Wednesday 14th December



1 Bitcoin = $778


Bitcoin Market Cap $12.5 Billion, Nears $13.8 Billion All-Time High

The Skeptics: A Tribute to Bold Assertions


Bitcoin’s Busiest Ever Week 

Between Nov 20th and 27th, Bitcoin faced its busiest week ever with 2 million transactions, a near-constant backlog of tens of thousands of transactions to confirm, and a record 333,466 transactions processed in a day.

The number of Bitcoin transactions and unique addresses have been on the rise and Bitcoin’s market price as well as the number of Blockchain wallets have increased by 35% over the past 6 months. – Antoine


Exponential Growth at Venezuela’s Largest Bitcoin Exchange

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The SurBitcoin exchange operates out of an office 2,100 miles from Caracas, in a converted shipping and manufacturing complex overlooking the Brooklyn waterfront.

There are about 1,200 daily transactions on SurBitcoin, and volume on the exchange has increased more than threefold in the last year. “It’s a lot of people trading small amounts,” Souza says. The average trade on SurBitcoin is the equivalent of about $35.

The leading exchange in Latin America measured by the amount of money that changes hands is Brazil’s Foxbit, but there’s more trade activity on SurBitcoin. The government hasn’t shut down the service, Souza says, in part because several public officials “have become our clients.”

For expats in particular, SurBitcoin is a godsend. Maria is a 32-year-old stock trader who left Venezuela three years ago for Brazil. To send money home to her family, she initially used a human courier: A friend routinely brought cash across the border and deposited it in her parents’ bank account. “It took several days and was very dangerous,” Maria says. Now she sends about $350 home each month through SurBitcoin without hassle.

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From the U.S., it’s possible to remit funds through services like MoneyGram and Western Union, but my own recent calculation shows that a user of SurBitcoin would save close to 40 cents on the dollar over Western Union. Maria says that in Brazil, MoneyGram involves so much paperwork and has such low remittance limits, it wasn’t worth her time.

Rodrigo Souza, the operator of SurBitcoin’s exchange, is convinced that no matter what happens next in the country, bitcoin will continue to undermine state power.

His company works with a domestic bank to facilitate its transactions in bolivars, and the state could take measures to revoke its permissions at any time. If that were to happen, Souza says, his customers would simply start trading bitcoins through the popular listing site LocalBitcoins, where individuals connect online and arrange peer-to-peer trades.

It would be less convenient, but users would manage. Bitcoin in Venezuela is an inexorable force, Souza says. “How can you stop software running on the internet?” – Jim Epstein




In China, Energy Companies are Becoming Bitcoin Miners

Joseph Young


Venezuelan Bitcoin Miner: “I Think the Officers Who Arrested Me Have Started Mining”

Joel Padrón—the first bitcoin miner arrested in Venezuela—was released on July 1 after agreeing to a plea deal.

But the law isn’t the only threat. Violent crime in Venezuela has skyrocketed as the economy has collapsed, and miners must be very careful to hide their wealth.

Padrón’s bitcoin mining computers were confiscated by SEBIN officers when he was arrested in March and never returned. But he had an alert system set up: Whenever the machines are powered up and connected to the bitcoin-mining network, he receives an automatically generated email.

A month after his arrest, a message arrived in Padrón’s inbox. “I think the officers [who arrested me] have started mining bitcoins,” he says. – Jim Epstein


The Dangerous World of Venezuelan Bitcoin Mining

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In a country where cash has lost much of its value, and food and other necessities are dangerously scarce, bitcoins are providing many Venezuelans with a lifeline. The same socialist economics that caused the country’s meltdown has made the energy-intensive process of bitcoin mining wildly profitable—but also dangerous.

The main factor driving Venezuelans to take up bitcoin mining is a price control put in place by the socialist government: Electricity is virtually free.

The government has turned bitcoin mining into something akin to owning a home mint. Price controls, of course, invariably lead to shortages, and the country’s frequent electricity outages create constant headaches for bitcoin miners. But they’ve also come up with workarounds, such as locating their operations in industrial zones, where electricity service is generally uninterrupted.

Bitcoin is helping to keep pantry shelves full and medicine cabinets stocked, making life tolerable—if not always easy—in the midst of a socialist hell.

The Only Hope to Survive

Like many bitcoin users, Alberto, imports food from the U.S. through Amazon’s Prime Pantry service. This would be impossible with bolivars because almost no one outside of Venezuela accepts them as payment, and the growing scarcity of U.S. currency has made purchasing foreign goods with dollars increasingly difficult. Though the Seattle-based retail giant doesn’t accept bitcoins itself, plenty of intermediary companies do. Alberto purchases Amazon gift cards through the cryptocurrency-friendly website eGifter, using software to mask the location of his computer, and then routes his orders through a Miami-based courier service.

Jesús, a 26-year-old living in the city of Barquisimeto, credits bitcoin with saving his business. He’s the proprietor of a small cellphone and computer repair shop located in a mall. When his suppliers ran out of inventory because of trade restrictions, his store was on the verge of going under. Then a friend introduced him to bitcoin. Now, he orders $400 in supplies from Amazon in a good month, and his business has recovered. “I have access to tools and inventory,” he says, “that are difficult to find or extremely expensive in Venezuela.”

Ricardo, a 30-year-old photography teacher, is earning about $500 in monthly revenue with a rack of five mining computers hidden in a soundproofed room of his family’s two-story house. His mother has chronic liver disease, and the medication she needs to stay alive is no longer sold in Venezuela. With bitcoins, he’s able to purchase the drug from foreign suppliers. “Bitcoin,” he says, “is our only hope nowadays to survive.

Bitcoin miners may have unique access to foreign goods, but they also live under constant threat. Many fear they’ll be discovered by the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN), the country’s secret police force. SEBIN officers hunt for bitcoin miners and then extort them under the threat of arrest and criminal prosecution. – Jim Epstein





Zcash is proud to be part of the Blockchain Alliance. – ZCash Company

The first government compliant hardcore underground anonymous cryptocurrency – dark pill

Is this meant to be ironic? – Riccardo Spagni

Reminds me of that time Gavin Andresen joined the CIA. – dark pill



Ethereum is getting slammed due to consensus issues, etc. Which is strange, cuz it’s been obvious since 2014 that it’d experience this.

Eth *should* have gotten crushed (far more than it did) immediately after it forked to bail out unscrupulous DAO investors.

To be clear, I think it’ll survive w/ non-trivial mcap; though funny that it’s this predictable stuff that’s killing confidence. – Dan McArdle




Full Self-Driving Hardware Becoming Available on All Tesla Cars

This is huge news. It was just a few years ago that the sensors/cameras used on the Google cars were over $100,000 to achieve level 3 autonomy.

To have the hardware component installed on all Tesla cars (including the $35k Model 3) moving forward happened years ahead of when I feel most of us that follow autonomous vehicle tech would have imagined. From a tech perspective, this is mind-blowing news. – Nathan Wright

Musk announced that all Tesla cars being produced as of today, including the Model 3, will have everything they need onboard to achieve full Level 5 self-driving in the future.

The biggest change might be the new onboard computer that provides over 40 times the processing power of the existing Tesla hardware, which actually runs the in-house neural net the car maker has developed in order to handle processing of data inbound from the vision, sonar and radar systems.

Musk said on call discussing the most recent update to the existing driver assistance Autopilot software that it basically stretched computing power to the limit, which is why the upgraded CPU is required for full Level 5 autonomy. The new GPU is the Nvidia Titan, Musk said on the call, though it was a “tight call” between Nvidia and AMD.

The validation required for full autonomy will still take some more time, but Musk said on a call that it’s actually already looking like it’ll be at least two times as safe as human driving based on existing testing. – Darrell Etherington Shelves Self-Driving Device From US Market After Regulatory Warning

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Got this in the mail today: Special Order Directed to Comma ai. First time I hear from them and they open with threats. No attempt at a dialog.

Would much rather spend my life building amazing tech than dealing with regulators and lawyers. It isn’t worth it.

The comma one is cancelled. will be exploring other products and markets.

Hello from Shenzhen, China. – George Hotz


George Hotz Open Sources the Code Behind His Self-Driving Car Project

  • I think Telsa’s plan for attacking the whole problem is brilliant and going to succeed. If Telsa is the iOS, we want to be the Android. We’ll be the ones getting the 80%, we’ll be a little bit worse for a bit, but that’s kind of the plan. – George Hotz

Hotz’s is releasing the company’s self-driving software, as well as the plans for the necessary hardware, which Hotz calls Comma Neo. All of this code will be available for free — in fact, it is already on Github.

Hotz framed the self-driving software, called Open Pilot, as an “open source alternative to [Tesla’s] Autopilot” during a press event that was held in a San Francisco house that serves as’s headquarters.

He claimed that the Open Pilot and Comma Neo combination “provides almost all the same functionality as Autopilot 7,” which is the second-most-recent version of Tesla’s self-driving software.

Hotz said that decided to go open source in an effort to sidestep NHTSA as well as the California DMV, the latter of which he said showed up to his house on three separate occasions. “NHTSA only regulates physical products that are sold,” Hotz said. “They do not regulate open source software, which is a whole lot more like speech.”

He went on to say that “if the US government doesn’t like this [project], I’m sure there are plenty of countries that will.”

Hotz compared Open Pilot to Android, and said that it’s really aimed at “hobbyists and researchers and people who love” self-driving technology. “It’s for people who want to push the future forward”. – Sean O’Kane and Lauren Goode




China Leads the World in the Adoption of Virtual Reality

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At the heart of an emerging technology cluster in London’s Shoreditch lies the Stage, a big mixed-use building complex that is being developed by Vanke, a Chinese real-estate company, among a few others.

A potential Chinese buyer of one of the flats in its 37-storey residential tower recently had a look around. She went from room to room, observing the furnishings and fittings. She marvelled at the city views from the balcony and peeped inside the refrigerator.

There was no need for a flight to London. She toured the property using virtual reality (VR) goggles at Vanke’s global marketing centre in Shanghai.

The use of VR kit is quickly becoming widespread in China’s property industry. Few real-estate firms in other countries are as advanced. China is fast emerging as the world’s most important VR market, thanks to rapid adoption by property firms and by companies in other industries.

China already has a full infrastructure in place for consumers to try it out. The very best VR equipment, such as HTC’s snazzy Vive goggles, can be found at theme parks, shopping malls and experience centres right across the mainland. There are over 100,000 internet cafés offering VR sessions for just a few dollars. – The Economist


What $31.76 Buys You in Huaqiangbei, Shenzhen

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We’ve long been fascinated by the Huaqiangbei electronics market area of Shenzhen.

There is an entire multi-floor shopping mall that sells nothing but phone cases. There’s one that specializes in smartwatches. There’s a mall that sells cellphones wholesale. There’s one just for surveillance cameras. And then there are the component markets. Need a chip? Or 250,000 chips? Somebody there can get them for you.

Total Bought for $31.76

We got $31.76 worth of stuff at Shenzhen prices. If we’d bought everything on Amazon, we would have paid over $130.36. (We couldn’t find the fake SD card, flippable cable or stickers on Amazon.)

H6 Smart Watch

There is no brand name on it, nor anything that points to the name of the factory. That’s not too surprising, because there’s a fruit company in Cupertino who might have some issues with their industrial design.

We’d actually done a bit research during the week before we went shopping. We knew we wanted to get a smartwatch or a drone into the boxes. We figured that either was likely to run us $15–20 and were pleasantly surprised when the first few vendors we talked to quoted us prices in the $12–15 range.

The economics of how to make a watch phone for $9.74 were completely bewildering to us. If we could get the price down to 65 CNY just by buying 30, how much could they possibly cost to make?

As it happens, a friend of ours in Shenzhen has a friend who is a salesperson at a smartwatch factory. We talked him into calling his friend and asking her what she knew about watches like the ones we bought.

She asked for photos….and then told us that her factory sells an identical model. She told us that next time, we should just deal with her directly, as we could have saved a lot of money. If we bought 30 watches directly from the factory, they would only cost us $7.49 each. So, the reseller made about $67 profit on us.

If the factory sold the watches for $7.49, how much could they possibly cost to make? That’s a question that can be awfully hard to get answered. Not really expecting an answer, we asked our friend to ask his friend. She was happy to tell us: $6.

Six dollars.

Six dollars for: a GSM chipset, a CPU, an LCD screen, a battery, a PCB, a metal housing, a molded silicone watch band, a MicroUSB cable, and a box. And the labor to assemble and test all of that. – keyboardio




Image result for spiral galaxy

  • Ten thousand years ago, we would throw a stone as far as our arm allowed. Today, we throw a rover into the cosmos, as far as our knowledge allows.
  • The reach of human knowledge is unlimited. We are completely central to any understanding of the universe. The Scientific Revolution was an event that changed the universe (or so we should hope).
  • Base metals can be transmuted into gold by stars, and by intelligent beings who understand the processes that power stars, but by nothing else in the universe.

David Deutsch


The Singapore Math Question: IQ as Inherent “Intelligence”

  • Yes, it’s complicated, but it’s not complicated like the English language. The English language is unbelievably complex. Thousands of words, using them all in different ways, inflection, and we all do that effortlessly. – Joe Rogan
  • Most teachers – and indeed our culture generally – explicitly endorse the bad idea of “intelligence”. The false and damaging idea that certain people have mental inherent capacities over and above others. Intelligence is a rather useless word. Whatever it is, it’s no more “innate” than speaking english is.
  • All universal computers – including ourselves – are bounded only by memory and speed and can do *literally anything* that any other computer can do. This is what computational universality is. Because humans are universal computers we must be able to do whatever any other of us can.
  • Don’t set arbitrary limits to human knowledge – Brett Hall


Here is the problem “for school children” that it is claimed has “stumped the world”.

Being able to do this, or not do this question – or this type of question is a measure of nothing more than how interested you are in doing this question – or questions like it.

Logic is actually a subject all its own. It is a learnable thing, taught at schools and universities. Like French. Or Chinese. Or the piano.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it – you would if you were really, genuinely interested. Which means – you would sit down for (literally) many minutes – probably hours – doing this problem and ones like it until it just became second nature. People do this! And weirdly lots of the people that do it say “I find logic puzzles so easy” and they do well at them. Because they have fun doing them. And so do well in tests with logic puzzles.

And they think, and other people think, it is somehow an inherent (i.e: not learned) capacity. That it is something about their brains. But it’s not. It’s just a skill of their minds. Like speaking Chinese. Or playing the piano. Or dancing. Or any one of a million other things human beings can do. It’s not a measure of intelligence. It’s just a certain kind of learned skill.

But it is a learned skill that is quickly, and highly, rewarded in schools because schools value this kind of thing and some students value getting gold stars or good marks or whatever. And so they do well and the cycle continues.

Image result for the singularity

It’s like if you cannot read music and don’t really want to learn how. It probably won’t help if someone really articulate tries to explain it to you: you probably still won’t understand because you won’t really pay attention. But that doesn’t mean you lack some capability someone else has, or have a lower IQ – it means you are not interested.

Truly, some people are interested in, for fun, doing lots of logic type puzzles of the sort they ask in IQ tests. That doesn’t make these people smarter than someone who teaches themselves how to speak Mandarin or Russian – it just gives them different interests.

Would you think someone who learned how to speak Mandarin completely fluently was really smart? Well every child in mainland China (more or less) learns this to a very high level of proficiency.

If people were rewarded socially for doing IQ tests in the way they were for learning languages, we would all do really really well in IQ tests. We’d all be “fluent” in IQ testing questions and their answers. Instead, only some of us are ever interested in in doing lots of silly little mathematical and logical puzzles – because we find it fun and rewarding.

Brett Hall




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What’s the next job to be automated by AI?

Designing deep neural nets, apparently. And it only took 800 GPUs: Neural Architecture Search with Reinforcement Learning

Andrew Beam


OpenAI Releases Universe, an Open Source Platform for Training AI

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  • If Universe works, computers will use video games to learn how to function in the physical world. – Wired
  • Universe is the most intricate and intriguing tech I’ve worked on. – Greg Brockman

OpenAI, the billion-dollar San Francisco artificial intelligence lab backed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, just unveiled a new virtual world.

This isn’t a digital playground for humans. It’s a school for artificial intelligence. It’s a place where AI can learn to do just about anything.

Other AI labs have built similar worlds where AI agents can learn on their own. Researchers at the University of Alberta offer the Atari Learning Environment, where agents can learn to play old Atari games like Breakout and Space Invaders.

Microsoft offers Malmo, based on the game Minecraft. And earlier this month, Google’s DeepMind released an environment called DeepMind Lab.

But Universe is bigger than any of these. It’s an AI training ground that spans any software running on any machine, from games to web browsers to protein folders.

“The domain we chose is everything that a human can do with a computer,” says Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s chief technology officer.

In theory, AI researchers can plug any application into Universe, which then provides a common way for AI “agents” to interact with these applications. That means researchers can build bots that learn to navigate one application and then another and then another. – Cade Metz


IBM: In 5 years, Watson A.I. Will be Behind Your Every Decision

  • IBM has invested billions of dollars in its Watson business unit, created at the start of 2014, which now employs an estimated 10,000 workers. – Steve Lohr

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In the next five years, every important decision, whether it’s business or personal, will be made with the assistance of IBM Watson. That’s the vision of IBM president and CEO Ginni Rometty

“Our goal is augmenting intelligence,” Rometty said. “It is man and machine. This is all about extending your expertise. A teacher. A doctor. A lawyer. It doesn’t matter what you do. We will extend it.”

Rometty also said IBM’s moonshot is focused on healthcare, and she brought on stage Satoru Miyano, a professor of the Human Genome Center at the Institute of Medical Science in the University of Tokyo.

Miyano said researchers and doctors are faced with too much data. Last year, he said, more than 200,000 papers were published about cancer alone. Meanwhile, 4 million cancer mutations also were reported.

“Nobody can read it all, but Watson can read, understand and learn. Why not use it?” Miyano said.

Miyano gave the example of a 66-year-old woman with leukemia. She was receiving standard therapy but was still getting worse. Doctors didn’t understand why she was getting sicker.

Using Watson, researchers analyzed all of the data they had on the woman in 10 minutes.

“Watson’s results were investigated, targeting specific genes,” Miyano said. “The team found she had another type of leukemia [that needed] a different therapy. She got it and she recovered completely.” – Sharon Gaudin


“In 30% of the Cancer Cases, Watson Found a Treatment the Human Doctors Missed”

IBM first focused on health care, and that business now accounts for two-thirds of the Watson unit’s employment.

Three years ago, IBM experts began working with leading medical centers. And it has spent more than $4 billion buying a handful of companies with vast stores of medical data like billing records, patient histories, and X-ray and M.R.I. images.

At the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Watson was tested on 1,000 cancer diagnoses made by human experts. In 99 percent of them, Watson recommended the same treatment as the oncologists.

In 30 percent of the cases, Watson also found a treatment option the human doctors missed. Some treatments were based on research papers that the doctors had not read — more than 160,000 cancer research papers are published a year. Other treatment options might have surfaced in a new clinical trial the oncologists had not yet seen announced on the web.

But Watson read it all. “Humans enabled by A.I. is the way to go with genomics,” said Dr. Norman E. Sharpless, head of the school’s cancer center. – Steve Lohr


Chinese Scientists CRISPR a Human for the First Time

A group of Chinese scientists injected a human being with cells genetically edited using CRISPR-Cas9 technology. This is the first time CRISPR has been used on a fully formed adult human.

The scientists from China are hoping the genetically edited cells will help their patient fend off a virulent type of lung cancer in hopes it might work on other cancer patients who have not responded to chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments.

Using CRISPR-Cas9 technology, scientists could take out all the genes ready to grow a genetically inherited cancer in a person before that cancer starts. In theory, they could also wipe out the disease by removing the genes causing the disease after it has already started wreaking havoc on the body.

Meanwhile, Editas Biotechnology has proposed running a CRISPR trial by 2017 for genes causing blindness in humans. Stanford also has plans in the works for a human CRISPR trial to repair genes causing sickle cell anemia. – Sarah Buhr


First Human Clinical Trial for Nicotinamide Riboside (NR)

  • Human clinical trial shows NR is safe, boosts human NAD+ metabolism

In the first controlled clinical trial of nicotinamide riboside (NR) researchers have shown that the compound is safe for humans and increases levels of a cell metabolite called NAD+ that is critical for cellular energy production and protection against stress and DNA damage.

Levels of NAD+ diminish with age, and it has been suggested that loss of this metabolite may play a role in age-related health decline.

Studies in mice previously showed that boosting the levels of NAD+ can produce multiple health benefits, including resistance to weight gain, improved control of blood sugar and cholesterol, reduced nerve damage, and longer lifespan. These findings have spurred people to take commercially available NR supplements designed to boost NAD+. –


Life Extension: NAD+

Scientists trying to convince us of huge benefits of nicotinamide riboside (NR), but plain nicotinamide (vitamin B3) elevates NAD+ almost as much.

NR is expensive, B3 is cheap, is that why? Or is B3 just not glamorous?

It’s as if they don’t want to admit that a vitamin in clinical use for 50 years works, and they missed it. – P.D Mangan



Energy Will be Essentially Free in a Few Decades

Consequently all other material needs will be satisfied without cost: food, water, shelter, transportation, communication. Every individual will thus finally be able to live independently in material abundance

Power is all around us

And we have already begun to capture it

A couple of hour’s worth of sunlight energy falling on the earth is worth about a year of global energy consumption. In short, it’s enough, and it’s basically everywhere.

If we build enough solar cells, some of the energy collected could be used for the construction of an automatic cleaning and maintenance system for the energy infrastructure.

That would give us free electricity.


Yes, I’m aware of the challenges in terms of making new kinds of efficient and sustainable, “green” solar cells, as well as making enough of them and designing a fully automated maintenance system. Just give it time. 

There is at least 1000x the amount of solar energy falling on the Earth than we need. That’s a fact.

CAN we collect it? Well, plants can -and we have recently developed bionic leaves that are even more efficient. Do you think we will never improve from the current level, despite just having started? The energy is there. There is nothing in the laws of physics that says we can’t make use of a fraction of the sun’s energy for our own purposes.

There will be robots

-A myriad of robots of all sizes, taking care of us and each other

Then use the surplus energy created to power some robots to add more solar cells and build more robots. Voilà, we essentially have created a free labor force of solar powered robots.

Sure, we’ll need better robots, autonomous vehicles, robots being able to build robots, better solar cells etc., but we are getting there.

No matter what the elite wants, it won’t take long until everybody has his own solar cells and robots, or access to a pool of such resources. When? I don’t know, but very probably within half a century.

Once energy and labor are free, so will:

Water (large scale desalination is only a matter of energy input),

Food (robot-tended vertical farms with artificial light [reverse solar cells]),

Shelter (solar powered robots can collect any material and build/3D-print any type of structure according to open source specifications on the internet (10 houses in 24 hours),

Transportation (vehicles are robots and thus free as shown above; cars, planes, ships and roads will be powered, built, driven and maintained automatically in much the same way as everything else)

Communication (the easiest task of all in the scenario of free energy).

The only urgent challenge remaining will be death, and its cousin, disease.

The good thing is, with everything else free; every intelligent man, woman and child will be free to think and collaborate in order to develop the technologies necessary to prevent aging and illness. Scientists are already chipping away at the longevity problem piece by piece. – Mikael Syding


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