Podcast interview with The New Era

Yesterday I had a chat with @JeffreyPeel of The New Era, who has a quality Substack on the important theme of the removal of liberties since March 2020. Jeffrey had some great and thoughtful questions, so we covered many of the major issues in internet web search and related matters. You can find the whole video interview, a brief summary and discussion here: Challenging the Monopolist - by Jeffrey Peel - The New Era

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I think there are several different issues which get mixed together. There is freedom of speech, freedom of belief, democratic governance, scientific or medical consensus, political advantage, profit, and making decisions with incomplete information.

All of these happen at the same time and can produce the same effects–just think of how these motivations interacted during the COVID-19 pandemic–but it is important to make the correct attributions. Otherwise, we lose personal agency due to our own ignorance.


Further, I don’t think we need decentralized apps. But we do need apps.

Mojeek is important simply because there are so few practical search engines.

And things like Substack, Mastodon, GitLab, and Nebula are important alternatives to the highly centralized software economy we have now.

It’s funny. I went to look up the top websites for this post. But, I don’t even know where to look anymore because Alexa was shut down by Amazon.


I do think there is a role for technologies which resemble the blockchain when it comes to multiparty business processes.

But, I think immutable storage, database ledgers, and Hyperledger Fabric are more efficient than what can be achieved by a fully anonymous and untrusted blockchain. In particular, Hyperledger Fabric is interesting because it allows smart contracts to use standard programming languages.

I would also like to see the promises from decentralized identification realized:

“In the NHS system, at each hospital health care workers go to, it used to take months of effort to verify their credentials before they could practice,” Chik says. “Now it literally takes five minutes to be enrolled in the hospital and starting to treat patients.”


For more information on the Microsoft antitrust case, I found this Charlie Rose interview from when the case was announced:

This discussion is interesting because it took place at the beginning of the antitrust case. And you can hear the way Microsoft talked about the issue. Namely, allowing something other than Internet Explorer was bad for consumers. You can hear the same language today with the names changed. It is an argument that only concerns profit. For example, in 1998, Microsoft would have rejected the idea that businesses only needed the Selectric typewriter just as, today, we reject the idea that only one browser or any browser is needed to use the Web. The only constant in those arguments is that they help the incumbent.


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This is the kind of tool that I’m interested in if you ever find a method or a direct replacement for it.

Re: the NHS issue, from having family members who have had to work a lot with the system, it is a complete mess. I used to work with an PhD who was deeply interested in this area (DIDs) and was consistently working to point out some of the issues he saw with the ways in which the blockchain side of this industry had some… gaps in their thinking.

I would say that although this is not necessarily talking about the specifics of the Microsoft piece (this talk was aimed mainly at Sovrin) I think there’s some relevant things in this talk (edited and uploaded by yours truly a while back). I think the best concise summary of what Philip has as a worry here is that the technologists involved don’t seem to wish to widen their circle to include sociologists, lawyers, politicians, and other highly-relevant professionals to ensure that whatever does get built and used mitigates a dystopia as much as possible. His blog if you have an interest in diving into his mind here.

My take? Well, it sits right at the bottom of that piece there…

“Properly implemented, decentralized digital identity solutions promise to provide more control to users,” Gün Sirer says. “I just fundamentally doubt that the breakthrough we need can come from a centralized software vendor.”

Preach :raised_hands:

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