Friday 3 June, 2022

Peak viewing time

The view from the top of the Connor Pass in Kerry.

Quote of the Day

”If this were played upon a stage now
I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.”

  • Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Comes to mind every time I look at the current UK government.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

The Rolling Stones | I Can’t Get No Satisfaction | Glastonbury 2013


Extraordinary moment. But Jagger sounded off-key at the beginning. Maybe the significance of the moment got to him? Most of my kids (and one grandson) were there that night.

Long Read of the Day

An Open Letter to Congress on Crypto scamming

One of the most curious events in Western history was the Dutch tulip mania of the 1630s, the period during the Dutch Golden Age when contract prices for some bulbs of the recently introduced and fashionable tulip reached extraordinarily high levels, with the major acceleration starting in 1634 and then dramatically collapsing in February 1637. We think of it now as the first recorded speculative bubble in history.

But here’s the strange thing: we are now living through the same kind of madness — the ‘crypto’ bubble: a speculative mania that has been gripping millions of people (some of whom have lost their savings) who have been fooled into investing in illusory assets that they do not understand and that currently lie beyond the regulatory reach of the state. Worse, this frenzy is being fuelled not just by shysters on the make but also by a number of powerful Silicon Valley venture capital firms.

‘Crypto’ is a portmanteau term to cover a multitude of things — from cryptography (a legitimate and powerful way of protecting information and communications), cryptocurrencies, distributed ledger technology called ‘Blockchain’, virtual assets called Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs) and something called Web3 which is a buzzword straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

For me the most astonishing about this mania is how apparently rational people fall for it — and how, once they have fallen, they double down on insisting that it is a real thing, not to mention ‘the future’. They fear (rightly) that the slightest whisper of doubt or criticism will puncture the bubble and lead to the devaluation of the virtual assets on which they have pinned their hopes. In that way, the current frenzy bears a distinct resemblance to the religious cults which have gripped deluded followers through the centuries.

All of which makes this open letter from a number of experts to Congress such a welcome development.

This is how it opens:

We are 26 computer scientists, software engineers, and technologists who have spent decades working in these fields producing innovative and effective products for a variety of applications in the fields of database technology, open-source software, cryptography, and financial technology applications.

Today, we write to you urging you to take a critical, skeptical approach toward industry claims that crypto-assets (sometimes called cryptocurrencies, crypto tokens, or web3) are an innovative technology that is unreservedly good. We urge you to resist pressure from digital asset industry financiers, lobbyists, and boosters to create a regulatory safe haven for these risky, flawed, and unproven digital financial instruments and to instead take an approach that protects the public interest and ensures technology is deployed in genuine service to the needs of ordinary citizens.

We strongly disagree with the narrative — peddled by those with a financial stake in the crypto-asset industry — that these technologies represent a positive financial innovation and are in any way suited to solving the financial problems facing ordinary Americans…

Do read the whole thing. And if you’d like to know more, head over to Molly White’s wonderful blog. She’s been tracking the evolution of this latter-day tulip mania for quite a while. And, while you’re at it, read Cory Doctorow’s essay on some of the latest crypto scams.

Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge: Roles and the Writing Process

Neat blog post by Betty Flowers (a professor of English who is also Director of the LBJ Presidential Library), providing some astute advice for anyone who’s ever struggled to write something coherent. Which is most of us.

Thanks to Andrew Curry (Whom God Preserve) for pointing to it.

My commonplace booklet

Who said sheepdogs can’t have fun?


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