Half-Year Report (January – June 2016)

BITCOIN

bitcoin_logo_flat_coin_star_bl_by_carbonism-d3h7bxh

1 Bitcoin = $675

 

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

 

 

MINING

The Exahash Era

Hashrate cracked the 1 Exahash benchmark (2.5x power increase since August 2015!)

This is the first time in history that the hashrate has crossed the one quintillion or exahash per second benchmark. – Avi Mizrahi

 

Mining Difficulty

Bitcoin is now 140 billion times more difficult to mine than in 2009. – Oleg Andreev

 

 

ALTCOINS

ShapeShift Volumes Surge as Demand for Ethereum Explodes

ShapeShift grew 1,000% in 2015. It has already grown another 1,000% in the first 2 months of 2016. Thank you everyone! #Bitcoin #Ethereum – Erik Voorhees

 

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

JoinMarket

Private bitcoin transactions, via decentralized mixing, for low fees: github.com/JoinMarket

Money was never meant to be a government tracking mechanism.  – Jon Matonis

 

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

 

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

 

Building The “Metaverse” — A Successor to the Internet

Every new employee at Oculus VR, the Facebook-owned virtual reality company, is given a copy of the 2011 science fiction novel Ready Player One. In Ernest Cline’s book, which Steven Spielberg is adapting for a film, the death of a tech company’s founder prompts a worldwide search for his fortune, which is hidden in the virtual world of the Oasis.

Mark Zuckerberg, who as Facebook chief paid $2bn to acquire Oculus in 2014, is very much alive, but in other respects Mr Cline’s book is informing the development of its Rift VR headset, which will be released next month.

“We love the book,” Brendan Iribe, Oculus chief executive, told the Financial Times last year. “It is required reading for every employee. We all want to create the Oasis.”

Oculus is not the only tech company taking inspiration from sci-fi as it explores the potential of virtual reality. Magic Leap, a Florida start-up, is developing an even more audacious “mixed reality” headset and has gone a step further.

Soon after raising more than $500m in 2014 from Google and other investors, it hired Neal Stephenson, author of Snow Crash, another book in the VR canon . The action in the 1992 sci-fi book takes place in both the physical world and the “metaverse” — a successor to the internet — and has inspired many VR developers.

“When I wrote it, it seemed as though those technologies were just around the corner,” Mr Stephenson wrote after his appointment as chief futurist at Magic Leap. “In practice, it has taken longer than just about anyone expected to get that kind of tech consumer-ready.”

One demonstration of Magic Leap’s technology, he said, was enough to convince him that the metaverse was finally about to arrive.

“We think of this as the birth of a new medium, like Apple computers in the late 1970s and early 80s,” Rony Abovitz, who founded Magic Leap in 2011, told the FT this week. “We are really opening up the surface area of human experience with computing. A text feed is not my normal interaction with the world. The computer needs to bend itself to you.”

Investors are buying into his vision. This week, Magic Leap raised $793.5m from Google and Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce group, giving it a valuation of $4.5bn — unprecedented for a start-up that has not even revealed its product publicly, let alone begun to sell it.

“It’s a further endorsement of the fact that we are on the cusp of something quite transformative,” says Ben Wood, a technology analyst at CCS Insight, a research firm. “People are placing some very, very big bets on this technology wave.” – Tim Bradshaw

 

 

LEARNING / EDUCATION

Sci-hub: The Pirate Bay of Science

Add “.sci-hub.io” after the .com in the URL of pretty much any paywalled paper to gain instant free access. – Jon Tennant

The first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers – Sci Hub: Removing Barriers in the Way of Science

 

A researcher in Russia has made more than 48 million journal articles – almost every single peer-reviewed paper every published – freely available online. And she’s now refusing to shut the site down, despite a court injunction and a lawsuit from Elsevier, one of the world’s biggest publishers.

For those of you who aren’t already using it, the site in question is Sci-Hub, and it’s sort of like a Pirate Bay of the science world. It was established in 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, who was frustrated that she couldn’t afford to access the articles needed for her research, and it’s since gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of papers being downloaded daily. But at the end of last year, the site was ordered to be taken down by a New York district court – a ruling that Elbakyan has decided to fight, triggering a debate over who really owns science.

“Payment of $32 is just insane when you need to skim or read tens or hundreds of these papers to do research. I obtained these papers by pirating them,”Elbakyan told Torrent Freak last year.

Journal subscriptions have become so expensive that leading universities such as Harvard andCornellhave admitted they can no longer afford them. Researchers have also taken a stand – with 15,000 scientists vowing to boycott publisher Elsevier in part for its excessive paywall fees.

The site works in two stages. First of all when you search for a paper, Sci-Hub tries to immediately download it from fellow pirate database LibGen. If that doesn’t work, Sci-Hub is able to bypass journal paywalls thanks to a range of access keys that have been donated by anonymous academics (thank you, science spies).

This means that Sci-Hub can instantly access any paper published by the big guys, including JSTOR, Springer, Sage, and Elsevier, and deliver it to you for free within seconds. The site then automatically sends a copy of that paper to LibGen, to help share the love.

It’s an ingenious system, as Simon Oxenham explains for Big Think:

“In one fell swoop, a network has been created that likely has a greater level of access to science than any individual university, or even government for that matter, anywhere in the world. Sci-Hub represents the sum of countless different universities’ institutional access – literally a world of knowledge.”

Fiona Macdonald

 

 

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

The Singularity is Here: World GDP in Trillions (2012 $)

B0-3fytIUAEkXIp.jpg-large

From Nick Bostrom’s Book Superintelligence

 

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

 

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

 

Google’s AI Takes Historic Match Against Go Champ

*  Machines have conquered the last games. Now comes the real world

Google’s artificially intelligent Go-playing computer system has claimed victory in its historic match with Korean grandmaster Lee Sedol after winning a third straight game in this best-of-five series.

Go is exponentially more complex than chess and requires an added level of intuition—at least among humans. This makes the win a major milestone for AI—a moment whose meaning extends well beyond a single game.

Just two years ago, most experts believed that another decade would pass before a machine could claim this prize. But then researchers at DeepMind—a London AI lab acquired by Google—changed the equation using two increasingly powerful forms of machine learning, technologies that allow machines to learn largely on their own. Lee Sedol is widely regarded as the best Go player of the past decade. But he was beaten by a machine that taught itself to play the ancient game..

The machine learning techniques at the heart of AlphaGo already drive so many services inside the Internet giant—helping to identify faces in photos, recognize commands spoken into smartphones, choose Internet search results, and much more. They could also potentially reinvent everything from scientific research to robotics

The machine plays like no human ever would—quite literally.

Using what are called deep neural networks—vast networks of hardware and software that mimic the web of neurons in the human brain—AlphaGo initially learned the game by analyzing thousands of moves from real live Go grandmasters. But then, using a sister technology called reinforcement learning, it reached a new level by playing game after game against itself, coming to recognize moves that give it the highest probability of winning.

The result is a machine that often makes the most inhuman of moves.

This happened in Game Two—in a very big way. With its 19th move, AlphaGo made a play that shocked just about everyone, including both the commentators and Lee Sedol, who needed nearly fifteen minutes to choose a response. The commentators couldn’t even begin to evaluate AlphaGo’s move, but it proved effective. Three hours later, AlphaGo had won the match.

This week’s match is so meaningful because this ancient pastime is so complex. As Google likes to say of Go: there are more possible positions on the board than atoms in a universe.

Just a few days earlier, most in the Go community were sure this wasn’t possible. But these wins were decisive. Machines have conquered the last games. Now comes the real world. – Cade Metz

 

DeepMind Founder Demis Hassabis Wants to Solve Intelligence

The aim of DeepMind is not just to beat games, fun and exciting though that is. It’s to the extent that they’re useful as a testbed, a platform for trying to write our algorithmic ideas and testing out how far they scale and how well they do and it’s just a very efficient way of doing that. Ultimately we want to apply this to big real-world problems.

We’re concentrating on the moment on things like healthcare and recommendation systems, these kinds of things.

What I’m really excited to use this kind of AI for is science, and advancing that faster. I’d like to see AI-assisted science where you have effectively AI research assistants that do a lot of the drudgery work and surface interesting articles, find structure in vast amounts of data, and then surface that to the human experts and scientists who can make quicker breakthroughs.

I was giving a talk at CERN a few months ago; obviously they create more data than pretty much anyone on the planet, and for all we know there could be new particles sitting on their massive hard drives somewhere and no-one’s got around to analyzing that because there’s just so much data. So I think it’d be cool if one day an AI was involved in finding a new particle. – Demis Hassabis

 

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

 

Google’s Boston Dynamics Has Created the Most Human Robot Yet

Boston Dynamics just released another incredible video featuring its latest version of the humanoid robot, ATLAS that was initially developed for the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

The company says this version is the “next generation” of their humanoid, but the technological leap they have made is far from incremental.

This incredibly upgraded model of ATLAS is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. It uses sensors in its body and legs to balance and LIDAR and stereo sensors in its head to avoid obstacles, assess the terrain, help with navigation and manipulate objects.

Seriously, the gulf between the robots featured in contemporary science fiction like Chappie and the stuff coming out of Boston Dynamics does not seem that far apart anymore. It is amazing how far the robot has been developed in the past three years! – 33rd Square

 

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

 

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

 

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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