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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 09 February 2018, 4:26 pm

Bitcoin bubble bursts

If you can explain what bitcoin is and why it's important then you too can make a bajillion dollars. You can also sell bridges to wealthy Americans and probably can sell refrigerators to the natives of Iceland.

I don't have anything against the idea of a currency based on an idea. Why would I? Almost all currency is built these days on habit and expectation. There's no gold there to back it up. If you rock up to a branch and demand they give you precious metals in exchange for their plastic notes you'll be shown to the door.

Currency is simply a social conceit we all chose to believe in because the alternative is legal action and madness.

So the idea of a digital currency is fine with me. But Bitcoin has never been struck me as a sensible idea not because of the technology but because of the people involved in it.

They seem to me to have the same ethics as those touting dot com everything not so long ago. Slap the phrase "dot com" on a company and watch it soar! I remember being sent out to find a company called Aquaria 21 which was listed as New Zealand-owned and a dot com but which I knew nothing about. It took a while but eventually I found a guy in Hong Kong who could answer my questions. The interview went like this:

Me: So what do you make?

Him: Aquaria.

Me: So that's like… e-commerce portals?

Him: No, they're glass boxes that we keep fish in.

Me: So… Aquariums?

Him: No, aquaria.

Me: So how are you a dot com company?

Him: Oh that's something marketing told me to say.

Just as with the dot com bubble there are surely real cryptocurrency businesses that mean well, but just as surely there are a lot of snake oil salesfolks doing the rain dance and hoping it brings them wealth beyond their wildest dreams.

And for some it will but currently it would appear the shine has come off the market. Good, I say. That should scare away the ratbags and hopefully the ones that are left, using bitcoin (or the underlying blockchain technologies) for the betterment of all.

I do think we'll see a digital currency come into being in the near future. The issue then will be how to tax customers who currently get pinged for goods and service taxes because why would anyone pay tax locally when they can buy online anonymously and have it delivered to their door?

Governments around the world will need an answer to this conundrum and soon.

Stuff - This iced tea company's name change sums up everything about the bitcoin craze of 2017 (WARNING: Auto play video)

Stuff - 'Reality check' as bitcoin tumbles 15 per cent in a day (WARNING: really LOUD auto play video. Do not watch)

NZ Herald - If you don't get rich it's your own fault: Bitcoin Boy

Stuff - Bank pulls support for cryptocurrency platform Cryptopia

NZ Herald - China moves to crush bitcoin and cryptocurrencies

Stuff - Is Centrality really worth $110 million?




The final frontier

If my Twitter account is anything to go by, space is big business.

Normally I get about a thousand views of a tweet, which is pretty good going for an individual in New Zealand. On a good day (if someone famous retweets it) I might hit 4,000 or 5,000. I once posted a photo of a polar bear in handcuffs (no, really) and got 30,000 views, which was ace.

Yesterday I tweeted to Elon Musk about the launch of the Heavy Falcon (or rather, the landing) and as I write this I'm staring at 479,000 impressions.


And yet, when I played the video feed from the launch (that's right, I streamed the launch of a giant rocket live from Florida on my laptop in Auckland and the picture quality was better than I get on my TV watching the news. We live in the future) several people said "Oh that. I don't see why anyone gets excited about space."

I am astounded by this.

I was barely six months old when Apollo XI landed on the moon and for the vast bulk of my adult life I've lived in The Gap between serious space work.

By now we should have had a moonbase and be exploring the solar system, not because it's cool (but it really, really is) but because we need to get off this planet. We need the resources that are lying around in the asteroid belt. We need to spread our risk by having humans not all living on one impact-prone planet. We need to move some heavy engineering and polluting work offworld so we can carry on living in this beautiful garden we've got.

I'm staggered by anyone who doesn't see the value in space exploration. It's a fraction of the budget of most countries, it's clearly something that has a high level of interest in the general public, and the upside actually is limitless. No, it's not easy but that's beside the point. The goal is to reach out into the unknown and to make sure we're not all clustered on this world when the next rock hits it. This week, we saw a glimpse of that with the launch of the Falcon Heavy and although the main booster didn't quite land as planned, the synchronized landing of the two boosters will stick with me for a long time because it was so perfectly timed if I'd seen it in a movie or TV show I'd have called it fake because it looked too good.

I can't wait for the next episode.

The Register - MY GOD, IT'S FULL OF CARS: SpaceX parks a Tesla in orbit (just don't mention the barge) (contender for headline of the year)

The Register - What did we say about Tesla's self-driving tech? SpaceX Roadster skips Mars, steers to asteroids

The Guardian - SpaceX oddity: how Elon Musk sent a car towards Mars

CNN - Here's what's next for SpaceX


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