Cross-posted on IoTeX’s publication.
“Arguing that you don’t care about privacy because you having to hide is like saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” — Edward Snowden
“Alexa, tell me a joke” sends a shudder through the intergalactic transmission web. Amazon servers bank the speech-to-text snippet. The algorithm belches a response after feasting on a data buffet where the Library of Congress is hors d’oeuvres and 90 million dinner conversations is the Rib-eye. The chronic, bone-deep privacy invasion by always-on location tracking, always-listening smart speakers, and always-watching surveillance cameras is a cliche of modern life: Who cares? …
“What a piece of work is a man!” cries Hamlet as he laments Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s savage double-cross. They morph from Hamlet’s childhood friends into sleazy middlemen, spying on behalf of King Claudius. The divide between man’s potential for trust and life’s double-dealing, rotten reality lays Hamlet low in depression.
Life is riddled with middle-men like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, fronting a smiling, back-slapping facade while secretly plotting your demise, or at least angling for a payday. The middle-man is everywhere, all the time. …
“Money is beautiful only when it’s flowing; when it piles up it’s a hang-up.” — an advertising manager for the San Francisco Oracle in 1967
Satoshi Nakamoto is dead. Although his wife would say he’s just hibernating. His body suspended in time and space in a vat of liquid nitrogen, topped off weekly to offset evaporation.
Satoshi, of course, is a pseudonym for the anonymous creator of Bitcoin, who posted their creation on the cypherpunks mailing list on Halloween night, 2008. Cypherpunks embrace the future with their entire beings, cryogenically freezing themselves to be resurrected in the impending age of immortality; a medical breakthrough that presumably will be attended by the ability to revive frozen souls who, in turn, will drink greedily from the elixir of youth. …
Brock Turner and I were in the same class at Stanford, and it was at Kappa Alpha, my fraternity, where he committed the assault felt round the world. That was early in my freshman year before I was a member, but I was there for the fallout my Sophomore year, when we watched our house filmed from afar and broadcast on national TV, the face of party culture whose ugliest side has been called rape culture.
Our frat caught the attention of the same media covering events like the presidential race, and wars. Were we really that important? In the same way, the shot heard round the world was the release valve for years of political tension, the Brock Turner case was the last straw of tolerance for decades, centuries, of white male privilege. Fraternities embody distasteful conservative values on college campuses — bastions of progressivism — and their presence is difficult for many to tolerate. Kappa Alpha’s original founder was Robert E. Lee for god’s sake. …
Discounting is the single most important concept in finance and possibly economics. It’s the idea that money (cash) is less valuable tomorrow than today. The reason is quite existential: our impending death. Better to spend now than to never enjoy the fruits of your labor. The related inexorable march of inflation also makes money less valuable over time. The US Central Bank has two goals: 1. Ensure the dollar can buy 2 % less stuff a year from now than today and 2. keep the unemployment rate as low as possible.
In other words, because we are all going to die and because the greatest economic minds on the planet are dedicated to ensuring every dollar is worth 2 % less next year than this year, we have a “discount rate” which roughly equals the rate of inflation plus the average level of existential angst in society. …
I believe there is a hidden curse to being called smart. A computer science professor of mine shared an anecdote to try and encourage the class to ask more questions. As an undergraduate, she took a course taught by one of her intellectual heroes. On the first day of class, she asked something which her hero said was a “great question”. The professor explained she never asked another question for the rest of the semester. She was terrified of not living up to the standard she had set for herself.
I believe a much higher stakes version of this plays out in the lives of those who attend(ed) elite colleges across the country. Much of what makes smart college students afraid to take risks is precisely the fear of invalidating the “smart” label. They can fall into a trap of caring more about being seen as smart than almost anything else. This is the essence of the smart curse; smart is an adjective potent enough to serve as the basis for an entire identity — shackling its servants to the tried and true institutions that reinforce “smartness”. …
To take a walk in a public park, on a college campus, or on a long suburban sidewalk is to commit yourself to a steady stream of oncoming encounters. When driving, you have the luxury of a de-humanizing steel encasement. Albeit while navigating a meta-anticipatory cyborg-ian stew: manically adjusting due to the multiplicative dangers onset after strapping erratic homo-sapiens into belching combustable beasts of steel.
The psychological barrier makes up for the bedlam, a wombic alternative to the hospital lighting exposure of the walk. During the walk you see another traveler and before their face articulates itself into unquestionable idiosyncrasy a subtle ripple is felt in the airy-fabric between you. This ripple demands immediate attention, it is not to be ignored. …
Encryption makes the internet work. It consists of a few elegant math equations that scramble data before being sent over the internet where prying eyes could otherwise intercept it, read it, and manipulate it. Without encryption our use of the internet would be limited to unimportant communication; anything valuable or interesting could and would be tampered with.
Encryption is the reason everything from financial transactions to state secrets get whipped around the internet nearly instantaneously— unlocking untold amounts of innovation, wealth, and prosperity as a result.
But not all encryption is created equal. Some forms of encryption expose the communications of internet users to private companies and others those companies choose to share your data with. …
A clamor arises, gasping for air.
A fledging murmur, pleading and bare.
The world awaits, alive and free.
Calling as greeting, It’s bleating at me.
Where from it comes, I do not know.
For a spirited seed it is, heavenly sown.
The call of the wild, Jack London’s phrase.
For man just as beast, refined though it pray.
What is out there for me, but dust and pain.
A fool I leave, this world we made.
In the overgrowth, I breath in new life.
For every being, is supple and ripe.
The luxuries call, from life sublime.
I at times long, for pleasures so fine. …