

Questioner: I was of the understanding that since all tokens (whether backed or not) trade in pairs with btc their value is therefore inherently "linked" to the value of bitcoin.. Therefore if Bitcoin falls (most) tokens will also therefore fall proportionately, because they are coupled with btc?

Answer: Not in our case. Our tokens are locked to the US dollar during the ICO period and then floats depending on supply and demand. Because we will never create any more than the original number, as we add more data the tokens raise in value, regardless of he bitcoin.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Why MediChain Tokens will be more stable than the bitcoin

A typical buyer's concern is with the significant volatility seen in Bitcoin the last few weeks.

I had thought we were going to bounce of the recent "lows" but right now the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency markets are plunging. Obviously, investors are going to be nervous if Bitcoin itself is plummeting that they will be buying into a severely compromised ecosystem (ie the blockchain, bitcoin, crypto) system. Any words you have to assuage these fears is appreciated.

Here is my response

That's a very good point.  Actually, the volatility of standard cryptocurrencies is what we expect to be driving sales of our tokens. The problem with unbacked cryptocurrency is that it has no intrinsic value. What you are converting that into is a token that is backed by something with intrinsic value in the real world, medical data. So even it the bitcoin falls to 0.10 cents the MCU (our token) will not be affected - its value will be staked by the value of all that medical big data we will be acquiring in our ecosystem (databases)  which will be valuable for as long as humans need to fight disease and use knowledge (or data) to do so.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Will patients own history be available to them automatically when they start using MediChain system?

Q: Will patients own history be available to them automatically when they start using MediChain system?

A: Initially, the systems will populate their MediChain data going forwards. We will then offer services to go through past data to further populate their records, but of course, their records are, by their nature, fragmented over multiple systems so that won't just be a single push of a button in most cases.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

How Does MediChain Get Big Data?

Q: For MediChain to be successful it requires initial patient data. How do you intend to do this?"

A:  Ok so there are two strands to this. Patients only need access to their own data, not to other patients. So immediately a patient starts using the system and for the whole time after their data is accessible to them. Patients don't need to access the big data aspect.

For the big data, we combine the aggregated patient data built up over time and the data from our partners and data projects.  A substantial amount of our token and funds raised (totalling about $30M) go into funding projects and collaborations to get super high-quality data to 'seed' the database. There are other major ways that we speed up the population of the database, but these are the main ones.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Medical Big Data Platform

There are quite a few Medical Blockchain companies and everyone except ours of them depends on going head to head with multibillion dollar turnover incumbents in the EHR and EMR markets and competing with these established companies for revenue sources.

MediChain is the only one that taps into a different and much bigger pot of revenue which actually benefits the EHR and EMR companies and turns rivals into partners.

This is because, by design, we use the data as anonymised big data. MediChain's tagline is "The Medical Big Data Platform" which indicates our main differentiator. This means that the value in the system is not just the service or end user utility (although we have that too) but in the 'big data which is of huge value to pharmaceutical companies, healthcare systems and insurers. The annual value of this is in the hundreds of billions rather than just the billions that the rival companies tap into. Whats more they are in competition with one another and with the EHR/EMRs. We are not in competition with them

Of course storing data off the blockchain is part of what allows us to do that and to leverage existing big data technologies, but just storing it off the blockchain is not enough and a deep knowledge of specific technologies has to be designed into the system.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The culture of outrage

Controversially, I'd like to suggest that people are now narrower, less receptive to new ideasm, if not than ever, certainly than they have been since the 17th century.

Certainly they accept the ideas of their group and insist that those show high intelligence, and a moral compass.

What's really happening? We if you look at the evidence immediately people are faced with unfamiliar ideas they assume that if those don't fit into their own camp they must be the enemy - who are by definition stupid and immoral - maybe bigoted or worse. Very little cogntion need occur - they can go straight on to fight or flight. Even reading this many are reacting in exactly that way.

So what happens?

  • The hypothalamus ramps ups and signals the pituitary gland to get to work.
  • The pituitary gland releases hormones to the adrenal medulla.
  • Adrenal medulla releases cortisol.
  • Cortisol promotes muscle contracture; pupil dilation; suppression of GI tract (digestion); increases heart rate; amygdala becomes hyper-aroused which can lead to emotional tagging in the hippocampus This sets them up sets to repeat this response in the future.
  • Prefrontal cortex becomes inhibited (this is where present-time awareness, planning, motivation, decision making etc happens - this blocks any actual thinking about the intellectual challenge that is being presented).
It will be interesting to see where that's taking us - but it hasn't worked out well in the past.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Rural poverty & the brain drain.

So Americans are worried about rural poverty and the brain drain from rural areas. Germans have told me the same and it is implicit in conversations with people who I meet from developing countries. This might just be an urban myth in some countries - urbanite imaging that they must be smarter than people in communities which are following sustainable long-term protocols rather than short-term trends - but overall this seems to be a widespread issue.  Yet I live in an archetypal rural environment in England (with a 17th-century pub and an 11th century Church) - and education and sophistication seems substantially higher than say a typical point sample of New York, Paris or San Francisco. The last conversations that I had in the village have been about dark matter and missing mass, models of the multiverse, and some banter about the science of color vision. Roses are nurtured and grown, horses are ridden on but actually, that doesn't lower the intellect level. Maybe for us though access to a major megacity and the coming of superfast broadband allowing high-value work from home is a key factor. Whatever it is, it isn't a given that rural life is nasty, brutish and short. With an information economy, there is no reason that it can't just be a healthier, more civilized way to live.

Friday, 24 March 2017

How to call police if it isn't safe to speak on the phone.

I found this out recently and thought I'd pass it on

In the UK Silent Solutions (also know as the Police Voice Response system) is an agreed protocol which decides whether or not police are dispatched to any silent emergency call. In the UK the emergency number is 999.

If you dial 999 the BT Operator will ask which emergency service you require. If there is no request, the operator will ask you to cough or make some form of indication that the call is an emergency.
If there is still no request then the call will be put through to an automated system which asks the caller to press '55' if the call is an emergency. If this is not done then the call will be terminated and police will not attend.

A police spokesman said :"Please do not think that just because you dial 999 that police will attend. We totally understand that sometimes people are unable or too afraid to talk, however it must be clear that we will not routinely attend a silent 999 call. There must be some indication that the call has not been mis-dialled."

Alternatively 112 is the pan European standard number for contacting the emergency services and runs in parallel with 999.

You can also register for Emergency SMS in the UK

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

On the Great Alkaline Plains

I recently went to a little ecologically balanced art self sufficient art festival in the desert in Pershing County, Nevada. Other than food and water I carried everything in and out that I used (including shelter) in a pack. The location certainly encouraged community spirit and I greatly enjoyed talking to the artists involved in the creative projects.  Must go on to Soleri's Arcosanti next time I attend.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf

Has anyone noticed that the whole area between North Beach/Marina area and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is an almost empty paradise just a short walk from Fisherman's Wharf much of the time?

Saturday, 4 June 2016

The Matrix of Musk

The ever ingenious Elon Musk claimed that "There's a billion to one chance we're living in base reality,"  on stage at the  Recode's Code Conference,and that it is "overwhelmingly likely we're just characters living inside a simulation". I'm glad we both enjoy the same type of science fiction - first "Foundation" and now "The Matrix"!

However, if that is the case it mean that his life's work, especially his excellent achievements with SpaceX and his Mars colonization thoughts, are essentially wasted. If we are in a simulation - an idea considered by Bishop Berkeley in the 18th century and perhaps more practically by Plato's Allegory of the Cave, then achievements in this world would essentially be hollow and arbitrary.

If you do actually act on such beliefs it dangerously leads to solipsism  - so for example, being a sociopath is a perfectly reasonable and justifiable option (after all other people are not really real and don't have feelings of lives in a solipsistic world view) and any evil inflicted is just part of a game.

Alternatively  one's own efforts could be much better put into hacking the sim - either to find out more about it or if you were resigned to existence in this universe to 'break the game rules' to achieve knowledge, immortality or faster than light travel. Just when I see a new game can't help but try to work out what the underlying algorithms are and then reach for a hex editor. To be consistent, now, Elon needs to start thinking this way about the universe.

So, if we were in a simulation, how would we know? Well, simulations fall into two broad categories, complete and incomplete. In a complete simulation every action, every item, in simulated in as high or higher fidelity than the laws of physics being simulated can exist. There are no approximations. An example is a chess simulator which fully simulates the laws of chess. In this sort of simulation all observed features emerge following rigorously applied laws from starting conditions.  Complex features of the universe are not explicitly coded. There is no stating condition of complexity (like a flower or a 747) at the start or 'creation'.

In an incomplete simulation compromises are made. Typically but sometimes whole sections of the simulated system are approximated. Almost every simulator which we are familiar with falls into this category. Games and flight simulators are good examples. If we look closely enough at the screen, or indeed any object we can see pixels, building blocks of the simulation. In a complete simulation these should be subatomic particles. If we follow a timeline back in "Call of Duty" or indeed in a flight simulator, we get back to the start of the game or exercise. Everything before that is assumed and programmed into the simulator. In a complete simulation we would go back to see the protagonists breakfast, his or her birth, the emergence of their species, the origins of life etc. . .  A simulation of this type would be like the one in the film "The Matrix" or like the belief that God buried the fossil bones of dinosaurs in the rocks in order to test the faith of sinners. Observed features of the universe would be explicitly coded rather than emerging following rigorously applied laws.

So what is Musk's hypothesis - that we are in a complete simulation, or an incomplete one?
Observed features of the universe

  1. Observed features of the universe emerging following rigorously applied laws. (and no granularity of simulation coarser than the in-universe features (like quanta) that it simulates). In that case we simply can't tell, we can never tell, and it doesn't actually explain anything (as we have to ask - does the simulator have to follow 'laws' of it's own - and if so is the simulator being simulated?)
  2. Observed features of the universe explicitly coded rather  emerging. This is testable and it would be interesting to formulate the series of test that would allow us to recognise it.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Digital Transformation Istanbul 2016 Edition

For a limited time only there is a special edition of my book Digital Transformation published for the  E-Commerce 2016 Exhibition in Istanbul. There is special, additional material covering the latest in

  • The On Demand Economy and Uberization: Transforming your market and determining factors determining hyper-growth and sustainability.
  • The Internet of Things: Security & Utility 
  • Predictive Analytics - and turning $10 visitors into $100 ones and multi-million markets to multi billion ones.

Click on each book to purchase.

Istanbul Ataturk airport attack: 41 dead and 239 injured in 'hideous' suicide bombings in Turkey
This s the same airport and indeed the same arrival area that I went through just a few weeks ago.  

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Using experts as dynamic knowledge resources and structured learning processes.

The poet Valéry tells us that the purpose of human intelligence is to create anticipations and expectations that will guide an organisms actions along paths that avoid harm and capture good. The philosopher Dennett describes this a Mining the past for the Future. Most peoples models even radical ones such as 70:20:10 learning still treat this as a passive process, listening to the wise authority and perhaps occasionally challenging treat this as a passive task occasionally challenging or refuting if new information doesn't fit with apparent 'truisms'. Questions to experts often then simply duplicate text book knowledge and learning tends to be a linear process. I've used a number of other processes which greatly enhance the take-up of knowledge.
  1. Baker Class I: Testing a structure of knowledge. Specific questions used both to test the structure of knowledge. Often seem either dopey or very acute as they typically probe the fundamentals. 
  2. Baker Class II: Building a structure of knowledge. Specific questions used to add to a the structure of knowledge.Sometimes seem oblique as they may not seem like key questions (those may already be known), but are testing specific limits to the system to understand it more deeply or from a different context
  3. Baker Class III: Veracity testing. May be consistency testing or testing against known benchmarks. There is not a dogmatic approach that the benchmark has to be right - but if you do contradict known benchmarks then the questions may get rapidly more philosophical  to see if you understand and appreciate the implications of your statements.
  4. Baker Class IV: Backfilling questions. These are the questions you ask when applying retrograde analysis. In chess problems, retrograde analysis is a technique employed to determine which moves were played leading up to a given position. There is a whole subgenre of chess problems in which it is an important part; such problems are known as retros. The same applies in understanding real world problems where the questioner is either building a scaffold of knowledge, building enough background to understand the concepts or carrying out an actual formal retrograde analysis.  Often combined with Class III to validate the veracity of the tutors knowledge or of the system of knowledge being imparted.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Why do Millennials feel scared about their future?

I think baby boomers see me as a sort of ersatz millennial. Old ladies have only just stopped calling me 'young man' and old men still regard me as a whippersnapper. If I'm stuck slightly in the past it's more like the Athens of Pericles than whenever I actually was a kid. And, generally, teenagers who I know seem to turn to ask me about technology rather than the other way around.
Still, people do seem to turn to me to ask questions about millennial, and one comes up a lot. Why do millennials feel scared about the future?

So here is my take.


Jack Ma has it exactly right here (as always). When Thomas Friedman published "The World Is Flat", globalisation looked like "a perfect strategy" for the US: "We just want the IP, the technology, and the brand, and we'll leave the other jobs" to other countries like Mexico and China. The outcome has created a huge political backlash in the US as those who are not directly working in IP, the technology, and the brand struggle to compete on salary with workers from those countries. The effect is hidden by cheap imported technology and mass produced foods but things that can't be imported like property cut millennials out of access to the basics that generations before them aspired to and formed a basic part of the post-war American Dream. Following your Dream And of course they've been told to follow their dreams and had the idea forced down their throats that a simple, honest life of nurturing, caring and contributing to friends, family and society is somehow worthless. Part of this involves everyone being told and sold the idea of doing one of a handful of jobs - entertainer, dancer, artist maybe lawyer. These were great aspirations in the 1950s, but when half the population train for them it means that many people will spend their lives disappointed and empty. [Digression - Mark's Law of Job Value - how to see if a job is truly valuable - what would happen if everyone on your type of job disappeared today: Doctors? – moderate difference today – but life would be shorter and more miserable in the long term; Grade school teachers? – something similar; Garbage disposal – big problems for most people with disease and vermin within weeks; Farmers – not much difference today – but maybe 80% of the people you know would be dead by this time next year if farmers went; Rockstars, Soap Opera Stars, Movie Stars – not as much difference as consumer society might make you think – just think that one through especially if you know good amateur performers.]

Technological Literacy

What? Whaaat??? This is sacrilege. Millennials are supposed to know all about technology and everyone else is supposed to be dumb about it? You remember all those movies where a cave man is brought back from the past and doesn't understand anything - rushes around out of touch with his era?

Well, the thing is that most of us are exactly like that. You can turn on the iPhone, you can tap the screen and talk to it, but you haven't a clue how it really works. How to program it. What microcode is and how it works. What a chip really is and how it really works. And it's alienating at a deep level.
People love to laugh at those splendid people in the Pacific islands, the Cargo Cult tribes, who try to bring technology to their islands by copying the outward signs of western technology. So they build a runway, put two halves of a coconut on their heads as headphones, talk into a pineapple as a microphone. But they are not the odd ones. They've seen right through us. They know that the westerners who they meet don't understand the technology in the world they move around in, can really describe how it works or how to make it. They know that they are dealing with consumers and the stuff really comes from elsewhere.

But remember it isn't about millennials, its about the era they live in.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

NeuroSky develops cost-effective, secure medical monitoring solution to improve remote patient care

NeuroSky develops cost-effective, secure medical monitoring solution to improve remote patient care: Leading brain-computer interface and healthcare sensor company NeuroSky has created a cost-effective and secure medical monitoring solution that could radically improve remote patient care for people with long term chronic illnesses.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

I seem to be a Quora Top Writer for 2016

So I've just received this from Quora

"Congratulations! You've been named as a Quora Top Writer for 2016. You should see a red Top Writer icon on your profile page that indicates you are part of the most recent class of Quora Top Writers. Quora has chosen you as a Top Writer for 2016 in recognition of your unique contribution to the Quora community."

Interesting - it seems to be at - nice to know. Laura Hale says it is a honor as it put you at the top of over Quora has 80 million users and apparently I get a gift, and get to be invited to Quora events organized exclusively for the Top Writers in Mountain View.

[UPDATE] The prize turns out to be a very nice Quora laptop bag. Thanks guys!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

KallDoc Spring & Summer 2016 Internships [Notice]

KallDoc is still recruiting for the Spring and Summer 2016 Internships.

Ideally we will have talked already or you will have attended one of our online intern tele-conferences, but if you want to progress your application (even if you have not done the above) please follow the instructions below.

Business Development Interns

  • KallDoc is growing rapidly and at the time of writing this includes an expansion partnership that will add 20,000 users in the next six weeks or so followed by a further 80,000 users.
  • For the Business interns we have a number of projects developing materials and collateral including building partnerships with doctors, clinics and insurance companies. You can also work on our venture capital and crowd funding programs if you specify an interest. Here is an example of information about out clinic outreach program  and clinic deck 
  • Interns generally work in peer teams with mentors communicating by Skype and meeting up occasionally when in the bay area 
  • January part-time interns will work remotely.
  • In June interns will work in Menlo Park.
  • Our aim is to form a long term relationship with interns offering positions to suitable ones on graduation.

If you are interested please do the following:

Send us the following information 

  • Start and end dates and number of hours available per week (these are all important).
  • Your resume
  • The names and contact details of two referees. Ideally one will be from your university, the second from the most suitable former employer. References are normally from the most senior person who knows you and your work well.
 Send everything to and