1 Bitcoin = $413
Bitcoin Growing in Venezuela
Venezuelan bitcoin exchange SurBitcoin volume and trades
Venezuela’s state media says Bitcoin is primarily used by criminals and terrorists: Venezuelan Government Lambasts Bitcoin as Currency of Criminals
Hopefully the fact that the Venezuelan government is promoting this falsehood shows that Bitcoin is gaining traction in Venezuela! – zooko
BitCoin: The cybercriminal system (BitCoin: El Sistema Cibercriminal) #winning
“… many people have begun using the BitCoin, as an alternative to evade policies on foreign exchange”
Selling Bitcoin Without a License is a Crime in New Hampshire
looks like it’s a die …. – Rabbit
If you sell or trade bitcoins in the state of New Hampshire, you’ve probably heard the big news: as of January 1st, 2016, bitcoin sellers are considered money transmitters under New Hampshire law, and must be licensed and bonded as such.
These newly-minted money transmitters must have a state-issued money transmitter’s license and post a $100,000 money transmitter bond.
Of course, the bond requirement is in addition to the various fees and expenses associated with obtaining the money transmitter license. The application fee itself is $500, and the application requires, among other steps, a state and federal criminal history check.
With this legislation, New Hampshire is following the lead of the federal government, which is leading the push to regulate bitcoin sellers as money transmitters.
Still, it’s come as a surprise to many that the home of the Free State Project, and the famously libertarian motto “Live Free or Die,” is one of the first states to adopt these regulations. – Vic Lance
Counterparty (XCP) Surges
Counterparty intends to bring Ethereum smart contracts to Bitcoin by leveraging the Ethereum Virtual Machine.
Counterparty noted that it spent the past year polishing this software on a test network, but that they are now ready to go live with Ethereum-style smart contract support on the main Bitcoin network.
The news immediately caused a sharp spike in the price of XCP, the token used within Counterparty’s system, seeing it rally more than 370% at its peak of 0.0095 BTC per token.
While we don’t know exactly when these new Counterparty features will drop onto the main Bitcoin network, it sounds like the bulk of the work is done, and Bitcoin smart contracts are ready for production. – Bitcoin Error Log
Monero Up To 8th on Coinmarketcap With $17mill Marketcap
Monero is an independent fallback for Bitcoin that is created in much the same spirit as Bitcoin: an anonymous creator that disappeared after the community took it over, pure PoW with no crazy nonsense like overly complex PoS schemes, an alternate EC curve to Bitcoin’s secp256k1, and specific differences (like the PoW and the minimum block reward) that make Monero more like ‘A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ than anything else.
Let me clarify that I am a huge believer in Bitcoin, and I’m not implying at all that Bitcoin will ever fail, but it’s comforting to know that in the event of a major, massively disruptive break in Bitcoin there is something else out there.”
Monero is a truly fungible, truly private cryptocurrency, that is constantly trying to build on and improve its privacy.
The way we view it is simple: one day, somewhere along the line, Monero’s privacy is going to mean life or death for someone. They will be in a highly adversarial environment where an attacker’s ability to track their Monero transactions means their death.
It would be incredibly, incredibly irresponsible and reckless of us to treat our work on Monero’s privacy as anything less critical than that, regardless of who our end users are. I do not want to be responsible for someone’s death, and neither do any of the Monero contributors or the members of the Monero Research Lab or my fellow members of the Monero Core Team. – Riccardo Spagni, Monero Developer
Altcoins Plagued by Scams, Lack of Interest, Insecure Networks
To many people in the Bitcoin community, altcoins are considered nothing more than scams. Part of the reason is that altcoin developers and promoters are often found telling people to purchase an altcoin for their own financial benefit; however, this is not the case for Monero developer Riccardo Spagni.
Spagni holds a relatively pragmatic view on altcoins. The Monero developer has told individuals with limited funds to not buy the altcoin. In fact, he has stated, “The most likely scenario is that Monero fails entirely.”
Many people refer to altcoins as casinos and testnets. When asked for his opinion on this description of the altcoin market, Spagni said:
“The majority are outright scams. There’s no mincing words with this, and I think it’s absolutely disgusting. From obvious premined or instamined scams, to the more subtle mining scams that attempt to hide the premine from block explorers, there are a lot of scams meant to outrightly enrich the creators.”
In addition to the scams in the altcoin market, Spagni also sees Bitcoin clones, “corporate coins” (which are altcoins that have raised funds from investors), and a small number of coins that have something unique to offer. When it comes to those altcoins offering something useful or unique, Spagni claimed, “To fall into that last category is really hard. I’m not even sure Monero falls into it, although I do hope that it can get there.”
In Spagni’s view, the general lack of interest in altcoins and the security issues related to low-hashrate networks are the two main issues with any altcoin right now. Spagni explained:
“Seriously — any of the altcoins with an actual useful feature (like Monero, of course) are plagued by a general lack of interest, and a basically insecure hashing network. A sustained attack against Monero’s proof-of-work network would be expensive, but not expensive enough to stop a motivated attacker. Similarly, with only several hundred high capacity nodes scattered around the world, the cost of an isolation attack against end-user nodes is much lower than with Bitcoin.” – Kyle Torpey
PRIVACY / SECURITY / INTERNET
Privacy in Bitcoin
In terms of privacy and fungibility in Bitcoin, Riccardo Spagni of Monero did have some positive things to say about CoinJoin. He pointed out JoinMarket as a particularly fantastic project, but he added:
“The downside to anything like JoinMarket is that it can’t make Bitcoin fungible — no privacy measures can, unless in the protocol and mandatory for every transaction. But the game theoretic dynamics that come into play with something like this are hard to predict and model — maybe the concept of ‘taint’ will be significantly harder to track if JoinMarket and similar systems become commonplace, and then Bitcoin will be ‘fungible enough,’ until it isn’t.”
Blockstream’s Andrew Poelstra recently talked about how Confidential Transactions can improve the effectiveness of CoinJoin at the 2016 MIT Bitcoin Expo, but it’s unclear if or when these two features will be implemented at the protocol level. – Kyle Torpey
COMPANIES / PROJECTS / PRODUCTS
Self-Driving Car Startup Fights to Beat Tesla and Google
We want to ship a product by the end of the year that people will be able to install in their own cars and it will give them more self-driving capability than the Tesla today. – George Hotz
George Hotz’s pitch is that he can build self-driving car algorithms faster and better than any carmaker or even Google.
“Google is going to ship by the end of 2020? We’re actually making this stuff work,” said Hotz, who’s wearing jeans and a black hoodie with a large white comma on the front for his new company, Comma.ai.
Since he revealed his ambitions in a Bloomberg Businessweek article published last December, Hotz has attracted plenty of attention. The CEOs of Delphi, a major auto parts supplier, and Nvidia, maker of graphics processing units, have paid visits to his basement office at the “Crypto Castle,” a three-story house located in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood and occupied by some of the city’s Bitcoin entrepreneurs.
He’s generated enough excitement to score an unannounced seed investment from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz that values Hotz’s tiny, fledgling company at $20 million, according to sources.
Hotz began Comma last October and he’s well past the lone-hacker-in-the-basement stage. Yunus Saatchi, who has a PhD from the University of Cambridge in artificial intelligence, has joined as chief machine learning officer. Saatchi was a colleague of Hotz’s at Vicarious, a San Francisco-based AI startup with $72 million in financing from investors like Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
Jake Smith, a roommate of Hotz’s in the Crypto Castle who is involved in the Bitcoin community, is head of operations. And Elizabeth Stark, another prominent fixture in the Bitcoin startup world, is Comma’s legal advisor. (They’re all wearing Comma.ai shirts when I meet them.) Hotz plans to hire around eight people total in the coming three months. He’s looking for people in machine learning and consumer hardware.
Hotz is also starting work on what will become the company’s first product — a self-driving kit that car owners will be able to purchase directly from Comma to equip their vehicles with autonomous driving capabilities. He hasn’t come close to working out the details of what this product will ultimately look like, but he said it might be a dash cam that plugs into the on-board diagnostics 2 port, which gives access to the car’s internal systems and is found in most cars made after 1996. It will provide cars with ADAS features, like lane-keeping assistance and emergency breaking.
“We believe our killer app is traffic,” Hotz said. “Humans are bad at traffic. We can make something that drives super-humanly smooth through traffic.”
Hotz said he won’t be able to turn every car into a semi-autonomous vehicle. At a minimum, the car will have to have anti-locking brakes and power steering. He’s hoping Comma’s product will work most with the five top-selling cars in the United States. – Aaron Tilley
Dubai to Host Futuristic Olympics in Dec 2017
Following the World Drone Prix in Dubai this weekend, which saw a 15-year-old British kid take home the top $250,000 prize, the gulf state has unveiled plans to hold a futuristic Olympics every two years starting in 2017.
It is billed to feature nine competitions, including driverless car racing, robotic soccer, robotic running, manned drones racing, robotic swimming, robotic table tennis, robotic wrestling, drone races and a cybathlon event for bionic athletes. – Kirsty Styles
$3bill of Artificial Intelligence R&D Planned in South Korea
After what has been dubbed the ‘AlphaGo shock’, South Korea is getting serious about artificial intelligence
South Korea, well known for its IT infrastructure, is promising 3.5 trillion won ($3 billion) in funding from the public and private sectors to develop artificial intelligence for corporate and university AI projects.
South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye assembled leaders across the country’s tech industry and senior government officials in Seoul last week to announce plans to invest the amount over the next five years.
It appears to be largely a reaction to the phenomenal performance of Google’s algorithm AlphaGo in an historic AI-versus-human game in Seoul earlier this month, which captured the South Korean media’s imagination.
“Above all, Korean society is ironically lucky, that thanks to the ‘AlphaGo shock’ we have learned the importance of AI before it is too late,” the president told local reporters assembled for the meeting, describing the game as a watershed moment of an imminent “fourth industrial revolution”.
South Korea will establish a new high-profile, public/private research centre with participation from several Korean conglomerates, including Samsung, LG, telecom giant KT, SK Telecom, Hyundai Motor, and internet portal Naver.
The institute was reportedly already in the works, but AlphaGo’s domination quickened the process of setting up the grouping. Some Korean media reports indicate that the institute could open its doors as early as 2017.
South Korea already funds two high-profile AI projects — Exobrain, which is intended to compete with IBM’s Watson computer, and Deep View, a computer vision project. – Philip Iglauer
Things Are Progressing So Amazingly Fast
If I compare AI to what it was like when I first learned about it in 1971 or 1972 when I was a kid, it’s astounding what we can do now.
Self-driving cars on the streets, every game no matter how hard has master level AI players, major funds are trading billions of dollars using AIs, diseases diagnosed by editing genomes according to patterns determined by AIs. It’s incredible. I look at the news everyday and it reads like science fiction did when I was a kid. – Ben Goertzel
“A Hundred Years Before A Computer Beats Humans at Go”
Go fans proudly note, a computer has not come close to mastering what remains a uniquely human game.
To play a decent game of Go, a computer must be endowed with the ability to recognize subtle, complex patterns and to draw on the kind of intuitive knowledge that is the hallmark of human intelligence.
”It may be a hundred years before a computer beats humans at Go — maybe even longer,” said Dr. Piet Hut, an astrophysicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., and a fan of the game. ”If a reasonably intelligent person learned to play Go, in a few months he could beat all existing computer programs. You don’t have to be a Kasparov.”
When or if a computer defeats a human Go champion, it will be a sign that artificial intelligence is truly beginning to become as good as the real thing. – The New York Times, July 1997
In Two Moves, AlphaGo and Lee Sedol Redefined the Future
In Game Two, the Google machine made a move that no human ever would. And it was beautiful. As the world looked on, the move so perfectly demonstrated the enormously powerful and rather mysterious talents of modern artificial intelligence.
But in Game Four, the human made a move that no machine would ever expect. And it was beautiful too. Indeed, it was just as beautiful as the move from the Google machine—no less and no more. It showed that although machines are now capable of moments of genius, humans have hardly lost the ability to generate their own transcendent moments. And it seems that in the years to come, as we humans work with these machines, our genius will only grow in tandem with our creations.
With the 37th move in the match’s second game, AlphaGo landed a surprise on the right-hand side of the 19-by-19 board that flummoxed even the world’s best Go players, including Lee Sedol. “That’s a very strange move,” said one commentator, himself a nine dan Go player, the highest rank there is. “I thought it was a mistake,” said the other.
Lee Sedol, after leaving the match room, took nearly fifteen minutes to formulate a response. Fan Gui—the three-time European Go champion who played AlphaGo during a closed-door match in October, losing five games to none—reacted with incredulity. But then, drawing on his experience with AlphaGo—he has played the machine time and again in the five months since October—Fan Hui saw the beauty in this rather unusual move.
AlphaGo had calculated that there was a one-in-ten-thousand chance that a human would make that move. But when it drew on all the knowledge it had accumulated by playing itself so many times—and looked ahead in the future of the game—it decided to make the move anyway. And the move was genius.
In Game Four, Lee Sedol was intent on regaining some pride for himself and the tens of millions who watched the match across the globe. But midway through the game, the Korean’s prospects didn’t look good. “Lee Sedol needs to do something special,” said one commentator. “Otherwise, it’s just not going to be enough.” But after considering his next move for a good 30 minutes, he delivered something special. It was Move 78, a “wedge” play in the middle of the board, and it immediately turned the game around.
As we found out after the game, AlphaGo made a disastrous play with its very next move, and just minutes later, after analyzing the board position, the machine determined that its chances of winning had suddenly fallen off a cliff.
Commentator and nine dan Go player Michael Redmond called Lee Sedol’s move brilliant: “It took me by surprise. I’m sure that it would take most opponents by surprise. I think it took AlphaGo by surprise.”
Among Go players, the move was dubbed “God’s Touch.” It was high praise indeed. But then the higher praise came from AlphaGo.
One in Ten Thousand – Again
The next morning, as he walked down the main boulevard in Sejong Daero just down the street from the Four Seasons, I discussed the move with Demis Hassabis, who oversees the DeepMind Lab and was very much the face of AlphaGo during the seven-day match. As we walked, the passers-by treated him like a celebrity—and indeed he was, after appearing in countless newspapers and on so many TV news shows. Here in Korea, where more than 8 million people play the game of Go, Lee Sedol is a national figure.
Hassabis told me that AlphaGo was unprepared for Lee Sedol’s Move 78 because it didn’t think that a human would ever play it. Drawing on its months and months of training, it decided there was a one-in-ten-thousand chance of that happening. In the other words: exactly the same tiny chance that a human would have played AlphaGo’s Move 37 in Game Two.
The symmetry of these two moves is more beautiful than anything else. One-in-ten-thousand and one-in-ten-thousand. This is what we should all take away from these astounding seven days. Hassabis and Silver and their fellow researchers have built a machine capable of something super-human. But think about what happens when you put these two things together. Human and machine. Fan Hui will tell you that after five months of playing match after match with AlphaGo, he sees the game completely differently. His world ranking has skyrocketed. And apparently, Lee Sedol feels the same way. Hassabis says that he and the Korean met after Game Four, and that Lee Sedol echoed the words of Fan Hui. Just these few matches with AlphaGo, the Korean told Hassabis, have opened his eyes.
This isn’t human versus machine. It’s human and machine. Move 37 was beyond what any of us could fathom. But then came Move 78. And we have to ask: If Lee Sedol hadn’t played those first three games against AlphaGo, would he have found God’s Touch? The machine that defeated him had also helped him find the way. – Cade Metz
Quantum Mechanics is So Weird That Scientists Need AI to Choose the Experiments
Researchers at the University of Vienna have created an algorithm that helps plan experiments in this mind-boggling field.
Quantum mechanics is one of the weirdest fields in science. Even physicists find it tough to wrap their heads around it. As Michael Merrifeld of the University of Nottingham says, “If it doesn’t confuse you, that really just tells you that you haven’t understood it.”
This makes designing experiments very tricky. However, these experiments are vital if we want to develop quantum computing and cryptography. So a team of researchers decided, since the human mind has such a hard time with quantum science, that maybe a “brain” without human preconceptions would be better at designing the experiments.
Melvin, an algorithm designed by Anton Zeilinger and his team at the University of Vienna, has proven this to be the case. The research has been published in the journal Physical Review Letters.
The concept was dreamed up by doctoral student Mario Krenn, who was trying to design a particular experiment by putting together lasers and mirrors, in such a way that would lead to a specific quantum state.
This experiment designed by Melvin produces entangled photons (Mario Krenn/University of Vienna.)
Melvin works by taking the building blocks of a quantum experiment (the aforementioned lasers and mirrors) and the quantum state desired as an outcome and running through different setups at random. If the random setup results in the desired outcome, Melvin will simplify it. It can also learn from experience, remembering which configurations result in which outcomes, so it can use those and build on them as needed.
So far, the team says, it has devised experiments that humans were unlikely to have conceived. Some that work in ways that are difficult to understand. They look very different from human-devised experiments.
“I still find it quite difficult to understand intuitively what exactly is going on,” said Krenn. – Michelle Starr
Ageing Research Picks Up Speed
It’s an exciting time to be working in ageing research. New findings are coming thick and fast, and although eliminating the process in humans is still some way away, studies regularly confirm what some have suspected for decades: that the mechanisms of ageing can be treated.
“It’s an amazingly gratifying field to be part of,” says biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, chief science officer and founder of SENS Research Foundation, the leading organisation tackling ageing. “It moves on almost every week at the moment.”
At the start of February, for example, a study was published that had hugely significant findings for the field.
“There was a big announcement in Nature showing that if you eliminate a certain type of cell from mice, then they live quite a bit longer,” says de Grey. “Even if you do that elimination rather late; in other words when they’re already in middle age.”
For those following the field, this was exciting news, but for de Grey, it was concrete proof that ageing can be combated.
“That’s the kind of thing that I’ve been promoting for a long time, and it’s been coming but it’s been pretty tricky to actually demonstrate directly. This was really completely unequivocal proof of concept,” he says. “So of course it motivates lots of work to identify ways to do the same thing in human beings. These kinds of things are happening all the time now.” – Lucy Ingham
Surge in Private Funding as Perceptions of Ageing Changes
Funding for ageing research is forever in short supply. SENS is always asking for donations, and there is always more research to be done than there is money to fund it.
“We do our best with the very limited funding we have, obviously, and some of our work is done in-house: we have our own laboratory in Mountain View, California, where we do two of our major projects, but most of our work is done in university laboratories, mostly in the US, but there’s also one group outside Cambridge [UK] at the Babraham Institute,” de Grey says.
“We’ve got certainly quite a long list of researchers that we feel have the potential to do extremely valuable work, and it’s a great source of frustration to us that we can’t fund them all.”
However, this is starting to improve, both for SENS and for other institutions engaging in this field of research.
In particular, the investment community has shown growing interest in ageing research. February’s breakthrough findings were funded by private investors, and SENS, too, is spinning out some of its research into companies.
“Over the past year we’ve actually spun out a few companies, a few startups that have been able to attract investment from people who prefer to invest rather than donate,” he says.
The growing involvement of private investors is, according to de Grey, evidence of the changing perceptions of ageing research.
“Not only is the science moving forward, but the appreciation of the science within the investor community is also moving forward,” he says. “And that is absolutely critical to what we can expect to see in the future.”
For de Grey, there are two drivers of this growing appreciation.
“Number one is that the general idea that ageing [in] mice in the foreseeable future be brought under a fair degree of medical control; that has become much more mainstream,” he says.
“The second thing is that within that kind of concept, the specific idea of reversing ageing by repairing the damage that accumulates throughout life, which is of course the focus of my work, that itself has also become much more mainstream, much more accepted as a realistic option.” – Lucy Ingham
Aubrey de Grey’s Predictions for Ending Ageing
Throughout his career, de Grey has been asked to make predictions as to when ageing research will mature to the extent where it can be used to significantly extend human lives. And so far, the answers he has given have not been fully matched by reality.
“If I look back at the kinds of predictions of timeframes that I’ve given in the past, it doesn’t look too good at first, because in the ten years that I’ve been making predictions, I would say that my predictions have only gone down by about three years,” he says.
However, there is a significant reason for this: money. And with growing investment and support, this is a problem that is starting to diminish.
“My predictions were always contingent on the availability of adequate funding, which certainly has not been forthcoming,” de Grey says. “And of course what we’re talking about here is that that is changing. It’s becoming more adequate every day, which means that we’re likely to be starting to catch up.”
As a result, de Grey is able to stick to previous claims about how long we’ll have to wait for ageing to be eliminated, instead of pushing the endgame further and further into the future.
“I think that I can still stick to the kinds of timeframes that I was saying in the past, which are basically that we’ve got maybe 20-25 years to wait before we really get all of this in place, even the really most difficult parts of it, to a point where we can really talk about having comprehensive medical control of ageing in humans,” he says.
“Of course even then it’s only a 50/50 guess; there’s at least a 10% chance that we’ll hit a whole bunch of problems that we don’t know about yet, and we won’t get there for 100 years. But a 50% chance is quite enough to be worth fighting for, so that’s not a problem.”
While there is a chance unforeseen issues could dramatically delay the research, there is also the possibility that a breakthrough could rapidly advance it, in the same way that induced pluripotent stem cells or the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system have done for other fields of biology.
“I’m hoping that we will make serendipitous discoveries that allow things to be done more easily,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that does happen in biology, after all.” – Lucy Ingham
Incredible Things Are Happening
Each year is more exciting than the last in the research areas I’m involved in. AI, Robotics, Longevity, Biology… all over the place we’re just seeing new things happening year after year.
The number of breakthrough reports in longevity research in the last few months is incredible. This last year everyone is using CRISPR all of a sudden for gene editing. We see that you’re now able to make mice live much longer than they otherwise would have simply by making them flush out old senescent cells. There’s incredible things happening all around. – Ben Goertzel
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