Bitcoin, Nick Bostrom, Blockchains, History, Obesity

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

The Satoshi Affair

Andrew O'Hagan | London Review Of Books | 17th June 2016

Frustratingly incomplete, but still highly readable. O’Hagan shadows the confused Australian near-bankrupt hacker, Craig Wright, who claims to be Satoshi Nakomoto, inventor of Bitcoin. Canadian investors are supposedly bankrolling Wright, on the basis that he can generate patents for next-generation Bitcoin technologies. Wright seems very frightened of something — but what? At every turn one sense an elaborate confidence trick. But what is the trick? (35,000 words)

Children Playing With A Bomb

Tim Adams | Guardian | 12th June 2016

Conversation with Nick Bostrom, Oxford philosopher and “prophet of doom”. Artificial intelligence can and very possibly will take over the universe, pushing humans into second place, if they still have any place at all. Because humans always want more technology. They always think it will work to their benefit. “You must remember I am a transhumanist. I want my life extension pill now. If there were a pill that could improve my cognition by 10%, I would be willing to pay a lot for that” (3,700 words)

Smart And Dumb Contracts

Matt Levine | Bloomberg View | 17th June 2016

You need rules in financial markets, but you cannot live by rules alone. You also need common sense, and morality, and judicial oversight. If you live by rules alone the rules get so complicated that nobody can understand them and everybody misses the loopholes. This is already a problem in derivatives contracts. It is going to be an even bigger problem with blockchain technologies, which rely entirely on computer code. When the code gets hacked — and it will get hacked — you need recourse (2,700 words)

History And Hope

Neville Morley | Sphinx | 19th June 2016

We turn to Thucydides, and to other great historians, to learn how things happened in the past. The news is rarely encouraging: “Hope gets a bad press in Thucydides. It’s barely distinguishable from delusion”. But Thucydides is not saying that things had to happen that way. On the contrary, he is showing us that events have multiple causes, people have contradictory motives, chance occurrences can have dramatic effects. We can learn to do things differently. “The future is not preordained” (850 words)

Seeing Past Weight

Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu | Stat | 3rd June 2016

Doctors are prone to blame the symptoms of fat patients on their fatness; the prescription is to lose weight. “A patient’s weight is low-hanging fruit. Patients across the weight continuum develop a variety of diseases. Obesity does not make patients immune to conditions smaller patients develop and vice versa, and this fallacy can be fatal to patients. Weight-based stigma shouldn’t be allowed to stand in the way of doctors giving care and patients seeking it” (1,200 words)

Video of the day: What’s Next?

What to expect:

Venture capitalist Albert Wenger talks about the gains and losses from very rapid technological change (22’48”)

Thought for the day

Even the severest way of life can become a habit, and thus a pleasure
Friedrich Nietzsche

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