[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: A problem with anonymity

At 2:38 AM 9/3/95, MONTY HARDER wrote:

>  But if the escrow agent is anonymous, we simply recurse, moving now to
>the question of whether anyone can trust the Anonymous Escrow Agency not
>to take the money and run.

Well, at one level, everything is always recursive.

But seriously, the reason it differs is that the escrow agents are in the
business to be escrow agents, not to take the money and run. This actually
works in the real world. (Game-theoretically, they get a certain payoff in
defecting, but then forego the revenue stream from future transactions....)

And, of course, it is possible to structure things so that the escrow agent
cannot "take the money and run," because the money is not accessible to

This is analogous to an escrow agent in the real world holding a check from
Alice to Bob until Bob completes some set of conditions. The escrow
agent--call her Essie--cannot cash the check herself. She can of course
renege on the deal, even if Bob does his part of the bargain, but there is
little incentive for her to do so.

One can ask what payoffs and costs/benefits exist for various actions by
these agents, and game theory needs to take a look at these sorts of
transactions, but there are plenty of reasons to believe "convergence" will
occur (basically, that "effectively honest" behavior will be common).

>TC> (I mention banks because, when you look at it closely, today's banks can
>TC> quite easily claim that a customer made a withdrawal when he didn't. That
>TC> they don't says more about the nature of persistent businesses than about
>TC> any government oversight or security features. This is a side point, but it
>TC> bears keeping in mind that the real world of banks and businesses, etc., is
>TC> not fully secure, either. And yet it mostly works pretty well. The reasons
>TC> for this are interesting to consider.)
>  A bank has $$ invested in impressive-looking buildings, (so that
>vanishing into the ether and setting up shop elsewhere is rather
>difficult) and several officers whose TrueNames are registered with the
>appropriate agencies, so that they may be sued if they pull this

No, my point was that it is fairly easy for any bank to scam any particular
customer, given the flaky nature of verification of withdrawals and other
transactions (at least for smallish amounts of money). Few banks check
signatures, few banks bother to demand much ID, etc.

The issue is not whether you can sue Bank of America, but whether you could win.

That banks don't often scam customers for small amounts of money is
testimony to the fact that they've got a better payoff matrix element in
being a bank than the meager payoff in scamming a few customers.

I submit this not as proof, but as evidence that the type of "convergence"
mentioned above mostly works. Most commerce hinges on this, not because of
law enforcement. Like True Names, the threat of law enforcement is only a
part of the overall equation.

--Tim May

Timothy C. May              | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected]  408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
Corralitos, CA              | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Higher Power: 2^756839      | black markets, collapse of governments.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."