• Marc Egeth

Evolution and cryptocurrency

Hi, thanks for getting here. I thought I'd share some of the origin story of this project.

Currently I'm a medical device user interface researcher. To get there, I was a student of psychology, including evolutionary psychology. My undergraduate major was Evolutionary Psychology, I was the first Ph.D. graduate of the Penn Lab for Experimental Evolutionary Psychology, and I helped publish papers about Bowerbirds and fruit flies.

For this reason, it tickled me when I read an article - not sure that it was this one - explaining that Bitcoin's Proof of Work functioned like a peacock's tail, by providing a costly signal. The results of hashpower calculations, which cost billions of dollars of electricity annually, cannot be faked, so finding the hash solutions proves you spend the money. This is a defense mechanism for Bitcoin, because an attacker would need to out-spend the rest of the network on hashpower. By analogy, the article explains, following the "handicap hypothesis," the peacock's tail is a deliberate self-handicap, so costly to build that only a truly healthy and fit peacock could make such an expenditure and lug around such an unwieldy appendage.

For some reason, the handicap principal was never my favorite, and as a student of the topic for many years I knew there were alternate evolutionary theories in this space. What if only a truly healthy peacock can build such a tail, and so the tail is an honest indicator of health, but yet it does not cost a lot for a healthy peacock to build or carry around the tail; maybe for a healthy peacock the tail is not an encumbrance or handicap. I can prove my wealth by driving around a Lamborghini, which necessarily costs me something to buy, and though it uses up some of my wealth, at least I must have been able to afford. Or I can prove my wealth by walking someone over to an ATM and displaying my checking balance. This would be an honest, hard-to-fake signal of wealth, but the signal itself does not inherently need to be costly.

If there are honest indicators that are not costly themselves, I got to thinking, then what could an alternative to Bitcoin look like that is built on honest but not costly (non-wasteful-of-electricity) indicators?

The rest of this website describes one way to go about it.

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