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Capital Ideas

The thoughts of Matt Olson, a systems thinker, hacker, and social entrepreneur, on retooling consumer culture

Bitcoin - Don't Believe The Hype


Bitcoin, the new decentralized digital currency that’s rapidly gaining popularity, was invented in 2008 by a mysterious hacker named Satoshi Nakamoto. He published the original paper describing the protocol, developed the initial implementation, and remained active on the mailing lists until mid-2010, but then vanished. He was presumed to be an individual from Japan, but nobody by that name actually exists, so many now assume Nakamoto is a pseudonym for an individual or group that wished to remain secret. So what did this mysterious person/group/ghost create, and why is it taking the world by storm?

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Hello, My Name is Chico, And I Have A Drinking Problem

Chico Drinking

Mason Sumnicht, a pledge to Sigma Pi at Chico State, died on November 15th after a night of heavy drinking at local bars. He was celebrating his 21st birthday by drinking 21 shots with the help of his fraternity brothers. His life ended with severe brain damage and 12 days of life support in the hospital. The tragedy of the loss of a young man with his whole life ahead of him cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, such a tragic event is not as uncommon in Chico as it should be. This was the fourth alcohol-related student death in the fall semester—Shawn Summa, Brett Olson, and Carly Callaghan all lost their lives in the last four months.

These are just a few of the highest profile cases in recent months, but the list goes on and on—drunk driving, hazings, sexual assaults, rapes, drownings, alcohol poisonings, stabbings—crimes related directly to the high rate of alcohol consumption by students and the community at large.

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A Brief Year In Review

Open Source Hardware On The Rise

Limor Fried

Limor Fried, the fearless leader of the open source hardware movement, and an inspiration to makers and hackers worldwide, has been named Entrepreneur of the Year by Entrepreneur magazine, and I can’t think of a more appropriate recipient. Last year, her company Adafruit Industries sold $10 million worth of DIY open-source electronic hardware kits. With 200,000 customers, she has inspired a new movement of hackers and makers to treat circuits and electronics in the same way open-source software designers have been treating code for decades. Publishing your designs and encouraging others to use and improve upon them has proven to be a major force in the software world, and this same community effort has now come to the hardware world as well. I am part of a nascent maker community here in Chico that has been putting Adafruit products to use, collaborating freely and publishing our designs and source code for others to build on, and I believe this exciting trend is here to stay.

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Preparing The Littles For The Internet


When I asked my six-year-old what he hoped Santa would bring him for Christmas, he said “you know… It starts with an F… A phone!” When I informed him that he couldn’t have a phone until he was sixteen, he said “oh, well how about a computer?”

I probably would have said the same thing if I were him, and he made the geek dad in me proud. Both the little mini-me’s are given supervised iPad time as a reward and they’ve grown quite fond of playing Plants vs. Zombies and Temple Run and watching Lego Star Wars stop motion animations or videos on how to be a ninja or how to fold origami on YouTube. If I had that shit when I was six, I would want unrestricted access too.

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Kids Can Hack, Too


I’ve been blessed with two bright, young boys with inquisitive and capable brains. The oldest is reaching an age where he’s asking more questions about my work, and when I use terms like programming, software, algorithms, or languages, his curiosity is piqued, but when I tell him that I can make a computer do anything I want, he really perks up. “Can you make a computer that shoots lasers?” Why yes, yes I can. “Can you make your phone shoot lasers?” Probably, I say, noting the extremely impressed look on my son’s face. (The problem is, now he’s going to want a demonstration.)

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