With the recent talk of reddit being cannibalized by bitcoin technology, I thought it a good time to post something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Could a completely decentralized startup one day rival the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon?
Within the bitcoin world there’s a common understanding that the most valuable thing about bitcoin is not the monetary currency but the underlying “blockchain” technology that the bitcoin currency runs on. For those unfamiliar, you can check out three heavily-funded ventures creating infrastructure that would enable anyone to program applications on the blockchain that go way beyond monetary currencies: Ethereum,Swarm and Blockstream.
One such application is what’s known as a “Distributed Autonomous Organization,” which is an organization like a corporation, government or NGO, but which has no central leadership and uses internet technologies to organize and function. Examples of DAOs that you are familiar with include open-source software systems like Linux; terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda; communities like Anonymous; and …
Prior to the mid-19th century, those who could not pay their debts were routinely tossed into prison. Actually, you can still go to debtor’s prison in Germany, Greece, China and Dubai. In the United States, two of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence (James Wilson and Robert Morris) were incarcerated for their unpaid debts. In theory, the U.S. abolished such practices in the 1830s. But six states still allow you to be arrested and detained indefinitely until you “work it out” with your creditors.
And while we humans seem to have a visceral negative reaction to welshers, our disdain for bad faith lenders goes deeper. Condemnation of usury dates back to the Vedic texts in ancient India, and is condemned as well in all the other major religious texts in the world. Islamic law (Sharia) prohibits the charging of interest at all, and considers the practice to be one of the seven heinous sins, right up there with murder and “unlawfully taking an orphan’s …
- Startups add an average of 3 million jobs in their first year, while older companies lose 1 million jobs annually. (ref)
- Without startups, job growth in the US would be negative 1.2 percent. (ref)
- Angel investments created 370,000 U.S. jobs in 2010, nearly half of the private sector jobs created that year. (ref)
- 265,400 individuals provided $20.1B in angel investment capital to a total of 61,900 entrepreneurial ventures in 2010. (ref)
- In contrast, the private equity industry invested $180B in 2010. (ref)
- Historically, angels invest $50B per year into 50,000 companies, representing 70% of capital for new ventures; 11 times more than the amount provided by Venture Capitalists. (ref)
- The long-term historical return of the U.S. Angel market is 27% annually, three times higher than the public stock market. (ref)
- Warren Buffett’s historical return is 24% annually. (ref)
- Venture Capital historical returns are around 20%, but over the
To get the theory of relativity Einstein held the speed of light constant and let time and space vary.
These days cosmologists are holding the infinity of the universe as constant and letting its density and expansion/contraction rate vary.
In some sense quantum mechanics is about holding the observer constant and letting the physical interpretation vary (particle or wave; position or momentum; exist or not).
What would we get if we held consciousness constant and let the universe vary?…
There’s an old saying in computer science circles that when we have no idea how to make a piece of software do something smart we call it “Artificial Intelligence” but once it’s solved we look back with 20-20 hindsight and say it was “Software Engineering”. A computer becoming the world chess champion is the quintessential example of this. Once considered a holy grail of AI, by the time Deep Blue actually dethroned Kasparov, the computing world yawned, “Oh it was just brute force computing power, nothing truly intelligent is really happening”.
Beating the world champions at Jeopardy was slightly more interesting because we acknowledge the vast range of knowledge and language understanding involved. But ultimately, since Jeopardy is just a game, we are left with the feeling, “so what?” How does this affect my life one way or another? Enter, Siri, the voice recognition system integrated into the new iPhone 4S.
When I heard about the feature and saw what it claimed to do, …
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)
“Be the change you want to see in this world” (Gandhi)
There is an idea virus within American culture that has the power to destroy. The idea is that technology and innovation are fundamentally good. Whether you consider yourself a technologist, an entrepreneur or a scientist (all labels I use to identify myself at times) I’d like to propose an alternative to to this idea and an inoculation against the virus.
Observation #1: Innovation amplifies whatever values and beliefs are held by the innovator.
For instance, if I value my time, I might invent the first clock, or start a business to create time-management products, or devote my life to unlocking deep mysteries of the physics of time. And if I believe clean drinking water is a fundamental human right, I might invent a new method of water purification, or …
Based on an informal assessment and polling I’ve done recently, here’s what we fear:
- LOSING ONESELF
- Death / Pain / Insignificance
- BEING WRONG
- Self-Exploration / Failure / Change
- Being Found Out / Self-Expression / Lying
- LOSING ONESELF
- Power / Anticipation / Fear-Itself
- Intimacy / Just Doing It / (Lack of) Freedom
- THE UNCONTROLLABLE
- Disaster / Crisis / Unknown-Unknowns
- Being Unworthy / Unmet Expectation / Meaninglessness
- Unfairness / Inequality / Injustice
- Doing it Wrong / Shame / Guilt
Each of us has a unique profile of what fear is depending on how we related to various value dimensions (intrinsic, extrinsic and systemic). For me the scariest are: (1) Unknown-Unknowns (2) Power (3) Being Wrong (4) Self-Expression (5) Injustice
How about you?…
In some measure or other, progress is always a transcendence of what is obvious. (Alfred North Whitehead, Process & Reality)
Science tells us that there are Four Fundamental Forces: Electromagnetic, Strong Nuclear, Weak Nuclear, and Gravity. The Reality that Science helps us perceive consists of Time, Space, Matter and Energy. If we accept TSME as the basis for Reality, then we can do Science. Without these things as Fundamentals, the activity of Science makes no sense. You are doing something, metaphysics or philosophy perhaps, but not Science.
What if we played a game though and I asked you to come up with an alternate cosmology, a way to make sense of the world around you that is completely personal, which you don’t have to justify to anyone, but it makes total and complete sense to you. You can speak in this private language to yourself, it feels right, and when you are perceiving the world through this lens it’s all very clear. Before you identified …
Are you someone who has been given (and accepted) responsibility for someone else’s well-being? Maybe you are an elected official? A board member? A parent? A friend? If so, you may resonate with the following realization I just had about my own successes and failures in the role of Representative.
I used to believe that what a Representative does is to act and react as if they were the one being represented. I felt like my job was to get inside their head, and channel them, sort of like a medium or a conduit. The problem with this though is it always ends badly. Why? Because it’s an impossible job.
Nobody can speak for you, as if they were you. Sure, if you know one another really, really well, then at times it can seem as though they read your mind, know what’s in your heart. But the times I have been most frustrated in any relationship is when the other person believes and acts …
Recently I learned from two separate people how the Obama campaign won the 2008 presidential election and it’s fascinating. Basically everyone who was a part of it learned the “campaign narrative” structure and delivered their personal message to spread the gospel:
- The Story of Me: why I’ve personally been inspired by this campaign
- The Story of We: why we (me speaking and you listening) are united and inspired by this campaign
- The Story of Now: why it’s urgent that you take action now; the train is leaving and you can jump aboard or be left behind
If you think about it, this is a very powerful narrative for creating grass-roots action of any sort. Having just spent the last week watching many dozens of TED talks (and having watched hundreds of them over the past few years), I’ve been thinking about the fact that the great ones all follow a shared structure, which I will share with you now:
- The Story of
I’m practicing being present all the time. It’s really difficult for people like me who are analytically-inclined. I’m reminded of my improv teacher in college who told us at the beginning of the class: “This class is really hard for Stanford students because it requires turning off your judgment and simply going with the flow, and by virtue of you being here, I know that does not come naturally to you.” At the same time, being present is the easiest thing in the world to do. You were born with this natural ability, and everything else about you has been added on since.…
A couple of weeks ago Kevin and I went around on the topic of whether or not science is “broken”. We came to the point of agreeing that we have different basic assumptions of what constitutes “utility”. And because of this, while we could agree that each of our arguments made sense logically, we ultimately end up with opposite conclusions. After all, for something to be broken it means that it once served a purpose that it no longer is able to serve due to mechanical/structural failure. And to have a purpose means that it has value (i.e. utility) to someone.
So whether science is broken or still works depends your definition of utility. Kevin and I agreed on a measurement for scientific utility, based on (a) how well it explains observed phenomena, (b) how well it predicts new phenomena, and (c) how directly it leads to creation of technologies that improve human lives. We can call it “explanatory power” or EP for short. …