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18 Nov 22:43

In search of harmony between human progress and wildlife welfare

--- #### This essay discusses some aspects of the interplay between human progress and animal welfare, with a particular emphasis on free market environmentalism. --- ###### Image source:, License: CC0, Public Domain
### Introduction When my wife ([@lisa.palmer]( and I bought our house, one of the most attractive aspects of the home was not even something that we were purchasing. The house had about 15 acres of undeveloped land out back, and percolation tests of that land had failed, so unless public water became available, that land was going to stay unoccupied. As a result, during the last 17 years, we have enjoyed a sort of a defacto nature preserve right on the other side of our back yard. We have frequently observed deer, fox, raccoons, groundhogs, and other wildlife wandering from the woods into our own yard. However, fortunately for the property owners - but unfortunately for us - human progress happens and public water became available. So, during the last week, we have watched most of that forest bull-dozed by a developer's construction equipment preparing the land for home construction. Now, directly behind our home there is still about an acre of woods that has a different owner, but the other 14 or so acres have been leveled. ###### Original photo, by me. LG-G4 camera, Nov 17, 2017. View in new tab to see the deer.
It's sort-of funny how the mind works. I know that this sort of development happens all around the world all the time, but seeing it happening every time you look out the window gives you a different perspective on it. Of course, there's no comparing displaced wildlife with human lives, but it is reminiscent of the quote that's frequently attributed to Stalin: "*The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.*" It makes me sad to think of these newly created wildlife refugees, and especially to see the now homeless deer congregating in our back yard at night time, when the construction crews have left. Ironically, this is happening at the same time as the Internet blew up with news that Trump allowed, then disallowed [elephant trophy imports](, so the topic of wildlife conservation has been on my mind frequently in recent days. It would be nice if there were black and white answers to the questions of wildlife preservation, but there are so many competing interests that it turns out to be quite complicated. In particular, two of the values that I prize, human autonomy and property rights can often seem to come into conflict with the well-being of wildlife. I wrote about this topic last year in, [Making Wildlife Conservation Fun and Profitable](, but today I thought I'd take another look at it. First, I will briefly revisit the ideas in that article; Next, I will express my thoughts about the interplay between property rights, human autonomy, and wildlife preservation; and finally I will discuss some innovative and encouraging real world concepts that I have read about in the year since I wrote that article. ### Section 1: Turning Wildlife Conservation Into a Game ###### Image Source:, licensed under CC0, Public Domain
In the card game of [Concentration](\(game\)) the player is challenged to pick up a deck of cards that are laid face down by remembering the position of the cards, and identifying matching pairs from memory. In my article last year, I imagined a scavenger hunt sort of activity that would harness the same sort of matching incentive to pair property owners and tourists in a lottery style photography game. The property owner could post online photographs of animals found on their property, and the tourists could try to take matching photos. The game application would validate the matches and pay out "bounties" to the owner and tourists based on the scarcity of the matched species and/or other criteria. The game developer could even go on to sell the photos and share revenue with the game players. The idea here is that the property owner would have an incentive to preserve endangered species on their own property. Care would have to be taken, however, that the incentives did not encourage the killing of animals in order to increase scarcity. As I said in the article, the whole concept winds up being sort of a combination of [Airbnb](, [Project Noah](, and [Pokémon Go]( In my opinion, for preservation efforts to be effective, they need to be sustainable. And this means that they should not depend on a particular set of government policies that are subject to revocation at the next election or on philanthropic contributions that might dry up during an economic down turn. This game was an attempt to imagine a sustainable system of incentives that would naturally and voluntarily lead to the preservation of wildlife. ### Section 2: Animal Rights and Human Rights ###### Image source:, License: CC0, Public Domain
I can't remember who posted it, but I recently came across a Facebook post where someone posted something like this (paraphrasing): > To those who say that animals have rights, do you feel remorse when you step on a bug? It should be apparent to nearly anyone that this argument is a [logical fallacy]( (perhaps the "straw man" or "black or white" fallacies). We can quickly move from that example to the examples of dog-fighting or cock-fighting for pretty convincing examples that animals do, in fact, have some rights. The subject of animal rights is something that I've thought long and hard about, yet I still can't say that I've came to any conclusions, except that it's a hard question. I don't accept the arguments at either pole of the spectrum, either that animals should be entitled to legal representation - as if they were human, or that animals have no rights at all. But I also don't know how to identify the exact rights that an animal should be entitled to. When a question is complex, and I don't know the answers, I tend to think that the market is usually the best way to sort it out. The question doesn't really have to be a human's rights vs. an animal's rights. Instead, it can be a question of enforcing property rights. Problems with a political solution include the fact that policy is always subject to revocation, and second, that by attempting to use government coercion to impose my will on the use of someone else's land, I would be denying that person their own self-determination, autonomy, and property rights. I may not know what rights animals have, but I'm certain that I don't have the right to do that to another human. Philanthropic solutions are part of the market process, and I don't object to them, but it is my experience that they are often unsustainable. For example, my wife's Great-Uncle owned a sizeable piece of land for many years that he diligently kept away from developers in order to protect the wildlife that lived there. However, when he passed away, that land was divided among a number of heirs. I am fairly sure that it's now just a matter of time until that land gets developed. So, to me, it seems that the best way to balance human rights and animal rights (whatever they are) is to let property owners each enforce their own versions of animal rights on their own properties (subject to limits for abusive cases like dog-fighting) and to construct sustainable incentive systems that will continue to protect the wildlife well into the future. ### Section 3: Real World Innovations ###### Image source:, License: CC0, Public Domain
A few years ago, I learned of the concept of Free Market Environmentalism from the web site, []( I can't honestly say that I've read as much about it as I'd like to, but superficially it strikes me as steps in the right direction. The example I discussed in Section 1 was inspired by this concept. In this section, I'll discuss some other examples of Free Market environmentalism that I've learned about recently. These include [Pennsylvania's Hawk Mountain Bird Sanctuary](, the [Welgevonden Game Reserve]( in South Africa, and Namibia's [Community conservancies]( #### Section 3.1: The Hawk Mountain Bird Sanctuary In 1933, [Rosalie Barrow Edge]( attended a NY meeting of the Hawk and Owl society, where she was motivated into action to stop the widespread slaughter of hawks by hunters of the day. In the midst of the Great Depression, she was able to raise enough funds to buy 1400 acres in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania. At the time, hawks' propensity to eat chickens had them widely regarded as vermin. Four score years later, the site continues to operate with funding from membership dues, visitors fees, and charitable donations. It is now one of the world's premier hawk watching sites, hosting approximately 70,000 visitors and 18,000 hawks each year. I have visited Hawk Mountain many times, as a child and as an adult, but it was only recently that I associated it with the concept of free market environmentalism. #### Section 3.2: The Welgevondon Game Reserve According to [Business Insider](, [The Internet of Things is putting poachers on the endangered list]( The article describes how the Welgevondon Game Reserve is using IoT technology from [IBM]( to detect and deter poachers. They found that animals react in different ways to different type of perceived threats, and that by fitting the animals with collars, they could detect poachers by monitoring animal movement. The really interesting thing about this is that the initiative is to protect the endangered white rhino, but the collars get fitted to other species of animals, so even the game reserve's workers cannot use the monitoring to track the actual rhinos. I didn't spend a lot of time on the [Game Reserve's web site](, but the 37,000 hectare property seems to be funded by tourism revenues. My only concern after reading the article is that collaring these other species might also turn them into targets for poachers, so we'll have to wait and see how that turns out. #### Section 3.3: Namibia's Community conservancies In [African animals need to be owned to survive](, Karol Boudreaux tells us about the community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) techniques that Namibia is using to fund wildlife conservation with tourism. In addition to protecting wildlife, this is providing economic opportunities for the citizens. Although she has mixed results to report, Boudreaux writes, > Putting local people in charge of wildlife management, and giving them a real stake in the protection of these animals has shifted their incentives: they are much less likely to poach animals and much more likely to protect them. The results have been a steady increase in income for rural communities and, at the same time, a rise in the numbers of wildlife. ### Conclusion As someone who values both human progress and wildlife conservation, I have long observed that these values can seem to be in conflict, and searched for ways to resolve that tension. At the moment, the construction that's happening a few hundred yards from my back door is making me painfully aware that I have not been completely successful, but my search for intellectual balance between human rights and animal welfare always seems to find itself centering on the ideas of free market environmentalism. --- ##### As a general rule, I up-vote comments that demonstrate "proof of reading".

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Thank you for your time and attention.

--- Here's a reward for anyone who made it this far: ---
###### Steve Palmer is an IT professional with three decades of professional experience in data communications and information systems. He holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics, a master's degree in computer science, and a master's degree in information systems and technology management. He has been awarded 3 US patents. ###### Steve is a co-founder of the [Steemit's Best Classical Music]( Facebook page, and the @classical-music steemit curation account. ###### Follow: @remlaps ###### [RSS for @remlaps](, courtesy of []( ---
15 Nov 20:25

Freeman Dyson on ‘heretical’ thoughts about global warmimg

by Anthony Watts
By Freeman Dyson My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I…
15 Nov 17:00

WASTE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN: Somebody wrote an email bot to waste scammers’ time. Introducing Re:sca…

by Stephen Green

h/t Jts5665

WASTE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN: Somebody wrote an email bot to waste scammers’ time.

Introducing Re:scam – an artificially intelligent email bot made to reply to scam emails. Re:scam wastes scammers time with a never-ending series of questions and anecdotes so that scammers have less time to pursue real people.

If you think you’ve received a scam email, forward it to and we’ll take it from there. We’ll even send you a summary of the conversations Re:scam has had with the scammer – sometimes they can be quite funny!

I’m in.

11 Nov 01:00

Bitcoin Classic Team to Cease Code Support In Wake of 2x Suspension

by Rachel Rose O'Leary
Proposed bitcoin scaling solution Bitcoin Classic has said it will be closing its doors, touting bitcoin cash as the best alternative.
10 Nov 02:19

Ideas from Edge about artificial intelligence and human culture

--- ##### Summary and commentary with some ideas about artificial intelligence and human culture from [The Human Strategy: A Conversation With Alex "Sandy" Pentland \[10.30.17\]]( via [Edge]( --- ### Introduction I think I've mentioned before that I'm a long-time fan of the [Edge]( web site. In this week's e-mail newsletter, they linked to the article, [The Human Strategy: A Conversation With Alex "Sandy" Pentland \[10.30.17\]]( Pentland is a Professor of Computer Science at MIT; Director of MIT's Connection Science and Human Dynamics labs; and Author of "[Social Physics](" The articles and videos in their newsletters typically require a substantial time investment, so I can't always take the time to watch or read them, but I'm glad that I clicked through to this one. In this wide-ranging article and video, Pentland weaves together some of his ideas about artificial intelligence (AI), culture, human behavior, and government in a fascinating way. On AI, Pentland discusses the current state of AI as a network of "dumb" nodes that yields a brute force paradigm that's dependent on massive amounts of data. He discusses the possibility of improving it by creating a mesh of smarter nodes that have contextual awareness. On culture and human behavior, he talks about how evolution can be a process of exploration and exploitation. Individuals explore by searching for popular ideas, and innovate by copying and adapting those ideas for their own needs. He also brings to light the concept of "Social Physics," or the use of big data to build a computational and predictive theory of human behavior. In his discussion of government, Pentland talks about the need for transparency and more granular oversight, and he makes the insightful observation that government regulators and other bureaucracies really aren't very different from AI implementations. The [article]( is in textual and video formats, but I didn't find a way to embed the video here, so you can click through to read, watch, or both. I will offer summaries and commentary on each of the above topics throughout the remainder of this article. ###### \[Image Source:, License: CC0, Public Domain\]
### Section 1: Artificial Intelligence AI is a recurring point of commentary throughout the article. Pentland notes that today's AIs make use of dumb neurons to survey massive amounts of data and learn useful patterns. He also points out that because the neurons use linear processing, training requires millions of examples, and it does not generalize well to new uses. He describes the mechanism that accomplishes this as a "credit assignment function." According to him, the credit assignment function takes "*stupid neurons, these little linear functions, and figure out, in a big network, which ones are doing the work and encourage them more*." This model suffers from the shortcomings that it doesn't generalize well, it is not contextualized, and it behaves as a sort of "idiot savant." Contrasting with that, he offers the idea of better AI's with neurons making use of smarter algorithms to make better decisions with less data. In the first example of this, Pentland talks about physics. He claims that if neurons are programmed with specialized knowledge of physics, AIs can "*take a couple of noisy data points and get something that's a beautiful description of a phenomenon*." In a second example, Pentland talks about neurons that use the newly emerging science of social physics to model human decisions. Pentland describes it as something like Skynet, that "*that's really about the human fabric*." Eventually, Pentland extends this to the idea of even using humans as the neurons, and asks, "*...what's the right way to do that? Is it a safe idea? Is it completely crazy?*." On one hand, this is a radical idea that's reminiscent of *The Borg* or *The Matrix*, but on the other hand it's not. Maybe it all depends on implementation. Recently, I offered this, [in a comment here on steemit]( > Of course, Kurzweil's vision has always been of the dominant human-machine hybrid, which I still think is plausible. Maybe a machine can out-think one person, or ten or twenty, but can a machine out-think an entire society with brains linked together via high speed interconnects? > > I imagine a future global supercomputer which is a conglomeration of human and machine intelligence supplemented by mostly mechanical labor. Maybe "going to work" means plugging in a head-set and renting our intellects to the Matrix for the day. It's worth noting that teams of humans aided by computers are now beating the best AIs in chess tournaments. Two notable points that caught my attention while reading and listening were: 1. His mention of *[distributed Thompson sampling](*, which he said is, "*combining evidence, of exploring and exploiting at the same time*," and "*has a unique property in that it's the best strategy both for the individual and for the group*." He went on to note that when you use this technique for selection, you can select the best groups, you're also selecting the best individuals; and when individuals act in their own best interest, they're also acting for the group's best interests. *-AND-* 2. It occurred to me that, when applied to social networks, his credit assignment function is superficially similar to steemit's reputation system and voting aggregations. Which makes leads into another one of his topics, culture. ###### \[Image Source:, License: CC0, Public Domain\]
### Section 2: Culture A simple explanation of Thompson sampling, when applied to culture is this: 1. Look at what other people do. 2. If it looks useful copy it. It's a simple, but remarkably effective for innovation and progress. Good ideas spread and bad ones get lost in the crowd. The limitation is that three things are required: trusted data; known and monitored algorithms; and fair assessment of behavior. According to Pentland, fair assessment of behavior doesn't exist yet. Fake news, propaganda, and advertising all work in opposition to the desire for fair assessments of behavior. Accordingly, one of Pentland's objectives is to identify facts that everyone can agree on, like the US census - for example. This paragraph gives some insight into how he's thinking about it: > A common test I have for people that I run into is this: Do you know anybody who owns a pickup truck? It's the number-one selling vehicle in America, and if you don't know people like that, that tells me you are out of touch with more than fifty percent of America. Segregation is what we're talking about here, physical segregation that drives conceptual segregation. Most of America thinks of justice, and access, and fairness as being very different than the typical, say, Manhattanite. He extends this point by saying that economic segregation is on the rise around the world, and that in almost all places, the top quintile and bottom quintile of society never see each other. He has more to say about extreme wealth noting that Europe has deeply entrenched wealth and power, whereas America has so far resisted that entrenchment. In America, he says, "*If you win the lottery, you make your billion dollars, but your grandkids have to work for a living,*" which brings to mind the old axiom about there being three generations from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves. As I recall, de Tocqueville also remarked on this difference in his, "[Democracy in America](". Additionally, he didn't mention it, but it occurs to me that by preventing copying, intellectual property rights may also impede Thompson sampling from operating effectively in human societies. In order to promote human cultural intelligence, Pentland is working on open algorithms and open data. He reports interest and support from surprising governments such as those in Europe, China, Latin America, and Arica. He reports that his projects include work in fields of health care and economics in places like these. Which segways into his discussion of government. ###### \[Image Source:, License: CC0, Public Domain\]
### Section 3: Government To me, one of the most surprising aspects of this article was its observation that regulators, bureaucracies, and other parts of government operate very much like instances of artificial intelligence. Information goes in, where it is sent through a variety of rules, bureaucratic hierarchies, and processes. After this processing, decisions come out. These decisions have real world impact, and in practical terms, there is little oversight. We get to cast a vote every year or two or four. From this observation, Pentland argues that more transparency is needed and that controls need to be far more granular. How can we know if our court system works, he asks, if we have no reliable data? He further notes that the digitization of media has led to a media that is failing us, and that when society doesn't have a trusted institution providing accurate information, they are subject to manipulation. Additionally, he notes that notions of justice have changed from informal and normative to formal, and that legal systems are failing as a result of that shift. This is the area of Pentland's commentary that I thought was the most speculative. It's hard to know if things are really as different as all that in the digital age, or if we are just more aware of it, because all of the blemishes have become more transparent when information flows at the speed of light. At any rate, it's hard to disagree with his desire for transparency and more granular control of the bureaucracies. ### Conclusion There's far more in the original article than I could adequately cover in this summary, so I emphatically recommend that you [click through]( and read the original or listen to the video. In my opinion, Pentland gave a fascinating, if wandering, discussion of AI, culture, and governance, and I especially intend to learn more about the concept of distributed Thompson sampling and Social Physics. --- ##### As a general rule, I up-vote comments that demonstrate "proof of reading".

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Thank you for your time and attention.

###### Steve Palmer is an IT professional with three decades of professional experience in data communications and information systems. He holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics, a master's degree in computer science, and a master's degree in information systems and technology management. He has been awarded 3 US patents. ###### Steve is a co-founder of the [Steemit's Best Classical Music]( Facebook page, and the @classical-music steemit curation account. ###### Follow: @remlaps ###### [RSS for @remlaps](, courtesy of []( ---
02 Nov 17:16

Campus insanity versus freedom of speech

by curryja

by Judith Curry

The aim of education is to make people think, not spare them from discomfort. – Robert Zimmer

Campus craziness

In case you haven’t been following this issue, there have been some disturbing events and trends in the ivory tower.  For an overview, see:

Two particular articles motivated this post:

Class struggle: how identity politics divided a campus.  At Reed College,  a freshman named Hunter Dillman who had been branded a racist after asking the organiser of a Latina student group an innocent question. He was ultimately hounded off campus.

Take Back the Ivory Tower.  Alice Dreger, author of Galileo’s Middle Finger, describes her travails as a researcher and public speaker with a non-‘politically correct’ perspective on intersex and transgendered persons.  She resigned her faculty position at Northwestern University over censorship issues.  Unfortunately the article is behind paywall, you can read the intro here.

My concern is that without viewpoint diversity where everyone is heard, research and scholarship suffers.  Further, students cocooning in safe spaces will be ill-prepared for dealing with the moral and political controversies and ambiguities that they will face throughout their lives.

Views from University administrators

A summary is provided by an Inside Higher Ed article: Presidents and Provosts Gather to Consider Free Speech Issues.  Some perspectives on these issues from individual University administrators:

Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro stresses the importance of safe spaces [link], which he defined as places on campus where students can find friends and build the confidence to have difficult conversations.

10 miles across town at the University of Chicago, President Robert Zimmer stated [link“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” “Concerns about civility and mutual respect,” the committee wrote, “can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.”

If you can’t speak freely, you’ll quickly lose the ability to think clearly. Your ideas will be built on a pile of assumptions you’ve never examined for yourself and may thus be unable to defend from radical challenges. You will be unable to test an original thought for fear that it might be labeled an offensive one. You will succumb to a form of Orwellian double-think without even having the excuse of living in physical terror of doing otherwise.

That is the real crux of Zimmer’s case for free speech: Not that it’s necessary for democracy (strictly speaking, it isn’t), but because it’s our salvation from intellectual mediocrity and social ossification. In a speech in July, he addressed the notion that unfettered free speech could set back the cause of “inclusion” because it risked upsetting members of a community.

“Inclusion into what?” Zimmer wondered. “An inferior and less challenging education? One that fails to prepare students for the challenge of different ideas and the evaluation of their own assumptions? A world in which their feelings take precedence over other matters that need to be confronted?”

Princeton University‘s President on pluralism and the art of disagreement:

This University, like any great university, encourages, and indeed demands, independence of mind.  We expect you to develop the ability to articulate your views clearly and cogently, to contend with and learn from competing viewpoints, and to modify your opinions in light of new knowledge and understanding. 

This emphasis on independent thinking is at the heart of liberal arts education.  It is a profoundly valuable form of education, and it can be exhilarating.  It can also at times be uncomfortable or upsetting because it requires careful and respectful engagement with views very different from your own.  I have already emphasized that we value pluralism at Princeton; we value it partly because of the vigorous disagreements that it generates.  You will meet people here who think differently than you do about politics, history, justice, race, religion, and a host of other sensitive topics.  To take full advantage of a Princeton education, you must learn and benefit from these disagreements, and to do that you must cultivate and practice the art of constructive disagreement.

Speaking up is not always easy.  As a student on this campus and, indeed, throughout your life—at work, in social settings, and in civic organizations—you will encounter moments when saying what you believe requires you to say something uncomfortable or unpopular.  Learning the art of disagreement can help you to choose the moments when it makes sense to speak, and to do so in ways that are effective, constructive, and respectful of the other voices around you.  But no matter how good you become at the art of disagreement, you will also need the personal courage to say what you believe—even if it is unpopular.

The UK is tackling this issue also [link].

It will not surprise you to hear that I am staunchly in Robert Zimmer’s corner on this.

Identity politics and the culture of victimhood

At the heart of this debate is identity politics and the culture of victimhood. From an article in Spiked:  Fear, Loathing and Victimhood.  Excerpts:

Some not limited by circumstance sometimes choose victimhood, adopting fashionable assumptions about their fragility and subordinate status.

There are, after all, substantial advantages to declaring yourself disadvantaged. Victims never have to say they’re sorry. Apologies – and accountability – are for victimisers. Victims are creditors, owed not just compassion but practical relief, like the power to censor whatever they consider offensive speech. The expression of unwelcome images or ideas in the presence of self-identified victims is labelled another form of victimisation, as student demands for trigger warnings and ‘safe spaces’ suggest.

Free inquiry is unnecessary to people convinced they have absolute truth on their side. It’s considered unfair or abusive to people presumed to require the suppression of contrary ideas in order to be ‘free’ to express their own. In this perverse and nonsensical view, freedom lies not in de-regulating speech but in re-regulating it, to protect a growing list of victim groups.

By now, successive generations of students have been taught to regard free speech as the enemy of equality and simple human decency.

Who may qualify as a victim – subordinate or even oppressed and, therefore, entitled to restrict other people’s liberties? On many campuses virtually anyone except a narrow category of white, heterosexual (or cisgender) Christian or Jewish men who aren’t obese, physically or mentally disabled and haven’t been sexually abused can claim membership in a disadvantaged group. In some circles, off campus, the opposite is true: virtually no one except white heterosexual Christians can lay claim to being victimised – by a ‘war’ on Christmas, secularism, gay marriage and the ‘homosexual agenda’, affirmative action’s ‘reverse discrimination’, and immigration, whether involving Mexicans, Muslims or others from whom members of a dwindling white majority aim to ‘take our country back’. Visit a progressive campus immediately before attending a Donald Trump rally or browse a right-wing Christian website and your head will be spun by polarised versions of reality and victimisation.

Identity politics and the victimism it fuels are non-partisan, inter-generational phenomena. 

Who’s doing what to whom? That is the question posed by identity politics and our debased legal and political discourse. Framing ideological opponents as either victims or oppressors exacerbates the rigidity of identity groups and invites authoritarianism, right and left. By reflexively declaring yourself a victim, you doubt or diminish your own agency and encourage appeals by demagogues who confirm your angry sense of impotence and promise to take charge – to be strong where you are weak. That is one ominous lesson of the Trump campaign, an exemplary and often overlooked exercise in victimism and identity politics.

Some articles on the ‘oppressors’ as ‘victims’:

And what about ‘climate deniers’ who are ‘victims’ of, among other things, lawsuits by Michael Mann (who feels ‘victimized’ by climate deniers). Ha ha. It never ends.  Mann’s recent lecture on academic freedom is not to be missed, it made my irony meter explode.

The pernicious aspects of victimization are many, but of relevance here is that it is stifling freedom of speech and university scholarship. Further, victimization sanctions teach students that an easy way to gain political power is through identification with victimized groups and shouting down your opponents, rather than through accomplishments and arguments.

Freedom of speech

Which leads us to some fundamental reflections on freedom of speech, in context of universities and scholarship.

The Brookings Institution has published results from a survey of college students regarding freedom of speech.  Excerpts:

Does the First Amendment protect “hate speech”? 39% Yes, 44% No, 16% Don’t Know.

Do you agree with those shouting down speaker who “is known for making offensive and hurtful statements”? 51% Yes, 49% No. 

Do you agree with those who use violence to prevent speech by someone who ”is known for making offensive and hurtful statements”? 19% Yes, 81% No. 

An article from Forbes:  Students aren’t the only ones who don’t understand free speech.  Excerpts:

The author of the Brooking’s study, John Villasenor, speculates that “if college faculty and administrators were asked the questions in this survey, the results would, at least in broad terms, be similar to the student results.”

Sadly, even though we don’t have polling of university faculty on the question, observance of everyday practice would seem to support Villasenor’s speculation. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 33.9% of public universities have policies that severely restrict freedom of speech. Another 52.8% have policies that narrowly restrict speech or policies that could be applied in an unconstitutional way. Only 6% of universities do not seriously threaten free speech.

This implicates another finding of the Brookings study that showed 53% of college students believe that the universities mission is to “create a positive learning environment for all students by prohibiting certain speech or expression of viewpoints that are offensive or biased against certain groups of people” rather than expose students to different viewpoints.

This last finding perhaps gets at the root of the problem. Yes, it’s true students don’t understand free speech. But perhaps that is because no one is teaching them.

From:  Does Disruption Violate Free Speech?

Contrary to the view of these protesters, individuals do not have a right to prevent others from speaking. It has long been recognized in constitutional law that the “heckler’s veto” — defined as the suppression of speech in order to appease disruptive, hostile, or threatening members of the audience — can be as much a threat to rights of free expression as government censorship.

The idea that private individuals cannot censor what the government is required to protect played a vitally important role during the civil-rights movement, when courts prevented officials in the South from stopping speeches and marches based on the threat of hostile audiences.

A thoughtful scholarly analysis of the free speech issue:  The US safe space campus controversy and the paradox of freedom of speech.  The paper  discusses the moral foundations of freedom of expression.

And finally, an excellent article from the New York Times on how to respond to situations such as white nationalist Richard Spencer who gave a talk at University of Florida.

JC reflections

Universities play a hugely important role in scientific and public debate; this is where ideas are tested and scrutinized.  Students learn to make effective arguments, and learn from considering the arguments of those that disagree with them.  Its a place where students grow into critically thinking, rational adults, ready to grapple with the moral and political issues they will encounter in adult life.

Well that’s the way it is supposed to work.  For the past decade, universities have become increasingly dysfunctional with political correctness and identity politics, to the exclusion of alternative perspectives. In my essay JC in transition, I didn’t see any hope for personally effecting any change, so I resigned my faculty position and went on to other things.

While a faculty member and Department Chair, I went out of my way to interact and support individual  students that needed help, were conflicted, etc.  Often this related financial issues, family issues, health issues, conflicts with other students or staff members, harassment, concerns about grades and career prospects, death of a faculty member.  I also instituted a series of informal panel discussion on topic related to a broad range of student concerns. Universities should have a good support system in place to help individual students that need it.

With regards to any feelings of group victimization, I have to say I have never had time for this.  Students will seek out other students who share common interests and concerns, and develop informal support groups.  Wasting their energy on group identity issues, in the absence of specific, concrete concerns of their own, is a distraction from dealing with a student’s own challenges and overcoming their own obstacles. It teaches them some really bad habits for dealing with the challenges in adult life..

There is a more pernicious aspect to all this — students (and activist faculty members) are using group victimization as a method to gain political power and to ostracize people with different perspectives.

There are inevitably injustices in any organization; the challenge is to identify them and work together to formulate constructive and equitable solutions.  It is not a solution to institutionalize marginalization of anyone with a different perspective.  This sends the whole system down a slippery slope of political polarization, demagoguery and intellectual mediocrity.

I applaud the work of to educate and and work to implement changes at universities to support viewpoint diversity.

In closing, a recent statement by former Vice President Joe Biden:

I taught constitutional law at Widener law school for 22 years. The First Amendment is one of the defining features of who we are in the Bill of Rights. And to shut it down in the name of what is appropriate is simply wrong. It’s wrong.


Filed under: Sociology of science
02 Nov 16:53

Understanding Segwit2x: Why Bitcoin's Next Fork Might Not Mean Free Money

by Pete Rizzo
CoinDesk offers a high-level overview of the coming Segwit2x fork, how it differs from the hard forks before it and what it might mean for bitcoin.
02 Nov 14:27

A More User-Friendly Bitcoin Market? OpenBazaar Version 2.0 Is Here

by Brady Dale
The startup behind OpenBazaar has released version 2.0 of its popular bitcoin market, with new features and more user-friendly interface.
02 Nov 14:22

Bitcoin 'Battle'? Core Developers Apathetic as Segwit2x Fork Approaches

by Alyssa Hertig
Bitcoin developers, once outraged by the Segwit2x hard fork, are now indifferent, believing it stands no chance of replacing bitcoin.
02 Nov 14:09

Yes, Bitcoin Can Do Smart Contracts and Particl Demonstrates How

Particl Thumb 3

The Bitcoin blockchain is not known for its ability to enable smart contracts. In fact, most developers creating smart contracts use a different blockchain, like Ethereum.


But the truth is that the Bitcoin protocol can be used to create smart contracts., the blockchain eCommerce platform, is doing just that by using Bitcoin-based smart contracts to manage funds in their trustless escrow: Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) escrow.


For Particl, Bitcoin provides the ideal mix of smart contract functionality — enough to make smart contracts easy to implement but without the security and privacy risks of a more complicated platform like Ethereum.

Smart Contracts Overview

A smart contract is an agreement that can be enforced through a blockchain. Rather than relying on trust or a legal framework to ensure that each party that enters into a contract will adhere to its terms, you can use the blockchain to create a contract that is automatically enforced, between two people, in a decentralized fashion.


Ethereum has become the most popular blockchain for creating smart contracts. One of the major design goals of the Ethereum platform was to support smart contracts. From the start, this set Ethereum apart from Bitcoin, which was created first and foremost as a digital currency platform.

Smart Contracts on Bitcoin Codebase

As the Bitcoin protocol has evolved, it has gained support for smart contracts. Smart contract functionality is not as programmable and extensible on Bitcoin as it is on Ethereum. However, using features added to Bitcoin through improvement proposals, certain smart contract functionality can be achieved through Bitcoin scripting.


For Particl, the most important smart contract feature in Bitcoin is the OP_CHECKLOCKTIMEVERIFY opcode, which was introduced by Peter Todd as Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) 65. The opcode makes it possible to write scripts that prevent funds in a multi-signature wallet from being spent until a certain signature pattern is implemented or a certain amount of time passes.

Particl, Smart Contracts and MAD Escrow

MAD escrow is a technique that effectively prevents fraud in a transaction without requiring the oversight of a third party. In a MAD escrow contract, a buyer and seller both place funds into escrow. The seller starts by depositing an amount they want the buyer to match to symbolize a virtual handshake. This could be between 0 and 100 percent of the item’s purchase price. The buyer then deposits an amount equal to the handshake amount plus the price of the item they are buying. The escrowed funds are not released to anyone until both parties confirm that the transaction has been completed satisfactorily. The technique prevents either party from profiting through cheating in a transaction.


Particl uses the BIP 65 opcode to enable MAD escrow contracts by locking funds in a multi-signature wallet until all of the parties sign off on the transaction. With this approach, buyers and sellers on Particl’s ecommerce platform can operate without worrying about fraud or paying unnecessary fees.


They also don’t have to sacrifice privacy because no third party is involved in the transaction. Furthermore, and perhaps most significantly, because there is only basic scripting involved, security concerns are minimal.


Particl’s approach to MAD escrow smart contracts is arguably better than building smart contracts on a platform like Ethereum. While Ethereum provides more extensible support for smart contracts, that flexibility comes with a higher risk of security and privacy threats. The more code that goes into a smart contract, the greater the risk of introducing a vulnerability that could enable an intrusion.


Ethereum might be a strong foundation for writing very complex smart contracts, or ones in which security and privacy are not priorities, but Bitcoin provides a simpler and more reliable scripting framework for the private escrows that Particl requires.

Contributing to Bitcoin’s Future


Particl’s choice of Bitcoin as the backbone for its smart contracts is also a reflection of the team’s efforts to build a completely private platform on top of the Bitcoin codebase, arguably the most secure, battle tested and contributed to protocol on the market.


There are many dozens of Bitcoin-based blockchain projects out there, but most are simply building cryptocurrencies forked from Bitcoin. They’re not taking advantage of Bitcoin’s potential to create the foundation for a completely decentralized platform that supports a multitude of DApps and programmable functionality.


In this sense, Particl is helping to ensure that Bitcoin’s future will evolve more than just creating another cryptocurrency. Privacy enhancements Particl has already implemented onto the latest Bitcoin codebase such as Confidential Transactions and RingCT can just as easily be one day adopted upstream to further harden Bitcoin.


The post Yes, Bitcoin Can Do Smart Contracts and Particl Demonstrates How appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

31 Oct 23:59

Legal Risks of Segregated Witness in Bitcoin: Law Journal Article

by Jimmy Nguyen - Chief IP, Communications & Legal Officer

In his law journal article, “The Risks of Segregated Witness: Problems under Electronic Contract and Evidence Laws,” nChain executive Jimmy Nguyen raises key legal issues triggered by the implementation of Segregated Witness (and the proposed SegWit 2x) in bitcoin.  SegWit is intended to answer Bitcoin’s critical question – how to scale the network to achieve faster transactions and improved usage – by separating signature data from transaction data. But in doing so, as Nguyen argues, SegWit fundamentally alters the nature of bitcoin and makes it difficult to authenticate blockchain-recorded transactions under the leading legal frameworks for both electronic contracts and evidentiary laws.

Published in The Computer & Internet Lawyer journal, Nguyen’s article asks: what happens if companies and consumers cannot easily authenticate and prove transactions later, in the case of legal disputes? These risks could impede the greater vision of Bitcoin 2.0, in which bitcoin is used both as a currency and as a way to power technological functions like smart contracts. Nguyen concludes that SegWit hinders the network’s ability to be demonstrably reliable and authentic to businesses, courts, regulators, and legislators.

Jimmy Nguyen’s full article is available for download here.

The post Legal Risks of Segregated Witness in Bitcoin: Law Journal Article appeared first on nChain.

30 Oct 18:49 Updates: Design and Security

New homepage layout

We've been busy synthesizing community feedback and designing ways to improve Over the next few weeks, we'll be rolling out a series of changes to the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI). To kick things off, we've started a series of small improvements to the homepage which are explained below by our Head of Design, Pon Kattera:

Putting people first

We've included the author's profile picture alongside each blog post. It's the people within our community that makes Steemit special and we hope this small change helps to deepen the connection between you and your fans.

Improve the scannability of each blog post and separate the key actions

We changed the layout of the post summary. By separating the author and timestamp from the key user actions (like upvote and reblog), it's now easier to quickly scan posts with elements in predictable, consistent places.

A picture is worth a thousand words

We've built a new expanded blog view layout. This gives you another more visual layout to browse posts. There is a toggle so you can quickly switch between the compressed and expanded views.

A new right sidebar on desktop

Yes, it does look a little lonely out there right now but this new structure sets us up for some new content items currently in development. --- Design is never done. In this period while we're testing new designs and rolling out changes, there are some visual inconsistencies scattered across the site. We're acutely aware of this and we’re working hard to unify the design and make it better. *@pkattera*

Improving security

The following pull requests help make condenser ( more secure.

Accidental private key sharing

[Pull request 1763]( added a warning to users who accidentally paste their private keys in the memo field when doing a wallet transfer. ![](

Malicious link warnings

[Pull request 1839]( will prevent malicious links from being clickable and will show the actual URL behind them. The text will be changed to red to warn users. Any link where the actual URL does not match the URL that is being displayed will be changed. You will now see something like this: ![]( Instead of: ![]( [Pull request 1822]( added a warning to the wallet history to caution users about potentially malicious links that may be sent as wallet transfer memos. ![](

Change to hide-post logic

[Pull request 1838]( updated the logic to show and hide posts so that any user’s post can be hidden if it receives enough downvotes. Previously users with a reputation of 65 or higher were exempt from being hidden. This will prevent malicious users from being able to use a hijacked level 65+ reputation account to post links without being hidden by downvotes.

Other changes

- “Submit a Story” was changed to “Post” in [pull request 1768]( - [Pull request 1808]( updated the “Claim Rewards” button so that users know it is in progress, and cannot click it a second time while it is still working. ![]( - The user profile page that users see if they view their own blog when they haven’t made any posts yet was updated to have new links. ([Pull request 1785]( ![]( - [Pull request 1787]( ensures that hashtags found in a post are only added to the categories if they don't exceed the limit of five. This will prevent users from getting a validation error if they use more than five hashtags in the post body. #fun #hashaway - Links were added to the main menu for "The Steemit Shop" and the "Steem Bluepaper" ([Pull request 1724]( ![]( - [Pull request 1804]( made several updates to the FAQ page to clarify the stolen account recovery process.

More to come

The recent changes to are the first of many that we will be making to the website layout over the coming months, so stay tuned and *Steem On*! _Team Steemit_
30 Oct 18:48

Update your STEEM apps! Big changes coming for 3rd party developers We have created a new public [jussi]( endpoint for third party applications to use. Jussi is our custom built caching layer, for use with steemd and other various services (such as [SBDS]( The jussi endpoint is available now at ``. [Condenser]( (the front-end application for is already using `` today. We encourage all third party developers to begin using the new endpoint right away. We are planning to deprecate the `` endpoint in favor of `` in the near future. ### What does this mean for third party developers? For our public steemd endpoint using, apps will need to speak to it through http/jsonrpc instead of websockets. The libraries we maintain will soon be updated to default to instead of ``, which will cover a lot of apps that don't set an endpoint and just use the default. JSONRPC has been chosen to be used for all of our infrastructure for a variety of reasons; the two biggest being the ability to more easily load balance and manage connections, and the ease of use for new developers - as JSONRPC is much more common than websockets. ### Is it going to be difficult to update my steem apps? In most cases it will be extremely easy to make this change. The four most popular steem libraries (steem-js, steem-python, radiator, and dsteem) that the majority of steem apps are built with already support http/jsonrpc. Other libraries may as well. All you'll need to do is update the endpoint/url to `` from the older `wss://`. If you have a custom written app that doesn't use one of the popular libraries you will need to change your transport method to http/jsonrpc from websockets. ### How long do I have? The timeframe for deprecating `` is not determined yet, but you should start implementing this change as soon as possible if you are using our public nodes for your STEEM apps. We will announce a final date before the endpoint is taken away.
30 Oct 18:46

Thinking out loud. What does Metcalfe's Law tell us about Bitcoin or Steem adoption?

On LinkedIn recently, steemit's CEO, @ned, shared this video of a Tech Insider interview with Tom Lee talking about his Bitcoin valuation model. According to Lee, a model using Metcalfe's law predicts something like 94% of Bitcoin's pricing over the last year or so. So what is Metcalfe's law? According to [wikipedia]('s_law): > Metcalfe's law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). First formulated in this form by George Gilder in 1993, and attributed to Robert Metcalfe in regard to Ethernet, Metcalfe's law was originally presented, c. 1980, not in terms of users, but rather of "compatible communicating devices" (for example, fax machines, telephones, etc.). So if Lee is right, as long as Bitcoin's user base is growing, we can expect to see **powerful** growth in the price of Bitcoin. To understand how Bitcoin will grow, we just need to appreciate the explosive potential of n2. (Those of us who were here in the days of Steem's N2 rewards curve definitely have a sense of it!) It looks like this: | # Users | Valuation factor | | --------- | ------ | | 1 | 1 | | 2 | 4 | | 3 | 9 | | 4 | 16 | | 5 | 25 | | ... | ... | | 10 | 100 | | ... | ... | So after a very short time, every additional user adds much more than 1 unit in increased value. If you double the number of users, you multiply the valuation factor by 4, and if you increase the number of users by a factor of 10, the valuation factor multiplies by 100, and so on. If you start with 10,000 users, adding just a single user increases the valuation factor by 20,001. Amazing. --- **In short:** _**Every existing user becomes more valuable to the network whenever a new user is added.**_ --- Now, if we assume this is correct about Bitcoin, then go a step further and also assume that it's true about Steem, then what does this tell us? Here are a couple of things off the top of my head. 1.) It goes a long way towards explaining why people on Steem are so eager to get other people to sign-up. I've been in IT since before the dotcom boom, and I cannot think of another platform where people have made their own marketing gizmos for the platorm to the extent that you see it here. With Steem, tons of people (myself included) have made their own steemit branded T-shirts, coffee cups, brochures, and other sorts of paraphernalia. 2.) It tells us that recruiting new users is more important for the network than getting existing users to participate more, and that - counterintuitively - it might even make economic sense for Bitcoin or Steem holders to give away small amounts of Bitcoin or Steem to new users for free. 3.) And this is big. It tells a potential new user that, "Your investment in Bitcoin or Steem will automatically increase in value just because you make it." (How weird is that?) So those are my thoughts. I'm interested to hear what others have to say. If we assume that Metcalfe's Law describes the growth of Bitcoin and Steem prices, what insights might that lead to? --- ##### As a general rule, I up-vote comments that demonstrate "proof of reading".

--- #####
Thank you for your time and attention.

###### Steve Palmer is an IT professional with three decades of professional experience in data communications and information systems. He holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics, a master's degree in computer science, and a master's degree in information systems and technology management. He has been awarded 3 US patents. ###### Steve is a co-founder of the [Steemit's Best Classical Music]( Facebook page, and the @classical-music steemit curation account. ###### Follow: @remlaps ###### [RSS for @remlaps](, courtesy of []( ---
30 Oct 18:40

Beethoven, Grieg, and Brahms in South-Eastern Pennsylvania: Reviewing a Concert by the Lenape Chamber Ensemble

--- ###### A Review of the Lenape Chamber Ensemble's October 15 concert at Delaware Valley University, near Doylestown, PA. --- ### Introduction A couple weeks ago, @cmp2020 was invited to turn pages for his piano instructor at a performance by the [Lenape Chamber Ensemble]( The performance was held in the Life Sciences Auditorium at [Delaware Valley University](, near Doylestown, PA. They have more performances scheduled in November, March, and April, so I thought I would write up a review for anyone near south-eastern PA that might enjoy an experience like this. ### Venue If I recall correctly, according to the fire capacity sign, the Life Sciences Auditorium held a maximum of about 300 people. I would guess that it was about 2/3 full. With a sound screen positioned behind the piano, and the shape of the auditorium, the acoustics sounded great to me. Audience members had their choice of seats on the ground level or in the balcony. I spoke to several members of the audience, and they told me that they had been seeing performances by this pianist for as many as the last 20 years. Several audience members complimented the pianist's skills with claims that he is excellent and amazing. Claims with which I came to agree. If I have any complaint at all about the experience, it would only be that there was another event scheduled at the university at the same time, so parking was a little bit difficult. ### Performers Stringed instruments were played by Cyrus Beroukhim - violin, Emily Daggett Smith - violin, Danielle Farina - viola, and Arash Amini - cello. Piano was played by Marcantonio Barone. The program and the [Ensemble's web site]( list the performers' backgrounds, and even before the first note, I was quite impressed by all of them. Here are some highlights from the group's web site. [Cyrus Beroukhim]( (violin) plays with the New York City ballet and has appeared as a soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, New York Symphonic Ensemble, Oakland East Bay Symphony, and others. He also holds a doctorate from [The Juilliard School]( [Emily Dagget Smith]( (violin) has appeared in a number of prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall in Los Angeles, and Boston's Symphony Hall. She also appeared as a soloist with the Juilliard Orchestra and the New York Classical Players. She has appeared on PBS' national broadcast, "Live at Lincoln Center", and twice on NPR's "From the Top." [Danielle Farina]( (viola) has a diverse resume, including roles as soloist, chamber musician, orchestral musician, teacher and recording artist. She performs classical and popular music, and has toured extensively in North America and Europe. She is also on faculty of the Manhattan School of Music's Contemporary Performance Program, Vassar College, Hunter College and the Juilliard School's Pre-College Division. [Arash Amini]( (cello) has performed as a soloist, orchestral and chamber musician in North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. He is a graduate of [The Curtis Institute of Music]( and [The Juilliard School]( He performs often with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and has been featured in a large variety of media from The Wall Street Journal to NPR and Voice of America. [Marcantonio Barone]( (piano) first played with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of 10. Since then, he has performed with orchestras in North America, South America, Europe and Asia including Philadelphia, New York, Houston, London, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. He is also a graduate of [The Curtis Institute of Music]( I arrived about a half hour early, so I had plenty of time to read through their summaries several times before the event started. After doing so, I was eager to hear the performance, and I am pleased to report that the music far exceeded my, already lofty, expectations. Honorable mention goes to @cmp2020. In addition to his primary role turning pages for Mr. Barone, he also did an excellent job with rearranging the music stands and seats for the musicians, even receiving a small scattering of applause for his technique at handling the equipment. ; -) ### Musical Selections #### Beethoven's String Quartet in A, Op. 18, No. 5 According to the program handout, this work was created in 1799, when Beethoven was famous for his virtuosity on the piano, and was beginning to gain a reputation as a composer. He learned to compose for string quartets, largely by studying the works of Haydn and Mozart. This was his first one, and he spent more than a year polishing it. Without being a copy, Quartet number 5 was patterned - movement by movement - after [Mozart's Quartet in A \(K. 464\)]( As with much of Mozarts' music, much of this quartet has a light, playful, lilting quality to it. I didn't take any recordings that day, but here is a video of the piece that I found on youtube. The performance in the video is done by the Alban Berg Quartett. #### Grieg's Violin Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 13 Although @cmp2020 has studied piano with Mr. Barone for more than a year, now, this was my first time seeing him play. I thought he was simply fantastic, as was Ms. Smith on violin. My only disappointment is that I frequently distracted myself by watching @cmp2020 turning the pages, because this was my first time seeing him do that, too. It's curious to note how interesting page turning becomes when your son is the one doing it. Interestingly, although the piece has a pensive tone to it, Grieg composed it on his honeymoon. According to the handout, that is because the Scandinavian musical style at the time was nationalistic, and Grieg wrote this piece to resemble the typical Norwegian village scene of his native land. Here is a youtube video of the piece that was performed by David Oistrakh and Vladimir Yampolsky in 1958. #### Brahms' Piano Trio in C Major, Op. 87 I am not always a fan of Brahms' music, but I really enjoyed this piece. As Beethoven was influenced by Mozart and Haydn, Brahms was influenced by Beethoven. The first movement of this work and the finale both have three main themes, somewhat somber in tone. The second movement reveals Brahms' interest in gypsy music, and the third movement, a scherzo (a light-hearted or humorous composition that often takes the place of the more formal minuet), has been described as "an eerie rustling light". It seemed to me that the third movement is the one that really showcased the musicians' skills. Here is a video of the work from 1974, performed by Eugene Istomin, piano; Isaac Stern, violín; and Leonard Rose, cello. ### Conclusion If you are near south-eastern Pennsylvania on the dates of one of the ensemble's upcoming concerts, I highly recommend it. Tickets are $18 for adults, $5 for children, and $15 for seniors and students. In my opinion, this is an amazingly low price to hear music played by such talented performers. According to [the web site]( upcoming concerts are scheduled on Nov 3 and 5, March 2 and 4, and April 6 and 8. Friday night events are held at the Upper Tinicum Lutheran Church. Sunday events are held at Delaware Valley University. The web site also has [directions]( --- ####
Thank you for your time and attention!

###### Steve Palmer is an IT professional with three decades of professional experience in data communications and information systems. He holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics, a master's degree in computer science, and a master's degree in information systems and technology management. He has been awarded 3 US patents. ###### Steve is a co-founder of the [Steemit's Best Classical Music]( Facebook page, and the @classical-music steemit curation account. ###### Follow: @remlaps ###### [RSS for @remlaps](, courtesy of []( ---
30 Oct 18:36

Q: What nation on Earth has reduced its carbon emissions more than any other? - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

h/t Jts5665

Q: What nation on Earth has reduced its carbon emissions more than any other?

Inconvenient Answer: According to climatologist Dr. Patrick Michaels, it’s “the good old USA, and that’s because we’ve been substituting natural gas for coal for power generation” as can be seen in the top chart above, which shows that CO2 emissions from electric power generation in the US last year were the lowest in 28 years, going all the way back to 1988. How often is that reported in the media?

Update: Bottom chart above shows total US CO2 emissions, which were the lowest during the January-June period this year since 1992, 25 years ago.

In the video below, Dr. Patrick Michaels, director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute and author of the book Lukewarming: The New Climate Science that Changes Everything, offers a current assessment of the political debate over climate change. He explains how the free market is allowing natural gas to be substituted for coal  worldwide at a rate that will achieve a lower level of global warming than would occur with strict adherence to the regulations of the Paris Accords.

Q: What nation on Earth has reduced its carbon emissions more than any other?
Mark Perry

18 Oct 18:09

EPA harnessed: Pruitt Issues Directive to End EPA “Sue & Settle” Practice

by Anthony Watts
From Dr. Roy Spencer, who says he received this via EPA’s email system. It isn’t on the EPA website yet, but I’m guessing their press office is running slow today due to the shock. However, it has been covered by the Washington Times who apparently got the same email. It was an “oral directive” since…
18 Oct 18:04

Signed as Law: Pennsylvania Right to Try Act Rejects Some FDA Restrictions on Terminal Patients

by Mike Maharrey

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Oct. 12, 2017) – Yesterday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill into law that sets the foundation to nullify in practice some Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules that deny access to experimental treatments by terminally ill patients.

Rep. Robert Godshall (R-Hatfield) sponsored House Bill 45 (HB45), along with nearly 40 cosponsors. The new law gives terminally ill patients access to medicines and treatments not yet given final approval for use by the FDA.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits general access to experimental drugs. However, under the expanded access provision of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 360bbb, patients with serious or immediately life-threatening diseases may access experimental drugs after receiving express FDA approval.

HB45 creates a process to bypass the FDA expanded access program and allows patients to obtain experimental drugs from manufacturers without first obtaining FDA approval. This procedure directly conflicts with the federal expanded access program and sets the stage to nullify it in practice.

HB45 passed the Senate by a 49-0 vote. and cleared the House by a 139-0 vote. With Gov. Wolf’s signature, the law will go into effect 60 days from the signing date.

HB45 includes protections for healthcare providers with a prohibition against revoking a license or issuing sanctions based on recommendation or issuance of investigational treatments. In addition, lawsuits against physicians who comply with terms specified in the bill are prohibited. The legislation also provides legal protections for manufacturers of experimental treatments and medications.

The impact of Right to Try isn’t merely theoretical.

Since the Texas Right to Try law went into effect in June 2015, at least 78 patients in the Lone Star State have received an experimental cancer treatment not allowed by the FDA. While the FDA would have allowed these patients to die, Houston-based oncologist Dr. Ebrahim Delpassand continued their treatment through the Texas law. (Watch a video about Dr. Delpassand here.)

Pennsylvania becomes the 38th state to enact Right to Try. Although these laws only address one small aspect of FDA regulation, they provide a clear model that demonstrates how to nullify federal statutes that violate the Constitution. The strategy narrows the influence of nullification to limited aspects of the law itself, which has proven to be very effective.

“Americans shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission to try to save their own lives,” said Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute. “They should be able to work with their doctors directly to decide what potentially life-saving treatments they are willing to try. This is exactly what Right To Try does.”

The Right to Try Act is a no-brainer. When someone is on their deathbed, the fact that FDA regulations would let them die rather than try has got to be one of the most inhumane policies of the federal government. Every state should take action to nullify the FDA like this.


The Pennsylvania Right to Try law will go into effect Dec. 10, 2017.

18 Oct 17:36

IBM's Stellar Move: Tech Giant Uses Cryptocurrency in Cross-Border Payments

by Michael del Castillo
IBM has been settling real cross-border payments in the South Pacific on a blockchain using Stellar's Lumen cryptocurrency.
08 Oct 16:36

Science Explains How Evaporation Can Be The Next Renewable Energy Source!

![thumbnail evape.jpg]( What if the game changer of energy has been evaporating right under our noses! We normally think of solar panels and wind turbines for sustainable sources of power, however it does not end there. According to Columbia University scientists, one untapped energy source may be the massive amount of water continually evaporating from the world's lakes and reservoirs. ## The Energy Retrieval
This natural phenomena, could be converted into energy using devices containing sheets covered with a bacterial spore, which will begin to contract and expand due to a change of moisture - nearly identical to our muscles flexing. This "mechanical muscle" could be used to generate enormous amounts of electricity, says university scientists. In a newly published article in the journal Nature Communications, "Researchers estimate that inland bodies of water in the United States have at least the theoretical potential to generate as much as 325 gigawatts of electricity". Amazing, this would generate nearly 70% of the United States nationwide electrical consumption in 2015. ![pfvnbw7mrngmkcoscfpl.jpg]( ## The Prototypes Shaping The Future "Our artificial muscle absorbs water evaporating from the surface of the lake," says chemical engineer and study lead author Ahmet-Hamdi Cavusoglu, via email. "As it absorbs water, the muscle swells and expands." "When the muscle absorbs all the possible water, the shutters above the muscle open so that water can evaporate into the air from the muscle. As the water leaves the muscle, the muscle shrinks, pulling at a turbine to generate energy, similar to a rower on a rowing machine pulling at the turbine." ![gallery-1434465436-hydras.jpg]( "Bacterial spores typically exist in dry places, when spores see moisture around itself it absorbs some of that moisture, in turn the spore gets bigger and when it finds a dry environment it shrinks again." claims Oscar, one of the head scientists at Columbia University working on the development of this technology. This video shows the evaporation machines which may power the future. ## Only Just Begun As of now, this technology has only been tested in a laboratory setting, there is far more research and development ahead before the technology could be scaled up to and become a major source of electricity. ![Capture.PNG]( "First, better and bigger materials need to be made that can effectively harness energy from evaporation," [says Cavusoglu]( "Currently, the Sahin lab is researching how to make better spore-based materials and building larger engine prototypes. We hope to see larger prototypes being demonstrated in the next few years." What do you think? Could evaporation be the game changer for renewable energy? --- Sources: [1](, [2](, [3](, [4](, [5](, [6]( Images: [1](, [2](, [3](, [4](, [5]( --- # *Who is @Chron?* ![Chron head profile-divingboat.jpg]( ### @chron is a 16 year old robot-headed Steemer, currently based in Bali, Indonesia. I am currently working in association with @samstonehill on the following projects: - *@steemmasters* which provides [FREE TUTORIALS](!/c/steemmasters), personal training & resteeming services. Website [HERE]( - *@steemitcharity* which aims to help charity campaign gain traction on Steemit and help the affected people, check out our most recent post [HERE]( ![DQmdLjhQRmX3Xzp88cvZphJ6WnjEtvf7kopNbYAVhghjPUQ.jpg]( #### Here is a list of Steemit Witness I have voted for & recommend you do the same: @teamsteem @timcliff @jesta @good-karma @someguy123 @blocktrades @pfunk @klye @krnel @blueorgy @ausbitbank & @thecryptodrive **Without them the our beautiful decentralized platform would sink!** **Learn what this means [HERE]( and place your vote [HERE.](** ![chron banner 2.jpg](
07 Oct 20:23

To the Parents Who Called the Cops After My 80-year-old Dad Chatted with Your Child at the Supermarket

by lskenazy
One more time: Most humans saying hello to a child in public are not doing anything evil.
Those who report them to the police, on the other hand…
Dear Free-Range Kids:
I thought you would be interested in this Facebook post to one of my groups today. It was the Blue Mountains Community Social Group, over here in Australia. The person who posted it reported that she saw it pasted up in a local shopping centre. We’re a fairly small, regional community, about 100km from Sydney.
I’m happy to say that of the 93 comments (so far) and 227 reactions, the vast majority have leapt  to the defense of the 80-year-old man, and have expressed despair for the sorry state of a world where a male person is unable to have a conversation with a stranger child without being branded a “pedo.”

From a small town an hour outside of Sydney, Australia.

In case you can’t read it it says:

To the parent(s) of a young child.

In the week ending 10 September 2017, my 80-year-old father spoke kindly to a young boy in the prominent supermarket in Winmalee. This gesture ended with the child having a friendly hand rest briefly on his head or shoulder.

At his car, my father was challenged by a plain-clothed police officer. This lead to confusion and upsettedness expressed.

A few days later, two detectives arrived unannounced at my parents Winmalee home, continually reassuring my parents that all was OK, and the CCTV footage aligned with my parents story — the matter would not be pursued further.

It is of some alarm that you did not consider that a friendly word to a young person may just be that. It is of concern to me that you could not consider that engagement within the community will involve being spoken to by people unknown to us — and that, as social animals, people naturally will seek to momentarily bond within their community.

Additionally, many older persons take joy in observing youth interacting with their surrounds. You surely are aware of this.

I cannot express how much your action of alarm has struck at the confidence of an older man. His expression of goodwill undone by an overly zealous parent, who did not have the courage to speak of their opinion directly to my father, or guide the child away. Or to join in and add to the conversation.

Instead, you covertly and unnecessarily inform authorities. About what, I do not know.

We were all strangers once to others we now know — overcome through communication skills, learned and improved by conversing with an array of persons.

And a closed, dysfunctional society is formed of reading too much into a situation, and acting on exaggerated thought and impulsive negative action, rather than that of a considered positive outlook.

Thank you for reading.

Ad thank you, whoever you are, for writing, and reminding us of our humanity.


An old man talked to my child in public, officer! Go get him!


07 Oct 12:32

AN ABSOLUTE DISGRACE: IRS awards multimillion-dollar no-bid fraud-prevention contract to Equifax….

by Glenn Reynolds

h/t Jts5665

06 Oct 04:58

D.C. Could Become Only U.S. City to Decriminalize Prostitution

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Will Washington, D.C. buck national trends and actually take a stand for sex-worker rights and safety? It will if politician David Grosso gets his way. The at-large councilmember has just introduced a bill to decriminalize prostitution in the District.

"I do not think the criminalization of sex workers has worked for the District of Columbia," Grosso told DCist. "Arresting our way out of the problem is not the solution. The approach should be a harm reduction and human rights approach."

The "Reducing Criminalization to Promote Public Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2017" would amend D.C.'s criminal code to make both the selling and the buying of sex legal. It's co-sponsored by At-large Councilmember Robert White.

Unlike moves by Canada and many Western European countries, the D.C. plan would not attempt to regulate sex work by setting up red-light districts, providing for brothel permits, or similar schemes. In countries where prostitution is highly regulated (including parts of Nevada), those engaging in sex work outside these parameters are still sought out and punished by police, thereby recreating all the worst harms of criminalization. This is especially true in countries that have adopted the "Nordic model" of sex-work regulation, wherein people who pay for sex are still criminalized but those offering sexual services are not.

Grosso's bill would do several specific things:

  • Repeal the 1935 bill requiring "for the suppression of prostitution in the District of Columbia," thereby removing criminal penalties for engaging in or soliciting prostitution.
  • Abolish the city's Anti-Prostitution Vehicle Impoundment Proceeds program and fund
  • Repeal prohibitions on procuring someone for prostitution, operating a house of prostitution, or operating a "place used for the purpose of lewdness, assignation, or prostitution"

It would also repeal D.C.'s prohibition on "pandering" (i.e., placing, causing, inducing, enticing, procuring, or compelling someone somewhere "with the intent that such individual shall engage in prostitution"), because any elements of "pandering" involving force or juveniles are covered by the city's law against compelling prostitution, and would amend the compelling prostitution statute to include bans on detaining or compelling someone "to marry the abductor or to marry any other person."

The legislation would create a temporary task force "to study and make recommendations regarding the removal of criminal penalties and providing supports for individuals engaging in commercial sex" and issue a report on what it finds. The task force would include members of D.C. government, public health professionals, sex workers ("and people profiled as sex workers"), and nonprofits that provide services to people in the commercial sex industry.

Gross pointed out in DCist that his approach is supported by health and human-rights groups like Amnesty International and the World Health Organization, and said he hopes his colleagues keep an open mind. "It's about treating people with dignity, respect, and love, over whatever they were taught in church or whatever hangups they have about sex."

06 Oct 04:58

Sheriff Who Ordered Aggressive Pat Downs of Students in Pointless Drug Raid Indicted for Sexual Battery

by Robby Soave

Worth CountyThe Georgia sheriff who authorized intrusive pat downs for hundreds of students at Worth County High School earlier this year was indicted for sexual battery, false imprisonment, and violating his oath of office.

Authorities will issue a warrant for Jeff Hobby's arrest later this week, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Two deputies were also indicted. It is alleged that they groped male and female students, touching them inappropriately during the completely pointless search. No drugs were found on any of the 900 boys and girls subjected to the pat downs.

Reason's Brian Doherty wrote up the details of the students' lawsuit:

According to the suit's account of events, all the students "were confined either to their first-period classrooms, to the hallways immediately outside their classrooms, or to the gym" and their "cell phones were seized so that they could not reach their parents....During the lockdown and mass search, Defendants restricted students' access to restrooms. Some students were not permitted to go to the restroom for the entire four-hour lockdown period."

The suit claims that the deputies "inserted fingers inside girls' bras, and pulled up girls' bras, touching and partially exposing their bare breasts," "touched girls' underwear by placing hands inside the waistbands of their pants or reaching up their dresses," "touched girls' vaginal areas through their underwear," and "cupped or groped boys' genitals and touched their buttocks through their pants."

The suit alleges that a female deputy, Brandi Whiddon, searched a 16-year-old plaintiff—known in the suit as K.A.—by taking "one of K.A.'s arms, plac[ing] it higher up on the wall, and kick[ing] her legs to open them wider. Whiddon pulled the front of K.A.'s bra away from her body by the underwire and flipped it up. Whiddon also looked down the back and front of K.A.'s dress. Whiddon slid her hands from one of K.A.'s ankles up to her pelvic area. Whiddon's hands went underneath K.A.'s dress as Whiddon felt up K.A.'s leg. Whiddon's hands stopped on and cupped K.A.'s vaginal area and buttocks. Whiddon then slid her hands down to the other ankle. Whiddon was wearing gloves, but did not change them before or after her search of K.A."

Another plaintiff, known by the initials J.E., told The Washington Post that during the search a male officer lined students up against a wall and "came up under my privates and then he grabbed my testicles twice....I wanted to turn around and tell him to stop touching me. I wanted it to be over and I just wanted to call my dad because I knew something wasn't right."

As Doherty noted, the school district did not join the lawsuit, but school officials agree with the students' version of events. The district superintendent has claimed that the searches were performed despite the school's objections.

Routine disrespect for students' privacy and due process rights is a major problem in the K-12 education system. A conviction in this case could send a message that young people cannot be abused by law enforcement officers merely because they set foot inside a school.

06 Oct 04:57

Bitcoin Is Free Speech—Why Jamie Dimon Was Wrong and Governments Can Never 'Close It Down': New at Reason

by Jim Epstein

"[Governments] like to the control the currency," J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon said at a September 12 financial service conference, when asked why he thinks bitcoin is a "fraud."

"They control it through a central bank...the bigger these things get...they close it down."

Bitcoin enthusiasts were quick to point out that bitcoin can't be shut down because it doesn't have a CEO or corporate headquarters. It's a software network that runs on computers spread around the globe, so any efforts to close it down would resemble a game of wack-a-mole.

Here's the other point Jamie Dimon doesn't understand: Bitcoin is also free speech. And though other countries could ban it, it can't be made illegal in the U.S. thanks to the First Amendment. That's because bitcoin is just code, and code is just speech, which is based on legal precedent established during the so-called crypto wars of the early 90s.

In 1993, Phil Zimmerman faced possible criminal charges for writing the encryption software PGP. The government said that it was as dangerous as guns and bombs. To make the point that PGP's source code is protected speech, MIT Press printed it in a book, sold it abroad, and Zimmerman was never indicted.

Then in 1995, with help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, mathematician Daniel Bernstein sued the U.S. government on First Amendment grounds for blocking publication of his encryption program.

"Computer language is just that, language," wrote Judge Marilyn Hall Patel. Ultimately, the Ninth Circuit Court affirmed Patel's ruling that code has the same constitutional protections as a poem or newspaper article.

The First Amendment protects users who keep their own bitcoins printed on a sheet of paper or stored in a software wallet, but it doesn't preclude regulatory regimes like the New York BitLicense, which constrains the activities of third-party companies that maintain other people's crypto holdings. But these firms are a vestige of the old-world financial system.

If the world transitions from a dollar standard to a bitcoin standard, by then, software will have made it easier for users to maintain and trade their own cryptocurrency without involving a regulated company. And those activities have the same constitutional protections as other forms of controversial speech.

That money can now be expressed in strings of numbers and letters that don't require a government-sanctioned bank to declare them valid poses a mortal threat to the existing financial industry. Is it any wonder that the CEO of the world's sixth largest bank wants to believe that the government can step in and offer protection?

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06 Oct 04:33

Evolution of Black Lives Matter

by admin

1.  BLM highlights a real problem and creates a pretty decent plan for addressing that problem


2.  BLM totally abandons their reasonable plan and concentrates on acting as a virtue signalling vehicle


3.  BLM completely loses their minds by antagonizing a natural ally and opposing important minority rights protections

A few days ago I said I did not understand this anti-free-speech position well enough to pass an ideological Touring test.  Several commenters took a pretty good shot at making the argument for it from the perspective of the oppressor-oppressed political axis.  Let me, though, explain why I think the BLM argument does not work on their own terms.

The key thing to understand is this:  Speech codes are written by and for the privileged.  They are written by the oppressor to shut up the oppressed.  George Wallace did not need the First Amendment, black kids trying to go to the University of Alabama needed it.  So the BLM opposition to free speech is either 1) completely misguided, as the oppressed need these protections the most or 2) an acknowledgement that they and their allies are now the privileged, they are the ones in power, and they wish to use speech codes as they have always been used, to shut up those not in power.  In broader society the situation is probably #1 but on University campuses we may have evolved to situation #2.

05 Oct 17:14

To the Governor: Pennsylvania Unanimously Passes Right to Try Act

by Shane Trejo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Oct. 4, 2017) – Today, the Pennsylvania House gave final approval to a bill that would set the foundation to nullify in practice some Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules that deny access to experimental treatments by terminally ill patients.

Spondored by Rep. Robert Godshall (R-Hatfield) and nearly 40 cosponsors, House Bill 45 (HB45) would give terminally ill patients access to medicines and treatments not yet given final approval for use by the FDA.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits general access to experimental drugs. However, under the expanded access provision of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 360bbb, patients with serious or immediately life-threatening diseases may access experimental drugs after receiving express FDA approval.

HB45 creates a process to bypass the FDA expanded access program and allows patients to obtain experimental drugs from manufacturers without first obtaining FDA approval. This procedure directly conflicts with the federal expanded access program and sets the stage to nullify it in practice.

On Monday, HB45 passed the Senate by a 49-0 vote. It previously passed the House by a 139-0 vote.

The Senate version had some technical amendments, so the bill went back to the House for concurrence. On Oct. 3, the Rules Committee approved the Senate version 31-0. Today, the House concurred and gave it final approval.

HB45 includes protections for healthcare providers with a prohibition against revoking a license or issuing sanctions based on recommendation or issuance of investigational treatments. In addition, lawsuits against physicians who comply with terms specified in the bill would be prohibited. The legislation also provides legal protections for manufacturers or experimental treatments and medications.

The impact of Right to Try isn’t merely theoretical.

Since the Texas Right to Try law went into effect in June 2015, at least 78 patients in the Lone Star State have received an experimental cancer treatment not allowed by the FDA. While the FDA would have allowed these patients to die, Houston-based oncologist Dr. Ebrahim Delpassand continued their treatment through the Texas law. (Watch a video about Dr. Delpassand here.)

Currently, 37 states have Right to Try laws on the books. Although these laws only address one small aspect of FDA regulation, they provide a clear model that demonstrates how to nullify federal statutes that violate the Constitution. The strategy narrows the influence of nullification to limited aspects of the law itself, which has proven to be very effective.

“Americans shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission to try to save their own lives,” said Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute. “They should be able to work with their doctors directly to decide what potentially life-saving treatments they are willing to try. This is exactly what Right To Try does.”

The Right to Try Act is a no-brainer. When someone is on their deathbed, the fact that FDA regulations would let them die rather than try, has got to be one of the most inhumane policies of the federal government. Every state should take action to nullify the FDA like this.


The bill will soon be transmitted to the Governor’s desk.  He must sign or veto legislation within 10 days after transmittal, or it becomes law without his signature.

05 Oct 16:09

money as a system of control

Aantonop talk We know that money serves as: - A Store of Value (SoV) - A Medium of Exchange (MoE) and - A Unit of Account (UoA) But what happens when a fourth use of money is introduced, one which subordinates all the other characteristics: money as a system of control. This talk took place at the Advanced Digital Innovation Summit on September 12th 2017 in Vancouver, Canada: QUESTION & ANSWER: Biggest threat to cryptocurrencies - ICOs, disruption, and self-regulation - RELATED: The Stories We Tell About Money - Bitcoin: Where the Laws of Mathematics Prevail - The Digital Currency Commons - Open Blockchains for Cashless Developed Economies - Hardware, Software, Trustware - Fake News, Fake Money - Blockchain vs. Bullshit: Thoughts on the Future of Money - Separation of money and state - Could governments take over exchanges? - Is Bitcoin a democracy? - Unstoppable code - Irreversibility and consumer protection - Scaling, trust, and trade-offs - The Switzerland of currencies - How is fungibility tied to privacy? - Fungibility, privacy, anonymity - Andreas M. Antonopoulos is a technologist and serial entrepreneur who has become one of the most well-known and well-respected figures in bitcoin. Follow on Twitter: @aantonop Website: He is the author of two books: “Mastering Bitcoin,” published by O’Reilly Media and considered the best technical guide to bitcoin; “The Internet of Money,” a book about why bitcoin matters. THE INTERNET OF MONEY, v1: MASTERING BITCOIN: [NEW] MASTERING BITCOIN, 2nd Edition: Subscribe to the channel to learn more about Bitcoin & open blockchains! If you want early-access to talks and a chance to participate in a monthly LIVE Q&A with Andreas, become a patron: Music: "Unbounded" by Orfan ( Outro Graphics: Phneep ( Outro Art: Rock Barcellos (
05 Oct 02:58

Open data from the Large Hadron Collider sparks new discovery

by Swapna Krishna

h/t Roumen.ganeff

Back in 2014, CERN released the data from its Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments onto an online portal called the Open Data portal. It was an unprecedented move, making data from the LHC's experiments available to those who don't have access to...
04 Oct 20:55

My story about Steemit for Backchannel: 'The Social Network Doling Out Millions in Ephemeral Money'

I'm Andrew McMillen, a freelance journalist and author based in Brisbane, Australia.

I've been watching and participating in Steemit for about a year, and I've just written a feature story about the platform and currency for Backchannel, a technology-focused media outlet published on An excerpt from my story is below; click through to read the full article.
The Social Network Doling Out Millions in Ephemeral Money

Steemit is a social network with the radical idea of paying users for their contributions. But in the crypto gold rush, it's unclear who stands to profit.

Every time you log onto Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to share a photo or post an article, you give up a piece of yourself in exchange for entertainment. This is the way of the modern world: Smart companies build apps and websites that keep our eyeballs engaged, and we reward them with our data and attention, which benefit their bottom line. Steemit, a nascent social media platform, is trying to change all that by rewarding its users with cold, hard cash in the form of a cryptocurrency. Everything that you do on Steemit—every post, every comment, and every like—translates to a fraction of a digital currency called Steem. Over time, as Steem accumulates, it can be cashed out for normal currency. (Or held, if you think Steem is headed for a bright future.) The idea for Steemit began with a white paper, which quietly spread among a small community of techies when it was released in March 2016. The exhaustive 44-page overview wasn’t intended for a general audience, but the document contained a powerful message. User-generated content, the authors argued, had created billions of dollars of value for the shareholders of social media companies. Yet while moguls like Mark Zuckerberg got rich, the content creators who fueled networks like Facebook got nothing. Steemit’s creators outlined their intention to challenge that power imbalance by putting a value on contributions: “Steem is the first cryptocurrency that attempts to accurately and transparently reward…[the] individuals who make subjective contributions to its community.” A minuscule but dedicated audience rallied around Steemit, posting stories and experimenting with the form to discover what posts attracted the most votes and comments. When Steemit released its first payouts that July, three months after launch, things got serious. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are only worth whatever value people ascribe to them, so there was no guarantee that the tokens dropping into Steemit accounts would ever be worth anything. Yet the Steem that rolled out to users translated to more than $1.2 million in American dollars. Overnight, the little-known currency spiked to a $350 million market capitalization—momentarily rocketing it into the rare company of Bitcoin and Ethereum, the world’s highest-valued cryptocurrencies. Today, Steem’s market capitalization has settled in the vicinity of $294 million. One Steem is worth slightly more than one United States Dollar, and the currency remains a regular presence at the edge of the top 20 most traded digital currencies. It’s a precipitous rise for a company that just 18 months ago existed only as an idea in the minds of its founders.
++ To read the full story, visit Backchannel. Above illustration credit: Lauren Cierzan