1 Bitcoin = $229
Our children will laugh at the silly flag money of yore. – Erik Voorhees
There is absolutely no question in my mind that the world of financial geopolitics changed on that morning in January 2009 and that change is going to ripple out through history over the next 20 years. It is going to rock the foundations of the world. – Andreas Antonopoulos
The story of Bitcoin itself is instructive. None of the “big players” had the capacity to invent it. They are NOT the big players anymore. The big players are the little developers. The anonymous. The adventurous. The big don’t know what’s happening; follow them into the ditch. – Beautyon
Blockchain.info Hits 4 Million Wallets
August 2012: 15,000
January 2013: 100,000
August 2013: 400,000
January 2014: 1 million
August 2014: 2 million
March 2015: 3 million
August 2015: 4 million
The Complete and Utter Abandonment of Fiat Money
One great benefit Bitcoin has already bestowed on humanity is that people are now using the term “fiat,” whereas before it was just “money” – Erik Voorhees
While many think that the monetary experiment that is Bitcoin could crash and burn at any moment, others are waiting for the day that it becomes the new reserve currency of the world. Erik Voorhees won’t be satisfied with Bitcoin’s hold on the world’s financial system until the latter of the two scenarios plays out. He said:
“The end zone for me is the complete and utter abandonment of fiat currency around the world. I think that will be the sign that we truly — we won. I mean, we’ll know we [won] long before that — maybe we already are [winning].
Fiat currency is a money that people are forced to use and [it] gets its value from force. It is a pen into which people are corralled, and through which all sorts of terrible manipulations are carried out on people.
Many of the ills of the world stem from it. The ability to inflate money and pay for things beyond what you can tax from a population is a very sneaky and terrible way that organizations maintain power over people. Getting rid of people’s dependence on fiat solves that problem to a large degree.”
Bitcoin Hashing Rate over time (source: Blockchain.info)
Every few weeks, someone involved in Bitcoin writes the following somewhat breathless blog post:
1) Block rewards account for almost all mining rewards
2) Block rewards are going to drop (next drop in 2016/2017) and drop by 50% every four years forever
3) There won’t be enough rewards for miners leading to insufficient hashing power
4) Therefore either (a) Bitcoin is in trouble (anti-Bitcoin camp) or (b) block rewards / inflation will have to be increased to keep miners incented (pro-Bitcoin camp)
Points 1 and 2 are true.
Points 3 and 4 are an exercise in ignoring all data that you can’t model, like the old cliche of the drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost because that is the only place he can see…
Things to ask the author when you read the inevitable Concerned-About-Hashing-Rate-In-The-Future-But-Sanguine-About-Hashing-Rate-In-The-Present Blog Post:
1) What is your assumption for BTC price at the time of the block reward drop? Also, in the long-future (2020s before it drops again!), what are your assumptions about transaction volume and fees?
2) Isn’t it a bit odd to be predicting that BTC price certainly won’t double at least once every 4 years (particularly since reduced block rewards mean fewer BTC to market)?
3) How does your model account for the last 2 years? The block reward in $ terms swung 10x over the last couple of years during the price run up/down. During that period, hashing rate has gone consistently up (see chart above) Why would a crisis emerge with a 2x swing in block rewards when it did not with a 10x shift in block rewards?
It is hard to imagine too many cases where Bitcoin is a big success and either BTC price doesn’t go up or transaction volume doesn’t go up.
Overstock Issues $5mill Cryptobond at 7%
Overstock.com, Inc. announced the sale of a $5 million digital security in the form of a cryptobond to FNY Managed Accounts LLC (“First New York”), an affiliate of FNY Capital.
Donald Motschwiller, CEO of First New York, commented, “Our investment in this $5 million cryptobond reflects our commitment to be at the forefront when it comes to adopting new technologies.”
The $5 million cryptobond Overstock has sold to First New York bears interest at 7 percent per annum over a five-year term. – Overstock.com, Inc
The Trade Is The Settlement
Overstock and Patrick Byrne hosted a flashy launch party for several hundred people at Nasdaq headquarters overlooking Times Square, at which they unveiled their version of the smart-contract trading platform, t0.com (that’s “t” and zero, not the letter “o;” it’s a play off “T+3,” Street shorthand for the three days it takes a contract to settle).
Mr. Byrne unveiled it in a typically colorful, impassioned speech that included references to the Torah, Martin Luther, “the holy church of capitalism,” the development of the Nasdaq and electronic exchanges, and his own sometimes contentious history with Wall Street.
People familiar with Mr. Byrne’s long history may be surprised that he chose a site like Nasdaq for the launch. More than a decade ago, he was involved in a bitter, pitched fight against naked short sellers who were targeting Overstock shares. But, saying that he was raised on free markets, he viewed it as a sort of homecoming, and hoped that these contracts would put an end to naked shorting and other abuses.
“Think about what this is,” he said on a visit to the Journal’s office on Monday. “It’s really about getting the existing capital markets to be crypto-capital markets.” – Paul Vigna
Symbiont Issues Securities on the Bitcoin Blockchain
Symbiont offered a live demonstration of its smart-contract trading platform
Symbiont was founded in March by Counterparty and MathMoney f(x) founders to create the first issuance and trading platform for smart securities based on the blockchain technology. Now, Symbiont has issued the first Smart Securities on the Bitcoin blockchain.
Symbiont’s live platform allows institutions and investors to issue, manage, trade, clear, settle and transfer a range of financial instruments more efficiently on decentralized and distributed peer-to-peer financial networks that are cryptographically secured.
Initial use cases for Smart Securities include corporate debt, syndicated loans, securitized instruments and private equity. According to the Symbiont press release, Smart Securities bring capital markets into the blockchain era.
Smart Securities transform the way that security issuance, management, trading, and clearing and settlement take place within global capital markets. Generically known as “smart contracts,” these instruments are programmable versions of traditional securities issued on any type of distributed ledger, such as a blockchain.
Once a security is issued onto the ledger, it acts autonomously, eliminating traditionally manual mid- and back-office functions. – Giulio Prisco
Bloomberg’s Commodity Index Just Hit a 21st Century Low
COMPANIES / PROJECTS / PRODUCTS
Amazon is Now Bigger Than Walmart
The retail king has lost its crown.
The changing of the guard reflects the growing consensus that online retailing will play an increasingly central role in the global economy over the coming decades and underscores the high premium investors are placing on the growth they expect Amazon to deliver.
Online retailing currently accounts for only 7% of US retail sales. (Though online sales dominate some sectors such as books, electronics, toys, and baby supplies.)
That suggests there’s plenty of room for growth. It’s those expectations that have supercharged Amazon shares in recent years. – Matt Phillips & Shelly Banjo
Anonymous decentralized markets based on two party escrow.
* Fully peer to peer (no central servers).
* No fees
* No middle men.
* No altcoin
* Open protocol and source.
It’s inevitable that all markets are going to be decentralized, potentially anonymous, no fees, no middlemen. With the internet there’s just no reason to have centralized middlemen anymore. We can connect without them.
Why do we need Amazon or Craigslist or eBay? Why can’t people just connect to each other?
The big barrier has been a decentralized messaging system. We’re slowly piecing together the parts to solve that problem. We’re using Bitmessage to solve that problem. It’s not ideal, but it’s good enough for the scale that we need to do Craigslist and eBay like uses. – Steve Dekorte, Creator of Bitmarkets
PRIVACY / SECURITY / INTERNET
Bitmarkets Combines Bitcoin, Bitmessage, and Tor
Bitmarkets is focused on anonymity. I saw a recent interview about the OpenBazaar project and they said specifically that that wasn’t one of their goals. It really is one of ours.
Bitmessage is undervalued and under recognized in the community. It’s really very clever how it’s done, and as far as I can tell it’s the most ready for consumer use of any of the solutions for peer to peer messaging that I’ve seen. It’s not scalable to 30 billion messages a day that are being done with instant messages and SMS and things like that, but for these kinds of uses it seems pretty perfect and doesn’t seem to be as well recognized as I think it should be.
Tor: All of our communications with the Bitmessage and Bitcoin networks happen over Tor.
EDUCATION / LEARNING
The Ratio of Educational Capital to Signal Has Never Been More Skewed
Harvard has never been a purely academic institution – offering as it has the weight of prestige that’s served as an important signal to prospective employers and proud parents since day one – very much like a Louis Vuitton purse, a new Mercedes, or an iPhone 6 – but the ratio of educational capital to signal has never been more skewed towards the latter than it is today.
A degree from Harvard has become, like Porsche, another symbol of Asian financial dominance. Sure, all of these degrees and cars and leather goods ostensibly serve some practical purpose, but really not any more than related items costing hundredths the price. And that’s the point. – Pete Dushenski
Computer Language Trends
Getting a little code under your belt is an incredibly valuable skill for members of a business team. – Larry Kim
9 Places You can Learn How to Code for Free:
1) MIT Open Courseware: Introduction to Computer Science and Programming
2) Coursera: Programming Languages
3) Coursera: Programming for Everybody (Python)
4) Code Academy
5) Khan Academy
6) HTML5 Rocks
Silicon Valley: American Capitalism Has a New Hub
California’s Silicon Valley, the 50-mile stretch between San Francisco and San Jose, is perhaps the most productive and innovative land mass in the world.
Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs and innovators, technologists and moneymen are busy revolutionising nearly every aspect of the global economy. The Economist has identified 99 listed technology companies with market values of over $1 billion that call the Valley home.
Wall Street used to be the place to seek fortunes and make deals; now it is increasingly the Valley. The area’s tech companies are worth over $3 trillion. Last year one in five American business-school graduates piled into tech. Jamie Dimon, the boss of JPMorgan Chase, has warned of mounting competition for Wall Street. Goldman Sachs recently held its annual shareholder meeting in San Francisco.
The enormous, disruptive creativity of Silicon Valley is unlike anything since the genius of the great 19th-century inventors. Silicon Valley is an expression of iconoclastic freedom and creativity. Its triumph is to be celebrated. – The Economist
Beijing’s Zhongguancun is the Closest Thing China Has to Silicon Valley
The entrepreneurial instincts at work in Beijing are stoked by huge sums of private-sector cash.
With homegrown champions such as Baidu attracting top talent, Beijing’s Zhongguancun high-tech district has since 2003 created the most software companies valued at more than $1 billion each. Only the U.S. has created more, according to venture capital investor Atomico.
The allure of Zhongguancun comes from the camaraderie that promotes brainstorming in the district’s coffee shops and at the numerous forums that attract the city’s brightest electronics innovators. – Lulu Yilun Chen & Dexter Roberts
Chinese Factory Replaces 90% of Humans with Robots, Productivity Soars
A technology company has set up a factory run almost exclusively by robots, and the results are fascinating.
The Changying Precision Technology Company factory in Dongguan has automated production lines that use robotic arms to produce parts for cell phones. The factory also has automated machining equipment, autonomous transport trucks, and other automated equipment in the warehouse.
The robots have produced almost three times as many pieces as were produced before. According to the People’s Daily, production per person has increased from 8,000 pieces to 21,000 pieces. That’s a 162.5% increase.
The increased production rate hasn’t come at the cost of quality either. In fact, quality has improved. Before the robots, the product defect rate was 25%, now it is below 5%. – Conner Forrest
Easy DNA Editing will Remake the World. Buckle Up.
We now have the power to quickly and easily alter DNA. It could eliminate disease. It could solve world hunger. It could provide unlimited clean energy.
Crispr-Cas9 is a gene-editing technique which makes it easy, cheap, and fast to move genes around—any genes, in any living thing, from bacteria to people. Crispr promises direct access to the source code of life.
“These are monumental moments in the history of biomedical research,” genetic researcher David Baltimore says. “They don’t happen every day.”
Using the three-year-old technique, researchers have already:
- Reversed mutations that cause blindness
- Stopped cancer cells from multiplying
- Made cells impervious to the virus that causes AIDS
Agronomists have rendered wheat invulnerable to killer fungi like powdery mildew, hinting at engineered staple crops that can feed a population of 9 billion on an ever-warmer planet.
Bioengineers have used Crispr to Alter the DNA of yeast so that it consumes plant matter and excretes ethanol, promising an end to reliance on petrochemicals.
- Startups devoted to Crispr have launched.
- International pharmaceutical and agricultural companies have spun up Crispr R&D.
- Two of the most powerful universities in the US are engaged in a vicious war over the basic patent.
Depending on what kind of person you are, Crispr makes you see a gleaming world of the future, a Nobel medallion, or dollar signs.
Today swarms of investors are racing to bring genetically engineered creations to market. The idea of Crispr slides almost frictionlessly into modern culture. When the US government said it wouldn’t fund research on human embryonic stem cells, private entities raised millions of dollars to do it themselves. Engineered humans are a ways off—but nobody thinks they’re science fiction anymore.
The world has changed. “Genome editing started with just a few big labs putting in lots of effort, trying something 1,000 times for one or two successes,” says Hank Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford. “Now it’s something that someone with a BS and a couple thousand dollars’ worth of equipment can do. What was impractical is now almost everyday. That’s a big deal.” – Amy Maxmen
Radical Life Extension
The general public don’t want to think about it. Quite a lot of scientists don’t want to think about it.
They don’t want to get their hopes up. They really don’t want to reengage a psychological battle that they have already lost, that they have already submitted to.
They have already made their peace with ageing and the inevitability of declining health, old-age and eventual death; getting into a mode of thinking where maybe science will come along and prevent that from happening or maybe it wont, that’s a mindset that disturbs a lot of people; that’s a mindset a lot of people would prefer not to even engage in, if the alternative is to continue to believe that the whole thing is science-fiction. It’s fatalistic but it’s calming.
It’s quite depressing to me. All of the stupid things that people say, like, “Where would we put all the people?” or, “How would we pay the pensions?” or, “Is it only for the rich?” or, “Wont dictators live forever?” and so on, all of these things… it’s just painful.
It’s extraordinarily frustrating that people are so wedded to the process of putting this out of their minds, by however embarrassing their means; coming up with the most pathetic arguments, immediately switching their brains off before realising their arguments might indeed be pathetic. –Aubrey de Grey
In Ten Years How Will Technological Advancements Enable Radical Life Extension?
I think that in the next 10 years we’re likely to hit a tipping point that I have historically called “robust mouse-rejuvenation”. I think it’s more like 6-8 years at this point, to be honest.
I believe that we’re going to reach a point where we have mice in the laboratory and we extend their lives by a sufficient magnitude and by appropriate means, so the scientific community will begin to believe strongly that we’ve cracked this; that it’s only a matter of time before we bring ageing under comprehensive medical control for human beings as well.
Once the scientific community, the acknowledged, expert, credentialed scientific community, has a consensus, that’s when my job will be done, because literally the following day Oprah Winfrey will be saying, “Well, if it’s possible and it’s only a matter of time then let’s make it as little time as possible”. Then, the day after that, it will be impossible to get elected unless you have a manifesto commitment to actually have a war on ageing, right now. – Aubrey de Grey
How SpaceX Will Colonize Mars
“All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct.” – Carl Sagan
Today, no one is talking about Mars, and very few people think of Mars as a relevant part of the near future. But unless I’ve missed something big or something unexpected happens, in about 10–20 years,people will start going to Mars. You could go to Mars in your lifetime. Crazy things are on the horizon.
This is one of those topics that’s tough to absorb, because as you think about it, your mind will keep drifting back to, “Nahhhh.”
Learning about what SpaceX is doing and why they’re doing it can take you from a place where thinking the prospect of humans moving to Mars is totally ludicrous to a place where you accept the logic that it’s actually an important thing to do and something that’s possible and even likely to happen. But that’s different than really believing it’ll happen. Deep down, your brain hasn’t really accepted it. And that’s fair—your brain bases things on experience, and experience tells it that moving to Mars is not something that people ever do.
But I’m pretty sure your brain’s in for some big surprises over the next few decades. Colonizing Mars might actually—really—be based in reality.
Step 1: Send an automated spaceship to Mars just to make sure you can send something there and back”—this should happen before 2020.
Step 2: A handful of unmanned cargo missions to bring equipment, habitats, and supplies, so that when the first people start arriving, they’ll be able to not die—they’ll need access to water, a place to live, the tools to convert compounds on Mars to oxygen, fertilizer to grow crops, etc
Step 3: Something big will happen. Someone—probably SpaceX, probably in about ten years—will send the first crew of people to Mars. For anyone under the age of 50 who’s annoyed they weren’t alive and sentient in 1969 to get caught up in the excitement of the moon landing—you’re finally going to have your day. Somewhere out there, right now on this Earth, is the Neil Armstrong of Mars. No one knows who they are—they might not even know who they are—but everyone on Earth will know their name soon.
This is gonna be a big deal.
The next time Earth laps Mars and they’re side by side is 2016—too soon to do anything. But when it happens again in the summer of 2018, don’t be surprised if a vehicle with a SpaceX logo on it touches down on Mars. Musk has thrown out a rough prediction of 2025 or 2027 for the Neil Armstrong of Mars to take that famous first step onto the planet.
But like Neil Armstrong’s famous first step, this will be a great achievement for mankind—not a giant leap. The giant leap comes next.
Step 4: With the price of a ticket plummeting downwards and the first crewed Mars mission having opened the floodgates, we’ll be ready to start colonizing. In the year 1605 the people who settled in Jamestown and Plymouth were very extreme to do so—the first groups to go to Mars will be as well.
The earliest settlers will have a hard job, like early settlers always do—they’ll have to build themselves a livable situation, and eventually, get working on the first Martian city. For this reason, Musk guesses that early on, for every spacecraft that goes to Mars carrying people, ten will need to go carrying cargo and supplies.
Step 5: Over time, more people will make the migration, the city will be increasingly developed, and the settlers will be able to start building things that make for a decent lifestyle: restaurants, bars, movie theaters, sports facilities, etc.
And then, something will start to happen.
The hardest part will be over, and more people will want to go.
The first return ships will come back with people, and it’ll remind everyone on Earth that it doesn’t have to be a one-way ticket—and more people will want to go.
The people who come back to Earth will be commended for their courage, some of the people on Mars will write best-selling books about their experience, and others will film a little TV show about the early settlement and become household names on Earth—and more people will want to go.
People on Earth will see gorgeous photos of Martians hiking around on Olympus Mons and in Valles Marinaris, a mountain and canyon far bigger than any on Earth—and more people will want to go.
People will hear about being able to jump off a 20-foot cliff without hurting yourself and watch viral YouTube clips of new kinds of extreme sports that can only be played with Mars’ 38% gravity situation—and more people will want to go.
And in case you were wondering if this is going to be a vacation jaunt, Musk explains, “It’s not going to be a vacation jaunt. It’s going to be saving up all your money and selling all your stuff, like when people moved to the early American colonies.”
But he also points to the excitement and novelty of getting to found a new land—an experience that stopped being possible on Earth centuries ago: “There will be lots of interesting opportunities for anyone who wants to create anything new—from the first pizza joint to the first iron ore refinery to the first of everything. This is going to be a real exciting thing for people who want to be part of creating a civilization.”
What this all adds up to is that once the first crew lands on Mars, it seems likely that with every Earth-Mars synchronization thereafter, the number of people choosing to migrate will grow—perhaps exponentially. By 2040, Musk thinks there will be a thriving colonial Martian city.
And one day after that, sometime in the future, an incoming fleet will arrive on Mars, and for the first time, the planet’s population will top 1 million. He thinks it’ll take at least 40 or 50 years of fleet migrations to happen, which, if things start in the mid-2020s, brings us to around 2070.
The Real Giant Leap for Mankind
Neil Armstrong calling the moon landing “a giant leap for mankind” is not the correct wording.
Landing on the moon is in the same category as putting the first man in space or the first person climbing Mt. Everest—it’s a great achievement for mankind. But if the first ocean animal to touch dry land simply lay there for a minute before being washed back into the ocean, it would not qualify as a giant leap for life, and the moon landing shouldn’t either.
It’s only when certain mutated fish began to live on land in a sustainable way that life as a whole made a giant leap.
Previous Giant Leaps:
* Simple cells ——> complex cells ———> multicellular life.
* Life explodes into diversity
* Life emerges from the ocean onto land
* An increasing diversification of the great apes leading to the human-chimpanzee tribe split
* The progression of the homo genus that eventually led to humans.
* Major Migrations
* The development of language, farming and writing
* The birth of the industrialized world
Colonizing Mars permanently will be a giant leap for mankind.
But shouldn’t we pause for a minute and note that it’s a little weird that after 3.8 billion years—38,000,000 centuries—that I’m claiming that this century, we may witness a giant leap on par with the six or seven greatest leaps in history? How could that possibly be?
And wait, this reminds me of something. When we dove into artificial intelligence, it certainly seemed like A) something that might explode into superintelligence in the next century, and B) something that might permanently and dramatically affect all life on the planet (for better or worse). Would that also qualify as a potential giant leap?
And—as our understanding of the human genome advances and the science of genetic engineering races forward, isn’t it conceivable that in 100 years, science may have figured out how to keep humans alive for much longer than a normal biological lifespan and put people through legitimate reverse-aging procedures? If that happened and we conquered aging, wouldn’t that also make the big, big list of significant events in life history?
What the hell is going on??
Either I’m being hopelessly naive or this is a very intense time to be alive.
When a species becomes so powerful that they can achieve giant grand-scale life leaps in under a century, they can essentially play god, in many different ways. Let’s call that reaching the God Point.
If progress is indeed accelerating, it makes sense that an advanced species would eventually hit the God Point, and there seems to be plenty of evidence that humans are either already there or very close—advancements in fields like space travel, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, particle physics, nanotechnology, and weaponry open the door to a long list of unthinkably-dramatic impacts on the future.
The reality is that we’re living in a time when we could witness multiple events in our lifetimes as impactful as life going from the ocean to land. Not only might we be on the cusp of the great leap of life becoming multi-planetary, we may be on the cusp of a bunch of other great leaps as well.
There are other signs pointing to this being an extraordinarily unusual time to be alive:
- For 99.8% of human history, the world population was under 1 billion people. In the last .2% of that history, it has crossed the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 billion marks.
- Up until 25 years ago, there had never been such a thing as a global brain of godlike information access and connectivity on this planet. Today we have the internet.
- Humans walked around or rode horses for 999 of the last 1,000 centuries. In this century, we drive cars, fly planes, and land on the moon.
- If extra-terrestrial life were looking for other life in the universe, it would be dramatically easier to find us this century than in any century before, as we project millions of signals out into space.
If we take a step back and just look at the situation, it should be clear that nothing that’s happening right now is normal.
Current humans have FAR more power than any life on Earth ever has, and it seems very likely that if in a billion years, an alien history major writes a term paper on the history of life on Earth, the time we’re living in right now—however it turns out—will be a major part of that paper.
When a planet’s life reaches high intelligence, it usually means they’re a couple hundred thousand years away from their do-or-die moment. Their progress will accelerate faster and faster until finally they hit the God Point, when they simultaneously gain the power to forever end species vulnerability or drive themselves accidentally extinct—and it’s all about which comes first.
Those species who hit the God Point, then enter the chaos that inevitably ensues, and somehow come out alive on the other side have “made it through,” and they can officially join the universe’s community of grown-up, immortal, intelligent species.
More than any particular Mars population goal, Elon Musk wants to die knowing we’re on our way to what he describes as “the threshold at which even if the spaceships from Earth stop coming, the colony doesn’t slowly die out.” That, he says, “is the critical threshold for us as a civilization to not join the potentially large number of one-planet dead civilizations out there.” A million people is his rough estimate for where that threshold lies, but no one knows for sure.
When—if—we do one day get to that point, only then will we have made the giant leap for mankind Neil Armstrong referred to. Humanity’s future will be much more secure and much more likely to survive deep into the future.
My gut says that we’re probably much closer to the beginning of The Story of Humans and Space than the middle or the end. It seems like we’re right around the end of “Chapter 1: Confined to Earth”—maybe on the very last page. And as the story moves forward, it may begin to take place on a much wider stage than the Earth, making The Story of Humans and Space ultimately indistinguishable from The Story of Humans.
It’s no more possible to predict what will happen in those chapters than it would have been for a farmer in 2500 BC Mesopotamia to envision our world today. – Tim Urban
Follow me on Twitter @leebanfield1