The Third Web

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The 21 Inc Bitcoin Computer is an engine for the next phase of the Internet.

Yahoo Finance explains:

Most people on Wall Street, as well as regular, everyday investors (and Yahoo Finance readers like you) still don’t quite understand what bitcoin is, or why it matters. Many think it’s a scam or some kind of illegal tool for hackers. (The negative publicity around stories like the Silk Road trial didn’t help.) Srinivasan’s argument is: You don’t need to know what it is or how it works for it to be important to your digital life. He explains it this way to a layperson: “I ask people, ‘Do you use Linux?’ They’ll probably say no. But if you’re using Google.com, or Facebook.com, or Yahoo.com, you actually are using Linux, even if you don’t know it. So Linux is there, everywhere, it’s just behind the scenes, and it just sounds very technical because it solves problems for developers. And I think it’s going to be the same thing with bitcoin.”

Srinivasan frames bitcoin as the next major “system resource” in computing, something that will be a key component in every computer, just like a hard drive, RAM, and bandwidth. Bitcoin, he says, can be the resource that computers trade with other computers (without you having to worry about it), creating a “machine economy.” Once a computer can send a small amount of money as part of its operating system, “it can effectively rent or sell resources to other computers,” Srinivasan says. That was the idea behind the bitcoin computer: “If you had 500 of these things, what could they do together?”

Quotable (#172)

Is technology now de-globalizing? The argument (at Stratfor):

Opportunities for producing and assembling products and their components have spread worldwide, making it is easier for countries to climb the production value ladder. States at the bottom, extracting raw materials, can gradually move up, first making low-value components and then progressing to higher-value ones or basic assembly. But just as technology spurred globalization and the shifts in international trade that followed, so, too, will it revolutionize how countries again do business with one another. Compounded by the economic and demographic changes taking place today, automation, advanced robotics and software-driven technologies are ushering in a new era — one of shorter supply chains that will provide fewer opportunities for the developing world. Regions once labeled “emerging economies” may instead stagnate, and the divide between the haves and have-nots within and among nations could widen further. …

Twitter cuts (#107)

Concluding paragraph from the embedded link:

The big picture of content monetization on the internet is bright. Not only will pleasurable content like puppy pics be profitable, but educational videos, scientific research, and product designs for 3D printers will all be profitable. The way the world works will change — bitcoin micropayments on the internet enables the birth of the information economy, a social improvement comparable to, but greater than, the transition to the industrial age. The full potential is incomprehensibly large and positive.

It plays down the looming religious war aspect, but it gets the scale right.

Micropayments Marketplace

Nelson’s vision incremented into actuality by another step thanks to 21.co. It’s focused on the core constituency at the moment, situated in the intersection of coders with 21 Bitcoin Computers, but it looks like a significant beta version of something much bigger.

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Marketplaces and currencies tend to go well together. Paypal famously got to scale by becoming the currency of choice for eBay buyers and sellers. The US dollar grew to its current international predominance in part on the back of the large, integrated US market. And it thus stands to reason that a digital currency like Bitcoin might be well suited for a digital marketplace based on Bitcoin. […] But the exact nature of the products being sold in such a marketplace is important. Unlike a traditional physical market localized to a nation state, the digital currency community is dispersed around the world. Moreover, most users hold relatively small balances, especially relative to their reserves of fiat currency. Finally, the community has a disproportionate share of engineers and computer scientists relative to the general world population. […] Taking these constraints into account, we’ve built what we think of as the first micropayments marketplace: a marketplace that allows buyers and sellers to trade in digital goods using micropayments, initially specifically focused on APIs for developer use.

(Forward links included at the source.)

Ping21 latches it to the Internet of Things (brief commentary at CoinDesk). Plus, more bitcoin market innovation.

Internet Fragmentation

Technical, political, and commercial trends to Cyberspace disintegration are thematized by the WEF. It’s unmistakably an important topic. The report explains:

The purpose of this document is to contribute to the emergence of a common baseline understanding of Internet fragmentation. It maps the landscape of some of the key trends and practices that have been variously described as constituting Internet fragmentation and highlights 28 examples. A distinction is made between cases of technical, governmental and commercial fragmentation. The technical cases generally can be said to involve fragmentation “of” the Internet, or its underlying physical and logical infrastructures. The governmental and commercial cases often more directly involve fragmentation “on” the Internet, or the transactions and cyberspace it conveys, although they also can involve the infrastructure as well. With the examples cited placed in these three conjoined baskets, we can get a holistic overview of their nature and scope and more readily engage in the sort of dialogue and cooperation that is needed.

By addressing a constituency involved in the Internet’s “distributed collective management” it preserves (at least superficial) ideological neutrality.

Twelve “kinds of fragmentation” are enumerated:

1. Network Address Translation
2. IPv4 and IPv6 incompatibility and the dual-stack requirement
3. Routing corruption
4. Firewall protections
5. Virtual private network isolation and blocking
6. TOR “onion space” and the “dark web”
7. Internationalized Domain Name technical errors
8. Blocking of new gTLDs
9. Private name servers and the split-horizon DNS
10. Segmented Wi-Fi services in hotels, restaurants, etc.
11. Possibility of significant alternate DNS roots
12. Certificate authorities producing false certificates

The Internet has been implicitly conceived as the new Oecumene since its emergence. The globalist ideal has been almost wholly subsumed into it. Yet tidal trends — “technical, governmental and commercial” — are testing the assumptions underlying that conception, and converting them into objects of explicit attention. If the secularized Universal now finds its most compelling incarnation in the Idea of the Internet, the WEA report is bound to anticipate a wide swathe of 21st century discussions.

Quotable (#47)

An already-familiar remark by Graham Harman, which merits (still) more discussion than it has yet received (embedded, with citation details, here):

The brand is not merely a degenerate practice of brainwashing consumerism, but a universally recognized method of conveying information while cutting through information clutter. Coining specific names for philosophical positions helps orient the intellectual public on the various available options while also encouraging untested permutations. If the decision were mine alone, not only would the name ‘speculative realism’ be retained, but a logo would be designed for projection on PowerPoint screens, accompanied by a few signature bars of smoky dubstep music. It is true that such practices would invite snide commentary about ‘philosophy reduced to marketing gimmicks’. But it would hardly matter, since attention would thereby be drawn to the works of speculative realism, and its reputation would stand or fall based on the inherent quality of these works, of which I am confident.

It is with real regret that I am compelled to acknowledge the radical defectiveness of the product under promotion here, because this defense of philosophy as a cultural enterprise, and experiment, advanced without deference to regnant credentialing authorities, is audacious, and admirable. Branding is iconically modern because it disconnects power from authority, and both of these terms are (roughly equally) susceptible to responses based upon ressentiment, glib radicalism, and empty gestures of opposition. If Harman has opened this problem, as an explicit topic of attention, he has achieved something important, and reactions of revulsion by the hygienists of institutional respectability are indeed ‘snide’.

ADDED: Wielding the Evil Eye is difficult, so belated apologies to those fried in the rays of doom.