Paul Chiusano

Functional programming, UX, tech


About my book

My book, Functional Programming in Scala, uses Scala as a vehicle for teaching FP. Read what people are saying about it.

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Capability-based snail mail and ending junk mail

[   security   econ   ]            

Here is a question: why should knowledge of my address grant anyone in the world (inlcuding both L.L. Bean and Unabombers) the capability to cause a physical artifact to be delivered to my place of residence? Moreover, anyone with knowledge of my address retains this capability until the end of time, at least until I move! If we were designing a physical delivery network from scratch today, in the age of software, is this really how we’d choose to set things up? Clearly not! Here is a proposal:

Will such a system ever be adopted? Probably not. If the quantity of junk mail I receive is any indication, the postal service is a lot closer to an advertising-supported business. They make most of their money selling ‘ads’ (the right to deliver junk mail I haven’t asked for). Like any ad-supported business, they are torn between enacting policies that are good for ad revenue and enacting policies that benefit their users. These two forces aren’t always (or often) aligned. It doesn’t help that the postal service has a legally enforced monopoly on letter delivery—private companies are simply not allowed to use my physical mailbox, even if I wanted to allow it! Whereas at least Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the like have some incentive to not make ads too annoying (lest users migrate to other services), the postal service has a captive market and no real impetus to innovate, at least in the area of letter delivery.

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