Don’t be a fish.
Let’s never become oblivious to the ills of Big Tech that immerse us as internet users. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Re-sharing below the latest edition of #Web3 Weekly, my regular newsletter about decentralization. This installment covers Sept. 12–18, 2021. If you’d like to get #Web3 Weekly in your inbox every Sunday, please subscribe here.
I love the old joke about fish not knowing what water is. Because they’re swimming in it all the time, they don’t even notice it’s there.
For similar reasons, as I write about decentralization, I sometimes find it necessary to cover the opposite as well. I think it’s healthy to pause and purposefully notice the real harm caused by the centralized, locked-down tools most people use most of the time on their devices. Otherwise, we get like the fish swimming in water. We take it for granted that the experience of being online just naturally has to be this way, with all the privacy violations, meddlesome gatekeepers, fraud, and so forth.
No, it doesn’t. We should see the problems with big companies’ products and services clearly, then look for alternatives. They are out there.
In that spirit, let’s get to the latest headlines:
- The Bitcoin network has already consumed more power this year than in all of 2020, Decrypt reports. It’s certainly no coincidence that the network’s hash rate, or pace of minting new bitcoins, has recently been strong as well, up 50% from its lows in June. Strong demand for mining computers has boosted Beijing-based hardware maker Canaan, which reported a record $167 million in revenue for the second quarter. Meanwhile, bitcoin’s price rose 4% for the week, trading just shy of $50,000 recently.
- Two pension funds for Virginia state employees are seeking authorization from their directors to invest in crypto. Chalk it up as another clear sign of the category’s rising appeal to non-geeks.
- Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin made the Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people.
- Meanwhile, Ethereum’s competitors had an up-and-down week. Solana suffered an embarrassing network outage on Tuesday. Cardano hailed the addition of smart contracts to its platform.
- ProtonMail turned over user data for a French climate activist to Swiss authorities, setting off a PR firestorm. The Geneva-based company, which offers encrypted email accounts that are supposed to protect people’s privacy, amended its terms of service following the incident.
- U.S. tech behemoths’ privacy woes multiplied as well. The Wall Street Journal published an investigative series titled The Facebook Files, detailing the social giant’s fumbling to address misinformation, human trafficking, teens’ mental health, and other hot-button issues. In many cases, Facebook had studied a problem internally to a greater degree than previously disclosed to the public, but then it either fumbled or outright neglected followup, the Journal reports. Separately, Apple issued emergency security updates for all its products after researchers at Citizen Lab uncovered a flaw that allowed spyware from Israel’s NSO Group to easily infect any Apple device.
- The Washington Post profiled Chris Gilliard, a Detroit community college professor who studies the intersection of surveillance capitalism and race. There are disturbing parallels online to the discrimination and overpolicing that minority groups often face offline, Gilliard says.
- MailChimp was sold to Intuit for $12 billion. But unlike most tech “exits,” the Atlanta company’s employees will not see any of that windfall, writes developer and venture investor Ben Werdmuller.
- Nobody wants to be a serf anymore. I belatedly came across this hilarious take on the post-pandemic economy from Andrew Singleton, published in McSweeney’s back in July. It’s funny because it’s 100% true. 😀
That’s it for now. Thanks for spending some time with the newsletter today! A full revision history of it, including earlier drafts, is available here. If you’d like to get updates like this in your inbox every Sunday, please join our email list here.
As ever, a quick disclaimer: This newsletter is intended for journalistic purposes only, not as investment advice. For the latter, please DYOR and consult appropriate financial pros to make the most suitable choices for your needs.
— Peter A. McKay