Issue #417
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Hello!

I spent a lot of Saturday writing as I clocked up more work hours this week than any week since the pandemic began. I really enjoy writing (hence this newsletter!) but I prefer it spread out a bit more. Check out my weeknote, paying particular attention to my launch of eink.link if you have an e-reader with a web browser...
Kermit the frog typing quickly
Our two children go back to school next week, and there's a path out of lockdown for us in England. We'll see how that goes, as I don't really trust this government to do anything sensible for any stretch of time.

For your perusal this week, we have some podcasts and documentaries that made me sit up and take notice, as well as a collection of links on NFTs. What are the latter? Well, you'll have to read on...
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'The individual' is an idea like other ideas

Blue sky through dark clouds
I thought I'd share some things that have really opened my eyes recently.

The first is a two-part interview with Vinay Gupta from the Emerge podcast in 2019. I've followed Vinay's work ever since we tried to get Firecloud (a P2P publishing platforming using WebRTC) off the ground in 2013 when I was working at Mozilla. Ten years ahead of the curve, as always.

Working with Vinay absolutely blew my mind, and although we haven't met up in person for a few years, he's been changing the world in the meantime. He was the release manager for Ethereum, and he's currently CEO of Mattereum.

The difference with Vinay, though, is that he's enlightened. I don't mean that in a LinkedIn kind of way. I mean that in a studied-under-a-Hindu-guru kind of way. This underpins all of the humanitarian work he does, some of which you can see at myhopeforthe.world

The two episodes on the Emerge podcast are entitled Waking Up in the Monster Factory (Part 1 / Part 2). I guarantee they are worth your time.

The second thing I'd like to share is a documentary series by Adam Curtis that was released last month. Entitled Can't Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World it's available on BBC iPlayer and YouTube.

The late, great Dai Barnes implored me to watch Curtis' 2016 documentary HyperNormalisation. I'm only half way through the new documentary series, and it's having a similar effect as when I watched that. A feeling of waking up, and seeing the world as it really is. It's kind of counter-conspiracy theory.

The crucial thing for me, and my reason for sharing both of these, is a recognition that there's no-one coming to save us. But, unlike those people discussed in the 99% Invisible podcast episode The Doom Boom, it's up to us to figure out how to pull together collectively — instead of hunkering down and just making sure that our immediate family and friends are OK.

Quotation-as-title by Harold Rosenberg. Image by Antonino Visalli

Of all lies, art is the least untrue

Nyan cat
The world doesn't particularly need my opinions on NFTs ('non-fungible tokens') as there's plenty of opinions to go round in other newsletters, podcasts, and blog posts.

After doing a bunch of reading, though, I think that the main use case for NFTs will be ticket sales. That is to say, when there is a limited supply of something with intrinsic value, and both the original buyer and seller want to ensure authenticity.

The rest is speculation and gambling, as far as I'm concerned, with a side serving of ecological destruction. I'm also a bit concerned about the enforcement of copyright everywhere on the web it might lead to...

Twitter's Dorsey auctions first ever tweet as digital memorabilia — "The post, sent from Dorsey’s account in March of 2006, received offers on Friday that went as high as $88,888.88 within minutes of the Twitter co-founder tweeting a link to the listing on ‘Valuables by Cent’ - a tweets marketplace."

NFTs, explained — “Non-fungible” more or less means that it’s unique and can’t be replaced with something else. For example, a bitcoin is fungible — trade one for another bitcoin, and you’ll have exactly the same thing. A one-of-a-kind trading card, however, is non-fungible. If you traded it for a different card, you’d have something completely different. You gave up a Squirtle, and got a 1909 T206 Honus Wagner, which StadiumTalk calls “the Mona Lisa of baseball cards.” (I’ll take their word for it.)"

NFTs are a dangerous trap — "The more time and passion that creators devote to chasing the NFT, the more time they’ll spend trying to create the appearance of scarcity and hustling people to believe that the tokens will go up in value. They’ll become promoters of digital tokens more than they are creators. Because that’s the only reason that someone is likely to buy one–like a stock, they hope it will go up in value. Unlike some stocks, it doesn’t pay dividends or come with any other rights. And unlike actual works of art, NFTs aren’t usually aesthetically beautiful on their own, they simply represent something that is."

Cryptodamages: Monetary value estimates of the air pollution and human health impacts of cryptocurrency mining — "Results indicate that in 2018, each $1 of Bitcoin value created was responsible for $0.49 in health and climate damages in the US and $0.37 in China. The similar value in China relative to the US occurs despite the extremely large disparity between the value of a statistical life estimate for the US relative to that of China. Further, with each cryptocurrency, the rising electricity requirements to produce a single coin can lead to an almost inevitable cliff of negative net social benefits, absent perpetual price increases."

HERE IS THE ARTICLE YOU CAN SEND TO PEOPLE WHEN THEY SAY “BUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES WITH CRYPTOART WILL BE SOLVED SOON, RIGHT?” — "Much like the world of blue chip, some NFTs may be bought and sold simply as artworks, intended for personal collections and acquired for aesthetic, conceptual, or personal reasons. However, every single one is made from the outset to be liquidated- an asset first, artwork second. They are images attached to dollar figures, not the other way around."

Quotation-as-title by Gustave Flaubert. Image of Nyan Cat, a 2011 meme, which sold as an NFT for ~$600,000 recently.


Until next week!

Doug
Thought Shrapnel Weekly is published by Dr. Doug Belshaw. You can connect with him by replying to this email, or via Twitter, LinkedIn, and Mastodon.


Some say he's nifty. Others think he's kinda shifty. No-one thinks he's very thrifty.
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