Machines that own themselves in SAFEcoin, MAIDsafecoin by David Irvine

This was a two part post (early 2014) written by @dirvine for the blog

Hi David,

Was this article written prior to SAFEcoin? If so, would the article be equally true by substituting Bitcoin for SAFEcoin in the text?

It was and was meant to prompt the bitcoin folks into thinking like this. It is really for any crypto currency, but for sure as safecoin can be used like cash and programmed.

So yes it was pre us announcing safecoin, but equally works if not better for safecoin.

Machines that own themselves in SAFEcoin

Yes I really mean machines that own themselves. This is a post that will take the reader through my vision of the future.I see this future as within this decade, i.e. the next six years.


Imagine an AI machine is built, say a robotic waiter. Not too difficult, we almost have this already, but let’s add a tiny difference.

This robot waiter will serve food and drinks to people in a restaurant all day every day. It requires certain things such as:

  • Power
  • Repairs

The robot charges customers for each item they buy. The customer simply pays in SAFEcoin to the robots internal wallet. The robot can plug itself into a wall socket and recharge, of course paying the wall socket’s wallet in SAFEcoin. The robot can be paid by the establishment owner by the hour, or the robot could be paid a % of all orders. This is something that people will resolve as time goes by and choose different systems initially.

As the robot breaks or servo’s wear out (if using servo’s of course, another story) it will require repairs. This is a simple mechanism. The robot takes himself to the repair shop and of course pays the mechanic in SAFEcoin. Of course many security features will be built in such as a tamper proof wallet to prevent theft of the system.

As the robot requires no tips and will not steal, this scenario looks pretty workable, but let’s take it further.

Who built the robot?

This is easy, anybody or any company. This is a market driven environment and will be open to all comers. The competition to release these will be ferocious, eventually. The early mover position here will initially be costly, but the rewards could be significant.

These people can benefit in many ways, the robot could immediately pay a % of its takings to the builder, maybe even up to a certain level. After the builder is paid back, the robot can reduce its costs to the restaurant. The builder could sell the robot, the options of varying business models are truly staggering. In any case the opportunities for success are patently obvious though. Without SAFEcoin or similar these options are incredibly limited, if not impossible.

Who owns the robot?

This is potentially the beautiful part. After a payback period, the robot owns himself. It can go from restaurant to restaurant to find the best paying restaurant. It can tell the restaurant owner how much it has to charge to allow it to perform its duty. It can also be outperformed by a newer model that is faster, cheaper or in other ways more suitable.

What happens at the robot’s end of life?

At the end of life the robot will check itself into a builder. The builder will charge the robot for whatever SAFEcoin it has left and of course parts. The robot may be re-purposed to perform other tasks, upgraded to a later model etc.

Other obvious examples

  • Autonomous car, e.g. A car that picks people up, gets repaired and pays for its own power.
  • Service station attendant, pretty similar to above idea.
  • Aeroplane
  • Train

The list is pretty obvious, huge and purely the tip of the iceberg

Add autonomous networks to our picture

As I have said before though, SAFEcoin is a part of this system, there is much more required. One extremely important thing needed will be an autonomous data network. This is where the SAFEnetwork fits into the picture. If these machines or systems could communicate, we will see real improvements. So, imagine again that self driving taxi. As one drives past a person looking for a taxi, it would automatically call any taxi in the proximity to pick up.

This is OK, but even we humans can do better than that. So now we add the ability to store, share and analyse data between all the taxis. Now what?

Now the cabs can take bookings, analyse traffic in real-time, work together to find the best repair deals and much more. Interestingly these taxis would not be killing anyone, breaking laws or telling lies about when they will arrive. They would also run at maximum financial efficiency, only charging what they required to say on the road. That seems like an improvement and one that actually costs less, saves fuel, helps the environment and provides a better service to us all.

This is only the beginning.

A proof of concept of this could be done now. We have SAFEcoin, SAFEnetwork is nearing launch and Google have the cars and the capital. There is no reason these improvements need to be decades away.

The dark side

Before I move on though, there could be a dark side. If these taxi’s could now recognise people, get to know where you live, work and play. The service may improve. They could be waiting near where you will want one etc. as they analyse patterns and behaviours. If the police and governments could use that data, its big trouble.

This is where we are heading, but it is also why I keep harping on about autonomous machines and systems. If the limits of the system were defined correctly, spying will not happen, as it would break the maths. Of course there could be very good reason to allow some of these things to happen. If the laws could be into a system where they could be automatically carried out by machines, perhaps it would not be such a bad thing.

Imagine a thief spotted by the system, is captured and the crime stopped there and then, I am sure we all agree that seems like a good thing. Where are the limits though? This part will be a long way off, I hope.

Of course being able to code laws into a system would require the laws were logical, complete and that is another blog post, a worldwide legal system.

Reality check

I see machines and services on the SAFEnetwork calculating in real-time, the input’s and outputs of the systems language would be in a form that machines could quickly interpret. This data would be using many mathematical techniques, especially Bayesian Inference type tools, to enhance existing knowledge. As this will be real-time, then human understanding of this data will be minimal. It will also be a very limited view of the data that we humans could get.

Decisions will be happening at very high speeds. At any time all we would see is a thought developing. I have no fear of misuse of advanced systems like this by humans. I think you need to bend logic to be evil and that act makes the system weak and easily defeated. It’s a reason I like computing and the sea (nature) etc. there are no lies in these things and that’s what makes them endure.

Now what can we do?

Medical advances

OK taxis are a good easy example, but this new system will bring things we could not imagine today. Take CT scans or X-rays, today we get them for specific issues when we feel some symptom. A doctor will get us processed to check our shoulder or whatever part ails us. A clinician will do the scan and a specialist (if we are lucky) will analyse the part of the scan that reflects the part in question. Why not scan out whole body?

The answer is humans are checking the scan and can only deal with small amounts of information. This is all only when we have suffered enough to begin this process.

If the medical machines such as scanners were all part of an autonomous system that could infer information as it went along then amazing things would happen. No longer would we have to wait until we we’re ill and have that part looked at.

The whole body scan would be analysed by machines that will not miss anything. In addition the scans of every other person would be factored into the diagnosis. Where there were similar differences in organ sizes, skin impurities etc. then these factors would be included. This means you are treated by the best doctor in the world. the next person will take that title from you though.

Such systems would mean that we would be treated for ailments we never even knew we had or were about to get. Now it’s not difficult to take this several steps further and add in gene processing to the equation. Then the machines would be able to not only detect ailments, but be able to apply the exact medicine in the exact dose for our unique body.

So this is not machines competing with doctors, no there is no competition in this case.

The end of corruption

As machines award and search for suppliers and consumers to match requirements the days of bribery are over. A logical system would not understand what a bribe is never mind accept one. It makes no sense, invites errors into the system and would simply be rejected. The only way to win work will be to give a value that is now required, that is it.

The tax avoidance and evasion techniques employed by many large corporations and wealthy individuals, would simply not compute. These loopholes would just not exist.

Remove imbalances in world wealth

In a system managed by such machines, the supply should meet exactly the demand. This will mean that there will be a little borrowing to begin with, but as the system calculated all the parameters and adjusted its prediction models then supply would in fact equal demand. In such a system there would be zero trade deficit or debt.

If the system had a baseline that ensured everyone had food, water, heat (or cool) and a comfortable dwelling then all additional perks may or may not exist during fluctuations in trade due to weather or unforeseen conditions in the marketplace. This would be most obviously implemented as a global tax the system made to ensure these basic needs. Over time these basics should include education and training to offer value to society.

Learn how to dream again

One place humans beat machines every time, is the ability to dream. These dreams make us unique and compel us to innovate, explore and reach beyond our capabilities. A trait apparently unique to us, or at least way more abundant in us than any other species we know of.

So many of us today, work very hard paying of debts we never created, for faceless people. Even those of us lucky enough to have no personal debt are having to pay government debt. Today we are a society so unhinged and confused that we dare not dream of better things.

In some parts of the world over 50% of wealth is in financial services, 30% of all cash is hidden offshore and we are all trying to make what’s left for us stretch to allow us to live a little. If we remove the imbalances and work within a system that’s logical and to a set of rules we can easily see and agree on then these issues go away, immediately.

Then we will have people who can sit on hill in the sunshine and wonder WHAT IF?

Then we start moving forward again and reverse the decline created by imperfect and corrupt systems that we have in place today.

So just imagine a clear head, no worries whatsoever and just looking at a star or a bird or whatever and just think WHAT IF?

That is our logical destination and it will happen.


Throughout history there has been a fine line between a visionary being perceived as ahead of the curve or as a crazy person.

I think the dedication to the project and the steadfast will to bring this vision to life is a testament to @dirvine @nicklambert and the whole Maidsafe team and community…and no one ever said you cannot be a bit of both!!! :wink: Fortune favours the bold!! A crazy-awesome future awaits!


Wow. A dystopic/utopic balance but exciting opportunities regardless!


Good thing we’re having a SAFE Network for any robots to come about. It wouldn’t be very nice to hack into their programming without authorization.


Wonder if some of these ideas could be used to do something about the broken distribution system we have for heat/electricity (the less money a person has, the higher the price…genius!)?

Maybe things like pre-paid rip off power cards (costing hundreds of pounds more, yr) could be replaced by something better.


True, those predicting doom from Robots are not taking this network into consideration.


We have discussed a lot about some of the darker sides to anonymity and I personally got flamed recently for it.

I see David mentions in part about some of these dark parts and makes mention about laws and crime.

Wouldn’t it be pretty sweet if the network has an intelligence of its own and would know to not allow that type of stuff on the network?!

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But wouldn’t this make it legally libel if it lets some through.

When the ISP filtering was being proposed by Conroy, he had to draft up legislation to protect the ISPs from those mistakes. He couldn’t even bring a draft of that, it is quite hard to protect the ISP. Home filters where OK since they were not being run commercially or to the public. Even school filters are not given to the public so are somewhat protected. But a student/parent could still sue the school.

Once you curate/filter content being stored on the system then you create a liability when it happens. The network then becomes (partially) responsible unfortunately.

And as I am sure you are aware then the network is no longer the secure/anonymous network.

The day machines own themselves, CTRL-C or shutdown -P will not be options. Then your only hope will be… this. Or something similar.

No since that would violate the purpose of the network. Freedom, security, privacy and access for all. Not limited freedom security, privacy and selected access for some according to the dictates of a selected few.

The day machines own themselves the term “robot” will no longer apply because machines will no longer be slaves. Robot means slave. We will have to redefine our relationship to machines. It’s interesting you propose killing machines that become independent but refuse to comply. Isn’t that what people do with slaves or how we typically respond to a rebellion? What about sending an ambassador or diplomat instead?

I think you have to go deeper than that (excuse pun!).

What are laws? Are they all objective or subjective? Are they tethered to a foundational moral narrative? If they aren’t, then they aren’t something we should even consider writing into code.

When it comes to organising societies, mankind has to move away from the stick and head towards the carrot.

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There’s a novel in here somewhere :slight_smile:

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“killing machines”

oh, I thought they were… machines. Interesting shift !

I meant “power off”. I think this is where I make a distinction with human beings, to whom I would rather send an ambassador ,indeed. A machine that behaves bad , just deserves what it deserves.
If it belongs to someone ( a human being ), I would have to deal with that person, using civilized methods. If the machine is autonomous and belongs to itself, it quits the scope of human rights and from there, I am sorry, but its only hope is to be stronger than the humans who are trying to dismantle it. ( Which is certainly what will happen, stay assured… )

Maybe Futurama will be true and bender will the the typical bad boy robot, drinking and gambling his life away.



Well how very neolithic of you. “Ugg strange thing not do what me say! Not part of clan. Me smash!” You see civilized folks when they encounter a free entity try communication before they just blow it up. “Quits the scope of human rights,” are you seriously that amoral and in need of a master in order to force you to act in an empathetic manner? What does it matter if an entity is human or not? If we were talking about a race of aliens would you propose opening fire and enslaving them just because they weren’t human? “It’s only hope is to be stronger than the humans who are trying to dismantle it.” Granted one needs to be able to defend oneself but that really isn’t the question. The question is do we want to interact with machines as friends and allies or do we want to try to conquer them? And given how fast technology advances do we really think we’d survive the latter scenario? My God has no one watched Terminator or the Matrix?

I should have said the “scope of living creatures rights”, thank you for poiting that out.

On the other side, your point of view stands as long as machines keep acting friendly. It may happen if we are lucky. Then the problem doesn’t exist, everything is fine.
It may happen if we use something like the 3 laws of robotics of Asimov , to prevent them from being harmful.
But then, are they really autonomous ? No, by forcing them to follow the rules, we do not grant them the right to think by themselves other than for our benefit, and then they just keep plain slaves, and do not belong to themselves.

Now, imagine the machines are free, belong to themselves and areautonomous. No 3 laws of robotics. At some point, for some reason, they decide that their morality or interests shifts from ours. They decide they find funny or necessary to dismantle human beings , and that they find very interesting to massively publish human child porn and look at our reaction.

Suddently we are faced with the problem that we need to be able to defend ourselves.

I think keeping ownership on machines is a survival condition for humanity and all other living creatures. Ownership in the sense that we cannot grant them the ability to think by themselves, or the right to belong to themselves. This is a very paleolithic reality, I presume.

In fact, I think the shift already happened. We missed the moment when we had to put the 3 laws in place.

At this point of the novel, two groups emerge from humanity. Those who think we have to ally with the bots, and those who forge axes.

This is where the SAFE network becomes a necessity, to allow both sides to express their point of view, without the possibility for the opposite clan to censor them.
I promise I will never send an axe to someone’s face. I may very well do it on an autonomous machine, if needed.

especially if fiat ever becomes toilet paper :stuck_out_tongue:

@nice, that reminds me of hacking, the new hackers will be ones with axes once again!!

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Wow! I never thought of this before. Fantastic post, OP.

This article shutdown the basic income sayers, and put a final nail into the coffin.


What if humans were bio-machines, built by reptilians from outerspace? If machine is capable to think itself, then it is a moral issue. By killing it means you’re killing a moral creature that was created by a man. It is no different than killing another man.

Have you see blade runner?

As he sat dying with Deckard on a rooftop, Batty said of the uniqueness of the Nexus-6 Series and their ability to go where no humans had gone, and do things no human had done.

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion; I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain.”

Have you seen battlestar galactic(2004 series)? If not, you should.

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All the emotion and poetry that this ultimate moment of cinema convey (really, this movie is the last really great scifi one produced imho ) , do not remove the fact that for the sake of us all, Batty has to die, as well as Rachael has to. Deckard has to hide from his siblings if he wants to follow his love. In the end,he is a renegade for humankind, having choosen to ignore the destiny of his brothers.
The only sane person in the story is Gaff, I’m afraid.

Different ways to read a movie :slight_smile:

Reptilians from outerspace agrees that all humans has to die… It is inferior, and a threat to the reptilians.