Thursday, March 24, 2016

Proposed Talks in San Diego

I have proposed to give two talks to Mensa in San Diego this Summer.  Following are the details.  Feel free to contact me if any of this stuff interests you.  I think that interest in these things is growing because 1) they are important, and 2) interest in them is not yet high enough.

1. Anonymity: The Dangers and Benefits of Keeping Secrets

Modern technology makes it possible to have relationships with people through thin media like texting, emailing, telephone calls, and interactions through the Internet. These media allow individuals to misrepresent themselves. This, however, is not a modern problem. Trust has been getting violated since human beings learned to communicate, and this presentation explores the growing awareness of it.

The "Delphi Technique" will be described, as well as common political illusions and demagoguery as well as the problems that can be created by these things. We will discuss the solutions available to those participating in the growing awareness of them and invite questions for further pondering in an open dialog.

The Mensa AG Proposal process will be used as an example of a system that relies on some trust, but takes great risk in breaking that trust if it chooses to do so. As a microcosm of the larger society in which it exists, we will explore how the increasing density of peer-to-peer communications helpfully magnifies that risk, not just for Mensa, but for all systems exploiting the human tendency to trust.

2. Why is Bitcoin Still Around?

In 2009, something called a "bitcoin" appeared and someone got ten thousand of them for buying a pizza. At that point, the market capitalization of bitcoin was about the value of a large pizza. It has since died and risen again about 100 times and now has a market capitalization around six billion dollars.

Following are more questions than there will be time to answer, but audience participation always helps with that problem: What is bitcoin? How does one use bitcoin? How does a bitcoin get created? Who invented bitcoin? Are bitcoins anonymous? Who controls how bitcoin works? Isn't bitcoin a work in progress? What is a block? Does the block size matter? How is cryptography used in bitcoin? What is an elliptic curve? What's a "vanity address"? What backs bitcoin? How can I buy or sell bitcoin? What happened with MtGOX? Does bitcoin make it harder to rule people? Does it make it harder to maintain order? Isn't bitcoin mostly used by people doing bad things? How does it threaten the existing financial system? Will inflation eventually destroy all the value in bitcoin?

After a short introduction, this presentation will be open for questions, and everything is on the table at that point. The questions presented above may not be addressed, so be prepared to ask any in which you are interested.

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