Posted by the kid On November 21, 2022
Being a “hard-core” developer and being in the crypto space I’ve learned two things
- Seeing is Believing
- Ignorance is NOT bliss
Let’s start with #1 and everyone’s latest favorite topic, the FTX fiasco. In all honesty, with all the years I’ve been in this business, did I ever think to see a 28 year old “kid” topple, not just the crypto financial world, but the “real” financial world as well is simply beyond me. It really is. As everyone who has anything to say about the matter just blames it all on the wily, cunning and utterly ruthless “SBF”. But let’s face it, I don’t know about you but I know that when I was in my 20s and on Wall Street (coding trading systems not using them, unfortunately) if someone came along and offered to “invest” a few hundred million my way…guess what,, I probably would do exactly what he did, why not…if it’s that easy!
After all, when I was that age I was just as invincible, self-absorbed and yes,I’ll use the word..”immature” as the next 20-something…and proud of it. But back then there were “grown ups” around to keep me and my ego in check. Some as ancient as their 40s and 50s who would keep me down to earth with either sage wisdom or a swift kick in the pants. Don’t they make these people any more? Are we that enraptured with money-making schemes that the US financial and political world go to a “zoomer” for guidance and leadership?! Come on now.
That brings us to point number 2. Ignorance can only be bliss if you don’t know you’re ignorant. Once you do you automatically feel like you’re being cheated of something…knowledge, opportunity…whatever. And I guess, and I’m only guessing here, that if you’re one of the billionaire boys it’s 10x more annoying. To be one of the 1% you have to know everything 100% or at the very least, hire all the people who do. 5 years ago when SBF started his crypto trading ventures by simply coding trades instead of the old fashion wits, knowledge, experience and intuition, he simply used easy and reliable algorithms. Back then he was simply a backroom quiet little quant generating income for his quiet little firm. Nothing wrong with that..good for him.
However, I’m sure when he brought up the fact that Bitcoin was a “crypto asset” there were more than a few uncertain, wary, even confused looks as to how all this code adds up to good, old-fashioned USD. I hold that it is next to impossible to understand code unless you’re a coder. True, you don’t have to be on the top 10 sellers list to be a writer or hang in the Louvre to be a painter. Code is an artform just like these, but is different in one vital way. I can write “like” Hemingway or “paint” like Rembrandt but I can’t, no matter how hard I try…code like Sam Bankman-Fried or Vitalik Buterin. Don’t get me wrong, I could write the same applications (more or less) using the same algorithms, the same techniques…but the code itself can only come from my head, my imagination, my experience and my determination…most importantly my determination. This is the most vital factor and anyone who has ever written any working code at all in any environment in any language knows exactly what I mean. And that’s the point. So VCs, hedge funds and billionaires realize they can make even more billions with crypto hey..why not!? The catch is where do you find people that not only know what they’re talking about but can actually DO it? Nerdy little quants sitting in quiet little investment bank offices. Fast forward just a couple of years and that quiet little quant is having orgies with his college buddies in his Bahamian mansion wondering why everybody isn’t living the life. Can you blame him?
Posted by the kid On November 15, 2022
I was talking with my local “banker” this morning, a bright young man, form-fitting generation Z type of guy. I live in a small neighborhood, tucked away neatly in the morass of New York city, resembling more a small village than a mighty metropolis. So one actually gets to see and even get to know one’s banker, barber or grocer in a way that’s usually impossible in the rest of the city, a city where everything, including the people you meet, change almost daily. A while ago while doing some business I gave him some advice on investing in crypto. I naturally assumed he would treat it with a grain of salt like most people I give crypto advice to. But it turned out he actually took that advice seriously and since we hadn’t spoken for a while he brought it up. He said he’d become very interested in crypto and wanted to know if he had any more advice. He then said something very curious, “I wonder if we stopped following Johnny Depp and all the latest celeb porn, what we could possibly do as a society?”
I said I didn’t know. But I did know that we live in a society that focuses on money, celebrity and fame to the exclusion of almost all else. Our media, our culture, our lives are focused not on making ourselves better people or making the world a better place. It’s focused on selling things, pure and simple. Having worked for years in advertising I know this to be true. That, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. But although that helps create a healthy economy it generally doesn’t help create a healthy society. That’s something each of us has to determine in our own way, but I have to admit, as a group, western society doesn’t provide very much guidance.
The best advice I could give was that he was right. If one stops paying attention to what everyone else is doing, or not doing, it’s a lot easier to concentrate on what YOU are doing or more importantly what you WANT to do. I read 10-20 articles a day just to glean a useful tidbit of information I can actually use in my personal or professional life. We are all bombarded with never ending opinions and verbiage all created to sell things. Why do I have to read 1000 words before I get to a simple custard recipe: eggs, milk, sugar, flour and/or cornstarch. That’s it …done.
But that won’t score very high with Google and we all know how important that is…to Google.
But what is REALLY important is what is important to me…what is important to you?
Posted by the kid On November 7, 2022
We are living in “interesting” times. More than that we are watching history unfold a page at a time. My long time business slogan has always been “The Future is Now” and indeed it is. Perhaps a better one would be “The more things change….the more they stay the same”. It’s a matter of perspective. In less than 200 years the entire human race has gone from relatively small and isolated groups of people in cities, towns, villages and farms across the globe to a world united in Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok….go figure.
I’m not an historian. Whatifalthist (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5Dw9TFdbPJoTDMSiJdIQTA) does a much better job of that than me. Whatifalthist looks at historical alternatives to explain the current human conditions, from geopolitics to religion. Another one of my favorite cliches, “Knowledge is power…” may be most appropriate.. Today, 6 year olds carry their own cell phones, knowledge is ubiquitous, it’s everywhere…with a simple “google” you can find out just about anything about anything you want. And with all that knowledge what do we do with it? Polarization, narcissism, mass hysteria and living for the “ping”…who cares about interpersonal relationships, family bonds and trust when we always have a screen to cozy up to. I’m not a luddite, I have nothing against all this tech, J’m addicted too.
It is what it is. But as tech grows more powerful, we as humans become more powerful and perhaps with a very different kind of power…the kind that does not rely on brute force and the threat of violence, real or imagined. Perhaps, if humans can connect with the humanity hidden behind those screens then that power can only do positive things as opposed to the viciousness of the last 2000 years and beyond. At least it’s something to hope for.
Posted by the kid On October 31, 2022
It was the best of times..it was the worst of times..
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine…
The immortal Charles Dickens’ famous paraphrase for his era, an era of radical social change, revolutions and the guillotine. Chaos and anger, inequality and fear, one crisis after another. As human society reaches for technical achievement beyond the 20th century… the world is just as chaotic, frightening and deadly as it was 230 years ago when technology was, well, the guillotine! We’ve gone well beyond that technology when it comes down to finding new ways to kill each other. But the question is this, is all the fear and worry because of technology or in spite of it?
Let’s face it, the technologies that fueled the unprecedented growth in the quality of life for all of us were mostly the result of mankind attacking and defending each other as a matter of course, radar, jet airplanes, missiles and everybody’s favorite …nukes. Which brings us to where we are now. There are social revolutions going on all over the planet, including the good ole USA. There is a reason for this. Growing up is hard as any adolescent in any part of the world would be glad to attest to. As much as each adolescent moves into adulthood each must ask if the pain was worth the privilege. Humankind, too, is in the midst of having to make these decisions, not individually but as 7 billion people acting as one. Something that has never been achieved in the history of humanity, a humanity that has been defined almost exclusively through wars and rumors of wars. But is that the fault of the plow or the sword? Of course not, these are only tools and like any tool are only as good or evil as the people that wield them. This will be a burning question in the coming decades as these tools become ever more powerful, ever more efficient. Can we use them wisely?
Posted by the kid On March 17, 2021
There’s an old saying, “Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?”. I have a new old saying, does tech imitate life or does life imitate tech?” This question becomes more and more relevant everyday. The next “Big Thing” or current “Big Thing” in all of society, apparently are Non-Fungible Tokens…NFTs. Just one more item on the list of the ever expanding blockchain universe. Our technology is defining our entire society more or less in its own image, particularly among “Post-Millennials” many of whom grew up entirely behind a computer screen or cell phone. This is THEIR world. Trading pokemon cards doesn’t necessarily have to lose its value as we grow into adulthood. NFTs are just “signed” data blocks on a blockchain. Why would someone pay millions for the privilege of “owning” a piece of data on the nebulous blockchain? Remember there is still a large majority of our society that still thinks a “blockchain” is used to weigh anchor. But not the PMs! They ALL know the deal and have for some time.
For example take the latest poster child for NFT riches, Elise Boucher, better known as Grimes. Her NFT artwork is selling like hot cakes for thousands of dollars at a pop, millions made in practically minutes. Craze or crazy? If you want the answer to that take a look at the company she keeps. Elon Musk is her boyfriend. Can you imagine the digital groupies that run in that circle? This kind of “In” crowd makes their own rules and, hence, their own economies of scale.
But let’s look at a broader perspective, the “common” folk. Crypto-Kitties and CyberPunks are more for the “common” main, yet these digital icons can run into the thousands of dollars. If someone buys a CyberPunk, I bet 2 CyberPunks that he/she knows someone who has also bought a CryptoPunk, or a few…and so on and so on. In this CyberPunk universe people just make up their own economy…if they can afford it. If a CyberPunk is worth $15000 or more to one individual in this cozy little world, then it’s probably worth that much to a few, if not many, others. For those who occupy this world, for whatever reason, that price is a bargain. Who are we to argue?
However, from an economics point of view, it’s a mistake to just look at NFTs as an investment, I’m sure some see them that way…but they are not a single kind of “thing”, like a painting or a photograph. Anything digital can be freely copied over and over again with a simple “cut and paste” command. I can simply grab all the Grimes artwork or CryptoKitties I want straight off the Internet. It happens all the time. This is just as true in the NFT universe. So what gives?
The difference is the very subtle distinction between “having” and “owning”. I can move to Arizona and have thousands of square miles to live in without any dramatic impact on my life. However, if I OWN thousands of square miles, well that’s an entirely different story! An NFT is just a wrapper. The value comes from the ever-present “network effect” that blockchain technology exemplifies and harnesses. Look at it this way, you collect baseball cards, you’ve been collecting them for years, you have expensive cards and inexpensive cards. You regularly attend baseball card conventions with your buddies. You keep your most precious cards in a safe deposit box. Baseball cards are your WORLD. Somewhere along the line you find yourself with $1000 to spend on a “high-end” card of your choice. You have the opportunity to buy an original 1968 Topps Willy Mays, unsigned and in good shape, for $1000. You also have the opportunity to buy a teammate’s card, Don Mason (whoever he is), signed by Willie Mays himself, also for $1000. Which one would you buy? First, ask yourself which one of these cards would you want to OWN and that you want people to KNOW you own. Answer that on your own terms and you’ll understand what NFT’s are really all about.
Posted by the kid On March 8, 2021
Chain…chain..chain…! But unlike Aretha Franklin’s anthem, this is not a chain of fools…but of the very wise. The rest of the 21st century will be a marvel of new technologies changing how we live our lives, and I don’t mean in that dated, Disney World’s Fair sort of way…because it is no longer the “future” but the here and now. The
electronic television was available as a commercial item in 1939, but it would take another 20 years until it was a household item. But that was 60 years ago when “digital” meant using your fingers to count to ten. But the point is new technology usually needs a little time to “catch on”…with the possible exception of the iPhone. Just 30 years ago, no one was sure that the “Internet” was viable, 20 years ago, whether Amazon could compete and survive against the brick and mortar stores. 10 years ago…I can go on and on but I’m obviously inferring that the time span for society-changing tech adoption is getting shorter and shorter. One year ago, blockchain technology as a whole was still the realm of nerds, propellerheads and crooks. Now blockchains are popping up everywhere and will continue to do so.
In my opinion this is a good thing. Decentralizing (DeCe) can only help humanity fulfill its own potential by sifting out greed, racism, ignorance and mistrust from, if nowhere else, the digital realm. Instead of the world using technology to keep tabs on people, blockchains allow people to keep tabs on the world. At least in theory…
In any case, when we think of a blockchain, for the layman that’s just Bitcoin and, maybe, Etheruem, but only in terms of how much they’re worth. But very few understand the basis for that worth. As I mentioned in my last article…that value is based upon trust. There are many ways to display trust, a scampish wink, a firm handshake, a warm hug…think of each of these as a “separate” blockchain. Like Ethereum, Cosmos or Flow, they pretty much do the same thing but in much different ways. Eventually we’re going to have to stop looking at tech as a kind of zero sum game. Granted the success of any technology platform in the long run is based on the infamous “Network Effect”, the real driver behind the amazing impact just a few technologies have made on our lives. But the Effect is somewhat fickle, not everything popular will be good and not everything good will be popular, but that’s more in the field of sociology and psychology than it is technology.
For now, there is a plethora of blockchain smart contract networks to choose from, Ethereum, PolkaDot, Cardano, each having its own means of building trust. After all you wouldn’t hug your mailman or wink at your mother (maybe you would…) but you get the point. Sooner or later all these block chains, no matter how they’re built, will learn to communicate with each other. Will this create a dystopian world where DOA’s rule without interference from the masses? Hardly, but it is ironic that it’s easier to trust a few lines of code than a real live human being. Now that’s something to think about.
Posted by the kid On February 20, 2021
I recently tried to deploy a simple “Hello world” dapp on all the testnets. When I got to the Mainnet a deployment would cost roughly $76 in gas fees to complete. Nine lines of code; I decided the testnets were enough. Blockchain “gas” fees are literally the fuel behind the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is behind every crypto coin you can think of that’s not Bitcoin. If you invest in it…great. If you program blockchains with it…damn! Just a couple of years ago you could deploy the exact same contract for pennes. Those of you in the business know what I’m talking about. It could be dismaying if it didn’t actually make sense. The block chain is a real boon to economics because for the first time in all of history, we can examine pure mathematical models sans the most corrupting factor in all purely mathematical models…human nature.
Yep. That’s always been a tough one. In any economic system to date has always found weaknesses when things like greed, selfishness and downright meanness, come into play …as they do from time to time. Models aren’t perfect because people aren’t perfect. And although blockchains aren’t perfect either…they do enjoy one liberating factor…none of those pesky human emotions to create and justify slanted points of view. Keeping it simple, economics always starts with a market system, preferably a free market but a free market is akin to a free lunch. More on that later. For now based on the first axiom that a fair price for any item on that market will be based on Supply and Demand. That’s all you need. Price represents value, the value placed upon it by the marketplace. Remember “it” can be just about anything but in this case it is Ethereum.
Value is determined by agreement. Agreements are based upon trust. It is the trust that creates the value. When someone trusts something, they use it. When more people use it, more people trust it, the more people trust it the more valuable it becomes…and on and on and on. Usually this kind of logic would be used to explain the boom and bust cycles of the fiat financial system. But those systems are laden with the human factor and all its weaknesses. Buyers get skittish, sell shares, run on banks..etc. All those horrible things fiat systems try desperately to avoid. Ethereum has nothing to do with any of that and could care less. Humans worry and fret and need to buy their own shares to drive up the share price. Market forces are only as good as the will of the people comprising that market. The only “pure” market therefore is a market without people.
That may sound inhumane, but actually, it’s not. It’s a good thing in my opinion. Along with the absence of people there is an absence of doubt. The blockchain is based on its own immutable data. It’s as certain as anything made by man can be… at least for now. I’m sure pretty much everyone on the planet has heard about the price of Bitcoin and Ethereum reaching all time highs practically every day. Sure the bubble must burst somewhere along the line and we’re back to square one..right? Well not necessarily. In a system based upon certainty there is absolutely no doubt, that allows infinite room for trust, that is, absolute trust. If you have infinite trust, you have the possibility of infinite use. Infinite use means infinite VALUE. In other words doesn’t it make sense that trust could be, perhaps, should be, the most valuable thing on Earth? Makes sense to me…
Posted by the kid On February 16, 2021
It is a digital currency secured by cryptography, which makes it almost impossible to double-spend or counterfeit. … In other words, cryptocurrency is an asset class with the potential to democratize access to wealth – currency by the people, for the people. – https://www.thestreet.com
There has been a lot of fuss about Democracy, political and social change amid, of course, the world’s current MOST favorite topic..covid, covid and more covid. But let’s peek under the covers a bit. There’s a financial revolution going on that seems to be quietly slipping under the radar. I grew up in Boston and there’s a popular saying among the “common folk” there that says when you want to find the truth…follow the money!
With the deprivation of the middle class in the West, that’s become easier and easier to do. No one seems to mention that all that political calamity and social injustice over the last few years is directly because of the disappearance of the economic “middle class”. There’s no question that the world is aware of it. It’s been written about endlessly across the globe, but I’ve noticed that in my little corner of the world, it is very seldom “talked” about as if the disappearance of an entire economic sector of society and the possession of almost the entire world’s wealth residing in the hands of a very few is somehow as natural as clouds in the sky.
This article is not a political or even a social perspective, I’ll leave all that to the politicians and sociologists of the world. I’m just a simple engineer, my point of view is strictly a pragmatic one. As an individual who has dealt with the complexity of the US financial system from the proud moment my father took me to the local bank to buy my first US savings bond as a child to now, where you have to have an “inside track” ( or an online Fidelity account) to get a hold of one, the financial system has not only gotten more convoluted but in the worst possible way, its less “democratic”. In today’s, world money can only be created by getting as many people into debt as possible. That would make my father turn cartwheels in his grave. But here we are.
I don’t know if Satoshi Nakamura is real or fictitious. I assume Prometheus was fictitious since he is part of Greek “mythology” but his gift of fire to mankind is on par to Satoshi’s gift of the blockchain. ALL mankind will benefit from this gift of binary cryptography, no matter what race, creed, color or place of birth, in one way or another. A year ago the mere mention of “Decentralized Finance” aroused suspicion, promoted by agitators and conspiracy theorists. Today it is all the rage. After the Game Stop debacle, it downright makes sense, even to the benefactors of the status quo to hop on board. Somewhere, somehow “money” has to be based on trust. Something the current financial system seems to have completely forgotten. Trust has been based solely on manipulating the free market with impunity making it not so “free”. Now DeFi, crypto, what have you, are all the rage, and rightfully so. True, there will still be haves and have nots, but the haves will have what they actually deserve and the have nots will have no one to blame but themselves. I know that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
I could go into great detail about how we’ve become the society we live in today. I can wax philosophical about the world we face tomorrow, but I sense that whoever is reading this knows there’s a fundamental truth to what I am saying. You don’t have to be a software engineer, or an economics or one of the 1% to know that something has been “wrong” with “money” for quite some time, and I don’t just mean in the West, but everywhere. There’s a reason why capitalism has become more socialist and socialism more capitalist. These are ideologies meaning they’re just that…ideas. Like any idea, some are good in some circumstances, not so good in others. I have never understood the need to be rigid about any “ism” being the sole standard of truth. That’s simply ridiculous. The only ideas that really count are the ones that work.
As CNN and Fox and all the rest tell about all the troubles of the world, they are bereft of ideas and care only for responses. Fine. That’s their job, to entertain the masses. But you can’t keep a good idea down for long. And although the “Haves” will do everything in their power to suppress ideas that are not their own, there is something about human nature and humanity in general, that fundamentally knows right from wrong and, in the end, will act accordingly. It’s just a matter of how much grief one has to endure to implement that one good idea. I can understand why Nakumura dropped off his white paper and disappeared into the fog of obscurity. After all, look what happened to Prometheus!
Posted by the kid On December 7, 2020
I’ve been in advertising for almost 20 years now, starting with traditional brand advertising but in those days, in the unique and new position of digital developer. Way back when, that meant the cutting edge technology of Adobe Flash. Archaic now, but at the time a good Flash developer could roll out money by the wheel barrow on Madison Avenue. In those days, during and post “Dot.com” bubble, digital meant Photoshop and Illustrator. Add Microsoft Project and that was your typical “technology stack”.
After all, brand agencies come up with ideas and strategies but when they want an actual commercial they find a production company to do the scripting, shooting and editing. They do not keep actors, directors and cameramen on staff. The agency just hands them the script, more or less. In any case, you get the idea. If a client wants an interactive web site, with cool transitions and flashy animations, just hand it off to those up and coming “digital shops” with their snotty little propellerheads and geeks. As long as they meet their deadlines, more power to them. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Internet. Clients, finding out it was these little geeky startups under the Brooklyn Bridge that were creating all those cool, flashy sites, at a fraction of the overall budgets they were paying their big brand agencies by the way, they began to skip the middleman. Now those little “geeky” shops became the RG/A, the Huge, the Big SpaceShips of the world.
Simultaneously, with the rise of the banner ad, this fueled their tremendous growth even more as the banner ad has become ubiquitous in all Internet marketing. And then, last but not least, the real fuel being added to the fire…social networks! Back in the 2000s, News Corp, tried selling ads on MySpace the same way they did for their magazines. It didn’t work. Bad tech, bad attitudes and bad timing eventually did them in. But these were lessons not lost on the next generation of “digital” advertisers, Google, Instagram and, yes, Facebook, Myspace’s heir apparent and winner in the social market sweepstakes.
That brings me up to today. Recently, the almighty Facebook has shut down my ad accounts for both Facebook and Instagram, stating that I am not a legitimate advertiser. These are accounts I’ve had since Facebook’s inception when I was working at agencies trying to convince my directors this was the future of advertising. Some believed me, most didn’t, but here we are. Now Facebook, in all their daunting glory, now wields the soul power over who is an advertiser and who is not, at least, in Facebook land.
Fair enough, it is their platform, they built it, they own it. They have enough problems dealing with the Dunning & Kruger effect, extreme partisanship over the simplest issues and censorship. Hey, it is media afterall, and even during the brand agency error there were always Do’s and Don’ts, but although there were always rules as to how you can advertise no one ( with the possible exception of the Ad Council) could say who or could not be an advertiser!. Is Facebook really so over-blown and conceited with billions of dollars and billions of users that they have the audacity to tell me that I am NOT an advertiser. To be blunt, Facebook can kiss my astrological sign! How dare they!? How dare anyone?! Yes, in one short stroke, they have cut off a sizable and important source of revenue for me (And many thousands of others I’m sure) and a smaller less significant source of revenue for themselves. They obviously could care less about me or other small advertisers like me. I can only assume it’s because being the gargantua that they are they see themselves as simply too big to fail! They crush little guys like me like ants and just keep going, oblivious to any damage they may cause. But I suspect that soon, perhaps, sooner than they think, they will actually find themselves too big to SUCCEED! I certainly hope so. Remember, before Facebook, MySpace was the largest social network on the planet, however, briefly. When Facebook’s days are numbered I, little old me, a veteran of the ad wars, the tech wars and the internet wars, will dance on their grave. As someone somewhere one said, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely!”
Posted by the kid On November 15, 2020
On Wednesday, the US Justice Department proposed that Congress take up legislation to curb protections given to large digital technology companies by the Communications Decency Act. President Trump has been clashing with the digital technology industry because he believes the industry has a bias against free expression by conservatives.
The President was particularly frustrated by Twitter’s decision to put a warning on one of his tweets, one which appears to advocate police brutality.
To limit the ability of social media companies to control the content on their platforms, Trump is seeking to “remove or change” Section 230 of the 1996 law. It’s an element of the law that exempts platforms from responsibility for what their users post while allowing them to moderate the content of their sites as they wish.
“These reforms are targeted at platforms to make certain they are appropriately addressing illegal and exploitive content while continuing to preserve a vibrant, open and competitive internet,” said Attorney General William Barr.
Facebook policy chief Nick Clegg told reporters that Section 230 allowed Facebook to remove hate speech and that the proposed changes would “in the end, mean less speech of all kinds appearing online.”
General counsel of NetChoice Carl Szabo said that the proposal would create so many obstacles to removing content that the House of Representatives would not consider it.
Some observers fear that if the US alienates its big technology companies, it could lose its position as the world’s leader in the sector. Shortly after Trump’s threat, Thomas Jarzombek, the point person for Berlin’s startup economy, published the following tweet, “Hey @Twitter & @jack, this is an invitation to move to Germany! Here you are free to criticize the government as well as to fight fake news. We have a great startup and tech ecosystem, your company would be a perfect fit and I will open any doors for you! @realDonaldTrump”