The Story: It takes more than a couple of trends to see past tomorrow
If you’ve never attempted to predict the future, and someone comes to you with a graph showing a clear trend, you might be tempted into thinking that that person knows what’s going to happen. The numbers don’t lie, and all we have to do is see where they go, to know what’s going to happen. Right? Wrong.
If you have tried to look into the future, and spent more than a few hours pondering about what the world will look like in five or ten years, you will know that it takes more than one graph or one trend line. Futurism requires looking at many trends, projecting how they might continue, and then imagining how they might interact – how one trend will accelerate another, and cause others to reverse.
Intelligent people, even be experts in their field, may recognise current trends, but that doesn’t mean that they have the skills to see where things will go in coming years. The problem is compounded when experts don’t recognise that futurism is actually outside their area of expertise.
In 1894, horse manure was such a problem in large cities that the New York Times predicted that in 50 years, the city would be covered by 9 feet of horse manure. It made perfect sense – that’s where the trend line lead. Likewise, people might tell you today that less and less jobs are being created, and when the new wave of automation arrives, young people will be permanently unemployed. Or they will tell you that the high birth rates of middle eastern countries compared to western countries mean that western culture will simply be bred out of existence.
What are the other factors at play? How can these simplified assessments be used to manipulate us, when they come from someone with an agenda? Find out in this trend-defying episode of … The Paradise Paradox!
The Story: The prices of digital currencies are going crazy
In late 2013, the price of Bitcoin started exploding, going from around $120, to close to $1200, within 3 months. People in the digital currency realm were stunned and amazed, and many people (including myself) started buying up currencies, chasing the Bitcoin bullet train. “This time it’s different,” we thought. “Who knows if the price will ever come down?” we thought. A few months later, the price came rolling down, eventually settling around $450. A lot of people surely lost a lot of money in those months, buying high and selling low. That was when I learned a simple lesson: the best time to buy an asset is when nobody gives a shit about it.
Now it’s June 2017, and in the past three months we’ve seen Bitcoin shoot up from around $1000 to more than $2500 – even to $3000 in some markets. I see people on social media boasting about their winnings, parading the fact that they have assets worth hacking. I tell them to be careful, that trading at all time highs can be a recipe for disaster. They tell me “The dollar is crashing against crypto!” and “This time it’s different!” I know some will probably lose a lot when the bull market ends, still believing that they’re digital currency genii and know how to pick winners. Others will prudently and consistently take profits, and wait for another opportunity to buy big.
In this episode, I welcome back Luis Fernando Mises, business consultant, entrepreneur, spiritual healer and digital currency investor, to discuss the latest rise in Bitcoin and altcoins, and what pitfalls people should look out for. We talk about ease of use in virtual currency, potential problems with Bitcoin, and spiritual perspectives to be gained when you lose a lot of money. We also discuss the problems with gossip in the liberty movement, how many are focused on the “telenovela” of liberty, and how that energy can be directed into something more fulfilling.
Join us on another bank-breaking episode of … The Paradise Paradox!
The Story: Have government agents infiltrated Bitcoin?
If you created a system that could potentially displace a lot of existing organisations – large, powerful organisations – rendering them obsolete and removing their sources of funding, you could reasonably expect that some people from those groups wouldn’t be too happy about it. They will most likely decide to take action – perhaps even criminal action – in order to protect their interests. That’s why when Bitcoin was created, it made sense that its inventor (or inventors) decided to remain anonymous.
The identity of Satoshi Nakamoto remains unknown, and as far as we know, no longer has anything to do with the project. So they are most likely safe from reprisal. Yet, what about the people who are involved in the project today? If powerful people wanted to slow down or even destroy Bitcoin, how would they do it? The decentralised, anti-fragile nature of the system makes it too strong for an attack using software. But the developers’ identities are public, and the discussion boards are public. Anyone with sufficient resources could begin to corrupt these groups using money, violence, threats of violence, and sowing seeds of confusions in public forums – perhaps even creating entire companies to subtly undermine the integrity of the project.
In this episode, Kurt looks at a couple of historical examples of how “law enforcement” organisations are willing to get their hands dirty for questionable purposes, and speculates how similar strategies could be used to unhinge the Bitcoin community – or other digital currency communities. He discusses how Hoover used the FBI to act out his prejudices against black Americans, how London Metropolitan policemen were involved in sexual relationships as part of their undercover operations, and the types of unusual comments that float around among prominent Bitcoiners, that raise the question of whether Bitcoin has been compromised.
Join me on a journey of infiltration, deception and mystery in the next episode of … The Paradise Paradox!
The Story: Bitcoin & Dash – User experience and governance in cryptocurrency
Bitcoin is an amazing technology that captured the imaginations of many people. Various individuals were stunned at the idea that mathematical algorithms could form the basis of our money, rather than central bankers and corrupt politicians, as is normally the way today. People were seduced by the idea of sending value around the world in a matter of minutes, a currency uncontrolled and uncontrollable by authority, and sending micropayments to websites to read their articles – instead of having to tolerate clickbait content beholden to advertisers. Bitcoin has delivered on some of those promises, however, it’s 8 years on and it still seems to be far from mainstream adoption.
If we take a step back from the hype and the dream of Bitcoin – still alive in the minds of many of us – we can see that Bitcoin has a few key problems. The main problem is, it’s too hard to use. People have to use long addresses which look like computer errors, to know the right transaction fee to send their cash or risk their transaction being at the back of a queue of 80,000, they have to generate new addresses for security, make paper wallets or buy a Trezor if they really want to be secure – and if they lose their wallet, or get hacked, they might just lose their life’s savings. Does that sound like a currency which is ready for mass adoption?
Now, I don’t know any digital currency which is ready for mass adoption – but I do know one which might be close. Dash “Digital Cash” is a currency which started in 2014, and the team is actively working on the problem of user experience, devising a system where people can log-in from any computer with a username and password, send currency using something like looks like a name, have their money secured while still retaining control, and not worry about losing their retirement fund just because they misplaced their private keys. Even now, Dash has the functionality of instant payments, and of private payments.
In this short episode, Kurt presents the case of why Dash might reach mass adoption before Bitcoin. Join me in another paradigm-shattering, central-banker-unseating, digital revolution episode of … The Paradise Paradox!
The Story: How to prepare for an uncertain work future
Futurism is a field which is fascinating to those who study it – presenting a puzzle in the form of the question: how are all the current trends going to interact in ways which are going to affect the entire world? However, most people don’t care so much to think about the future, and that’s a problem, because we are quickly entering an age in which the people who can’t see a few years into the future, will quickly be left struggling to deal with the present.
Many people believe that being an employee, as opposed to operating a business, is a secure proposition, as having a fixed income with a dependable employer enables some certainty. That can be true in the short term, but it’s not necessarily true in the long term. Large economic crises typically happen every 7 years – just long enough for many to be over-comfortable, and subsequently desperate. True survivors and hustlers have multiple sources of income, doing short-term contracts, gig-based work like on Fiverr or Freelancer, and investments.
Automation is also something that people are worried about. If you work in the manufacturing sector or transport, machines will probably come for your job sooner rather than later. Burger-making and selling machines will soon be common, displacing a lot of fast-food workers. How soon will the robots come for your job? And how quickly can you prepare?
With robots watering plants, tilling fields, running factories, delivering goods, there will be a much lower cost for mass production, which means cheaper goods and a lot more wealth for many. Perhaps they will choose to spend some of that wealth on things which they really like, which machines can’t make, or can’t make yet – things which are unique – handmade items, art, music, and fine food. In the past, a writer had to have millions of fans to make a decent living. With modern technology, Patreon and Amazon self-publishing, a writer might make a good living with just a few thousand dedicated supporters.
Join Kurt as he gazes into the future in this mini-episode of… The Paradise Paradox!
Many people are just starting to hear about Bitcoin for the first time, and grappling with all their brain cells to understand the basics of how it might function, let alone its implications. Meanwhile, those who have been interested in cryptocurrency for years are continually looking forward to try to imagine or develop the next big thing, building on top of the base which Bitcoin has laid, and pushing into ever-more disruptive territories. The DAO, or decentralised autonomous organisation, is one project which has many people’s eyes fixated on it.
The DAO is a platform on which decentralised applications might run, allowing for decentralised arbitration services which move further towards making government courts of law redundant. Within a few short weeks, the DAO raised about $130 million through crowdfunding – the largest crowdfund in history to date. Of course, this is no guarantee of its success, but it does indicate the level of public support and faith that this project has behind it.
Will the DAO go on to transform the world? Or is it merely a stepping stone to building something even more ambitious, transformative, and disruptive? We discuss its potential in this episode of the Paradise Paradox.
Disclaimer: We are not financial advisors, we have no idea what you should do with your money, and we don’t claim that we do. Do your own research before making any financial decision, and be careful.
In the interests of disclosure, note that we do own Bitcoin, Ether and DAO.
For years now, you have been able use fiverr.com and freelancer.com to hire people all over the world to do work for you. You can check their qualifications, their proposal for the task, haggle over the price, ask if they’re available for future projects. But would you bother asking which country they’re from? Does it matter?
Today, people can register companies online, on the blockchain, possibly using Bitnation or Next. Their companies can exist independently of any nation. To do business with them, do you need to know who they are? Do you need to be able to put a pin on their office in an atlas?
The world we’re heading into is a world where companies operate in cyberspace – outside the jurisdiction of any government. They have no head office, keep all their records in the cloud, and transact purely in cryptocurrencies. Maybe there are banks which can compete with international banking cartels, because having no country means they don’t have to comply with the protectionist regulation which has been installed for many years. Maybe they don’t pay any taxes, because they’ve decided that the Internet is the best tax haven. Of course this way of doing businesses may start to raise many potential issues, such as problems with dispute arbitration, and innovative solutions may have to be developed to address them. The future is a fascinating and unpredictable place.
In this interview, Kurt discusses the potential of some of these types of organisations with Alex Colorado, a software developer for the Apache OpenOffice project, and we talk about the implications of these ideas for a borderless world. Join us in the next frontier-defying chapter of … The Paradise Paradox!
We are about to enter an age of unseen prosperity. For years we have been seeing the prices of high technology decrease incredibly rapidly – with an item reducing to a third of its price within a few short years – even to the extent that smartphones and tablets are available to many people, even in developing nations. We’ve already seen computers replace many jobs. Naturally, mechanical thinking tasks such as human computers were the first to go. Yet with the age of automation – the age of artificially intelligent robots – the same gains that have been realised in the technology sector are going to be realised in every other sector – either directly or indirectly.
We are at a stage where machines cannot just aid manual labour, but replace it entirely. Let’s imagine a case study. You might pay $30 for a new pair of jeans, or if you live in Australia you might pay $100. How did those jeans get on your legs? Which steps can be automated, and which steps can be removed entirely?
Those jeans were probably made in a sweatshop in a cheaper country, by hand. They were driven by van to a shipping yard to be packaged and sent across the seas. They’re unloaded at the dock, and transported by truck to a wholesale centre, then on to retail stores. At the mall, the labourers unload the jeans and carry them up to the store, where the shop attendant puts them on the shelves. You take a bus to the mall, and you’re served by a fitter who gives you some tips on sizes and styles. That’s how it happens today. Let’s have a look at how it will happen in The World of Next Tuesday.
The jeans are made in a factory by stitching robots. This factory is located within your own country, as the price of labour (i.e. robot maintenance and electricity) has dropped down so low that it is cheaper to produce the goods in your country than produce and ship them from another. A robot truck delivers them, perhaps interstate, to a local distribution centre. You could go to the mall and look at some jeans, but that’s somewhat excessive when you can just order a solar-powered drone to fly to your house with a selection of jeans in your size, let it land itself on the table and give you a couple of different camera angles as you try them on. Or maybe you forgo remote production and delivery entirely by ordering the patterns online and entering them into your own stitching machine.
Using automation, scores of human positions have been replaced, and scores more have been eliminated. It wouldn’t be unusual to see the price drop to a quarter of what it was previously.
You might say “But those greedy capitalists will just install their robots and keep the profits for themselves! Those savings won’t reach the consumers!” Some of the business owners will behave in this way, no doubt. But it only takes one very efficient and economical company to use a new production and cost model to put pressure on an entire industry. One single company selling clothes this way can disrupt the existing models enough to change everything, bidding down the price like a Dutch auction.
You might say “So what Kurt? Now we’ll be getting cheap jeans, whoopedydediiddly-doo!” The point is this: these savings will be passed on to just about everything you buy. Every table made from wood chopped by robots, every television delivered to your door by a drone, every tomato shipped from Sonora to Jalisco, every piece of fertiliser delivered by auto-truck to grow that tomato, and every irrigation pipe laid by machine. Every, every, everything.
You won’t need a corner store any more. You’ll have access to a convenience distribution centre. Look through the merchandise online, and the drone will deliver your goods in less time than it takes you to walk around the corner and back. The store doesn’t even have to be large enough for customers to walk into, potentially saving money on real estate, or allowing a larger selection of goods.
Many people, when eating cheaply, will opt to eat from fast foodmachines rather than fast food stalls or restaurants. In apartment buildings, you won’t necessarily have a kitchen within the apartment any more. You will simply look through a list of thousands of recipes, order an omelette from the building’s central kitchen, and the robots will prepare it and deliver it for you, using eggs sent directly from a farm that morning by drone.
I tell a lot of people about these technologies becoming accessible, and they tend to dismiss it as something in the distant future, perhaps something that governments will try to stop, something potentially dangerous, or something which we might not even have to think about in our lifetime. But this is not science fiction or something distant. This is already happening. Google’s autonomous vehicle is already on the roads, along with autonomous trucks; Baxter the robot is already in factories. This is real change that’s already occurring. In five years, these technologies could have a dominant role in many economies.
This could provide many people a problem which they never thought they would have – the problem of having too much money. Of course, many people will squander their newfound wealth. But many more will save it, and take a risk on creating a new technological breakthrough, propelling us exponentially into a future where grand luxuries aren’t just available for the few, but for the many. What would you do if you were living at a 50% discount?
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The date is the 30th of December, 2007. The place is State House Nairobi, Kenya. Incumbent President Mwai Kibaki is being sworn in again, after his re-election, and after a hurried recount. Kibaki gave his speech, calling for healing and reconciliation after this unexpected election result. There was one key problem for Kibaki: the elections had been a fraud, and everyone knew it. Nobody really knows exactly how the violence started, but the riots that followed were a cry from a people who had been defrauded one too many times.
A handful of bloggers and software developers, all current or previous residents of Kenya, were coding desperately, working on a brilliant idea to allow order to arise out of chaos. They were creating a program which would become known as “Ushahidi” – the word for “Testimony” in Swahili. Ushahidi is a system that enables anyone in the area to email or text and make a report, whether it be a report of violence, a riot, or note that a medical team is available. Previously this type of system would only be at the disposal of large news services with thousands of dollars to spend on software. Now it is free, and it has been used to track many disasters and large events since. By releasing it, the Ushahidi team had created a new type of sharing economy – a sharing economy of information, activist mapping.
These days, new websites and apps enabling sharing of resources are popping up every month. Of course the most famous is Uber, but then there is also Lyft for carpooling; Getaround and Relayride for renting cars; Blablacar for organising roadtrips; Couchsurfing and Airbnb for sharing your spare room; Liquid for sharing your pushbike; Neighborgoods for sharing your lawnmower or other household device, and even Poshmark for sharing your wardrobe. Entrepreneurs are concentrating their mental energies to think what other devices or possessions could be shared, to create a mutually beneficial relationship: those with goods lying dormant get money from renting them, the renter gets a device at a good price in a convenient location, and the site gets a slice of the action too.
What else will we see people share in the coming years? Home gym? Bedroom banger home studios? Food that they were about to throw out? Their partners? Who in the name of Odin’s beard even knows! We ask these questions and more in this exciting chapter of … The Paradise Paradox!
As we move into the 21st century, one thing which is simultaneously exciting and scary to me is the development of technologies that interface with humans more directly, and more intimately. I still haven’t seen anyone walking down the street with a Google Glass or Microsoft HoloLens, but if history is anything to go by, in ten years they will… Read more →