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Monday, March 28, 2016

What The Hell Is A Blockchain Smart Contract

The promise of blockchain technology's so-called smart contracts needs an evolutionary jump in order to become adaptable.

Adaptability will lead to commercial use, which will lead to revenue and sales growth for related applications.

But has anyone thought through the problem the smart contract is supposed to solve?

As a matter of fact, does anyone really know what the hell a smart contract actually is? What it does?

Or is this just a really-smart and cutesy term, useful for people who don't know what the hell they're talking about, to sound smart to people who are less knowledgeable about blockchain technology derivatives?

The classic smart contract is a self-executing code. Under that paradigm, the occurrence of specified events, based on a previously agreed protocol, leads to performance without a further decision or action being required.

This simple transaction has been around for years in the securities markets. We already have self executing contracts.

My point is that we have "smart contracts," which are not contracts. They're not necessarily smart, either.

We should take a step back and figure out the problem we are trying to solve. Even Prehistoric Man took this approach with the use of fire and the wheel. These discoveries only continued and evolved into use because of their usefulness. So what is the utility of a smart contract? What is the problem to be solved?
This is the issue most technologists in the blockchain industry seem to miss.

It seems blockchain technology, the distributed and immutable ledger, is very much a solution in search of a problem.

* Eric Dixon is a New York based corporate lawyer who works with some blockchain startups to solve questions pertaining to precisely this type of issue.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Psychology: The Secret To Winning In Court, And In Politics

A common problem in litigation is the sense that the case has been pre-judged. That is, the sense that the decision has been made. It could be the decision on the verdict, or the motion, it really doesn't matter much. Having this sense means that one also believes that the facts no longer matter (you'll try to argue them anyway) or the law or legal precedents (other rulings) don't matter (ditto). The quandary for the advocate is how to crack this dilemma, to control the damage, to live to fight another day.

One way around this is to try to totally change the foundational paradigm of the case. An example might be to shift the argument radically. If a straightforward recitation of facts and the law is not apparently working, then you've got to strike at something deeper. That is, to go after the "core values" of the decisionmaker -- the judge or, in rare instances, the jury.

Identifying those core beliefs is difficult. A case in point is any political campaign, whose success ultimately depends on voter turnout. Forget what people say, what they tell pollsters. As the football coaching legend Bill Parcells said once, "You are what your record says you are." You win or you lose. Results matter. In fact, that is all that matters -- did you win?

Getting to politics. How does one determine a campaign's or candidate's real supporters?

There's a big gap between spoken beliefs and actual beliefs. The truest test of where someone stands, whether it's for a candidate or a particular political ideology, is NOT some sort of pop quiz where if you get eight out of ten "right," you're in a certain category. Forget ideology. It's psychology that matters.

And adversity often brings out the truth. I've long believed that certain human emotions are actually incompatible with truly sincere ideological beliefs. Want to see how progressive your buddies are? Watch how they react when they get passed over for a promotion by an equally or more-qualified minority group member? Want to see how conservative your friends are? See how they squirm with envy when you get that house, promotion, etc.

The core emotion of envy / jealousy reveals that ideology doesn't drive voting decisions. Psychology does. Human weaknesses do. And activism thrives, not on ideology, but on these psychological drivers.

If you're thinking that "ideology" or "party identification" is the driver in those decisions, you're confusing the symptom (the stated belief) with the real, underlying cause (the psychological belief or value system).

If you want to pull out that victory, in any field, you have to recognize the symptom first. But then you must go one step further. To avoid the false positive, the indicator that leads you to one conclusion which could be very wrong, you have to dig for the underlying belief.

Very simply, it becomes: Why does someone believe in something?

If you aren't diligent enough at doing the digging to get to the real answer, you run the real risk of being really, really wrong.

Eric Dixon is a New York-based investigative and corporate attorney.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Why Sponsors Are Really Dumping Maria Sharapova


Maria #Sharapova is not being dumped by sponsors because of a failed drug test. 

She's being dumped -- or "suspended" -- because sponsors aren't happy with the return on their investment so far, or are seeing that the value of her "brand" may suffer temporarily. They are taking advantage of this, but then again, every sponsorship deal is a risk on future performance based on past performance. The sponsors are using every contractual right they have to stop payment and reassess their relationship. And, they have every right to do so.

Any sponsor getting its "bang for the buck" would have no reason, none at all, to dump her.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Trump's Psychology Ponzi Scheme

The presidential candidacy of Donald J. Trump, and in particular, his very public statements and mannerisms, may be the latest and greatest example of a particular bullying strategy that is sometimes deployed by some "control freak" businessmen and politicians.

Something noticeable in a certain type of egotistical person is the use of the following tactic. The person will say increasingly controversial, even outrageous, things. Notably, this will be done in the presence of others. That is because the object of the statement is not the content of the statement or its outrageousness, its political incorrectness. The object of the statement is the fact that it is made among an audience, and the target of the statement, while nominally about persons or things voiced in the statement, is really the audience, that is, the people around the speaker.

That's because the strategy of the speaker is to make those people in the audience uncomfortable. The strategy is to make those people associated with the speaker. (In high society, among the well-bred, you'll note that certain offensive statements are met with silent retreats but almost never an outright denunciation. That's because of the belief in the principle, however fair or unfair, of "guilty by association.") The speaker exploits the desire of the audience to "kiss up to" him, the fawning adoration, and the susceptibility of people unable to generate light of their own, to bask in the reflected light of others.

It is often in this way that supporters, associates, colleagues, etc. end up becoming the new victims. They're so often the psychological marks of the speaker, and never ever figure out the ruse.

When those people have finally had "enough," the egotist will challenge their objection with charges that "you support me," or "you've given me money," or "you've been my customer," or even, "you said this was a great course and you signed something." (Sound familiar yet?) The challenge is really a threat to embarrass others, anyone who objects. And that threat is felt by its marks, even if it can rarely be articulated, never mind, tied in to an actual, objective fact. That difficulty helps the perpetrator continue, to overcome the objections and carry on his activities. In fact, the perpetrator sometimes is able to build on rejecting the objections, because his object is control, and he has no objection to control through fear. 

This might work for a while. But the psychological Ponzi scheme cannot be sustained. Watch the egotist carefully; you'll see he rarely has the same people around him for a long period of time (unless they're on his payroll, or another more nefarious explanation exists). 

Those of us who have uncovered these shady characters know the signs. It is a terrible shame when these people act this way. They often harm others, but they also waste their own potential, their ideas, their rhetoric, their inventions, all wasted in the employ of an addiction to psychological dysfunctions.

Are we seeing this unfold now? I've given you my theory. Time will tell -- and the longer the time horizon, the more evidence that can be collected to make that determination.

Eric Dixon is a New York based lawyer who has investigated fraud in various contexts over the years.