I subscribe to the mailbox, print plant, paper and ink version of BusinessWeek, and last week’s issue disappointed me. Rather than the usual format it’s a 40,000 word treatise on crypto, written by one writer, Matt Levine.
I left it on the counter for several days, but finally ran out of other interesting things to read, and picked it up. OMG, it’s terrific. And, outside of convention, Bloomberg has made the entire thing available free on the web:
[Sadly Bloomberg thinks I’m a robot trying to link directly, but just ask Google for “Bloomberg Businessweek Crypto Issue” and you’ll find it. There will be the standard annoying “subscribe” splash page, but that is easily dispatched, and then:]
It contains such nuggets as this Twitter description off the Bitcoin security functions’ use of energy: “Imagine if keeping your car idling 24/7 produced solved Sudokus you could trade for heroin”, which is actually a quite apt analogy, to…
Modern Life Consists of Entries in Databases
If you have money, what you have is an entry in your bank’s database saying how much money you have. If you have a share of stock, what you have is generally an entry on a list—kept by the company or, more likely, some central intermediary—of who owns stock.
These intermediaries include the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp., which owns most of the shares of most US companies on behalf of everyone else. If you own stock, what you have is an entry on DTCC’s list entitling you to some of the shares DTCC holds, and it has an entry on a company’s list of how many shares it owns.
If you own a house, things are slightly different. There’s a house involved. But your ownership of that house is probably written down in some database; in the US this often means there’s a record of you buying the house—your title—in a filing cabinet in the basement of some county clerk’s office. (It’s not a very good database.) In many ways the important thing here is the house: You have a key to the front door; your stuff is there; your neighbors will be unsurprised to see you leaving the house in the morning and would be surprised to see someone else coming back in. But in many other ways the important thing is the entry in the database. A bank will want to make sure you have the title before giving you a mortgage; a buyer will want to do the proper procedures to that record before paying you for the house. The key will not suffice.
Lots of other stuff. Much of modern life occurs online. It’s not quite true that your social life and your career and your reputation consist of entries in the databases of Meta Platforms and Google and Microsoft, but it’s not quite false, either.
Anyway, good explanations of crypto, including the genesis of the term (cryptography), the history of Bitcoin and all that followed, the Blockchain, and lots more. Certainly worth the read, even if it means picking it up and putting it down occasionally, a rarity in these hyper-segmented 140 character, endless newsfeed scrolling times.
A breezy, if not always easy read, but worth the time for its clear look at the past, present, and for us MeTARs, future. Thank me later.