Monday 27th April

BITCOIN

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1 Bitcoin = $223

 

Blockchain vs. Bitcoin

Progressive guardians of globalized fiat finance vs. Reactionary crypto-gold souverainistes. That’s the blockchain vs Bitcoin debate.

The Bitcoin phenomena is fundamentally not about technology or payments or fintech etc. It’s about money itself – full stop. Blockchain tech, smart contracts, timestamping etc are just epiphenomena that gain momentum when the price is down – Pierre Rochard

 

What Bitcoin Actually Accomplishes and Why Those Accomplishments Are So Awesome

The main things that Bitcoin offers over the traditional fiat monetary instruments are: a fixed economic base, uninterdictable transactions and unfreezable funds, and an immutable history of all transactions that have ever taken place, secured by proof of work on the technical side and mutually-assured-destruction on the game theory side.

A feature of Bitcoin nearly as important to the destruction of fiat instutitions as the forever-fixed monetary cap is that transactions cannot be blocked, and funds cannot be frozen.

Under the current US/NATO-controlled monetary regime, any transaction that exceeds a certain size , or moves funds to untouchable-caste people bears an extremely non-zero risk of freezing the entirety of the transmitter’s assets with absolutely no recourse. Seriously – have you ever tried to pull 20K in cash out of a US bank? No, because a) you don’t have that and b) you’ll get shipped off to the gulag instantly as there’s no good reason to have that much cash on you unless you’re a filthy drug-dealing criminal. The whole thing reeks of the idiot arguments against strong cryptography (which seem to have died down of late): “good people have nothing to hide!”, now rehashed as “good people have no need of cash, or to perform transactions without the permission of the state!”.

Finally (for the purposes of this piece), there is the immutable transaction log. The log demonstrates incontrovertibly the complete heredity of each and every satoshi, from coinbase to unspent output.

Ultimately what Bitcoin vs. Fiat comes down to is do you accept that others can diddle your fraction of the monetary base, and its economic rules or not? – Cascadian Hacker

 

The MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative

Very excited to see MIT Digital Currency Initiative become the new home for many bitcoin core devs – Andreas Antonopoulos

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I’m pleased to announce that I’ve joined the MIT Media Lab’s newly launched Digital Currency Initiative to continue my work on the Bitcoin project. I’m looking forward to working with all the amazing people associated with the initiative.

Wladimir van der Laan and Cory Fields, both formerly of the Bitcoin Foundation, have also decided that MIT is the best place to continue their work on Bitcoin Core and have joined the Media Lab as well – Gavin Andresen

 

Increased Block Size in “6 Months to a Year”

I think it would take anywhere from six months to a year to actually roll out that change. We have a soft fork going on, on the network now. I will be looking at how long it takes that to roll out to the majority of the network, to give me a better estimate on that.

And I’m not sure how exactly we would roll out that change. We might actually pick a date and say, eight months from now everybody is going to be validating these bunch of blocks. That would be the proposal, and that actually makes a fair bit of sense, because a hard fork is the kind of change where you need a kind of a flag day when it upgrades. As that kind of change affects both, it effects all footholds, not just the miners – Gavin Andresen

 

Negative Interest Rates

Satoshi Nakamoto: “Bitcoins have no dividend, therefore not like a stock. More like a collectible or commodity.”

Tom Harding: OTOH, bitcoin pays more interest than four European currencies (Why Negative Interest Rates Could Become the New Normal)

Dan McArdle: Some CB’s may push to the -1% point where saving in cash starts making sense. Would be great for bitcoin

Tuur Demeester: Indeed, 0% is a lot these days…

 

 

MINING

If Google Mined Bitcoin

All of Google today would represent less than 1% of mining. The sheer degree of what is happening in mining hasn’t been appreciated in the press.

If we assume there are 10 million Google servers and each of these servers is running. You can multiply that through and you get about one petahash. If they turned off all their data centers and pointed them at bitcoin, they’d be less than 1% of the network – Balaji S. Srinivasan, 21 & Andreessen Horowitz

 

 

MARKETS

53% of all global government bonds are yielding 1% or less

Negative interest rates are not exclusive to Europe. Last week the first government bond ever with a negative yield was issued in Australia.

Not many market watchers saw this coming, which underlines the seriousness of the problem. Negative interest rates change the rules of the game in the financial system, namely. Those who want to save money, have to pay money. Those who create debt, receive additional reward. It is the world upside down, but that is in fact what is happening – Secular Investor

 

Imposing Negative Interest Rates

In recent months, negative rates have become widespread in Europe’s financial capitals.

Pause for a second and marvel at how strange this is. Banks have always paid interest to depositors. We’ve entered a new era of surplus in which banks—some, anyway—are deigning to accept money only if customers are willing to pay for the privilege.

The theory was always that if you tried to impose a negative nominal rate, people would just take their money from the bank and store cash in a private vault or under a mattress to escape the penalty of paying interest on their own money.

Over the past year or so, however, zero has turned out to be a permeable boundary. Several central banks have discovered that depositors will tolerate some rates below zero if withdrawing cash and storing it themselves is costly and inconvenient. Investors will buy bonds with negative yields if they believe rates will fall further, allowing them to sell the bonds at a profit. (Bond prices rise when rates fall.) Global investors are also willing to put money into a nation’s negative-yielding securities if they expect its currency to rise in value.

Now comes the interesting part. There are signs of an innovation war over negative interest rates. There’s a surge of creativity around ways to drive interest rates deeper into negative territory, possibly by abolishing cash or making it depreciable.

The idea of abolishing or even constraining physical bank notes is anathema to a lot of people. If there’s one thing that militias and Tea Partiers hate more than “fiat money” that’s not backed by gold, it’s fiat money that exists only in electronic form, where it can be easily tracked and controlled by the government. “The anonymity of paper money is liberating,” says Stephen Cecchetti, a professor at Brandeis International Business School and former economic adviser to the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland.

As long as paper money is available as an alternative for customers who want to withdraw their deposits, there’s a limit to how low central banks can push rates. At some point it becomes cost-effective to rent a warehouse for your billions in cash and hire armed guards to protect it.

Bank notes, as an alternate storehouse of value, are a constraint on central banks’ power. “We view this constraint as undesirable,” Citigroup Global Chief Economist Willem Buiter and a colleague, economist Ebrahim Rahbari, wrote in an April 8 research piece.

They laid out three ways that central banks could foil cash hoarders: One, abolish paper money. Two, tax paper money. Three, sever the link between paper money and central bank reserves. Abolishing paper money and forcing people to use electronic accounts could free central banks to lower interest rates as much as they feel necessary while crimping the underground economy, Buiter and Rahbari write: “In our view, the net benefit to society from giving up the anonymity of currency holdings is likely to be positive (including for tax compliance).” – Peter Coy

 

 

COMPANIES / PROJECTS / PRODUCTS

BitSim Turns a Dumb Phone into a Bitcoin Wallet

After 2 days of nonsense talks at Bitcoin Africa 2015 it’s good to stumble on real innovation – Ricky Riccardo

BitSIM is a small, dual-chip overlay that is physically placed atop a phone’s regular SIM card. Once there, the BitSIM turns that phone – even if it’s a “dumb” phone – into a Bitcoin wallet.

It does so by submitting transactions to the Bitcoin network as encrypted text messages. The phone owner’s private key – stored in the BitSIM overlay – is unlocked with a PIN.

BitSIM’s first outreaches will take place in Australia, China and Africa. Vandenberg then hopes to move to India, Canada, the Phillippines and Mexico.

Founder Leon-Gerard Vandenberg said: “We will not be offering our services to the USA because of NY State’s pending Bit-license and its sheer stupidity.” – Amanda B. Johnson

 

Japanese 600km/h Maglev Train Breaks World Speed Record

State-of-the-art maglev train set a world record of just over 600km/h (373mph), just days after it broke its previous 12-year-old record.

The seven-car maglev – short for “magnetic levitation” – reached a top speed of 603km/h on Tuesday during what officials described as a “comfortable” zip along a test track near Mount Fuji.

The maglev hovers 10cm above the tracks and is propelled by electrically charged magnets – Justin McCurry

 

Hyperloop Construction Starts Next Year

Gallery Image

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, the company that wants to move  the revolutionary transit system out of Elon Musk’s brain into the real world, plans to start construction on an actual hyperloop next year.

It will only run five miles around central California, and it won’t come anywhere close to the 800 mph Musk promised, but it’s a start.

The Hyperloop, detailed by the SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO in a 57-page alpha white paper in August 2013, is a transportation network of above-ground tubes that would span hundreds of miles. Thanks to extremely low air pressure inside those tubes, capsules filled with people zip through them at near supersonic speeds.

“It’s not a test track,” CEO Dirk Ahlborn says, even if five miles is well short of the 400-mile stretch of tubes Musk envisions carrying people between northern and southern California in half an hour. Anyone can buy a ticket and climb aboard, but they won’t see anything approaching 800 mph. Getting up to that mark requires about 100 miles of track, Ahlborn says, and “speed is not really what we want to test here.” – Alex Davies

 

 

PRIVACY / SECURITY / INTERNET

Rubber-Hose Cryptanalysis at its Finest.

If you want access to encrypted data on a drug dealer’s digital device, you might try to break the crypto—or you might just try to break the man.

According to testimony from a police corruption trial currently roiling the city of Philadelphia, officers from an undercover drug squad took the latter route back in November 2007. After arresting their suspect, Michael Cascioli, in the hallway outside his 18th floor apartment, the officers took Cascioli back inside.

Although they lacked a search warrant, the cops searched Cascioli’s rooms anyway. According to a federal indictment (PDF), the officers “repeatedly assaulted and threatened [Cascioli] during the search to obtain information about the location of money, drugs, and drug suppliers.”

“I’m going to f—ing break your face if you don’t tell us where the f— money is,” Cascioli recalled one officer saying. Another allegedly urinated on some of his possessions. The officers focused on Cascioli’s Palm Pilot, which they (correctly) believed contained the information they wanted. But Cascioli wouldn’t provide the password. He claims that police then tried to extract the password through intimidation.

Cascioli says [Officer Thomas] Liciardello asked him a question: “Have you ever seen Training Day?”

When Cascioli said yes, Cascioli says Liciardello looked him in the eyes and said: “This is Training Day for f—ing real,” and then instructed officers Norman and Jeffrey Walker to take him to the balcony.

According to Cascioli and the indictment, Liciardello told them to “do whatever they had to do to get the password.”

Out on the balcony, Cascioli says officers Norman and Walker lifted him up by each arm and leaned him over the balcony railing. He said he was afraid. “I thought they were going to drop me” over the railing. Cascioli said he then gave up his password.

The whole crazy case is a reminder that strong passwords are excellent tools for protecting your information from distant Internet predators. But when the predators have you alone in a room, the real question isn’t about the strength of your password but about how much pain and fear you’re willing to endure before giving it up – Nate Anderson

 

 

PLACES

Asia

Ultra-rich individuals in Asia hold net assets of US$5.9 trillion, now even surpassing North America’s $5.5 trillion – AFC Vietnam Fund

 

 

THE SINGULARITY

Building the Content Base for the Superintelligent AI

As soon as it has the learning algorithm, it just goes out on the internet and reads all the magazines and books and things like that.

We have essentially been building the content base for the super-intelligence. You think you’re using the internet, but that’s actually what you’re doing – Bill Gates

 

Knowledge and Intuition

Today, machines can process regular spoken language and not only recognize human faces, but also read their expressions. They can classify personality types, and have started being able to carry out conversations with appropriate emotional tenor.

Machines are getting better than humans at figuring out who to hire, who’s in a mood to pay a little more for that sweater, and who needs a coupon to nudge them toward a sale. In applications around the world, software is being used to predict whether people are lying, how they feel and whom they’ll vote for.

To crack these cognitive and emotional puzzles, computers needed not only sophisticated, efficient algorithms, but also vast amounts of human-generated data, which can now be easily harvested from our digitized world. The results are dazzling. Most of what we think of as expertise, knowledge and intuition is being deconstructed and recreated as an algorithmic competency, fueled by big data – Zeynep Tufekci

 

The Severity of the Problem We Have Today

How many people die of aging every day? The answer is 100,000

And most of these people don’t just die. They die after a long period of disease, debilitation, dependency and general misery.

So there is no question that aging is responsible for the vast majority of human suffering in the world today – Aubrey de Grey

 

Parkinson’s Disease

Stem cell therapy is the damage repair approach for Parkinson’s.

People started trying this about 20 years ago, it didn’t really work too well back then. The basic problem was that we didn’t know enough about how to manipulate stem cells before injecting them into the body. Now we know a lot more and there are new stem cell trials for Parkinson’s disease starting up now which people are really optimistic about.

I think there’s a very good chance, even a 50/50 chance that we will be able to say, in as little as 10 years from now, that Parkinson’s disease has genuinely been cured with stem cell therapy – Aubrey de Grey

 

Mr. De Grey, Have You Ever Met Mr. Ray Kurzweil? Do You Share Similar Views on the Future?

I know him well, sure – we are mostly on the same page. We differ somewhat concerning the short term possibilities (he is more optimistic) but we are very closely aligned concerning his Bridges 2 and 3 – Aubrey de Grey

 

The Quest for Nuclear Fusion

* One of the world’s largest experimental facilities is being constructed in the South of France—a giant nuclear reactor that will take at least another ten years to complete

ITER (Latin for ‘the path’ or ‘journey’), the $US20 billion reactor is like no energy plant ever constructed. Its mission is to replicate the Sun by producing power through a nuclear process known as fusion.

* It would be the solution to our energy problems forever if they can get it to work,’ says Daniel Clery, deputy news editor of Science magazine and author of the book A Piece of the Sun: The Quest for Fusion Energy. “There is so much hydrogen in the oceans and lithium in the ground that you could run fusion reactors for millions of years and never run out of fuel.”

Antony Funnel

 

25 Years of The Hubble Space Telescope: An Ontological Awakening

Throughout its quarter-century in space, the iconic telescope — which launched on April 24, 1990 — has provided spectacular views of the cosmos and revealed exceptional insights about the universe – Calla Cofield

When the Hubble Space Telescope was launched back in April 1990 the World Wide Web was just months old and iPads only existed on Star Trek. At first glance, Hubble is from a different technological era, and yet it continues to produce dazzling science and has global recognition – DeepStuff

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One of Hubble’s most famous images is the Hubble Deep Field that was made when the telescope focused on a seemingly black and empty sliver of space in the constellation Ursa Major and found it bursting with young galaxies and bright objects.

“That has allowed us to really peer back in time to the beginning of the universe about as far out in space as we can imagine within a couple of hundred years of the origin of the universe and see what galaxies were like,” Carpenter explains.

Since 1990, Hubble has made more than 1.2 million observations. Its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is expected to be launched in 2018. That telescope will peer further into space than any other instrument, building on Hubble’s success to unlock the secrets of the universe – euronews

 

 

Gazing at the Deep Field is Like Mainlining the Whole of Time Through the Optic Nerve

At first glance, one might mistake it for gemstones scattered across black velvet, but a closer look reveals that each smudge of light, 2,600 in all, is a galaxy dense with billions of star-fired worlds, pinwheeling in deep time. To that point, astronomy had imaged objects only four billion light years away, and poorly at that. Here a telescope reached 11 and a half billion light years into space and delivered an image legible to the layman: an unprecedented expansion of human vision.

Much of the light caught by the Deep Field traveled to the Hubble from across nearly the entire universe, from stars that burned out before the Earth had even begun to form. The oldest, most distant galaxies within the image have a chaotic, fragmentary structure, whereas the closer, brighter galaxies are symmetrical, marked with the familiar swirl of the Milky Way.

From this progression, this cosmic vista, new notions about the evolution of galaxies have emerged. Gazing at the Deep Field is like mainlining the whole of time through the optic nerve, like counting by fingertip the tree rings of the universe.

The Hubble has remade in a single generation the popular conception of the universe. It has accomplished this primarily through the aesthetic force of its discoveries, which distill the difficult abstractions of astrophysics into singular expressions of color and light, vindicating Keats’s famous couplet: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”

Though philosophy has hardly registered it, the Hubble has given us nothing less than an ontological awakening, a forceful reckoning with what is. The telescope compels the mind to contemplate space and time on a scale just shy of the infinite – Ross Anderson

 

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