Bitcoin Adoption On Campus

Here at Boston University there are a lot of smart, tech-savvy, well off        people. College isn’t cheap, so it’s essentially a filter that selects for those people whose parents are able to afford the tuition. Many people associate Boston University with tech (and other disciplines). So, wouldn’t all these aspects and contributing factors point towards Boston University (and surrounding neighborhoods, businesses and shops) being the perfect breeding ground for the adoption of blockchain technology, such as Bitcoin? Let’s explore the nuances of all the motivating factors, and why, unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily the case.

Trust on campus

In a small and close-knit community, where everyone has the stated goal (at least implicitly stated) of learning full time, it’s easy to imagine how there would be little distrust and even less suspicion. Meaning, if you’re about to visit a nearby dorm to buy some second hand furniture, you’re probably just going to walk on over to take a look, with some cash in your pocket. You’re not going to do in depth research on the student’s buying and selling history in some kind of centralized review system (as the one that arose as part of eBay and other online marketplaces). There’s no need! You implicitly trust them enough to appear at their dorm and not be robbed. Cash will do, in this case. So in fact, a small, close-knit and trusting community is (on reflection), not the ideal incubator for the adoption of Bitcoin, that we thought it to be.

Venturing out

Let’s say that we take some portion of (our parents) hard-earned money out for a spin, to the nearby town for some shopping. When visiting local stores, venues, bars and other favorites of the undergraduate demographic, let’s consider the user experience of fiat currency, compared to the new and promising blockchain solution: Bitcoin. The first hypothetical bar we venture into proudly states “cash only”. An instantaneous and fatal defeat for blockchain’s strongest challenger. The network-effect of cash is simply too strong; business venues such as bars are already running on razor-thin margins, fighting to maintain profitability by decreasing their prices as far as they can, and even cutting out card payment facilities, to save money on the cost of card payment fees, and recurring terminal rental fees. Is this good for the customer? No, not at all, it’s incredibly inconvenient. And the business is knowingly inflicting this upon their customers, they don’t mind, because people will go to the effort of walking to an ATM, and go to the cost of paying the ATM fee. This does not bode well for our blockchain challenger: Using Bitcoin in person (so far) is even more inconvenient than going to an ATM. There’s difficulty in specifying the exact amount to be paid, and even more difficulty when waiting for confirmation that the block has cleared (often, taking 10 minutes). You can walk in, drink a beer, and leave, all before 10 minutes is up.

Business uses

The reader may cry foul, that we’ve selected only one, extremely difficult use case for our considerations. In fairness, let’s turn our focus to business transactions that a Boston student may wish to make with bitcoin. Suppose they’ve started an entrepreneurial venture (not uncommon, during college years). If the service takes some time (from one day to several weeks) to deliver, depending on the complexity of the requirements, then the price of bitcoin will have fluctuated wildly in between, potentially rendering the student surprisingly well off or surprisingly unable to pay the bill. Even if you stay on top of the latest cryptocurrency news, it’s very difficult to predict where the price will move next. Our example business would sensibly accept fiat currency, while our hypothetical student would sensibly not leave his funds at the mercy of the volatility of the market.

The future

So far, the scales of convenience, added safety, and stability seem to be stacked against poor Bitcoin. It certainly doesn’t seem to be able to compete with the legal tender of the country. However, this is not to say that just because Bitcoin is not up to the job, that all blockchain based solutions will fail. It’s rare to find this long term view, because bitcoin is almost synonymous with blockchain to almost all laypeople, as well as investors, speculators, hodlers and others. Will a new blockchain solution come along that solves the problem of speed, convenience, and ubiquity? It’s impossible to say. But without naming and visualising the mountain that is ahead of us, we certainly won’t climb higher. We’ve reached a peak with bitcoin, but can confidently assert that it is one small hill among a fast field of mountains. It’s time for us to lace up our boots and climb downwards (as painful as it seems), in order to climb up again, and seek out the next best blockchain solution for the world.

Glasses – From Frumpy To Fashionable

Glasses! These small, wearable pairs of lenses are becoming more and more common by the day. Boys or girls, young or old, it doesn't matter. While another article would point to all the medical and scientific reasons as to why this is the case, I'm not going to be focusing on all that.

Instead, I'm going to be focusing on the glasses themselves. First created as reading aids for monks during the Renaissance, they eventually morphed into a stylish fashion accessory all on it's own. In fact, the wearing of eyeglasses is now considered so chic that many people with 20/20 vision have taken to wearing fake glasses just to make a fashion statement.

But how did this happen?

For the vast majority of its existence, the humble pair of glasses and their wearers had largely been associated with weakness, passivity, and uptightness. This was mainly due to their association with scholars and clergymen, who often spent long hours reading books and scrolls and did not go outside or engage in physical activity very often.

This stigma against glasses began to fall away in 1910, when President Theodore Roosevelt (who was also well-known as a hunter and a sportsman) was photographed wearing a pair of them. Harold Lloyd, a popular comedic actor at the time, also began wearing glasses onscreen in the 1900s.

At about the same time, in the United Kingdom, the cricket player Ernest "Tim" Killick became one of the first professional cricket players to regularly wear glasses on the field, giving it a new veneer of respectability in "a time when Victorian England regarded spectacles as a sure sign of the weakling and the mollycoddle" (as written by Neville Cardus).

As the 20th century went on, a trend started developing of celebrities wearing glasses as a personal calling card, an iconic accessory just as recognisable to their fans as a name or a face. The musicians John Lennon and Buddy Holly became so strongly associated with the glasses they wore, that if you wore a pair of perfectly circular glasses in public today, someone would almost certainly think you were trying to mimic the Beatles star. Some celebrities even continued to wear glasses even when there was no more need for it, simply due to their public image being so strongly linked to them. For example, even after undergoing laser-eye surgery, actor and comedian Drew Carrey continued to wear glasses (non-prescription this time).

The design and manufacturing of glasses have advanced far since their inception. If you were to buy glasses online today, you'd be faced with more options for how you wanted them to look than at any point in 1910. Full-rimmed, rimless, browline, wireframe. With frames made of wood, plastic, acetate, or titanium. Dyed every color of the rainbow (or even frames with no color at all). Yes, modern manufacturing has advanced to the point where, if it can snugly hold a pair of lenses, you can probably buy it as a pair of eyeglasses.

Undoubtedly, this has helped make the pair of glasses more of a sleek accessory, and less of an ungainly corrective for a disability. However, as you could see from the examples above, the real driver of this change of perception from "glasses as a sign of weaknesses" to "glasses as a sign of style and coolness" was largely driven by sheer influence of celebrities and political figures.

Before, the only people where you would expect to wear a pair of glasses were people in heavily sedentary and intellectual professions. Scholars, writers, and members of the clergy. This was what led to glasses-wearing being considered such a pathetic trait. But when more and more types of people (e.g. actors, politicians, musicians) began wearing it in public, with many of them being famous individuals with a huge amount of cultural clout, the general public started seeing glasses as cool in itself, perhaps even sexy.

Thus, we go back to an age-old one adage: Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. Even the most seemingly inelegant items could be considered fashionable by society, if enough people outgrew their preconceived notions and considered new ways of seeing things.

Who knows? Perhaps even in the future, items like braces, hearing aids, and even wheelchairs would also be considered attractive in their own way. Call me crass, but it's not really any less unlikely than a pair of eyesight-correction devices being a signifier of cool. If anything, being considered stylish would help the people who need to use these items feel better about themselves, and to feel more accepted in mainstream society. Far too often, people with disabilities are patronized, and made to feel inferior to non-disabled people. Having their disability aids be considered "cool" or "fashionable" would help feel like they had some small measure of worth because of their special needs, rather than something that puts them in a lesser position from everyone else.

All people deserve to feel good about themselves and their bodies!