Facebook’s digital money could mean fabulous wealth. Or not.


Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, was recently asked about the secret to his success. “I don’t know anything about technology,” he said. “I don’t know anything about marketing. He said what he knows are people. A successful business, he said, is all about making people happy.

Bingo! Mr. Ma is a certified business genius, billionaire, many times. It inspired me. I don’t know anything about everything! I can’t lose.

I decided to make people happy with Zuckbucks or, if you want to be formal, Libra.

This is the new financial system announced by Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, with great fanfare last month. It provides a way to transfer money, the company says, without having to deal with the current system of central banks and financial giants.

As with all new ideas in business, I wonder if this can make me obscenely rich, or at least a little indecently rich. I had a lot of ideas, but still drive a sick 11 year old car and don’t even buy avocado toast. So here we are, hoping.

I bet on Facebook, in my usual perverted way. The business is doing very well. He says he has already signed more than two dozen partners, including Mastercard and Uber.

Yet, strangely, not everyone shared my joy about this new venture.

“I can’t wait for a cryptocurrency with Uber’s ethics, PayPal’s resistance to censorship and Visa’s centralization, all bound by Facebook’s proven privacy,” wrote Sarah Jamie Lewis, executive director of the Open Privacy Research Society. . I know the sarcasm when I see it. She was not happy!

Some of the companies that have signed on as Facebook partners also seem a bit less enthusiastic, my colleague Nathaniel Popper reported.

On top of that, Steven M. Bellovin, a computer security expert at Columbia University, said the company would bring a whole new meaning to federal banking regulation called ‘know your customer’: know everything about your customer. . ‘”

Well, certainly. Facebook knows a lot about each of its users. What the hell is wrong with that?

Facebook is a friend who understands everything about me without having to ask me. He knows my politics (anarcho-moderate), my favorite ice cream (Blue Bell Natural Vanilla Bean, when I can get it, with a drizzle of molasses), and my musical tastes (The Austin Lounge Lizards and Jonathan Coulton, of course, like everyone else. No?).

How could anyone be unhappy with Facebook in any way? Or with cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin has been so awesome, we need more of it.

My first idea was to do with Libra what the Winklevoss twins did with other cryptocurrencies: speculate! You may recall that the Winklevii, as they are sometimes called, were involved in the founding of Facebook but were kicked out before the big money rushed in. They secured a large settlement and invested some of it in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Unlike so many star-eyed investors, they found him to be super rich.

I wrote to them asking if they wanted to try again. Facebook made them rich in cryptocurrency, so why not get even richer with Facebook’s own cryptocurrency? As the Double Mint Twins more or less said: Double your fun, double your funds.

But they haven’t responded yet. What happened to the manners?

Thinking big didn’t get me where I wanted to be, so I decided to go even brighter, combining what I know about Facebook with what I know about cryptocurrency. Bingo! This new system could help me run for president.

After all, who’s one more member in that clown car of a primary season, especially one like me, a man shorter than James Madison, a candidate who could make Marianne Williamson appear insightful and self-aware?

Here is my schedule:

1) Ask Cambridge Analytica or a similar company to target people for political disinformation and develop my candidacy. It’s happened before, using data from Facebook.

2) Mine cryptocurrency to buy votes. Applicants are always asking for money on Facebook. Let’s reverse the process. We will send you cryptocurrency if you vote for me!

Don’t you dare call it a bribe. It’s such an ugly word. Once again: good manners.

I called Siva Vaidhyanathan, an expert on Facebook and its effects on society, so he could congratulate me on my brilliant idea.

Surprisingly, he didn’t.

Mr. Vaidhyanathan’s problem is that he knows things. He is the director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia and the author of “Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy”. Mr Vaidhyanathan said that just as Libra was designed to withstand speculation, it was designed to deter nefarious activities, like buying drugs and votes, which I really need.

Bitcoin is still a better bet for the skulduggery I had in mind, he suggested. “You can totally do that with Bitcoin,” he said.

In addition, he added, Facebook has promised that the subsidiary that manages Libra will not share sensitive personal financial data with the rest of the company.

In fact, Kevin Weil, an executive at Calibra, the Libra subsidiary, told my colleagues Mike Isaac and Nathaniel Popper that “Your financial data will never be used to target ads on Facebook. Which might even be true!

Pity.

The biggest effect of the new network, Vaidhyanathan said, would be among people in the developing world who might not have bank accounts or credit cards but still need to transfer funds. Facebook could become a new version of Western Union, he said.

“It’s an incredible amount of power that Facebook could hope to have over their financial lives,” he said. A vast money-making machine taking its share of the $ 400 billion a year that flows from the northern hemisphere to the south each year, including huge markets in South Asia and Africa, could be in the future of Facebook. The size of the network, he said, has made Facebook one of the few companies in the world that can even think of achieving it.

Double disappointment! Bummervii!

None of this is going to fix my old car, or even put me in avocado toast. It won’t even make me president.

I still have one idea: to create my own cryptocurrency.

Are you ready for Schwartzbucks? Or should it be Schwartzshekels? I’ll get to this bridge when I burn it down. For now, I need to understand what blockchain is. Or go ahead without knowing what I’m doing, right Mr. Ma?