FinTech, Bitcoin, Dogs, Alex Pentland, Powerpoint, Jesus


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

Where Tech Is Going To Take Finance

Matt Levine & Tyler Cowen | Bloomberg | 31st October 2017

Conversation about prospects for social and technological change in finance over the next twenty years. One area ripe for innovation is that of identity — who validates who you are, and how they do so. “The idea that financial intermediaries should be the keepers of identity is pretty uncomfortable, but then, the idea of Facebook as keeper of identity seems like it would be uncomfortable, and Facebook has taken over a lot of the work of verifying identity, at least online” (1,822 words)

I Forgot My Pin

Mark Frauenfelder | Wired | 29th October 2017

Absolutely enthralling, so long as the slightly geeky premise doesn’t put you off. The author forgets the code needed to unlock his Bitcoin account — which, thanks to a tenfold appreciation of Bitcoin, suddenly contains a very large amount of money. The author is also a technology blogger, so he had taken expert advice when setting up the account to ensuring that nobody without the code could get into it. What to do? Consultations follow with a dark-net hacker, a psychiatrist, and a London teenager (6,200 words)

Francis Albert Crosbie

Lynn Crosbie | 22nd October 2017

An obituary for a dog. A very good obituary. “In the time of his dying, Francis became inexpressibly dear. I carried him everywhere and bathed him; he was blind and still in love with the sun I would hold him up to and watch him as he took it into his eyes, like a little god, taking milk. I lost him in bits, and so I could never see the whole picture. His mammoth dignity and strength forbade me from pitying him. He was the same, I reasoned. He just needs more help” (1,600 words)

The Human Strategy

Alex Pentland | Edge | 30th October 2017

We used to think that better understanding of the human brain would drive the science of artificial intelligence. The reverse seems more the case. Advances in AI produce new insights and theories about how humans think. What if we compare an AI, not with a single brain, but with an entire population of humans? Can society learn in the way that a neural network learns? “Think Skynet. But how would you make Skynet something that’s really about the human fabric?” (4,500 words)

The Origins Of Powerpoint

David Brock | IEEE Spectrum | 31st October 2017

Microsoft “boasts of 1.2 billion copies of PowerPoint at large — one copy for every seven people on earth”. PowerPoint is “so ingrained in modern life that the notion of it having a history at all may seem odd”. But its life as a commercial product began 30 years ago, in 1987, when a start-up called Forethought, developed Powerpoint as presentation software for the Apple Macintosh. Microsoft bought Forethought for $14m, and the rest is bullet-points (3,100 words)

The Sermon On The Mount

Colin McGinn | 31st October 2017

“How good was Jesus as a moralist? There are two sides to the question: what he said and what he didn’t say. He said nothing about issues of the utmost moral importance, still less say what needs to be said about these issues. He never says that slavery is an abomination or that capital punishment is wrong or that a man should not beat his wife or that abusing animals is wrong or that racism is bad or that homosexuality is not a sin or that children should not be flogged” (1,200 words)

Video of the day Freeway Dance Scene

What to expect:

Mandy Moore, choreographer for La La Land, explains how the opening scene was constructed (11’50”)

Thought for the day

Every detail added to a claim makes it less probable
Chris Hallquist

Podcast of the day The Marketing Of OxyContin | New Yorker

Patrick Radden Keefe explains how the marketing of OxyContin may have encouraged Ameria’s opioid crisis
(20'21")

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