1 Bitcoin = $329
No Closing Bell for These Free-Marketites
Bitcoin runs 24/7, never sleeps, or takes a (banking) holiday. Almost 2500 days and counting. That’s resiliency. – Anthony Di Iorio
The Bitcoin Central Bank’s Perfect Monetary Policy
Bitcoin’s core service is its impeccable monetary policy. Everything else is epiphenomena. – Pierre Rochard
The Two Big Opportunities for Bitcoin
1) Developing Countries
- Poor financial infrastructure
- Capital controls
2) Cross-Border Applications
- The way stock dividends and bond coupons are paid across borders
Emerging Market Currencies are Collapsing
- China capital flight hits record high as yuan plunges
- Mexico peso slumps to record low on global growth worries
- Brazilian real at all-time low against dollar
- Argentina’s unofficial peso currency rate hits an all-time low
- S.Africa’s rand falls to all-time low as China woes hit emerging markets
- Turkey’s lira sinks to record low against dollar
- Sri Lankan rupee hits record low on importer dollar demand
- Indian rupee depreciates to record low
Asian currencies had their biggest quarterly loss since the global financial crisis, having been battered by China’s surprise devaluation of the yuan and the prospect of a U.S. interest-rate increase.
Malaysia’s ringgit led the rout with a 14 percent slide as oil prices retreated and Prime Minister Najib Razak was caught up in a corruption investigation.
Indonesia’s rupiah weakened 9 percent against the dollar this quarter and Thailand’s baht dropped 6.9 percent, its worst performance since 2000. – Lilian Karunungan
Emerging Market Stock Allocations at All-Time Low
Investors have cut their emerging market stock allocations to an all-time low and raised cash balances to levels seen during the 2008 crisis as risk appetite has evaporated, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) survey showed. – Claire Milhench
Emerging Economies: First Capital Outflow in 27 Years
A “triple fall” — in currencies, stocks and bonds — is taking place.
According to the Institute of International Finance, capital inflows to 30 major emerging countries in 2015 will decrease by 50% from 2014. Capital outflows from emerging countries will also decline but still exceed inflows by $540 billion.
This means direct investments — for participating in management and building factories, in the form of loans by financial institutions and money intended for securities investment — are dwindling.
By country, China will see a record net outflow of $477.5 billion because of an 80% decrease in investments and loans from overseas and because of wealthy Chinese sending their money overseas.
Russia, which is under economic sanctions from the U.S. and Europe, will face a net outflow of $57.5 billion, and politically unstable Malaysia will suffer an excess outflow of $33.4 billion. – Nikkei Asian Review
Hedge Fund Borrows $10 Million in Stock via the Bitcoin Blockchain
Through a new operation it calls TØ.com, online retailer Overstock.com and its freethinking CEO, Patrick Byrne, have built a system for issuing, buying, selling, and even borrowing stocks and bonds on the blockchain.
Clique Fund, a hedge fund based in New York City, used this system to borrow shares in the 30 stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Previously, TØ.com, an Overstock subsidiary, had used the system to issue a private bond to Byrne himself. Later, it issued a mostly symbolic bond to an outside company called FNY Capital. But the Clique Fund transaction is more than just a symbol. “This is a real trade,” says John Tabacco, who founded TØ together with Byrne.
According to Tabacco, TØ has been facilitating stock loans for the past two weeks, with five different customers borrowing stock, including Clique Fund. Tuesday’s transaction is the largest to date. “We’re starting to get critical mass—institutional-sized trades,” he says.
Overstock and TØ believe this system could particularly benefit the stock loan market, which is controlled by a select group of middlemen, including prime brokers such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, as well as “agent lenders” such as BNY Mellon and State Street. To a certain extent, TØ’s system can cut out these middlemen and reduce the cost of stock borrowing.
Basically, organizations that want to make some extra money loaning out stock—such as pension funds—can offer up this stock through the TØ system. The system uses the blockchain to attach digital tokens to each share, and then, hedge funds and other traders can bid for these “pre-borrow asset tokens,” which provide the right to borrow the share. Using these tokens, stock holders can closely track each transaction involving their loaned stock.
That’s no small thing. Stock loans are an enormous part of the worldwide financial system. In borrowing stock, traders can short sell (sell the borrowed stock and reap the profit when the price goes down) or they can hedge other trades. The global stock market spans about $101 trillion in financial securities, and according to research from DataLend, about $1.7 trillion is out on loan at any given moment. That figure tops $954 billion in the U.S. alone.
At the same time, Overstock and TØ are also aiming to remake the public stock market as a whole.Their system provides a way for companies to issue stock, and it’s seeking SEC approval to do so publicly. As it waits for an SEC greenlight, TØ has shown that the system can be used to issue private bonds—similar to what Nasdaq is trying to do with its Nasdaq Private Market system. – Cade Metz
COMPANIES / PROJECTS / PRODUCTS
The 21 Bitcoin Computer
- The 21 Bitcoin Computer is the first computer with native hardware and software support for the Bitcoin Protocol.
- Buy digital goods with the constant stream of bitcoin mined by a 21 Bitcoin Chip
- Sell anything to anyone for bitcoin with the built-in 21 Micropayments Server
- Easily build Bitcoin-payable apps, services, and devices
I’m just unreasonably excited about this amazing new Bitcoin product from our company 21! – Marc Andreessen
The 21 computer is a matter of convenience and ease for getting involved with bitcoin by bundling everything into hardware. – Demian Brener
The goal: flick on a new paid internet service like you turn on a new lightbulb. No ads, no signup. – Balaji S. Srinivasan
Thanks to 21.co, Bitcoin could take a big step toward becoming the Internet’s monetary lingua franca. –Brian Patrick Eha
The 21 Bitcoin Computer is a small, bare bones, Linux-based piece of hardware in which the bitcoin protocol is a feature of the operating system. Any products or services built with it – games or music or any online content – would have bitcoin built in as a component.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Ben Horowitz, a co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, which led the startup’s funding earlier this year. “The thing that’s completely missing that I think would make the Internet better would be machine-to-machine payments. It’s just amazingly hard to do right now.”
The 21 computer is aimed at developers rather than consumers, and is part of the company’s wider goal of turning bitcoin into an Internet protocol, a common language shared between connected devices. – Paul Vigna
Tesla Autopilot 7.0 Unleashes Self-Driving Capabilities on Model S
Tesla’s use of an over-the-air update to create self-driving cars is one of the most important things ever to happen in technology.
Think of the foresight required. Hardware sensors had to be built years in advance to accommodate the future software. Think of the boldness. Establish facts on the ground – everywhere. Ship the future so fast they can’t ban it. The Network outruns the State.
There will be rearguard actions. Some states may try to ban it. Cross a border, car turns dumb. The future: now a geographical patchwork.
But on balance, Tesla has set a new precedent for permissionless innovation. And it can be applied to many other verticals outside cars. – Balaji S. Srinivasan
Regulators will not allow full autonomy for one to two years – maybe one to three years – after that. It depends on the particular market; in some markets the regulators will be more forward leaning than others. But in terms of when [full autonomy] will be technologically possible, I think three years.” –Elon Musk
I never thought I’d see autonomous automobiles driving on the freeways.
It wasn’t many years ago [they] put out a request to see who could build a car that could go across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas from a place in Southern California, and several engineering teams across the country set out to do this. Nobody got more than about 300 yards before there was a problem.
Two years later, they made the full 25-mile trip across this desert track, which I thought was a huge achievement, and from that it was just a blink before they were driving on the freeways.” – Gordon Moore
Self-Driving Cars Forecast to Reduce Accidents by 90 percent
May become greatest health achievement of the century
There are 2.5 million rear end collisions per year in the USA, accounting for 40% of all accidents. The only accidents the google self driving cars have been in are when they have been rear ended by a human driver.
The self driving cars will aways remain a safe distance behind the car in front because they don’t have an ego telling them they literally own the road. – Maria Meadowcroft
As The Atlantic reports, automated cars could save up to 300,000 lives per decade in the United States. Their reporting is based on this research paper by consulting firm McKinsey & Co., which is filled with fascinating ways that self-driving cars will help us accident-prone humans by midcentury.
From the McKinsey report:
Today, car crashes have an enormous impact on the US economy. For every person killed in a motor-vehicle accident, 8 are hospitalized, and 100 are treated and released from emergency rooms. The overall annual cost of roadway crashes to the US economy was $212 billion in 2012. Taking that year as an example, advanced Advanced Driver Assisted Vehicles (ADVS) and Automated Vehicles (AVs) reducing accidents by up to 90 percent would have potentially saved about $190 billion.
AVs could free as much as 50 minutes a day for users, who will be able to spend traveling time working, relaxing, or accessing entertainment. The time saved by commuters every day might add up globally to a mind-blowing one billion hours.
McKinsey also points out that parking will become much easier, “reducing the need for parking space in the United States by more than 5.7 billion square meters,” and that the entire insurance model — based on human error — will shift to a one “focusing mainly on insuring car manufacturers from liabilities from technical failure of their AVs,” much like that for cruise lines or shipping companies. That might just lower your monthly insurance payment, too. – Molly Brown
Personal Genome Test Will Sell at $250
The next decade will be the most exciting in the history of biological sciences. – Craig Venter
A company formed by genome pioneer Craig Venter will offer clients of a South Africa-based insurance company whole exome sequencing – sequencing all protein-making genes in the human genome – at a price that marks yet another dramatic decline in the cost of gene sequencing.
Venter’s company, Human Longevity Inc, will provide the tests at a cost of $250 each through a special incentive program offered by Discovery Ltd, an insurer with clients in South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Venter, the U.S. scientist who raced the U.S. government to map the human genome 15 years ago for a cost of $100,000, said the $250 price point per whole exome marks a new low in the price of gene sequencing.
Clients who choose screening will receive a comprehensive report detailing their risks for specific diseases and potential strategies to modify those risks. “It’s our goal to really make this (sequencing) available to broad populations,” he said in a telephone interview.
The multiyear deal gives Discovery’s clients access to low-cost whole exome sequencing, tests that look only at the protein-making segments of DNA known as exons, which represent 2 percent of the genome but account for 85 percent of disease-causing mutations.
The deal also covers testing for whole genome and cancer genome sequencing services. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Until recently, whole genome sequencing – which maps all of an individual’s 20,500 genes – was prohibitively expensive, costing about $20,000 just five years ago. As of last year, the average cost of whole genome sequencing fell to $1,500. – Julie Steenhuysen
The Health Nucleus
The Health Nucleus is Human Longevity’s first health center
$25,000 gets you “a physical on steroids.”
This October Human Longevity Inc will open a “health nucleus” at its La Jolla headquarters, with expanded genetic and health services aimed at self-insured executives and athletes.
The center, the first of several Craig Venter hopes to open, will carry out a full analysis of patients’ genomes, sequence their gut bacteria or microbiome, analyze more than two thousand other body chemicals, and put them through a full-body MRI scan.
The Health Nucleus platform uses whole genome sequence analysis, advanced clinical imaging and innovative machine learning – combined with a comprehensive curation of personal health history – to deliver the most complete picture of individual health.
The Health Nucleus provides a novel approach devoted to exploring, quantifying and beginning to understand as much as possible about individual health and disease risk. – Human Longevity Inc
Skype Update Offers Real-Time Voice Language Translation
Microsoft first released Skype Translator almost a year ago as a standalone app designed for Windows 8.
Early adopters have been providing regular feedback to Microsoft, and the company clearly feels it’s time to open up its Skype Translator to everyone using the Windows desktop app.
The software giant is integrating its impressive translation feature directly into the desktop version of Skype, opening it up to Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10 users.
Six voice languages will be supported at launch, including English, French, German, Italian, Madarin, and Spanish. Skype will now let you hold a conversation in any of them, without ever needing to learn a language.
Microsoft will roll out an update to the Skype for Windows desktop app over the next few weeks, and a new translator button will show up within conversations. You can enable translation for audio and video calls, but if you just want to translate instant messages then 50 languages in total will be supported. – Tom Warren
LEARNING / EDUCATION
Augmented Reality Education
The future of learning, if this new Magic Leap video is any indication, is mighty interesting. –Subrahmanyam KVJ
Employers Increasingly Recognizing Udacity’s Nanodegrees
Economists and technologists agree that in the future, just about everyone’s job will involve more technology. During the last few years, many local and online schools have popped up to teach people how to code. They offer a vast range of prices and techniques. Some, like Codecademy, are free, while others can cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Some offer more personalized coaching, while others leave students to figure things out on their own.
Now Udacity, a four-year-old online teaching start-up, believes that after years of trial and error, it has hit on a model of vocational training that can be scaled up to teach millions of people technical skills.
Udacity’s founder, Sebastian Thrun, a specialist in artificial intelligence at Stanford University who once ran Google X, the search company’s advanced projects division, said that the “nanodegree” program that the firm created last year will result in vastly lower education costs and wider accessibility. Early data suggests the program is efficient and reliably results in new jobs.
The nanodegree works like this:
Last year, Udacity partnered with technology companies to create online courses geared toward teaching a set of discrete, highly prized technical skills — including mobile programming, data analysis and web development.
Students who complete these courses are awarded the nanodegree, a credential that Udacity has worked with Google, AT&T and other companies to turn into a new form of workplace certification.
A year after the program’s start, the company has 10,000 students enrolled in its nanodegree courses, and the number is growing by a third every month.
Udacity charges $200 a month for the courses (students can take as little or as much time as they want to finish). When they successfully complete a course, Udacity gives back half the tuition.
The company says that a typical student will earn a nanodegree in about five months — in other words, for around $500. – Farhad Manjoo
PRIVACY / SECURITY / INTERNET
BIP-47: Reusable Payment codes
FoneBTC: BIP70? BIP47 is the most import privacy development of the past 6 months.
Keonne Rodriguez: Very excited about BIP 47. Justus Ranvier has done the community a great service with this BIP. Would love to see an implementation.
Samourai Wallet: Implentation coming in 3-4 months if all goes well. We’re a small self funded team 🙂
Payment codes are a technique for creating permanent Bitcoin addresses that can be reused and publicly associated with a real-life identity without creating a loss of financial privacy.
They are similar to stealth addresses, but involve a different set of trade-offs and features that may make them more practical.
You can publicize your payment code in the same way that you can publicize your email address. Even if everyone knows your payment code, nobody can monitor the blockchain to see how many payments you have received or which transactions are yours. – Justus Ranvier
Stem Cell Therapy Will be Available Within Five Years
Revolutionary stem cell therapy could end the suffering of millions of arthritis patients within as few as five years. Preliminary findings of a trial of the treatment show that within days patients experienced a dramatic reduction in pain.
Sufferers’ own stem cells were injected into their knees resulting in significantly increased joint function.
Study leader Professor Frank Barry said: “It is incredibly exciting. It is our strong belief that stem cell treatment will offer hope for millions of people.”
Osteoarthritis affects 14 per cent of over 25s and a third of all pensioners. It causes severe and chronic pain, joint stiffness and loss of function.
Currently there is no drug, medical intervention or therapy that alters its progression and many patients have to take painkillers constantly and ultimately need total joint replacement surgery. –Lucy Johnston
Scientists Hope to Restore Sight in the Blind Next Year
It sounds completely crazy: as early as next year, using gene therapy scientists hope to restore sight in the blind by giving their eyes additional “light sensors.”
We’re not talking about bionic eyes: instead of implantable electronics, scientists are turning to a protein called channelrhodopsin-2. The protein comes from the lowly green algae, which uses it to seek out sunlight for photosynthesis.
In 2006, Dr. Zhou Hua Pan, a researcher at Wayne State University, decided to stick the protein into mice that were genetically engineered for photoreceptor degeneration. It worked on the first try; in less than three months after a single treatment, the mice passed every vision test the scientists could throw at them.
“It worked perfectly, even in the very beginning,” Pan told Wired. “That was basically just really, really lucky.”
Pan’s success did not escape the notice of the biotech industry.
In 2009, RetroSense Therapeutics, a startup located a short drive away from Wayne State, leased the eye-wiring tech from Pan in a bid to bring it to human trials. Last month, the FDA gave its nod of approval: as early as this fall, the company will start installing channelrhodopsin-2 into the retinas of 15 patients blinded by retinitis pigmentosa through gene therapy. The therapy may be a game changer. – Shelly Fan
In Defense of Technology
The children don’t believe me when I tell them life used to be hard.
My daughter rolls her eyes whenever I begin my stories of woe. “Here he goes,” she says. “Tell the one about how you used to walk to school alone. And the other one, about how you had to remember people’s phone numbers!
“You know, darling. It wasn’t so long ago. And it wasn’t such a hardship either. There was actually something quite pleasant about, say, getting lost as you walked in a city, without immediately resorting to Google Maps.”
The infant experience of the easy life can only ridicule the idea that patience and effort used to be fine. But I’ve been trying to examine the problem from a new angle, and I keep coming back to the same truth: Life is better.
To believe in progress is not only to believe in the future: It is also to usher in the possibility that the past wasn’t all that. I now feel — and this is a revelation — that my past was an interesting and quite fallow period spent waiting for the Internet.
At home, I’ll continue to cause a festival of eye-rolling with my notion that some values were preserved by the low-tech environment, but, more generally speaking, life has just gotten better and better. The question is: How far would you go with that?
My daughter’s mother goes all the way. “I can sit in my holiday house in the country,” she says, “and order furniture, clothes, anything really, to come from London and Paris. It’s killed provincialism. It’s also killed human loneliness.”
“That’s shocking,” I say. “Luxury can’t kill loneliness.”
“You want to bet?”
So, I’ve been on the back foot. I didn’t know it when I was young, but maybe we were just waiting for more stuff and ways to save time. Is that right? Were we just waiting for Twitter to come along and show us there were sexy and clever people out there and funny stuff happening all the time in places we’d barely even heard of?
Then I got over it — and some. I’ve come fully round to time-saving apps. I’ve become addicted to the luxury of clicking through for just about everything I need. Yesterday morning, for example, I realized I needed to know something about a distant relative for a book I’m writing. I’m old enough to remember when one had to pack a bag and take a train; when one had to stand in queues at libraries, complete an application form, then scroll for hours through hard-to-read microfiche and take notes and repeat. I’m not 104, but I wrote a whole book that way, my first, and it took forever and it didn’t add much to most of the paragraphs. Yesterday, I had the information from an archive website in about 20 minutes. Then I made a list of winter clothes to purchase from Mr. Porter. Then I ordered a car from Uber to take me to King’s College London to teach a class, and I emailed my notes to my office computer from the car and I dealt with a dozen emails and I read a review of a restaurant I was going to that evening and watched part of a video of a ballet I was due to see before dinner.
What has been lost? Nothing. Has something gone out of my experience of life by ordering all the shopping on Ocado rather than by pushing a cart around the aisles of a supermarket for an hour and a half? Yes: A pain in my backside has been relieved. It is all now done by a series of small, familiar flutterings over the keyboard, which I can do at my leisure, any time of day or night, without looking for the car keys or straining my sense of sociability by running into hundreds of people who are being similarly tortured by their own basic needs. I’ve always liked music, the sheer luxury of having a particular recording there when you want to hear it, but nothing in my long years of hunting for and buying records can beat Spotify. I’ve heard many a nostalgist say there was something more, well, effortful, and therefore poetic, in the old system of walking for miles to a record shop only to discover they’d just sold out. People become addicted to the weights and measures of their own experience: We value our own story and what it entails. But we can’t become hostages to the romantic notion that the past is always a better country.
Getting better is getting better. Improvement is improving. There will, of course, always be people who feel alienated by a new thing and there might be a compelling argument to suggest all this availability is merely a high-speed way of filling a spiritual gap in our lives. Yet I can assure you there was no lack of spiritual gap in the lives of people living in small towns in 1982. It was just a lot harder to bridge that gap. We used to wait for years for a particular film to come on television, thinking we might never see it. One had practically to join a cult in order to share a passionate interest.
Technology is not doing what the sci-fi writers warned it might — it is not turning us into digits or blank consumers, into people who hate community.
My daughter was right to laugh. Because what she was hearing was a hint of vanity and a note of pride in my stories of the unimproved life. In point of fact, we sat in the past and burned with the desire to get out, to meet people, to find our voices, to discover the true meaning of luxury in our confrontation with a panoply of genuine choices. Our wish wasn’t to plant a flag on the ground of what we knew and defend it until death, but to sail out, not quite knowing what was past the horizon but hoping we might like it when we got there. – Andrew O’ Hagan
The Most Important Thing, and It’s Almost a Secret
Hats off to the media trolls that are able to get people outraged in literally the greatest time to be alive in the history of the universe. – Michael Goldstein
One survey found that two-thirds of Americans believed that the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has almost doubled over the last 20 years. Another 29 percent believed that the proportion had remained roughly the same.
That’s 95 percent of Americans — who are utterly wrong. In fact, the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty hasn’t doubled or remained the same. It has fallen by more than half, from 35 percent in 1993 to 14 percent in 2011 (the most recent year for which figures are available from the World Bank).
When 95 percent of Americans are completely unaware of a transformation of this magnitude, that reflects a flaw in how we journalists cover the world — and I count myself among the guilty. Consider:
• In 1990, more than 12 million children died before the age of 5; this toll has since dropped by more than half.
• More kids than ever are becoming educated, especially girls. In the 1980s, only half of girls in developing countries completed elementary school; now, 80 percent do.
Granted, some 16,000 children still die unnecessarily each day. It’s maddening in my travels to watch children dying simply because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But one reason for our current complacency is a feeling that poverty is inevitable — and that’s unwarranted.
The world’s best-kept secret is that we live at a historic inflection point when extreme poverty is retreating.
“We live at a time of the greatest development progress among the global poor in the history of the world,” notes Steven Radelet, a development economist and Georgetown University professor, in a terrific book coming in November, “The Great Surge: The Ascent of the Developing World.”
“The next two decades can be even better and can become the greatest era of progress for the world’s poor in human history,” Radelet writes.
So let’s get down to work and, on our watch, defeat extreme poverty worldwide. We know that the challenges are surmountable — because we’ve already turned the tide of history. – Nicholas Kristof
No Limits to Growth
Humans are not only mouths to feed, but also hands to work and brains to think up new solutions.
Prior to the emergence of humanity, Julian Simon and others had long pointed out, the Earth was replete with fertile soils and hydrocarbon and mineral deposits, but there were no resources. It was human action that turned otherwise useless physical stuff into valuable things, a process that could go on forever as it was ultimately powered by the always renewable and expanding human intellect.
Creative and entrepreneurial populations could thus grow almost indefinitely as, building on past advances to which they added new ideas, they would find ever better ways to feed themselves and improve overall standards of living. Any notion of natural limits or “carrying capacity” was therefore nonsensical.
Proponents of what is sometimes labeled “resourceship” observed that a population that engages in trade will deliver greater material abundance per capita than more self-sufficient individuals and communities. (In other words, one hundred people who specialize in what they do best and trade with each other will produce and consume far more than one hundred times more what one individual would on his own.) The more human brains, the greater the likelihood of new beneficial advances. So while the cream of mineral deposits would always be skimmed first, advancing technologies insured that profitable resources would be created out of previously valueless, perhaps even inaccessible deposits.
Other things being equal, a smaller population would never achieve the standards of living delivered by a greater number of brains and producers. And in a functioning market economy, a rise in the price of a commodity will always spontaneously motivate economic actors to look for more of it, use it more efficiently and develop substitutes. – Pierre Desrochers & Vincent Geloso
There are Plenty of Ideas—Really Big, Great Ones—Left to be Imagined
It’s irrational, frankly illiterate, to not be optimistic.
We’re going to see a blossoming across essentially every front, unprecedented in human technological history. This is not something that’s hoped for. This is baked in the cake. – Lowell Wood
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