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Kerim’s Triptych for Sunday January 28th, 2024

Kerim’s Triptych for Sunday January 28th, 2024
All Systems Red cover art by Jamie Jones

Welcome to Kerim's Triptych, a free newsletter that delivers 3 items to your email inbox, 3 times a month. If you didn't intend to subscribe, or you don't want to receive these anymore, there is an unsubscribe link at the bottom.

Item 1: Decoupling Taiwan from China

The Economist reports on the decoupling of Taiwan's economy from China.

A shift is already visible in Taiwan’s trade and investment trends. The share of the island’s exports going to the mainland has dropped to 23% over the 12 months to November, down from an all-time high of 30% in 2021 and the lowest in almost two decades.

But the numbers are even more striking when one looks at investment:

In 2010, over 80% of Taiwan’s annual outbound investment flows went to mainland China. In 2023 just 11% did.

Item 2: The Myth of Bitcoin’s Anonymity

It has long been obvious that Bitcoin is anything but anonymous, but I never knew the full story of the graduate student who was the first to prove this. I found this excerpt from Andy Greenberg's book Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency quite interesting.

But that blockchain ledger system came at an enormous privacy cost: In Bitcoin, for good and for ill, everyone was a witness to every payment. Yes, identities behind those payments were obscured by pseudonymous addresses, long strings of between 26 and 35 characters. But to Meiklejohn, this seemed like an inherently dangerous sort of fig leaf to hide behind

Item 3: An Autistic-Coded Robot

I was sick and jetlagged for about a week and one thing that helped me get through that was Martha Wells’ The Murderbot Diaries. Having recently read NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman, which talks at length about the links between autism and science fiction, the connection to Murderbot seemed quite obvious to me. But I wondered if it was a connection that autistic readers would find objectionable? So I was happy to read this review from a self-described "autistic lover of sci-fi," who really relates to robots:

The issue here is that autistic people being compared to robots—because we’re “emotionless” and “incapable of love”—is a very real and very dangerous stereotype. There’s a common misconception that autistic people are completely devoid of feelings: that we’re incapable of being kind and loving and considerate, that we never feel pain or sorrow or grief. This causes autistic people to face everything from social isolation from our peers to abuse from our partners and caregivers. Why would you be friends with someone who is incapable of kindness? Why should you feel bad about hurting someone who is incapable of feeling pain? Because of this, many autistic people think that any autistic-coded robot is inherently “bad representation.”
But I disagree! I think that the topic can, when handled correctly, be done very well—and I think that Martha Wells’ The Murderbot Diaries series is an excellent example.


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