The New Libertarians

Blockchain voting app (III)

This is my third attempt to create this presentation. You can see my two previous attempts at, all the way at the bottom, and if you want to see my first presentation -I didn’t have time to finish the first one last time I spoke- it’s there, too. 

There’s a great story from Isaacson’s biography of Einstein about Eddington, the Chairman at the Royal Academy of Science- doing a job once held by Isaac Newton. Eddington was trying to decide about arranging financing for an expedition to photograph a solar eclipse in order to test a “Jewish” German theory (in disrepute in Germany. where everything “Jewish” was suspect) called the “Theory of Relativity”. So, he met with Einstein to talk about it. 

After the meeting he was asked if Einstein had explained the theory to him, and if he understood it? Eddington answered, “He convinced me that he understood it.” Eddington was no slouch, either- he was an astrophysicist himself.

They financed the expedition, and demonstrated that the positions of stars behind the sun- which could only be seen during the solar eclipse- would deviate from their known positions- demonstrating that light bends when it goes by a heavy object- like the sun, and measured how much. There’s a lot more to this story I haven’t time for…but… It was the first empirical “proof” of the Theory of Relativity, a very big deal. Now, Relativity is part of all advanced science- in stuff we use every day- like GPS, for example. But does anyone really understand it?

I’ll tell another story -from my college days. After a lecture given by Francis Crick (Watson&Crick, DNA, etc) I got my lunch-tray, looked around for someone I knew to eat with- and I saw Crick eating his lunch alone in the dining hall. I went over and asked him if I might join him, and he said “Sure, sit down.” 

I confessed to him that I was considering changing my major from biology to philosophy, and I wanted his opinion. He said, “That’s probably a good idea. Watson and I have already done the creative work- the rest of it is just filling in the blanks, and most of it will be done by computers.” I wasn’t interested in computers, then- I was interested in living things, life, the origins of life- not adding machines, typewriters and other office equipment. That was probably the worst advice I ever got from anyone. He’d only opened the door to a new world, but he hadn’t looked in! Today we can splice genes from bacteria into plants, we can even correct genetic defects in unborn babies- there’s a huge new world of possibilities he opened up, he never dreamed of. 

So, I studied philosophy, political science and psychology and religion. I’ve mentioned before that I want to build an interactive political website which can be compared to a hybrid of, and I call it , AKA “Direct Democracy”. That usually makes eyes roll. In my youth, when I was a teenager  I planned a medical career, I had the idea that computers could be used to do huge epidemiological studies- but there was no internet, and no good way to get the data. Today, we can read our genome and trace our ancestry back to the Neanderthals. 

Why can’t people all over the world vote on issues of concern to all humanity? War, pollution, disease, climate change, nutrition, shelter, education? One TV guru famously said, “There are seven billion people on the planet who want peace. Why are we always at war?” The reason, he said, is because we’re good at what we practice. “Why,” he asked, “don’t we practice peace?”

Today, there are big political arguments at the frontiers of philosophy, political science, religion, social science, medical science, environmental science. Big decisions have to be made about the future of the human race- and the planet- and somebody has to make them. One more story before I start to bore you with code.

We’ve all heard about the “Russia Investigation”, but most people aren’t paying enough attention to it. I predict we will learn that the Trump/Republican 2016 campaign paid a foreign corporation (Cambridge Analytica) to use/misuse bought/stolen Facebook data we knowingly/unknowingly provided in return for our “free” use of Facebook’s (and other, I predict- Twitter,, LinkedIn, Google, Amazon, pornography sites, political sites, Wikipedia… etc) highly addictive social media platforms, commonly used information sources, shopping sources- to target us with individually customized political propaganda delivered by Russian built and financed “bots” disguised as “Facebook Friends”- and corrupted the outcome of the 2016 election, and delivered us an illegitimate President with a criminal agenda which could include treason. I think it’s a big deal.  

Those of us who study “The Interactive Web” can understand what this means in a way the average person cannot. These things are not only possible, but are being done every minute of every day- but few of us consider the consequences.

My original plan for this class was to try to interest the class in building a securely encrypted voting app, so that voting and polling could be done online around the world without fear of the data being compromised and possible retaliation resulting. The best encryption and secure data storage today is blockchain. But blockchain presents problems too big for us to address. I don’t fully understand how it works, and I don’t think anyone else here does either- and I don’t know if it’s even within our grasp. But I tried to figure it out, and I’ll share what I learned. But I had an even better idea. I don’t care-personally- about blockchain, it’s just a means to an end.

I thought we might “hitchhike” our voting app onto an already established blockchain system in current use for the digital currency Etherium. I chose Etherium (instead of Bitcoin, or another) because it is the second most popular, is figured to 18 decimal places- making a transaction worth less than $2.10 capable of carrying a half-trillion bits of data, encrypted by Etherium’s blockchain. To buy that transaction costs 3.1 cents. So, if I understand it correctly- the idea seems feasible to me. 

So then, the next part of the problem (now that we’ve solved the blockchain/encryption part) is creating the polling platform. In the first “Interactive Web I” we learned to do “radio” codes in HTML5, in “Interactive Web II” class, I learned how to pirate the code to Trump’s polls (no doubt part of Cambridge Analyitica’s data gathering program- to which I contributed, enthusiastically) to modify and create my own polls and use Divi WordPress to create, which is approaching 6000 users. At this time, the website is just a “template” for a website- a demonstration “dummy” for what I’m trying to build. In this class, I want to figure out how to actually administer the poll- perhaps to my 6000 users as an experiment, and ultimately offer it to the whole worldwide internet community.

Let’s look at one of Trump’s polls. (Plebiscite) The way I imagine this working is that our voting app would allow a person to access an online poll at our website, and turn a series of questions with four multiple choice answers into a unique digital “ballot”. The app would translate each answer (00,01,10,11) in a multi-question poll into a string of numbers which can be decoded into a full ballot, the results tabulated and displayed. They can vote by paying us less than $1 worth of Etherium, and we can pay for it that way.

Joyce suggested Clearpoll as an already existing blockchain protected voting app- so let’s look at their code. They claim to provide the blockchain, and that’s what they’re selling. (Index)