Friday, May 6, 2022

Matt Damon's soul didn't come cheap and other Friday miscellanea


[Implosion sound effect]

From YouTuber and scam expert Coffeezilla.

More details here.

Also from Coffeezilla. You may have read about this interview, but that's not the same as actually hearing it.

"You're just like 'well, I'm in the Ponzi business.'"

Sam Bankman-Fried is worth $24 billion.

110 doesn't seem like a lot.

We'll probably do another post of this article by Emily Shugerman focusing on the politics of this 2022 bitcoin conference (Jordan Peterson, Peter Thiel, you see where this is going). Most of the well-written piece focuses on less famous and far more likeable characters. Much of it is funny. Most of it is sad. This will not work out well for these people.

MIAMI BEACH—The thing about bitcoin, the man at the back of the convention center wanted me to know, was that once you understood it, it changed everything. It seeped into every aspect of your life: personal, political, financial. Bitcoin was freedom, he said; it had the power to literally end all war. And that’s why he was here, at Bitcoin 2022—the largest bitcoin event in the world—trying to spread the gospel through women’s panties.

“Once you get into bitcoin, there is no way back,” the man, whose name was Pablo, said over piles of women’s underwear emblazoned with the cryptocurrency’s logo. A sign behind him read: “Panties for Bitcoin.”

“Once you understand it, it gets into your life from every point of view—not only the economic point of view,” he continued. ”Once you have control of your money... you have control of everything.”

I heard a similar refrain from other attendees over the course of the conference, including a man who quit his job as an industrial engineer to make bitcoin-themed merchandise on his 3D printer and a 23-year-old Lebanese jewelry heir who had recently convinced his family to invest part of their fortune in bitcoin.

The former engineer asked me why I was among the 25,000 people at the conference, and I told him my reporting beat included cults.

“We’re a cult, absolutely,” he said. “One hundred percent. I love the bitcoin cult.”

A free speech absolutist, but only in the relative sense.

I can't really call this miscellanea without including Cory Doctorow's chickenized reverse centaurs

Big Chicken tells farmers which chicks to buy, what kind of coops to raise them in, when the lights go on and off, which vets they’re allowed to use and which medicines the vets are allowed to administer. They even tell them who they’re allowed to hire to fix their coops (specifically, they bar farmers from hiring ex-farmers who speak out against the industry).

The processors tell the farmers everything…except how much they’ll be paid for their birds. This is decided only after the farmers bring them to market, and the sum is titrated to pay them enough to service their debts and raise another batch of chickens, but not one penny more.

This worker misclassification and control — governed like an employee, paid like a contractor — has spilled out beyond the poultry industry. Uber drivers are heavily chickenized, with their pay calculated to let them service their car loans, insurance payments and fuel bills — but not enough to save up and quit the industry.
In AI circles, a “centaur” is a human/AI collaboration, like when chess masters and chess programs form a team that can trounce the best people and the best programs. In these centaur ops, the human is the “head” and the AI is the “body” — a “decision-support system,” that augments the human.

A reverse centaur is when it’s the other way around. Think of an Amazon delivery driver, whose work is observed and analyzed by a constellation of cameras and algorithms. These workers are the body, not the head — the AI gives the orders and the human is the dumb meat, augmenting the machine.

Now we’re ready to put it all together. A chickenized reverse-centaur is a worker who is misclassified as a contractor, micromanaged like an employee, and given no guarantees of pay or hours.

This is end-stage app work capitalism, as with Doordash and Uber, where workers don’t get to see the full amount on offer until they take the job. This lets these unprofitable companies continue to grow by offering subsidized services to customers. The app work monopolists have always relied on subsidies to grow, and this tactic switches the costs of subsidies from their shareholders to their workers.

And a little politics. 

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