Bits 19th March, 2017

It’s fascinating to see how the flow of good articles on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology in the mainstream press is intensifying. Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg, Motherboard, Wired… All seem to have kicked their coverage of this new technology up a notch in the past few weeks. Maybe it’s a temporary blip, or maybe it’s a sign of increasing interest and acceptance.

It does make for a more stimulating weekly read, but at the same time it is harder to keep up! 😋

I reference many of them in the CoinDesk Weekly Newsletter, but below I link to some good ones that didn’t make it in, either because of timing, content or quantity.

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First, however, take a look at this:

by Joshua Smith, via Colossal
by Joshua Smith, via Colossal

I almost wept. Doll houses for grown-ups. Ok, not doll houses. Australian artist Joshua Smith has created miniature versions of urban buildings.

by Joshua Smith, via Colossal
by Joshua Smith, via Colossal

Check out his website. Awesome doesn’t begin to cover it. (Via Colossal.)

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Motherboard wrote about the upcoming bitcoin fork almost as if it were a done deal, which is disconcerting. We all know how well Ethereum’s went, and there is so much more at stake here.

CoinDesk reported on a joint statement put out by a group of leading exchanges on how they would handle a fork, which they confusingly say “may be inevitable” (I thought that either something was inevitable or it wasn’t). Although the talk is of a “contingency plan”, the fact that they felt the need to make a statement at all is telling.  It also ran an article that looked at the political ramifications, which are pretty heavy:

“”Mining pools may signal Bitcoin Unlimited, but this letter makes it crystal clear that the economy won’t accept it – the best outcome they can hope for is to have their BTU token listed,” former BTCC COO Samson Mow alleged in a statement.”

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Wired asks what the next big leap in financial technology will be, focusing on the needs of millennials, and posits that it might just be local currencies. They don’t mean national fiat denominations, they’re talking about hyper-local alternatives

Why might this take off? Urbanization (greater concentration of demand and potential application), psychology (the need to feel connected), and technology (hello, blockchain).

“That is exactly what local currencies are doing – building urban communities from the wallet up. Local currencies create this sense of community that millennials crave by giving city residents the chance to support local merchants and vice versa. Rather than seeing hard-earned cash go into invisible pockets, it stays within the locality of the spender.”

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Artsy published an intriguing article on the potential role of the blockchain in the art world. The premise is that not just investors, but also artists benefit from an increase in the market value of their work. Blockchain technology could make that relatively easy to implement and enforce.

Warning: Artsy is a hypnotic site in which it is possible to get lost for hours. But just the kind of escape you need every now and then. For instance, did you know that there is such a thing as Frida Kahlo emojis? I’m trying to think what I would use them for.

via artsy.com
via artsy.com

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SaveOnSend had an excellent analysis of why bitcoin is not going to work at scale for remittances.

“So the biggest barrier to mass adoption might be that a Bitcoin community is still dominated by idealists who are stuck in the “Bitcoin=Internet” paradigm rather than skeptical practitioners who would consider Bitcoin as just another novelty. Whether it is a new brand of vodka, clothes, car, or remittances, the real “game changer” is in superb execution of more-or-less standard playbook. Miracles are known for tardiness.”

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Further afield, The Atlantic‘s epic report on women and tech goes into much more depth than I could possibly cover here, so I will just say that it is worth reading, whatever your gender or field.

“…succeeding in tech as a woman requires something more treacherous than the old adage about Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels. It’s more like doing everything backwards and in heels while some guy is trying to yank at your dress, and another is telling you that a woman can’t dance as well as a man, oh, and could you stop dancing for a moment and bring him something to drink?”

While the world they describe is nauseating and depressing, it’s unfortunately not surprising. (Although the anecdotes do leave you wondering just how thick supposedly smart people can be.)  What was unusual about the article was the detailed description of the characters and the complexity.

“Such bias may be particularly rife in Silicon Valley because of another of its foundational beliefs: that success in tech depends almost entirely on innate genius. 
 A 2015 study published in Science confirmed that computer science and certain other fields, including physics, math, and philosophy, fetishize “brilliance,” cultivating the idea that potential is inborn. The report concluded that these fields tend to be problematic for women, owing to a stubborn assumption that genius is a male trait.”

Practical, persistent, creative, and not afraid to publicly stand behind their beliefs and actions, the women profiled are an inspiration to any aspiring entrepreneur. These women are not complainers, they are doers.

“At long last, the industry that has transformed how we learn, think, buy, travel, cook, socialize, live, love, and work seemed ready to turn its disruptive instincts to its own gender inequities—and in the process develop tools and best practices that other, less forward-looking industries could copy, thus improving the lives of working women everywhere.”

The analysis of the potential harm of unconscious bias training was eye-opening.

“People resent being made to sit in a chair and listen to somebody telling them how to act. Forcing them to do so can provoke the fundamental human urge to reply: No thanks, I’ll do the opposite.

Worse, repeatedly saying “I am biased and so are you” can make bias seem inescapable, even okay. “

Although the anecdotes revealed leave you wondering just how thick some supposedly smart people can be, the article focuses on progress made, and ends on a pessimistically positive note.

“However slowly, the industry seems to be changing its mind about innate talent and where genius comes from.”

It’s a long article, but one that gets more interesting the deeper you go.

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There’s so much more to share, but it’s getting late. Time to pour a glass of wine and savour the twilight of a lovely weekend.

 

 

 

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