This is the first paragraph of the original essay that created Bitcoin:
Commerce on the Internet has come to rely almost exclusively on financial institutions serving as trusted third parties to process electronic payments. While the system works well enough for most transactions, it still suffers from the inherent weaknesses of the trust-based model. Completely non-reversible transactions are not really possible, since financial institutions cannot avoid mediating disputes. The cost of mediation increases transaction costs, limiting the minimum practical transaction size and cutting off the possibility for small casual transactions, and there is a broader cost in the loss of ability to make non-reversible payments for non-reversible services. With the possibility of reversal, the need for trust spreads. Merchants must be wary of their customers, hassling them for more information than they would otherwise need. A certain percentage of fraud is accepted as unavoidable. These costs and payment uncertainties can be avoided in person by using physical currency, but no mechanism exists to make payments over a communications channel without a trusted party.
Before the Bitcoin protocol was invented, most computer scientists thought a system like Bitcoin was impossible because of a famous problem in computer science called the Byzantine Generals Problem.
The problem, in a nutshell, is how to coordinate among distributed nodes to come up with a consensus that is resistant to attackers who are trying to undermine that consensus. A significant component of the solution is the proof-of-work algorithm, which is the main purpose of so-called Bitcoin miners.
The mainstream press has ignored the importance of this computer science breakthrough. When the mainstream press writes about mining, it either ridicules it:
Bitcoin is digitally “mined” by computers running an algorithm. (If you just rolled your eyes, you’re not alone.)
One thing I haven’t seen emphasized, however, is the extent to which the whole concept of having to “mine” Bitcoins by expending real resources amounts to a drastic retrogression — a retrogression that Adam Smith would have scorned.
How much does the existing banking/payment infrastructure cost? One reasonable measure are the fees charged. Standard online payment fees are 2.5%, not including the added costs fraud (chargebacks plus transactions blocked out of fear of fraud). Bitcoin payment fees are close to zero and fraud is impossible since Bitcoin is a bearer instrument.
Andrew Weissman on services like Khan Academy and Quizlet, which allow users to learn morsels of information at their own pace:
At a specific level, they each work in a way that is consistent with how people think and, 20 years into the web, desire to find information. For example, someone may think to herself, “I forget how to subtract fractions.” They then conduct a search for it, and Khan delivers a 4 minute video lesson. The whole process may take 5 minutes and is hardly interruptive.
This really resonates with me. When I think about how I learn and more importantly, re-learn, things now, it’s mainly through a quick Google search. I’m not saying it’s a better or worse way to learn, it’s just different. And it’s the way a lot of people gain (and, again, re-learn) knowledge now.
“Creative people are ones who are willing and able to metaphorically buy low and sell high in the realm of ideas. Buying low means pursuing ideas that are unknown or out of favor, but that have growth potential. Often, when these ideas are first presented, they encounter resistance. The creative individual persists in the face of this resistance, and eventually sells high, moving on to the next new, or unpopular, idea. In other words, such an individual acquires the creativity habit.”—http://www4.ncsu.edu/~jlnietfe/Creativity_&_Critical_Thinking_Articles_files/Sternberg%20(2012).pdf
I like video games because I like software, and some of the most creative software designers make video games.
When Electronic Arts was founded in the 80s, the concept behind the company was to showcase software designers as serious artists. The name “Electronic Arts” came from the movie studio United Artists, who at the time was known for celebrating the creative people behind movies. EA’s games shipped in album covers that included interesting details about the designers and their thinking behind the game.
Today, EA makes mega games like FIFA and Madden. The production costs run in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The teams are huge and divided into functional units. These games are wonders of technological achievement and organizational design (and great games!), but it’s difficult to feel like you’re interacting with the mind of the designer the way you did with EA’s early games.
One of the great things about the rise of smartphones and tablets is that - for a variety of reasons - it is again economically viable for small teams to create games that reach hundreds of millions of people. Some of these games are funded on Kickstarter, some are self funded, and some are funded by big publishers.
I play a lot of these games. My favorite site for finding indy games is Touch Arcade. I’ve played every game on the site that got 4.5 or 5 stars. My favorites are Rymdkapsel, Bridge Constructor, Cut the Rope, Carcassonne, Helsing’s Fire, Pirates, FieldRunners, World of Goo, Little Inferno, Microminers, Ridiculous Fishing, Modern Conflict, Peggles, Plants vs Zombies (1, not 2), and Solipskier.
I just wish they included liner notes the way EA used to do.
“There are many people who live in order to work, who consume in order to produce, if we like to use those terms. Most people who are reasonably well off derive more satisfaction in their capacity as producers than as consumers. Indeed, many would define the social ideal as a state in which as many people as possible can live in this way.”—Gunnar Myrdal
“You and I both know, learning to code is the best way to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps. Hell, look at me. Other than my affluent Orange County family, my Stanford bachelor’s degree, and the $10 million that my uncle invested as seed capital for my innovative advice column start-up, I have nothing but my ability to code.”—https://medium.com/p/d7e5d14065f1
Q: What will do most for the share price – a buyback or a blockbuster new device?
A: Neither. What will do most for the share price is a change in the perception that Apple is not going to survive as a going concern. At this point of time, as at all other points of time in the past, no activity by Apple has been seen as sufficient for its survival. Apple has always been priced as a company that is in a perpetual state of free-fall. It’s a consequence of being dependent on breakthrough products for its survival. No matter how many breakthroughs it makes, the assumption is (and has always been) that there will never be another. When Apple was the Apple II company, its end was imminent because the Apple II had an easily foreseen demise. When Apple was a Mac company its end was imminent because the Mac was predictably going to decline. Repeat for iPod, iPhone and iPad. It’s a wonder that the company is worth anything at all.
Wall Street favors companies that benefit from structural advantages over companies that simply create better products. For example, investors loved how, in the 90s, Microsoft charged tariffs on the inventions of others (Intel, Dell, application vendors).
Apple’s vertical integration leads to higher quality products but also fewer opportunities to charge tariffs. Unless you happen to have one of the greatest geniuses of the 20th century running the company, competing without tariffs means competing on a level playing, something Wall Street hates.
Let’s say you are planning to be in California on Monday and New York on Tuesday. You have a meeting in California on Monday at 1pm local time (Pacific) and a meeting in New York on Tuesday at 2pm local time (Eastern time). Do you think of the first meeting as happening at 1pm Pacific time and your second meeting as happening at 11am Pacific time? Or perhaps you first meeting as happening at 4pm Eastern and your second meeting as happening at 2pm Eastern?
Neither! You think of those meetings as happening at 1pm and 2pm in *local times*. People think in local times. So the calendar software should reflect a shift in time zones when the user is planning to switch time zones (presumably, fly across the country). In other words, everything on calendars should be shown in local time, where local time is determined by where ever the imagined future calendar person is at that time.
“Smalltalk, something of an indie darling among programming languages, is to mainstream languages such as Java what J R R Tolkien’s Elvish is to English. You don’t actually expect to encounter it in real life, let alone in the context of critical production infrastructure, any more than you expect to hear Elvish spoken in Congressional debates.”—http://www.aeonmagazine.com/living-together/americas-artificial-heartland/
“With the advent of A&P stores, consumerism began its 150-year journey from real farmers’ markets in small towns to fake farmers’ markets inside metropolitan grocery stores. Through the course of that journey, retailing would discover its natural psychological purpose: transforming the output of industrial-scale production into the human-scale experience we call shopping.”—http://www.aeonmagazine.com/living-together/americas-artificial-heartland/
There is a company called Pantone that for a long time had a healthy business creating books that listed colors along with a “Pantone number” for each color. Their books became a standard in industries that communicated using colors. So, for example, if a clothing designer wanted to tell an overseas manufacturer what color they wanted, they’d use the Pantone color. This forced everyone to buy their books.
Imagine if one day Pantone switched from their arbitrary numbering system to some non-arbitrary system, like RGB. Now I could skip buying the book and just use a computer to figure out the color. Hence, you had to buy the books precisely because the numbering system was arbitrary.
The same logic applies to protocols, operating systems, APIs, web metrics, etc. There is inherent tension between what is optimal for the ecosystem and what is optimal for the business who controls the standards.
Consider, for example, systems that try to measure a person’s “social influence” across Twitter, Facebook, etc. Arguably, the optimal way to measure social influence is with a pretty straightforward mathematical formula. But it would be hard to build a business on a formula that is so easy to replicate. So instead the tendency is to add arbitrary, undisclosed inputs to the formula, thereby making it proprietary.
Wearing a set of goggles that distorts reality isn’t the first thing to come to mind when I imagine freedom.
Make no mistake, Google Glass is a fascinating innovation that has serious transformative power. Hopefully it can have significant benefits for the world that are both fun and educational.
Still, hearing the suggestion of “a future where you spend more time focused on the people you are with and the experiences you are having” seems entirely incongruent with the product being discussed. When spending time with people, isn’t it easier to focus on being with them when you are actually with them?
As for experiences, not everyone is obsessed with their mobile phones when they live their day-to-day lives. Plenty of us actually spend time doing things without being tethered to our devices all day. I know it’s hard for some that are immersed in tech to comprehend this, but it’s true. Seriously, I have friends that do all sorts of things that don’t even involve a plug. Crazy, I know.
To be clear, I’m no luddite. I love technology. I’m especially enamored with it’s abilities to empower people to spread information and unify around common ideals. That said, I fear this quote represents a darker side to the future we are headed towards. One in which we are disconnected from each other, and as a result, humanity. Maybe it’s not either/or… one can only hope.
“Glass represents a future of freedom. A future where you spend more time focused on the people you are with and the experiences you are having, rather than focused on your mobile device. Glass brings you the important information, context, and moments when you need them most.”
I do believe that Google Glass will change the way people interact with their world but to claim that something strapped to your face will be less distracting to others than a phone you can put away is absurd.
“The Internet is a big fan of the worst-possible-thing. Many people thought Twitter was the worst possible way for people to communicate … One recipe for Internet success seems to be this: Start at the bottom, at the most awful, ridiculous, essential idea, and own it.”—
“Culture is suspicious of technology. Politics is mostly indifferent to and above it. War-making uses it, but maintains an arms-length separation. Business? It gets into bed with it. It is sort of vaguely plausible that you could switch artists, politicians and generals around with their peers from another age and still expect them to function. But there is no meaningful way for a businessman from (say) 2000 BC to comprehend what Mark Zuckerberg does, let alone take over for him. Too much magical technological water has flowed under the bridge.”—http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2011/06/08/a-brief-history-of-the-corporation-1600-to-2100/
The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook
As the art of reading after a certain stage in one’s education is the art of skipping, so the art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. The first effect on the mind of growing cultivated is that processes once multiple get to be performed by a single act. Lazarus has called this the progressive condensation of thought.
But in the psychological sense it is less a condensation than a loss - a genuine dropping out and throwing overboard of conscious content. Steps really sink from sight. An advanced thinker sees the relations of his topics in such masses and so instantaneously that when he comes to explain to younger minds it is often hard to say which grows the more perplexed - he or the pupil.
In every university there are admirable investigators who are notoriously bad lecturers. The reason is that they never spontaneously see the subject in the minute articulate way in which the student needs to have it offered to his slow reception. They grope for the links but the links do not come. Bowditch said that whenever his author prefaced a proposition by the words “it is evident…” he knew that many hours of hard study lay before him.
America had sent the squarest motherfuckers it could find to the moon and the moon sent back humans. Armstrong became a teacher, then a farmer. Alan Bean became a painter. Edgar Mitchell started believing in UFOs. And also managed to crystallize the experience of seeing your entire planet at once:
You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.”
"America had sent the squarest motherfuckers it could find to the moon and the moon sent back humans. Armstrong became a teacher, then a farmer. Alan Bean became a painter. Edgar Mitchell started believing in UFOs."
“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.”—
Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, speaking to GQ for a profile of Netflix chief Reed Hastings.
This will go down as the year that HBO either made the right choice or the wrong choice not to go after the stand-alone Netflix model. Netflix is coming out swinging with House of Cards and then Arrested Development. HBO continues to hide behind big cable.
The Internet has taken the place of the telephone as the world’s basic, general-purpose, two-way communication medium. All Americans need high-speed access, just as they need clean water, clean air and electricity. But they have allowed a naive belief in the power and beneficence of the free market to cloud their vision. As things stand, the U.S. has the worst of both worlds: no competition and no regulation.
Such an important and easy-to-understand post. Essentially, the U.S. has fallen behind (and continues to fall behind) in high speed internet access because of deregulation gone-bad. It allowed greedy dickbags (the cable companies) to do what they do best (perfect being greedy dickbags).
Just read about how many millions of dollars each of them spend in lobbying to ensure that communities continue to have to pay them (many more) millions for sub-par service. Total. Fucking. Dickbags.
I hope Google (or someone) succeeds in their (insanely expensive) end-around approach. Because it’s pretty clear the government isn’t going to do shit at this point. I wrote this post almost three years ago — what has changed in the meantime? Absolutely nothing. It’s gotten worse. And it will keep getting worse.
Micro miners (ipad) - Look past the hipster 8-bit graphics. It’s a great (light) physics puzzle game.
Flow (iphone) - From the “minute to learn, lifetime to master” genre. Elegant game design.
Letterpress (iphone) - Super fun game that all the techies are playing. Watch out for friends who write Python scripts to cheat! ;)
Bridge Constructor (ipad) - Great puzzle game. Bonus: a painless primer in civil engineering.
Splice (ipad) - Beautiful graphics/sound and really thoughtful gameplay.
Antifragile - I never really got into Taleb’s earlier books, but this one was great — and a page turner! I could have lived without the personal sidebars but the rest was riveting.
The Swerve - Great yarn. And this guy is obviously a serious scholar (who might be talking down to me slightly — but that’s ok).
Passage to Power - Who knew a story about LBJ could be so engaging?? You always hear he was the “master of the Senate” but learning the detailed mechanics of how he did it is fascinating. The author is so good that he makes a routine Senate vote seem like an action thriller.
Micromotives and Macrobehaviors - This economics classic characterized “emergence” long before it became a trendy buzzword. Clearly and concisely written, and at times profound.
Hurricane Sandy did a number on New York. While much of the city is returning to normal life, parts of the city are devastated.
At Kitchensurfing, we had an interesting week. But the best part of the week was being inspired by the chefs in our community. We got a call on Thursday from chefs that were headed to the Rockaways to prepare hot food for those in need. We sponsored them and we were shocked to hear the return report. We’ve decided to use our skills to help support our chefs that want to help.
In several communities around New York, people still don’t have power, and many are homeless. There’s emergency relief in place and it is not enough.
A hot meal is humanizing in a way that little else can be. There’s looting, people are afraid, it’s cold, and this week is bringing more bad weather. Kitchensurfing stands for a kind of grassroots hospitality and a belief that breaking bread with someone can right many wrongs. We’re jumping in to help with things that the internet is good at: connecting people together to share and pool resources.
We’re looking for supporters to make small financial contributions towards food costs as our chefs work the kitchens.
We have Kitchensurfing chefs donating their time and skills prepping hot dishes for hard hit areas.
We’ve fronted the cost of transportation to shuttle hot food. We’re going to be partnering with others to shuttle.
We’re subsidizing the ingredients cost for these chefs
We’ve got multiple commissaries that are donating their space for our chefs to come and cook together
Hello. Its louis here. I’m clacking this to you on my phone in my dressing room here at studio 8H, right in 30 rockefeller center, in Manhattan, new york city, new york, america, world, current snapshot of all existence everywhere.
Tonight I’m hosting Saturday Night Live, something I zero ever in my life saw happening to me. And yet here it is completely most probably happening (I mean, ANYTHING could NOT happen. So we’ll see).
I’ve been working here all week with the cast, crew, producers and writers of SNL, and with Lorne Michaels. Such a great and talented group of people.
And here we are in the middle of New York City, which was just slammed by a hurricane, leaving behind so much trouble, so much difficulty and trauma, which everyone here is still dealing with every day.
Last night we shot some pre-tape segments in greenwich Village, which was pitch black dark for blocks and blocks, as it has been for a week now.
Its pretty impossible to describe walking through these city streets in total darkness. It can’t even be called a trip through time, because as long as new york has lived, its been lit. By electricity, gas lamps, candlelight, kerosene. But this was pitch black, street after street, corner round corner. And for me, the village being the very place that made me into a comedian and a man, to walk through the heart of it and feel like, in a way, it was dead. I can’t tell you how that felt. And you also had a palpable sense that inside each dark window was a family or a student or an artist or an old woman living alone, just being int he dark and waiting for the day to come back. Like we were all having one big sleep over, but not so much fun as that.
This is how a lot of the city is still. I know people in queens, brooklyn, Staten Island, new jersey, all over, are not normal yet. And not normal is hard.
And here at 30 rock, these folks are working so hard this week. There are kids in the studio every day, because members of the crew and staff had to bring them to work. Many people are sharing lodging. Everyone is tired. But there’s this feeling here that we’ve got to put on a great show. I’m sure it feels like that here every week. But wow. I feel really lucky to be sharing this time with these particular good folks here at SNL.
In about 5 hours we’ll be going on the air. I’ll do a monologue. And we’ll show you some sketches that we wrote and try to make you laugh. I’m gonna look really dumb in some of this stuff. But I don’t care. Its awfully worth it. And I’m really excited.
Anyway. I just wanted to let you know. If you watch the show tonight, when Don Pardo says my name and you see me walking out, all the shit in this email is what ill be thinking. I’m a pretty lucky guy. I hope you enjoy the show.
Live. From new york. Its saturday night.
”—Louis CK, in am email sent this afternoon (via laughterkey)
thinking about watching SNL tonight for the first time in a long time.
Worried that RIM might face any further delays of BlackBerry 10? Don’t be. CEO Thorsten Heins just confirmed at his BlackBerry Jam presentation that carrier testing for the new OS should begin this October, and that the platform launch is still slated for early 2013.
Serious question: does RIM realize that I have an iPhone 5 in my hands right now? That it came out last Friday?
If Nokia looks bad shipping the new Lumias six weeks after the iPhone launch, RIM looks like an absolute joke shipping BlackBerry 10 six months after the iPhone launch.