25 4 / 2012

"People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year."

—Peter Drucker

17 4 / 2012

16 4 / 2012

"One out of every two people in the world who sends money over a mobile phone is a Kenyan."

The story of M-PESA

11 4 / 2012

Statistics are notoriously slippery, but the figures that suggest that violence has been disappearing in the United States contain a blind spot so large that to cite them uncritically, as the major papers do, is to collude in an epic con. Uncounted in the official tallies are the hundreds of thousands of crimes that take place in the country’s prison system, a vast and growing residential network whose forsaken tenants increasingly bear the brunt of America’s propensity for anger and violence.

Crime has not fallen in the United States—it’s been shifted. Just as Wall Street connived with regulators to transfer financial risk from spendthrift banks to careless home buyers, so have federal, state, and local legislatures succeeded in rerouting criminal risk away from urban centers and concentrating it in a proliferating web of hyperhells. The statistics touting the country’s crime-reduction miracle, when juxtaposed with those documenting the quantity of rape and assault that takes place each year within the correctional system, are exposed as not merely a lie, or even a damn lie—but as the single most shameful lie in American life.


In January, prodded in part by outrage over a series of articles in the New York Review of Books, the Justice Department finally released an estimate of the prevalence of sexual abuse in penitentiaries. The reliance on filed complaints appeared to understate the problem. For 2008, for example, the government had previously tallied 935 confirmed instances of sexual abuse. After asking around, and performing some calculations, the Justice Department came up with a new number: 216,000. That’s 216,000 victims, not instances. These victims are often assaulted multiple times over the course of the year. The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.


11 4 / 2012

I never knew that Wen Jiabao was in this photo too.

I never knew that Wen Jiabao was in this photo too.

11 4 / 2012

What matters is the shape-making impulse, the emergence and convergence of an excitement into a wholeness.

Seamus Heaney

11 4 / 2012

You’ve got to be able to have pages in the morning. I measure my life in pages. If I have pages at dawn, it’s been a good night. There is no art until it’s on paper, there is no art until it’s sold.

Hunter S Thompson

The first is that if you haven’t manufactured the new thing in substantial quantities, you have not innovated; the second is that if you haven’t found a market to sell the product, you have not innovated.

—Eugene Gordon, Bell Labs

09 4 / 2012

"No example of a barter economy, pure and simple, has ever been described, let alone the emergence from it of money; all available ethnography suggests that there has never been such a thing."

Caroline Humphrey

09 4 / 2012

"This is a panel of 41 of the worlds top economists who are offered statements about economic policy to which they can indicate whether they agree, disagree, or are uncertain. In addition they rate the certainty of their answer on a scale of 1 to 10, which allows the answers to be weighted. Over the past few months there have been several issues where this ideologically diverse group of economists have shown resounding unanimity."


06 4 / 2012

"Ultimately, the entire universe will become saturated with our intelligence. This is the destiny of the universe. (See chapter six.)"

Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near

02 4 / 2012

Banking and payment expert Simon Lelieveldt believes they are living on borrowed time. “There is always a power base underlying a currency,” he said, speaking at the Digital Money Forum in London in March. “Bitcoin is not going to fly because there is no central bank or power base. It’s doomed to fail.”

"The system we would bring in would be backed by a fund," he told Reuters. "Bitcoin may work for the small group of people that believe in its value, but that could change very suddenly."

Without that backing or a similar power base, Bitcoin lives with the ever-present risk of failure.

"To be clear, I would say the same about the euro," said payment expert Lelieveldt.


28 3 / 2012

The “inscrutability” of the East has long provided us in the West with an inexhaustible source of romance, excitement and pleasure. Our very misapprehensions and fantasies of Asia are immortalized throughout Western Civ., from the paintings of Whistler to Kung Fu. We seem specifically to enjoy the mystery, the not-understanding.

"I am a huge fan of Orientalism in all its many forms, and love to visit the Chinatown or Little Tokyo in any Western city. The loveliest building in all the world to me is the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, that outrageous Regency confection full of dragons and fake bamboo. There is something irresistibly naive and beautiful about these fantasy views of the East. Their very wrongness, the obviousness of how wrong they are, has a strangely tender appeal. It’s our collective misunderstandings dressed up, embellished, romanticized, for dramatic enjoyment.


"Daisey created a dream-Asia for us, in a proportion of about one part romance to, say, ten parts paranoia. Our misunderstandings dressed up, embellished, romanticized in a different way, for a different kind of dramatic enjoyment. Because just as we fail to understand the interconnectedness of the global economy, we never seem to get that Chinese people are just regular people, doing exactly the things we would do ourselves, were we to find ourselves in their circumstances."

(Source: The Awl)

28 3 / 2012

"HavenCo’s trouble also underscores the dangers of treating “law” as though it were “code.” HavenCo thought it had found the perfect legal loophole: a country with the legal right to ignore other countries’ laws. But this legal Gödel sentence didn’t work because, in the real world, if a country’s laws aren’t catching the people they’re intended to catch, the country can just change its laws. As Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation likes to say, “You can’t hack the law.”"

26 3 / 2012

Strong Crypto, Smart Cell Phones, and the End of Monetary Sovereignty.

Strong Crypto, Smart Cell Phones, and the End of Monetary Sovereignty.

24 3 / 2012


You’ve worked, then, toward a kind of classical prose?


Yes, I do my best now. Whenever I find an out-of-the-way word, that is to say, a word that may be used by the Spanish classics or a word used in the slums of Buenos Aires, I mean, a word that is different from the others, then I strike it out, and I use a common word. I remember that Stevenson wrote that in a well-written page all the words should look the same way. If you write an uncouth word or an astonishing or an archaic word, then the rule is broken; and what is far more important, the attention of the reader is distracted by the word. One should be able to read smoothly in it even if you’re writing metaphysics or philosophy or whatever.


Divide your program into methods that perform one identifiable task. Keep all of the operations in a method at the same level of abstraction. This will naturally result in programs with many small methods, each a few lines long.

(Kent Beck, Smalltalk Best Practice Patterns)