Evening Link Aggregations

BLOCKCHAIN

There’s a new religion based on blockchain:

…there’s now a religion built on the Ethereum blockchain.

Its founder, Matt Liston, is the former CEO of Augur, a blockchain-supported prediction platform. Liston’s departure from Augur was contentious, and just last week he filed a lawsuit for $152 million against his former employer.

Liston unveiled his blockchain religion, which he calls 0xΩ (“Zero ex omega”? “Zero times omega”?), during a May 19 event at the New Museum in New York City. He distributed 40 hard copies of a document he calls 0xΩ’s “flame paper,” the closest thing the religion has to a “holy book,” that reportedly outlines how Liston wants 0xΩ to function.


BOOKS

From a profile of voice talent in the audio-book industry:

On a typical day, a narrator might spend between four and six hours in the booth. One finished hour of tape will take two to two and a half hours to record. (According to Business Insider, non-celebrity narrators can command $100 to $500 per finished hour.)


BRUTALISM

Singapore’s Brutalist past could soon be gone:

In February…Pearl Bank, once the highest residential tower in Singapore, was sold for S$728m ($544m) to CapitaLand, one of Asia’s largest real-estate developers. The company plans to demolish the yellow horseshoe structure and build a “high-rise residential development” of 800 flats in its place. Since then several of the other buildings—most of which are privately owned in a co-operative-like system with hundreds of owners all having a stake—have started to prepare for sales, too.


CLIMATE CHANGE

Sucking carbon dioxide from air is cheaper than scientists thought:

A detailed economic analysis published on 7 June suggests that the geoengineering technology is inching closer to commercial viability.

The study, in Joule, was written by researchers at Carbon Engineering in Calgary, Canada, which has been operating a pilot CO2-extraction plant in British Columbia since 2015. That plant — based on a concept called direct air capture — provided the basis for the economic analysis, which includes cost estimates from commercial vendors of all of the major components. Depending on a variety of design options and economic assumptions, the cost of pulling a tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere ranges between US$94 and $232. The last comprehensive analysis of the technology, conducted by the American Physical Society in 2011, estimated that it would cost $600 per tonne.


CULTURE WAR

Ed West: Everyone loses in the clash between liberalism and democracy

…it seems unlikely that populist strength in Hungary, Poland and elsewhere are not affected by demographic change in the West, and often violent events in London and Paris. Central Europeans, especially considering their past on the frontier of Turkish ambitions, do not want to go down that road, and so when a seemingly German-dominated EU tries to force them to accept mostly Muslim refugees it is hardly surprising that their leaders present themselves as representatives of the popular will – that’s not just authoritarian-speak, it’s the truth.

Undemocratic liberalism is therefore the trigger for authoritarian democracy, rather than any solution; or perhaps it would be more accurate to say globalised, unresponsive, undemocratic liberalism.

It is also the case that undemocratic liberalism is unlikely to remain all that liberal, since it will need to suppress populist sentiment. Although Germany was only mentioned in Freedom House’s recent report because of the AfD, the country has this year introduced tough, illiberal laws on combating hate speech online, to the alarm of the opposition.

Cosmopolitan societies have always had strict penalties against criticising other religious or ethnic groups, Singapore being the best recent example, because the risk of triggering communal violence is too great. In contrast the free press, along with other aspects of liberalism, first emerged in the most homogenous states in the world on the far western shores of Eurasia, where no such danger existed. I suspect that liberalism without democracy will not stay liberal for very long, just as democracy without liberalism won’t either. Whoever wins, we lose.


ICELAND

Icelanders’ Genetic Heritage Analyzed:

The study notes that recent immigration from Scandinavia, and especially from Denmark, also had an impact on Iceland’s gene pool. The scientists note that those settlers with Gaelic ancestry were likely to have been enslaved, giving those with Norse ancestry a reproductive advantage. In addition, the enslaved may have been buried in unmarked graves, possibly leaving them underrepresented in the test sample. To read in-depth about a mysterious site in Iceland, go to “The Blackener’s Cave.”


SECRET SOCIETIES

Todd  Seavey on Jack Parsons, the occult, NASA, reality, etc.:

Parsons was in fact the chief sponsor of arch-mystic Aleister Crowley in Crowley’s final years, as well as a friend of L. Ron Hubbard, who ended up running off with Parsons’ wife and angering Crowley by going into the Southwestern desert with Parsons and performing ostensibly alien-summoning rituals cribbed sloppily from Crowley himself (America’s 1940s wave of flying saucer sightings began almost immediately thereafter, coincidentally or not, and in short order Hubbard’s creation of a religion). This science-Satan tension, and the sex-magic rituals Crowley encouraged, should prove fodder for surreal drama, and it makes sense Ridley Scott is executive producer, given his gnostic penchant for things like ancient-astronaut theories and the veiled “alien Jesus” thesis in Prometheus.

It’s not as if Parsons was the only occultist involved in the prehistory of NASA, either, since the U.S. imported multiple Nazi rocket scientists immediately after World War II, plunking some in intelligence or science work even before the war was over. Might they have brought some neo-pagan Nazi mysticism with them into either field?

I’m no longer confident that would be much stranger than mainstream science, what with Nature last month reporting confirmation of what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance” (particles’ quantum states in one location affecting those in another faster than light could travel between them, even over planet- or galaxy-sized distances) and an article this month from Scientific American losing no time in rushing to the conclusion that mind is fundamental to reality and nothing exists until we observe it.


THE FUTURE

Robert MarianiA Different Grim Future:

Cyberpunk is not becoming marketable because it offers a solution for society. The message is clear that, in face of inexorable rot, the individual loses his sanity or loses his soul. What the genre does offer is a third choice: to view breakneck dehumanization as a roller coaster ride. There is grim exhilaration in accepting that the awesome decline cannot be stopped. A future that was once dark and hopeless is now dark and beautiful when one dives headlong into it. Ugliness becomes thrilling and alienation becomes adventure. The homogeneous, numbing light of Brave New World’s dystopia is replaced by the dreamy atmosphere of neon-lit alleyways. Sisyphus can’t change his fate, but he can refuse to nod and clap, blank-eyed, at the world’s loss of meaning.

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