While there may well be a need for more effective ways to conduct financial transactions than the ones that have been used during the past decades, it is not clear that Bitcoin and similar “cryptocurrencies” are better alternatives.
The creation of these cryptocurrencies by running super-supercomputers is an illogical idea for starters, a bad joke dreamed up by super-geeks. Worse, this process wastes energy and damages the environment. Bitcoin “miners” seem to be accurately named because they behave like coal miners, and the coal-burning electrical generation needed to produce Bitcoins et al causes global warming and harms humans and other living organisms. Even the amounts of paper and energy being used just to report on Bitcoins are enormous. Our own collection of newspaper clippings and computer file that were the background of this post far exceeded those for any other post we have written. And we puzzled over what historical event or literature provided the best model. Was it the Dutch tulip craze in the 1630s? Or The Emperor’s New Clothes of 1837? Or something else?
Watching the action suggests that most of the people who are engaged in buying and selling Bitcoin and the like have a gambling addition, and can only hope that mere mortals don’t get too carried away with the excitement … which is amplified by today’s reporting in newspapers and TV.
You may believe that worldwide luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Hermes are like the GOOD money that would be driven out by the BAD money according to Gresham’s Law. But in this case these luxury brands are the bad guys. Like their always-empty stores in airports, these future ones in San Francisco’s tony Union Square are just very expensive billboards. And the independent retailers are the good guys (like Arthur Beren Shoes and Britex Fabrics). But even if it weren’t for the purchasing power of the most-valued of these luxury brands, the current craziness of Bay Area land prices would likely have raised the retailers’ rents beyond affordability, so they would have had to relocate or downsize or both. And even the luxury brands have no control over the mess being created by the new subway.
Technology does not exist in a vacuum. It is created by humans of varying degrees of ability and honesty. And technology involving the Internet is generally so complex, and created under time pressure, that it is more error-prone than more cautious and patient people would like.
According to the New York Times, slack security at the New York Fed (that’s the Federal Reserve Bank of New York), which most folks would consider a bastion of safe-keeping, allowed a bunch of money ($81 million or $100 million or some such sum) that rightfully belonged to poverty-stricken Bangladesh to be misappropriated by Chinese hackers and transferred to the Philippines, where in turn it was apparently transferred by above-the-law banks to putatively money-laundering casinos, who made it vanish beyond any chance of recovery. We’re not making this up. Mere prose and still images can’t do it justice. And no fiction writer could have imagined a more twisted tale.
The comedy continues if one reads the Zero Hedge blog, which apparently specializes in spreading misinformation of all sorts, including calling a spade a spade when it might not be. Entertaining to most of the world, but not to a few officials during whose watch this debacle occurred or to starving citizens of Bangladesh.
Did Stephanie Lenz make a bag of money from her video that Universal would otherwise have made? It seems that actually Universal and Prince got a lot of free advertising out of it starting in 2007, no? A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal has just struck a blow against the hubris of music publishers such as Universal who send out takedown notices at the drop of a hat. If every YouTube (or Vimeo et al) video that borrowed a little, or even a lot, triggered so much legal argy-bargy, there wouldn’t be enough lawyers and judges on the planet to deal with it all. Similarly for the print world, and look at all the examples of “the pot calling the kettle black”:
-Google violated copyrights wholesale by scanning millions of books; but didn’t that provide a service to humanity by making intellectual content available for out-of-print volumes?
-Facebook was essentially a college Freshman Register; could it have been sued by thousands of universities collectively?
-Amazon’s Kindle refuses to let owners copy even one word. So all students writing term papers are back to the archaic 3×5 cards in the digital age. How stupid can they be, especially in the days of the Turnitin plagiarism checker technology?
But though most people can recover from having their credit card data compromised (or perhaps weren’t personally affected by it), they might not recover so well from having their marriage destroyed, so perhaps the most poignant of recent hacks was the one of the Ashley Madison extramarital affair website. Most recently Ashley Madison users filed class action lawsuits in Canada and the US, which will almost certainly destroy the company and at a minimum disgrace its parent company Avid Life Media Ironically, the hackers had originally not tried to destroy the whole thing but to force more ethical behavior on it, and when the company stonewalled the hackers carried out their threat of disclosure. Another example of hubris … which has at a minimum forced the CEO of Avid Life Media to resign.
Billions of Internet users are familiar with the suffixes of website names like .com, .net, and .org, which were among the first of the gLTD’s (Generic Top-Level Domains). With the growth in numbers of website names has come a growth in suffixes, both to allow for the growth and to provide hints as to the nature of the websites (e.g., .edu, .gov, and .mil). Makes sense, right. But what were they (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) thinking when they added “.sucks” to the list of gLTD’s? Had they never heard of Murphy’s Law (“If anything can go wrong, it will.”)? Within microseconds countless Internet denizens around the world, at least those with US$2,500 to spare, were contacting Vox Populi to get ready to heap abuse on their favorite villains. Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed and ICANN has backed away from their ill-advised largesse.
Tech companies would do well to heed this time-proven advice to investors. They are truly greedy these days, forcing themselves on users. The most recent push-back by a journalist that we’ve seen is from Patric May at the San Jose MercuryNews, who tried to unsubscribe from the firehose of unwanted emails he was receiving. One thing he learned was that using “Unsubscribe” was like pouring gasoline on a fire, because it confirmed a valid email address to the sender, who could then sell it to dozens or hundreds of other companies, all of whom could then bombard him with THEIR emails.
There are lots of other self-serving ploys from other companies. Does Dropbox really care all that much to protect your files by reminding you to use it, or is it because they want you to use a lot of storage that they can charge you for? And why else did they immediately upload all your photos to their site other than filling up your “free” storage so they could start charging you for the additional storage. Apple does the same thing to a new iPhone, whether you want them to or not. Did you really want your thousands of carefully-cataloged photos dumped into a single big tub? We thought not.