Friday, February 16, 2024

Watch Video Of Cornell Tech Professor & Author Ari Juels Discussing His Crypto Thriller Novel "The Oracle" At Event On Roosevelt Island Campus - Smart Contracts, Weaponized Blockchain, Murder, Mythical Greek Antiquities And A Shlubby Digital Hero Too

Cornell Tech Professor Ari Juels is the author of a newly published novel, The Oracle, described as a crypto thriller. Think of the DaVinci Code meets the blockchain and smart contracts.

According to the book's website:

Fears of a weaponized blockchain become reality when a software developer races to deactivate the rogue smart contract targeting him for assassination.

Life is comfortable for a prominent, if schlubby, developer at a New York City blockchain company. That is, until FBI Special Agent Diane Duménil seeks his help against a bewildering threat: The Delphians, worshippers of the god Apollo, have launched a rogue program on a blockchain. It’s offering a crypto bounty to assassinate a European archaeology professor.

The developer brushes off the danger until he learns the next target: Himself.

Mythical antiquity collides with a near-future cyberworld as The Oracle’s unassuming hero and his FBI partner race against time to dismantle the Delphians’ murderous blockchain software. Theirs is a whirlwind tale of oracles ancient and modern, vanished antiquities and conjured crypto billions, cybercriminals and digital idealists—narrated by a cynical hero normally more concerned with dark chocolate than the consequences of the technologies he’s pioneering. What happens when the crypto ideals of privacy and truth might cost human lives—especially your own?

Last Monday, February 12, Cornell Tech hosted a conversation about the book moderated by the school's Dean Greg Morrisett with The Oracle's author Ari Juels

for a full house crowd

followed by a book signing with the author.

Dean Morrisett began the conversation observing:

I've always said Cornell Tech has the best, most brilliant faculty in the world and I believe this but I never expected one of them to be a novelist.

I'll have to admit we hire them for their expertise in computer science operations, research in electrical engineering in Urban Tech, in Healthtech, in Connected Media but also in business and in law.

We do not necessarily hire them because they're going to be a famous novelist and yet here we are today with Ari Juels who's got an amazing book that just came out. I just started reading it....
According to Professor Juels:

Here's the plot in a nutshell. 

A man, a software developer and incidentally a Cornelian, is targeted by what's called a rogue smart contract. Now smart contract is a piece of software that runs on a blockchain. This particular piece of software is offering a bounty which is to say a reward for murdering the hero and the thing about smart contracts is that in principle they're unstoppable. This is one of the features they inherit from running on blockchains so our poor hero is encountering this unstoppable force and has to find some way to terminate the contract behind it... 

 During the Q&A with the audience, I asked Professor Juels:

... As a layman's question, why would somebody use a Smart contract to have somebody killed instead of just calling Tony Soprano?

Professor Juels answered:

... Smart contracts are trustworthy. They can act as trusted third parties.  

Commerce is predicated on trust. The only reason you're willing to go into a shop and buy something for delivery later is that you trust the shop and you trust there is a legal framework that will support you in case that you you happen to get cheated. You need trust between parties for commerce to function correctly.

In the world of crime, there's not a lot of trust. You call Tony Soprano. You say, I want a hit. He'll say, well, I want the money now. What's your response going to be? You're going to hand over $50,000 to Tony Soprano on the strength of the promise that he's going to carry through with this hit? Probably not. Is he going to carry through with the hit when he doesn't know he's going to get the $50,000 from you? Probably not. 

But if you use a Smart Contract, you get a guaranteed fair exchange as it's called. The person carrying out the crime knows that the reward will be on offer if the crime is executed. No question is asked because the smart contract will pay the bounty automatically and whoever has paid the bounty in the smart contract knows that the smart contract will only pay if the crime is carried out so it brings this essential ingredient of trust to the industry of crime....

Here's the full discussion about The Oracle with Professor Juels, Dean Morrisett and the audience.

Click here for more info and to order your copy 

of The Oracle.