Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Elon Musk, Threat or Menace Part 2

Last April I wrote Elon Musk: Threat or Menace? flagging three of his externalities; the carbon footprint of his infatuation with cryptocurrencies, the environmental impact and cost of his infatuation with colonizing Mars, and the threat his infatuation with camera-only autonomy for Teslas posed to innocent bystanders. Last August I followed up with Autonowashing, detailing the incredible "depths of irresponsibility involved in Tesla's marketing".

Josh Wolfe of Lux Capital is a very successful and innovative venture capitalist. Maxwell Strachan interviewed him for The ‘To the Moon’ Crash Is Coming. I think Wolfe captures the essence of the problem:
I think a lot of people took the Elon playbook and basically said, If I just promised the moon, I can get too big to fail, I can just keep raising money as I raise expectations. And if I raise expectations, fundamentals don't matter. The only thing that matters is expectations. And if I can keep leading people—or in some cases misleading them—then it'll keep working if I don't get caught. And if I do get caught, in the case of Theranos or in the case of Nikola [Editor’s note: the electric-truck maker that paid a $125 million after the SEC charged the company’s founder with misleading investors over social media], maybe you pay a fine or you have your day in court, and maybe Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is found guilty or maybe the zeitgeist of the day surprises and she's not. But so far, there has been really no great penalty for people whose relationship with the truth is less than ideal.
Musk doesn't care about the truth of his statements, or the impact of his companies' policies, because his wealth insulates him from consequences. If regulators or victims come after him he can tie them up in courts until their resources are exhausted or his fan-bois can make them irrelevant. Since Autonowashing I've been collecting illustrations of this attitude, and the time has come to lay out a sample of them below the fold.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Progress On Storage Class Memory

Storage Class Memory (SCM) is fast enough to be used as RAM, but persistent through power loss like flash. The idea of returning to the days of core storage, when main memory was in effect a storage layer, is attractive in theory. There have been many proposed SCM technologies, such as restive RAM, magnetoresistive RAM and phase-change memory. Intel and Micron got Optane resistive RAM into production, but it wasn't a great success. It wasn't as fast as RAM, but it was a lot more expensive than flash. The main barrier to adoption was that exploiting its properties required major system software changes.

Now, Mark Tyson's UltraRAM Breakthrough Brings New Memory and Storage Tech to Silicon reports on a promising SCM development published by Peter Hodgson and a team from Lancaster University in ULTRARAM: A Low-Energy, High-Endurance, Compound-Semiconductor Memory on Silicon. Below the fold, I comment briefly.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Mainstream Media Catching On

Two of the externalities of cryptocurrencies I discussed in my Talk at TTI/Vanguard Conference were the way decentralization and immutability work together to enable crime, and their environmental impact. How well are mainstream media doing at covering these problems? The picture is mixed, as the two examples below the fold show.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Another Layer Of Centralization

Moxie Marlinspike tried building "web3" apps and reports on the experience in his must-read My first impressions of web3. The whole post is very perceptive, but the most interesting part reveals yet another way the allegedly decentralized world of cryptocurrencies is centralized.

Below the fold, I explain the details of yet another failure of decentralization.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Counterpoint on Venture Capital

My personal experience working with VCs was very positive, but it was (a) a long time ago and (b) they were top-flight firms (Sutter Hill and Sequoia). I've been very skeptical of the current state of the VC industry in Venture Capital Isn't Working and Venture Capital Isn't Working: Addendum. Steven J. Dubner's Is Venture Capital the Secret Sauce of the American Economy? presents a far more optimistic view, as does The Economist's The bright new age of venture capital. On my side of the argument are Fred Wilson's Seed Rounds At $100mm Post Money and the Wall St. Journal's The $900 Billion Cash Pile Inflating Startup Valuations.

Below the fold, some discussion of these opposing views.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Blockchain Gaslighting

In Web3/Crypto: Why Bother? Albert Wenger draws an analogy between the PC and "web3" as platforms for innovation:
The late Clayton Christensen characterized this type of innovation as being worse at everything except for one dimension, but where that dimension really winds up mattering a lot (and then over time everything else gets better also as the innovation is widely adopted).

The canonical example here is the personal computer (PC). The first PCs were worse computers than every existing machine. They had less memory, less storage, slower CPUs, less software, couldn’t multitask, etc. But they were better at one dimension: they were cheap. And for those people who didn’t have a computer at all that mattered a great deal.
A blockchain is a worse database. It is slower, requires way more storage and compute, doesn’t have customer support, etc. And yet it has one dimension along which it is radically different. No single entity or small group of entities controls it – something people try to convey, albeit poorly, by saying it is “decentralized.”
Below the fold I explain why this is typical blockchain gaslighting.