The Great Bifurcation is underway. The American economy is polarizing between the minority rich and the majority poor; technology is a major cause of this; and the rest of the world will soon follow, if it hasn’t already. I’ve been writing about this for years, and by now you’re probably sick of my perspective — so I went to tech VCs Steve Jurvetson and John Frankel for theirs.
Between you and many of the things you use every day, there is a complicated but elegant feedback loop, a physical dialogue, the topic of which is harmony of operation. The relationship that you build with a device is a self-optimizing relationship. First you make it speak, then you make it sing.
Why does this matter? Because so few of the devices we are adopting today will ever sing like that.
The explosion in both online and offline programming platforms over the last year has made one thing clear: Learning to code is hot. (With two “t’s.”) Well, that and the fact that our traditional education system doesn’t seem to be pulling its weight as far as computer science education is concerned. (See here.) Literally, hundreds of hacker academies and “learn to code” schools have emerged, each promising to teach aspiring developers and engineers to speak the language of programming, and even to get a job. Furthermore, there’s no better indication of the fact that a potentially disruptive model has entered the world — or that these new hacker schools are more than just passing fancy — than when the government steps in with regulation. Last week, that’s exactly what happened in California, as VentureBeat reported that the BPPE, a division within the California Department of Consumer Affairs, had sent cease and desist letters to seven of these hacker academies. The Shock As the story went, these C&D letters essentially threatened the seven schools with $50,000 fines and imminent closure were they not to comply with the BPPE’s list of demands. Naturally, this ignited an uproar within the tech industry (case in point), with that reaction essentially taking the shape of, “How dare the government hinder these fledgling platforms?” It’s not an unfamiliar response from a community focused on tearing down walls, on pushing boundaries, and it wouldn’t be the first time a government body were found acting as a hindrance rather than a help. Confusion and enmity would also be an understandable reaction from the coding schools themselves. For these platforms, there’s a lot at stake in the apparent laundry list of expected compliances: There’s the threat of closure, the $50K fine, and then there are the months it could potentially take for the platforms to meet those regulatory demands, and the implicit possibility of bankruptcy as they wait for government approval. What’s more, the list of expected compliances has been mostly hazy up to this point. Given that the thrust of these regulations stem from the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 — and that the BPPE itself owes its origins to both that legislation and its perceived reputation as a “diploma mill” in the ’80s — one can understand that the headlines up to this point have mostly focused on the impending doom of these platforms and
It’s time for a little inside baseball! Be still your beating hearts.
But admit it: secretly you want to know about the success/failure of the myriad news sources whose stories flit disconnectedly across your Facebook and Twitter feeds from time to time, if only so you can tell your friends that you already knew who was doomed, on the day that long-fabled Great Shakeout finally comes and half of the world’s journalists find themselves surplus to needs.
Let’s talk about doge, but first let’s talk about the late great David Foster Wallace, who thirteen years ago wrote a classic essay about modern English* entitled “Tense Present,” which, realistically, is better than anything I will ever write, so I should maybe just point you at it and end this post here.
But I won’t. Not least because I strongly suspect that if DFW had not taken his own life five years ago, he would already have updated “Tense Present” for the modern era. He almost would have had to.
It is instructive that his essay includes the phrase You don’t (despite withering cultural pressure), have to use a computer, but you can’t escape language. That may have been true, just, in 2001, but it is not true today. You cannot escape computers any more — and that fact has affected language in a way which is, if you ask me, nothing short of revolutionary.
As 2013 came to an end, many reflected on last year’s biggest tech news — and Bitcoin was a serious contender. But the main question remains: why are people interested in Bitcoin? This whole debate reappeared when Charlie Stross stated that “Bitcoin looks like it was designed as a weapon intended to damage central banking and money issuing banks, with a Libertarian political agenda in mind — to damage states ability to collect tax and monitor their citizens financial transactions.” Paul Krugman then quoted his post, neither denying nor approving this thought. But Chris Dixon (and Fred Wilson in the comment section) reiterated their strong interest in Bitcoin while sharing that they are both Democrats. If major Bitcoin enthusiasts don’t have any political agenda in mind, then what is the future of Bitcoin? At its heart, Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that doesn’t rely on any central bank. Bitcoins are just a chain of characters defined by algorithmic rules, and transactions are handled by the network of miners. Yet, in a month’s time, the value of a bitcoin went from $200 to more than $1,000 on all the exchanges. In other words, it is as volatile as it can get. Right now, there are only around 12 million of bitcoins in circulation, and many Bitcoin holders are recent converts that buy and sell every day. So how could you think about using bitcoins to pay the rent? You could simply hold your bitcoins and expect to triple your wallet value in a couple of weeks instead. That’s why I believe Bitcoin isn’t the next world currency. Bitcoin’s true purpose is not what everyone originally expected — you won’t buy a pizza in bitcoins anytime soon. Moreover, Bitcoin won’t be able to remain an unregulated currency for long. So Bitcoin’s true purpose lies somewhere else. As Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer payment network, you don’t need any banking institution to make large transfers. Bitcoin could become the first meta-currency that sits on top of traditional currencies, the common language between USD and EUR. That’s what Dixon finds interesting, Bitcoin is as much a money transfer protocol as a currency. And it has the potential of disrupting the traditional banking system. Replacing Forex Transactions With Bitcoin As I live in France and work for an American company, I thought I would be the perfect candidate for this particular use case. I tried to use
I’ve spent the last week back in my wintry homeland in Canada, and here the scales have fallen from my eyes, and I have seen the light, and I have a message for all of you who live in America, a message of the utmost importance, inscribed in fire on the sacred stone of the Internet. And that message is: holy crap T-Mobile is awesome. If you travel internationally at all, you should switch to T-Mobile now.
Yes, I know I sound like a paid shill. I feel awkward and embarrassed about that. I think my record speaks for itself, though: when it comes to tech companies, usually I’m a crotchety, negative guy. But this is different. This is terrific.
We might be heading into the height of the holiday season, but tech news has not slowed down just yet! So we had quite a few things to discuss in CrunchWeek, the TechCrunch TV show that brings together three writers to talk about the hottest news stories of the past seven days.