Sunday 24th April

BITCOIN

bitcoin_logo_flat_coin_star_bl_by_carbonism-d3h7bxh

1 Bitcoin = $458

 

Bitcoin and the Rise of the Cypherpunks

The cryptocurrency space is fast evolving. While many of the innovations in the space are new, they’re built on decades of work that led to this point.

By tracing this history, we can understand the motivations behind the movement that spawned bitcoin and share its vision for the future: Bitcoin and the Rise of the Cypherpunks

– Jameson Lopp

 

The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age

This was written in 1997. Eleven years later, in 2008, bitcoin was born. – Manuel Araoz

“Cybercash: Now the advent of the information age implies another revolution in the character of money. As cybercommerce begins, it will lead inevitably to cybermoney.

This new form of money will reset the odds, reducing the capacity of the world’s nation-states to determine who becomes a Sovereign Individual.

A crucial part of this change will come about because of the effect of information technology in liberating the holders of wealth from expropriation through inflation. Soon, you will pay for almost any transaction over the Net or World Wide Web at the same time you place it, using cybercash.

This new digital form of money is destined to play a pivotal role in cybercommerce.

It will consist of encrypted sequences of multihundred-digit prime numbers. Unique, anonymous, and verifiable, this money will accommodate the largest transactions.

It will also be divisible in to the tiniest fraction of value. It will be tradable at a keystroke in a multitrillion-dollar wholesale market without borders.”  – The Sovereign Individual, James Dale Davidson & Lord William Rees Mogg, 1997

 

The Most Far-Reaching Economic Transformation Ever

Bitcoin enabled stage 3 of the evolution in The Sovereign Individual. Glad to be part. – Manuel Araoz

Stage 3: A more advanced stage will mark the transition to true cybercommerce. Not only will transactions occur over the Net, but they will migrate outside the jurisdiction of nation-states.

Payments will be rendered in cyber-currency. Profits will be booked in cyberbanks. Investments will be made in cyberbrokerages. Many transactions will not be subject to taxation.

At this stage, cybercommerce will begin to have significant megapolitical consequences of the kind we have already outlined. The powers of government over traditional areas of the economy will be transformed by the new logic of the Net.

Extraterritorial regulatory power will collapse. Jurisdictions will devolve. The structure of firms will change, and so will the nature of work and employment.

This outline of the stages of the Information Revolution is only the barest sketch of what could be the most far-reaching economic transformation ever. – The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age James Dale Davidson & Lord William Rees Mogg, 1997

 

Hal Finney’s Optimistic View

I recommend that every Bitcoin enthusiast reads Satoshi’s original announcement email thread in its entirety: Bitcoin P2P e-cash paper, Satohsi Nakamoto, 2008

Analyze the tone and viewpoints of the respondents. The very first response: “your system doesn’t scale.”

Second response: “honest nodes won’t control the network. Bad guys with zombie farms will take it over.”

Eventually, along comes Hal Finney, who takes an optimistic view: Re: Bitcoin P2P e-cash paper, Hal Finney, 2008

Hal went on to become the second miner after Satoshi, received the first bitcoin transaction, & reported several bugs that Satoshi fixed. Years later, Hal reflected back upon the early days of Bitcoin: Bitcoin and Me, Hal Finney, 2013

I mention all of this today because I’m observing more Bitcoin community members acting like the first respondents to Satoshi. My request to Bitcoin enthusiasts discussing proposals to improve the system is that you first ask yourself: “What would Hal do?” – Jameson Lopp

 

 

MINING

Two Venezuelan Men Arrested for Mining Bitcoin

A report by Notitarde, a publication based out of Valencia, Venezuela and a daily newspaper in the country has revealed that Augusto Padrón Celis (31) and Jose Eleazar Perales Gonzalez (46) were arrested by a group of troops from the Bolivarian Intelligence Service in an industrial zone in Valencia, where they were mining bitcoin.

With the arrests, authorities also seized mining machines as well as four laptops.

Earlier, an article was published on a state-owned media outlet in Venezuela, one which summed up bitcoin as a currency used by criminals and terrorist groups.

The two bitcoin miners are awaiting prosecution at Tribunal Séptimo de Control, or the Seventh Control Court in Carabobo. – Samburaj Das

 

Bitcoin Mining Giant Invests $1.6 Million in Trading Platform

Beijing-based mining giant Bitmain has invested $1.6m in bitcoin-focused data and trading services provider BitKan.

Bitmain was the sole investor in the Series A round, which follows an angel round investment from Lanqi Venture Capital Investment last November. Based in Shenzhen, BitKan offers bitcoin data and pricing services, and recently launched an over-the-counter (OTC) bitcoin trading service.

In addition to manufacturing mining hardware, Bitmain also operates Antpool, the world’s largest bitcoin mining pool at press time with 28% of the network’s hashrate.

The investment finds Bitmain becoming increasingly willing to invest its funds in the wider bitcoin ecosystem, following its participation in a March funding round for smart contract platform Rootstock and its February investment in Israeli payments service Simplex. – Pete Rizzo

 

 

ALTCOINS

Cypherpunk Innovations from Monero

  • Monero’s invention of RingCT, which allows for Greg Maxwell’s Confidential Transactions scheme to work with Monero’s ring signatures, effectively hiding all amounts in Monero transactions
  • Monero’s very recent hard fork, which implemented the findings and recommendations of the Monero Research Lab’s MRL-0004 research bulletin, and vastly improves many of the privacy failures of the original CryptoNote protocol
  • Monero’s hard work on Kovri, a C++ i2p implementation that will hide the originating IP address of transactions on the Monero network.

fluffypony, Monero Developer

 

 

PRIVACY / SECURITY / INTERNET

Crypto-Anarchy Spreads

Andy Greenberg: Reporter talking to Panama Papers source used tools “like” Threema, Signal, PGP, switching often & deleting history: How Reporters Pulled Off the Panama Papers, The Biggest Leak in Whistleblower History

Michael Goldstein: Crypto-anarchy is already super popular among the elites. Join the fun today! Starter kit: Bitcoin, GPG, Tor, Signal.

 

Cypherpunks and The Crypto Wars 2.0

In late 1992, Eric Hughes, Timothy C May, and John Gilmore founded a small group that met monthly at Gilmore’s company Cygnus Solutions in the San Francisco Bay Area. The group was humorously termed “cypherpunks” as a derivation of “cipher” and “cyberpunk.”

The Cypherpunks mailing list was formed at about the same time, and just a few months later, Eric Hughes published “A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto“.

Cypherpunks believe that privacy is a fundamental human right, including privacy from governments. They understand that the weakening of a system’s security for any reason, including access by “trusted authorities”, makes the system insecure for everyone who uses it.

Some notable Cypherpunks and their achievements:

    • Jacob Appelbaum: Tor developer
    • Julian Assange: Founder of WikiLeaks
    • Dr Adam Back: Inventor of Hashcash, co-founder of Blockstream
    • Bram Cohen: Creator of BitTorrent
    • Hal Finney: Main author of PGP 2.0, creator of Reusable Proof of Work
    • Tim Hudson: Co-author of SSLeay, the precursor to OpenSSL
    • Paul Kocher: Co-author of SSL 3.0
    • Moxie Marlinspike: Founder of Open Whisper Systems (developer of Signal)
    • Steven Schear: Creator of the concept of the “warrant canary”
    • Bruce Schneier: Well-known security author
    • Zooko Wilcox-O’Hearn: DigiCash developer, Founder of Zcash
    • Philip Zimmermann: Creator of PGP 1.0

Cypherpunks write code. They know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and thus they take up the task. They publish their code so that fellow Cypherpunks may learn from it, attack it and improve upon it.

Their code is free for anyone to use. Cypherpunks don’t care if you don’t approve of the software they write. They know that software can’t be destroyed and that widely dispersed systems can’t be shut down.

We have entered a phase that many are calling The Crypto Wars 2.0. Although the Cypherpunks emerged victorious from the first Crypto Wars, we cannot afford to rest upon our laurels. There are many battles left to be fought in the Crypto Wars; take up your keyboards and let us proceed together apace. – Jameson Lopp

 

Confidential Transactions

While there are still many privacy concerns for cryptocurrency users, the future is bright due to the ongoing work of Cypherpunks.

The next leap forward in privacy will involve the use of zero-knowledge proofs, which were first proposed in 1985 in order to broaden the potential applications of cryptographic protocols.

Originally proposed by Dr Back in 2013 as “bitcoins with homomorphic value”, Maxwell has been working on Confidential Transactions, which use zero-knowledge range proofs to enable the creation of bitcoin transactions in which the values are hidden from everyone except the transaction participants.

This is a great improvement on its own, but when you combine Confidential Transactions with CoinJoin then you can build a mixing service that severs any links between transaction inputs and outputs.

When Maxwell presented Sidechain Elements at the San Francisco Bitcoin Devs meetup, I recall him saying “One of the greatest regrets held by the greybeards at the IETF is that the Internet was not built with encryption as the default method of transmitting data.”

Maxwell clearly feels the same way about privacy in bitcoin and wishes that we had Confidential Transactions from the very beginning. We have already seen Blockstream implement confidential transactions within the Liquid sidechain in order to mask transfers between exchanges.

We also recently saw Maxwell conduct the first successful zero-knowledge contingent payment on the bitcoin network. ZKCP is a transaction protocol that allows a buyer to purchase information from a seller using bitcoin in a trustless manner.

The purchased information is only transferred if the payment is made, and it is guaranteed to be transferred if the payment is made. The buyer and seller do not need to trust each other or depend on arbitration by a third party. – Jameson Lopp

 

 

MARKETS

Frontier Markets: Stock Exchange Opens in Myanmar

MYANMAR-STOCKS

Myanmar business school students view the electronic board display during a visit to the Yangon Stock Exchange.

After a delay of more than 20 years, Myanmar’s stock exchange opened for its first day of business, with the trading of a single company.

First Myanmar Investment Co., a conglomerate controlled by businessman Serge Pun, made its stock debut in Yangon. The stock climbed 19 percent, according to the stock exchange’s website.

First Myanmar, Myanmar Citizens Bank and Myanmar Thilawa SEZ are among the initial batch of six companies approved for listing.

As Myanmar emerges from economic isolation, it will need $80 billion of power, transport, and technology projects through 2030 to modernize its economy, according to the Asian Development Bank. Buoyed by a flood of foreign direct investment, the ADB estimates the economy expanded about 8.3 percent last year and will grow nearly the same pace in 2016.

“There are a lot of international investors looking at Myanmar right now but they were so far frustrated not to have the ability to invest in Myanmar equities with the exception of some stocks listed somewhere else,” said Thomas Hugger, chief executive officer at Hong Kong-based Asia Frontier Capital Ltd., which oversees about $40 million of assets. “This is changing now finally.” – Anuchit Nguyen and Kyaw Thu

 

Average 20-Year Returns When Stocks Hit 20x or 10x P/E Ratios

I recently discussed the effect of stock valuations on future long-term returns.

I believe in long-term investing. I do think that you should buy quality investments and hold them long-term. However, what Wall Street, and many financial advisors miss, is the most important point of this argument which is ‘at the right valuation.’

Valuation, what you pay for an investment, is the single biggest determinant of future returns.

According to Dr. Roberts Shiller’s data, the Cyclically Adjusted P/E Ratio is currently hovering around 24x earnings. It is here that the problem for long-term investors currently resides.

The chart below shows the average real (inflation-adjusted) 20-year returns of a $1000 investment made when P/E ratios first hit 20x or 10x earnings.”

Average real 20-year returns of a $1000 investment made when P/E ratios first hit 20x or 10x earnings.

As you can see, valuations make a huge difference. – Lance Roberts

 

 

COMPANIES / PROJECTS / PRODUCTS

Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft’s HoloLens Can Turn Your Room Into A Mixed Reality Desktop. Place your desktop, apps, and windows wherever you want.

 

 

SpaceX Nails Historic At-Sea Rocket Landing

 

 

Tesla Model 3 Launch: The Big Bang Moment for Electric Cars

The highest single-day sales of any product of any kind ever in world history. – Tesla

The first week rolled in 325,000 reservations, which corresponds to about $14 billion in implied future sales, making this the single biggest one-week launch of any product ever. – The Tesla Team

That massive number, which far exceeded optimistic forecasts, upends traditional thinking about how to sell cars and is expected to spur the auto industry to shift more dramatically to market electric technology to consumers, analysts said. – Brian Fung and Matt McFarland

Elon Musk confirmed being surprised by the number of reservations and that he was only expecting half as many or even just one-fourth. – Fred Lambert

We’ve never seen anything quite like this in the auto industry. It is unprecedented.  – Jessica Caldwell

“How is Elon Musk going to make all those Tesl…” *breaking news* “Elon Musk lands rocket on floating autonomous platform” – Louis Anslow

 

The Tesla Model 3: Mission Accomplished in 2017 for Tesla?

Tesla’s end goal, and the company’s official mission, “to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.”

Step 1: High-priced, low-volume car for the super rich. Come out with the expensive first product, but make the car so fancy that it’s worth that price—i.e. just make it a legit Ferrari competitor and then it’s okay to charge over $100,000 for it.

Step 2: Mid-priced, mid-volume car for the pretty rich. Use the profits from Step 1 to develop the Step 2 car. It would still be expensive, but more like a $75,000 Mercedes or BMW competitor instead of Ferrari.

Step 3: Low-priced, high-volume car for the masses. Use the profits from Step 2 to develop a $35,000-ish car that, after the government’s $7,500 EV tax credit and the savings on gas, would be affordable to the middle class.

pyramid2

Tesla seems to only have one issue left:

Who the hell can afford a $75,000 car? 

It’s a rule of thumb in the car world that every $5,000 decrease in car price approximately doubles the number of buyers who can afford the car.

So if Tesla can somehow come out with a stellar EV for about $35,000 less than the Model S, it would double the buyer pool 7 times, or multiply it by 125-fold. Which would now mean most people could afford it.

So Step 3 is what this is all about. Step 3 is why Tesla exists and if Tesla ends up changing the world, it’ll be because of Step 3.

That car is the Model 3, and it’s coming out in 2017. Supposedly. And it’ll cost $35,000—$27,500 after the tax credit, and after taking gas savings into account, under $20,000. Supposedly.

It’s the Model 3 that will turn the industry on its head. You may not know much about Tesla today—or particularly care—but I’m pretty sure everyone will know about the Model 3 soon. Maybe that’s why Musk refuses to do any advertising—because he knows that when the Model 3 comes out, he won’t have to. – Tim Urban, June 2015

 

George Hotz Scores $3.1m Investment for Self-Driving Car Startup Comma.ai

Comma hopes to sell road-worthy consumers car-automation ‘conversion kits’ for less than $1,000

Comma, has received $3.1m from well-known investment firm Andreessen Horowitz to make conversion kits that turn normal cars into semi-self-driving cars. Hotz plans to start selling these by the end of the year for Honda, Acura and potentially other brands.

For many consumers, automated vehicles still feel like science fiction and the province of giant research labs at Google, Uber and General Motors (GM). But there’s increasing evidence that many drivers’ first interaction with a self-driving vehicle will be one engineered by a small startup. Some of these companies are making automated public shuttles, or exploring ways to make existing cars autonomous in certain circumstances.

“We are going to win self-driving cars,” Hotz said in a recent interview. “The bar is low.”

That might seem like bold talk from a twentysomething who quit his day job at an artificial intelligence company last summer. But Hotz isn’t shy of attention. He recently challenged Tesla founder Elon Musk to a race to build the first vehicle that can navigate San Francisco’s tourist-packed Golden Gate Bridge on its own.

“I think we can maybe build better self-driving cars,” Hotz says. “He can build a better rocket.”

George Hotz’s Elon Musk dartboard (Photo credit: Chad McClymonds)

When asked what he would do with his new venture funds, Hotz said he would focus on hiring the best machine-learning programmers he could find. “Who I really want to hire is 20 more copies of me,” he says.

In December, Hotz made a name for himself when he showed Bloomberg Businessweek how he made an Acura drive itself down the highway. Hotz had hacked the car’s onboard computer. He then added a camera and a radar. Suddenly, the vehicle was cruising down Bay Area freeways as Hotz sat in the driver seat, his hands not on the steering wheel.

By the end of the year, Comma wants to sell consumers car-automation conversion kits for less than $1,000. Hotz is tight-lipped about what those will involve, but they will at least require some sort of alterations to a car’s onboard computer and hardware for the car to determine what’s going on around it.

Car automation has become increasingly democratized as much of the hardware behind the technology has fallen in price and the machine-learning techniques have been open-sourced. – Danny Yadron

 

OpenBazaar Full Launch

Michael Z: Completed my first sale on Open Bazaar (an Oculus Rift dev kit, no less) — direct payment, zero fees!

Antonis Polemitis: Future is here, unevenly distributed: Selling VR gear on a decentralized marketplace with a decentralized currency

OpenBazaar 150

“OpenBazaar is a peer-to-peer social market. It’s like combining eBay™, Twitter™ and BitTorrent into one. Only, there are no fees or restrictions and OpenBazaar is open-source.” – Open Bazaar

The wait for the bitcoin tailored marketplace, OpenBazaar is finally over. The highly anticipated, decentralized marketplace has launched in it’s final, full version, with real stores across the globe accepting real bitcoins for goods, data, and services.

Within a few hours of opening over 6,000 people had downloaded the client software, and 2,100 of them had set up profiles within the peer-to-peer system.

“The reaction has been insane. All we did was release a blog post and a single tweet.” Sam Patterson, Operations Lead for OB1 told Brave New Coin. “People really want this, which is so wonderful to see. We’re very happy with the community’s strong response so far and hope to see many more in the days and weeks to come.”

Despite over two years of development, the community is still excited about the core mission of OpenBazaar, and it’s unique role on the web as the first truly free and global marketplace that can’t be shut down.

Products from foods to jewelry to electronics can be found simply by typing keywords into the navigation bar at the top of the application.

Getting into OpenBazaar for the first time is easy. The program is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux clients already, and the 51MB linux or 83MB windows installer file starts automatically when you arrive on the download page. After running the program to install it, and logging in for the first time, you’ll want to go to the Settings menu and set options like your name, bitcoin address, stylize your page, turn on notification emails, NSFW settings, perhaps write a word or two for people that may stop by your profile, and of course add a profile pic. – Luke Parker

 

 

LEARNING / EDUCATION

Understanding and Making Plans for the Future

Amit Aujla: What’s the most important or influential book you’ve read?

Peter Thiel: The Sovereign Individual (Touchstone, 1997), by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg, is an unusual book that I read at a singular moment, just before starting PayPal. A lot of thinking about technology oscillates between two extremes: It’s either a big historical force acting over the long term or it’s a matter of short-term trends to bet on. The Sovereign Individual is different because it takes foresight seriously: If you think hard, you can understand and make plans for a future lasting 10, 20 years or more–and that’s how you have to think to be successful.

 

 

PLACES

Experience Las Vegas in Virtual Reality

Immerse yourself in the Vegas experience. From can’t-miss attractions and sites to A-list restaurants, stunning suites and a sunset helicopter tour, the Vegas VR app drops you into the middle of a dozen 360-degree only-in-Vegas scenes. Find out why people from around the world meet here. – Vegas VR App

 

Japan: VR Zone, Tokyo Plaza

* Bandai Namco has opened a dedicated space in Tokyo with its own unique HTC Vive-powered experiences.

* 4,900 yen ($45) all-in to try everything. The kitten-rescuing game is 1,000 yen ($9)

* VR Zone is a solid introduction to virtual reality.

Appropriately enough for a virtual reality showcase, VR Zone is located in the least natural part of Tokyo — the artificial island of Odaiba, which plays host to shopping malls, a ferris wheel, and a fake Statue of Liberty.

The arcade is an expansive area with six main attractions, the clear highlight of which is a game that simulates rescuing a kitten from a plank of wood sticking out from the top of a skyscraper. Its Japanese name translates to “Acrophobia Show,” and Bandai Namco isn’t kidding — this was, to be frank, really scary.

I’ve used the HTC Vive before and am familiar with how walking around in its environments usually works, but Bandai Namco has rigged this cat-saving experience for maximum terror.

When I did manage to get to the end of the plank and feel the furry cat facsimile in my hands, there was a level of joy and relief unlike any other experience I’ve had in VR, or video games in general. And then I had to walk backward along the plank to return the kitten to its mother without plummeting to our doom.

It’s a simple tech demo, but that’s really the point —€” as a demonstration of the sort of thing that would be completely inconceivable without VR, Acrophobia Show is about as good as it gets. – Sam Byford

 

 

THE SINGULARITY

AI Hits the Mainstream

Insurance, finance, manufacturing, oil and gas, auto manufacturing, health care: these may not be the industries that first spring to mind when you think of artificial intelligence. But as technology companies like Google and Baidu build labs and pioneer advances in the field, a broader group of industries are beginning to investigate how AI can work for them, too.

Today the industry selling AI software and services remains a small one. Dave Schubmehl, research director at IDC, calculates that sales for all companies selling cognitive software platforms —excluding companies like Google and Facebook, which do research for their own use—added up to $1 billion last year.

He predicts that by 2020 that number will exceed $10 billion. Other than a few large players like IBM and Palantir Technologies, AI remains a market of startups: 2,600 companies, by Bloomberg’s count.

General Electric is using AI to improve service on its highly engineered jet engines. By combining a form of AI called computer vision (originally developed to categorize movies and TV footage when GE owned NBC Universal) with CAD drawings and data from cameras and infrared detectors, GE has improved its detection of cracks and other problems in airplane engine blades.

The system eliminates errors common to traditional human reviews, such as a dip in detections on Fridays and Mondays, but also relies on human experts to confirm its alerts. The program then learns from that feedback, says Colin Parris, GE’s vice president of software research. – Nanette Byrnes

 

Neural Networks: Why AI Development is Going to Get Even Faster

The pace of development of artificial intelligence is going to get faster. And not for the typical reasons — More money, interest from megacompanies, faster computers, cheap & huge data, and so on. Now it’s about to accelerate because other fields are starting to mesh with it, letting insights from one feed into the other, and vice versa.

Neural networks are drawing sustained attention from researchers across the academic spectrum.  “Pretty much any researcher who has been to the NIPS Conference [a big AI conference] is beginning to evaluate neural networks for their application,” says Reza Zadeh, a consulting professor at Stanford. That’s going to have a number of weird effects.

People like neural networks because they basically let you chop out a bunch of hand-written code in favor of feeding inputs and outputs into neural nets and getting computers to come up with the stuff in-between. In technical terms, they infer functions.

Robotics has just started to get into neural networks. This has already sped up development. This year, Google demonstrated a system that teaches robotic arms to learn how to pick up objects of any size and shape. That work was driven by research conducted last year at Pieter Abbeel’s lab in Berkeley, which saw scientists combine two neural network-based techniques (reinforcement learning and deep learning) with robotics to create machines that could learn faster.

More distant communities have already adapted the technology to their own needs. Brendan Frey runs a company called Deep Genomics, which uses machine learning to analyze the genome. Part of the motivation for that is that humans are “very bad” at interpreting the genome, he says. Modern machine learning approaches give us a way to get computers to analyze this type of mind-bending data for us. “We must turn to truly superhuman artificial intelligence to overcome our limitations,” he says.

One of the reasons why so many academics from so many different disciplines are getting involved is that deep learning, though complex, is surprisingly adaptable. “Everybody who tries something seems to get things to work beyond what they expected,” says Pieter Abbeel. “Usually it’s the other way around.”

Oriol Vinyals, who came up with some of the technology that sits inside Google Inbox’s ‘Smart Reply‘ feature, developed a neural network-based algorithm to plot the shortest routes between various points on a map. “In a rather magical moment, we realized it worked,” he says. This generality not only encourages more experimentation but speeds up the development loop as well.

One challenge: though neural networks generalize very well, we still lack a decent theory to describe them, so much of the field proceeds by intuition. This is both cool and extremely bad. “It’s amazing to me that these very vague, intuitive arguments turned out to correspond to what is actually happening,” says Ilya Sutskever, research director at OpenAI., of the move to create ever-deeper neural network architectures. Work needs to be done here. “Theory often follows experiment in machine learning,” says Yoshua Bengio, one of the founders of the field.

My personal intuition is that deep learning is going to make its way into an ever-expanding number of domains. Given sufficiently large datasets, powerful computers, and the interest of subject-area experts, the Deep Learning tsunami, looks set to wash over an ever-larger number of disciplines. – Jack Clark

 

A $2 Billion Chip to Accelerate Artificial Intelligence

Two years ago we were talking to 100 companies interested in using deep learning. This year we’re supporting 3,500. In two years there has been 35X growth. – Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia

The field of artificial intelligence has experienced a striking spurt of progress in recent years, with software becoming much better at understanding images, speech, and new tasks such as how to play games. Now the company whose hardware has underpinned much of that progress has created a chip to keep it going.

Nvidia announced a new chip called the Tesla P100 that’s designed to put more power behind a technique called deep learning. This technique has produced recent major advances such as the Google software AlphaGo that defeated the world’s top Go player last month.

Deep learning involves passing data through large collections of crudely simulated neurons. The P100 could help deliver more breakthroughs by making it possible for computer scientists to feed more data to their artificial neural networks or to create larger collections of virtual neurons.

Artificial neural networks have been around for decades, but deep learning only became relevant in the last five years, after researchers figured out that chips originally designed to handle video-game graphics made the technique much more powerful. Graphics processors remain crucial for deep learning, but Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang says that it is now time to make chips customized for this use case.

At a company event in San Jose, he said, “For the first time we designed a [graphics-processing] architecture dedicated to accelerating AI and to accelerating deep learning.” Nvidia spent more than $2 billion on R&D to produce the new chip, said Huang.

It has a total of 15 billion transistors, roughly three times as many as Nvidia’s previous chips. Huang said an artificial neural network powered by the new chip could learn from incoming data 12 times as fast as was possible using Nvidia’s previous best chip.

Deep-learning researchers from Facebook, Microsoft, and other companies that Nvidia granted early access to the new chip said they expect it to accelerate their progress by allowing them to work with larger collections of neurons.

“I think we’re going to be able to go quite a bit larger than we have been able to in the past, like 30 times bigger,” said Bryan Catanzero, who works on deep learning at the Chinese search company Baidu. Increasing the size of neural networks has previously enabled major jumps in the smartness of software. For example, last year Microsoft managed to make software that beats humans at recognizing objects in photos by creating a much larger neural network.

Huang of Nvidia said that the new chip is already in production and that he expects cloud-computing companies to start using it this year. IBM, Dell, and HP are expected to sell it inside servers starting next year. – Tom Simonite

 

What Developments Can We Expect to See in Deep Learning in the Next 5 Years?

It will increasingly change what we think of as magic. – Steve Jurvetson

“Recent advances in deep learning technology will help us solve many of the world’s most complex challenges,” said Steve Jurvetson, Partner at DFJ.

Broad application of deep learning into all aspects of our lives will happen in the next 5 years. The way we access healthcare, shop, farm, or interact with other people will all be shaped by learning machines.

Deep learning will allow us to better and more efficiently use resources and drive down the cost of services. In addition, our experiences with machines will be personalized as websites and devices adapt to our individual preferences. – Naveen Rao

 

Holoportation: Virtual 3D Teleportation in Real-Time

Holoportation is a new type of 3D capture technology that allows high quality 3D models of people to be reconstructed, compressed, and transmitted anywhere in the world in real-time.

When combined with mixed reality displays such as HoloLens, this technology allows users to see and interact with remote participants in 3D as if they are actually present in their physical space. Communicating and interacting with remote users becomes as natural as face to face communication. – I3D

 

The Exponential Growth of Solar Energy

“Wind and solar are crushing fossil fuels” I stick by my claim, 20-25 years to near unlimited, near free energy: Wind and Solar are Crushing Fossil Fuels. – Mike Cannon-Brookes

Clean energy investment broke new records in 2015 and is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels.

One reason is that renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper to produce. Recent solar and wind auctions in Mexico and Morocco ended with winning bids from companies that promised to produce electricity at the cheapest rate, from any source, anywhere in the world, said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

“We’re in a low-cost-of-oil environment for the foreseeable future,” Liebreich said during his keynote address at the BNEF Summit in New York on Tuesday. “Did that stop renewable energy investment? Not at all.”

The cost of solar power has fallen to 1/150th of its level in the 1970s, while the total amount of installed solar has soared 115,000-fold.

Source: BNEF

What’s more, the price of batteries to store solar power when the sun isn’t shining is falling in a similarly stunning arc.

Just since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power has doubled seven times over. – Tom Randall

 

Solar Will Dominate in 12 Years

Ray Kurzweil has made a bold prediction about the future of solar energy, saying in remarks at a recent medical technology conference that it could become the dominant force in energy production in a little over a decade.

Kurzweil’s basic point, as reported by Solar Power World, was that while solar is still tiny, it has begun to reliably double its market share every two years—today’s 2% share is up from just 0.5% in 2012.

Many analysts extend growth linearly from that sort of pattern, concluding that we’ll see 0.5% annual growth in solar for the foreseeable future, reaching just 12% solar share in 20 years.

Kurzweil says we should look at the rate of growth—the fact that solar market share is doubling every two years. If the current 2% share doubles every two years, solar should have a 100% share of the market in 12 years. – David Z. Morris

 

Why Cryonics Makes Sense

Some of you may be already be familiar with Tim Urban’s remarkable blog, Wait But Why. You might be among the 336,693 subscribers to Tim’s blog, or you might just have come across one of his stunning detailed and clever posts, such as on procrastination, the genius of Elon Musk, The AI Revolution, or Putting Time in Perspective.

A few days ago, Tim posted what is possibly the single best piece ever written on cryonics. Warning: It is long and, once you start reading it, you will find it hard to stop.

The blog post has already generated a surge in visits to Alcor.org and in serious requests for membership information packets. You can find it Wait But Why, Why Cryonics Makes Sense: – Alcor

A year ago, I knew almost nothing about cryonics, and my impressions of it were something like this sentence:

Cryonics, or cryogenics, is the morbid process of freezing rich, dead people who can’t accept the concept of death, in the hopes that people from the future will be able to bring them back to life, and the community of hard-core cryonics people might also be a Scientology-like cult.

Then I started learning about it. And as I began to read about cryonics, I soon learned that a lot of the words in my italicized assumption sentence weren’t correct.

The more I read about cryonics the more I realized it’s something we should all be talking about.

Early in my research, I found myself doing a little head shake when I read about billionaire Peter Thiel signing up for cryonics a while back. But this post has forced me to take a big step back.

We shouldn’t underestimate what future technology will be able to do (imagine how mind-blowing CRISPR would be to someone in the year 1700 and think about what the equivalent would be for us), and there have been some promising developments—like the recent well-preserved vitrified rabbit brain news—that suggest there’s reason for optimism.

Table

Looking at this through a zoomed out lens was a big Whoa Moment epiphany for me. Suddenly, I saw the cryonicists of the world in the same light as those rare ancient people trying to understand how earthquakes work so they could be best prepared for the next one, and I realized that when I shook my head at Peter Thiel, I was being like one of the hordes of ancient people who worshipped the gods that had punished us with that earthquake and who wanted to burn those rare scientists at the stake for their blasphemous thinking.

There are four major companies that provide cryonics services—Alcor in Arizona, Cryonics Institute (CI) in Michigan, American Cryonics Society (ACS) in California, and KrioRus in Russia. KrioRus is the newest option and quickly up-and-coming, but the two big boys are Alcor and CI.

From my perusing, it seems like Alcor is the slightly-more-legit and fancier of the two, while CI (which was started by Robert Ettinger, the guy who launched the movement) is more affordable and gives off more of a mom-and-pop vibe. Both are nonprofit, and each has about 150 people in storage. Alcor has a little over 1,000 “members” (i.e. people who will one day be in storage), and CI has around half that number.

I have an appointment set up for early April with a life insurance agent and Alcor member to get set up with a plan. – Tim Urban

 

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