(Part 6: The future of bitcoin and the social/political implications of cryptocurrencies)

By clicking a link in a interesting article by techcrunch I stumbled upon “Our Comrade The Electron” – Webstock Conference Talk by Maciej Ceglowski.

NB I have only read the presentation and seen the accompanying slides but this has all what makes a very good presentation in my eyes.

I think this article a nice addition in my series of my posts the other day where I reflected on an article of Duivesetein and Savale most notabaly „Is technology governing us or are we governing technology?” and “Bitcoin futurology: incongruous prophesies”.

Both articles are flipped to the RPD Flipboard magazine. I normally leave it at that as the RPD and The Magazin are complementary. This time I would like to give you some interesting quotes as a teaser to have you go and check out the article yourselves.

The talk is introduced by the webstock conference:

Radio in the 1920’s played a role analogous to the Internet in our day. Everyone could see that a suite of new technologies was about to change the world, but this advance knowledge somehow made the future more uncertain. Meanwhile, a group of technically-minded Utopians had convinced themselves that technology could radically transform human nature, and were determined to demonstrate it to a skeptical world. A meditation on the surveillance state, interface design, tech culture, and the dangers of thinking you know what will happen next, told through the astonishing life of Lev Termen.

Selected Quotes (emphasis added and links provided by RPD):

  1. Technology concentrates power
  2. Working in technology, we all have moments when it feels like the veil has been lifted, and we catch a glimpse of what’s coming next.
  3. These glimpses can be addictive…But these glimpses are also deceptive… Whenever we try to predict what it’s actually going to be like to live in that future, what the future is going to taste like, we invariably fail, and in the most ridiculous ways. It’s like a weird law of nature. We can see the technologies coming, but that knowledge somehow makes the future less predictable.
  4. … we correctly predict that the Encyclopedia Britannica will one day fit on the head of a pin, never imagining that the Britannica itself will have become a relic, replaced by the free, collaborative, sprawling something called Wikipedia. Such predictions aren’t wrong, they’re “not even wrong”, they miss the basic point. The future makes fools of us all.
  5. It’s a dream we seem to have every time there’s a big new technology shift. Blogging will make us a nation of writers! Digital video and YouTube will make everyone a filmmaker!… And each time we have this dream, there is the inevitable disappointment when it turns out most people don’t want to write 6,000 word investigative journalism, or make art cinema, or buy a really expensive theremin. In the lovely words of our age, most people prefer to consume content, not create it.
  6. Where does this talent hide in more normal times? Is it just there all the time, going to waste, or is there some alchemy that creates it when conditions are right? It’s a big mystery, and one we’ve never solved, no matter what Malcolm Gladwell says. That’s why we keep having these moments of hope every time a technology demolishes barriers to creativity. Maybe this will be the big one!
  7. In the 90’s, it looked like the Internet might be an exception, that it could be a decentralizing, democratizing force. No one controlled it, no one designed it, it was just kind of assembling itself in an appealing, anarchic way. The companies that first tried to centralize the Internet, like AOL and Microsoft, failed risibly. And open source looked ready to slay any dragon. But those days are gone. We’ve centralized the bejesus out of the Internet now.
  8. What upsets me isn’t that we created this centralized version of the Internet based on permanent surveillance. What upsets me, what really gets my goat, is that we did it because it was the easiest thing to do. There was no design, forethought, or analysis involved. No one said “hey, this sounds like a great world to live in, let’s make it”. It happened because we couldn’t be bothered.
  9. What I’m afraid of is the society we already live in. Where people like you and me, if we stay inside the lines, can enjoy lives of comfort and relative ease, but God help anyone who is declared out of bounds. Those people will feel the full might of the high-tech modern state.
  10. We haven’t seen yet what a truly bad government is capable of doing with modern information technology. What the good ones get up to is terrifying enough.

This is Lev playing his theremin:

NB This post is the sixth in a series triggered by an article by Duivestein and Savale:

Part 1: Trust is key for cryptocurrencies.

Part 2: Different Scalability in Different Circumstances

Part 3: Will the „middle man” disappear?

Part 4: Problematic predicting the future

Part 5: Primacy of politics over technology