Distributed Autonomous Corporations

DAC, bitcoin, computation, distributed systems

Distributed Autonomous Corporations (DACs) are a generalization of the concept of a crypto-currency where the currency is backed by the services its miners perform rather than a real-world commodity like gold, oil, or, ahem, thin air. If we can barter for goods and services, why can’t we back currencies with goods or services? DACs may be simultaneously viewed as crypto-currencies and unmanned businesses. As businesses, they perform services intended to be valuable to their customers. Such services might include money transmission (Bitcoin), asset trading (BitShares), domain name services (DomainShares), or a thousand other business models sure to emerge as people realize that DACs are not mere “altcoins”.


Attempting to value BTC using a macro framework

BTC, bitcoin, value, macro, tail-option

Bitcoin is volatile. Very. That much is clear. But what is not so clear, and perhaps a key reason for this volatility, is just what the fundamental, or intrinsic value of BitCoins is when one strips away the pure euphoric momentum to the upside or downside. To answer that question, we go to Raoul Pal, head of the Global Macro Investor, and his November 1st recommendation to “Buy Bitcoins”(when BTC was $210 so nearly a 100% return in 1 week) which among other things attempts to “value BTC using a macro framework” or, in other words, the first supply-demand driven fair value assessment of BTC.


What makes us human? Doing pointless things for fun

fun, humanity, purpose, purposelessness, doing nothing, robotics, art

Playfulness is what makes us human. Doing pointless, purposeless things, just for fun. Doing things for the sheer devilment of it. Being silly for the sake of being silly. Larking around. Taking pleasure in activities that do not advantage us and have nothing to do with our survival. These are the highest signs of intelligence. It is when a creature, having met and surmounted all the practical needs that face him, decides to dance that we know we are in the presence of a human. It is when a creature, having successfully performed all necessary functions, starts to play the fool, just for the hell of it, that we know he is not a robot.


Disarming Corruptor - Matthew Plummer-Fernandez "In a time of prolific online espionage, crackdowns on file-sharing, and a…


Disarming Corruptor - Matthew Plummer-Fernandez

“In a time of prolific online espionage, crackdowns on file-sharing, and a growing concern for the 3D printing of illegal items and copyright protected artefacts, DC is a free software application that helps people to circumvent these issues. Inspired by encryption rotor machines such as the infamous Enigma Machine, the application runs an algorithm that is used to both corrupt STL files into a visually-illegible state by glitching and rotating the 3D mesh, and to allow a recipient to reverse the effect to restore it back to its original form. The file recipient would need both the application and the unique seven digit settings used by the sender, entering the incorrect settings would only damage the file further.”

“When patent trolls and law enforcement agencies find these files on sharing sites they will only see abstract contortions, but within the trusting community these files will still represent the objects they are looking for, purposely in need of repair. It could also be used to symbolically decommission files and throw away the keys, or to make something inoperative yet still recognisable so that other users would have to request a key to put it into use.”

An introduction to infrastructure fiction

Paul Raven, infrastructure fiction, design, futures, improving reality, ireal13

For artists, writers, designers and theorists and thinkers, however, infrastructure fiction is best described as a call for you to radically change the way you understand the role of technology in your lives, to look afresh at the relationships between the things you do and the systems that make it possible to do them. I’m not asking you to “think outside the box”, here. On the contrary, I want you to think exactly about the box. Infrastructure fiction isn’t about transcending constraints, it is about coming to terms with our constraints as a civilisation, about understanding their nature, and internalising the systemic limits that come from living in a sealed ecosystem with finite resources.


Does the Shoe Fit? Real versus Imagined Ecological Footprints

PLOS, ecology, ecological footprint, environment, climate change, metrics

Despite its relative youth (less than two decades), the ecological footprint (EF) is a commonly used term in environmental science, policy discussions, and popular discourse. The motivation behind the concept is sound—we must account for, and quantify, the impacts of humanity on Earth’s ecosystems if we are to manage the planet sustainably for the benefit of both human well-being and our natural heritage. The EF seeks to measure humanity’s use of renewable biological resources, which can then be compared to the planet’s capacity to regenerate these resources. The result of EF calculations that is quoted most widely is that humanity currently uses the equivalent of 1.5 Earths to support human needs. Therefore, we are already exceeding the planet’s carrying capacity in what amounts to “ecological overshoot”


Where is photography going? Where it always gone. It’s going along for the ride with popular culture. It’s the traditionalists…

“Where is photography going? Where it always gone. It’s going along for the ride with popular culture. It’s the traditionalists that feel a sense of loss but the sense of loss is from the constant evolution of tastes and styles. If you look at photo history you’ll see generational warfare at every junction. Resistance to smaller camera formats! Resistance to color film! Resistant to SLR cameras! Resistance to automation! And in the art you see Robert Frank as the foil to the arch perfectionism of Group 64. You see William Klein as the antidote to the preciousness of Elliott Porter. You see Guy Bourdin as the antithetical anti hero to Snowdon and Scuvallo. Each move forward was contentious and cathartic. Just as Josef Koudelka was the revolutionary to Walker Evans.”

The Visual Science Lab.: The graying of traditional photography and why everything is getting re-invented in a form we don’t understand.

China discovers that pollution makes it really hard to spy on people

quartz, china, pollution, imaging, surveillance, fog, smog, flummoxed

Gasping for oxygen in the noxious air that so often enshrouds northern China is never pleasant. What really twists the knife is that the state media often refer to it simply as “fog,” not pollution, as though it came wafting in on a zephyr, and wasn’t belched by a smokestack in Hebei. Well here’s some vindication for anyone who ever found this annoying. The Chinese government has realized that whatever it is clogging the atmosphere, it’s rendering government surveillance cameras ineffective (paywall), reports the South China Morning Post. Since that compromises national security, the government has hired two teams of scientists to come up with a fix, says the newspaper. But one reason they’re flummoxed by their assignment is that the haze is not simply “fog,” says Yang Aiping, a digital imaging expert and leader of one of the teams.


Human Resolution

digital, material, physical substrate, energy, internet, data, materiality, post-invisibility

Relating a Google search return to an equivalent expenditure of fossil fuels, or the fluctuation of pixels across a screen with the exploited labour of rural migrant workers in Shenzen, or topsoil loss in Inner Mongolia, is as remote and unattainable for the majority of users as is an understanding of the technical functionality of the devices themselves


Rise of the distorporation

The Economicst, economics, corporatism, distortion, capital, capitalism

The shift to the distorporation comes at the expense of the “C” corporation, the formal name for the familiar limited-liability joint-stock structure that emerged a century ago (see chart 1). The newer structures still protect investors from liability. But the requirement for partnerships to pass through their money blocks the accumulation of earnings. In C corporations retained earnings can be used to fund investment and growth, assuring persistence. Without them, pass-through businesses have to be far more intertwined with investors. Staying alive means routinely inhaling capital, as well as exhaling.


NSA’s Activities: Valid Foreign Intelligence Targets Are the Focus October 31, 2013 Recent press articles on NSA’s collection…


NSA’s Activities:

Valid Foreign Intelligence Targets Are the Focus

October 31, 2013

Recent press articles on NSA’s collection operations conducted under Executive Order 12333 have misstated facts, mischaracterized NSA’s activities, and drawn erroneous inferences about those operations.  NSA conducts all of its activities in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies – and assertions to the contrary do a grave disservice to the nation, its allies and partners, and the men and women who make up the National Security Agency.

All NSA intelligence activities start with a validated foreign intelligence requirement, initiated by one or more Executive Branch intelligence consumers, and are run through a process managed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.  When those requirements are received by NSA, analysts look at the Information Need and determine the best way to satisfy it.  That process involves identifying the foreign entities that have the information, researching how they communicate, and determining how best to access those communications in order to get the foreign intelligence information.  The analysts identify selectors – e-mail addresses and phone numbers are examples – that help isolate the communications of the foreign entity and task those to collection systems.  In those cases where there are not specific selectors available, the analysts will use metadata, similar to the address on the outside of an envelope, to attempt to develop selectors for their targets.  Once they have them, they task the selectors to the collection systems in order to get access to the content, similar to the letter inside the envelope. 

The collection systems target communications links that contain the selectors, or are to and from areas likely to contain the selectors, of foreign intelligence interest.  Seventy years ago, the communications links were shortwave radio transmissions between two points on the globe.  Today’s communications flow over technologies like satellite links, microwave towers, and fiber optic cables.   Terrorists, weapons proliferators, and other valid foreign intelligence targets make use of commercial infrastructure and services.   When a validated foreign intelligence target uses one of those means to send or receive their communications, we work to find, collect, and report on the communication.   Our focus is on targeting the communications of those targets, not on collecting and exploiting a class of communications or services that would sweep up communications that are not of bona fide foreign intelligence interest to us.   

What NSA does is collect the communications of targets of foreign intelligence value, irrespective of the provider that carries them.  U.S. service provider communications make use of the same information super highways as a variety of other commercial service providers.  NSA must understand and take that into account in order to eliminate information that is not related to foreign intelligence.

NSA works with a number of partners and allies in meeting its foreign-intelligence mission goals, and in every case those operations comply with U.S. law and with the applicable laws under which those partners and allies operate.  A key part of the protections that are provided to both U.S. persons and citizens of other countries is the requirement that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and the Attorney General-approved minimization procedures.  These limitations protect the privacy of all people and, in particular, to any incidentally acquired communications of U.S. persons.  The protections are applied when selectors are tasked to the collection system; when the collection itself occurs; when the collected data are being processed, evaluated, analyzed, and put into a database; and when any reporting of the foreign intelligence is being done.   In addition, NSA is very motivated and actively works to remove as much extraneous data as early in the process as possible – to include data of innocent foreign citizens.

NSA Public Affairs Office

EU citizens can support efforts to establish environmental destruction as a crime. When at least 1 million EU citizens from 7…

EU citizens can support efforts to establish environmental destruction as a crime. When at least 1 million EU citizens from 7 different countries support it, the law will be discussed at EU level. It was on the UN table back in 96, but intense lobbying by the US, UK, France and Holland stopped it at the last moment. Here’s another chance at the EU…


Short Film: Six Apartments

film, decay, six apartments, Reynold Reynolds, 2011

Life is in decay in Reynold Reynolds‘ beautifully shot short film Six Apartments. Six strangers, unaware of each other’s existence, live their lives in isolation, passing their time on Earth listening to the radio, watching TV, scrubbing their feet, feeding their pet snake, etc. All the while they do not notice that their world is slowly decomposing all around them. Depending on your stomach for that kind of thing, some of the decay can be quite grotesque. But, the stunning camera moves and shot compositions are completely wonderful to behold.


How to lose $172,222 a second for 45 minutes

sotware, devops, bug, HFT, algotrading, losses, knoght capital, fragility

This is probably the most painful bug report I’ve ever read, describing in glorious technicolor the steps leading to Knight Capital’s $465m trading loss due to a software bug that struck late last year, effectively bankrupting the company. The tale has all the hallmarks of technical debt in a huge, unmaintained, bitrotten codebase


List of common misconceptions

wikipedia, misconceptions, common knowledge, error, assumptions

This list pertains to current, widely held, erroneous ideas and beliefs about notable topics which have been reported by reliable sources. Each has been discussed in published literature, as has its topic area and the facts concerning it. Note that the statements which follow are corrections based on known facts; the misconceptions themselves are referred to rather than stated.


ClubOrlov: The Sixth Stage of Collapse

orlov, collapse, collapsonomics, economics, environment, governance

I admit it: in my last book, The Five Stages of Collapse, I viewed collapse through rose-colored glasses. But I feel that I should be forgiven for this; it is human nature to try to be optimistic no matter what. Also, as an engineer, I am always looking for solutions to problems. And so I almost subconsciously crafted a scenario where industrial civilization fades away quickly enough to save what’s left of the natural realm, allowing some remnant of humanity to make a fresh start.


Book of Lamentations

dystopia, fuction, psychiatry, DSM, DSM-5, Borges, review, literature

Just as Borges’s system groups animals by seemingly aleatory characteristics entirely divorced from their actual biological attributes, DSM-5 arranges its various strains of madness solely in terms of the behaviors exhibited. This is a recurring theme in the novel, while any consideration of the mind itself is entirely absent. In its place we’re given diagnoses such as “frotteurism,” “oppositional defiant disorder,” and “caffeine intoxication disorder.” That said, these classifications aren’t arranged at random; rather, they follow a stately progression comparable to that of Dante’s Divine Comedy, rising from the infernal pit of the body and its weaknesses (intellectual disabilities, motor tics) through our purgatorial interactions with the outside world (tobacco use, erectile dysfunction, kleptomania) and finally arriving in the limpid-blue heavens of our libidinal selves (delirium, personality disorders, sexual fetishism). It’s unusual, and at times frustrating in its postmodern knowingness, but what is being told is first and foremost a story.