Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain


Regular blog post on Tuesday again this week, due to another round of shilling for friends. In my defense, I try to only befriend cool talented people.

Anyway, you may remember David Gerard, with whom I cut the first of the podcast series promotiong Neoreaction a Basilisk. He was my beta reader on the book, and a longtime Internet friend and coconspirator. Among the many things David does is help run RationalWiki, where he righteously and snarkily skewers all sorts of bullshit artists. And one of the more interesting things I'd seen him skewer was Bitcoin. So a while back I suggested to him that he should write a short book explaining why Bitcoin was not, in fact, the money of the future. I was imagining something 30k tops that just laid out the case for why Bitcoin is bullshit. Instead he wrote a full-length book that releases today: Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain.

Instead he went off and wrote a beautifully thorough overview of Bitcoin that not only establishes the sheer number of scam artists and crooks surrounding Bitcoin and the larger notion of blockchains, but also establishes how utterly and hilariously stupid almost everything around it is. David provides one of the most layman-friendly explanations of what Bitcoin is, then explains in cogent detail why this involves breathtaking and fundamental design flaws such as consuming as much electricity to maintain as the entirety of Ireland. He's got jaw-dropping accounts of people like Ross Ulbricht (aka the Dread Pirate Roberts, founder of the Silk Road website) and Craig Wright (who almost certainly did not invent Bitcoin). And a host of other amazing tales.

It's a great book for anyone who's interested in learning more about Bitcoin and the hype around it; one that takes the desire behind it seriously without buying into it, and that illustrates in ways both moving and hilarious just how big the gap between futurist dreams and the messy, material present can be. I highly recommend checking it out. Currently it's on Amazon in Kindle edition, but there's a print edition coming imminently, and it should be up on Smashwords today.

See you Tuesday.

(Oh, and keep an eye on the Seeming Twitter account: they've got another track from Sol dropping today.)


Jarl 3 years, 7 months ago

MyNameIsKaz, a LetsPlayer, if such a title exists, has an amusing economic theory he describes as "vampire dollars", one which I expect Jack Graham would state simply describes all monetary systems. His in-detail post describing the origin and minutia of the economic theory is only available in the pay-only archives of some awful website, but I can lay out the sketches here, and I think it perfectly describes Bitcoin.

The basic origin of "Vampire Dollars" is the Castlevania series. When you kill enemies (employees both paid and enslaved by Dracula) they drop money, money which you can then give to shopkeepers who occupy real estate inside Dracula's Transylvanian Castle (his "castlevania" if you will). The relationship these shopkeepers have with Dracula is never made clear, but as they live on his property, maintain a supply of goods, and take money that he seemingly issues himself, it is a fair assumption that they deal either indirectly or directly with Dracula.

Therefore, Vampire Dollars is a system of currency where one or more actors within it is openly malevolent and the majority of other actors are of unclear allegiance or morality. As the only people who deal exclusively in bitcoin are drug dealers, arms dealers, child pornographers, human traffickers, and currency prospectors, I figure it's a safe comparison.

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Holl 3 years, 7 months ago

Yep, this was a quick buy. I'm a huge fan of his work at RationalWiki and even if I don't get around to reading the book, I feel like Gerard's more than earned my £5 for all the joy he's given me through his work on that (which, around the x00000th hour of copy-pasting quotes by some scam artist who believes you can cure cancer by saving up sperm in jars or whatever, must kill your soul).

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5tephe 3 years, 7 months ago

Oh, nice! Just the thing I've been looking for. I have a coder friend who has been looking into blockchains, and we think the concept has immense worth and potential, but that people are using them for the most banal, and frankly evil and destructive possible applications.


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phuzz 3 years, 7 months ago

I've seen a quote to the effect that crypto-currencies in general seem to be trying to recreate every scam, con, and mistake ever encountered in any financial system in recorded history.
I think that's doing them a disservice. Some days it seem like they're trying to recreate every possible coding and cryptographical mistake as well.

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David Gerard 3 years, 7 months ago

Not on SmashWords today - I have to get the print edition up in a satisfactory manner first. Current nuisance: all RGB previews of purported CMYK results are *malicious lies*, and printers were even more of a mistake than computers.

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David Gerard 3 years, 6 months ago

Now at Smashwords (ePub) and CreateSpace (paperback), and let me tell you, the paperback is gorgeous.

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Daibhid C 3 years, 7 months ago

Looks interesting.

True story: at this year's Edinburgh Science Festival I went to a lecture on why blockchains were the future. By the end of it, I had less idea what blockchains were than I did when I entered the building.

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Cheap Web Hosting 1 year, 10 months ago

I have read your all blogs like one of my favorite one is "Don't Push Your Foot on the Heartbreak".

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