Crypto-Comedy

Bitcoin had a good 2015, at least according to investor estimations. Already, half-way through January, the all-consuming chaos of 2016 has rolled over it.

The Bitcoin block-size spat that rumbled inconclusively throughout the previous year has escalated into a dramatic public row, with core developer Mike Hearn’s noisy exit. His text is an instant classic for the historical record, regardless of how persuasive its argument is found. The discussion at Reddit provides some sense of the controversy.

Hearn is writing Bitcoin off as a “failed experiment” — which seems histrionic, despite the many points of interest he raises. The deep tension between its security principles and its (near-term) growth prospects is a matter of evident seriousness. Taking the monkey business out of money innovation won’t be as easy as some of the crypto-currency’s more optimistic proponents had anticipated. Something of extreme historical radicality is occurring, and it’s going to be messy.

With much of the world going under in 2016, there’s likely to be a scramble for the escape capsule — and that seems to be on fire.

ADDED: Bitcoin obituaries through the ages.

Event Horizon

If this isn’t the greatest short article on financial economics that you’ve ever read, you can get a full refund from me. (UF is probably going to have it tattooed on its abdomen.)

A sample, just to suck you in:

I always knew that ZIRP was bad, but I just thought it would be normal, run-of-the-mill bad. You know, where most normal people get screwed for a long time, and then “suddenly” everything comes unglued and the financial system implodes, followed by a government intervention while the usual suspects (free markets and capitalism) get hung from telephone poles. […] …and then everything would mean revert and overshoot. In this case, interest rates north of 15% (a la 1980), massive debt default, another economic depression, followed by a grand new government intervention, and the blame would be placed squarely at the feet of runaway free markets and capitalism. […] In other words, I have long thought we have been existing at a cyclical extreme on the spectrum of financial repression, which would eventually become untenable and then we’d swing up to the other extreme (of financial repression). […] However lately I have been hearing and reading things that put this scenario, this comfortable (in it’s familiarity) expectation of central bankster boots stomping on my face forever, into doubt. It might end up being a lot worse than that. …

(Plot spoiler — division by zero plays a central role.)

(Via.)

Anthropocene

‘The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene’ — a multi-authored paper in, Science — proposes a geological discontinuity, dated recently. Abstract:

Human activity is leaving a pervasive and persistent signature on Earth. Vigorous debate continues about whether this warrants recognition as a new geologic time unit known as the Anthropocene. We review anthropogenic markers of functional changes in the Earth system through the stratigraphic record. The appearance of manufactured materials in sediments, including aluminum, plastics, and concrete, coincides with global spikes in fallout radionuclides and particulates from fossil fuel combustion. Carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles have been substantially modified over the past century. Rates of sea-level rise and the extent of human perturbation of the climate system exceed Late Holocene changes. Biotic changes include species invasions worldwide and accelerating rates of extinction. These combined signals render the Anthropocene stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene and earlier epochs.

Jason Koebler’s packaging of the findings at Motherboard isn’t bad (although predictably over-emotional).

anthropocene00

It’s on.

Outer Edges

Exploring Dynamic Geography at The New Centre for Research & Practice. The main focus will be the work of Patri Friedman — including some seasteading (theory only), but DG is much bigger than that. Scott Alexander’s ‘Archipelago’ essay serves as a valuable introduction, at the level of political philosophy.

(Check out the Spring 2016 NCR&P schedule for additional courses. Much enticement to be found there.)