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All Things Alt-Tech
18 minutes | Dec 3, 2020
Podcast: Big Tech’s Great Leap Forward: Towards a Chinese Style Internet
Where we’re going, is to towards a censored, sanitized, corporate, Internet where the Party comes first, and any questioning of the new great leader will be cracked down upon. There is already a good example of what this looks like: China. According to the Chinese government, what it does is to protect “the safe flow of internet information and actively guides people to manage websites under the law and use the internet in a wholesome and correct way”. Jack Dorsey made an eerily similar statement in the latest senate hearing on Big Tech where he proclaimed that Twitter is seeking to ‘ensure civic integrity’ and ‘prevent the undermining confidence in government’. (Apparently, that suddenly became an issue post-Trump). Looking to China, where the merger of corporate and state powers in nearly complete, the censorship is more advanced and widespread. Streaming companies need to set up censorship departments and vet all uploaded songs before they can be posted online. They also need to set up systems to punish uploaders of unapproved or illegal content, and blacklist repeat offenders. Come to think of it, YouTube already does that, with their three-strike policy, and with their de-platforming threats. Twitter also frequently demands users delete offending posts so they can resume their activity. So, we’re halfway there! Chinese obviously censor out unfavorable information, such as documentaries on their grave problems of air pollution — even any discussion around such issues is scrubbed out. This is very similar to the Soviet response to Chernobyl. There could not even be any recognition of there being a problem. Because as we all know all issues go away if you just stop talking about them. Expect similar speech controls to come to a social network and a search engine near you. So, what’s so dangerous about a little bit of stifling of free speech, redacting unpalatable truths, stifling conversation, etc? ‘Enabling social unity’ is exactly what the dems say they want to do these days. Let’s look at what happened when the Coronavirus broke out in China. Nobody trusted the Chinese media, or the the narrative that was being told and curated online. You could not even freely communicate about the virus — conversations on messaging apps were being stomped out. Nobody bought the data around cases and deaths, fatality rates, etc. People trusted the organic social media clips more; the ones showing Chinese authorities welding buildings shut or people falling dead in the streets. People suspected that the real truth was being suppressed and trusted the unredacted, anecdotal information much more. And, we panicked. The Chinese, as well as the Europeans, and the Americans, and the Asians. I would posit that this would not have happened, had you had an open, honest Internet and a free media in China. Instead, you got a Streisand effect on steroids and complete mistrust, and panic spread like wildfire. Similarly, in the US, because of the stifling of conversation about election fraud, more people will probably believe it. And they will be even more infuriated when they are shadow banned and de-platformed on social media. So, prepare for more conspiracy theories, more distrust and more rage on all fronts. We’re going to need a lot of popcorn. The post Podcast: Big Tech's Great Leap Forward: Towards a Chinese Style Internet first appeared on nyman.media.
18 minutes | Nov 10, 2020
Hail the new ministry of truth: Big Tech
Yet again, fact is stranger than fiction, as more and more parallels between Big tech and the Ministry of Truth abound. Meanwhile, Jack Dorsey, Zuck, and Sundar Pichai were all summoned in front of Congress for another hearing (Twitter and Facebook both decided that the laptop from hell had to be memory holed; hidden from the collective consciousness of America as we entered the election). Today, we’re still having a debate, as to whether big tech is censoring, influencing, hampering free speech, etc. when it’s obvious that this is happening. Twitter got caught redhanded censoring a critical piece of information from a legitimate news source, at a critical moment in time; a development that would certainly have had a bearing on the election. The currents situation is reminiscent of 1984: in the dystopian society depicted, there were several ministries in government, one of them is the Ministry of Truth. (Of course, this is a complete misnomer because in reality it serves as the opposite: it is responsible for the falsification of events. They doctored the historical records to show a government-approved version of events). In actual fact, a sort of Ministry of Truth has actually long ago existed: In 1912, the Soviet newspaper industry created Pravda (which literally means truth). It did not start as a political publication, in fact it was a journal on social life. But Lenin decided that the party needed a voice in the news industry and that Pravda could convey the party line to the people. Again, Pravda had little to do with truth, but it was literally called the truth, in a perfectly Orwellian fashion. The Soviet Newspapers were were staffed by journalists who were undereducated and they lacked journalistic skill (in other words, exactly like today). The Soviet Press Corps did strive to raise the standards of the press, but also, had to maintain strong party support from the journalists — which proved an impossible juxtaposition. Finally, in the 1930s, the Institute of Journalism threw in the towel, ended its drive for professional journalism and standards, threw out the existing key figures, and government officials revised the entire curriculum to just meet their propaganda goals. We are at that stage of throwing principles to the wind today. Look at how journalists and the news media behaves, for instance in how they censor uncomfortable stories concerning Hunter Biden, or more recently, how they called Joe Biden as the early winner in several key states (while sitting on Trump’s wins that were even more obvious). Over a 100 years old, Pravda is still alive to this day, still led by pro-Kremlin editors — but it’s of course but a shadow of its former self. It’s now effectively a tabloid, as that’s what they’ve had to resort to to cling on to some sort of readership. The same thing is happening to the legacy news media in the west. It’s getting ever click-battier and tabloid-like, by the day, while getting further and further away from any semblance of journalism. Looks like history is repeating. The post Hail the new ministry of truth: Big Tech first appeared on nyman.media.
17 minutes | Oct 20, 2020
Censorship in the Soviet Union vs the US: is history repeating?
In the USSR, to maintain the various official government narratives, certain facts, news and entire persons had to be silenced at all cost. In fact, when the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917, one of their first decisions was to limit free speech through censorship, of course all the while claiming they were promoting freedom. In the same year, the Soviet government signed the Degree on Press which effectively prohibited criticism of the Bolsheviks’ authority. Following this event you had 70 years of strangled freedom of expression, and severe punishments for those who dared to speak up. Undesirable people were removed from literature, and also from photos, posters and paintings. While image retouching is easier these days, outright redactions of images is now more difficult — or? Back in the USSR, complete censorship was possible because of centralization; because of the top-down structure. All media in the Soviet Union was controlled by the state — television and radio, newspapers, magazine, and book publishing. Today, all media is in the hands of just a handful of corporations — we have a different kind of top-down structure, and therefore, censorship is just as possible. More so, even, because we’re now in a digital world — you can control the flow of information with more precision, and on an individual basis, and you can influence what each individual sees, doesn’t see, or think they see. (You think you’re seeing a certain consensus; e.g. a majority supporting your favorite candidate/initiative/idea/etc, but what you’re just seeing is a squelched conversation; a curated flow of information). During the Soviet era, book manuscripts had to pass rigorous approvals processes, and state owned publishing house decided whether or not to publish and distribute a certain book. It wasn’t just political messaging that was throttled, the censorship affected novels and poetry as well. Doctor Zhivago was was banned, as it focused too much on individual characters, and presumably this style of storytelling was not conducive to fostering the collectivist Soviet culture. It was not a complete silencing of the dissenting voices though, but rather a selective bottlenecking of certain views and information. Some books which were accepted, for example, such as speeches by Leonid Brezhnev were printed up in huge quantities. Some of the less favored works might be published in limited numbers and just not distributed widely. This is what we would call shadow banning today. It was, and is so machiavellian in that it enables a facade of openness; it suggests that while there are dissenting views, they are few and insignificant (and by extension, if you share these views you are also part of the lunatic fringe). As more and more Soviet people got their own radio receivers and foreign radio broadcasts became available, this presented a problem for the Soviet apparatchiks, as they obviously couldn’t easily censor foreign broadcasts, let alone live foreign broadcasts. The solution was to install massive radio jamming stations. These were in effect, anti-radios. Of course, even these radio jamming stations were secret — so secret that they had to be redacted whenever they were visible in photographs. This type of jamming, we can see today. We see how unfavorable publications are being redacted from newsfeeds and search results, as well as the endless de-platforming efforts. This goes all the way to web hosting providers blocking certain undesirable websites. But back in the Soviet Union, the doctoring of photos and pulling books, etc. those are only examples of outright and overt official censorship in Soviet. There was also a secondary type of censorship that arises as a consequence. With enough force and repercussions, the secondary effect of censorship might be self-censorship; a certain self-control by authors themselves. There were of course, a minority of brave people opposing censorship, and they resorted to circulating handmade copies of the banned literature. This self-publishing is called samizdat. (It’s what we’d call alt-tech today, or alternative media). This was not easy, and it was dangerous. All Soviet-produced typewriters were inventoried, and what you wrote on them, was trackable. The KGB collected each typewriter’s typographic sample at the factory and stored them in the government directory. Every typewriter has their own minute little individual fingerprint, and this allowed the KGB to identify the device that was used to type or print a certain text (and arrest the offending originator). Anyway, there were some Easter European typewriters, which did not have their samples taken and were more difficult to trace. Of course these were purchased by Soviet citizens, and were smuggled back into the Soviet Union. The brave rogue publishers These brave rogue publishers used a variety of techniques, including carbon paper, computer printers and even printing presses to create larger quantities of banned works. The printed, banned literature had a certain look and feel. It was blurry and wrinkled, had lots of glitches and typographical errors, and dissidents in the USSR began to admire these qualities, and its rough style became appreciated. This ragged guerrilla material was the real deal and it had the scars to show for it. that samizdat material never enjoyed tremendous reach compared to the propaganda. Circulation of samizdat was relatively low, at around 200,000 readers on average, but, many of the readers were actually people of power and authority. The paradox of censorship is that in order to be able to censor verboten ideas, you have to be aware of the ideas you are censoring, so many of the government apparatchiks actually became readers of the samizdat literature. Good ideas will eventually win. Following this long period of suffering, there was glasnost, or a reversal towards more openness in the end. Finally, in the 80’s, Gorbachev made the country’s management more transparent, and Soviet history was actually re-examined. The atrocities of Stalin were acknowledged, and people could now study key foreign events such as the manned moon landing, the US civil rights movement, which would have been suppressed prior to this. Previously censored literature in the libraries was made available. There was a greater freedom of speech for citizens and more openness in the media. So, the pendulum did swing from dystopia back towards a semblance of freedom, and we’ll get there as well. Could things get worse? Sure, and perhaps even for a lot longer, but if anything is certain it’s that history will repeat. The post Censorship in the Soviet Union vs the US: is history repeating? first appeared on nyman.media.
12 minutes | Oct 7, 2020
2020: News is now a branded entertainment product
Is the economy recovering or deteriorating? Does wearing masks help? Is the virus a life-threatening issue? Do lockdowns work? Is there a working vaccine? These are fairly straight-forward questions, but you get two decisively different answers depending on your choice of news source. There’s often two different camps to each question — and what’s the denominator for those two different camps? It’s a political one. The line of reasoning is totally influenced by politics. The virus was long ago turned into a political football, and so have most other issues of today. Here’s the problem: nobody checks sources or underlying data — in fact there’s no way you can fact check a news report in today’s climate of bitesized news tidbits and tweets. So, when we’re debating or discussing matters based on what we’re fed in the news, we aren’t debating facts at all; we’re comparing brands. Why is there such disparity in terms of the narratives? Isn’t the news, well, the news? If the networks strived to reach some sort of objective truth, shouldn’t there be more agreement between the various networks? Google and Facebook have picked certain channels as authoritative sources. However, there was no billion dollar research study behind this, no efforts to actually determine or validate whether or how much more reliable ABC is than Fox, etc. In other words, they picked their top brands. If you make a decision based on preference, it’s a brand choice, not a strictly rational, fact-based choice; it’s picking Coke instead of Pepsi. What’s the solution? Take a listen. The post 2020: News is now a branded entertainment product first appeared on nyman.media.
20 minutes | Sep 24, 2020
The fraudulent dot-com 2.0 economy: from zero-asset businesses to zero-product businesses
What do most Big Tech companies have in common? Let’s see. Uber owns no cars, Airbnb owns no real estate, Facebook has no content of its own, YouTube: owns no videos, Instagram: no images, etc. People who defend the ‘zero-asset’ model of Airbnb and the others, will stress that building an online business is all about the network effects and providing the infrastructure for users. While there’s some truth to that, what’s common amongst these business is that they strive to ever more centralization, monopolization, knowing that doing so will give you pricing power down the line. Amazon is owning the entire supply chain and it’s pushing out businesses left and right. No one can compete with Amazon’s retail logistics. Why not? Because Amazon runs those logistics at a loss. It’s all subsidized by its Cloud Computing Business. None of this is good for small business (and it’s not good for big business either). In years past, such antics might be thought of as predatory pricing. That is, running a business unit at a loss, in order to hook customers and drive competitors out of business, only to then raise the prices when the market position is accomplished. This is considered anti-competitive in many jurisdictions and is illegal under some competition laws. Of course, at this stage of the business cycle, laws don’t apply and fraud, anti-competition and insider trading is rampant anyway, so who cares, right? Normally, the later you are in a mania, the more egregious the fraud becomes. Think about Enron in the first tech bubble. We are now beyond rent-seeking, predatory pricing, we’re now into plain vapor-ware. Now, people are building enormous companies without products altogether. An example of that is Tesla, and the endless stream of non-existent products and features that Elon Musk keeps announcing. In the first dot-com bubble, people were investing in companies without working products. We laughed at it after the fact — how could anyone be dumb enough to invest money in fictional products, just a story; an empty promise with nothing tangible to assess; not even the crudest prototype? Well now, in this stage of the second bubble, we are back to investing in companies without products. Stories. We’ve come full circle. The post The fraudulent dot-com 2.0 economy: from zero-asset businesses to zero-product businesses first appeared on nyman.media.
21 minutes | Sep 7, 2020
Big tech, the Tiktok ban & how the US is wrecking tech innovation
We to go back to dissect the big tech hearing in the us congres, where Bezos, Pichai, Zuckerberg and Tim Cook were summoned and questioned. The big tech leaders knew very well about two core issues at hand: 1. Antitrust: they are, in essence monopolies of their respective spaces, and that’s why they came prepared with canned responses (it’s why they stated their testimonies with their rags-to-riches stories and underscoring how they are self-made and value entrepreneurship). 2. There are the ever-recurring freedom of speech issues and censorship issues. Big tech wants to maintain the option to pursue their bias and censor, while being treated as platforms. The US is a great market to be in, if you are an established oligarch, but as the disruptive underdog, not so. We take a look at one of the few companies that have managed to innovate, scale and disrupt, namely Tiktok. Not surprisingly, it looks like it’s going to be banned from US, if it’s not acquired. Do you think Trump should have the right to shut down or force a sale? Take a listen. The post Big tech, the Tiktok ban & how the US is wrecking tech innovation first appeared on nyman.media.
14 minutes | Jul 15, 2020
Social media culture: how big tech gamified away real conversation
A lot has been said about how the twitter and Facebook algorithms tailored to stoke aggression and provoke conflict. If you’re Facebook, and you are optimizing for time on site and page views, it’s hardly surprising they end up surfacing polarizing content. If it’s engagement you want, then showcasing content that plays on primal emotions will get you there. It’s not just that Facebook is designing an outrage machine, users are playing along as they are rewarded for inflammatory posts, and this is further exacerbated by using tactics that help spread the message. Users have grown accustomed to leveraging the various Facebook functions to achieve more reach: for example it’s common for people to ‘bait’ people into showing their approval by asking them to share/vote/tag/react/or comment to display their support. Granted, Facebook doesn’t give you a lever to steer the nature of your feed, but through their own experiments, they know that they can influence the mood of a user, and they clearly have chosen to steer you towards outrage. But Facebook doesn’t create the content — people and companies do. Facebook merely disperses it, curates it and displays it. You provide the ingredients and Facebook serves the ready dish. And as the consumer of that dish, the social content — you do get some choice in what you consume and how you respond. There are other platforms that have managed to coax out a different etiquette — for example, Quora. Granted, the dynamics are different in that it’s more of a search engine than a feed of content, but it does go to shows that it is possible to craft social platforms with more mature, meaningful conversation. Meanwhile, people come back to Facebook because they want to see who responded, reacted, commented, shared — it’s been gamified, like so many platforms. If you completely disregard these ‘scores’; the signals, your content is not going to achieve reach. And while it’s easy to say that you don’t care about likes, but everyone from you the individual to an enterprise business, views more likes, it’s universally recognized that more shares/likes/follows etc. is a good thing: it’s the success metric in the social media game. There was a time when people would treat Facebook differently, it was a pretty relaxed, apolitical place and it had a happy-go-lucky vibe. That’s far gone, but there was a different culture on most social media. Nowadays, you risk getting fired for a Facebook post. Who’s to blame for social media being such a vile hate fest with such dumbed down discussion? Take a listen. The post Social media culture: how big tech gamified away real conversation first appeared on nyman.media.
12 minutes | Jul 4, 2020
The Facebook advertiser boycott — does it make a difference?
A list of 400 big businesses have decided to boycott Facebook and pause their Facebook ad campaigns. This is in protest to Facebook’s so called enabling of hate speech. They are demanding that Facebook establish a permanent civil rights infrastructure to evaluate Facebook’s products and policies for discrimination, bias, and hate. They are demanding that Facebook remove public and private groups focused on white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism… and that’s only a couple of their demands — there’s 10 of them. If implemented, this would basically turn Facebook into a censored, safe space version of CNN. It would destroy what little real discourse still exists on Facebook. Here’s the laughable thing about this virtue signaling effort: how come none of these companies had any problems with Facebook’s mass data collection, or disregard for user privacy that’s been going on for years? No, apparently what crossed the line is that Facebook allows people can say mean things on Facebook; to speak freely. What matters is that people can still say nasty things about each other and we need to protect users from words. So, the crusade these brands are embarking on is: that they won’t be advertising on Facebook… in July. Oh, the sacrifice, for a whole month, they won’t be advertising! If you have a problem with Facebook not intervening in people’s speech, put your money where your mouth is and get off of it forever. Delete your account. Also, it’s not like these companies have stellar track records of upholding grand moral principles to begin with. Procter & Gamble is Facebook’s seventh-largest advertiser and spends an estimated $92.3 million spent last year. They say they have launched a “comprehensive review” of its advertising partners, and mention that they have a list of thousands of sites they don’t advertise on because they do not meet the company’s standards. Ah, their rigorous standards. Here’s a fun fact for you: P&G have been fined €200 million by the European Commission for establishing a price-fixing cartel for washing powder. Let’s not forget that, to keep those prices low, P&G were caught buying palm oil from sources using child labor and forced labor in 2016. Yes, those strict moral standards. But of course we know that P&G are a good company, because they turn off their Facebook ads for a whole month! What these mega-brands (Coke, Starbucks, Unilever, P&G and co) are going to do now is determine how much the brand metrics improved or deteriorated as a consequence of their political posturing. Call me cynical, but I’ve been doing this for a very long time and I’ve actually worked with some of these big brand houses. They are of course not turning off their ads because of any underlying principles; it’s an ample opportunity to virtue signal and pander to their audience, to state their relevance and anchor themselves to the zeitgeist. What they’ll do from here is, they’ll measure the impact on their brand recognition, brand preference vs competitors, stock levels per store, product margins etc. This takes some time to tease out, but they are very good at it, they never miss an opportunity, and they’ll learn from it. In fact, you could say that this is a very valuable and opportune pre-post test. When Zuch says they’ll be back, he’s right. They are only turning off the ads for July — if they really were serious and had a real problem with Facebook’s policies, they’d be gone until Facebook changes. Period. You don’t make a very compelling threat by putting an end date on your reprisals. The reason Zuck can afford to take a gamble on the advertisers coming back, is the following. Facebook generated about $70 billion in advertising revenue last year, but this is mostly from small and medium-sized businesses. They can live without the big brands, worst case. Facebook have, just like Google, done a very good job at on boarding the long-tail of advertisers. So, what about that impact on the brand metrics from this boycott? They say ‘get woke go broke’. That is, if you don’t know your audience. Some brands have taken a gamble on this, such as Nike and their Kaepernick campaign, and while this generated a lot of hate and controversy, it has been a win for Nike. If your core audience is that way inclined, then the political grand standing can work in your favor, at least in the short-term. I wouldn’t gamble on it though, and that’s because it’s hard to gauge, and because people on all sides are growing tired of the politicization, and constantly being forced to accept or reject labels and values on all fronts. For the Facebook boycotters, jumping on the ad pausing bandwagon, is not as big a stand as airing an outright woke ad, but it will have some impact. All in all, it seems like a lose-lose proposition generally. It doesn’t accomplish anything, it won’t stop hate speech, but you are gambling with people’s patience and your own brand equity. Lastly, Facebook has no absolutely no incentive to tolerate hate speech, says Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communication. But they know they can’t realistically thwart people’s conversations. It’s a nasty world out there, and haters gonna hate. You can grow a thick skin and deal with the real world, or you can cry to big brother to create a safe space. What do you think — does the boycott change how you feel about the brands? Do you think Facebook should crack down on what these mostly lefty companies think is hate speech? The post The Facebook advertiser boycott — does it make a difference? first appeared on nyman.media.
15 minutes | Jul 2, 2020
Parler vous? A Twitter alternative surges following new social media bans
Most recently, Twitter censored Trump over his warnings to protestors seeking to set up an anonymous zone in Washington DC. He said ‘if they try, they’ll be met by serious force’. Apparently, that message was not allowed by the Twitter. Because, apparently, Twitter gets to decide which of the messages of a president are fit for broadcast. Of course, that’s not the first time Twitter has acted as the central bureau of censorship, but people’s patience is wearing thin. Not surprisingly, people are not impressed with these antics, and they are going elsewhere. Most recently, I’m seeing a big inflow into the app Parler. Why Parler? Their goal is to offer the world a platform that protects user’s rights, supports publishers and builds online communities. Parler aims to empower users to control their social experience. Users can be responsible to engage content as they see fit. Parler accepts your right to express your thoughts, opinions and ideals online. Just like in society, Parler interactions are subject to guidelines; and when you respect them, you are free to participate wholly. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, sounds better than Twitter, where it’s up to a small panel to intervene as they see fit. Now what are some of those Parler guidelines? They won’t allow spam, outright terror organizations, unsolicited advertising, libel/slander, incitement to violence, blackmail, porn, indecency (gross stuff), obscenity, plagiarism, bribery, doxing, etc. The list runs pretty long, but it’s one that very few people would have problems with. (Also, the list mostly includes things that are illegal to begin with). That said, what it all boils down to is how these policies are going to be enforced. Twitter will need to respond on their policy stance; they’ll need to pivot. There was been talk of an open version (uncensored, unfiltered), that can be activated on demand. If they don’t do this, and continue with their leftist agenda, they are going to see outflows escalate. Can they realistically keep people on the platform with such a feature? My speculation here is that such a feature would disable all filters. Nobody wants a totally unfiltered feed, much like you could not live with zero spam filtering on your email. Freedom of speech does not mean let’s all accept a torrent of scam letters, repeated bot posts and endless viagra ads. Parler say they design the next generation of social media where content creators are supported for participating. There is not too much detail on this yet, but it’s seems to me that we should be expecting some sort of end user remuneration scheme, much like on platforms such as Minds.com or Steem. This model is gaining ground, and continues to do so. We will see a complete shift in the digital ecosystem. It is happening, albeit at a glacial pace, but the user is becoming a component in the monetization equation. Give it a few years, and users will be asking ‘what’s in it for me’, when joining any new social network. Meanwhile, Unilever, Verizon, Adidas, Ford, Microsoft, have all decided to cancel their Facebook advertising campaigns in a coordinated act of virtue signaling. Because apparently, Facebook is not doing enough of what Twitter and Youtube is doing, meaning cancelling unpleasant voices). These are huge advertisers, and Facebook shares took a dip — 5%. This is not a lot, yet, but rest assured that if we see revenues dip and stay down, Zuckerberg will change course in a heartbeat. And that will make Facebook even more of a Truman show, even more curated, even more inorganic, inauthentic and boring and that’s going to accelerate its slow motion demise. Does any of the censorship and the thwarting of political messaging bother you? Are you going to join Parler? Take a listen and let me know on email@example.com. The post Parler vous? A Twitter alternative surges following new social media bans first appeared on nyman.media.
13 minutes | Jun 29, 2020
Uncomfortable truths about Bitcoin, Tether… and Wirecard?
Hodler bias: you want something to go up in price, so you disagree with all the bearish facts. You see investors perform mental gymnastics around the uncomfortable facts, and this is something that unites Bitcoiners, Tesla ‘investors’ and Wirecard victims alike. Bitcoin will play some sort of role, but it’s not obvious that it will be a critical one. It could remain as a smuggler’s currency, the currency of the dark web, the token of pirates and cypherpunks. At this point, it’s not going to find itself into the mainstream financial system any time soon, much less to the wallet of the common man. Keeping track of the lengthy addresses, seed phrases, understanding the tax implications, dealing with the enormous price fluctuations and the transaction fees — it’s a lot of new hassles for very little utility for the common consumer. Meanwhile, we cover how ‘securing the network’ is a mere fait accompli: the energy spent yesterday does not guarantee the security of the network tomorrow. The time and money spent does not anchor the value of the currency to anything. The derived value does not come from the cryptography, it does not come from the ledger aspect, or the ease of transaction. Holders don’t utilize any of these features. They are the justification for the price, but they do not provide the underlying value. As for the comparison to gold: one argument you hear about gold is it’s valuable due to the historical legacy — it’s been money for 5000 years, so it’ll be money tomorrow. You could argue that the history doesn’t guarantee the future, but I’ll take 5k years over a decade any day. Also, once you’ve mined the gold, you have it. No further mining is required in order to perpetuate that value, and that’s a key difference to Bitcoin. If you stop mining bitcoin, you can’t move your bitcoin — your bitcoin address is then just a string of numbers and letters. It has no purpose, no use case. This is why every form of market money has been a commodity (salt, animal skins, silver, cigarettes, you name it). With Bitcoin, you are starting to see a same kind of economic nihilism that permeates traditional finance. It’s actually very similar to the ethos of Davey Day trader, David Portnoy who has come on the stock trading scene recently and is basically goading retail investors into going lock on stocks. He knows full well the market rally is just a fed-driven sugar rush, but that’s the only game in town. The retail investor stampede is typically the last stage of a stock market bubble, but we’re see if this time it’s any different. Speaking of Fraud, you may have heard of a company called Wirecard filing for insolvency in Germany recently. How does this tie in to crypto and Bitcoin? In more ways than one, it turns out. Back in 2019, Wirecard sued Financial Times for their reporting that a Wirecard executive was “falsifying accounts”. It turned out that this appears to be have been true. This has led to knock-on effects in the crypto-space, because several crypto debit cards used Wirecard for their transaction processing. Much like was the case with Wirecard, there is also a suspicion; raised by New York Times, that crypto stable coin Tether does not hold the reserves it claims to own. Call me skeptical, but are we to believe that institutional sized investors have funneled in $9,788,483,969 into Tether through some offshore dodgy bank, while Tether fails to provide an audit by an established, known and recognized auditor. Right. Maybe, a more logical interpretation of the situation is that Tether is printing money to its heart’s content, and issuing Tether tokens willy nilly to buy Bitcoin and other currencies to enrich themselves and to artificially inflate the price of Bitcoin. If Tether turns out to be a giant shell game, this is going to cause Bitcoin to absolutely implode in terms of price. Here’s the problem: more than half of all the trading that goes on on exchanges is between Tether and Bitcoin. Should you be holding Tether at all? Take a listen. The post Uncomfortable truths about Bitcoin, Tether... and Wirecard? first appeared on nyman.media.
9 minutes | Jun 24, 2020
Counter-urbanization: has the exodus from cities begun?
City living seems to have become more and more unpredictable if not outright dangerous. Unrest and large scale protests that devolve into riots, arson, fist fights and even shootings. You would imagine a lot of business owners in the central districts of cities like Seattle are now considering their options. Meanwhile, with today’s communications technology, it’s becoming apparent that a great proportion of professionals can get their work done from virtually anywhere, using just their internet connection and a few simple tools. Counter-urbanization is about to set in, if it hasn’t already started. People are able to explore alternatives to living in the city, and this is creating changes in living location preferences. Two of the key reasons you might have moved to the city in the past would have been employment opportunities, and the abundance of choice the city offers. Restaurants, social gatherings, networking, luxuries and conveniences of all sorts. Thanks to Covid, and now the growing unrest to boot, you can no longer comfortably enjoy those. If you are fortunate enough to live in the countryside, you have the luxury of mobility, safety, access to green spaces and fresh produce, and you generally suffer fewer restrictions generally. To top it off, the cost of living in the countryside is far lower than in cities. You have all the liberty and open space, and you pay less for your accommodation. So all in all, it’s obvious that more people are going to take to the suburbs, to the countryside, and perhaps even off-grid altogether. Why pay a fortune to be holed up in an expensive, oftentimes small apartment in a big metropolis, when you can’t enjoy the fittings that you came to the city to enjoy in the first place? If you were ‘fortunate’ enough to have an apartment in Seattle, LA, New York, chances are today is a totally different picture from a year ago, and you’ll probably want to get away from the downtown area. It’s no surprise that off-grid living, mobile home living and the tiny homes movements have skyrocketed — and they are only going to continue to do so. Why? Because a lot of people are anticipating even further troubles: there’s a good change we’ll have another wave of the virus, meaning another excruciating period of lockdown — and a lot of people have had more than enough of being holed up inside; particularly in a large city with no access to green space and fresh air. As the issues compound another issue looming on the horizon is further disruptions to the food supply. While this might have been manageable the first time around, the social tensions are now far larger, people’s fuses are a lot shorter, and the unrest developing from further strains to our way of life would be even larger. Where does this leave the cities? Assuming the ball keeps rolling, i.e. we have a second wave and the various protests also accelerate, there will be bigger outflows from the cities. The more affluent; the knowledge workers. People who are not tied to a physical location. This will mean a lot of the de-urbanizing population will take a big chunk of the tax revenue with them. This will of course have put a compounding strain on the city economy. With less tax revenue, you’ll have deteriorating service, infrastructure and security in the city. This will probably exacerbate social tensions even further. That said, if we end up in a situation with ever more chaos in the cities, we shouldn’t assume that all the knowledge workers now in exodus would be welcome with open arms out in the sticks. Small towns want to be ‘bugout locations’ and they don’t want to host the refuge for the influx of city dwellers getting out of dodge. They also don’t want more Covid cases, they don’t want to import the various problems from the big cities. While the increased digitalization of work brings about many positives, you can see signs of people getting tech-fatigue. Zoom, Skype, Slack and Google Meet are all useful, but at the end of the day, there’s only so much virtualization, digitalization and artificiality we are going to want. Too much screen time is not real life. There are tendencies that suggest that the Digital-Z’ers might not actually appreciate the everything-online-all-the-time ethos. Living a real life in the offline world may become more attractive. Are you moving out into the sticks? Will the turmoil we’re seeing in the cities blow over? Let me know what you think. By the way, I haven’t asked this recently, but feel free to propose topics for me to cover — email me on firstname.lastname@example.org The post Counter-urbanization: has the exodus from cities begun? first appeared on nyman.media.
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