Archive for December 10th, 2019

How Trolls Overran the Public Square

December 10, 2019

Prof Brad De Long in Proj Syndicate column:

Since the invention of writing, human innovation has transformed how we formulate new ideas, organize our societies, and communicate with one another. But in an age of rapid-fire social media and nonstop algorithm-generated outrage, technology is no longer helping to expand or enrich the public sphere.

….
We should have seen this coming. A generation ago, when the “net” was limited to universities and research institutes, there was an annual “September” phenomenon. Each year, new arrivals to the institution would be given an email account and/or user profile, whereupon they would rapidly find their online communities. They would begin to talk, and someone, inevitably, would get annoyed. For the next month, whatever informational or discursive use the net might have had would be sidelined by continuous vitriolic exchanges.

Then things would calm down. People would remember to put on their asbestos underwear before logging on; they learned not to take the newbies so seriously. Trolls would find themselves banned from the forums they loved to disrupt. And, in any case, most who experimented with the troll lifestyle realized that it has little to recommend it. For the next 11 months, the net would serve its purpose, significantly extending each user’s cultural, conversational, and intellectual range, and adding to the collective stock of human intelligence.

But as the Internet began to spread to each household and then to each smartphone, fears about the danger of an “eternal September” have been confirmed. There is more money to be made by stoking outrage than by providing sound information and encouraging the social-learning process that once taught net newbies to calm down. And yet, today’s Internet does offer valuable information, so much so that few of us could imagine doing without it. To access that information, we have tacitly agreed to allow the architects at Facebook, Twitter, Google (especially YouTube), and elsewhere to shape the public sphere with their outrage- and clickbait-generating algorithms.

Meanwhile, others have found that there is a great deal of money and power to be gained by shaping public opinion online. If you want to get your views out there, it is easier to piggyback on the outrage machine than to develop a comprehensive rational argument – especially when those views are self-serving and deleterious to the public good.

For her part, Newitz ends her recent commentary on a hopeful note. “Public life has been irrevocably changed by social media; now it’s time for something else,” she writes. “We need to stop handing off responsibility for maintaining public space to corporations and algorithms – and give it back to human beings. We may need to slow down, but we’ve created democracies out of chaos before. We can do it again.”

Such hope may be necessary for journalists these days. Unfortunately, a rational evaluation of our situation suggests that it is unjustified. The eternal September of our discontent has arrived.

How most of humanity’s new big things of future eventually turn into disasters…

The world‘s first blockchain-based digital collector coin created by the Bank of Lithuania..

December 10, 2019

Fascinating press release from the central bank:

The world‘s first blockchain-based digital collector coin created by the Bank of Lithuania is dedicated to the 16 February 1918 Act of Independence of Lithuania and its 20 signatories. The coin is expected to be issued in spring 2020. “This innovative coin will feature the signatories due to their significant role in the country’s history and contribution to the restoration of our independence. Quite a few of them could be called innovators of their time, as they created and brought progress to Lithuania,” said Marius Jurgilas, Member of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania.

According to him, realisation of this unique idea has provided (and will continue to provide) the Bank of Lithuania with invaluable experience and knowledge in the creation of virtual currencies. “It is especially relevant now since central banks tend to discuss these topics more openly and an outline of such currencies is slowly starting to emerge,” said Mr Jurgilas.

The digital coin is also expected to turn a qualitatively new page in the history of Lithuania’s numismatics and to engage the youth in coin collecting. Therefore, some elements of play will be included in its purchasing process as well. The Bank of Lithuania is planning to release 24,000 collector tokens created using the blockchain technology. Each token will feature one of the 20 signatories and collectors will have a chance to collect the entire set. The tokens will be divided into 6 categories by the signatories’ areas of activity, with 4,000 tokens allotted to each of them.

When purchasing the digital coin, buyers will get 6 randomly selected digital tokens and only upon collecting a token from each of the 6 categories they will be able to redeem a physical silver coin.

The tokens will be available for purchase and storage on the Bank of Lithuania e-shop. In honour of this prominent date, the physical silver coin will bear an unconventional denomination – €19.18 – while its size and form will resemble a credit card, depicting the Act of Independence and its signatories. “I attempted to do a modern take on the historic photograph of the Council of Lithuania that many remember from history books.

The digitised picture consists of more than 36,500 pixels – the approximate number of days that have passed since the Act of 16 February,” said Giedrius Paulauskis, designer of the digital collector coin. The digital collector coin is going to be yet another step in implementing the Bank of Lithuania’s strategic direction in the field of innovation and fintech, aimed at helping Lithuanian and international companies gain knowledge and carry out blockchain‑oriented research, thus adapting and testing blockchain-based services in the financial sector. 

There is a video as well at the end..

RIP Paul Volcker: Till there is macroeconomics, you will be remembered

December 10, 2019

My obituary to Paul Volcker. Rest in Peace Sir.

Volcker not just entered macroeconomics hall of fame but made a permanent place for himself. Former Fed chair Ben Bernanke paid tributes to Friedman on his 90th birthday saying: “I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.”

On Volcker’s death, taking a cue from Bernanke’s words, all the central bankers in the world — past and present — can give a joint statement: “We would like to say to Paul, regarding cause of inflation, you’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we will try our best not to do it again.”


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