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#96 – Media roundup February 2024

description: a set of black over-the-ear Sennheiser headphones on a blue background. Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Surf, serf, and SIRF

Money Reimagined: The Interplay of Web3 and AI, Emphasizing Data Empowerment and Self-Sovereignty With Hub Cultures’ Stan Stalnaker

(Runtime: 45mn)

Money Reimagined host Michael Casey caught up with Hub Culture founding director Stan Stalnaker at Davos24. The center of their discussion? The idea that, since all technologies interact with each other, trying to treat them as silos causes trouble for investment, regulation, and anything else.

This is top of mind for people who see AI and web3 crossing paths. Over the last year or two I’ve seen my share of headlines that web3 technology will “secure” AI, which Stalnaker frames as “AI will be the car that rides on the rails of blockchain.”

Casey and Stalnaker also explore the idea of “flash growth,” an analog of financial flash crashes but going in the other direction. This applies to the hypergrowth of online tech platforms, and the speed with which messages spread there.

I’ll close out with a breakdown Stalnaker provides mid-conversation (which is also played as the episode’s intro). He describes the evolution of the web as follows:

  • web1is “surf”: it’s the read-only web, where people visit websites to get information
  • web2 is “serf”: people are contributing to websites, but large companies treat this as a data source for their intrusive data mining and advertising projects
  • web3 is “SIRF” (sovereign, independent, responsible, and friendly): people are in control of their data, no longer beholden to the large tech companies

Because who doesn’t want more Worldcoin?

Chain Reaction: Bonus Episode: Worldcoin is going on a race to billions of users “as fast” as it can (w/ Alex Blania)

(Runtime: 20mn)

Worldcoin is the topic that keeps coming back (see issues 57, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 77). This time around CEO Alex Blania describes his early days on the project, and what it was like to raise money for this lofty idea during a crypto bear market. He then explores the project’s connection to AI – you know, the other hot technology of the moment. And he candidly states that Worldcoin probably won’t turn profit till it reaches the ten-year mark. That may sound like an eternity to be in the red, but let’s remember that Amazon and Uber took a similar path.

TechCrunch senior crypto editor Jacquelyn Melinek is in the interviewer’s chair. Like any good journalist, she keeps pushing Blania on specifics, so this short interview manages to cover some good ground.

A Silk Road twofer

True Spies: The Silk Road Bust

True Spies: Diamond Hands

(Combined runtime: 1h15)

Remember Silk Road, the online marketplace for all things sketchy? It introduced the term “darknet” to popular culture. It also brought Bitcoin into the spotlight, as the then-fledgling cryptocurrency was a form of payment.

The first episode of this two-part series features Chris Tarbell, the former FBI computer forensic examiner who led the Bureau’s investigation into Silk Road. He and his team ultimately tracked down and arrested the site’s founder, “Dread Pirate Roberts” Ross Ulbricht.

And remember Jimmy Zhong, from newsletter #78? The guy who (allegedly) made off with a pile of Bitcoin from Silk Road? The second episode goes into more detail on how federal investigators ultimately tracked him down and seized his roughly $3B in Bitcoin.

On a need-to-know basis

ZERO KNOWLEDGE: Episode 309: ZK Jargon Decoder with Nico Mohnblatt

(Runtime: 1h15)

Zero knowledge (ZK) is a privacy-focused cryptography concept that is popular in web3. You can think of ZK as providing infrastructure for sharing information on a need-to-know basis.

As an example, consider a bar setting. You hand the bartender your government-issued photo ID (often a driver’s license in the US) so they can confirm that you’re of drinking age. The problem is that the bartender can now see a lot of information they don’t need, like your name, address, and date of birth.

That last bit isn’t a typo. Remember that the bartender uses your date of birth to confirm that you’re of age; but the birthdate isn’t the actual information they’re after. What if you could hand the bartender a card that simply reads “this person is of drinking age,” and they had good reason to trust that card’s statement? That’s the essence of ZK.

The thing with ZK is, well, cryptography can have a high barrier to entry for beginners. Podcast guest Nico Mohnblatt created the ZK Jargon Decoder project to help people with the terminology. In this interview, he and host Anna Rose walk through low-level ZK concepts using the Jargon Decoder as their backdrop.

Like most episodes of the ZK Podcast, this episode gets into some technical weeds. This time around it’s mostly about formal logic and mathematical proofs. But if you’re interested in digging deeper into the world of zero knowledge, this is a good place to start.

The wrap-up

This was an issue of Block & Mortar.

Who’s behind Block & Mortar? I'm Q McCallum. I've spent the past two decades in the emerging-tech space. And I'm very interested in web3 use cases.

Credit where it's due. Big thanks to Shane Glynn for reviewing early drafts. Any mistakes that remain are mine.

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