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Economics

This category contains 27 posts

China’s oceans of everyday data

A book by Kai-Fu Lee called AI-Superpowers outlines what’s needed for the current generation of artificial intelligence (AI) to succeed, and why China has the necessary ingredients to lead in the area. Lee is CEO of Sinovation Ventures, a firm that finances Chinese high-tech startups. Prior to that he was president of Google China, and … Continue reading

Digital cash 101

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, i.e. it is digital money that purportedly carries some of the benefits of cash. You can buy things with it, give it away, invest it, and stash it without involving a bank. But unlike cash, there’s no physical paper or coinage. You could try to design your own banknote, or make … Continue reading

Pseudo-crypto currencies

I heard about onecoin through the BBC Podcast called The Missing Cryptoqueen by journalist Jamie Bartlett and producer Georgia Catt who investigated the scheme and the damage it has wrought to individual lives. As I listened to the first episode of the podcast I thought I was hearing a mockumentary, or a mystery story in … Continue reading

Shock and plunder

In her recent book on surveillance capitalism Shoshana Zuboff explains how digital corporations exploit our data, and us, just they claim that their products meet our needs and help us realise our dreams. “our lives are plundered for behavioral data, and all for the sake of others’ gain. The result is a perverse amalgam of … Continue reading

Surveillance capitalism and its discontents

Social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff’s book on surveillance capitalism reveals the perils and menace of the digital age. I’ve now read all 535 pages, or at least it was mostly read to me in urgent tones as an audiobook at 1.5x speed. The content was so useful to me as I contemplate the implications of the … Continue reading

Obfuscation and its remedies

He “took every step that he could to try to obfuscate, to try to get people to lie, tried to reward those people who refused to cooperate with a legitimate investigation, tried to punish and denigrate the people who were cooperative” (The Hill). That’s how the former Watergate special prosecutor (Richard Ben-Veniste) summarised the Mueller … Continue reading

Cooperation and complicity

The Barras is a market in Glasgow that is (or was) notorious as a site for hustlers. It attracts both bargain hunters and spectators. Ten years ago a group of us conducted a study of the area, mainly to consider its soundscape. On more than one visit we observed a familiar scenario involving the sale … Continue reading

What’s wrong with the sharing economy

The so-called sharing economy has come under a lot of criticism lately. Think of the apparently (almost) unregulated and unfair practices surrounding Uber, the global car hire (taxi) firm that designates its drivers as self-employed. Passengers like Uber. Once subscribed, you book a car and driver via your smartphone. You track your nearest available ride … Continue reading

Encrypted city

Urban metaphors are powerful in the world of computing. The reverse is also true. Computing brings metaphors to bear on how we think of cities — as flows of data, networks, circuits, grids and an Internet of things, as if cities are made up of bits, memories (RAM), sensors, actuators, and with communication systems, inputs, … Continue reading

Romancing the blockchain

The blockchain idea is addictive for some. It’s technically fascinating, mysterious and counter-intuitive. It depends on cryptography to function, and inherits the fascination many of us have with cyphers and codes. Who can resist the lure of a secret message? The way blockchain platforms function also mystify with their abstruse methods and terminology: proof of … Continue reading

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