Friday, October 22, 2021

A Quarter-Century Of Preservation

The Internet Archive turned 25 yesterday! Congratulations to Brewster and the hordes of miniature people who have built this amazing institution.

For the Archive's home-town newspaper, Chase DiFeliciantoni provided a nice appreciation in He founded the Internet Archive with a utopian vision. That hasn't changed, but the internet has:
Kahle’s quest to build what he calls “A Library of Alexandria for the internet” started in the 1990s when he began sending out programs called crawlers to take digital snapshots of every page on the web, hundreds of billions of which are available to anyone through the archive’s Wayback Machine.

That vision of free and open access to information is deeply entwined with the early ideals of Silicon Valley and the origins of the internet itself.

“The reason for the internet and specifically the World Wide Web was to make it so that everyone’s a publisher and everybody can go and have a voice,” Kahle said. To him, the need for a new type of library for that new publishing system, the internet, was obvious.

We (virtually) attended the celebration — you can watch the archived stream here., and please donate to help with the $3M match they announced.

Friday, October 15, 2021

A Writer I Admire

Wouldn't it be great to write like Maciej Cegłowski? I've riffed off many of his riveting talks, including What Happens Next Will Amaze You, Haunted By Data, The Website Obesity Crisis and Anatomy of a Moral Panic. Now, in a must-read tweetstorm, Cegłowski takes on "Web3", the emerging name for the mania surrounding blockchains and cryptocurrencies. He starts from this tweet:
The replies it garnered are hilarious. Below the fold, some extracts from Cegłowski to persuade you to read his whole thread (Unroll here).

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Great Mining Migration

China's Cryptocurrency Crackdown has been dramatically effective. The total hashrate dropped by over a half from its peak before recovering. As I write it is still down about 15% from the peak.

The latest figures from the Cambridge Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index provide more detail on what happened. In May China was producing 70.9 Exahash/sec and 44% of the total, as against 75% in 2019. In July, it produced none, triggering the collapse in the hash rate.

The gradual recovery happened as the containers of mining rigs reached their destinations, which by August were mostly in the US (42.7 Exahash/sec), Kazakhstan (21.9 Exahash/sec) and Canada (11.5 Exhash/sec).

If the migration continues to favor the US and Canada, which as of August accounted for about 45% of the total, it would bring closer the ability of Western nations to turn off Bitcoin, as outlined in Unstoppable Code?.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Talk At "Blockchain for Business" Conference

I was invited to be on a panel at the University of Arkansas' "Blockchain for Business" conference together with John Ryan and Dan Geer. Below the fold are my introductory remarks.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Cryptocurrency's Carbon Footprint Underestimated

Back in April I wrote Cryptocurrency's Carbon Footprint about the catastrophic carbon emissions of Proof-of-Work cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It now turns out that I didn't know that half of it; the numbers I and everyone else has been using are greatly underestimated. Below the fold, based on my no doubt somewhat inadequate methodology, the real story.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Looming Fossil Fuel Crash

In 2018's It Isn't About The Technology I wrote about Charlie Stross' concept that corporations are "Slow AIs":
Stross uses the Paperclip Maximizer thought experiment to discuss how the goal of these "slow AIs", which is to maximize profit growth, makes them a threat to humanity. The myth is that these genius tech billionaire CEOs are "in charge", decision makers. But in reality, their decisions are tightly constrained by the logic embedded in their profit growth maximizing "slow AIs".
Below the fold, I apply this insight to the impact of climate change on "the market".

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Central Bank Digital Currency

Central bank digital currency: the future starts today, a speech by Benoît Cœuré, Head of the Innovation Hub at the Bank for International Settlements identifies a number of problems that central banks face:
Big techs are expanding their footprint in retail payments. Stablecoins are knocking on the door, seeking regulatory approval. Decentralised finance (DeFi) platforms are challenging traditional financial intermediation. They all come with different regulatory questions, which need fast and consistent answers.

Banks are worried about the implications of CBDCs for customer deposits. Central banks are mindful of these concerns and are working on answers. They see banks as part of future CBDC systems. But make no mistake: global stablecoins, DeFi platforms and big tech firms will challenge banks' models regardless.

Stablecoins may develop as closed ecosystems or "walled gardens", creating fragmentation. With DeFi protocols, any concerns about the assets underlying stablecoins could see contagion spread through a system. And the growing footprint of big techs in finance raises market power and privacy issues, and challenges current regulatory approaches.
Below the fold I discuss the idea of CBDCs