Assorted links


#5 ... further evidence that Bitcoin is a bubble

Oh no! Bitcoins are consuming 40 megawatts of power! That could increase mankind's energy consumption by a whopping 0.000025%! What an environmental disaster!!!!!

+1. And we all know mining for precious metals is environmentally benign and low on energy consumption.

Just how many tons of associated rock gets moved for every ton of gold? Forget the cyanide involved in the purification process.

Heh, how many stores of wealth survive 3 centuries in a sunken treasure ship? Try that Bitminer. (IOW, once you do the mining, you actually have something fairly unique in the world of physical objects. Bitcoins, in contrast, are like those Monty Python apartment blocks, which require constant belief.).

Obviously there is a need for green bitcoins created with renewable resources.

And how much power does World of Warcraft consume? Probably 100x as much. How much energy is wasted world wide on sports, Indy racing, etc?

This type of argument is ridiculous. You can make this kind of complaint about any leisure or luxury product.

Not mentioned is that much Bitcoin mining has moved to botnets, so the cost of computation has moved from the "miners" to the people with infected computers. If you're using idle cycles when machines are powered up but aren't being used, there is an increment in power consumption but not so much over just being powered-up and idle.

> 5. The power demands of Bitcoin mining.

1. the current banking system consumes how many billions in overhead each year?
2. It's amusing how no one ever seems to criticize the distributed computing projects like [email protected] or [email protected], but when it comes to Bitcoin, all of a sudden people can easily calculate megawatt usage and make comparisons with other projects. OK then...

> If you’re using idle cycles when machines are powered up but aren’t being used, there is an increment in power consumption but not so much over just being powered-up and idle.

That seems irrelevant. Electricity consumed is electricity consumed. Regular miners are also often using power up machines and idle cycles, and the ones using custom rigs have chosen the most power-efficient rigs and GPU chips, and will be consuming far less electricity than a heterogenous population of botnets. (There's also network efficiency: every individual rig in a botnet needs to communicate with the pool, while a professional miner has centralized his chips and so they only take up a small fraction of the network traffic.)

Using a botnet for CPU mining is a massive deadweight loss: the electricity it takes to win one bitcoin is orders of magnitude more expensive at this point than one bitcoin is actually worth, either at the exchange rate or looking at the value of securing transactions. Using a botnet for GPU mining... may or may not be worth it since I think GPUs are currently still above break-even in terms of electricity, but as the ASICs roll out, the same logic will apply: botnet mining will simply be a negative-sum game in which the botnet owner steals electricity from the computer owner by turning it into a smaller amount of bitcoins.

How else do you monetize your botnet? The only other major botnet industry is renting it out for DDOS attacks. The latter requires finding a customer who will pay you and withstanding the blowback from the DDOS victim. Mining Bitcoins doesn't require either one -- it's almost risk-free.

Criminal ingenuity has found countless ways. Sending spam; clicking on ads; storing files; DDoS attacks, yes;

> Mining Bitcoins doesn’t require either one — it’s almost risk-free.

My point wasn't that it wasn't profitable; probably coding up a GPU miner for your botnet software is still a good use of time (but not CPU). My point was that it wasn't as uncostly as presented. And now that you mention, I wonder: GPU mining can noticeably affect the system and hence also the detection or reformatting rate; does the increased attrition more than offset the gains?

> I for one would be much happier if a “useful pursuit” generated the coins, as in [email protected] Why not, right?

So would everyone else. At least [email protected] produces some papers and results which *might* be useful. (Which is more than one could say of other distributed projects like [email protected] - spot any signals yet? - or the cryptography cracking projects - really? *really*?) Unfortunately, no one seems to have come up with any proof-of-work system which is either centralized or vulnerable to some sort of attack that Bitcoin is not vulnerable to, although I've mused about various possibilities ( )

I for one would be much happier if a "useful pursuit" generated the coins, as in [email protected] Why not, right? Of course, I sometimes fear that our computational capacity has long exceeded that needed for "useful pursuits."

CPUs are largely useless for Bitcoin mining these days. The hard-core people were using GPUs, but even that has fallen out of favor to ASIC devices.

3. I get the political correctness and all, and I'm not a fan of objectifying women, but it seems like from an economic lens the employment of attractive women as shoeshiners is a pareto improvement, no? Clients are happier, the attractive women are employed (and likely make more from tips than previous shoeshiners). Society progresses ever so slightly.

I guess you could call it....a marginal revolution

So I did flip out here over 'The Boob Song' remarks, but I am more neutral on this one. In college I wrote a seminar paper on the commodification of women...explaining why it was usually beneficial to women (my class presentation was the most alert I had seen some of the frat guys all semester). And it irks me when men get their eye candy for free, so this shoe shine shop seems a win-win (with some steep price segmentation, I'd be curious to know how much is passed on in the women's wages, probably not much). I am no longer so sure it's a clear win for the women, but as long as they have options and they understand it's a choice that comes with tradeoffs, it probably can't be too bad. Still seems surprising. I tried to think of any store that I frequent because the guys there are good looking. I will pay a lot extra for convenience but I don't think I have ever paid for the staff appearance. So fine, different preferences, but double the price?...the male brain is something.

So fine, different preferences, but double the price?…the male brain is something.

It's an extra $3.50, it doesn't strike me as a huge premium. It's not much more than the premium of buying coffee at Starbucks.

>And it irks me when men get their eye candy for free

Why? Should men charge for their good looks too? Are you suggesting that all of the fun in life be made transactional?

Anyway, I don't usually get too exercised about inequality, but this is an indicator of inequality. If men can afford to pay beautiful women double the going rate to *shine their shoes*, maybe beautiful women don't have enough opportunity.

I agree it is not clear why men getting their eye-candy for free is a bad thing. If women want to provide it for free, it would seem to be a problem on the supply side and not the demand side. It would be pretty simple for women not to provide eye candy, but if they choose to for free I am not sure there is an externality.

What exactly is "commodification"? Does that mean they get traded as a commodities contract? Are people hiring women en masse without reference to trait and skill: "Can we get 50 women on the job tomorrow?" Are there women-futures?

Some of the language of Feminism is very confusing. And especially ironic when used in the same breath as invoking a "frat boy" stereotype.

You're the first person to bring up feminsim. As far as I know, commodification is not a feminist concept.

ding, ding, ding you are correct DW ... just because a woman writes it does not mean it is feminist. what I write here rarely passes that test.

"it irks me when men get their eye candy for free"

I have some bad news for you about the Internet.

why not exactly a progress? because a % of these women has the intelligence to do something more productive. this kind of business are a sign of undeveloped countries where all the potential of women is dedicated to wash cars and serve burgers in underwear.

Well then why aren't they doing it?

Because of the patriarchy. Duh!

Suggest he will soon have competitors offering an executive "hand rub" in a private VIP room to polish things up and put spring in your step.

Speak for yourself. I'd just want a nap.

PS -- did you notice he's applying for a liquor licence?

"the male brain is something."

Just accept that we are as shallow as spit. The best of us prefer our women attractive AND smart - but most don't care much about the "smart" and some will settle for a pulse.

To clear I was not being judgmental. I had written "a wonder" first but thought it sounded to hokey. It's just hard for me to empathize with something that I can't compute. Not a big deal in this case, especially since it's a open transaction with consenting adults. Plus I do plenty of stupid things that cost me money too.

If there were two restaurants with equally good food, but one had a better atmosphere, would that have an effect on your preferences? Perhaps considering this an aesthetic effect (albeit one that comes out value neutral to you, as many types of 'atmosphere' to many people) will allow you to compute.

yes, but the men in the article are paying a huge markup for the 'atmosphere' ... I get that a shoe shine is about more than the polish but this seems a bit much to me. I would pay more for a shoe shine (or a restaurant meal) if the service provider was more pleasant and efficient than the competion but not double...seems like some serious price discrimination, poor guys.

You're acting like the price level is irrelevant. It's $3.50, come on.

It's not like you need to shine your shoes once a year, come on. But yes, I get it this is an inexpensive kick for guys, fine.

My takeaway from this conversation is that the 'avoid beautiful women' advice in *An Economist Gets Lunch* is actually useful. I always thought the quip was mildly annoying but maybe some people need to be reminded how much they pay for 'atmosphere' and the gender-specific nature of the advice may be valid.

If you care about your shoes, it's hard to imagine you'd trust them to shiners whose primary qualification is attractiveness.

Shoeshining ain't rocket science.

I don't care about my shoes


If by progress you mean people getting what they actually wanted as oppose to what established elites dictated them, then yes, it is a sign of progress.

#3: This is idiocy. If the customers want to ogle beautiful women, why not go to a strip club? Or a massage parlor, or other similar establishment where women fulfill men's needs. If the customers want a shoe shine, go to a regular neighborhood place with old guys who know how to do it right.

I'm a man, fact is, I can't respect a guy who pays double to have his shoes shined by an attractive woman. He's just being a fool. If that same guy were to pay a prostitute for an hour of her services, that would be more understandable and respectable.

Guys paying double for shoeshines are guys with money to burn.

Isn't that the whole point of the game? To redistribute money from guys with too much of it to girls with not enough of it?

Hey wait a minute. This is an economics site. You're suggesting I'd be more rational to pay at least $100 (including drinks and tips) to look at beautiful women when I can do the same thing for a $3.50 surcharge and get my shoes shined? At a strip club I'm not going to get anything shined :-)

"#3: This is idiocy. If the customers want to ogle beautiful women, why not go to a strip club?"

because this transaction is about more than ogling. the women are, by nature of the job, put into "powerlessness poses" and therefore made to appear, and feel, submissive to the men, while the men feel power and dominance over the women. both parties get a sexual charge from this dynamic.

Austerity hasn't worked and won't work and it's amazing to me so many European countries are still going with it. Eventually, hopefully, they'll see sense before they destroy the EU completely.

I'm quite sincerely interested in your views on a couple of questions.

#1: What counts as austerity? A fall in the budget deficit, even if government spending doesn't fall? A fall in government spending, even if the deficit is held constant? A reduction in the trend growth of government spending, even if spending is constant or still mildlyincreasing?

#2: What do you see as the alternative to austerity for the weaker EU countries? Obviously Germany could give them a lot of money, but I am looking for an alternative that they could choose others own, not that Germany could choose for them. Aside from the UK, I don't think any of them have the option of massive deficit spending that is available to the US, because the bond markets aren't willing to lend to them at low rates any longer. They could leave the Euro and devalue, but (a) wouldn't that also count as rather destructive of European unity? and (b) while the devaluation would help their competitiveness, their governments would still have to curtail spending because the bond markets would be unlikely to see them as better risks after they leave the Euro. Do you have some other alternative in mind that I haven't thought of yet?

Tax hike hasn’t worked and won’t work and it’s amazing to me so many European countries are still going with it. Eventually, hopefully, they’ll see sense before they destroy the EU completely.

Fixed that for you.

#3 Yet more evidence that robots will not take all the jobs away from humans.

Unless they're hot robots.

I don't have a comment on any of the stories, but I just wanted to raise the possibility that "Assorted Links" is a long-term data-gathering effort by Tyler and Alex to determine the revealed vs. stated preferences of MR commentators. So far we have 11 posts on #5 (Bitcoins), 19 posts on #3 (shoe-shining girls), and one comment which was probably meant for the above post on Estonian austerity. Nothing on Indian poverty, Rwandan typists, or public revenge, but thirty posts on hacker currency and hot girls. The MR algorithm has probably determined we're a bunch of sweaty-palmed geeks in our mothers' basements.


Especially notice the contrast between 3. and 4. Well played, Tyler, well played.

An interesting experiment would be to set up alternative stands next to 3. and 4.:
3. show shine stand with not-beautiful women and 4. typist station with beautiful women.

Now, if Tyler's restaurant rule about avoiding places with beautiful women is extensible, then you should get a better shoe shine and better typing with not-beautiful women.

Again, well played, Tyler.

Since I "started" the conversation about beautiful women (though that is self-recommending and I'm sure someone else would have taken the bait had I not), I feel the need to offer my defense:

(Not from my mother's basement) I read all 5 articles and found them all enjoyable. "Assorted links" is a big part of why I read marginal revolution - great curation that's always interesting. However, not all 5 prompted discussion. In particular, I disagreed with the caption for post 3, while there simply wasn't much to say about the Rwandan entrepreneurs. The local sites' comments amply covered the "why doesn't someone just pay for their training!" angle, and I think Tyler pretty much summed it up with his title.

From my perspective, the meta data on MR commentary might be a better indicator of how inflammatory/controversial/incorrect the link titles are. They do skew toward provocation.

2. Very very impressive analysis and presentation. Makes fascinating reading. And the author chooses to remain anonymous.

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