Fascinating Words: Charlie Stross on Apple, the Bank


Apple Pay, circa 1776?

There are lots of dimensions to the Apple/FBI tousle, but Charlie Stross uncovered one that I didn’t know about, the speculation Apple is going to be your solution to banking (as Amazon is to buying books). And it has technical resources no bank in the world could match.

From the piece at http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2016/03/follow-the-money-apple-vs-the-.html

Well worth reading in full, if, like me, Apple’s every move in object of morbid fascination.

Ultimately the banks are going to discover—the hard way—that getting into bed with Apple was a bad idea, about the same way that getting into bed with Amazon over ebooks was a bad idea for the Big Five publishers. Apple is de facto an investment bank, right now: all it needs is a banking license and the right back end and regulatory oversight and risk management and it will be able to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Chase or Barclays or HSBC as a consumer bank, too. And Apple has a very good idea of how risky their customers’ behavior is because unlike the banks and the credit card settlement network they’re not running on incrementally upgraded legacy infrastructure designed in the 1950s. Note those two words a couple of sentences ago: “risk management”. Banks are not in the business of holding your money or making loans; they live or die by how well they manage risk. Apple, like Google, has a much richer relationship with their customers than any bank. They can (for example), with a customer’s position, know roughly where the customer’s phone or watch is moving, and thereby spot faked payment credentials if someone clones the device and tries to use it to buy something a thousand miles away. The CC networks have velocity checking but it’s a really crude metric for spotting fraud: Apple can massively improve on it.

Some of his speculations are a little out there (iPhones doing retina scans and matches with genomic info for bio-metric authentication). Still, it’s a very thought- provoking piece, and good comments.

I do wonder what organizations with vast amounts of data about peoples’ personal and financial lives do with it for the “long game”; and it would seem that Discover + Amazon may be ahead in this particular race. Personally, I always thought airlines would create some de facto new currency based on frequent flyer miles. In some ways, liquid currency, payable on demand was just a solution to an information and convenience problem. People didn’t want to haul around goats for every transaction and trade them for crops. Computers presumably solve this problem painlessly.

Reasonable Sounds: Your Daily Magic Bassoon

210px-FoxBassoonHave been playing chamber music with a bunch of amateur musicians recently, and although it’s mostly strings and piano (a classic combo), a friend who is a good bassoonist is part of the mix.

This tenory-y double reed is the underappreciated star of the woodwinds, and I have no less an authority than the Grove Dictionary of Music to back me up:

In [18th century] Germany the bassoon was considered indispensable in the orchestra (even if not always given an independent part) as a means of consolidating and clarifying the bass line. Writing in 1784–5, C.F.D. Schubart asserted that the bassoon was able to ‘assume every role: accompany martial music with masculine dignity, be heard majestically in church, support the opera, discourse wisely in the concert hall, lend lilt to the dance, and be everything that it wants to be.’

True, it generally gets typecast as the woozy uncle, or offers a few sarcastic farts to take down the strings’ insufferable ardor now and then. Yet many orchestral wizards brought out the lover, the scamp, and even the ballerina in it.  In particular, Prokoviev and Shostakovich deployed it with skill, disclosing a variety of color and character.

As you probably haven’t had your daily hit of bassoon music, here’s a beautiful sonata by Telemann:

and if you worried about typecasting the Bassoon, bet you didn’t know there were accomplished jazz bassoonists around. Here is one: Paul Hanson (also an accomplished sax player).

So if learning about a double reed was on your Monday morning list, “check” that’s done.

Commonplace Book: Daniel Klein

everytime_coverEnjoying a little book of quotes and reflections by Daniel Klein, comedy writer and student of philosophy (a man after my own heart).  A few bits from his “Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It.”

112px-William_James_b1842c“If you believe that feeling bad or worrying long enough will change a past or future event, then you are residing on another planet with a different reality system.” — William James

“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never 133px-Michel_de_Montaigne_1happened.” — Michel de Montaigne



109px-Maimonides-2The levels of Tzedakah (charity) as explained by Maimonides

  1. Giving begrudgingly
  2. Giving less than you should, but giving it cheerfully
  3. Giving after being asked
  4. Giving before being asked
  5. Giving when you do not know the recipient’s identity, but the recipient knows your identity
  6. Giving when you know the recipient’s identity, but the recipient does not know your identity
  7. Giving when neither party knows the other’s identity
  8. Enabling the recipient to become self-sufficient