Currency and the internet

Do you have change for a 20?

What once seemed like a totally  legitimate question is now sort of dated. We are now in the era of near-instant and exact transfer of capital. what does the future hold for the US dollar or any currency for that fact?

E-commerce has opened up a new market that even Adam Smith might be perplexed by. The global increase in connectivity of markets through e-commerce has brought about an era that challenges traditional currencies. Today products can be produced China shipped on US ships and sold in European markets. so what does this mean for consumers and nations?

As we look to the future we see an increasingly cashless society. I am interested in learning more about bitcoin, an online internet protocol currency. Bitcoin is based on digital markets, essentially 1s and 0s. If this sounds strange just ask yourself what is the cash in your wallet based on. The gold standard was done away with the New Deal. So the US currency is based on GDP and therefore is liquid.

It was only a matter of time until a new generation of capitalists understood this and harnessed it for the creation of a new and more widely accepted currency. To many current economists, the idea of Bitcoin seems strange because it is unregulated by a central bank.

Could bitcoin be the most widely accepted currency in international markets? what will that mean for national central banks.? Could this mean an international reboot of a new capitalism? The idea of an international currency driven by our technology and global connectivity provides an omminous but also mystifying future.

If cash simply seemses to not exist does it make it easier for state actors to determones ones over all weaelth, make tax decision, levy taxes, and make financial haircuts int times of crises?

This is a a graph of the number of digital bitcoin transactions. 

BTC number of transactions per month.png
By ZhitelewOwn work, CC0, Link

 

SOURCES:

http://money.cnn.com/infographic/technology/what-is-bitcoin/

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-revolutionary-power-of-digital-currency-1422035061

https://bitcoin.org/en/

 

 

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The Atomic Age and The Automobile

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America in the 1950s and 60s was having somewhat of an infatuation with nuclear energy. The possibilities seemed endless for the amount of energy that could be produced by one reactor. Could this technology be used in the consumer market?

The Ford Motor Company had an interesting answer to that technology. Enter the Ford Nucleon Concept. In 1957 Ford introduced the first nuclear power car, the Nucleon. It featured a replaceable uranium fission reactor that could be easily replaced upon depletion. Ford estimated about every 5000 miles. This car would have no noxious fumes and no loud and obnoxious internal combustion motor to upset your suburban neighbors.

Even in this highly idealistic stage of nuclear energy, the engineers at Ford knew that consumers did not want to too close to atomic energy. So they put the passenger compartment far forward of the reactor and over the front axle.

ford_nucleon_model

The technology Ford was drawing on was already in use by the US Navy in submarines. The problem, however, was to shrink the size of that system down in size and weight so that it would be suitable for cars. Ford speculated that this technology was on the horizon and when it arrived they would already be ahead of the competition with their concept.

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Fast forward about 50 years, America is dealing with an energy dilemma. Do we continue to use fossil fuels to power our cars or do we look for other answers? The US government has clearly expressed its interest both politically and economically for research into alternative fuel sources. Companies such as Telsa have risen to fill this gap, but like a blast from the atomic age past the idea of fission-powered cars came back in 2009 Cadilac introduced their concept thorium-powered car at the Chicago Auto show. A lot of research is being conducted into thorium and its viability as a nuclear energy source.

cadillac-world-thorium-fuel-concept-1-668x350

But could we really see nuclear reactors going 80 mph down the 15?

Sources

The Atomic Automobile

Where are all the clean, infinite-range nuclear-powered cars, ships, and planes?

https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/is-a-nuclear-powered-car-in-our-future/

Shhh… Fight the Noise

Today thought of as tools for elite military units or vast international criminal organizations, Silencers (more accurately described as surppressors), were developed in the early 1900s.

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Hiram Percy Maxim received the patent for the first firearm suppressor in 1909. Surprisingly the silencer is actually closely related to the development of the car muffler, which was originally called the car silencer. The two devices share a lot in common from an engineering perspectively. Both devices mitigate noise by diverting expelled gases. Here is the first patent for the Maxim Silenced Firearm

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What is strange about this technology was its original intended use for application on firearms that would be used in urban and rural areas of the US. Two unique conditions existed in America in 1900s that made the early concept of the silencer attractive for many of Americans. A lot of Americans owned guns due to the industrialization of gun manufacturing and there was few regulations as to attaining them and many Americans were moving out of rural areas into more urban areas. This caused a problem because, while the carry of a firearm was widely accepted, the sound of the gunshot was a great disturbance and often a crime. So it seems clear in Maxim’s design that he intended this new invention to be used by a more metropolitan gun owner who perhaps was fond of hunting and sporting with them. Here is a brochure that you can see is clearly targeted for civilians.

Maxim Silencer Brochure

It would not be until World War II when the US began to look seriously at the use of silencers by the military for clandestine operations. The father of modern US intelligence, William Wild Bill” Donovan would introduce this invention and its potential to Franklin Roosevelt. Below is a small .22 pistol developed for the Clandestine missions of the OSS

This signaled a shift in the characterization of Silencers in America from civilian use to military use.

SOURCES:

https://www.forgottenweapons.com/accessories/maxim-silencer/

http://www.smallarmsreview.com/display.article.cfm?idarticles=3274

http://olive-drab.com/od_other_firearms_suppressors.php

https://www.shootingillustrated.com/articles/2011/9/21/arms-tech-limited-oss-hi-standard/

Dr. Gatling’s Deterent


It has been argued war advances science and technology. Civil War can be studied through the advancements in military science and the denial of many of today’s widely accepted tactics, techniques, and practices on the battlefield. It is hard to believe that even some American history’s most revered Generals refused to think outside of their traditional military training and fought the progress of what today might be thought of common sense advancements in warfare. There is one new technology that would change the way wars would be fought forever it was Dr. Richard J. Gatling’s Gatling gun.The Gatling gun was not the first machine gun, but it was more effective and safer for the operators than its predecessors. When Gatling introduced his machine gun he thought it would eliminate the need for massive armies, and would be a deference from future wars. Sounds familiar? Gatling was deeply disturbed by the amount of casualties the civil war and wanted to design a machine that could do the job of a hundred soldiers. He granted the patent to develop his machine gun in 1862.

Gatling’s design was improvement on older designs because it used a new cartridge technology rather than minie balls and the use of multiple barrels to fire the projectiles. The new projectile was more effective because it was dependable and was more weather resistant than traditional cartridges which used open powder and flint. The multi barrel feature of the gatling gun kept the gun from heating like its predecessors and was easier to fix in case a projectile got jammed in the action.

During the Civil War Lincoln wanted the army to advance the technology in use buy the union army, but he got a lot of negative feedback from his Generals on these new inventions. One General who did adopt the new invention and employed it with success was Major General Ben Butler at the Battle of Petersburg in the spring 0f 1965. The Navy however liked the invention and individual commanders purchased the weapon for use on ships.mg-1-033-13

The Gatling gun was the beginning of modern machine gun technology and the evolution of military science. Machine guns would see expanded use in World War I, that is when they became commonplace in all future battles and crucially important to the planning process. Employment techniques have now advanced greatly, Machine guns are deadlier than ever when employed properly. Gatling’s dream of developing a deterrent was never realized but it did allow one soldier to do the work of a hundred.

 

Sources

http://www.americanheritage.com/content/doctor-gatling-and-his-gun?page=show

http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2013-08/union-army-almost-had-machine-guns

http://www.americanheritage.com/content/doctor-gatling-and-his-gun?page=show

The Science of Phrenology

The image above shows, Whig Party Presidential Candidate and 12th President of the United States, Zachary Taylor being examined by Orsen S. Fowler. This depiction was done during Taylor’s 1848 campaign for the Presidency. Was this some sort of medical exam to show his medical fitness for Presidential service? No, well not quite. Zachary Taylor was being examined be a renowned phrenologist while a report sat in on the exam taking notes. The drawing depicts the reporter asking questions of the phrenologist, Fowler, and of Fowler taking measurements of Taylor’s head. This was done to gather information on what kind of president Taylor would be.

Olsen S Fowler  was a practitioner of a well renowned and widely accepted science of the early 19th century called Phrenology. Phrenology is the study of the human brain through the measurements of the skull. Phrenologists held several theories to be true: The brain is an organ that is a part of the system known as the mind, that certain parts of the brain controlled certain personality traits, these parts were topographically located on the human brain, and more pronounced personality traits would have an enlarged coinciding part of the brain, and that the skull forms in relation to the shape of the brain. Phrenologists would measure the size of the skull and feel for certain deformities in the skull. The would correlate these observations with a chart that is featured in the slide show below.

Phrenology began in Europe with observations made by Franz Joseph Gall around 1795. His student Johann Gaspar Spurzheim is credited with popularizing the idea through Europe and America. Spurzheim came to Boston in 1832 and began to lecture on the subject. However an American named Charles Caldwell had began to study and lecture on the topic after his visit to France in the 1820s. Caldwell would write Elements of Phrenology and found the University of Louisville School of Medicine . Later The Fowler Brothers, Lorenzo and Orson would read Spurzheim and others’ works on phrenology. They would go on to create the American Phrenological Journal. The leading journal on the topic in America at that time.

There is an interesting story connecting Phrenology and Slavery  here: Django Unchained and the racist science of phrenology

So what did Fowler find out about the 12th President of the United States, Zachary Taylor?

Among the long list of Taylor’s characteristics that Greeley and Fowler have compiled are: “A Quick Fiery Temper,” “A lack of self respect,” and “Disregard for things Sacred.” Each of these falls under a broader category, such as “Combativeness,” which is accompanied by a number designating its degree of “development.” The number six indicates an ideal level of development, anything lower being deficient. Seven, the highest possible score, was excessive. Here Taylor scores a seven in “Combativeness,” but only receives a one for “Self Esteem.” In “Firmness” he receives a fourteen, making him remarkably “Obstinate & Mulish.”

-Robinson

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Citations:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2013/feb/05/django-unchained-racist-science-phrenology

http://www.historyofphrenology.org.uk/overview.htm

http://www.theness.com/index.php/phrenology-history-of-a-pseudoscience/

Riegel, Robert E. “The Introduction of Phrenology to the United States.” The American Historical Review 39, no. 1 (1933): 73-78.

Robinson, Henry R., -1850. The candidate of many parties. A phrenological examination to ascertain what his political principles are. New York: Lithd. & published by H.R. Robinson, 1848. Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,