Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Finn Brunton's "Digital Cash"

I attended the book launch event for Finn Brunton's Digital Cash at the Internet Archive, and purchased a copy. It is a historian's review of the backstory leading up to Satoshi Nakamoto's Bitcoin. To motivate you to read it, below the fold I summarize its impressive breadth.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Web Is A Low-Trust Society

Back in 1992 Robert Putnam et al published Making democracy work: civic traditions in modern Italy, contrasting the social structures of Northern and Southern Italy. For historical reasons, the North has a high-trust structure whereas the South has a low-trust structure. The low-trust environment in the South had led to the rise of the Mafia and persistent poor economic performance. Subsequent effects include the rise of Silvio Berlusconi.

Now, in The Internet Has Made Dupes-And Cynics-Of Us All, Zynep Tufecki applies the same analysis to the Web:
ONLINE FAKERY RUNS wide and deep, but you don’t need me to tell you that. New species of digital fraud and deception come to light almost every week, if not every day: Russian bots that pretend to be American humans. American bots that pretend to be human trolls. Even humans that pretend to be bots. Yep, some “intelligent assistants,” promoted as advanced conversational AIs, have turned out to be little more than digital puppets operated by poorly paid people.

The internet was supposed to not only democratize information but also rationalize it—to create markets where impartial metrics would automatically surface the truest ideas and best products, at a vast and incorruptible scale. But deception and corruption, as we’ve all seen by now, scale pretty fantastically too.
Below the fold, some commentary.