When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Enjoy unlimited access to quality journalism.

Limited time offer

Get your 30-day free trial!
Son Of A Gunnar

A Nomad's Christmas Brood: On Crypto, COVID And The Speed Of Time

Our roving Swedish reporter's darkish holiday dispatch from Sofia, Bulgaria.

A Nomad's Christmas Brood: On Crypto, COVID And The Speed Of Time

Walking in the streets of Sofia

Carl Johan-Karlsson

SOFIA — It was the Scottish poet Alexander Smith who called Christmas the day that holds all time together.

While that is obviously true in the Gregorian sense, Smith likely had in mind something more cosmic; perhaps that simultaneous longing for the past and future that only deep nostalgia can serve up. Yet for those of us who’ve spent our adult lives hopscotching around the world, Christmas memories tend to be an incoherent blend of vacated offices and hotel rooms and awkward well-wishing with dressed-up strangers.


Sad as that might sound, it also has its benefits. For a few days, as billions of humans are up to pretty much the same stuff, the world becomes very predictable; for us unattached spectators, time slows down, and gives us time to brood.

Pandemic capitalism 

This year, I’ll be doing my brooding in Bulgaria, my home for the past three months. Down at the co-working place, where three plastic, fire-retardant Christmas trees have been installed, my temporary colleagues are already spending evenings deciding on their next sunny, wifi-friendly and — typically — low-tax destination.

Scrolling through travel restriction lists on our phones, we murmur about the new meaning of "long-COVID" and wonder what governments are likely to adopt the laxest, most business-friendly approach. Some are gunning for Costa Rica where one-year visas are offered to whoever can demonstrate an income of $3,000 per month. Others, more prosperous, for Montserrat, where the bar is set at $7,000, while a couple of guys from the 4th floor (mostly crypto people up there) intend to continue their travels in the legal grey area — jumping from country to country while paying no taxes at all.

Time doesn’t seem slow at all

These are very strange Christmas conversations. And they make perfect sense. Christmas is capitalism, and capitalism is about our right to profit and the pursuit of happiness — rights that straddle the sphere of both personal morality and economics. And the calculations can be made very simple: profit is an inherent good, and if it’s legal — well, then it’s not illegal.

Late-night plans 

Not everyone, of course, follows this reasoning. Many among the digitally nomadic frown on tax evasion, and even "avoidance," and see virtue in the way their moving around supports local businesses.

And yet it’s quite clear that these late-night plans spun in the stillness and predictability of the winter holidays are bound to make the world infinitely more unpredictable: How are policymakers, with their bureaucratic systems and cumbersome processes, ever going to keep up with it all? How will the global economy hold under the triple weight of excess mobility, derivative-driven fantasy money and a microscopic virus with apparently no intention of cooperating?

Indeed, as midnight rolls across Sofia and the fourth-floor crypto crew picks back up the conversation, spouting acronyms and indexes like seasoned auctioneers on coke, time doesn’t seem slow at all. We are racing, not with ropes of steam and spark-spattered wheels but with the sleekness of a high-tech bullet train — and I have the feeling that nothing, not even the nostalgia of Christmas past, will ever again hold time together.


You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Ideas

Absolute Free Speech Is A Recipe For Violence: Notes From Paris For Monsieur Musk

Elon Musk bought Twitter in the name of absolute freedom. But numerous research shows that social media hate speech leads to actual violence. Musk and others running social networks need to strike a balance.

Absolute Free Speech Is A Recipe For Violence: Notes From Paris For Monsieur Musk

Freedom on social networks can result in insults and defamation

Jean-Marc Vittori

-Analysis-

PARIS — Elon Musk is the world's leading reckless driver. The ever unpredictable CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is now behind a very different wheel as the new head of Twitter.

He began by banning remote work before slightly backtracking and authorizing it for the company’s “significant contributors.” Now he’s opened the door to Donald Trump to return to Twitter, while at the same time vaunting a decrease in the number of hate-messages that appear on the social network…all while firing Twitter’s content moderation teams.

But this time, the world’s richest man will have to make choices. He’ll have to limit his otherwise unconditional love of free speech. “Freedom consists of being able to do everything that does not harm others,” proclaimed the French-born Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789.

Yet freedom on social networks results not only in insults and defamation, but sometimes also in physical aggression.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest