When technology ceased to be local

If there is one form of technology which I still fail to understand despite numerous readings, it has to be the concept of cryptocurrency. Not only understanding how it works is still vague to me, I do not quite understand what good it does — people keep telling me “because it’s decentralised!” — I still don’t understand why decentralisation in its case is still better or preferable. More importantly, I do not trust it. And that’s the root problem for cryptocurrency-luddites like me, or regarding any technology for that matter — the idea of not having a central bank to handle your money — instead trusting alarming price swings, some anonymity, some mining gold rush to handle it — does not quite convince me.

And I definitely do not trust Facebook.

Recently, Facebook announced their new cryptocurrency called Libra. It’s alleged to be ‘wildly ambitious’ and it is to be managed by some big shot tech and finance companies including Visa and Mastercard. It is said to run like other cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum, but bigger and faster, like what every Facebook project is often told to be. Libra works in such a way that it only allows only companies in the association will be able to mine it, which brought up my next question: doesn’t that also make Libra Association a central bank in a way?

Then there is also the question of trusting Facebook after all the fiasco — the data breach, the misinformation, the election encroachment etc. etc.

A few days ago, David Marcus, the co-creator of Libra tweeted this:

L.M. Sacasas wrote in his blog post ‘Why We Can’t Have Humane Technology‘:

In “Friday’s Child,” Auden makes the parenthetical observation, “When kings were local, people knelt.” Likewise, we might say that when technology was local, people ruled. Something changed once technology ceased to be local, that is to say once it evolved into complex systems that overlapped communities, states, countries, and cultures. Traditional institutions and cultural norms were no longer adequate. They could not scale up to keep pace with technology because their natural habitat was the local community.

When companies with such multiple track records throw words such as “empower” and “dream” and in the process of it refuse to engage in some hard political questions of what harm their innovations could cause — granted no tech companies are to be trusted fully — I am not sure if Libra is such a good idea. But nevertheless, people will still lap at them. So, anyway.


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