The Determinism of the Gaps

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 31/03/2013 - 11:17am in

I'm surprised to find that it appears nobody's coined the phrase "the determinism of the gaps". So henceforth it's mine.

Just as the "God of the gaps" argument ("If [scientifically unexplained phenomena x] isn't the work of God, what else could it be?") is justly dismissed as an irrational argument from faith, so the scientistic claim that some imminent theory of everything will show that any observed phenomena is the result of the playing out of purely deterministic processes just because "What else is could it be?" should be dismissed for the same reason.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013 - 10:08pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 27/03/2013 - 10:08pm

First saw Hat Fitz and Itchy at the Empire Hotel in Annandale over ten years ago. Saw him with Cara in Woolgoolga a couple of years ago (marred by the requirement that they not start until the final whistle of the incredibly important soccer game in play on Fox Sports). Do not, do not, do not miss the chance to see them.

Every year there's an increasingly ridiculous flock of rancid old turkeys at the Bluesfest. Fitz is the real thing. If you have the money, please go to Byron and see Fitz and Cara. Also go and hurl abuse at the pathetic old hacks who make up most of the rest of the bill.

Bitcoin as Reserve Currency for a Local Currency?

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 24/03/2013 - 12:23pm in

I can't pretend to know a lot about avoiding the pitfalls of local currency systems, but I do know that two of the hurdles that you have to overcome are the questions:

  • What happens when I'm the only person in the system with a useful skill, and everybody else is making scented candles, and I find myself with as many scented candles as I can ever imagine requiring, and my account enormously and uselessly in credit?
  • What happens when the whole system collapses while I'm in credit; do I just lose the value of all that work?

It occured to me that adopting Bitcoin as a reserve currency in such a system might be useful in dealing with at least these two disincenctives to participation, and I was surprised to find very little discussion about it (in fact, I expected that as with most of my other brilliant ideas I would find people who had been already doing it for years, and I was the last person on Earth to know about it). There are some interesting comments in this thread, and a proposal to "fork" Bitcoin-like currencies for local use, which I think is technical overkill but interesting. Here are my initial thoughts:

Anything that makes it harder for the regulatory bodies that have screwed up your local economy in the first place to say "Your local currency is really just an IOU for the national currency so all you people now either owe us tax, or have lost your social security benefits" is a good thing.

Bitcoin would be a good medium for trades between local currency systems, in the same way US dollars are used for global commodities like oil. Note to self: think of an example with less of a bad vibe.

You will need strong capital controls; you're defeating the purpose having a local currency if it's freely exchangable for a global currency. So people should be able to cash out to Bitcoin if the system closes, or they move to another geographical area, or they can cash out a certain percentage of their balance once they've exceeded a threshold, but not willy-nilly. Sure you might then get black market exchanges, but I think you are much more likely to find they will trade in the national currency than Bitcoin, so I don't think controlled exchangability to Bitcoin changes this at all, and since some local currencies have avoided instant failure, I have to assume that under at least some conditions this is a managable problem.

You have to set inflation (and lending, if your system has lending) rates appropriately. A little bit of inflation is a disincentive to hoarding, thereby keeping the local economy moving. And since the value of Bitcoin is increasing relative to any major currency you care to name (and is likely to continue to do so for the forseeable future), you can decrease the value of your currency over time relative to the "real" value of the goods and services you purchase, and also relative to your reserve currency, and still give your participants a high degree of confidence that they're not trading away their efforts for a worthless asset. Worst case scenario is they've earned a bit of "interest" when they cash out, in the form of the difference between the decrease in value of the local currency versus the increase in value of Bitcoin. You can't count on the Bitcoin bubble inflating forever, but the evidence is that Bitcoin isn't going to burst altogether - smarter people than me are calling it "the local currency of the Internet" - so use this Bitcoin deflationary period while you can, I say.

A possible objection to the above interventionist monetary policy is that, depending on who you talk to, either fixed exhange rates (1:1 to Bitcoin, say) or an unregulated currency market will deliver better outcomes than rational planning, because Very Serious People say so. In response, I present the real world. Take a look at it for a while. Provided your system is transparent and democratic, I don't see a better solution than thinking very hard about hard problems. Certainly not faith in gold, dollars, Euros or "free" markets.

In the case of a crisis, the system is going to have to be able to both forgive debtors and pay off creditors. I suppose that means holding at least some Bitcoin reserves. Trouble is, that's an upfront cost for something that you're going to need less and less over time as your local currency becomes more robust. Do new participants "pay" for their initial local currency credit in Bitcoin (a disincentive to participation)? Do established local currency systems either lend their otherwise redundant Bitcoin reserves or go guarantor in order to bootstrap new systems elsewhere? If so, what's in it for them? Do they get to dictate policy to failing systems, like an alternative economy Angela Merkel? Tricky one, that.

Friday, 22 March 2013 - 6:43pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 22/03/2013 - 6:43pm

To satisfy the curiosity of Mrs Rhoades, I believe that at 2am, or any other time, "farewelling a firie's firm friend" takes no more than 10 minutes plus EFTPOS transaction time at 19 Orlando Street. If afterwards you find your political flame burning, a course of antibiotics will soon put that right.

Monday, 18 March 2013 - 11:27am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 18/03/2013 - 11:27am

In addition to the financial contribution to our community, we should also consider SCU's huge qualititative impact on Coffs Harbour. It's no accident that we have the highest number of financial advisors and marketing consultants per capita of any region in the country. It's only by boldly shedding the majority of accumulated human wisdom from it's curricula that SCU is able to guarantee our next generation a bright future in everything from tourism and hospitality, to marketing, and back to tourism and hospitality again.

As SCU's motto says, "Those who fail to learn from history are better off doing business studies anyway." The pressing question of our age is not "What is the good life?", but "Would you like fries with that?", and the range of educational products offered here reflects this modern reality.

While the old guard of academia ask why anybody would want to study in an institution located in the middle of a swamp, miles from anywhere, with all the charm of a nuclear power plant, they fail to see that it's the lack of distraction by traditional, or indeed any, campus life that gives SCU's students the edge over their happier, more well-rounded and socially-adept peers. When you hire an SCU graduate, you know you're getting someone with ambition, diligence, and a current driver's license.

And not only is SCU one of Coffs' largest employers, staff and faculty loyalty is extraordinarily high. In fact, the longer someone works at SCU, the less likely it is that they'll get a job at another university ever again. It's this pervasive atmosphere of fatalism and despair that so well prepares SCU's students for whatever their pointless lives will throw at them.

As you look around Coffs Harbour, from the boarded-up main streets and endless suburban sprawl of it's built environment, to the virulent anti-intellectualism and reflexive bigotry of it's people, I'm sure you'll agree that the influence of SCU is to be found everywhere.

Saturday, 16 March 2013 - 3:27pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 16/03/2013 - 3:27pm

I don't know if there are that many smokers who don't realise that quitting would be a good idea. How about getting these kids to educate people about what many don't know, like the ineffectiveness of the quack remedies, unnecessary dietary supplements, and allegedly miraculous weight loss products sold in practically every pharmacy alongside real medicines.

I've even had the manager of my local pharmacy forcefully try to up-sell me a bottle of herbal placebos based on the knowledge of my ailments she'd aquired from my prescriptions! Any pharmacist who permits the hawking of snake oil cures from their establishment ought to be defrocked, or whatever it is that's done to disgraced pharmacists; ceremonially stripped of their little label printer perhaps.

Monday, 11 March 2013 - 12:54am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 11/03/2013 - 12:54am

I can't wait to see the rebuttal to this proposal by the other Jetty Action Group, a.k.a. Singo's three stooges. Geoff, John, and Melanie were such a wellspring of visionary ideas that it was almost hard to believe that they were totally independant of the the "brains trust" that provided the first round of strikingly similar visionary ideas.

As the leaders of a vital, completely genuine grassroots community group, I can't imagine they've been sitting on their hands all this time. This is a troika that knows that what's good for "key stakeholders" is good for Coffs Harbour. Of course in our united, inclusive community, all of us are stakeholders and all of us are key, but what the real Jetty Action Group fails to appreciate is that some of us are more key than others.


Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 10/03/2013 - 10:30pm

If I had a 100% reliable way to end the pain right at this moment I would use it. No messy and unpredectable wrist-slashing, drug-taking, or gas-ingesting that might just worsen the problem.

I know for (almost) certain that I will feel better eventually. I don't know for certain that I would be happy to wait, if I had the Hemmingway Solution available to me.

For this reason alone, I feel confident in saying that if you share a house with anybody, and you choose to keep a gun in that house, you are an unforgivable dick of the highest order. In fact, come to think of it, I don't feel quite so bad about myself now, compared to you utter shits who store human-killing machinery in close proximity to your (presumed) loved ones for no other reason than to buttress your sagging sense of manliness.

Sunday, 10 March 2013 - 12:17pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 10/03/2013 - 12:17pm

You fools! 3D printed skulls means the end of the infallibility of phrenology as a detector of thought crimes in an individual before they are acted upon, or perhaps before too long even as a reliable measure of the inferiority of the lesser races.

Fortunately there are so many rich new fields of neurobollocks that rigorous scientific measurement of Alimentiveness, Concentrativeness, Philoprogenitiveness, etc. is still possible, if more expensive. Despite occasional setbacks, scientism marches onwards to it's inevitable triumph over reality.

Friday, 8 March 2013 - 6:06pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 08/03/2013 - 6:06pm

I don't see how a chaotic Italian parliament "would destabilize not just Italy but Europe as a whole".

The joke that any disagreement between two Italians results in the formation of three new political parties is decades, if not centuries, old. Berlusconi's mystifyingly long and absolute grip on high office was the exception, not the rule.

Stability is in any case a peculiar attribute for any democrat to consider a virtue. There's nothing more stable than a dictatorship, while it lasts.