I think I'm finally getting the idea of Ethereum and the possibilities it provides. I get the contracts, scripting, enforcement by code, lack of trust, no dependence on third parties, etc. But I think the Autonomous Agent part is the potentially weak area. To use a historical example "Dewey Defeats Truman". For those too young to remember, a major US newspaper proclaimed Dewey won the US Presidency. This was not only completely incorrect, but it caused people to take actions they would not otherwise have taken. The same thing happened more recently when Al Gore was proclaimed the US President before people went to bed, and they woke up to a different President.
So if a news organization or blog or radio station makes a mistake, or an official site (say ESPN) screws up, and an Autonomous Agent relies on this information, contracts can be settled incorrectly, with no recourse. Worse there are often Internet-wide "stories" that develop, that everyone reports on, that are later determined to be wrong. This is just what happens by accident. If malicious actors, with real money at play, are involved, much more active efforts at misinformation could be attempted. This could range from a mass distributed hacking and denial of service attack (change the info where you can, shut it down where you can't) to an insider at Bloomberg manipulating a stock ticker relied upon worldwide for personal profit or political gain.
It's just like social engineering. You never try to break the cryptography, you just present different information in the right places, at the right time, to achieve the result you are looking for. Even if human arbitors are involved, they can be bribed, threatened, blackmailed, extorted or even eliminated. This already happens in the case of theft, fixing sports events, effecting political competitions, or influencing the result in a trial. Add the case of an actual war, and all of this is dramatically escalated.
So, I think the code and protocols, if done right, are probably robust, but it's the interface with the real world where the problem comes in. Because you can't *really* trust anything, not the New York Stock Exchange, not sports scores, not combat casualties, or news reports. They can all be falsified or manipulated, at least to some extent, for some period of time, if there is sufficient motivation.
If I had to summarize my point it would be: "Autonomous Agents are gullible." Is this a concern that has been acknowledged and is there any work towards addressing it?
Thanks very much,