John Walker's Electronic House

Rum Doings Episode 160: There’s Nothing Wrong With Eugenics

by on Apr.24, 2014, under Rum Doings

In our 160th ever Rum Doings, our topic is, videogames!

We begin with discussions of the abacus and hopscotch. Which inexorably takes us toward discussing the Mozilla and Brendan Eich matter. And Moses.

We ponder the Downs Syndrome test during pregnancy, and then the abstract nature of pregnancy. Then things move on to Stephen King, whereupon Nick feels the need to ruin the end of 11.22.63, because John was just about to start it. Want to miss the spoiler? Skip from 21:00 to 22:00. And 26:00 to 27:00. Nick is a dick.

We answer a few Twitter questions (at last), and then come upon an idea. Make sure to respond regarding a live show. And we once more repeat our plea for someone listening to give us at least £100,000. Then we break all the rules and talk about bloody videogames.

Finally, Nick attempts to explain the inexplicable Bitcoin.

You are of course required to leave a review on iTunes. Thank you to everyone who has – there are some extremely generous comments up there.

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12 Comments for this entry

  • Xercies

    Well there is a slow amount of lady action heroes in films especially because of the hunger games getting popular. But I do agree with Nick that a gay action hero would be a lot more subversive as an idea.

    I think the Bitcoin explanation melted some of my brain…

  • Peter Hasselstr√∂m

    Doing a RPS convention would be easy. Just buy a lectern, tell everyone to meet at a Mcdonalds parking lot and give the stand to whoever shows up that you like.

  • Steven Hutton

    Jason Statham’s character in the Transporter movies is canonically gay.

    Gina Carano is the name of the former American Gladiator who is awesome.

  • Disagreeable Me

    I think Nick’s right that John’s major problem is with money, not with Bitcoin.

    I think I can explain Bitcoin without getting into too much technical detail.

    The idea of an artificial electronic currency is not new. What Bitcoin introduced was a technical solution which allowed anybody to check that they had been paid with the artificial currency without needing to rely on any central authority, and also, with modest risk, even completely offline. The process that generates new currency is part of the system which protects against fraud.

    This process, mining, is a controlled and distributed so that the amount of currency entering the economy every year diminishes gradually and there is a finite total amount of currency possible. New coins are produced by solving very difficult mathematical problems which take a huge amount of computing power to solve. Solving the problems gives you tokens you can use to prove that you have solved the problem, and anyone can easily check that your solution is valid. The tokens are also set up so that initially only the person who solved the problem can prove the solution. These tokens can be transferred in a way which is protected against fraud, so that now only the payee can prove ownership.

    The tokens have no intrinsic value, but arguably the value of gold is not intrinsic either. Gold mainly holds value because it is hard to get, which makes it useful as a medium of exchange, but any hard to get substance could do once there is some kind of convention adopted to see it as valuable. Government issued currencies work because people are used to the idea and know that if they are paid in these bits of paper they can later use these bits of paper to acquire goods and services.

    You do need something to bootstrap the whole process though. There are a finite supply of my toenail clippings in the world, but I’m not going to be able to persuade anyone to use them as a medium of exchange. Something has to persuade an initial critical mass of people that this is a medium to be confident in.

    Gold is a good example because it’s shiny and you can make things from it. This small amount of intrinsic value is enough to bootstrap the process. Regular currencies are bootstrapped by the fact that they are backed by governments, who issue then and make and accept payments in them. We can see something similar happening on Steam now, with Steam trading cards becoming a de facto currency with real monetary value on that platform, simply because they are in limited supply and backed by a trusted authority.

    Stocks/shares are similar. The annual dividend is required to bootstrap the process, but it’s the trading and secondary market that really drive the value up.

    Bitcoin has value because of the elegance and novelty of the technical solution introduced, which had previously been unsolved for a long time. The value of this usefulness was enough to bootstrap the process, starting with a small group of Bitcoin miners which provided a critical mass to allow trading in Bitcoin to commence.

    Network effects mean that existing standards have a kind of gravity which attract new users. Just as I can’t create a new facebook clone and expect it to take off, I can’t start a new Bitcoin clone. Bitcoin’s established user base means that any new such currency lacks that value that Bitcoin needed to bootstrap it. There are alternatives now based on the Bitcoin model, but there’s little reason to expect them to take off unless they can deliver an improvement to the Bitcoin model sufficient to overcome the network effects of Bitcoin’s existing popularity.

    Speculation drives up the value further, but it is not a bubble or a pyramid scheme in my view. It’s much more like an in-demand corporate stock inflating in value. It’s simply a new currency where the value is proportional to how many people believe in it and want some. The finite supply but increasing demand makes it entirely appropriate that the price should increase.

  • Steven Hutton

    I loved hearing John talk about tv shows that he is watching. John’s tv reviews are some of my favourite things.

    I’m really hoping he’s still suffering through the exquisite awfulness of Agents of SHIELD so we get an eventual discharge of disgusted bile.

  • Steven Hutton

    Also, I really want to read John’s Almond Bread recipe.

  • Jim Huxter

    What if you did a livestream, if not a live show? I imagine many people would have difficulty getting to an event in person.

  • Jambe

    It’s Rembrandt’s interpretation of me, a digital portrait painted only hours after his Shifting. Sadly, I have no way of converting it to Bitcoin thence to Pounds for your 100,000. If art authenticators weren’t so doubty and hifalutin you’d have that money.

    Vis-a-vis eugenics/utilitarianism: isn’t all morality utilitarian? Moralistic meta-talk and theology are still concerned with directing our flesh.

    The more I study ethics the more convinced I become that the bulk of Western philosophical traditions is as riddled with fluffy mysticism and ambiguity-for-its-own-sake as most supernaturalist religion.

    I really dislike Plato, in other words, or dualism more broadly. Give me Epicurus or Lucretius, or even Pyrrho. Or more recently, Robert Talisse or Russell Blackford. Fallibilistic reductionism and pragmatism > transcendence and absoluteness. Or maybe descriptive, normative, and applied > meta.

    But back to child murder: one does wonder what people 20 or 50 or 200 years from now will think of IVF and such technology. I think of Huxleian artificial uteri and attendant questions, e.g. would it be a norm in a modern-ish liberal-ish state to transfer aborted children to artificial wombs? Also, given the risks of childbearing, would it become the norm for healthy mothers to use them for their own children? MASSIVE REDUCTIONS IN COMPLICATIONS AND PARENTAL LEAVE. PRODUCTIVITY INCREASED 19%. ALL GLORY TO THE CAPNOTOAD.

    I suppose I was mainly bothered by Nick’s seeming write-off of legal abortion as merely utilitarian… as opposed to what? Immanently, absolutely morally evident and binding? “It’s just utilitarianism” seems to apply as well to killing of extra-uterine persons.

    For me, non-killing is one of many abstracted principles of living in a modern society, so in that sense it’s very much utilitarian. Not merely so, but starkly necessarily so. Thank ghaw I’m not a soldier or doctor.

    Of course none of this clarifies your murder/abortion talk from earlier. If the child is conscious in any meaningful sense, surely it’s murder, but then all war-killing is murder. These are instances of selective withholding or overriding of empathy.

  • Taylor Hood

    This was a brilliant episode. I’ve been listening to Rum Doings for years, perhaps since episode 21. Long time listeners would love a live event.

  • Ryan

    John saying Audacity instead of Audible count: So far 4

  • Ryan

    Having had my question answered, I now NEED to know who the male was that looked ‘affable’. I can’t help feeling slightly offended that it might have been me that Nick picked out.

    For the record, I won’t hurt your feelings Nick. You sexy beast.

  • Jambe

    This played again today in the studio and a friend puzzled at the phrase “come a cropper of”. Didn’t notice it the last time around; apparently it’s a British idiom.