Entertainment · August 5, 2022

The hyper local side of Crypto-POLITICAL

With the help of Derek Robertson

There is a novel experiment unfolding in the idyllic mountains of Berkshire in western Massachusetts – one with implications for where and how crypto might find its way into everyday life.

At the Berkshire Food Co-Op in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, you can see which local farm grew your produce, pick up an “eco cup made from reclaimed wheat stalks,” and pay for everything in cryptocurrency from that harvest onwards.

The currency is not bitcoin with its high carbon emissions or the many private cryptocurrencies backed by venture capitalists. Instead, the co-op is collaborating with a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement to harness a technology often associated with unfettered global capitalism for another goal: radical localism.

The launch of cryptocurrency Digital Berkshares this spring marks the latest step in a decade-long effort to foster a self-sufficient economy in the Berkshire Mountains, a popular retreat for wealthy, educated Northeasterners.

As globalization continues its steady march, this autonomy has remained elusive. But now, as the rise of blockchain technology sparks a widespread rethink about money and a widespread push toward deglobalization gathers momentum, supporters of the effort have found a new opportunity.

To exploit it, they’ve enlisted the help of early adopters in Berkshire, including a ukulele factory, a wandering jester, and a prominent local witch.

But the currency’s backers insist it’s more than a quirky pet project. The same technology that powered a thousand get-rich-quick schemes, she says, can also help America’s rural areas get rich slowly.

“We’re not on a three-year or five-year project,” said Berkshares overseer Susan Witt, who, as a co-founder of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, has been trying to break the dollar’s monopoly on American money since the 1980s. “It’s more like a 50-year project.”

Witt has been closely involved in two previous plans to introduce a Berkshires alternative to the dollar, one of which is still in circulation and is considered a success in the obscure world of local currencies. When she first began attending crypto gatherings, beginning with the Bitcoin conference in Miami in January 2016, Witt, now 75, recalled being the oldest person in the room, speaking pink amid a sea of ​​hundreds of young ones wore men in black. “I loved it,” she said. “I’ve learned so much.”

She enjoyed a bit of notoriety among crypto enthusiasts due to Berkshares’ status as an alternative money pioneer, and Witt said she felt akin to some of the anarchist impulses — which favored local control — that fueled Bitcoin’s development.

But she’s also skeptical about the financial speculation and globalization tendencies surrounding the technology, and said she’s turned down multiple offers to convert Berkshares to cryptocurrency. Ultimately, however, she decided that her ambitions required going digital with Berkshares: a digital system would allow for more and larger transactions while generating detailed data on how the currency was being used.

The result: Digital Berkshares went live with the launch of a smartphone wallet app in April and is now one of the most interesting experiments in using crypto as a real alternative money system.

For the full story and update on how it’s going, read Ben’s cable from Great Barrington in POLITICO magazine.

Who is Sam Bankman Fried, and what does he do with democratic politics?

POLITICO’s Elena Schneider answers that question today in a profile of the multi-billionaire CEO of crypto exchange FTX, who continues to donate significant chunks of his fortune to pro-democracy campaigns across the country:

“…over the past year he has hired a network of political agents and spent tens of millions more to frame the Democratic House primary,” Elena writes. “It was a shocking spate of spending that looked poised to rebuild the Democratic Party’s bank in Washington, candidate after candidate. Looking ahead to the 2024 election, he said he could spend anywhere from $100 million to $1 billion.”

You may have noticed that one number is missing from that ledger: 2022. Elena reports that Bankman-Fried is reluctant to make such a splash in the meantime, telling her he only plans to spend about half of the $40 million that he spent on this year’s primaries in the parliamentary elections. (“Only.”)

Bankman-Fried is also wary of being too closely associated with the crypto world, which has contributed to his wealth accumulation, and notably being viewed as such: “Although I didn’t say anything about crypto and only spoke about pandemic prevention, to be specific to say, ‘just to be clear, there is no crypto angle, ‘there is no hidden crypto agenda here,’ he told Elena. “If there was a crap what there was, I didn’t realize that early on that I needed to address that fact tremendously explicitly and repetitively.” – Derek Robertson

Like wannabe Twitter competitors Peach or Mastodon has usually followed a predictable cycle: quite a bit of hype followed by little in the way of a lasting footprint.

A recently launched social media platform hopes to sidestep that fate by introducing a true SUI genericunpredictable element of the mix: cohost, an Ad and algorithm free social media platform which allows users to integrate CSS into their posts.

For those unfamiliar with code, CSS (short for “Cascading Style Sheets”) is a language that adds visual qualities to HTML input. That sounds dry, but in practice it allows more creative Cohost users to create fast-loading, polished interactive graphics in the browser: with just a quick search of creating an account and logging in, I found a simulation of Fridge magnet poetry, Windows 2000 Professionaland even a classic Game Boy Advance game.

The site was not created special as a platform for such gizmos – their stated purpose is “to give you ways to express yourself and keep in touch with your friends” – but their proliferation is a good reminder of how people are using new technological tools like 3D art, the Blockchain or even in the boring old internet browser in this case in an unpredictable way. – Derek Robertson

Keep in touch with the whole team: Ben Schreckinger ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Konstantin Kakaes ([email protected]); and Heidi Vogt ([email protected]). Follow us on Twitter @DigitalFuture.

Ben Schreckinger reports on technology, finance and politics for POLITICO; he is a cryptocurrency investor.

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