2011-05-26

Anonymity: The refuge of the frustrated immature

There are people who would have you believe that anonymity is somehow crucial to a functioning and civilized society, and that it's somehow essential on the internet.

It is not.

In the vast majority of my experience in real life and on the internet, anonymity is only ever abused.

In real life, people are much more likely to behave in ways that are harmful to others if they feel they aren't being watched.

It's the same way on the Internet. When people feel they are anonymous, they will do and say things they would otherwise never consider if they had to sign their names to it.

The vast majority of those things are harmful. Check any forum that allows anonymous posting. Under the veil of anonymity, people post things as if they have no capacity for self-restraint. Anonymous posts aren't thought out, they're overly aggressive, and are frequently meant to intentionally hurt others.

There's this movement, called "Anonymous", whose greatest achievement is that they've vandalized a few sites on the internet.

For the past several years, I allowed comments from anyone on this blog because any comment is at least better than no comment, right?

Well, perhaps not. Overwhelmingly, the comments that were posted on this blog anonymously were poorly thought out, overly aggressive, and most of all, dumb. Most anonymous comments would never be posted if the writer wasn't sure that they won't have to answer for it.

And for tolerating all this crap, what do we have to show for it? I gained insights into human nature. I learned that if you give people the opportunity to show their unrestrained selves, many will turn out to be meaner, dumber and less worthy of respect, than you'd expect.

That's an interesting insight in and of itself. But since anonymous commenting is about as unrestrained, as unpleasant, and as intelligent as farting, we really shouldn't be offering an audience to it.

2011-05-18

The fate of anonymous digital currencies

I just recently found out about Bitcoin, a digital currency that strives to be anonymous and have no central authority.

Instead of there being a single, trusted, centralized issuer of the currency, the entire network of peer-to-peer nodes, formed by people who use the currency, acts as the issuer of currency, and verifier of transactions.

The technical overview sounds convincing, and while there could be glitches I'm not aware of, I have no reason to believe right now that the system is technically deficient. It is already used in practice and accepted as a currency by a few.

But here's the bottom-line issue.

In order for a currency to be useful, you have to be able to use it to buy bread and pay electricity. Virtually all local government prohibits such transactions from using anything but the locally mandated currency.

In order for Bitcoin or a similar currency to become more than a curiosity, it has to be perceived as reliably exchangeable to a local currency.

In order to be perceived as reliably exchangeable, at least one country would have to credibly protect an exchange point between the digital currency and some other exchangeable currency.

That country, or group of countries, would then have to defend this courtesy, as the digital currency is used increasingly by folks worldwide to dodge taxes, and by mob lords to launder money from illegal activities.

As long as governments around the world maintain their irrational obsessions with making the drug problem bigger through prohibition, and making the tax problem bigger by trying to tax people's income, they will not tolerate an anonymous digital currency becoming more than a curiosity.

If any one digital currency threatens to become more than that, the US government will shut it down by outlawing exchange points within the US, and by outlawing transactions with exchange points outside the US.

They did the same to online poker.

2011-05-05

Happiness gene identified

A gene has been identified which causes people who have it to report a higher degree of happiness than others. (The gene causes the brain to recycle serotonin more efficiently.)

I contend that it is now irresponsible and immoral to let a child be born without first ensuring that he or she has this gene.

Allowing children to be born without this gene is to create people who will be less happy than they could be.