Facebook’s Laughable Move to Repair the Fatal Flaws of Blockchain

<p>Facebook is proud of its solution: a new software language called Move. Yes, a language called “Move.”</p><p>I’ve spent a little time checking out the new language. The developers are generally right about the deficiencies they are addressing, effectively endorsing the view that existing smart contracts are hopelessly flawed. They are smart and have put forward credible solutions to the problems. It’s just possible that, after a few years and after the software has gone open-source, the new system will turn out to be an improvement on the old one.&nbsp;But before deciding that, let’s do something programmers avoid doing: take a quick look at history. Software history is chock full of programming languages, each of which was invented to improve on or fix problems with earlier languages. Most new languages are supposed to make programming faster and more flexible, with fewer errors of any kind. After more than half a century of effort with thousands of new languages, how has that worked out? See <a href="https://www.blackliszt.com/2014/03/how-to-evaluate-programming-languages.html" target="_blank" class="color-link">this</a> for details. Sorry, humans are creative types, and are capable of making mistakes in any medium at all. While Germans may be deeply certain that the German language is more clear and precise and superior for expressing truths than French, citizens of France are remarkably articulate about how this is not the case – while at the same time demonstrating that the French language is no better.</p><p>The team at Facebook has done us all the great service of making widely known the otherwise ignored deep flaws in Smart Contracts, while almost certainly increasing the chances of things going horribly wrong with Libra while introducing a well-intentioned but, well, <em>new</em> language, claiming against decades of experience with thousands of languages that this one will really bring human programmers to the land of perfection.</p><p>I’ve got a bridge. It’s cheap – wanna buy it?</p>”>

Facebook’s Libra faces the daunting task of pulling off the flawless world-wide launch sometime next year of a new cryptocurrency based on new code. In taking on this task, they are hoping to pull off a first in software history: a major body of new code that works out of the gate. I assess the odds of this working here. At the same time, they have upped the stakes by also introducing a brand-new smart contract framework based on a brand-new language. Good luck!

Smart contracts are a way of extending and customizing a blockchain. Outsiders might imagine that the Bitcoin competitor Ethereum emerged from the pack because its name is somehow cooler than Bitcoin, but insiders know that an important factor was its pioneering incorporation of the first widely known implementation of smart contracts. Here is my explanation of smart contracts.

There’s just one little problem: however cool Ethereum’s smart contracts may be, in practice a majority of smart contracts have bugs and security holes, as a study of tens of thousands of them has shown. Even worse, smart contracts are part of the “immutable ledger” that is supposed to make things secure. Except when there are bugs and security holes, it doesn’t.

Facebook has quietly recognized that smart contracts are needed to make the primitive blockchain database even marginally practical, but that most smart contracts aren’t even modestly intelligent. How are they going to fix this problem?

One of the wonderful things about the steady stream of blockchain and cryptocurrency initiatives by internet and corporate giants is that they tend to tell us, in plain and simple language, the fatal flaws of the whole block-whoey business. Of course, they don’t put it that way. They know that they’ve created a dramatically improved system of blockchain (or whatever) – and as soon as you fully appreciate how bad the standard-issue stuff is, you’ll insist on buying their new, dramatically improved version. Microsoft and Intel have done us all this favor in explaining the wonders of their proprietary version of blockchain, as I described here.

Facebook has followed in this clear pattern. They actually spell out, in no uncertain terms, that existing smart contract implementations are dangerous things, riddled with bugs and filled with security holes. But it’s nearly impossible to build a marginally usable cryptocurrency system of the kind Facebook wants without them.

Facebook is proud of its solution: a new software language called Move. Yes, a language called “Move.”

I’ve spent a little time checking out the new language. The developers are generally right about the deficiencies they are addressing, effectively endorsing the view that existing smart contracts are hopelessly flawed. They are smart and have put forward credible solutions to the problems. It’s just possible that, after a few years and after the software has gone open-source, the new system will turn out to be an improvement on the old one. But before deciding that, let’s do something programmers avoid doing: take a quick look at history.
Software history is chock full of programming languages, each of which was invented to improve on or fix problems with earlier languages. Most new languages are supposed to make programming faster and more flexible, with fewer errors of any kind. After more than half a century of effort with thousands of new languages, how has that worked out? See this for details. Sorry, humans are creative types, and are capable of making mistakes in any medium at all. While Germans may be deeply certain that the German language is more clear and precise and superior for expressing truths than French, citizens of France are remarkably articulate about how this is not the case – while at the same time demonstrating that the French language is no better.

The team at Facebook has done us all the great service of making widely known the otherwise ignored deep flaws in Smart Contracts, while almost certainly increasing the chances of things going horribly wrong with Libra while introducing a well-intentioned but, well, new language, claiming against decades of experience with thousands of languages that this one will really bring human programmers to the land of perfection.

I’ve got a bridge. It’s cheap – wanna buy it?

Crypto Destroyer