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Big Revolution - Living in a blockchain-powered town

Welcome to Friday's Big Revolution. Enjoy! – Martin
November 2 · Issue #250 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Friday’s Big Revolution. Enjoy!

Big things you need to know today
  • Apple will stop reporting sales of iPhones, iPads and Macs from next quarter. The move will annoy analysts and pundits, but it makes sense for Apple, which has seen no year-on-year growth for the iPhone but continues to grow its revenues through price hikes.
  • Flickr’s new owner has presented its plan to revive the service. Firstly, SmugMug will remove the need for a Yahoo login and – controversially – limit free accounts to 1,000 photos, while Pro accounts have new features and 1TB of storage. More here.
  • Respected tech news site Recode is being folded into The US political news site will feature a Recode section from early next year. Publisher Vox Media is billing it more as a ‘partnership’ than the end of Recode, as its other activities like high-end conferences will continue.
  • Artist Kevin Abosch is creating a horror movie in collaboration with a custom A.I. The results, he says, are disturbing.
The big thought
Credit: Sander Crombach on Unsplash
The town that could be blockchain’s proving ground
Years since they first emerged and people began getting excited about them, blockchains are still largely unproven for any purpose other than cryptocurrencies.
There are plenty of uses being tested around the world, from land registries, to logs of online content, to ‘smart contracts,’ but none of them have really yet proven for sure that a distributed model works better than what was there before.
So, my eyebrows flew off the top of my face when I read that the US state of Nevada is to play host to blockchain’s biggest test yet.
A man has bought a big chunk of land where he will build a new town with thousands of homes and a distributed governance model operated on a blockchain.
“Mr. Berns said his ambition was not to be a real estate magnate or even to get rich — or richer. He is promising to give away all decision-making power for the project and 90 percent of any dividends it generates to a corporate structure that will be held by residents, employees and future investors. That structure, which he calls a “distributed collaborative entity,” is supposed to operate on a blockchain where everyone’s ownership rights and voting powers will be recorded in a digital wallet.”
There’s something very 'American frontier’ about the whole thing – a millionaire buying up unused land to build a new town based on a technology he believes in, even if it is nowhere near proven to be able to deliver results in this context.
And I’m left wondering what it would take to stage a coup in the town. Could clever hackers assume de facto mayorship? Can you steal someone’s house by obtaining their private key? If the whole thing proves a technical impossibility once it’s up and running, will it just turn into a normal town? Is the whole blockchain plan just a marketing front for an ambitious but otherwise normal real estate project?
I hope the project goes ahead, because whether it’s a huge success or it falls on its face, blockchains will at least get a chance to prove whether they’re the future of everything, or just overhyped databases.
One big read
How Mark Zuckerberg Became Too Big to Fail How Mark Zuckerberg Became Too Big to Fail
The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo explores the fact that Facebook without Mark Zuckerberg is a pretty much unthinkable idea…
“That few can imagine a Facebook without Mr. Zuckerberg, 34, underscores how unaccountable our largest tech companies have become. Mr. Zuckerberg, thanks to his own drive and brilliance, has become one of the most powerful unelected people in the world….
"Yet because of Facebook’s ownership structure — in which Mr. Zuckerberg’s shares have 10 times the voting power of ordinary shares — he is omnipotent there, answering basically to no one.”
One big tweet
The Google Walkout protest was a bigger success than anyone could have guessed.
Google Walkout For Real Change
We crunched the data (because that's what Googlers do). Nearly 17,000 employees from 40 global offices participated in #GoogleWalkout, and we haven't finished counting all the offices yet...
4:13 AM - 2 Nov 2018
That’s all for today...
Back tomorrow as usual with a weekend format edition. See you in your inbox then.
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