Corporations can be thought of as information-processing feedback loops. They propose products, introduce them into the marketplace, learn from the performance of the products, and adjust. They do this while trying to maximize some value function, typically profit.
So why can't they be completely automated? I mean that literally. Could we have software that carries out all those functions?
Software could propose new products within a design space. It could monitor the performance of those products in the marketplace, and then learn from the feedback and adjust accordingly, all while maximizing its value function... A limited version of what I'm describing already exists. High-frequency trading firms are already pure software, mostly beyond human control or comprehension.
The distributed nature of Bitcoin has caused people to speculate about autonomous corporations powered by blockchains, which sounds like a creepy Kafka-meets-Gibson notion if I ever heard one. On the other hand, a company which committed to behaving in a particular way, not with a mere promise, but with an enforceable and cryptographically ironclad contract, might be much worthier of the public's trust than your standard amoral corporation.
It amuses me when I see Bitcoin and Ripple discussed in the same context because, for me, they're completely different. The core of Bitcoin is all about building a trust-free decentralized transaction ledger for tracking the ownership and transfer of scarce tokens – Bitcoins. And the whole point of Bitcoins is that they are counterparty-risk-free assets: my Bitcoin is not somebody else's liability.
By contrast, Ripple is all about dealing with assets that are somebody else's liability. So the focus in Ripple is on representing liabilities issued by identifiable issuers and enabling them to be transferred between individuals on a network.
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