Regulating source code

As more areas of our economy become computerized and move online, more and more of what regulators will need to know will be in the source code.

Nowadays, cars are an order of magnitude more complicated, which makes it easier for producers to conceal cheats one of the 100 million lines of code which make up a contemporary, premium-class automobile.

But one difficulty labs confronted was that they could not point to specific code which allowed the cars to do this. They could demonstrate the symptom (high emissions on the street ), but they did not have concrete proof of the origin (code which circumvented US and EU criteria ).

Part of the challenge here isn’t only the quantity of code, but how it is delivered: in the case of most consumer devices, code is compiled to binary, for aggressive and copyright reasons. Therefore, in the case of the VW scandal, researchers needed to reverse-engineer the cheating, by taking a look at outputs and by analyzing firmware images.

If you are interested in how the bitcoin, or ethereum, or tezos systems work, you can’t just read the white papers, but you can analyze the source code.

Since the value of cryptocurrency networks is embedded in the market, there isn’t any longer a commercial incentive to obscure the source code — indeed, doing this could be detrimental to the value of this network, as nobody would anticipate a system they can not introspect.

This might seem like a minor detail now, but I guess it will become a significant differentiator with time, and we’ll start to see widespread commercial and regulatory expectations for open source code over time.

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