inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #51 of 468: Jon Lebkowsk (jonl) Thu 6 Jan 22 07:39
    <scribbled by jonl Thu 6 Jan 22 07:40>
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #52 of 468: Mark Kraft (jonl) Thu 6 Jan 22 07:40
Via email from Mark Kraft:

So yeah, while we view Facebook as a monolith, it's probably best
seen as a content aggregator that's vulnerable, both in terms of the
aging of its users and potential declines in the sales or price
valuations in the online advertising market. Relatively small shifts
here and there can lead to embarrassing, long-term declines in their
stock performance, downsizing, and billions of dollars flowing

There are good arguments that the online advertising market is
slipping away from the big players and towards newer, more
independent online ad players, for all the best reasons. (i.e.
Monopolistic price padding, in an online world where the room for
ads is seemingly as endless as the room for new housing developments
in/around Vegas.) The end result should lead to more competition and
lower ad prices / corporate revenues.

Facebook absolutely doesn't talk much about their weaknesses, but
it's entirely possible that they see the writing on the wall, and
are "all in" on Meta like a football team is "all in" on throwing
the ball at 3rd down and 14, with 49 seconds left on the clock.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #53 of 468: Gonza Barrio (jonl) Thu 6 Jan 22 07:41
Via email from Gonza Barrio:

I'm eager to listen to your comments about the fall of Afghanistan,
the biggest military humilliation in the history of the USA, and the
upcoming cold war/hot war developments in Ukraine and Taiwan,

Also I would like to hear @Bruces opinion on his Afghanistan piece,
twenty years later:

I'd also like to hear about your opinions on the
pharma-tech-solutionism vaccine discourse; specially on the
differences between early 2021 optimism-herd immunity and the
current best-case scenario (mRNA vaccines are only really useful if
you're elderly or immunocompromised; otherwise they're only valid
*check notes with the New England Journal of Medicine*
*reduce two-three days the infection period*)

because, back in july, it was clear that the protective effects of
the vaccine wouldn't be much different than the previous hCoV
vaccines (that's a few months tops)
"The average half-life of neutralizing activity in the vaccinees was
approximately 67.8 days"

Maybe was it arrogant to claim to be able to develop a vaccine
against a coronavirus (something that has never been done) in the
shortest period of development of a vaccine ever-- or was it just
naked greed?

I'm sad to read statements like Jon Lebkowsky's here in the SOTW
"It's like the average global IQ dropped a few dozen points.", maybe
you're just too much into the american-news-cycle of polarization,
but to me it sounds like you're happy to be pawns supporting very
bad public health policies.

Anyway thank you very much, and eager to hear yourcomments
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #54 of 468: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 6 Jan 22 08:33
*I just got an email screed distributed by the current editor of
WIRED, who's having a crisis of conscience over the historic legacy
of the magazine.

*As the guy who rather grimly "Saw the Future of War" on the very
first issue of WIRED, I can't help but find this funny.

*I don't want to pick on him for writing this, because I think he's
doing the kind of zeitgeist thinking that a magazine editor properly
ought to try to do, but the 2020s, as an era, sounds like this.  It
doesn't sound much like the nineties, oughts or even the teens.

*You see, it's not about bing pro-tech, or even about being the
backlash against tech; basically, it's all about vast, inexorable
crisis and finding some reason to keep turning pages about it.


In the next few decades, virtually every financial, social, and
governmental institution in the world is going to be radically
upended by one small but enormously powerful invention: the

Do you believe that? Or are you one of those people who think the
blockchain and crypto boom is just a massive, decade-long fraud—the
bastard child of the Dutch tulip bubble, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi
scheme, and the wackier reaches of the libertarian internet? More
likely, you—like me—are at neither of these extremes. Rather, you’re
longing for someone to just show you how to think about the issue
intelligently and with nuance instead of always falling into the
binary trap.

Binaries have been on my mind a lot since I took over the editor’s
chair at WIRED last March. That’s because we’re at what feels like
an inflection point in the recent history of technology, when
various binaries that have long been taken for granted are being
called into question.

When WIRED was founded in 1993, it was the bible of
techno-utopianism. We chronicled and championed inventions that we
thought would remake the world; all they needed was to be unleashed.
Our covers featured the brilliant, renegade, visionary—and mostly
wealthy, white, and male—geeks who were shaping the future,
reshaping human nature, and making everyone’s life more efficient
and fun. They were more daring, more creative, richer and cooler
than you; in fact, they already lived in the future. By reading
WIRED, we hinted, you could join them there!

If that optimism was binary 0, since then the mood has switched to
binary 1. Today, a great deal of media coverage focuses on the
damage wrought by a tech industry run amok. It’s given us Tahrir
Square, but also Xinjiang; the blogosphere, but also the manosphere;
the boundless opportunities of the Long Tail, but also the
unremitting precariousness of the gig economy; mRNA vaccines, but
also Crispr babies. WIRED hasn’t shied away from covering these
problems. But they’ve forced us—and me in particular, as an incoming
editor—to ponder the question: What does it mean to be WIRED, a
publication born to celebrate technology, in an age when tech is
often demonized?

To me, the answer begins with rejecting the binary. Both the
optimist and pessimist views of tech miss the point. The lesson of
the last 30-odd years is not that we were wrong to think tech could
make the world a better place. Rather, it’s that we were wrong to
think tech itself was the solution—and that we’d now be equally
wrong to treat tech as the problem. It’s not only possible, but
normal, for a technology to do both good and harm at the same time.
A hype cycle that makes quick billionaires and leaves a trail of
failed companies in its wake may also lay the groundwork for a
lasting structural shift (exhibit A: the first dotcom bust). An
online platform that creates community and has helped citizens oust
dictators (Facebook) can also trap people in conformism and
groupthink and become a tool for oppression. As F. Scott Fitzgerald
famously said, an intelligent person should be able to hold opposed
ideas in their mind simultaneously and still function.

Yet debates about tech, like those about politics or social issues,
still seem to always collapse into either/or. Blockchain is either
the most radical invention of the century or a worthless shell game.
The metaverse is either the next incarnation of the internet or just
an ingeniously vague label for a bunch of overhyped things that will
mostly fail. Personalized medicine will revolutionize health care or
just widen its inequalities. Facebook has either destroyed democracy
or revolutionized society. Every issue is divisive and tribal. And
it’s generally framed as a judgment on the tech itself—“this tech is
bad” vs. “this tech is good”—instead of looking at the underlying
economic, social, and personal forces that actually determine what
that tech will do.

There’s been even more of this kind of binary, tech-centered
thinking as we claw our way out of the pandemic. Some optimists
claim we’re on the cusp of a “Roaring 2020s” in which mRNA and
Crispr will revolutionize disease treatment, AI and quantum
computers will exponentially speed up materials science and drug
discovery, and advances in battery chemistry will make electric
vehicles and large-scale energy storage (and maybe even flying
taxis) go mainstream. If you want to see a gloomy future, on the
other hand, there’s no shortage of causes: Digital surveillance is
out of control, the carbon footprint of cryptocurrency mining and
large AI models is expanding, the US–China tech arms race is
accelerating, the gig-work precariat is swelling, and the internet
itself is balkanizing.

This tug-of-war between optimism and pessimism is the reason why I
said this feels like an inflection point in the history of tech. But
even that term, “inflection point,” falls into the binary trap,
because it presumes that things will get either worse or better from
here. It is, yet again, a false dichotomy. This kind of thinking
helps nobody make sense of the future that’s coming. To do that—and
to then push that future in the right direction—we need to reject
this 0-or-1 logic.

Which brings me to the question of what WIRED is for.

Fundamentally, WIRED has always been about a question: What would it
take to build a better future?* We exist to inspire people who want
to build that future. We do it not by going into Pollyannaish
raptures about how great the future is going to be, nor dire
jeremiads about how bad things could get, but by taking an
evenhanded, clear-eyed look at what it would take to tackle the
severe challenges the world faces. Our subject matter isn’t
technology, per se: It’s those challenges—like climate change,
health care, global security, the future of democracy, the future of
the economy, and the dizzying speed of cultural change as our
offline and online worlds mingle and remix. Technology plays a
starring role in all of these issues, but what’s clearer today than
ever is that it’s people who create change, both good and bad. You
cannot explain the impacts of technology on the world without deeply
understanding the motives, incentives, and limitations of the people
who build and use it. And you cannot hope to change the world for
the better unless you can learn from the achievements and the
mistakes other people have made.

So I think WIRED’s job is to tell stories about the world’s biggest
problems, the role tech plays in them—whether for good or bad—and
the people who are trying to solve them. These aren’t all feel-good
stories by any means: there are villains as well as heroes, failures
as well as successes. Our stance is neither optimism nor pessimism,
but rather the belief that it's worth persisting even when things
seem hopeless. (I call it “Greta Thunberg optimism.”) But whatever
the story, you should find something to learn from it—and, ideally,
the inspiration to make a positive difference yourself.

Of course, that’s not all we exist to do. WIRED has also always been
a home for ambitious, farsighted ideas—sometimes prescient,
sometimes wild, sometimes both at the same time. (Fitzgerald again!)
We shouldn’t get carried away by hype; too many of our covers in the
past promised that this or that invention would “change everything.”
But we shouldn’t shy away from pushing the envelope either,
stretching people’s minds and showing them possible futures that
they might not otherwise dare to imagine. We’ll be critical but not
cynical; skeptical but not defeatist. We won’t tell you what to
think about the future, but how to think about it.

Finally, we exist to do the basic hard work of journalism—following
the important news, explaining how to think about it, and holding
power, particularly tech power, accountable.

Over the next few months, you should see our coverage starting to
coalesce more clearly around those core global challenges—climate,
health, and so on. Because these issues are indeed global, you
should also start to see a more international range of stories: One
of the less obvious but very big changes is that we are merging the
US and UK editions of WIRED, previously two entirely separate
publications, into a single site at (If you’re a regular
visitor to the site, you may have noticed that we recently launched
a new homepage, designed to make it easier for us to showcase the
work we’re most proud of and for you to find stories that interest
you.) We’ll still publish two separate print editions, though
they’ll share many stories. Our US and UK newsrooms are already
working as one, and you’ll see all their journalism here on this
site. With more writers making up a single team, we’ll be able to go
deeper into some of these key areas.

Above all, we’ll continue to do what WIRED is best at—bringing you
delightful, fascinating, weird, brilliantly told stories from all
around the world of people taking on extraordinary problems. Our
founder Louis Rossetto wrote that WIRED was where you would discover
“the soul of our new society in wild metamorphosis.” The wild
metamorphosis continues, and while its mechanisms may be
technological, the soul behind them is deeply and unavoidably human.
Where the human and the technological meet: That’s where WIRED
lives, and it’s where we aim to take you, every day.

Gideon Lichfield | Global Director, WIRED

Note: I owe a big debt of gratitude to Tom Coates, who was pivotal
in helping me think about the history of WIRED and see the
opportunity for the role it can play today.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #55 of 468: John Coate (tex) Thu 6 Jan 22 09:00
Are any blockchain advocates addressing the massive amount of
(mostly carbon intensive) electricity it requires?  If there are, I
have not run across them.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #56 of 468: Virtual Sea Monkey (karish) Thu 6 Jan 22 09:18
"The biggest military humiliation in the history of the USA" was the
loss in Vietnam. Afghanistan was not as big a deal because the US
never had a substantial number of lives at stake in it. Anyone who
had ever paid any attention to Afghanistan's history could see from
the beginning that the attack on al Qaeda leadership at Tora Bora
might have made some sense, but the attempt to deny Afghanistan to
the Taliban would require way more commitment of American lives and
materiel than were justified.

Afghanistan was an embarrassing tar baby that never dominated US
politics or international politics as Vietnam did.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #57 of 468: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Thu 6 Jan 22 09:30
Yes, there are a variety of takes on fixing cryptocurrency
electricity usage.

For Ethereum: they are moving to proof of stake. And have been for
several years. Maybe this year? The new design was over-complicated
and they've learned the virtues of simplicity.

There is also Chia which tries to replace mining with very large
files of gibberish that act like bingo cards. They briefly caused a
run on solid state hard drives but there are now plenty of bingo
cards and the easy profits are over, so they're probably not
damaging now? They don't seem to be getting any traction, but who
knows, maybe Musk will tweet them?

There are also miners who try to find less-damaging ways to do it.
For example, generating electricity from methane from oil wells that
would otherwise be vented to the atmosphere. But I don't think they
have much market share yet?

And then there are those who say it's not so bad really, the
benefits outweigh the costs. (Handwave.)
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #58 of 468: Emily Gertz (emilyg) Thu 6 Jan 22 09:51
Ukraine: Judging from events to day, I'm not sure what Russia could
do at this point in regards to Ukraine, short of a nuclear attack,
that would prompt the USA or EU nations to send more than stern
messages and sanctions to its defense.

One thing it's possible to imagine – which isn't to say it's
probable – is that other nations enact more comprehensive financial
reforms that better lock rich Russians' money inside the country.
That might drive some conciliatory action from Putin.

On the other hand, how much rational reasoning is involved in
Russia's predation on Ukraine, vs aspirations about a return to
empire? Russia can push little countries on its borders around, but
it's no longer a great power capable of major military actions
against powerful nations. In the 21st century, does it really gain
an advantage from restoring a 19th-century style geographic buffer
between it and the rest of Europe?
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #59 of 468: Virtual Sea Monkey (karish) Thu 6 Jan 22 09:55
Using lots of electrical energy isn't inherent in blockchain
technology. It's a result of the strategy Bitcoin chose for
competitive mining. Their nonsensical, reductionist proof of stake
is willingness to waste huge amounts of energy and of implementation
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #60 of 468: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Thu 6 Jan 22 10:04
Beyond the environment costs, though, I wonder about the cultural
costs of the rise of gambling 2.0, investment edition. It turns out
that not only any cryptocurrency but any small stock can be
converted into a fun gambling game with a bit of promotion on social
media. The new online casino is anywhere you can attract enough
players to have some fun.

Meanwhile video games are turning into gambling games too, since
there is money to be made in blurring the distinction between
playing games for fun and gambling as much as possible.

The potential was always there, but now it seems like an
inevitability. People are going to gamble on their phones and the
SEC telling Robinhood to stop with the confetti isn't going to
change that.

Maybe eventually it will become sort-of respectable, like Las Vegas?
I wonder when an Indian tribe starts a cryptocurrency?
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #61 of 468: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Thu 6 Jan 22 10:24
<59> I assume you're being metaphorical but "proof of stake" is
confusing here - it's not what Bitcoin uses.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #62 of 468: Virtual Sea Monkey (karish) Thu 6 Jan 22 10:44
The validity of every blockchain transaction is guaranteed by
cryptographic signatures added to it by parties that have a stake in
the transaction. For supposedly-authority-free Bitcoin a party
establishes its status as a stakeholder through sweat equity. Other
blockchain strategies could establish proof of stake in different
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #63 of 468: Craig Maudlin (clm) Thu 6 Jan 22 10:53
I wish WIRED well in their attempt:

> We'll be critical but not cynical; skeptical but not defeatist.
> We won't tell you what to think about the future, but how to think
> about it.

I would like to take this as inspirational, while being mindful of the
growing awareness that 'knowing how to think' is itself now a subject
of scientific scrutiny. We may be in the midst of a paradigm shift
regarding what it means 'to think.'
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #64 of 468: Ari Davidow (ari) Thu 6 Jan 22 10:59
I appreciate Wired's desire to cover technology, etc. But, they are
an entertainment medium, not a tools-connector. I remember vividly
deciding to drop my subscription back early on when they had an
article on someone doing some great work connecting the former
Yugoslavia to the still-relatively-new internet. I was heading off
to Yugoslavia that fall and had worked on some internet projects.
But, there was nothing in the article that helped me connect with
the people the article was about. That's standard for entertainment
(and a desirable feature from the perspective of most people subject
to such articles), but also different from, say, what I would have
expected had the Whole Earth Review still existed.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #65 of 468: Tiffany Lee Brown (T) (magdalen) Thu 6 Jan 22 11:06

<tex>, thanks for bringing up the issue of electricity usage/waste in
mining cryptocurrencies. a few years back, i listened to a blockchain
expert on the Zigzag podcast breathlessly extol the environmental virtues
of newer server farms/mines/whatever they call 'em being set up in places
like the Portland Oregon area...

because Northwest energy is "clean", according to the expert! it's hydro!
ain't it great?

and i'm like, TELL IT TO THE SALMON, you fool. 

tell it to the tribes who still mourn the proper flowing of the Columbia
River, the drowning of their traditional fishing sites at Celilo Falls to
build the dam to make the "clean" electricity that kills the salmon runs. 
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #66 of 468: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Thu 6 Jan 22 11:11
<62> I know what you mean but in the jargon, Bitcoin's algorithm is
called "proof of work." "Proof of stake" is a term used for an
alternative family of algorithms where a "stake" ties up funds by an
owner of the cryptocurrency. They pledge to only approve valid
transactions, and if they don't they risk losing their stake.

Bitcoin miners don't necessarily own Bitcoin - their investments are
external to the system. Some argue that that this is important.

But anyway, yes there are alternatives and I hope they do well due
to the effect on climate emissions.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #67 of 468: Jef Poskanzer (jef) Thu 6 Jan 22 12:20
This is a good summary of the multiple independent cases against

inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #68 of 468: Jef Poskanzer (jef) Thu 6 Jan 22 12:23
(Note that Diehl doesn't even mention the case discussed here, that
cryptocurrency wastes energy on a planet-wrecking scale.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #69 of 468: Virtual Sea Monkey (karish) Thu 6 Jan 22 12:37
That's very good.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #70 of 468: Axon (axon) Thu 6 Jan 22 13:24
Crypto is just Amway for incels.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #71 of 468: Tiffany Lee Brown (T) (magdalen) Thu 6 Jan 22 13:46

inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #72 of 468: Vinay Gupta (hexayurt) Thu 6 Jan 22 14:53
John Coate:

The Avalanche blockchain has been Net Zero since COP26. Most of the
proof of stake chains have negligible CO2 consumption - 500, 1000
tons a year - in line with small web apps or cloud storage like

Bitcoin is a total monster, though. It's >10 years old, and its age
is showing. It's a dinosaur.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #73 of 468: Vinay Gupta (hexayurt) Thu 6 Jan 22 14:57
Virtual Sea Monkey: No draft for Afghanistan, or Iraq.

Vietnam was much, much worse. I am too young to really get it: only
knew a few veterans, and never really had my understanding of their
war *click* for me, but whatever it was, it was *super bad*. 

The thing about it not clicking: I have basic sense of the history,
I have a crude understanding of the draft, but it just didn't *land*
for me emotionally - the vets I talked about it with didn't manage
to bridge the gap between their experience and mine. So my
understanding remains academic.

Which is unfortunate. I really wanted to *get it*.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #74 of 468: Vinay Gupta (hexayurt) Thu 6 Jan 22 15:06
Stephen Diehl: I know him well :) He's an old friend of mine.

A world class cryptographer whose company did not choose to issue a

If he applied that critical eye to, say, US indebtedness both
personal and Federal, I have no doubt he would have very serious
arguments against that entire system. Same for VISA, SWIFT, and the
rest of the banking, credit cards, and consumer finance system.

Then we could start in on how IPOs work and the stock market in

Then the biggie: pension funds, and also State pension systems.

Blockchain is part of this world. It is new and responsive to the
needs of the moment, but it's as flawed as any other human
construction - just newer.

It's as simple as that: blockchain is a response to much bigger
problems. It solves some problems, and creates others, *as is the
nature of all things*. When was the last time we had a technology
which had no down sides.

We're refining it now: fixing proof of work, sorting out speed and
efficiency, working with regulators to get clarity in the grey areas
- it's evolving. But in the times we are in, what technology do you
think could create a perfect fix?
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #75 of 468: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 6 Jan 22 15:10
Vinay, what most people hear about re. blockchain is the speculative
stuff, what I believe <axon> was referring to when he said "Amway
for incels." What are some use cases, other than tokens and
speculative investment, where the blockchain is actually being used
effectively and making a difference? And how do you expect that to
evolve in 2022?


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