Reality Archives -
More than a year after her arrest, Reality Leigh Winner is pleading guilty. The former NSA contractor—who allegedly supplied the media with secret intel on Russians hacking US voting systems—planned to enter her plea agreement Friday in federal court, Engadget reports. “I do know that she has always…
Science fiction writer Ken Liu has written an important short story, Bizantine Empathy, weaving as central to the narrative cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology. Finally, crypto breaks out of its ghettoization in popular fiction, where it has been the plaything of terrorists and drug dealers, and instead has been used as an elegant background to a larger point. We caught up with Mr. Liu to ask him more about his motivations for bringing such a technical topic into the science fiction community.
Author Ken Liu Has Coding Street Cred
No less a personage than Bitcoin core (BTC) developer and ecosystem rockstar Jimmy Song praised science fiction writer Ken Liu as “one of the best coders” he’s ever worked with. Mr. Liu describes his career as “bizarre and strange” leading up to his foray into professional fiction writing. He’s coded for Microsoft and various startups, and then decided to earn a Juris Doctorate and try his hand at corporate tax law. He’s also an award-winning Chinese language translator, bringing leading science fiction from the East to the English speaking world. All of these pursuits led him to his recent short story, Byzantine Empathy. It’s at the sweet spot of Mr. Liu’s many forms of mastery: code, law, language. It’s also a literate take on cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology, which are integral to the story as essential parts.
Twelve Tomorrows is in its fifth edition with Wade Roush, futurist host of the Soonish podcast, as its editor. He tapped Mr. Liu for two tasks. He wanted a short story, and Mr. Liu delivered Byzantine Empathy as part of the anthology. Mr. Roush also asked Ken Liu to employ his considerable skill in translating Fields of Gold by Liu Cixin (Ken Liu’s translation of The Three-Body Problem won the Hugo Award for Best Novel). Published in conjunction with MIT Technology Review and MIT Press, the anthology is sure to draw eyes from the cryptocurrency community.
News.Bitcoin.com: Of all the rabbit hole aspects of crypto and bitcoin, why did you focus in on the Byzantine Generals’ problem?
Ken Liu: In a short story, there’s only enough room to focus on one aspect of the many interesting aspects of cryptocurrencies, and the idea of consensus, of authority in the system, felt to me to be the most compelling subject and the one that dovetailed the best with the human story I wanted to tell.
In my line of work, as you can imagine, I come across fictional adaptations of crypto, either as part or integral to an arc, and inevitably they involve international terrorism or drugs. You’ve gone in an entirely different direction. Was that a conscious decision?
I don’t think I was writing consciously “against” some dominant narrative, exactly. I find the mathematics, the algorithms, the history and ideas behind cryptocurrencies beautiful and interesting, and I wanted to tell a story that tries to engage with these ideas in a serious, empathetic way. Too often, coverage of complex ideas in the mainstream media is simplified to the point of nonsense or forced to fit into existing narratives, and I think sometimes the fiction we read is influenced by this kind of coverage. I wanted to go back to the fundamental papers, the source code, the people who devote their time and energy to crypto, and to tell a story that respects the reader as well as the crypto practitioner, and doesn’t shy away from the complexities of the ideas themselves.
How did you end up being published in Twelve Tomorrows?
The editor, Wade Roush, invited me to contribute. The idea was to write a story centered around some of the technology areas covered by the MIT Tech Review extensively. I thought VR and blockchain, two areas where I have some experience and expertise, would be perfect. The story then came to me essentially overnight.
How did you create the fictional cryptocurrency, empathium?
I’ve studied the problems of disaster relief and NGOs for some time, and there are many institutional issues related to the way we direct and harness people’s natural empathy for victims of natural and man-made disasters. I wondered how blockchain and VR could perhaps be used to help ameliorate/complicate these issues, and those thoughts became the basis for empathium.
You chose two very hot topics as your muse, cryptocurrency and virtual reality for this short story. Why?
I think blockchain, besides being a really interesting bit of applied math, also represents a new development in the general history of the technology of consensus building and collective decision making. (Other notable entries in this history include things like elections, juries, courts, absolute monarchies, etc.) VR, on the other hand, is a new emerging medium, and every new medium (writing, film, TV, the Internet) has profoundly altered the way we empathize with others and construct individual and group identities. How can a scifi writer resist playing with two technologies with such profound implications for the present and the future?
Symbolic Systems Beg to be Hacked
Does having worked extensively in the corporate law field informed your fictional writing?
I think having looked at the way legal structures constrain and guide corporate decision making, competition, and collaboration, and how such constraints and guides can be bypassed and thwarted, I tend to view system hacking as a fundamental part of any society, including fictional ones.
At first glance, your professional pursuits seem all over the place. What is the connection between science fiction writing and having a background in programming and law?
My background is in technology and law (I was a programmer and a lawyer), so I tend to view everything through the lens of symbol systems. There is a great deal of commonality in the way programmers and lawyers think about their respective symbol systems: fundamentally, both are hackers trying to construct symbolic machines that will accomplish a certain effect by following the rules of the systems in which they operate.
It turns out that writing fiction is quite similar. Readers have been trained to respond emotionally to various literary and narrative techniques, and a writer builds emotional machines out of these tricks no different from the way lawyers put together contracts or corporate structures, or the way programmers craft apps and utilities.
Here’s where the analogy becomes interesting though. In fiction, programming, or law, practitioners who love their work are always seeking to go beyond mere technical competence. We’ve all seen snippets of source code or legal arguments that give us a feeling of transcendence, that rises to the realm of art, elegance, beauty. It is the same in fiction. To build an emotional machine that does the job is easy; to build a beautiful and true emotional machine, on the other hand, takes skill, luck, and a glimpse of that transcendence that unites all creative endeavors.
Do you think cryptocurrency lends well to science fiction? Let us know in the comments.
Images via the Pixabay, MIT Press.
Verify and track bitcoin cash transactions on our BCH Block Explorer, the best of its kind anywhere in the world. Also, keep up with your holdings, BCH and other coins, on our market charts at Satoshi’s Pulse, another original and free service from Bitcoin.com.
The post Crypto and Virtual Reality Meet in Ken Liu’s Science Fiction appeared first on Bitcoin News.
Sometime far into the future, Phillip Barrigas is a Colonial Marine on a hostile planet, sent on a doomed rescue mission. Swarms of 7-foot-tall aliens chase him as he flees, firing as he goes, watching his ammunition tick down to zero.
In reality, Barrigas, 24, is a school crossing guard standing…
Police say a 2-year-old boy whose polygamous family is featured on a reality TV show has died following a fire in a southeastern Utah home, the AP reports. The Deseret News reports Adonijah Foster died of smoke inhalation Saturday after a fire ignited in the room where he was sleeping….
Magic Leap Inc. has quietly begun sending its mysterious augmented reality headsets into the wild.
A small group of software developers recently received devices at their offices, according to people familiar with the matter. But access to the gadget comes with an unusual caveat: They must commit…
A reality TV show about police officers is to thank for the recovery of a 9-year-old Texas girl who went missing in 2016. Mariah Martinez and her two younger brothers disappeared with their mother, Amanda Martinez, soon after a court ordered the children removed from Amanda’s custody in the fall…
TLC reality show My 600-lb Life profiles the efforts of the obese to lose weight, but viewers were given heartbreaking news in this week’s episode: Robert Buchel, a New Jersey man who weighed 842 pounds at the start of the episode, did not survive filming. The 41-year-old, who went on…
Gwent Police, located in Wales, recently launched a new, immersive virtual reality training system for its officers, becoming the first police force in the United Kingdom to do so.
She’s baaaaack! Kristin Cavallari is starring in a brand new reality show — but it ain’t exactly “The Hills.” Sources connected to the project tell us the show will focus on Kristin’s life in Nashville as she expands her fashion empire. …
The price of bitcoin has seen some corrections over the years, but really there have only been a few deep cuts. With the bearish dips in price over the past five weeks it’s always good to look at the historical view of value drops and the long-term achievements of the cryptocurrency economy in general.
Mainstream Media Assumes the Cryptocurrency ‘Bubble Has Popped,’ But In Reality This Economy Is Just Getting Started
If you look at all the headlines across mainstream media publications today, lots of these ‘news sources’ claim “bitcoin is dead” and the “digital asset bubble has burst.” Cryptocurrency prices have been on a downward spiral since BTC/USD markets reached an all-time high above $ 19K in December of 2017. Of course, since that point, there’s been many predictions to how low values will fall as some predicted BTC markets to stop at $ 10,000, while a lot of speculators forecasted today’s low of $ 7,625, and some individuals think the value will still sink even lower. Since reaching a global average of $ 19,600 USD per BTC, the digital asset had lost approximately 61.22 percent when it arrived at its lowest point today. However, bitcoin markets have rebounded, and the loss is only 56 percent at the time of publication.
Bitcoin’s Recent Five Week-Long Drop In Value Has Come Close to a Few Outlier Corrections
A lot of people are looking at prior bitcoin price corrections to figure out where this one will lead. Historically bitcoin markets have seen a number of broad cuts in value, but this particular drop overwhelms four previous corrections. On December 16, 2017, BTC markets touched an all-time high and lost 61 percent in just five weeks leading to today. Even with the rebound, the dip outpaces the June 2012 Linode hack scare where bitcoin markets lost 36 percent. Additionally, the past month’s decline has been more prominent than the 2014 Mt Gox bankruptcy plunge (49%), and the value drop that was correlated to Chinese exchange bans back in September of 2017 (40%).
However, there are three significant bitcoin market outlier corrections that have been far larger than this past drop. In 2011 the BTC market lost 94 percent of its value during the first hack of the Japanese exchange Mt Gox. Further, Mt Gox spurred another 79 percent selloff in 2013 when the platform halted trading. Lastly, bitcoin’s value sunk over 87 percent from November 2013 to January 2015 as the cryptocurrency experienced the longest ‘bear run’ in its history. There’s also been quite a few ‘major corrections’ over the 35 percentile mark, and every one has led the mainstream media and many newcomers to believe it’s time to close the casket on this ‘magical internet money.’
After the Big Dip, Bitcoin’s 70,000% Increase Is Far from Being ‘Dead’
What these pundits don’t realize is even after this current price drop since bitcoin’s inception, the cryptocurrency has gained roughly 70,328 percent. Since last February BTC/USD markets are still up 720 percent and many other digital assets have seen even more substantial price gains year-over-year. Historically, for every two steps back, the value of bitcoin has leaped seven steps forward after nearly every correction.
Will this be the case again? We really don’t know, but cryptocurrencies have never ‘died’ and many believers feel the value of this economy will likely continue to rise over the long term. Those who say cryptocurrencies are in a death spiral have not looked at the whole picture.
Where do you see cryptocurrency market values going from here? Let us know in the comments below.
Images via Shutterstock, Reddit, Trading View, and Barrons.
Not up to date on the news? Listen to This Week in Bitcoin, a podcast updated each Friday.
The post Dead again? In Reality Bitcoin Is Up 729% Since Last February appeared first on Bitcoin News.