Quarterly Roundup – Q2 2016

BITCOIN

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1 Bitcoin = $677

 

Bitcoin Market Cap Hits $12 Billion, Nears $13.8 Billion All-Time High

Over the past year while everyone was worrying about the death of Bitcoin, it was quietly & steadily growing stronger. – Michael Goldstein

 

The Death of Bitcoin?

Just as everyone predicted, the Bitcoin price is crashing due to reaching the block size limit! – Pierre Rochard

 

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 Usage of Bitcoin is Increasing Rapidly All Over the World

The amount of transactions in the Bitcoin network is increasing rapidly. More goods and services are bought with bitcoin every day.

Even here in Finland there have been multiple Tesla’s sold with bitcoin. In Latin America and South Africa the growth numbers of Bitcoin usage are impressive.

In China bitcoin is used increasingly to move funds out of the country. And based on recent reports the use of Bitcoin is also increasing rapidly in India.

In the real world Bitcoin is used much more than any other blockchain project. Bitcoin is the first universal currency and that reality is getting more real day by day. – Henry Brade

 

The Next Stage of Growth

My view of the situation is that in the next 6 months or so bitcoin is going to start a new phase of massive price increase which could lead to an increase in the price to around 10x.

It is also likely that after this rise the price will go down again but I believe it will stabilize higher than it is now.

My target for this new rally is in the $3k to $5k range but first bitcoin needs to break the previous all-time-high. It’s not that far away any longer though. – Henry Brade

 

 

ALTCOINS

Monero Market Cap Hits All-Time High

Market cap now $21million, more than a 4x return year-to-date.

Cracks top 10 on coinmarket.com.

Lee Banfield

 

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

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

 

CoinJoin: Combining Bitcoin Transactions to Obfuscate Trails and Increase Privacy

CoinJoin – proposed in 2013 by Bitcoin Core and Blockstream developer Gregory Maxwell – is designed to obfuscate the trail of bitcoins and break the assumption that all input-addresses belong to the same user.

Essentially, CoinJoin lets multiple users combine all inputs and outputs from several transactions into a single, big transaction.

This single transaction spends bitcoins from different addresses to different addresses – and since none of the sending addresses pay none of the receiving addresses specifically; there’s no link between any of them.

Decentralized CoinJoin Solutions

There are decentralized CoinJoin solutions, that construct CoinJoin-transactions peer-to-peer, or at least without any particular central intermediary.

There have been several attempts in this direction, including CoinmuxCoinjumbleCoinJoiner and former DarkWallet developer Amir Taaki’s CoinJoin tool.

But none of these are widely used, and therefore not very useful – “coinjoining” makes sense only when there’s someone to join with.

JoinMarket

A more recent take on the CoinJoin strategy that intends to tackle this problem is JoinMarket: a marketplace for CoinJoin transactions.

Users can offer a spot in a CoinJoin transaction in return for a small fee – or buy access to a CoinJoin transaction themselves.

The creators of JoinMarket believe that the incentive to mix coins in return for fees should generate enough liquidity to make the market a success – while the competitive nature of it should keep fees low. Indeed, JoinMarket is relatively well used compared to alternatives, and the order book (at the time of writing) offers thousands of bitcoins to mix with.

CoinJoin is still a hassle. Almost no wallets have it built in, and those that do aren’t used a lot (and rely on a central server.) JoinMarket is probably the most successful implementation to date, but still requires special software and additional fees (though small).

But an interesting development on the horizon might skew these incentives: Schnorr signatures.

Enabled by Segregated Witness, Schnorr signatures could allow for the aggregation of all signatures in a CoinJoin transaction into a single signature. This efficiency should result into lower transaction fees per input, and perhaps stimulate use of the most private and fungibility-friendly solution. – Aaron van Wirdum

 

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

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

 

The Value of $10,000 Invested Over 52 years (1951 – 2003)

High P/Book Ratio= $267,147 vs. Low P/Book Ratio = $22,004,691

High PE Ratio = $793,558 vs. Low PE Ratio = $8,189,172

———————————————–

In his book What Works on Wall Street, author James O’Shaughnessy compares the returns of two different investment strategies: value versus ‘anti-value’.

O’Shaughnessy reviewed historical data to determine how much money you would have made had you invested $10,000 in the 50 ‘most expensive’ vs. the 50 ‘least expensive’ US stocks over a period of five decades.

He calculated most vs. least expensive based on the companies’ Price/Book and Price/Earnings ratios.

The bottom line? Had you invested $10,000 in the most expensive companies, you would ultimately have ended up with as much as $793,558 after 53 years.

That sounds impressive, until you realize what you could have earned by buying the LEAST expensive companies: over $22 million.

This data is extraordinary and shows that value investing works… as long as you have the discipline to be independent from the crowd. – Tim Price

 

 

COMPANIES / PROJECTS / PRODUCTS

OpenBazaar Celebrates 100,000 Downloads

  • High-level roadmap for OpenBazaar can be found here.

Go to the profile of OpenBazaar

Founder and programmer Brian Hoffman told Bitcoin Magazine the platform has been downloaded 100,000 times. “Looking at what is available on the marketplace, it’s a very strange mix of products and services,” Hoffman said.

“We are seeing legal and illegal goods pop up. The legal goods are selling better than expected. One of the great things happening is people are buying from other countries where, in most cases, they tend not to do so on other platforms because it is too risky. There’s not a lot of trust there on existing marketplaces, which makes it harder to sell goods across borders.”

Customers on OpenBazaar are also excited about not paying fees.

Overall, “nothing crazy” has happened on the OpenBazaar network, according to Hoffman. The moderation process, one of the main features of the platform, has gone smoothly, with “moderators stepping up and helping to do refunds, and helping things along, which is pretty unique. I don’t think there’s another marketplace out there where people are crowdsourcing support. That’s where the community has come in,” Hoffman told Bitcoin Magazine.

OpenBazaar has three classes or “layers” of users: buyer, merchant ‒ just like in regular ecommerce platforms ‒ and also a moderator layer. Hoffman says the OB team has been surprised by buyer willingness to bypass the moderation layer.

“The realization we’ve come to is, a lot of people are more trusting than we assumed they’d be,” he said. “We designed the whole system so there would be a moderator to provide protection, but lots of people go to a store and they will try and find more about that storefront, then come back later and purchase directly.”

Despite all the emphasis on the ecommerce functions of OpenBazaar, the site in many ways operates like a social media platform.

“When we built the products, it seemed natural to have it wrap around the social media concept, because we knew that buyers and sellers were going to need to be engaging with each other to establish more trust,” Hoffman said. “They were going to need a chat function, and the moderator then also needs to be involved. There has to be this open discussion between all of them.”

“It’s a true marketplace,” Hoffman said. “When we designed it, we wanted it to be very social. I think that is an important part of the future. People are already using platforms to sell, like Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. We don’t want to build a social network, but we wanted to add the social features we think would be beneficial to the OB community.” The open-source project hopes to expand that in the future.

“We want people to engage with their brand,” Hoffman said. “So if we have a really popular store on OB, in the future we will be able to blast out updates to followers along with coupon codes and notices of who is following you. Things like that, we will expand as we go.”

OB intends to grow the community throughout the remainder of the year, turning now to OB1 ‒ the project’s own store on the platform, and the reason it earlier landed $1 million in venture capital.  According to Hoffman, that project might offer additional services to the OB ecosystem, such as search functions. – Justin O’ Connell

 

Opening Up the Third Web: The Machine Payable Web

Picture a world where machines barter for resources using their own virtual currency. That may sound like science fiction, but Balaji Srinivasan and 21 are working to make it a reality.

“I think what happens over the next five to ten years is Bitcoin becomes the currency of the Internet, for machine payments and things like that,” Srinivasan said on a panel.

“Then, over the next 20 years, it becomes the currency of the next world, which is [virtual reality]. That’s where I think things really happen, once you start spending more time in VR than on the ground.”

In this hypothetical digital economy, computers could send and receive Bitcoins as hassle-free payment for online services or even for renting out unused computing power. Rather than sell advertisements or hoist a paywall, a website could charge Bitcoins for each visit.

“Every time you load a web page is a HTTP request,” Srinivasan said. “That’s a lot of HTTP requests. If you are earning Bitcoin on every HTTP request, that could be a lot of earned Bitcoins.”

Linking machines through payments is what Srinivasan calls the machine web. In his view it’s the next step after the World Wide Web, which connected content through web pages and hyperlinks, and the social web, which brought people together through networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. – Jess Delaney

 

21 is Now Open Source

We are open sourcing 21, a software package that makes it extremely easy to work with Bitcoin over HTTP.

Just go to 21.co to install. And if you want to contribute, check out the open source project at https://github.com/21dotco/two1-python

We believe that a third web is coming.

The first was the World Wide Web of documents, with hyperlinks between nodes.

The second was the Social Web, with links between nodes representing friend relationships.

And the third is the Machine-Payable Web, where the links between nodes represent payments between machines.

Why would such a web be desirable?

We start with the observation that you don’t want to go through a paywall every time you visit a new website. Instead, you just want to click a link. Similarly, you don’t want to enter in your credit card every time you try out a new paid API. Instead, you just want to send it some digital currency.

If you could do this, it would solve several problems in one stroke.

First, it would provide a way to monetize APIs on a per-request basis without requiring developers to provide or accept credit cards.

Second, it would reduce the siloization of APIs, as any developer with some bitcoin could now trivially call out to another API as easily as importing a new library call.

And third, it would unify fulfillment and billing, with the HTTP request and the corresponding digital currency payment occurring within the same series of packets.

Every instance of this kind — in which a program calls a remote API and pays for it with digital currency — is a link in the Machine-Payable Web. – 21.co

 

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

 

Microsoft HoloLens

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

 

 

Magic Leap: Virtual Reality is the Next Evolution of the Internet

  • The world’s hottest startup isn’t located in Silicon Valley—it’s in suburban Florida. KEVIN KELLY explores what Magic Leap’s mind-bending technology tells us about the future of virtual reality: The Untold Story of Magic Leap .

It looks as real as the lamps and computer monitors around it. It’s not. I’m seeing all this through a synthetic-reality headset. Intellectually, I know this drone is an elaborate simulation, but as far as my eyes are concerned it’s really there, in that ordinary office.

It is a virtual object, but there is no evidence of pixels or digital artifacts in its three-dimensional fullness. If I reposition my head just so, I can get the virtual drone to line up in front of a bright office lamp and perceive that it is faintly transparent, but that hint does not impede the strong sense of it being present.

This, of course, is one of the great promises of artificial reality—either you get teleported to magical places or magical things get teleported to you. And in this prototype headset, created by the much speculated about, ultrasecretive company called Magic Leap, this alien drone certainly does seem to be transported to this office in Florida—and its reality is stronger than I thought possible.

To really understand what’s happening at Magic Leap, you need to also understand the tidal wave surging through the entire tech industry. All the major players—Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung—have whole groups dedicated to artificial reality, and they’re hiring more engineers daily. Facebook alone has over 400 people working on VR.

Then there are some 230 other companies, such as Meta, the Void, Atheer, Lytro, and 8i, working furiously on hardware and content for this new platform.

Even if you’ve never tried virtual reality, you probably possess a vivid expectation of what it will be like. It’s the Matrix, a reality of such convincing verisimilitude that you can’t tell if it’s fake. It will be the Metaverse in Neal Stephenson’s rollicking 1992 novel, Snow Crash, an urban reality so enticing that some people never leave it. It will be the Oasis in the 2011 best-selling story Ready Player One, a vast planet-scale virtual reality that is the center of school and work. – Kevin Kelly

 

 

LEARNING / EDUCATION

Important Lessons on How to Learn

The first thing formal school should teach you is how to learn, but that never happens.

School makes you believe certain truths are set in stone, thus discouraging you from questioning. That is one of the reasons behind our economies being run by Keynesian madmen, since other theories have been discredited in favor of Keynes’ misinformed and misunderstood (mere) hypotheses.

What school and parents should do is apply all the things I’ve mentioned in this article, including learning based on:

  • Motion/BDNF
  • Deep Work
  • Grit/Consistency
  • Sound Wall
  • Hyperthermic therapy
  • Spaced repetition
  • Defining words
  • Novelty
  • Overreaching (deliberate practice and temporary failure)
  • Curiosity/Application
  • Gamification
  • Not procrastinating (just do it right away)

The reason I wrote this article is to encourage you to apply the above principles in your own life when acquiring interesting skills, or necessary knowledge for your line of work, investing, sport or other endeavors. – Mikael Syding

 

 

PLACES

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

Tech Moguls Declare Era of Artificial Intelligence

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos predicted a profound impact on society over the next 20 years.

“It’s really early but I think we’re on the edge of a golden era. It’s going to be so exciting to see what happens,” he said.

Amazon has been working on artificial intelligence for at least four years and now has 1,000 employees working on Alexa, the company’s voice-based smart assistant software system, he said.

Big tech companies including Amazon have an edge at present because they have access to large amounts of data but hundreds of AI startups will hatch in the next few years, he said.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said the company has been working on artificial technology, which she calls a cognitive system, since 2005 when it started developing its Watson supercomputer.

“I would say in five years, there’s no doubt in my mind that cognitive AI will impact every decision made” from healthcare to education to financial services, Rometty said. – Liana B. Baker

 

Bill Gates on AI: “The Dream Is Finally Arriving. This Is What It Was All Leading Up To.”

After years of working on the building blocks of speech recognition and computer vision, Gates said enough progress has been made to ensure that in the next 10 years there will be robots to do tasks like driving and warehouse work as well as machines that can outpace humans in certain areas of knowledge.

“The dream is finally arriving,” Gates said, speaking with wife Melinda Gates. “This is what it was all leading up to.”

He suggested a pair of books that people should read, including Nick Bostrom’s book on Superintelligence and Pedro Domingos’ “The Master Algorithm.”

Melinda Gates noted that you can tell a lot about where her husband’s interest is by the books he has been reading. “There have been a lot of AI books,” she said. – Ina Fried

 

Artificial Intelligence Better Than Humans at Cancer Detection

  • Machines are now better than humans at detecting cancer both in pictures and in free text documents. What’s next? – Sprezzaturian

Researchers from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing say they’ve found that open-source machine learning tools are as good as — or better than — humans in extracting crucial meaning from free-text (unstructured) pathology reports and detecting cancer cases.

The computer tools are also faster and less resource-intensive.

“We think that its no longer necessary for humans to spend time reviewing text reports to determine if cancer is present or not,” said study senior author Shaun Grannis*, M.D., M.S., interim director of the Regenstrief Center of Biomedical Informatics.

“We have come to the point in time that technology can handle this. A human’s time is better spent helping other humans by providing them with better clinical care. Everything — physician practices, health care systems, health information exchanges, insurers, as well as public health departments — are awash in oceans of data. How can we hope to make sense of this deluge of data? Humans can’t do it — but computers can.”

“This is a major infrastructure advance — we have the technology, we have the data, we have the software from which we saw accurate, rapid review of vast amounts of data without human oversight or supervision.” – Kurzweil AI

 

Artificial Intelligence ‘Outsmarts Cancer’

Breast cancer

Early trial data shows a drug developed using artificial intelligence can slow the growth of cancer in clinical trials.

The data, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference, showed some tumours shrank by around a quarter. The compound will now be taken into more advanced trials.

Scientists said we were now in an explosive stage of merging advances in computing with medicine.

Spotting every difference between a cancerous and a healthy cell is beyond even the brightest human minds. So the US biotechnology company Berg has been feeding as much data as its scientists could measure on the biochemistry of cells into a supercomputer.

The aim was to let an artificial intelligence suggest a way of switching a cancerous cell back to a healthy one. It led to their first drug, named BPM31510, which tries to reverse the Warburg effect – the phenomenon in which cancerous cells change their energy supply.

Innovative treatments

The results from patients are being fed back into the artificial intelligence in order to further target the therapy at those most likely to respond.

The company thinks cancers with high energy demands will benefit the most and is planning a more advanced trial in patients in pancreatic cancer.

Dr Alan Worsley, from Cancer Research UK, said we were only at the beginning of harnessing the huge advances in computing to understand cancer. – James Gallagher

 

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

 

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

 

If You Die Before the Singularity Arrives, Does That Mean You’ve Failed?

Yes. I regard death as the greatest tragedy. People talk about getting used to death and accepting it, but the end of each life is a terrible loss, like the Library of Alexandria burning down. All that information, all their skills, their personality, their memories are gone.

I think it’s humanity’s mission to transcend our limitations, and the most profound limitation we have is that of our life span. That’s the hardest thing for people to accept, because birth and life and death have been with us since the beginning of recorded history. But I can see a path that’s not far off where we can indefinitely extend our lives.

I believe we will reach a point around 2029 when medical technologies will add one additional year every year to your life expectancy. By that I don’t mean life expectancy based on your birthdate but rather your remaining life expectancy. – Ray Kurzweil

 

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