Why You Should Take Bitcoin Seriously

Photo taken by Donna Guzik

Today - for the first time - the value of a bitcoin eclipsed U$1,000. The rapid rise of this open source peer to peer crypto-currency has drawn a lot of attention, ranging right across the spectrum, from euphoric and utopian boosters, to cynical skeptics declaring another bubble. The real truth is that Bitcoin will probably not live up to some of the hype that suggests it could end up being worth as much as $35,000 each. However Bitcoin is also not a bubble per se, but a genuine innovation, a fascinating set of phenomena, and an open lab for some super smart people to rethink the medium of money.

Thus I offer a few brief reasons as to why you should take the rise of Bitcoin seriously, and take some of your precious time to pay closer attention to what's going on:

The Future of Authority: Hacking Reality

I was invited to give a TEDx talk at Western University and I decided to present some of the knowledge that has emerged via the Hacking Reality program at the Academy of the Impossible. Explicitly I focused on how the internet impacts our relationship with authority, and as a result our relationship with reality. The opportunity therefore is to hack reality, and demand the impossible.

If you find it entertaining please share widely.

Discussing Bitcoins with Anna Maria Tremonti

The Current on CBC Radio asked me to come in and offer an introductory description and conversation regarding bitcoins, the peer-to-peer digital currency that continues to fluctuate wildly:

Call it a currency without a country. Bitcoins ... digital tokens that are traded over the Internet ... can't be stuffed in your wallet, or crammed in your pocket. But that hasn't stopped the virtual coinage from sending ripples through the financial world. Early this year you could buy a bitcoin online for $15. But its value has surged --- spiking upwards of $250 this week.

With more and more people looking to shelter themselves from a jittery global economy an increasing number of these virtual bucks are finding real-world homes. Just ask Alex Likhtenstein. He co-owns EVR Bar in Manhattan, and allows people to pay their tabs in bitcoin.

Toronto Star profiles the Academy of the Impossible

Toronto Internet strategist Jesse Hirsh and author Emily Pohl-Weary are hacking real life with their game-changing Academy of the Impossible.

Antonia Zerbisias wrote a glowing profile in the Toronto Star of the work Emily and I do at the Academy of the Impossible. It's refreshing when people understand what we're trying to do, and why. We believe that life long learning is the path to success, and that said learning should be fun and self-directed.

It ends with a quote from me that sums it all up nicely:

The Agenda with Steve Paikin: BlackBerry's Odd Future

I returned to The Agenda with Steve Paikin to discuss the pivot that BlackBerry hopes to make with the release of their new BB10 operating system. We touched upon the new operating system, the Z10 device, and the challenges BlackBerry faces moving forward.

I enjoy going on The Agenda and talking with Steve as there are no commercials and the long conversational format allows for a smarter and deeper discussion. For example we were able to get into the mythology that technology companies tend to foster and the impact this has upon their success.

Netflix, Big Data, and House of Cards

House of Cards

Like many I spent this past Superb Owl weekend watching the political thriller House of Cards rather than Beyonce or Football. The Netflix remake of the BBC adaptation of the Michael Dobbs novel is fantastic, and as it turns out, tailored to me, my friends, and our interests.

Netflix is a company driven by big data. Their service is dependent upon customization and recommendations so as to keep us watching shows that are usually old and somewhat stale.

House of Cards, while somewhat old, is actually entirely new, at least when it comes to television production. As noted by Andrew Leonard writing for Salon:

One on One with Peter Mansbridge

No, we didn't play basketball, but I did have the opportunity to sit down with CBC's Chief Correspondent, Peter Mansbridge, to talk technology, privacy, and politics.

Peter wanted to start by looking at what is up with Research in Motion, and whether they can and in fact are turning things around. The only way to answer that is to also look at Apple and Google. From there we got into Facebook, social media, and the broader question of privacy.

I tried to synthesize the issue of privacy down to the importance of the secret ballot as a pillar of our democracy. How the more we share, the more we become vulnerable to political identification and manipulation. This seemed to catch Peter's attention, as he understands just what's at stake when it comes to who rules and why.

In a Corrupt Society, Cheaters Feel Righteous


In a society that is corrupt, cheaters are fueled by a sense of righteousness. Driving on the 401 near Brockville, listening to NPR, this is what I hear Daniel Coyle say, reacting to Lance Armstrong's interview with Oprah.

It's a fantastic insight as to why someone like Lance would not only cheat, but continue to do everything he can to deny that it is cheating.

It also speaks to the larger culture, and the impact that sensational cheaters have, given the attention and spectacle that surrounds their rise and fall.

The righteousness arises from the perception, that not only is everyone else cheating, but that by cheating more, you're beating the cheaters at their own game.

The Keith Davey Forum on Public Affairs: Is Social Media Good for Democracy?

The 2012 Keith Davey Forum on Public Affairs, moderated by Steve Paikin and featuring Lee Rainie and myself, was held on October 17th 2012 at the Isabel Bader Theatre at Victory University at the University of Toronto.

We addressed the question, Is Social Media Good for Democracy? Neither of us answered a complete yes or no, but instead offered nuanced answers that encourage both cautious optimism and chilling alarm.

The discussion overall was far reaching, and fascinating. In particular it was a treat to spend time with Lee Rainie who is the Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, a non-profit, non–partisan “fact tank” that studies the social impact of the internet. Lee is also a co-author – with a close friend of mine and University of Toronto sociologist Barry Wellman – of Networked: The new social operating system, which was released in 2012.

Trolling Does Not Require Anonymity

Muppet Identity Crisis

I find it rather sad that many in the mainstream media believe that trolling will be eliminated if Anonymity is not possible. It's not only a belief based in ignorance, but also a reflection of a bias that leads them to believe that their personal and professional experience is universal.

It's partly a reflection of the culture of comments on mainstream media sites. The vast majority of which have a horrific comment culture in which trolls haunt their sites and terrorize journalists and users alike.

Explicitly this has come up over #IdleNoMore coverage as the racists and xenophobes have been out in force to denounce attempts by Canadians to stand up for treaty rights and the environment.

Health Mallick writing in the Star seems to argue that the only reason the racist comments are there is because the posters are able to hide their identity. She asserts this as a reason why real names should be a requirement for posting online. (While I agree with her the racist comments are deplorable, I don't agree they would stop if the racists had to post under their own name).

Google and Facebook feel this way as well. Though I suspect their reason is less one of online civility and instead part of their business plan and pursuit of profit. They want real names so they can connect your interests, friends, and online activity.