Doh! DAO downed by debilitating defect

Smart contracts that aren’t looking so smart, AI we don’t want to see come to life and ghosting gone digital. Read all about it in our weekly tech roundup.


Instead of using expensive lawyers to draw up the contracts that govern a business, what if you could write the contracts directly in code and have everyone run them on their own computers? That’s what smart contracts, a relatively new feature built using decentralized blockchain technology, are supposed to do. Unfortunately, one of them just lost tens of millions of dollars. Whoops.

Launched in April, the DAO was the first completely decentralized business governed by smart contracts. Last week, someone exploited a flaw in the smart contract code and snarfed funds reportedly ranging from $53M to $89M in Ether, the cryptocurrency used to run the organization (the ETH/USD exchange rate has been bouncing around more than a Donald Trump campaign cheque, so the amount is hard to pin down).

Now, Ethereum developers have launched a counter-attack on the person who took the funds. It’s also considering a change in its code — known as a fork — that would stop them from spending the digital dough. Here’s the interesting part: the ‘thief’ even left a note, saying they were just playing by the rules of the contract (although the note’s validity has been questioned).

Presumably if the contract’s code allowed the pilferer to split with the funds so easily, one has to wonder if going after them is entirely fair. After all, one person’s bug is another person’s feature.

Bringing the dead to life …

Here’s your horrible thought for the week. Researchers at Ryerson are working with MIT boffins to create AI technology that will keep a facsimile of you alive after you die. “It may sound like one of those science fiction brain in a jar movies,” says the Guardian.

That’s because it is. The facsimile wouldn’t be picture perfect, or indeed visual at all, but by recording and watching everything we do digitally during our lives, it would learn how to respond to questions and interact with those still alive, as though it were us. We suspect it’ll be just good enough to cross into the uncanny valley but not beyond, creeping us all out entirely.

… and consigning the living to history

Talking of people who creep you out entirely, how about that date last night who was clearly more into you than vice versa? They won’t stop messaging you, looking for a second shot, and every time you see a text from them you want to run in the other direction.

Now, Ghostbot will do it for you. You can set it up to take care of dismissing them for you, by sending unenthusiastic messages “lacking in warmth and enthusiasm” until they take the hint. Because heaven forbid that you take responsibility for your own relationships and be assertive.

Dingbat of the week

We like to go large occasionally, so this time, the dingbat of the week is the entire Republican party in the U.S. House of Congress. This has a tech angle, stick with us.

The Democrats wanted a vote on legislation increasing background checks on gun sales and restricting the sale of firearms to people on terrorist watch lists, as a first step toward gun control. The Republicans refused to allow a vote on it, and gavelled Congress into a recess. The Democrats refused to leave, so the GOP turned off the cameras. The Democrats responded by streaming the sit-in live on Twitter’s Periscope service, which C-SPAN (the public access political channel that normally streams camera footage from inside the House) began broadcasting.

It’s worth noting that dingbattery is a bipartisan activity: the Democrats did the same to the GOP eight years ago, but there was no Periscope back then.

In any case, this is a use of social media that we can get behind.

Image courtesy of Ethereum

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