Friday 30th September

BITCOIN

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1 Bitcoin = $606

 

 

A Free-Market Monetary System

  • With better money, the market system will function infinitely better than it has ever done before

If we ever again are going to have a decent money, it will not come from government.

My conviction is that the hope of returning to the kind of gold standard system which has worked fairly well over a long period is absolutely vain.

Even if, by some international treaty, the gold standard were reintroduced, there is not the slightest hope that governments will play the game according to the rules.

I think it is entirely possible for private enterprise to issue a token money. We ought to start fairly soon, and I think we must hope that some of the more enterprising and intelligent financiers will soon begin to experiment with such a thing.

The great obstacle is that it involves such great changes in the whole financial structure that, and I am saying this from the experience of many discussions, no senior banker, who understands only the present banking system, can really conceive how such a new system would work, and he would not dare to risk and experiment with it.

I think we will have to count on a few younger and more flexible brains to begin and show that such a thing can he done.

If we start on this soon we may indeed achieve a position in which at last capitalism is in a position to provide itself with the money it needs in order to function properly, a thing which it has always been denied.  – F.A Hayek, November 1977

 

Growing Bitcoin User Base in the Middle East

Users in Egypt and Morocco pay small amounts of money on a frequent basis for cloud services, virtual private networks and gaming.

Such payments can be prohibitively expensive via credit card or bank transfer. With bitcoin, such payments can cost only 10 or 20 U.S. cents in fees to miners.

The Gulf’s expatriate communities use bitcoin to top up phone credit for their families back home and to pay bills. Wealthier users buy bitcoin to diversify their investment portfolios. – Elliot Maras

 

 

MINING

Mining in China

  • Miners such as HaoBTC and Bitmain attracted to hydropower in China’s Western mountains

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When Eric Mu says that the village of Moyu, in western Sichuan, is remote, he means it.

Culturally more Tibetan than Han, the tiny settlement sits in a valley among soaring mountains and deep gorges. The village is only connected to neighboring communities by a rickety suspension bridge, which wobbles above river rapids below.

Mu crossed it once. He’ll never cross it again. It was terrifying, he says.

Life in Moyu is slow. When Mu is there, he runs – passing along winding roads and through tunnels that pierce the mountains, some as long as 3 kilometers. His coworkers entertain themselves with mahjong and smartphones. Some of the villagers grow corn.

Industry in Moyu has also been slow. A hydropower plant was built years ago nearby the waterfalls that crash down from the steppe. The plant’s engineers had hoped to sell their hydropower to the national grid, but demand wasn’t as high as they’d projected. The plant made barely enough money to pay staff wages.

So when Mu’s employer, HaoBTC, pitched the idea of building a bitcoin ‘mine’ that would run on the town’s ultra-cheap hydroelectric power, local reception was positive.

It didn’t matter that the managers at the plant had no clue what bitcoin was. It was bringing money, and it was bringing jobs. Local government officials were pleased.

A few months later, rural Moyu became home to previously unimaginable tech power.

And it is just one of a growing number of Chinese villages hosting massive bitcoin mines – sprawling complexes of computer servers dedicated to obtaining bitcoin, the world’s first tradeable ‘cryptocurrency.’ – Noelle Mateer

 

 

ALTCOINS

Monero Market Cap Surges Above $100mill

  • More than 20x increase in value year-to-date

It’s been obvious for almost two years that Monero should be a top-5 coin. – Dan McArdle

From what I’ve seen, Monero is the only altcoin with real privacy improvements. – Kyle Torpey

My view on Monero: does offer better privacy, built on some real dev work. Concerns: scalability, security, actual demand, competition. I like that it’s a POW algo. – Tuur Demeester

 

Largest Darknet Market Alphabay Now Supports Monero

  • Darknet Markets Start to Take Notice of Monero 

The dark web has started to embrace Monero, a privacy-conscious alternative to Bitcoin.

First, the operators of SIGAINT, a commonly used dark web email provider, decided to host a full node for Monero light wallets.

Then, an eight-month-old darknet market called Oasis decided to allow vendors to accept Monero.

Finally, Alphabay, the largest darknet market in operation right now, announced the first phase of Monero implementation on their platform.

Image result for monero

Why Monero?

Staff members at Alphabay and Oasis say that customers and vendors have simply demanded the Monero option. “It’s a lot more secure than Bitcoin, especially when it comes to obfuscation,” said an anonymous member of the Alphabay support staff.

“We have received a lot of requests about it; we’ve studied the cryptocurrency, and we’ve decided to implement it,” said an Oasis staff member. “This is what we do when users (both customers and vendors) suggest that we implement or change features.”

The hidden service set up by the operators of SIGAINT includes the following message:

“The SIGAINT operators firmly believe that Monero is the next logical step in Darknet commerce. It solves most of the privacy problems that plague cryptocurrency systems such as Bitcoin.”

Image result for zcash

Why Not Dash or Zcash?

In addition to their reasons for supporting Monero, the SIGAINT operators have reasons not to prefer other options, such as Dash or Zcash.

In the case of Dash, the site operators are wary of possible collusion by that digital currency’s supernodes.

With Zcash, the operators are concerned about the company’s registration in the United States, the fact that mixing is done on an opt-in basis and the possibility of secret inflation initiated by the maintainers of the system

The site operators also claim CoinJoin is not enough to maintain transaction unlinkability in Bitcoin. In a Reddit comment, Bitcoin Core contributor Luke-Jr seemed sympathetic to this viewpoint. “Only a fool would use Bitcoin as it is today for darknet,” he stated.

The push toward Monero on the dark web is a development worth watching, but it’s not the first time a darknet market has accepted an alternative, privacy-conscious digital currency.

Two small markets accepted Dash (then called Darkcoin) in late 2014, but the altcoin was not able to gain any traction on the dark web. Time will tell if things will go differently for Monero. – Kyle Torpey

 

 

PRIVACY / SECURITY / INTERNET

Bitcoin Analytics/Surveillance Companies

My attitude towards such services is that they’re great because they give us a target. Our job in developing the system is to make their job impossible.

They show us what is possible, so we have a target to improve upon. – Pieter Wuille

 

China Launches World’s 1st Quantum Communications Satellite. It’s a Big Deal.

  • The Satellite tests out quantum (and quantum-computer-resistant) encryption.
  • Initial results are encouraging. A quantum channel has been well established between the ­satellite and ground stations.
  • “Quantum teleportation” operates outside of space and time because the connection between entangled pairs exceeds the normal speed limit for information: the speed of light.
  • The University of Vienna’s Mr. Zeilinger said the satellite puts China and the field of quantum mechanics on the verge of a significant technological breakthrough. “In the long run, there is a good chance that this will replace our current communications technology. I see no basic reason why it won’t happen.” – Josh Chin

No biggie. It’s just a quantum satellite the Chinese plan to use for teleporting information in mathematical subspace using Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance.” That distance being 1,200 kilometers.

The satellite is the first of an intended global system of 20 such satellites in China’s QUESS (“Quantum Experiments at Space Scale”) program. The point of the project is to create uncrackable encryption keys.

Hopes for the project are pinned on two quantum concepts: superposition and quantum entanglement (“spooky action”).

Superposition refers to the idea that quantum particles can be in multiple states at the same time.

You can think of it in simple terms, like being both on and off at the same time, or up and down at the same time. But it’s actually even odder, because quantum particles can behave like waves, meaning they exist in all sorts of shapes at once.

It’s only when a quantum particle is observed that it stabilizes into one single state. This would be handy for an encryption key — if it were intercepted, and thus observed, it would no longer be in superposition and the owners of the key would know it had been compromised.

In quantum entanglement two particles form a single superposition together.

This means that their states are interlocked as if they’re a single entity: Changing the state of one simultaneously changes the state of the other. This exchange of information is called “quantum teleportation.”

Physicists know how to create pairs of entangled photons, sub-atomic light particles, and have observed them operating in sync between two of the Canary Islands. – Robby Berman

Image result for quantum entanglement

Initial results from the quantum satellite that China sent into space are encouraging, the project’s chief scientist said.

A quantum channel had been well established between the ­satellite and ground stations, Pan Jianwei, the nation’s leading ­expert in quantum physics, said at a technology exhibition in Hong Kong.

China had been exploring the military and commercial applications of quantum technology, and successful tests of the satellite ­system would pave the way for the construction of large quantum communication networks, he said.

Pan said his team had successfully passed photons, or particles of light, between the satellite and ground stations in Tibet and Xinjiang province.

The plan is to eventually send a quantum cryptographic key via the satellite from Beijing to Vienna to demonstrate that the technology can be used for unhackable communication.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China would be one of the first outsiders to try the network, Pan said.

Quantum communication is said to be hack-free because anyone who attempts to measure or clone particles will destroy their original quantum states.

China is not the only country trying to blaze a trail in quantum communication and improve data security. A team in Singapore is planning to launch devices into space that can entangle photons and in turn enable the city state to build a secure fibre-optic communication network. – Viola Zhou

 

 

MARKETS

World’s 5 Largest Companies by Market Cap

Tech has really taken over…. :

1) Apple $583B

2) Alphabet $545B

3) Microsoft $449B

4) Facebook $376B

5) Amazon $371B

David Ingles

 

Darknet Markets

Though online markets still account for a small share of illicit drug sales, they are growing fast—and changing drug-dealing as they grow. Sellers are competing on price and quality, and seeking to build reputable brands.

  • Turnover has risen from an estimated $15m-17m in 2012 to $150m-180m in 2015.
  • The biggest cryptomarket still standing is Alphabay, though the recently opened fourth version of Silk Road could knock it off the top spot.
  • MDMA (ecstasy) sold the most by value. Marijuana was the most popular product, with around 38,000 sales. Legal drugs such as oxycodone and diazepam (Valium) were also popular.
  • Judging by the reviews, around 90% of shipments get through.
  • The share of vendors using PGP encryption jumped from about 25% in July 2013 to over 90% in January 2015
  • “Bitcoin-tumblers” make the digital currency harder to trace. A customer’s bitcoin are poured into a virtual black box and mixed with other bitcoin. Afterwards the same amount is returned, but made up of bits of other people’s stashes, making transactions even harder to track.

The Economist

 

 

COMPANIES / PROJECTS / PRODUCTS

Singapore Blazes Self-Driving Taxi Trail 

  • Autonomous vehicle software start-up nuTonomy has announced that it is the first in the world to offer autonomous taxi rides. It beat Uber, which has started offering rides in autonomous cars in Pittsburgh
  • Self-driving taxis can now be booked through an app by Grab, the biggest ride-hailing company in south-east Asia.

nuTonomy car

Autonomous vehicle software start-up nuTonomy has made rides on its self-driving taxis available to the general public in Singapore for free, expanding a first-in-the world run that was initially invitation-only.

The Singapore trial was limited to a 2.5 square mile (6.5 square kilometre) business and residential district called One North.

NuTonomy CEO Karl Iagnemma said that the test area has since been doubled by the government. The approved route does not include any highways.

NuTonomy, a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), announced that the public can now book self-driving taxis through an app by Grab, the biggest ride-hailing company in south-east Asia. The two companies announced a year-long partnership.

Image result for singapore

To book a ride passengers will have to select the ‘robo-car’ option on Grab’s app. Passengers have to be older than 18 years old, book in advance and sign a liability waiver. Rides will be free for at least two months.

“We will be combining nuTonomy’s self-driving car software with Grab’s app, with their proven fleet routing technology and their mapping capabilities,” said Iagnemma.

The cars – modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics – have a safety driver in front who is prepared to take the wheel and a researcher in the back, who watches the car’s computers.

If a pick-up or drop-off point is out of approved testing perimeters the driver will take over for the rest of the journey, Iagnemma said. “It’s an evolution to identify where are the easy parts, where are the trickier parts where we need to spend more time,” he said.

Iagnemma would not say how many rides nuTonomy provided in the trial period, but said thousands signed up for the invited trial within the first 48 hours. The company said there have been no problems and plans to make its Singapore taxi fleet fully self-driving by 2018. – The Gleaner

 

Lyft CEO: Self-Driving Cars To Handle Majority Of Lyft Rides Within Only 5 Years

Lyft CEO and co-founder John Zimmer expects self-driving cars to handle the majority of Lyft’s rides within only 5 years, and all of them within only 10 years.

That means, going by Zimmer’s vision, by 2026, anytime you used Lyft to make a trip, you would be doing so in a self-driving car.

Interestingly, Zimmer also “expects” that private car ownership will “all but end” in most major US cities by 2025.

He sees a transition where driverless tech gradually increases in capability. Fixed-route autonomy would show up as early as 2017, while low-speed (under 25 MPH) autonomy on changeable routes would start as soon as 2018. Full autonomy would just be the next logical step, then. – James Ayre

 

Chris Dixon: In 2 years Everyone Will Use Driverless Cars on Highways

Within ten years, roads will be full of driverless cars.

Maybe within two, depending on where you’re driving.

That’s what Chris Dixon, a partner at prestigious Silicon Valley investment firm Andreessen Horowitz believes.

Dixon has written extensively about the future of autonomous vehicles and invested in a number of startups in the space, from self-flying delivery drones to Comma.ai, a company founded by a young man who built a self-driving car in his garage.

“All of the trends we’ve been observing over the last decade — from cloud computing to cheaper processing — have hit a tipping point,” Dixon says. “This is the core that’s getting people excited about AI, and specifically around autonomous vehicles and autonomous cars.”

Tesla autopilot

It’s also cheaper than ever to build a smart car. Dixon says many driverless car companies use tiny chips made by a publicly-traded company, NVIDIA. NVIDIA’s chips only cost a couple hundred dollars.

“For $200, you could get what 10 years ago was a supercomputer on a little board and put it in your car, and it can run one of these sophisticated deep learning systems,” he says.

Additionally, a lot of the AI for autonomous vehicles is open-sourced, like Google’s product TensorFlow. This allows everyone in the space to create more accurate technology faster, because they can learn from each other’s data sets and build off the findings.

” I bet in two years, it will be the norm that on the highway, you’re not driving half the time or you’ll be using driver assistants heavily,” he says.

“It’s easier on highways and in suburbs,” says Dixon. “So you can imagine pushing a button on your Uber or Lyft app, and depending on the situation and location, an autonomous car comes or a person comes.”

He adds, “When will an Uber roll up without a person in it in New York City? That’s farther away. But I think that’s more like five years away, not 20.”

Dixon likens the promise of self-driving to Henry Ford’s Model T, which was like the iPhone of the time — a real technology game changer. At first, consumer cars seemed impossible — roads weren’t paved and no one knew how to drive cars. But the product was a hit, and everything changed to make way for them. – Alyson Shontell

 

Amazon Alexa

Image result for amazon alexa

Every once in a while, a product comes along that changes everyone’s expectations of what’s possible in user interfaces. The Mac. The World Wide Web. The iPhone.

Alexa belongs in that elite group of game changers.

Siri didn’t make it over the hump, despite the buzz it created.

Neither did Google Now or Cortana, despite their amazing capabilities and their progress in adoption. (Mary Meeker reports that 20% of Google searches on mobile are now done by voice.)

But Alexa has done so many things right that everyone else has missed that it is, to my mind, the first winning product of the conversational era. Google should be studying Alexa’s voice UI and emulating it.

Image result for alexa amazon

Human-Computer Interaction takes big leaps every once in a while. The next generation of speech interfaces is one of those leaps.

Humans are increasingly going to be interacting with devices that are able to listen to us and talk back (and increasingly, they are going to be able to see us as well, and to personalize their behavior based on who they recognize).

And they are going to get better and better at processing a wide range of ways of expressing intention, rather than limiting us to a single defined action like a touch, click, or swipe.

Alexa gives us a taste of the future, in the way that Google did around the turn of the millennium. We were still early in both the big data era and the cloud era, and Google was seen as an outlier, a company with a specialized product that, while amazing, seemed outside the mainstream of the industry. Within a few years, it WAS the mainstream, having changed the rules of the game forever.

What Alexa has shown us that rather than trying to boil the ocean with AI and conversational interfaces, what we need to do is to apply human design intelligence, break down the conversation into smaller domains where you can deliver satisfying results, and within those domains, spend a lot of time thinking through the “fit and finish” so that interfaces are intuitive, interactions are complete, and that what most people try to do “just works.” – Tim O’Reilly

 

 

LEARNING / KNOWLEDGE

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. – Albert Einstein

Twitter

Really grateful for Twitter. Seeing the tweets flow by feels like access to some great super-genius for the ages. (Quite serious.) – Michael Nielsen

 

 

PLACES

Zurich Will Become Google’s Biggest AI Research Centre Outside the US

Image result for zurich

Google is extending its push into artificial intelligence with a new European research center dedicated to advancing the technology.

Based in Zurich, the team will focus on three areas – machine learning, natural language understanding and computer perception.

Emmanuel Mogenet, who will head the unit, said much of the research would be on teaching machines common sense.

There was, he said, “no limit on how big I grow the team”.

“We are very ambitious in terms of growth. The only limiting factor will be talent,” he told journalists gathered in Zurich to hear more about Google’s AI plans. – BBC

 

 

THE SINGULARITY

AI Saves Life By Identifying Disease When Humans Failed

  • Japanese doctors have, for the first time in history, used artificial intelligence to detect a type of leukemia.

Image result for ai healthcare

If you needed proof that the age of artificial intelligence is officially upon us, well, look no farther.

Reports assert that IBM’s artificial intelligence (AI) system, Watson, just saved the life of a Japanese woman by correctly identifying her disease. This is notable because, for some time, her illness went undetected using conventional methods, and doctors were stumped.

The AI’s positive identification allowed doctors to develop a treatment for the woman in question, ultimately saving her life.

The key to this success is the AI’s ability to take a massive amount of data and analyze it quickly. This is something that human physicians, sadly, cannot do themselves (or at least, they can’t do it with nearly the accuracy or efficiency).

The system looked at the woman’s genetic information and compared it to 20 million clinical oncology studies. After doing so, it determined that the patient had an exceedingly rare form of leukemia.

Initially, the woman had been diagnosed with, and treated for, acute myeloid leukemia; however, she failed to respond to the traditional treatment methods, which perplexed doctors.

Notably, the AI was able to diagnose the condition in just 10 minutes. – Jolene Creighton

 

Aubrey de Grey Announces Progress in MitoSENS

  • MitoSENS (Mitochondrial Repair Project): Engineering backup copies of mitochondrial genes to place in the nucleus of the cell, aiming to prevent age-related damage and restore lost mitochondrial function.

Aubrey de Grey has announced the acceptance of the first scientific publication for the MitoSENS team at the SENS Research Foundation.

SENS are presently in the lead among the few groups working on the project of copying mitochondrial genes into the cell nucleus to protect them from the damage of aging.

Ultimately, copying all thirteen genes should completely remove the contribution of mitochondrial damage to degenerative aging, as mitochondria will no longer become dysfunctional as their local DNA is damaged. – Reason

Image result for aubrey de grey mitosens

About a decade ago, the very first project, the very first research program that we were able to initiate – with the help of, especially, the initial donation of Peter Thiel – was to make mitochondrial mutations harmless by essentially putting backup copies of the mitochondrial DNA into the nuclear genome, modified in such way of course that the encoded proteins would be colocated back into the mitochondria to do their job.

This is an idea that was first put forward more than 30 years ago, but it is an idea that despite quite a bit of initial effort, nobody was able to make work.

When I first came across this concept, in fact I’d thought of it myself, it’s a pretty obvious idea really, I came to the conclusion that a lot of the despair and despondency and pessimism about this approach was premature, and that it was worth having another go, and so that was the very first project we decided to fund.

Suffice to say that it has not been quite as easy as I was hoping to make progress in that space, but progress has now been made, step by step, over the past several years, with the help especially of the absolutely amazing team we have at the research center.

For the very first time in the entire history of this project, we have got far enough to have a paper accepted in a very nice journal, Nucleic Acids Research, which reports on our progress in this area. The headline result in this paper is that we are the first team ever to get two of the proteins encoded by genes in the mitochondrial DNA simultaneously functioning in the same cell line. This is extremely heartening news. – Aubrey de Grey

 

Anti-Aging Research is Becoming Mainstream

The mission to end aging got a significant boost with the publication of an extensive strategy to take aging-targeted drugs to clinical trials.

The strategy, which is laid out over six manuscripts, was published by the Geroscience Network, an organisation funded by the US’ National Institutes of Health whose members include the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and Harvard University.

The publication is highly significant, because it demonstrates that the notion of aging as a treatable disease has moved from a fringe theory held only by a small percentage of researchers to a widely accepted notion being used as the basis for widespread research strategies.

“Recent research suggests that aging may actually be a modifiable risk factor,” explains Dr James Kirkland, director of the Mayo Clinic Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging and study lead author on two of the manuscripts.

“The goal of our network’s collaborative efforts is to accelerate the pace of discovery in developing interventions to delay, prevent or treat these conditions as a group, instead of one at a time.” – Lucy Ingham

 

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