‘Fascinating Insights Into Money’

Score: 5/5

I found this fascinating. It was written before cryptocurrency gained much traction, so there’s no mention of bitcoin here, but instead there are fascinating glimpses into how small groups or regions have ‘created’ their own money and use it instead of the regular government-issued currency to keep money flowing within that particular region.

The first example I heard of was the ‘Bristol Pound’ but according to the book there are lots of others. Lots. Sometimes the sheer number of such projects described becomes too much and they all start blending into one... Nonetheless the book proves the point that alternative currencies can be useful and successful.

It doesn’t really mention many recent experimental currencies which have been failures though. And now that we’ve had an explosion of cryptocurrencies I’m curious what the authors’ thoughts are on this new technology. (Since Bernard Lietaer joined Bancor as ‘Chief Monetary Architect’ I guess his views are mostly positive.)

From what I’ve learned about cryptocurrencies recently, I do believe we’re going to see more talk of other currencies (crypto or not) and fluid mechanisms to move between them. Should be interesting to watch.

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‘Oblique, Obscure And Obtuse’

Score: 3/5

Iain M. Banks science fiction books put you right in the middle of a huge world with little up-front explanation of what was going on, and the journey through the book gradually revealed the bits of the world mentioned at the beginning. They were wonderful.

I think that’s what this book tries to do, but for me it didn’t really pull it off. Instead of feeling I was embedded in a real, rich world, I just felt in at the deep end with obscure references to things I’d never heard of and wouldn’t see described until a hundred pages later.

I can’t quantify what was different between Banks’ writing and this book, but they feel different and I greatly prefer Banks’ approach.

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‘Sweary, Pithy, Very Funny’

Score: 5/5

Sometimes I get anxious. It’s hard looking at that from the outside, but that’s what TechnicallyRon does with this book. It’s full of little examinations of anxiety, often as conversations between him and his brain. It’s funny, pithy, and a useful way to communicate how anxiety feels to others.

And it has this wonderful bit:

When your brain is your worst enemy, you spend a lot of time wanting to be alone, being alone, and absolutely hating being alone.

What a great way of summing up some of the feeling!

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‘No, Not That One’

Score: 5/5

A book by Douglas Adams with white robots turning up at a Lords where our protagonists are watching a cricket match. The robots steal the ashes and then go on to try to destroy the galaxy. It may all sound very familiar, but it's not 'Life, The Universe, And Everything', it's this book.

Bits of it really do come across as a Hitchhiker's/Who crossover. Some paragraphs are weirdly HHGTTG and not at all Whovian. And the weirdest thing about them is that they aren't in the original treatment (included in an appendix), so I'm left wondering to what extent they were made up by the other author (the one who is currently still alive so bears much responsibility for this book) James Goss. Did he find these things in the copious notes he read or did he just do a really good DNA impression?

I've no idea. But still, I enjoyed the book. Maybe not as much as I'd have enjoyed a real, pure Douglas Adams book, but there'll never be another one of those so if this is as close as I can get, I'll take it.

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‘Quick, Trite, Occasionally Useful’

Score: 3/5

This was a 99p 'Quick Read' so it’s not the full book.

It did have some good bits, some useful thoughts, but it could also be a bit tiresome, and it did have some dodgy moments. Maybe they're less dodgy in the complete edition...

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‘Paranormality In Rural Ireland’

Score: 5/5

I’ve no idea where I got the recommendation for this book (if it was you - thanks!) so I’d no idea what to expect of it.

What I got is: a story with paranormal elements set in rural Ireland in the 1970s, with all the poverty and insularity that entails. Add in religious guilt and some intrigue from decades ago and you have a fascinating story well told.

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‘Smart Pills And TDCS’

Score: 4/5

This is one man’s exploration of brain hacks and pills to find out how effective they are in making him smarter.

There’s some discussion of how ‘smart’ will be measured here (IQ is a troubling measure) but more interesting are the questions of effectiveness and morality. Do, say, pills work? And if so, should the be available indiscriminately? Should they be banned? Or should they only be available to specific categories of people? How do you choose?

I’m sure we all have our own thoughts on what the answers to those questions should be, but it’s nice to see someone publicly asking the questions.

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‘What Would You Do?’

Score: 4/5

This feels like Threads, but written by H. G. Wells or John Wyndham - a journey through a very English countryside with society falling apart all around. But its really just asking the question: how far would you go to keep your family safe?

I can’t fault the protagonists for their choices, but I’m not sure they’re the ones I’d have made. And some of the geography confused me a bit (the distances between some places is listed, but I think I’m just expected to sortof know roughly where some places are).

But overall, an oldy-but-goody.

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‘Discussions On Programmable Money’

Score: 4/5

This isn't anywhere near as technical as the previous Antonopoulos book I read, being just transcriptions of a collection of talks the author gave over a few years.

That said, it's nice to hear some higher-level discussions on the possibilities of bitcoin rather than getting drowned in the minutiae. For example, rather than think of it as money transferred using numbers and networks, what would you be able to do with 'programmable money'? And rather than describe what programmable money means here, decide for yourself what it is, see if that can be done, and then think about what you can do with that.

The whole area is so young that the foundations aren't all in place yet, so many possibilities are still open. I've no idea what we'll make of it but it's interesting to think about.

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‘All The Gory Details’

Score: 5/5

I read this a couple of months ago and (unless I’ve missed something) never put a mention of it up here.

Anyway, if you want to go further down the bitcoin rabbit-hole than just the basics, this is the book to get. It has some code, but not too much, and it goes into quite some detail about wallet seeds and UTXOs (which should give you some idea of the level we’re dealing with here).

There are more detailed descriptions of everything available elsewhere, but this is all one nice package.

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