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Signal’s CEO on ‘web3’

My first response to most new technological things is usually “cool, I wonder how I/we could use that?” With so-called ‘web3’, though, I’ve kind of thought it was bullshit.

This post by Moxie Marlinspike, CEO of Signal, goes a step forward and includes opinions by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.

I’m not sure what I think about the bit quoted below about not distributing infrastructure? In Marxist terms, it seems like not distributing or providing ownership of the means of production?

If we do want to change our relationship to technology, I think we’d have to do it intentionally. My basic thoughts are roughly:

  1. We should accept the premise that people will not run their own servers by designing systems that can distribute trust without having to distribute infrastructure. This means architecture that anticipates and accepts the inevitable outcome of relatively centralized client/server relationships, but uses cryptography (rather than infrastructure) to distribute trust. One of the surprising things to me about web3, despite being built on “crypto,” is how little cryptography seems to be involved!
  2. We should try to reduce the burden of building software. At this point, software projects require an enormous amount of human effort. Even relatively simple apps require a group of people to sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day, every day, forever. This wasn’t always the case, and there was a time when 50 people working on a software project wasn’t considered a “small team.” As long as software requires such concerted energy and so much highly specialized human focus, I think it will have the tendency to serve the interests of the people sitting in that room every day rather than what we may consider our broader goals. I think changing our relationship to technology will probably require making software easier to create, but in my lifetime I’ve seen the opposite come to pass. Unfortunately, I think distributed systems have a tendency to exacerbate this trend by making things more complicated and more difficult, not less complicated and less difficult.

Source: Moxie Marlinspike >> Blog >> My first impressions of web3


Update: Moxie Marlinspike has announced he’s stepping down as Signal CEO.

Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

Someone I once knew well used to cite Gramsci’s famous quotation: “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” I’m having to channel that as I look forward to 2022.

Here’s the well-informed writer Charlie Stross on the ways he sees things panning out.

Climate: we’re boned. Quite possibly the Antarctic ice shelves will be destablized decades ahead of schedule, leading to gradual but inexorable sea levels rising around the world. This may paradoxically trigger an economic boom in construction—both of coastal defenses and of new inland waterways and ports. But the dismal prospect is that we may begin experiencing so many heat emergencies that we destabilize agriculture. The C3 photosynthesis pathway doesn’t work at temperatures over 40 degrees celsius. The C4 pathway is a bit more robust, but not as many crops make use of it. Genetic engineering of hardy, thermotolerant cultivars may buy us some time, but it’s not going to help if events like the recent Colorado wildfires become common.

Politics: we’re boned there, too. Frightened people are cautious people, and they don’t like taking in refugees. We currently see a wave of extreme right-wing demagogues in power in various nations, and increasingly harsh immigration laws all round. I can’t help thinking that this is the ruling kleptocracy battening down the hatches and preparing to fend off the inevitable mass migrations they expect when changing sea levels inundate low-lying coastal nations like Bangladesh. The klept built their wealth on iron and coal, then oil: they invested in real estate, inflated asset bubble after asset bubble, drove real estate prices and job security out of reach of anyone aged under 50, and now they’d like to lock in their status by freezing social mobility. The result is a grim dystopia for the young—and by “young” I mean anyone who isn’t aged, or born with a trust fund—and denial of the changing climate is a touchstone. The propaganda of the Koch network and the Mercer soft money has corrupted political discourse in the US, and increasingly the west in general. Australia and the UK have their own turbulent billionaires manipulating the political process.

Source: Oh, 2022! | Charlie’s Diary

Laptops aren’t what they used to be

This guy went back to using a Lenovo ThinkPad T430 and explains why in this post. Over Christmas, I replaced some of the cosmetic parts of my X220, which is also from 2012.

It’s amazing how usable it still is, and I actively prefer the keyboard over the more modern ones.

I’ve been using this setup for over a month now, and it has been surprisingly adequate. Yes, opening Java projects in IntelliJ will make things slow, and to record my desktop with OBS and acceptable performance, I had to drop my screen resolution to 720p. I can’t expect everything to work super well on this machine, but for a computer that’s released almost 10 years ago, it’s still holding up well.

I’d like to thank Intel here for making this possible. The CPU innovation stagnation between 2012-2017 has resulted in 4 cores still being an acceptable low-end CPU in early 2022. Without this, my laptop would likely be obsolete by now.

Source: Why I went back to using a ThinkPad from 2012