Before the flood of 2018-in-review horror stories, a quick reminder that this has been a Really Good Year in the fight against delusions, manias, the irrational and the madness of crowds.
One reliable indicator is a puff-piece in the South China Morning Post. A ‘Hong Kong whizz-kid’ has raised HK$382 million for a cryptocurrency venture.
From whom? Presumably the advisors and token-holders listed on the website promoting the revolutionary ‘paradigm shift’ innovation. There seems to be more Indonesian involvement than is usual with crypto startups.
To the layman’s eye it looks like a blockchain (ie online database) platform that uses millions of ordinary little people’s smartphones (in places like Indonesia?) to do the absurd energy-wasting calculations currently performed by big coin mining operators. As with all ‘blockchain’ stuff, the obsession is with having a database that is distributed/decentralized, even though no-one can think of a practical reason why this is so important. This startup mentions such applications as cancer research and AI (another recent candidate is freeing 40 million people from slavery).
Unfortunate timing, since 2018 is the year the cryptocurrency bubble-fad went woomph. It has been a fascinating phenomenon to watch from a social-cultural viewpoint (leave aside the techie details). The book to read is Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain by David Gerard.
I would break it down into three themes/phases. First, a trendy libertarian anarchist-chic thing about being so edgy doing without government and banks, for people who took the brilliant Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon too seriously. Second, a financial transaction system that worked for a while and was a godsend to criminals. Third, a speculative bubble that attracted swarms of suckers who thought the electronic blips were an asset.
Here’s a nicely scathing eulogy for the whole thing.
On the subject of suckers and assets, the Hong Kong property developers’ good friends in the media are helping hype up end-year (end-cycle/end-bubble) sales. The SCMP passes word of an ‘intrepid’ 98-year-old lady who bought a HK$19 million apartment at Sino Land’s new project. The Standard, who make SCMP look like amateurs at real-estate advertorials, follow up with the 70-year-old who bought a unit at the same development, along with the inevitable TVB actor, a Mainlander who doesn’t mind paying extra stamp-duty, a guy who bought six flats, and various other purchasers who are either fake or stupid.
The ultimate delusion-that-evaporated in 2018 is, of course, Xi Jinping and his wonderful warm and cuddly Communist dictatorship, which just can’t help alienating the whole world. A good quick summary here, should you need another. Philip Bowring focuses on one example of how Beijing could (arguably) have been grown-up and made friends, but just couldn’t stop itself from doing its thug-tantrum freak-out thing.
I declare Christmas open with Festive Joy in the form of a wrecked Ferrari up near Tai Po. The SCMP, being inexplicable wimps, pixelate the car’s plate – as if this spectacle is not in plain public view. The Standard comes to the rescue, with (XX) 6688, which in Cantonese means ‘Extra Special Huge Happy Good Fortune and Prosperity’. Egg nogs all round!