December links: Web3 and the third law of motion
Good morning from Salt Lake City. Fiona and I made our winter pilgrimage out here to visit my parents and enjoy actual seasons, which starkly contrast with San Francisco's year-round 60-degree fog. However, the promised snow has yet to materialize. My cozy tea, mug, and slippers are on strip alert.
This edition's rabbit-hole: Web3 and its reactionaries
"Web3" is the hot new term for the recent wave of decentralized-everything coined by one of the cofounders of Ethereum, Gavin Wood. He runs the Web3 Foundation out of Switzerland and his view is basically that blockchain is an inherently political movement against the "centralized internet," or the 2.0-ers. Quick recap of the internet generations:
- Web 1.0: Mid-1990s. The Wild West. Static pages. Geocities. Golden age of cyberpunk. People handwriting lots of html and using...yuck...tables to move content around on pages. Yahoo hires professional "surfers" to index the internet. No algorithmic search engines. The idea of using websites on a phone is still like Star Trek.
- Web 2.0: Late 1990s through to about...now? People realize that writing html all the time is a pain in the ass. Blogging platforms emerge. Google explodes onto the scene with a new and really good search engine that crawls the internet automatically and indexes sites that match particular queries. Social media comes alive. People start ditching personalized websites and message-board-style forums for Facebook. People figure out that a really good way to make money on the internet is through advertising. A few companies figure out how to do content management and money-making really well and accrue immense amounts of power and wealth. We get the FANG stocks. By the mid-2010s, user data is the new oil. MOBILE FIRST. Privacy starts to become a concern. A few big companies get hacked and people's personal info gets leaked to the public. Someone invents re-targeting. People start becoming pretty darn suspicious of this whole advertising thing. All big internet companies start talking about privacy in their marketing materials as a way to make people feel better about handing over every piece of information in their lives.
- Web 3.0: 2014ish - now. It's not totally clear what the universally-agreed-upon definition is because Web3 is being debated in the present moment. But, generally: AI! Machine learning! Blockchain! Bitcoin! Ethereum! NFTs! First, it's just the drug dealer at your high school who has Bitcoin. Bitcoin is really unique because there's no one person who has control over the money system and it's really hard to tell who is paying who and for what and so it's nice and private. It's cool too because it doesn't evaporate in value with inflation like US dollars. But it's stored on janky digital wallets in the beginning. Some of these early cryptocurrency exchanges are shady and run away with people's money. Entrepreneurs realize there's an audience for Bitcoin/blockchain but the protocols are fairly hard to use and they invent better wallets and more trustworthy exchanges. Mainstream, non-drug-dealer people start to like the privacy and decentralized aspects of blockchain. Big companies and investment firms start getting into crypto. Everyone starts talking about fucking NFTs even though they're not super well-understood and maybe kind of dumb. As we get to the present moment, a whole philosophical movement takes shape, as Gavin Wood claims, aimed against the internet hegemony of the Googles, Apples, Facebooks (ahem..sorry, Meta--which just frankly sounds more sinister and better to rally against), etc. here's a good explainer:
But, now Newton's Third Law of Motion, the equal and opposite reaction:
Yesterweb.org is interesting because they're Web 1.0 marxists who seem to be against the profit-motive in all forms and think that Web3-ers are just the newest generation of snakeoil salesmen. Their online zine is pretty interesting if for nothing else than the nostalgia and creativity. I don't subscribe to the idea that making money online is bad in all forms and that we should revert the entire internet to a socialist regime of Web 1.0 servers where everyone has a right to a shitty Geocities site for free forever.
Moving on, anti-Web3-ers right-click and download other people's NFTs with no recourse:
And finally, why do some Web3 people seem like zealous cultists who want to build coin-shaped cities on Volcanos?
I'm probably going to write a whole article on Web3 and its trends soon.
Links and media commentary
Some of the work of Naval Ravikant, one of the most interesting technologist-turned-thinkers I follow.
More stuff about China...and the weird stuff happening in Ukraine. Would highly recommend checking out the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) podcast. I've been listening to them on my runs and I think they're generally terrific.
Aviation: The sixth generation
What is it? No one is super sure yet. Do they even have pilots? Some programs seem like they will, others don't.
The Italian-UK collab version:
The US version:
The Russian version ("In an interview for Russia Today, the Director General of RSK MiG, Ilya Tarasenko, speculated that it would be a new construction capable of Mach number 4–4.3, equipped with an anti-missile laser"):
I affectionately remember these kinds of cheesy Lord of the Rings collectibles from the days of Skymall on the plane.
Good things from YouTube
Good old Utah.
Meal worms seem like the kind of horrifying and efficient things that would survive the apocalypse and consume the bodies everything else that died and end up the dominant life-form on Earth.