Sentiers No.16

Blockchain and a low waste society. Toxic entitlement. Working less. CCTV in China. Journalism.


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I’m not planning on talking about Bitcoin/blockchain all the time but the current price and worries around energy consumption are also surfacing interesting discussions. So, more blockchain in this issue with Vinay Gupta and some pretty mind blowing ideas.

There’s an “Updates” section at the bottom with news on topics covered previously.

Finally, the next two issues would normally be Dec. 24th and 30th so I’m either going to send nothing, send a couple of days earlier, or send something super short. Tbd. Reply if you’d like something in particular, like favorites of the year or reading lists on one topic.


Broken Present, and No Future
Fascinating thread by Vinay Gupta about ICOs, Bitcoin, “The Powers”, anonymity, bubbles and what the blockchain community needs to do to not get Napstered out of existence. Plus The Future, longterm implications, PROUT, supply chains, and a low waste society. That last one is especially interesting and I will look for more writing in this direction, including how such a system would be powered / mined.

Because Team Future don’t have a plan. They have brutal tactics, but no sense of what world they are building.

[FYI, He later posted a Mediumized version of the same thread.]

The same Gupta with his The Internet of Agreements talk where he goes over some of the basics of Bitcoin and the blockchains and finishes (last 6-7 mins.) with global scale problems along the lines of his low waste society concept. (Transcript available.)

You stare at it, and it doesn’t get more sensible and it doesn’t go away.


Society
The Consent of the (Un)governed
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include this one, quite a dark view of our (especially US and UK) current societal unraveling but it’s the kind of hard truths we need to face.

The context being, of course, a historical moment where it has become obvious that toxic male entitlement is the greatest collective threat to the survival of the species.

++ The compelling case for working a lot less
I’m always interested in more proof that we work too much, should shorten days, disconnect, walk around and let our mind wander. This one also caught my attention for the quote below, explaining what happens to our brain when we don’t let it ‘do nothing’ and activate the default-mode network (DMN). Seems like a good description of the general state we are currently in, individually and collectively. No?

In other words, if this network were switched off, we might struggle to remember, foresee consequences, grasp social interactions, understand ourselves, act ethically or empathise with others – all of the things that make us not only functional in the workplace, but in life.

++ The 10 Top Recommendations for the AI Field in 2017
Sliding this one (from October) under ’Society’ because the AI recommendations presented are very much about algorithms’ impacts on society; bias, ethics, diversity, etc. Excellent list and much more actionable than some of the values focused or Asimov inspired suggestions sometimes doing the rounds.

If AI is to be safe, fair, and widely relevant, efforts need to be made not only to track diversity and inclusion, but also to ensure that the culture in which AI is being designed and developed is welcoming to women, minorities, and other marginalized groups.


The Churn
How long can a BBC reporter stay hidden from CCTV cameras in China?
It took seven minutes! 🇨🇳📷🛃😨

We can match every face with an ID card and trace back your movements back one week in time. We can match your face with your car, match you with your relatives and people you’re in touch with.

Former Facebook executive: social media is ripping society apart
Short and not that much new info but more virulent than usual charges against Facebook. A real shame that all the FB execs who realize this are ‘former’ execs.

“I can control my decision, which is that I don’t use that shit. I can control my kids’ decisions, which is that they’re not allowed to use that shit.”


Media
Former Gawker employees are crowdfunding to relaunch a Gawker.com that’s owned by a nonprofit and funded by readers
I love this idea and model so I pitched in.

[T]he newly formed Gawker Foundation aims to keep the entirety of the Gawker.com archives public, and restart the site with some of the old staff and some new writers, under a member-funded model. If relaunched, the new site won’t run advertising or have a paywall.

Jay Rosen: Members ‘don’t want a gate around the journalism they’re supporting’
Interesting research project looking at the various membership and subscription models, including a collaboration with the Netherlands’ The Correspondent.
“Subscription = pay money. Membership = join the cause”

Thinner models are just basically – donate your money and that’s all we need from you, versus thick models where you do support the site with money, but there are also other forms of participation.


Milieu
Regenerative agriculture is essential to our sustainability goals
Short article on regenerative agriculture, included here for its short list of projects working on this concept, good as a quick overview.

++ We (humanity) don’t know exactly how many species there are on our planet but they number in the millions. Insects in particular are still vastly unknown to us. We (most people) are even less aware of this diversity, have a look at ‘A different dimension of loss’: inside the great insect die-off and Imagining the Jellyfish Apocalypse to gain a bit more insight on the numbers and… how fast we are killing them.

Speaking of unknowns; Beyond the animal brain: plants have cognitive capacities too.


🔔 Updates
There was some pushback on the dying polar bear story. According to this wildlife biologist who’s worked in the area where the video was from, the bear is dying from cancer and not from hunger, it’s also in a region with habitual summers. The climate impacts are still real but, as he said, mistakes like this might help the deniers. (Via @sebprovencher)

++ Bitcoin’s insane energy consumption, explained. According to this piece, some other factors ignored in other stories would slow down the growth of energy consumption. While on the topic, also have a look at How bitcoin miners work.

++ AlphaGo Zero is now AlphaZero and learned chess in 24 hours to a level where it could beat the best chess engine running on a computer 900 times faster.


Miscellany