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December 2018. An empty field somewhere in France. The nearest house is one kilometer away. It’s freezing cold. What am I doing here?

Every place has a memory. Perhaps dreams. This one has nightmares. Nearly a hundred people were massacred right on this spot.

I am possibly the very last person to know that it happened.

This is a story that begins in 1859…

Wait, no. It begins during the fall of the Roman empire. But let’s make a first stop in 1859.

In 1859, this field had a name. In English, it would translate to “Blacklands”. …

In this post, I sketch out a description of a possible existential risk for Bitcoin, that has arisen from the exponential increase in price seen in 2017 and the abrupt fall that followed.

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An AntMiner S9 from Bitmain

Network hashrate and mining profitability

For Bitcoin miners, Bitcoin is a system that turns electricity into money. This magic trick is performed by operating mining hardware, specialized chips (ASICs) that compute the Bitcoin hash function (SHA-256) in a fast and energy-efficient fashion. A popular device is the AntMiner S9, manufactured by Bitmain, pictured above.

Miners contribute hashing power to the Bitcoin network, increasing its hashrate, and probabilistically receive rewards in exchange (the exact mechanism is described in Satoshi Nakamoto’s whitepaper, a short and simple read that is an absolute prerequisite for any discussion of Bitcoin). Bitcoin mining is a market: all miners are competing for the same pool of rewards (the transaction fees paid by Bitcoin users, plus a fixed amount of Bitcoin unlocked when a miner is the first to verify a block in the blockchain, a group of transactions). …

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Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

On the Development Process

  1. Code isn’t just meant to be executed. Code is also a means of communication across a team, a way to describe to others the solution to a problem. Readable code is not a nice-to-have, it is a fundamental part of what writing code is about. This involves factoring code clearly, picking self-explanatory variable names, and inserting comments to describe anything that’s implicit.
  2. Ask not what your pull request can do for your next promotion, ask what your pull request can do for your users and your community. Avoid “conspicuous contribution” at all cost. …

Disclaimer: These are my own personal views. I do not speak for my employer. If you quote this article, please have the honesty to present these ideas as what they are: personal, speculative opinions, to be judged on their own merits.

If you were around in the 1980s and 1990s, you may remember the now-extinct phenomenon of “computerphobia”. I have personally witnessed it a few times as late as the early 2000s — as personal computers were introduced into our lives, in our workplaces and homes, quite a few people would react with anxiety, fear, or even aggressivity. While some of us were fascinated by computers and awestruck by the potential they could glimpse in them, most people didn’t understand them. They felt alien, abstruse, and in many ways, threatening. …

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Transcendence (2014 science-fiction movie)

In 1965, I. J. Good described for the first time the notion of “intelligence explosion”, as it relates to artificial intelligence (AI):

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion,” and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. …

François Chollet

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