Category: blockchain

Bitcoin Price Goes Over $5,800, Setting a New All-Time High Record in Less Than 24 Hours

Bitcoin prices surged past the $5,300 mark on Thursday, closing at $5,363 — only to reach a new all-time high value at $5,856.10 some time early Friday morning, after markets had opened at a $5,439.

The increase in value comes after Russia banned Bitcoin and expressed interest in rival Ethereum. The Russian ban followed previous moves against cryptocurrencies by South Korea and China, which included prohibiting initial coin offerings (ICOs). The market, it would seem, finally got over the fears incited by these moves.

bitcoin-price-surge-coindesk
Image credit: Coindesk

At the time of writing, revitalized Bitcoin is now at $5,714.95 marking a more than 13 percent increase in value in less than one day, and an over 30 percent increase in just one week. It isn’t the only cryptocurrency benefitting from the price surge, as the overall cryptocurrency market cap peaked at $171.94 billion early Friday morning — almost reaching a high comparable to that of September 1, when it reached $172.5 billion. Bitcoin, which makes up more than 55 percent of the whole crypto market, capped at $95.5 billion today (Friday, Oct 13).

Cryptocurrencies are no stranger to fluctuations in prices, which critics are always quick to note. Experts say crypto is destined to be more than a fad however, and that Bitcoin’s popularity will herald a bigger blockchain revolution. Whatever the case may be, experts expect Bitcoin to go as high as $6,000 by the end of the year, and over $10,000 by the first half of 2018.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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The U.S. State Department is Embracing Blockchain to “Advance Diplomacy”

Welcoming Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology can be a powerful tool if you know how to use it effectively. The technology behind Bitcoin is being eyed by countries like China to collect taxes and is expected to radically change how U.S. institutions operate. Even states like Illinois are open to using it to replace birth certificates, while organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have expressed a desire to use it against future epidemics.

Now, CoinDesk reports that the U.S. State Department is also looking into utilizing Blockchain technologies to “advance diplomacy and development objectives.”

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan put forward the idea while speaking at the Blockchain@State forum held in Washington DC earlier this week, claiming that Blockchain technology could play a key role in the restructuring plan initially proposed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“This forum has implications for our ongoing redesign efforts,” said Sullivan. “We’re interested to learn whether blockchain technology can have direct applications to many of the key features of our proposed redesign.”

Using Blockchain for Aid, Democracy, and Corruption

CoinDesk writes that several ideas were discussed regarding how a blockchain could be implemented to improve various aspects of the State Department, including how it provides foreign aid, promotes democracy, and improves governance and political institutions in U.S.-allied countries.

Beyond that, Sullivan suggested the technology could also help deal with matters of fraud and corruption in a government’s control over land title registries.

The U.S. government has been a bit slower than other countries when it comes to addressing the tech, and potentially adopting it. But despite this, many blockchain companies participated in the forum, with several reportedly supporting Sullivan’s ideas for incorporating blockchain technology.

“We’re particularly excited that the U.S. is waking up, big time, and realizing that this is a transformative technology,” said Joseph Lubin, founder of the blockchain development firm ConsenSys, which co-sponsored the event. “There are other smaller players who are embracing this technology strongly, but we do want to see America get out in front of this and transform society with it.”

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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After Falling in September, Bitcoin Breaks Previous Records

Bitcoin is back in a big way. After a few tumultuous weeks caused by some intense government regulation from states like China and South Korea, and fears of impending bans in Russia, Bitcoin has been able to rally and surpass its previous record value established in early September.

Prices soared to $5,314.06 at the point of writing, beating the previous record of $5,013.91. Prices were expected to take a dip after the cryptocurrency hit the $5,000 point as some investors likely had sell orders placed for that milestone. However, China’s announcements about the temporary ban followed by other developments played a major role in the tumult that followed.

Image credit: CoinDesk
Bitcoin’s value is taking a wild ride. Image Credit: CoinDesk

Bitcoin prices have achieved 424 percent growth since the beginning of the year, proving that the cryptocurrency is particularly resilient, contrary to some assumptions.

Bitcoin could be back on track with its meteoric rise. Experts seem to be unphased by the rollercoaster changes of the past few weeks. Speaking during CNBC’s Fast Money segment, former Fortress Investment Group hedge fund manager turned cryptocurrency investor Mike Novogratz predicted that Bitcoin will reach heights above $10,000 in the next six to ten months.

The cryptocurrency market is anything but stable. There is no definitive way to predict how it will perform in the coming days, let alone weeks or months. Still, whether crypto is a bubble or not, there’s no doubt that it is disrupting the financial sector.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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A New Company Allows You to Monetize Your Genetic Data

Genetic Wallet

The organizations and scientists working hard to develop the next generation of medical treatments and pharmaceuticals rely on genetic data for their research. That data has to come from somewhere, and now, a startup has formed to give individuals the opportunity to get paid for the information that’s locked away in their genes.

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The market value of genetic data hit $5.9 billion in 2010, a figure that’s predicted to grow significantly in the coming years. However, at present, a small number of genomics corporations, pharmaceutical firms, and scientific and medical institutions control all the available information.

Zenome wants to change that. The startup’s argument is that individuals should control the rights to their own genetic data. Using blockchain technology, the company plans to create a network that will offer anyone who needs genetic information the ability to purchase access to it while ensuring the privacy of the genetic donor.

Cash for Data

Because genetic data contains so many details about a person, ensuring that the data is not linked to the donor’s identity is vital if a service like the one proposed by Zenome is going to be successful. Though best known as the technology that allows traders to exchange cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether anonymously, blockchain could be the perfect way to ensure that an individual’s identity is decoupled from their genetic information.

However, this anonymity is just one advantage of blockchain technology. It can also add an extra layer of security. A large-scale leak of genetic data would be a huge scandal for companies conducting research, so storing this data on a blockchain would lessen the risk of such a scenario.

Of course, Zenome’s biggest selling point is the agency it offers to individuals. The platform would give donors added control over who can access their genetic data and for what purpose while still allowing them to make money off it.

When the Zenome platform goes live, ZNA tokens will be the currency used to buy access to data. The startup will launch an initial coin offering pre-sale on October 17, at which point interested parties will receive a 100 percent bonus on any ZNA tokens they purchase.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Latest Prediction Puts Bitcoin at $10k by April 2018

As Bitcoin prices remain stable, experts predict a continued increase in value. In a recent interview featured in CNBC‘s “Fast Money” segment, former Fortress Investment Group hedge fund manager turned cryptocurrency investor Mike Novogratz said the rise in value isn’t likely to stop any time soon.

“I’m pretty confident to say it’s going higher,” he said on Wednesday, adding that “It would not surprise [me] if in the next six to 10 months we’re over $10,000.” Just last week, other experts predicted bitcoin prices would reach $6,000 by the end of the year, though still warning against volatility.

Indeed, many have pointed out that cryptocurrencies tend to be unstable. For Novogratz, however, this volatility is normal. “Yes, it’s a bubble, it’s going to be one of the great manias of all time,” he explained. “Bitcoin happens to be the bellwether of this entire decentralized revolution, so it’s the easiest way people get gain exposure to it. […] Things like Ethereum I think will be the public utility of this new space.” This blockchain revolution, he added, would “change the way we live.”

Despite fears of a dip in prices due to Russia’s cryptocurrency ban, recent numbers show that bitcoin prices have stayed at the upper $4,000 mark after closing at another all-time high on Monday. The Russian ban comes after China and South Korea made similar moves against cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Harvard Professor: “In the Long Run, the Price of Bitcoin Will Collapse”

Futures Market

This summer, the total value of the bitcoin market reached $160 billion, almost 10 times what it was at the beginning of 2017. Now, a leading economic expert is warning investors that while cryptocurrencies may very well be the financial wave of the future, the value of bitcoin will collapse eventually.

Kenneth Rogoff is a professor of economics at Harvard University, and from 2001 to 2003, he served as the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. In an opinion piece published by The Guardian this week, he praises the technology underpinning bitcoin, but says he believes too many factors are working against the currency for its value to continue to increase indefinitely.

In the article, he argues that bitcoin evangelists who expect the currency to become ubiquitous are just setting themselves up for disappointment.

“It is folly to think that bitcoin will ever be allowed to supplant central-bank-issued money,” wrote Rogoff. “It is one thing for governments to allow small anonymous transactions with virtual currencies; indeed, this would be desirable. But it is an entirely different matter for governments to allow large-scale anonymous payments, which would make it extremely difficult to collect taxes or counter criminal activity.”

Bad for Bitcoin

Bitcoin was once the only cryptocurrency with any real cachet, and it’s still the most popular. However, a variety of competing alt-coins and tokens have emerged in recent years, with the likes of ether and ripple quickly establishing themselves within the crypto market.

External competition isn’t the only reason Rogoff believes bitcoin will collapse, though. According to the economist, governments could end up crippling the currency’s value if the current “free-for-all” crypto landscape changes too much or too quickly. He holds the opinion that regulation is unavoidable, as governments are going to want to keep an eye on transactions to cut down on tax evasion and other crimes.

Rogoff points to Japan as an example. Bitcoin is already very popular in the Asian nation, and it appears set to grow even more so thanks to relaxed regulation. However, if the country decides to draft and enforce new legislation or if its banks are successful in their attempts to create an alternative cryptocurrency, bitcoin’s value could suffer.

Rogoff doesn’t say when bitcoin will collapse, though, so actually taking action based on his prediction is futile. Meanwhile, other experts have shared far more concrete predictions for bitcoin’s future, and many of those are also far more optimistic.

Ronnie Moas of Standpoint Research believes bitcoin’s value could reach $20,000 in the next three years, while veteran trader masterluc has predicted that bitcoin will be worth $15,000 before the end of 2017. As for regulations having an impact on the crypto’s future value, economists at the central bank of Finland believe blockchain technology is self-regulating and that governments likely couldn’t regulate it even if they wanted to.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Schools Are Officially Accepting Bitcoin for Tuition

Using Bitcoin for Tuition Payments

Bitcoin has been used to buy homes, and countries like Venezuela and Vietnam are beginning to truly embrace the currency. Now, certain universities are adopting the payment method of bitcoin for tuition, albeit with a few caveats.

The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland announced the decision to accept bitcoin payments this week, saying it is an indication of “its ability to disseminate knowledge on cutting-edge technologies such as blockchain, as well as its desire to gain experience in the practical aspects of this novel area.” The university offers courses focused on financing, economics, music, and more, meaning it was really only a matter of time before it invited bitcoin inside its walls.

Lucerne doesn’t handle the bitcoin transactions, instead entrusting all bitcoin payments to processing firm Bitcoin Suisse AG. The company will use a banking system similar to an e-banking portal, enabling the school to accept the digital currency without having to maintain possession of it. Bitcoin payments are converted into Swiss francs once a week, or once a day if more than 10,000 Swiss francs are acquired.

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“Bitcoin Suisse AG bears the risk of any exchange rate losses and currency fluctuations,” explains Lucerne.

Students who use bitcoin for tuition will incur a 1% payment fee, which Bitcoin.com notes is much less than traditional payment fees. Lucerne doesn’t expect many of its students to pay with bitcoin initially, but believes those who understand the currency will be among the first to take advantage of the option.

“Those most likely to avail themselves of this opportunity will either be already familiar with the concept of financial services and blockchain or interested in pursuing continuing and executive education opportunities in this subject area,” the university added.

Expanding Curriculum

According to Bitcoin.com, Lucerne isn’t the only university that’s started to accept bitcoin. Last December, business school ESMT Berlin became the first German university to accept the cryptocurrency as payment, calling it “the most well-developed blockchain application.” Even earlier than that, The University of Nicosia in Cyprus announced that it was the first school in the world to adopt bitcoin in 2013, while King’s College was the first U.S. college to do so in 2014. Despite these colleges’ efforts, many people are unfamiliar with cryptocurrencies and how they work. As a society, we’re a long way out from being to use them for all of our transactions.

As bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies become more popular and widely accepted, expect to see universities around the world to not only accept them as payment, but also introduce courses focused on blockchain technology. As reported by CoinTelegraph, the financial industry has a large demand for people with blockchain expertise, but the supply currently isn’t there. Fortunately, universities in the U.S., Europe, and Russia have incorporated such courses, including Duke University, Princeton University, UC Berkeley, the aforementioned University of Nicosia, and the National University of Science and Technology.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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One of the World’s Largest Airlines Is Looking Into Blockchain Technology

Blockchain Takes Flight

Aircraft maintenance is, obviously, a crucial part of any airline business. Keeping tabs with replacement parts on in-service planes is necessary to avoid serious complications in flight. Which is why Air France KLM is putting a premium on its ability to keep their airplanes in tip-top shape, and they’ve decided to employ blockchain technology to do so.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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Speaking in a webinar together with Microsoft and software for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) systems provider Ramco Aviation, Air France talked about the benefits of relying on digital currency technology. James Kornberg, Air France KLM business unit director of innovation, said that he is working with his team to come up with a clear business case for blockchain use in improving maintenance processes and work flows. “The use case has to be realistic,” he said, Aviation Today reports. “The four features of blockchain are resilience, traceability, integrity and disintermediation are well suited to the aviation supply chain.”

Expanded Value

Blockchain, the innovative technology that powers cryptocurrencies, isn’t just useful for financial transactions. Already, this decentralized digital ledger have found use in storing medical data, in managing power grids, as a potentially new internet, and even in how we distribute aid. Now, airline companies are taking the technology by the wings.

Kornberg pointed out, however, that airline data has to completely transition to digital first before they can fully take advantage of what blockchain has to offer. “In the aviation industry, we still have a lot of our data that is not digitalized, still a lot of analog data, the first step, and that’s what we’re doing at the moment,” he added.

Apart from Air France’s idea of using it to keep track of maintenance needs, blockchain has the capacity to transform the entire commercial airline transportation industry. “The characteristics of the airline industry—and also the broader travel industry—align very well with the capabilities of the blockchain,” an Accenture write-up notes. The key is in how blockchain handles data. Airline companies can employ blockchain to improve ticketing services by using smart-contracts, managing loyalty points, as well as in keeping passenger information and data more secure.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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This AI Blockchain Could Be The Most Disruptive Tech of the Year

AI ICO

The idea of an Initial Coin Offering has entered the public parlance as part of the rise of cryptocurrency. Now, an ambitious artificial intelligence startup is using the funding strategy as a means of gathering the cash needed to jumpstart the development of a project: SingularityNET.

SingularityNET aims to prevent control of advanced AI from being entirely in the hands of Silicon Valley. Instead, it will use AI blockchain technology to distribute access to a wide range of AI algorithms, even enabling them to learn how to work in unison. 

The 5 Weirdest AI Applications [INFOGRAPHICS]
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Companies and individual developers will be able to host their algorithms on the network, and anyone will be able to use SingularityNET-specific currency to utilize them, thanks to smart contracts.

Computer Brain

At first, it’s expected that SingularityNET will be home to relatively simple AI algorithms, like computer vision technologies and translation services. However, there are hopes that this type of platform could allow these functionalities to become intertwined.

For example, if a user wanted to translate a document that includes images, SingularityNET could allow for the translation algorithm to request the services of the computer vision algorithm, to analyze what’s in the picture and supply a caption — with no need for human input.

“We want create a system that learns on its own how to cobble together modules to carry out different functions,” said project lead Ben Goertzel in an interview with Wired. “You’ll see a sort of federation of AIs emerge from the spontaneous interaction among the nodes, without human guidance.”

However, these are plans for the long-term, as Goertzel doesn’t expect the system to reach that kind of sophistication for some time. The project is set to launch in 2018, but the ICO will get underway in November 2017.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Malware That Hijacks Your Computer to Mine Cryptocurrency Is Swarming Across the Internet

Revenue Scheming

Last month, visitors of BitTorrent search engine/piracy website The Pirate Bay noticed their central processing unit (CPU) usage spike. However, the problem wasn’t related to the illegal downloading taking place on the site (that’s another issue entirely). This same kind of increased CPU usage was experienced by users of the entirely legal online streaming service Showtime some days later.

Ultimately, users realized that both The Pirate Bay and Showtime had employed cryptocurrency mining malware to turn visitors’ computers into satellite cryptocurrency miners. Showtime has since said that they’ve removed the errant code, but they didn’t clarify whether it was implemented on purpose or if the site was hacked. The Pirate Bay, on the other hand, admitted that the addition of this code was part of a 24-hour test and said they’ve removed it.

The above are just two examples of what is becoming a growing trend amongst websites. Instead of relying on ad placements — the most common revenue source for non-subscription-based websites — sites are turning to cryptocurrency mining. In fact, a company called Coinhive released a tool specifically for use by website owners looking to earn money without displaying ads.

The problem is that Coinhive has also become popular with malware developers, who have embedded it in Chrome extensions, hacked sites, and various other corners of the internet. These tools mine less-popular cryptos, such as Monero and zCash, which have features that make their transactions untraceable by authorities.

Raising Concerns

Indeed, the act of secretly turning other peoples’ computers into personal crypto miners is now rampant. From January to August of this year, cryptocurrency mining attacks that target enterprise websites have grown sixfold, according to IBM X-Force’s security team. Cybersecurity advisor Kaspersky Lab reported a similar trend amongst their users. Some 1.6 million of their clients had their computers infected by cryptocurrency mining malware this year, and the problem has apparently been growing since last year.

Obviously, this raises concerns that might spell trouble for the blockchain and cryptocurrency community. Cryptocurrency mining is an integral part of blockchain technology — it’s how hosts are rewarded for keeping tabs on the transactions in their respective networks, which can be costly in terms of hardware and electricity needs.

The key to a blockchain’s security is that no single individual handles all of the ledger’s transactions. Instead, they’re scattered across numerous CPUs owned by miners. While legitimate miners use their own PCs, though, those employing crypto-mining malware are taking advantage of other peoples’ computers and essentially compromising them.

Clearly, such a setup would have some appeal as an alternative source of income for website owners. However, infecting unsuspecting users with cryptocurrency mining malware is a violation of their privacy and safety — not to mention a nuisance that slows down their computers. Thankfully, a standard ad blocker is currently enough to prevent the embedding of these mining tools.

If website owners were to inform users beforehand that such a tool exists when they visit a website, perhaps this could become a legitimate source of revenue. That’s one of the many issues nations should consider as they develop regulations to govern blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Disney Built a Blockchain — Can It Compete With Ethereum?

From animatronics to digital animation, the Walt Disney Company has long been a pioneer in emerging technology. And blockchain technology is no exception.

In 2014, Disney’s tech-focused Seattle office started building what’s now known as Dragonchain, a blockchain protocol designed to allow for more data privacy than is possible on other enterprise-oriented blockchains like Ethereum. The idea was to develop a secure asset management system to be used internally.

However, Disney dropped the project in 2016 and decided to make it open source. Soon after, a group of former Disney employees founded the Dragonchain Foundation, a non-profit which manages upkeep of the protocol.

Now, they’re looking to build a commercial business — called Dragonchain Inc. — on top of the platform to help other companies quickly and easily start using blockchain.

But first they need to raise money to do so.

Gap in the Market

It’s commonly believed in blockchain circles that the technology could some day make up an entirely new infrastructural layer of the internet, replacing traditional contracts and payment systems used in industries like law and real estate, because the design of the technology makes it difficult to commit fraud.

Dragonchain Inc. chief business officer George Sarhanis (left) and CEO Joe Roets. Image Source: Dragonchain

This promise has drawn in research and development funds from industry powerhouses including IBM and Cisco, which have joined various unifying organizations such as Hyperledger and the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance to better understand how this new technology can be leveraged commercially.

But many large corporations, such as Disney, have been hesitant to put their own data on public blockchains because the design would leave much of their proprietary and sensitive data open to prying eyes. The hope for Dragonchain is that other companies feel the same way.

Joe Roets, now CEO of Dragonchain Inc., was one of the engineers behind the original project at Disney.

“Disney was very forward thinking and wanted to know how people use different tech,” Roets said. “We started building things. It took two years to build out the platform, give or take.”

Roets described Dragonchain Inc’s platform as a “turn key” product, which makes it easier for companies to build what they want on top of the Dragonchain blockchain protocol, without investing in expensive and hard-to-find technological expertise.

Roets said that while it is possible to build security and encryption on top of a public blockchain, it’s a costly and time-consuming project. With Dragonchain, the encryption and obfuscation is built in.

“We realized some of the real world problems are that companies have access to traditional engineers, but they don’t necessarily have a crypto background,” Roets said . “If you go even further into blockchain, you need an economist or a game theory expert.”

More Private Than Ethereum

Like the technology behind the cryptocurrencies bitcoin and ethereum, Dragonchain is a digital ledger that uses complex algorithms to document transactions in a way that cannot be easily modified. Every blockchain contains a complete history of everything that has happened on it, which makes it harder for fraud to occur in financial transactions. Unlike the public bitcoin and ethereum protocols, however, Dragonchain is a hybrid. This means some information is private, and some is public.

“The main difference would be that with ethereum or any public blockchains, your data is out there,” Roets said. “You can do certain things to obfuscate your data. You could encrypt it. But it won’t matter in 10 years or 20 years.”

While Disney originally built the project as a private blockchain, this method doesn’t have the same authenticity benefits as a public or hybrid protocol. Having some of the data public is vital to making the technology effective in protecting fraud. That’s because the ability to spread data across a decentralized network is a key component of authenticating the validity of transactions. The blockchain usually requires consensus from multiple companies and computers in order to make a change to the blockchain’s history. Theoretically, this makes it difficult for solo actors to delete receipts for their own benefit.

Initial Coin Offering

Whether or not Dragonchain Inc. is able to move forward with its commercial ambitions depends a lot on how things go over the next month.

From October 2 to November 2, Dragonchain Inc. will hold an initial coin offering (ICO), also known as a token sale, to raise money for the company. Around 238 million tokens, which the team calls “dragons,” will be available for sale to the public.

Artwork, such as Mimmo Rotella’s “Palinsesto,” is for sale by auction on Look Lateral’s website. The company is working with Dragonchain to build a secure way to authenticate and pay for art. Image Source: Look Lateral

“Disney has no involvement in Dragonchain’s initial coin offering,” a Disney spokesperson said.

ICOs are an increasing common fundraising technique in the blockchain world. Companies like Dragonchain Inc. offer up a select number of tokens that can be purchased with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum. The tokens can be exchanged for goods and services within the blockchain platform. On its website, Dragonchain describes dragons as “tokenized micro-license for interaction with Dragonchain commercial platform services.”

While tokens are not currencies, they can be traded on token exchanges for higher or lower cash value than they were purchased for. Not every investor necessarily wants to use services within Dragonchain. Some may see it as an investment that could generate gains in the longterm.

Those that do want to use the service will have access to three different commercial products. The first is a developer-friendly platform for building new projects on top of Dragonchain. There’s also a marketplace that has a library of pre-built smart contracts and features to make the building process faster. The company will also fund an incubator for teams that want to develop projects on top of the protocol.

Several companies are already working on Dragonchain to develop new tools and businesses.

Look Lateral is an Italian fine art site which is using Dragonchain to create proof of authenticity for the art that it sells on its platform. Some pieces of art on the site cost over $100,000, so the blockchain will function as a way of paying for art, as well as a record of ownership. In the art world, this is referred to as “provenance.”

Another company called LifeID is working to build a secure identity platform on the blockchain. This would allow users to verify that they are who they say they are in digital and physical spaces, without relying on state-issued IDs, or corporately-owned social media, like Facebook profiles.

Dragonchain Inc’s ICO begins October 2.

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The CDC Wants to Use Blockchain as a Weapon Against Deadly Epidemics

Data Deluge

Blockchain technology is already revolutionizing the world of finance, and it’s set to do the same for various other industries, too. One of those industries is healthcare, and now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is looking into ways to utilize the technology.

The CDC helps maintain public health in the U.S. by sharing information about infectious diseases with state and local health departments. However, carrying out that task in a timely and efficient manner is rather difficult.

The sensitivity of health information plays a huge factor in this difficulty. The CDC needs to make sure only medical professionals with the proper credentials have access to the data. Even tighter constraints are in place with regards to editing it.

To ensure these privacy standards are met, various processes must be carried out, and some of these processes have to be performed manually. This takes time, which might be at a premium when an epidemic takes hold. The blockchain has the potential to make this process much more efficient.

Blockchain Benefits

The CDC currently provides medical professionals with an app they can use to log information pertaining to their patients. However, personally identifiable information can’t be stored in the cloud for security reasons, and the alternative storage solution slows down the whole process.

Jim Nasr, chief software architect at the CDC’s Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services, told the MIT Technology Review that this wouldn’t be the case with the blockchain. The tech would allow the same data to be stored and shared far more rapidly, while still complying with laws pertaining to user privacy and security. “Public health and blockchain really do belong together,” said Nasr.

This concept is still in its early stages, and many big questions have yet to be answered. Should local, state, or national bodies be in charge of the data? Who should be able to access it? How should patients and public health organizations be identified in the database?

Once these issues are sorted out, the CDC can move forward with blockchain implementation. Nasr and his team are currently working on several different prototypes, and they hope to start building actual applications for the technology in 2018.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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EmCash Is Dubai’s First Official Cryptocurrency

Future City, Future Cash

The government of the city of Dubai launched their own blockchain-based cryptocurrency last week. The city’s economy department partnered with one of its subsidiaries called Emcredit Limited and U.K.-based Object Tech Group, Ltd. to create emCash. This new “encrypted digital currency” is a product of partnerships Dubai has cultivated through their Accelerators Initiative and brought under the umbrella of the Dubai Economy Accelerators.

“A digital currency has varied advantages – faster processing, improved delivery time, less complexity and cost, to name a few,” Dubai Economy deputy director general Ali Ibrahim said in a press statement. “It will change the way people live and do business in Dubai, and mark a giant leap for the city in harnessing game-changing innovations to improve ease of business and quality of life.”

Officials claim that emCash uses the latest blockchain technology and works as part of payment system called emWallet. As the city’s credit bureau, Emcredit has made sure that the emWallet handles various types of transactions—from “their daily coffee and children’s school fee to utility charges and money transfers”—with a near-field communication (NFC) support through a smartphone.

The city will also have a shared platform, called Blockchain as a Service, to help Dubai government agencies use blockchain in various projects.

Investing in the Future

Blockchain’s potential as a decentralized and secure platform for transactions, financial or otherwise, isn’t lost to those with eyes to the future. Dubbed as the “city of the future,” Dubai is certainly one of those, but it isn’t the first to have an “official” cryptocurrency. The launch of the emCash, however, is only a first step.

Dubai has been working on becoming the world’s first economy that’s built on the blockchain, and with it its own cryptocurrency. This is where the city’s efforts differ, and could potentially influence economies through the entire United Arab Emirates (UAE). “Obtaining approvals from other UAE authorities will be taken into consideration if required,” Ibrahim said.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Smart Dubai, the government office responsible for encouraging innovation in the country, will be conducting government and private organization workshops over the next few months to identify those services best enhanced by blockchain. After that, the office expects that pilot projects in both the public and private sectors will begin rolling out this year.

“The fast paced environment and incredible willingness to adopt innovative technology has made Dubai the perfect place for us to do business,” said Muna Al Qassab, CEO of Emcredit Limited, in the city’s press release. “This project is a great example of the ambition we have met here, together we are essentially creating a whole new economic ecosystem.”

Disclaimer: The Dubai Future Foundation works in collaboration with Futurism and is one of our sponsors.

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South Korea Has Banned the Sale of All New Cryptocurrencies

Banning New ICOs

Today, South Korea announced a ban on initial coin offerings (ICO), the method through which many cryptocurrency startups raise funds. As reported by Reuters, the ban comes after the Financial Services Commission (FSC) in Seoul ultimately decided ICOs need to be controlled and monitored before being widely accepted.

The FSC’s concerns aren’t entirely unfounded. Cryptocurrencies have been used to raise a significant amount of money for legitimate operations this year, but they’ve also been used in phishing scams and other cyber crimes.

“Raising funds through ICOs seem to be on the rise globally, and our assessment is that ICOs are increasing in South Korea as well,” South Korea’s financial regulator wrote in a statement, adding that “stern penalties” would befall anyone that continues to issue ICOs. The details of those penalties were not revealed, however.

South Korea’s announcement follows a similar decision made by China earlier this month, though that ban may be temporary. The U.S., Canada, and Hong Kong have also issued warnings about ICOs, but none have outright banned the practice.

Impact on Bitcoin and Ether

According to Bloomberg, digital currencies like bitcoin and ether experienced a small drop in price following the ban — 5.7 percent for ether and 3.5 percent for bitcoin — but both have already recovered.

Thomas Glucksmann, head of marketing at bitcoin exchange company Gatecoin, told Bloomberg a drop in value following such an announcement is to be expected, as traders in crypto markets would immediately turn to selling off the currencies.

“The majority of ICO tokens are being issued through the Ethereum platform,” he said. “At any sign of vulnerability, the first reaction would be a mass selloff in ether. That’s why the price of ether is susceptible.”

South Korea notes that the ban doesn’t mean it accepts the trading of cryptocurrencies within the financial market. For now, the nation will continue to observe operations to see what other regulations can or should be implemented. That said, it’s currently unclear how, exactly, the country would attempt to regulate crypto.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Illinois Is Experimenting with Blockchains to Replace Physical Birth Certificates

Blockchains and Birth Certificates

The state of Illinois is testing a new way for people to prove their identities, albeit without the need to request their birth certificates and wait weeks for it to arrive in the mail. The state aims to give citizens more control of their data, as well as provide solace in knowing it’s more secure than ever.

To accomplish this task, the state is turning to the same blockchain technology that companies like Bitcoin and Ethereum utilize for their own networks. In August, the Illinois Blockchain Initiative — a collaboration launched by the state to explore blockchain and distributed ledger technology — announced it’s partnering with self-sovereign identity solutions firm Evernym to create an online ledger that’s only accessible to the owner of the ID and any other individuals they’re granted access. It’s very similar to how the technology could be used to track and share information between hospitals.

“The successful transition to an identity ecosystem that is truly self-sovereign requires conversion of ‘breeder documents’, such as birth certificates, which serve as the basis for obtaining other documents,” explained Evernym’s Chief Trust Officer Drummond Reed last month. “Digitizing these foundational documents in a state the size and importance of Illinois will make a major contribution to the larger effort of solving the online identity problem.”

More Than Just Illinois

According to New Scientist, citing a report published earlier this month from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, governments in the UK, Brazil, and others are also interested in the idea. If implemented, it would be a radical shift in the way information is stored, and how it’s accessed. However, due to the nature of distributed ledgers and their near permanence, a mistake such as a simple misspelling of a name can have cause lasting issues, similar to having a hyphen joining two names present on a birth certificate, but not on a driver’s license.

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This: A Guide to Urban Living in the 80s [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Their benefits could certainly outweigh the risks, though, as having one’s information be more secure and safe from hacking is never a bad thing; people are still unhappy with Equifax’s own data breach, after all.

Expect blockchains to continue to be used to alter the various institutions we’ve come to live with. It’s already been tested to see how it can impact the way we vote, so it was only a matter of time before it expanded to bigger, more live changing projects.

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Japan Is Testing a New Digital Currency to Offset Cash Spending

Introducing J-Coin

Japanese banks are working together to introduce a new digital currency ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The currency, called J-Coin, would exist alongside the Japanese Yen and could be exchanged for the traditional currency at a one-to-one rate. Users would access the currency through a mobile app which uses QR codes to operate in stores.

Yasuhiro Sato, president and chief executive officer of Mizuho Financial Group, which is leading development on the currency, told the Financial Times he believes that J-Coin is “quite ahead of [credit and debit] cards, because when you use the cards the shops pay a certain fee.”

J-Coin is also meant to impact the country’s heavy use of cash, which accounts for 70 percent of all transactions.

“We like cash, because Japan is a very safety-conscious country, but cash is not so productive so we have to change the structure from cash to electronic money,” added Sato.

Successful Adoption

It’s unclear if the digital currency will be accepted or even successful. Alongside its own development, the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) is testing a blockchain-based currency called the MUFG coin, which could affect J-Coin in the future.

While the company has been asked about joining other banks supporting J-Coin, it has responded by saying that it wants “MUFG coin’s results and know-how to be used across Japan, including by other banks, but have not decided on what concrete measures to take.” Over 1,600 MUFG employees currently use the currency to pay for expenses.

It’s widely known that banks need to address the impending changes expected to be caused by digital disruption, but if the digital currency is implemented successfully, it could bring an additional  ¥10bn to Japan’s economy.

According to MIT’s Technology Review, if everything goes well, Japan would join a number of other countries experimenting with cryptocurrencies. Venezuela, for example, is said to be in the midst of shifting to Bitcoin to deal with hyperinflation.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Blockchain Is Radically Transforming Society’s Oldest Institutions

Banking Everywhere

From our ancestors exchanging livestock tens of thousands of years ago to the brokers trading stocks on Wall Street today, bartering is a foundational aspect of human society. Throughout history, we have traded what we have for what we need, and through these transactions, we have survived.

As we made the transition from trading in cattle and grains to dollars and cents, we started relying more and more heavily on financial institutions such as banks, investment firms, and lenders to help us manage our assets. As of 2015, 93 percent of U.S. households had at least one checking or savings account, and that’s not including the millions of people who also have mortgages, credit cards, or other ties to the finance industry.

For decades, nearly every aspect of our lives has involved a third-party financial institution in some way, but despite their ubiquity, these institutions are fundamentally flawed. Unexpected fees and slow transaction times can regularly leave users frustrated, but even those problems are relatively benign compared to other, more foundational issues.

Because they store data on centralized servers, banks and other traditional financial institutions are susceptible to security breaches. In some cases, those breaches can lead to the loss of huge sums of money, such as when hackers stole $80 million from Bangladesh’s central bank in 2016. In other instances, identities are the target, like when a Brazilian bank’s website was hijacked for five hours in April, during which account holders willingly supplied the hackers with sensitive personal information.

These institutions also have barriers to entry that prevent some from participating in them. For example, a single past mistake like a bounced check can leave a person blacklisted from opening a bank account for several years, and in some nations, such as Saudi Arabia, women aren’t even allowed to open accounts without permission from their husbands.

For these reasons and others, a whopping 38 percent of the adult population worldwide doesn’t have a bank account. That’s roughly 2 billion people who are largely unable to participate in the world economy as it currently operates.

Thankfully, an alternative to traditional finance has emerged in the form of the blockchain.

Enter: The Blockchain

A blockchain is a distributed digital ledger, which means it doesn’t have one centralized authority verifying and recording transactions (like a bank or a brokerage does). Instead, when two parties want to trade blockchain assets (better known as cryptocurrencies), the request is sent out to a network of computers. These “nodes” individually verify and record the transaction on their identical copy of the ledger, and a group of these transactions will become one timestamped block on the blockchain.

This process can be completed within seconds, and because it is distributed (and not confined to one central server), a blockchain is protected against the security issues that plague traditional finance institutions. Anyone can participate in the blockchain economy, and transactions can be completed anonymously, further protecting individuals’ identities.

Over the last year, these various benefits have caused interest in cryptocurrencies to skyrocket. From a relatively paltry $17 billion in January, the global cryptocurrency market cap has grown to $126 billion. Wall Street traders are turning their attention to cryptocurrency exchanges, and instead of debit cards, customers are now using their crypto wallets to buy everything from coffee to video games.

Despite this growth, however, the blockchain economy is still in its nascent stages, and all of the kinks haven’t been worked out yet.

One of the biggest issues involves how cryptocurrencies are traded. While the blockchain itself is decentralized, the major exchanges used for the buying and selling of assets are not. That means that, just like banks, these exchanges are susceptible to security breaches, so when traders entrust them with their funds, they are leaving themselves vulnerable. In fact, just a few months ago, one of the largest bitcoin exchanges was hacked, compromising the data of 30,000 customers and leading to the loss of an estimated $870,000.

Because trading is spread out over dozens of exchanges, individual exchanges can also have problems meeting volume demands as interest in crypto grows. This lack of liquidity can force traders to pay higher fees, as well as lead to “flash crashes” that can send the value of a cryptocurrency plummeting from hundreds of dollars (or more) down to mere cents in just a single second.

Of course, there have been attempts to make decentralized exchanges, but these, too, are problematic. For example, they have inherently higher latency, higher fees, less fluidity, and an increased potential for unfairness than centralized exchanges.

But new, alternative ways to exchange cryptocurrencies are emerging, and they could help solve many of the ongoing issues. One of these newest contenders is AirSwap, which is a platform that is built off of a truly peer-to-peer model.

Peer-To-Peer Trading

AirSwap is a new way to trade Ethereum tokens. Unlike bitcoin, which is essentially a form of digital money, a token offers its holder some utility within a system, such as voting power, access to special features, or an amount of a virtual currency. Because Ethereum’s decentralized platform was designed specifically to support token networks, it has become the go-to blockchain for anyone looking to launch a new token.

When ready to trade these tokens, members of the AirSwap community can announce that they are interested in trading and connect directly with other members — no third party required. To ensure they’re getting a fair deal, AirSwap provides real-time price suggestions before committing to a transaction, both for sellers and buyers.

AirSwap members can even build their own storefronts, creating new ERC20 tokens from the ground up and seamlessly bringing them to market.

Because tokens are in the possession of either the buyer (the “maker” of the order) or the seller (the “taker” of the order) right up until a smart contract is executed on the Ethereum blockchain, the AirSwap protocol eliminates the opportunity for theft provided by centralized exchanges. Liquidity is no longer a problem either, as sellers aren’t beholden to the asset price set by the exchange. Because each deal is negotiated directly between the two parties and not set up through the blockchain, the problems of decentralized exchanges are also eliminated.

AirSwap takes everything that makes the blockchain itself revolutionary — its high level of security, lack of a centralized authority, and low barrier to entry — and applies it to the trading of blockchain assets. All that token traders need to do to take advantage of this new decentralized exchange is purchase the AirSwap Token (AST), which will launch on October 10. After that, they’ll be free to use AirSwap to frictionlessly manage their tokenized assets in this new era of finance.


The preceding communication has been paid for by AirSwap, and Futurism has a small financial stake in AirSwap’s token launch. This communication is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer or solicitation to sell shares or securities in AirSwap or any related or associated company. The AirSwap tokens are not being structured or sold as securities or any other form of investment product, and consequently, none of the information presented herein is intended to form the basis for any investment decision, and no specific recommendations are intended. This communication does not constitute investment advice or solicitation for investment. Futurism expressly disclaims any and all responsibility for any direct or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever arising directly or indirectly from: (i) reliance on any information contained herein, (ii) any error, omission or inaccuracy in any such information or (iii) any action resulting from such information.

Each recipient of this communication expressly acknowledges that the AirSwap tokens are being sold solely for the purpose of providing purchasers of such tokens with access to the services associated with the tokens, and that such persons are not being offered, and will not be purchasing, any tokens for any other purposes, including, but not limited to, any investment, speculative or other financial purpose. Each recipient further acknowledges that they are aware of the commercial risks associated with AirSwap and the network associated with its tokens.

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The Showtime Question: Should Companies Be Allowed to Use Your Computer to Mine Crypto?

Mining Money

A significant portion of internet users don’t like seeing ads. To avoid these sometimes distracting pop-ups and banners, they may install ad-blockers on their browser or turn exclusively to ad-free sites. Meanwhile, advertisers are spending larger and larger portions of their ad budgets with big online players like Google and Facebook. This is causing internet ad revenues to plummet for sites that may rely on that money to stay afloat.

Privacy and the Internet of Things
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Now, BitTorrent search engine The Pirate Bay and the Showtime streaming service have been caught monetizing their online visitors another way: by using their systems to mine cryptocurrency.

Both sites were found to be sending mining code to users’ computers, and both have now stopped this practice.

The Pirate Bay acknowledged the situation, claiming that it was simply a test. “We really want to get rid of all the ads,” read a statement published by The Pirate Bay. “But we also need enough money to keep the site running.” Showtime, meanwhile, has yet to respond to questions.

Selling Your System

Using visitors’ systems to mine cryptocurrency would provide a potent new revenue stream for sites and services, but whether users would agree to it is another question entirely.

When a site uses a visitor’s computer to mine cryptocurrency, they take up a portion of the system’s resources. At its least intrusive, this practice might cause the system to run a bit slower. In an extreme scenario, it could tear through the battery of a portable device or even inflate a home’s electric bill.

The biggest problem with this particular discovery is that neither The Pirate Bay nor Showtime warned users in advance about their plans. While some users might agree to give up a bit of processing power in exchange for an ad-free experience, most would likely agree that running code on someone’s system without their permission is rather dishonest.

If users don’t agree to the practice, it doesn’t stand much of a chance of gaining traction as a new revenue source for sites — a standard ad blocker will impede mining code just as easily as it blots out ad content.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Get Ready for the First Smartphone Designed for the Blockchain Generation

Sirin Labs, the company behind that ridiculously priced Android phone, now has another smartphone to share with the world, and unlike its $14,000 predecessor, this one is expected to cost just $999.

Named after scientist Hal Finney, recipient of the world’s first bitcoin transaction, the Finney smartphone is an open-source, ultra-secure phone built on an independent, free blockchain network. It’s expected to come with a 256GB internal memory, a 16 megapixel camera, and a powerful suite of security measures, and it will be powered by the Tangle technology of IOTA.

Image Credit: Sirin Labs

Sirin Labs founder and CEO Moshe Hogeg told Business Insider that the company’s line of Finney devices, which will include an all-in-one PC, will be capable of sharing data, battery power, and processing power wirelessly — although a cable would be necessary at times.

“The Finney family of devices will be the first of their kind to be specifically designed for the needs of the blockchain generation, combining an ultra-secure blockchain-enabled environment, with the functionality and essentials of Android OS,” Sirin said in a press release.

blockchain cryptocurrency finney smartphone
Image Credit: Sirin Labs

The Finney is obviously intended for a still-niche market, and Sirin Labs’ CMO Nimrod May told Digital Trends they know that: “This is an early adopter community — for now — but we believe there is a large market opportunity right behind them.”

To raise money to fund the development of these devices, Sirin Labs plans to launch a crowdsale event this October. Once built, these device have the potential to help facilitate the eventual mass adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, which some experts believe is nearly inevitable.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Want to Learn More About Ethereum? Ethereum Co-Founder Explains His Cryptocurrency

Etherum co-founder Vitalik Buterin was one of the key speakers at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt, which was held last week in San Francisco. Asked to explain what Ethereum is to the average user, Buterin defined a blockchain from the perspective of those who understand its current most popular use — in cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin.

Buterin said that a blockchain can keep track of how much money a person has at any given time — or what he calls “cryptoeconomics.” But, while that’s the initial use of a blockchain, Buterin and his colleagues have found that such a decentralized system of keeping tabs on transaction records can extend to a far wider range of applications. He calls this “general purpose watching,” and it’s at the heart of what Ethereum is.

“The core idea behind Ethereum is: you can have a general purpose watching,” Buterin told the audience at Disrupt SF. “We can have a blockchain where instead of a blockchain working like a Swiss army knife where you have five different tools for five different categories of applications, you have a blockchain that understands general-purpose programming language.”

Indeed, Ethereum is considered to be the world’s foremost enterprise blockchain, with applications that extend beyond just cryptocurrencies. Ethereum has found use in manufacturing, shipping, and even in the music industry. Ethereum’s applications continue to expand, including the possibility of replacing credit card companies, a mass adoption that could disrupt many of today’s industries.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Blockchain Is Ready to Completely Transform the Healthcare Industry

Digital Ledger

Blockchain technology has played an important role in the rise of cryptocurrency, underpinning the likes of ether and bitcoin. A decentralized digital ledger could have a similar impact on various other industries, and a new white paper published by researchers from the MIT Media Lab argues the case for its healthcare applications.

MedRec is a prototype system for tracking who has permission to view and edit information relating to a patient’s medications, based on the Ethereum platform. “Our system gives patients a comprehensive, immutable log and easy access to their medical information across providers and treatment sites,” states the paper’s abstract.

When blockchain technology is used to keep track of cryptocurrency transactions, miners who offer up computing power to verify data are given a monetary reward. Medical records don’t generate cash, but the researchers behind MedRec suggest a different way of giving miners an incentive.

Rather than a payout, miners would receive access to aggregated and anonymized data from consenting patients. We’ve already seen how this kind of resource can be used to great effect by companies developing new drugs and treatments — having access to a huge pool of genetic data is one of the reasons 23andMe has been able to amass millions of dollars in funding.

MedRec’s co-creator Andrew Lippman, associate director of the Media Lab, told the MIT Technology Review that future iterations of the system might eliminate the mining process altogether. Instead, it could utilize the ample computing power found at major hospitals for verification purposes.

Shared Information

MedRec could potentially solve one of the biggest challenges of modern medicine — the fact that patients’ records might be distributed across various different facilities.

Modern technology has allowed medical institutions to begin the transition from physical to digital records, but it’s difficult to ensure that all instances of that information are kept up-to-date. A system like MedRec would mean that practitioners could be absolutely sure that they are working with the most current data.

It also provides advantages in terms of privacy and security. A private blockchain is a great way to handle access rights to a particular pool of data. Given the personal nature of information relating to medication and general health, implementing this technology would be a good method of ensuring that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Putting the blockchain to work in a medical context will be no small feat, as any major change to the practices employed by the industry must be scrutinized before it takes effect. However, projects like MedRec demonstrate just how much emerging technologies can do to help improve healthcare and save lives.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Crypto Debit Cards Are Paving the Way for Cryptocurrency Mass Adoption

Improving Crypto Usability

Cryptocurrencies, and the blockchain technology upon which these digital coins are built, have continued to make headlines in recent months. However, despite its growing appeal, the usability of cryptos remains limited; a hurdle that has kept it from achieving more rapid, widespread adoption. That might soon change, though, thanks to the growing popularity of crypto debit cards.

Crypto debit cards work like your regular flat debit cards, as they exist in a cashless payment infrastructure, but come with the added bonuses cryptocurrencies provide. Instead of being connected to a bank account, as traditional debit cards are, crypto debit cards are linked to a digital currency wallet.

One example is Centra Card, which supports several popular cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Zcash, and Dash. Since cryptocurrencies aren’t bound by banking laws specific to a country, crypto debit cards can actually be used in any mainstream commercial environment.

Towards Mass Adoption

There are still several issues that need to be resolved if cryptocurrencies are to become a more widely accepted form of currency. Government regulation is one, as well as price volatility concerns. When these problems have been solved, we might be in for a revolution. Mass adoption of crypto would change how we conduct transactions — and not just financial ones. In the mean time, crypto debit cards can help bridge the gap.

“A crypto debit card allows users to use their crypto wallets in a retail setting easily and with low friction,” blockchain-based “global consensus engine” Trive CEO David Mondrus said, according to Coin Telegraph. “I’ve travelled extensively in the US and abroad using my crypto debit card. It’s been a real life-saver at times.”

Crypto debit cards are convenient for travelers because they allow for easy cryptocurrency conversion to different currencies. These can also be a life saver in places where local currency has been deteriorating. Crypto debit cards may also help more people invest in cryptocurrencies without losing their purchasing power.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Y Combinator is Helping People Invest in Startups Using Blockchain

Smart Investment

Y Combinator wants to give people another way to invest in the startups it works with, utilizing the blockchain and cryptocurrency to offer wider access. Sam Altman, the company’s president, expressed a desire to “democratize” the process speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.

It’s thought that Y Combinator is currently investigating how cryptocurrency might be used to broaden the investment pool. There are various legal factors that need to be taken into consideration before such a system can be put in place.

The idea of using these platforms for investments is broadly similar to the initial coin offerings (ICOs) that are often used to launch a new cryptocurrency. However, Altman had some pointed remarks about the nature of ICOs in their current form.

“Do I think ICOs are silly, bordering on scams? Yes, they are,” he argued. “But, there are a few that are important, and the blockchain is more important than not…ICOs need to be regulated.”

Crypto Crowdfunding

ICOs have come under scrutiny in recent weeks. China just enforced a ban on the practice, which caused tremors across the cryptocurrency market, but authorities have since explained that this is a temporary measure intended to allow for proper regulations to be put in place.

Six EdTech Startups Democratizing Education [Infographic]
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It’s not difficult to see why there’s some trepidation about the legality of ICOs. It’s a largely unregulated form of crowdfunding that’s capable of bringing in huge amounts of money — in July, Tezos ran an ICO that accrued over $230 million in cryptocurrency.

However, the nature of ICOs demonstrate how cryptocurrency might be used by companies like Y Combinator to create room at the table for people who aren’t necessarily high-net-worth investors.

“More of the wealth creation here is not available to most people,” said Altman, speaking about Silicon Valley. “And I think that’s very bad in a society with already so much wealth inequality.”

 

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin Was Just Used to Pay for a New Home in Texas

Texas-based real estate brokerage firm Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty has completed the first-ever sale of a real estate property using just bitcoin.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency has long moved on from its shadowy past to become a legitimate currency used to purchase Starbucks coffeeXbox games, and now, a newly built custom home with grand entertaining areas, a master suite, and a chef-worthy kitchen.

The price of the home hasn’t been disclosed, but more important than that is the ease of the overall transaction. The buyer simply transferred the bitcoin to the seller, who then converted it into U.S. dollars.

“In all of my 33 years of closing transactions, I honestly couldn’t have expected something so unique to go so smoothly,” Kuper Sotheby’s Sheryl Lowe, the buyer’s agent, said in a press release. “In a matter of 10 minutes, the bitcoin was changed to U.S. dollars and the deal was done!”

This real estate transaction is further proof that bitcoin isn’t “a fraud,” as some have claimed. It’s also another example of the increasing acceptance of cryptocurrencies, which are poised to revolutionize a variety of industries beyond finance, from transportation to entertainment to politics.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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True, Bitcoin May Become Corrupt. But Banks Already Are.

Too Big to Fail

The financial crisis of the late 2000s had the potential to cripple the nation. Big banks played a major role in that economic disaster, and many ended up paying fines for facilitating the conditions that lead up to the crash in 2008.

So, when big banking executives start calling cryptocurrencies corrupt schemes, the accusations raise a few eyebrows.

Last week, JP Morgan CEO James Dimon leveled several criticisms at the original cryptocurrency, bitcoin, calling it a “fraud,” saying it’s “just not a real thing,” and claiming that “eventually it will be closed.” While Dimon is not the first to criticize crypto, his assertions are particularly noteworthy given his own company’s past transgressions.

Image credit: Zach Copley/Flickr
Image credit: Zach Copley/Flickr

Not only has JP Morgan been fined billions of dollars for their role in the financial crisis, they have also been fined for a slew of other corrupt and illegal practices both before and since. The bank seems particularly susceptible to fines arising from discrimination based on sex and race, the manipulation of key interest rates, and corrupt hiring practices.

JP Morgan isn’t the only bank to do wrong, either. According to Business Insider, between 2012 and 2016, the world’s top 20 banks were hit with nearly $354 billion in misconduct charges. That was an increase of nearly a third compared to the previous five years.

In the United States, this issue is of increasing concern as the current administration is working to undermine (and perhaps even completely repeal) the consumer protections of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law — an act that established a host of new governmental agencies in response to the financial crisis of 2008. These agencies are tasked with overseeing a number of aspects of the act and, by extension, various aspects of the banking system.

Looking to the Blockchain

Banks rely on centralization and the aggregation of power and authority, which makes their abuse of power all the more alarming. Conversely, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether are decentralized, meaning that the authority and power doesn’t reside in the hands of one executive (or bank). This decentralization has led some economists to believe that bitcoin and ether could be appropriate solutions to some of the problems inherent in our current financial system.

According to a report filed by economists at the Central Bank of Finland, the decentralized Bitcoin network, by its very nature, already effectively regulates itself: “There is no need to regulate it because, as a system, it is committed to the protocol as is and the transaction fees it charges the users are determined by the users independently of the miners’ efforts.”

While the future of cryptocurrencies is uncertain, the accusations levied at them by banking executives may say more about the execs than the crypto — do these higher ups truly believe what they are saying or are they members of an unscrupulous industry that’s desperately afraid their era of (relatively) free reign over the economy is coming to an end?

As we consider the future of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the important thing to keep in mind is that while these systems could eventually become corrupt, many of the big banks critical of them already are.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Let’s Have a Heart to Heart: Are Blockchain Tokens Really Nothing More Than “A Scheme?”

Opportunity or Trap?

For seemingly every expert making bold claims that cryptocurrencies are the future of finance and are capable of “freeing humanity from tyranny,” there’s another expert decrying the rise of bitcoin and the like as nothing more than an unstable “bubble” built on hype and bound to pop.

Perhaps the strongest criticism levied at crypto companies, however, is that they’re massive scams — that they don’t deliver anything of material value and are intentionally designed to make money for those at the top by taking advantage of those at the bottom.

Case in point: “In my view, digital currencies are nothing but an unfounded fad (or perhaps even a pyramid scheme), based on a willingness to ascribe value to something that has little or none beyond what people will pay for it,” Howard Marks, Co-Chairman of Oaktree Capital Group.

So, who is right? Is crypto a legitimate new type of finance system or a modern take on snake oil, one peddled by supposed tech revolutionaries instead of seedy profiteers? In order to answer this question, it is important to first understand how token launches (sometimes called “ICOs” or “Initial Coin Offerings”) work in relation to IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) — to understand how crypto startups are funded in comparison to other companies.

Understanding the Terms

When a private company decides it wants to start raising funds from the public, it has what’s known as an initial public offering (IPO). For a certain fee, interested investors can purchase shares in the company. Those shares make these investors, by law, part owners in the company and entitled to dividends if the company makes a profit.

The IPO process is typically facilitated by a team of experts — lawyers, accountants, underwriters, etc. — and it is overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a non-partisan agency of the federal government with two primary objectives:

  • Ensure that the companies raising fund are telling potential investors the truth about their business, including any potential risks to investing
  • Ensure that the people facilitating the process, such as stockbrokers and exchanges, put investors’ interests first and treat them fairly and honestly

To meet these objectives, the SEC will require that a company register before their IPO, submit their financial statements to be audited, and meet a number of other requirements. In theory, the SEC acts as an unbiased third-party in the IPO process, ensuring that everything is aboveboard.

One very important point to note is that basically all brokerage firms require investors to meet some qualifications before they can participate in an IPO. Generally, you have to have a certain amount of money or a set number of transactions, which means that a vast majority of society is not able to participate.

This is the big difference between an IPO and the launch of a new blockchain token — token launches put the power, and the responsibility, in your hands.

Instead of venture funding, many blockchain startups have a token launch or an ICO. It is important to note that many individuals operating in the blockchain space, and other experts, prefer the term “token launch” instead of “ICO.” This is because some blockchain tokens/transactions do not qualify as “investment contracts,” meaning that they are not considered securities, and so the term ICO (given its similarity to IPO) may be confusing.

A Securities Law Framework for Blockchain Tokens” sums the problem with the term ICO, noting that tokens have many different applications and utilities:

There are many different types of blockchain tokens, each with varying characteristics and uses. Some blockchain tokens, like Bitcoin, function as a digital currency. Others can represent a right to tangible assets like gold or real estate. Blockchain tokens can also be used in new protocols and networks to create distributed applications…some tokens, depending on their features, may be subject to U.S. federal or state securities laws.

But, and this is the notable thing, not all tokens will have these features and be subject to security laws. With this in mind, for the purposes of clarity, we will be referring to the launch of a new blockchain token as “token launches.”

As Balaji Srinivasan, board partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, explained in an essay on Medium, the fundraising process that drives some token launches is a bit “like a Kickstarter on steroids.”

To raise funds through a token launch, a company will sell a certain percentage of the total amount of their crypto upfront. Purchasers of these crypto coins are not legally part owners in the company, and they don’t earn dividends if the company prospers. The success of their investment is based on the market value of the coin. In other words, as long as they can sell their cryptocurrency for a value higher than what they paid for it, they can make a profit.

Unlike the IPO process, token launches are unregulated. Companies aren’t required to adhere to a path set forth by the SEC or any other government agency, which means there is no third party ensuring that either side is telling the truth or meeting any certain requirements.

Token launches do tend to follow a certain format, however, and it starts with the company’s founders writing a white paper providing details on their startup. This paper can be any length or format, but it will usually include the company’s strategy and goals, as well as their plans for funding (the amount of money they hope to raise, the per-token cost, the duration of their token launch, etc.). Ideally, these white papers should provide a comprehensive business plan for interested parties.

If the company does not meet their minimum funding goals, the money is returned to the would-be supporters and the token launch is considered unsuccessful.

Risks vs. Rewards

According to one crypto investment expert (who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity), the token launch process can benefit both investors and innovators looking to get their projects off the ground.

“Token launches allow the broadest amount of participation we have seen yet,” they explained. “They’re a pure way to go from a creator of an idea directly to investors without a large number of middlemen. They allow investors to get in at an earlier level than an IPO. They allow anyone anywhere in the word to easily participate with very low minimum investments.”

In this respect, token launches are all about total participation and democratizing power. Instead of just a few wealthy participants, anyone can participate in a token launch or even host their own token launch, allowing individuals in impoverished areas (or who are faced with other economic or social barriers) to participate in the global economy.

“Crypto is complicated, exciting, and the future.”

Unfortunately, token launches also carry with them several inherent risks due to their unregulated nature.

“With token launches, people are able to raise large amounts of money with very little evidence they can deliver,” the expert noted. This is mostly a matter of supply and demand. Crypto has the potential to deliver high returns, so investors are eager to jump into the market. Unfortunately, the supply of crypto projects isn’t yet enough to meet this demand, which leads to investors who are more willing to take greater risks on companies with less evidence they can deliver on their claims.

“Investors are also willing to accept a longer lag between when they give their money to a token launch and when [the company] builds a product — another example of moving further out the risk spectrum,” they continued. “This dynamic lends itself well to a Ponzi scheme, where a company does a token launch, promises a product in six months, builds nothing, and then uses the money raised to market and execute another token launch two months later.”

Investors in OneCoin know the dangers of investing in crypto startups all too well. Founded by Bulgarian national Rjua Ignatova, the company raised more than $350 million before Ignatova and nearly two dozen of OneCoin’s promoters were arrested for running a fraudulent business.

This, of course, is important to note: Just because token launches are not regulated does not mean that they are held to no standards and are free to do whatever they like. Those who act with malicious intent can still be held accountable, though this is admittedly a long and painstaking process.

After the arrest, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Tushar Doshi told The Indian Express, “It is clear that this is a Ponzi scheme,” but that fact obviously wasn’t clear to the thousands of investors who put money into the operation. How were they supposed to know where OneCoin landed on legitimate-to-scam spectrum of business models before putting money into it?

The Point: Don’t Invest Blindly

In the end, the expert consensus indicates that, although some cryptocurrencies and token launches are nothing more than schemes, there are a great many projects that are genuine and can (and have) delivered.

Indeed, some major financial institutions are already developing their own cryptocurrencies to ensure that they’re not left behind if the economy does undergo this major transition, and even JP Morgan is looking into ways to incorporate blockchain into their operations.

Furthermore, more than a billion people worldwide don’t have a way to identify themselves, and they can’t open bank accounts and participate in the traditional economy as a result. A cryptocurrency like bitcoin has no such barrier to entry.

With this in mind, according to experts, the best way for investors to ensure they don’t fall victim to the crypto scheme is to do their due diligence. This is the big difference between an IPO and the launch of a new blockchain token — token launches put the power, and the responsibility, in your hands.

So, how do you safeguard yourself?

“Investing in token launches is a really hard business,” the expert asserted. “I’d say the most important things are knowing the team and their business plan. If the team has a history of hopping from one project to the next, they’re probably going to hop on your project. If they can’t explain their business plan in a way that makes sense to you, they probably don’t understand well what they are doing.”

Following this advice could have prevented OneCoin’s many investors from falling victim to the scam, as it raised many red flags online long before arrests were made.

As The Cointelegraph pointed out, Ignatova’s qualification were inconsistent between her resume, personal websites, and OneCoin’s website, and several of the company’s directors had been linked to scam operations in the past. When combined with several other eyebrow-raising factors — the promise of huge returns, constantly moving goal posts, and a refusal to accept payment in crypto — the illegitimacy of the operation seems obvious in hindsight.

Of course, as previously mentioned and as evidenced by cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether, not every crypto will be a scam, and some can deliver remarkable returns. Over the course of eight years, bitcoin has increased in value from eight-hundredths of a cent to more than $4,000 per coin. Ether has seen its own value surge over the last year, and Ethereum is now the blockchain technology of choice for some of the world’s biggest tech and finance companies, including Microsoft, JP Morgan, and Intel.

No doubt anyone who bought in when either of those cryptos was in its infancy now thinks the gamble was worth it. As our expert explained, “Crypto is complicated, exciting, and the future,” so as long as investors understand that token launches, by their very nature, are riskier than traditional investments, investing in them can be a potentially rewarding — and highly profitable — experience.


This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and brevity. The term ICO has been changed to “token launch” throughout. 

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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You Can Now Trade “Tokenized” U.S. Dollars on the Ethereum Network

Dollars to Tokens

Token currency provider Tether is bringing tokenized USD to Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin. This means that users can turn their regular currency into tokens, which makes using it on the exchange simpler and more predictable.

Tether, in partnership with the Ethereum trading and information community hub Ethfinex, announced the launch of ERC20 Tether tokens on September 11th, allowing tokenized USD to be exchanged on the Ethereum network, and hopefully eliminating the delays people often experienced when dealing with businesses and banks.

“The number of tokens and assets being tokenized on top of the Ethereum platform is growing rapidly, with many proving disruptive to traditional business models,” said Project Lead at Ethfinex Will Harborne. “By enabling all ERC20 compatible applications and protocols to integrate tokenized USD, we expect to see enhanced efficiency and further stability on the Ethereum network.”

After depositing their US dollars, Tether users will see their money converted into a digital currency known as “Tether,” symbolized as “₮.” Each Tether will have a name and symbol attached that represents the asset, which can then be traded or transferred as an aforementioned ERC20 token. In the future, currencies like euros and yen will also be supported.

Following the announcement, TokenCard revealed it will also begin supporting Tether, allowing users to use their tokenized currency just as they would use traditional money with a Token debit card.

Changes to Society

Cryptocurrencies are often seen to be troublesome or too unpredictable to rely on, but Tether and Ethereum’s new endeavor seeks to change that. Ethfinex stated a key part of this new partnership meant developing currencies that could easily be used in everyday scenarios, such as paying bills or salaries.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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“We believe this development will not only open up the world of cryptocurrencies to more mainstream consumers, but also set the standard, and encourage other companies to be more innovative and accessible in their product and service offering at this pivotal time for money and payments,” said Tether co-founder Craig Sellars.

Aside from cryptocurrencies, blockchains are also changing the world in a number of ways, continuing to show that it can be used for much more than just currency. So far, it has been used to change the way we vote, improve air travel, and may soon impact the entertainment industry. If companies like Tether, Ethfinex, and Ethereum get their way, the way we think and use money could soon be changed forever.

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Economists Assert There Is No Need to Regulate Bitcoin

Bitcoin Revolution

In what is sure to be a well needed shot in the arm for Bitcoin after a tumultuous few weeks in the cryptocurrency market, economists at the central bank of Finland have released a paper that calls Bitcoin’s economic system “revolutionary.” With the currency operating on a blockchain, the researchers contend that a degree of protection exists to make the system safe from those who wish to manipulate it. The group finds that:

Bitcoin is a monopoly run by a protocol, not by a managing organization. Familiar monopolies are run by managing organizations with discretion to determine and then change prices, offerings and rules. Monopolies are often regulated to prevent or at least mitigate their abuse of power.

The researcher go even further to say that Bitcoin cannot be regulated. “There is no need to regulate it because as a system it is committed to the protocol as is and the transaction fees it charges the users are determined by the users independently of the miners’ efforts.”

It must be noted that the views expressed in this paper do not represent the official stance of the Bank of Finland.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Growing Crypto-Community

Other nations have been joining in on embracing Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. A few weeks ago, Vietnam announced that it will begin the process to legally recognize cryptocurrency by the end of 2018, then adding framework to tax it by 2019. While, not official, this research points that Finland may be headed in a similar direction.

Other nongovernmental experts are also lining up to support cryptocurrencies. Some are even suggesting that crypto could become a valuable supplement for pensions, bringing retirement back to the realm of reality for future seniors.

Of course, how something looks on paper isn’t always how it works out in practice, especially when discussing systems as complex as structuring economies. However, Bitcoin is notable for the progress it has shown thus far. We will remain vigilant to how the cryptomarket grows and the blockchain platform evolves with it.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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According to Chinese Official, China’s Ban on Initial Coin Offerings is Only Temporary

A Temporary Situation

China may account for the lion’s share of bitcoin mining, but that doesn’t mean the nation is blindly in support of all things cryptocurrency-related. Last week, Chinese regulators announced a ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs), the method through which many blockchain-based startups raise funds, citing the potential for ICOs to be used for money laundering or the financing of terrorist organizations.

However, new details have emerged that reveal this ban may not be permanent.

Sci-Tech Priorities in China’s Latest Five Year Plan
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The source of these details is Hu Bing, a researcher at the Chinese government-supported Institute of Finance and Banking. During an interview with Chinese television network CCTV-13, Bing explained that last week’s “ban” isn’t actually a ban at all — ICOs have simply been “paused” while the government hashes out the appropriate regulations.

While they consider various policies for ICOs and those investing in them, the government will also consider the potential for an ICO licensing program. This would involve startups securing a license through the Chinese government prior to their ICO, which, in theory, would ensure only legitimate companies are able to use the method to raise funds.

Growing Pains

Knowing that the Chinese government intends for their “ban” on ICOs to be temporary should assuage the fears of those who were concerned it was a sign of trouble ahead for blockchain technology. In fact, this temporary pause is essentially a good omen — one of the world’s most powerful economies is putting in a significant amount of effort to ensure that a solid foundation for the technology is in place. That effort wouldn’t be necessary if they thought it was going to be a passing fad.

All new technologies go through growing pains. Some of those pains may be caused by the tech itself — even Google needed five years to figure out how to make augmented reality (AR) functional in their Glass device. Some may be a matter of figuring out how to best integrate a new technology into current society through laws and regulations — those are the kinds of challenges creators of autonomous driving systems, artificial intelligences, and gene editing are currently facing.

Blockchain is no different. The technology has already shown remarkable potential to change our world for the better, and as more people recognize this potential, more will want to invest in it. By putting policies in place that protect those investors from fraud, nations can ensure that blockchain lives up to its potential for good while minimizing the collateral damage caused by those looking to take advantage of enthusiastic supporters.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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A New Blockchain Platform is Taking on Ethereum

New Kid on the Blockchain

Cryptocurrency is on the rise and, as a result, there’s no shortage of companies looking to establish themselves as an essential part of the trading process. In addition to organizations fielding new coins, there are firms that handle other pieces of infrastructure, like Blockchain specialist NEO (formerly known as AntShares).

NEO’s biggest competition is currently Ethereum, the blockchain platform behind the prosperous Ether token. Both offer support for programming languages — Vitalik Buterin, who originally conceived Ethereum, has felt that the absence of such support has been a major detriment to cryptocurrency — but the group behind NEO maintains that its implementation has several advantages.

Smart contracts are automated agreements between traders that can call upon all kinds of different checks and triggers, ranging from a particular date to the balance of a particular account. NEO allows developers to write smart contracts and other projects using familiar programming languages like .NET and Java, with plans to support Python, Go, and JS in the future.

NEO also diverts from the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum in eschewing the need for anonymity. The platform uses a digital identity system that’s intended to help it integrate with the real-world economy. Digital identity is expected to give NEO a major advantage as it attempts to spur adoption in its origin country China.

Bitcoin and Ethereum use proof-of-work (POW) to validate transactions, but NEO instead uses a delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance (dBFT) consensus method.

“POW has strong availability, but it also has a big disadvantage, because it cannot ensure finality. Forks and lone blocks will occur easily,” explained company co-founder and CEO Da Hongfei. “dBFT ensures finality, which means that once a transaction is confirmed by a block, it is confirmed permanently without being rolled back or revoked. In our point of view, finality is far more important than availability in an important financial system.”

The One?

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency to really make a splash, and it still leads the pack. However, it is still too early to determine the ramifications of its recent fork, which could turn out to be either a blessing or a curse.

NEO has been designed with a focus on avoiding the security issues that might prompt a fork. Reliability and stability are a big priority for its creators, having seen projects like Bitcoin Unlimited come undone as a result of such issues.

It certainly seems like NEO is being set up to fulfill the needs of tomorrow’s cryptocurrency market. That being said, competition from the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum won’t be easy to overcome.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin Continues to Plow Through Milestones By Surpassing the $4,000 Mark

Another day, another Bitcoin milestone passed. The world’s first and largest cryptocurrency surpassed the $4,000 mark for a moment yesterday. The new all-time high for Bitcoin is now $4,162.57. The price has dropped slightly since that high was reached, and at the time of writing now sits at $4,072.30.

This latest milestone marks the currency’s seemingly unstoppable surge since the beginning of the year. In January, Bitcoin was trading at less than $1,000 per coin. Now, the burgeoning cryptocoins are worth more than four times that amount. Early adopters must be rejoicing that their faith in the cryptocurrency is (thus far) being rewarded.

Image Credit: CoinDesk

Experts remain optimistic about Bitcoin’s potential, yet some are beginning to fear that it has entered a bubble. Still, the trend seems to be in favor of its continued success. No one knows for sure what the future of Bitcoin — or cryptocurrencies in general — will look like. The debate of whether the reward is worth the risk will continue to rage on.

The bigger picture here though, is blockchain. While it is most closely associated with cryptocurrency at the moment, that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what is possible with this tech. So while cryptocurrency may still be considered a gamble, get ahead of the game and read up on blockchain, because it is, almost certainly, the future.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Visa, Microsoft, and IBM Are All Hiring Blockchain Developers

Blockchain Developers Wanted

Good news for programmers well-versed in the ways of the blockchainIBM, Microsoft, USAA, and Visa are all searching for blockchain developers to join their teams right now, according to ads listed on their respective websites.

According to IBM’s job listing, the company is seeking out “Consultant Developers” with experience on one or more blockchain platform, citing Ethereum, Hyperledger, and Ripple specifically, but also indicating that “equivalent proprietary platform experience” might also be considered. They are not particular about whether the developer has UX, backend, or full-stack experience.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is looking for a “Principal Program Manager.” This person will “develop a deep understanding of how customers use distributed ledger technologies as well as compute, storage, database, and networking services in Azure to architect their applications.”

USAA is hoping to find a “Lead Blockchain Developer.” As for their “preferred qualifications,” the financial services company is hoping to find someone with at least two years experience with blockchain, cryptocurrencies, decentralized autonomous organizations, digital registries, distributed ledger, or smart contracts. Their ideal candidate will also have a conceptual knowledge of the mathematical foundations of blockchain technology.

Visa is searching for “a strong developer experienced with Ethereum and blockchain architecture.” As for specifics, they want someone who “has built and released distributed applications, has worked with the Ripple, R3, Ethereum, and/or Bitcoin blockchain, and has experience with Solidity.” Visa also notes that their candidate will need to “maintain [the company’s] relationship with the [IBM] Hyperledger initiative.”

Transforming Society

The interest in developers with blockchain experience is just one more sign that the technology is poised to radically transform our world. Notably, both USAA and Visa are looking for developers with Ethereum experience — no surprise given the strong presence the blockchain now has among financial companies, many of which are using Ethereum as the basis for their blockchain technologies.

IBM and Microsoft are already well on their way to integrating the blockchain into their business models. PC Mag reports that both have custom blockchains for their own blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) platforms (Bluemix for IBM and Azure for Microsoft) using their cloud infrastructure. These platforms allow the companies to experiment with use cases for customers and for their own purposes.

At the heart of IBM’s short-term goals is blockchain identity management — a real-world, ultra-secure applied use of the technology to guard identity and associated financial and other sensitive information online — so if you’re thinking about applying there, chances are excellent you’ll be working on something related to that.

Whether they land at IBM or one of the several other companies looking to delve deeper into blockchain, the developers who fill these open positions will be the people ushering  in an entirely new era in technology.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Is Investing in Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies Worth the Gamble?

The Technology Behind Cryptocurrencies

The creation of Bitcoin back in 2008 fueled the exponential growth of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, facilitating the creation of a rich diversity of coins and applications that many would deem revolutionary. Those who invested in cheap coins at the outset are reaping huge returns on their capitals, dwarfing the average returns one can acquire in the stock markets. Think about it; if you had bought $1,000 worth of Bitcoin in 2010, you’d be worth a staggering $35 million now. The possibility of earning colossal returns has attracted many to the arena, and this begs a crucial question: Is the hype on cryptocurrencies warranted or it is just a game of Russian Roulette?

The birth of Bitcoin – the first digital cryptocurrency that is decentralized by design – gave rise to a technology with the potential to redefine the very fabric of our status quo. This technology is called the Blockchain, which underpins Bitcoin’s protocol.

“Every informed person needs to know about Bitcoin because it might be one of the world’s most important developments.” — Leon Luow, Nobel Peace Prize nominee

Blockchain is essentially a distributed, digital ledger where every transaction is broadcasted publicly and recorded chronologically. The database is ever growing, expanding in tandem with the amount of transactions made on the network. The decentralized nature of Blockchain technology ensures that transactions are immutable and thus immune to change, offering full transparency for each and every transaction. Add to that the traits of increased security, higher efficiency, error-resistant and reduced transaction costs, it leaves no doubt as to why many are excited about Blockchain’s possible use cases. The utility of Blockchain technology is endless, with an ever-growing list of governments, industries and companies looking to further explore its usage.

Hotbed for Money Making

The birth of a revolutionary technology would always entail those looking to capitalize on its profitability. Blockchain is no different. Investors, traders and speculators can get in on the action by buying cryptocurrencies, which are digital currencies manifesting as variant applications of the Blockchain technology. There are over 900 coins available, with each offering a slightly different approach to solving a range of problems. Many early adopters have made a great sum of money, by buying the coins cheaply at its outset and realizing them much later on. Based on the statistics provided by ICOSTATS, the return on capital of 40 cryptocurrencies since their inception stands at a staggering 6703%! In order for you to earn similar rates of returns in the stock market, it will take you approximately 957 years.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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These stellar returns inevitably attract many who are looking to earn multiples over their capital. Given the extreme technicality of cryptocurrencies and the underlying Blockchain technology, many do not fully understand the fundamentals of what they’re investing in. The immaturity of the current infrastructure – stemming from the relative infancy of the cryptocurrency industry — results in an inefficient price discovery mechanism, thereby creating an extremely volatile market environment. This poses huge risks for those looking to invest in a comprehensive list of coins.

Simply entering the market with the hopes of massive short-term gains without understanding the coins and their technology is akin to playing a deadly game of Russian Roulette. The radical volatility of the coins’ prices may significantly put your capital at risk. Just to draw a picture, Bitcoin’s price lost 40% of its value in a matter of days in December 2013, and at the start of this year, Bitcoin lost approximately 34% of its value in a week. While this can spell doom for many, there are those that find gratification by profiting from the intense gyration of prices.

The Verdict?

Nine years after Bitcoin kickstarted the technological revolution, the ecosystem centered around Blockchain technology has flourished and is looking ever so promising. New coins solving real world problems are launched at a tremendous pace, with new functionalities and applications pushing the boundaries of this nascent technology. With increasing user adoption and a keen interest by nations and corporations, it is only a matter of time before Blockchain technology becomes ubiquitous in our lives.

A flip side of this emergent technology is the great risks associated with investing in cryptocurrencies, especially for those with a short-term horizon and an absence of understanding in the coins they have invested in. Truly, the extraordinary volatility unique to cryptocurrencies creates a superficial impression of high stakes gambling in the eyes of many. Armed with the right understanding and knowledge of Blockchain technology, you would begin to appreciate its innate beauty.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Futurism or its affiliates.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin Can Get to $100,000 If It Keeps Following One of Tech’s Golden Rules

Record Highs

Bitcoin is trading at record highs on Monday, but the cryptocurrency may still be far from hitting its ceiling.

It rallied 16.19% since July 31, despite last week’s fork that split it in two. It’s up 465% since last year.

According to analysis by Dennis Porto, a bitcoin investor and Harvard academic, bitcoin’s price could hit $100,000 per coin if it continues to follow one of tech’s “golden rules” — Moore’s law.

The rule, which was devised in 1965 by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, describes the exponential improvements of digital technology.

“Moore’s law specifically applied to the number of transistors on a circuit but can be applied to any digital technology,” Porto wrote in an email to Business Insider. “Any technology that is growing exponentially (i.e., ‘following Moore’s law’) has a doubling time.”

Typically, however, the rule applies to a technology’s computing power or capabilities. This is the first time Porto has noticed a technology’s price following Moore’s law.

Investment Opportunity

Since bitcoin’s inception, according to Porto, its price has doubled every eight months.

Image Source: Dennis Porto

“This poses a unique opportunity for investors: Whereas it was difficult to invest in circuits or internet speeds, it is easy to buy a bitcoin,” Porto said.

Porto expects that this doubling trend could continue until bitcoin reaches mass adoption. Of course, another cryptocurrency could usurp bitcoin in the meantime.

By February 2021, Porto believes, it could be worth over $100,000.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Experts Suggest Cryptocurrencies Could be This Generation’s Supplement for Pensions

The Future of Crypto

Those who have retired within previous decades, or even some who are currently looking to retire, have earned pension funds which allow them to transition out of the traditional working force. This is unfortunately not a reality for many working today. Recently though, experts have suggested that the future of and potential for cryptocurrencies could be this generation’s supplement for pensions, re-affirming retirement as a viable alternative for working adults.

Ron Ginn, the young founder of Text Event Pics and investor in Ripple, et al real estate, said to The New York Times that “This is like getting to invest in the internet in the ’90s. I’m obviously very bullish, but I expect to make a couple million dollars off very little money. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Finance is getting its internet.”

While cryptocurrency isn’t a precise parallel to pension funds, it’s still a very hopeful and promising investment. At the very least the consensus leans toward its eventual reliability. Nothing’s carved in stone, but recent developments in financial technology have shown that palpable risk is correlated with significant gains.

Image Credit: quinntheislander / pixabay

Risky Money

Money has no value without trust, and this truth holds no less true for investment. Today, with pensions and 401(k)s growing rarer while memories of the recession of 2007-2009 still linger in the air, finding a realistic way to invest in a financially secure future (in the traditional sense) can seem like a lost cause. Consequently many see crypto investments as the safer alternative. Gabe Wax, who runs a recording studio in Brooklyn, told The New York Times, “I constantly feel like I’m looking over the edge. of a cliff […] I don’t like the idea of money just sitting in a savings account — with the way inflation works and how low interest rates are, you’re losing money. There’s less money than there’s ever been in the history of recorded music, so that gives me anxiety. It’s weird to say that owning cryptocurrency soothes that anxiety, because it’s counterintuitive, but it does.”

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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As major players like Bitcoin and Ethereum compete against new-name giants like Bitcoin Cash, which advanced to third-biggest in market capitalization in its first 48 hours, the dawn of cyrptocurrency has become an inevitable reality. Looking around, its rapid global proliferation is apparent in everyday wearable technologies, which softens the distinction between financial and digital.

The days of stable, reliable pension funds may be on the proverbial endangered list. Alas, this generation’s trust in the forces of globalization and traditional financial institutions may again be at low ebb. Consequently, while many in previous generations joined the workforce with implicit trust in traditional institutions, many younger investors will pivot to cryptocurrency. The future’s never a certainty in economics, but we’d all be remiss to ignore this increasingly viable means for financial security.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin is Now Worth Nearly Three Times the Price of Gold

Gold is often seen as an investment “safe-haven” due to the long term stability of the commodity. It is also often used as a standard by which to compare cryptocurrency, especially Bitcoin. Many of the leading cryptocurrency’s major milestones have been viewed in terms of their comparison to gold.

The latest numbers are truly staggering. The price of Bitcoin reached a high today of over $3,400 (at the time of writing it stands at a similarly impressive $3,390.66), while the price of an ounce of gold is $1,260.40. This leaves Bitcoin at nearly triple the price of gold, renewing speculations about the ability of Bitcoin to become a substitute for gold.

This is great news considering the tumultuous recent history of Bitcoin that resulted in a much-dreaded splitting point for the currency. Still, Bitcoin has never been stronger in spite of (or perhaps thanks to) the upheaval.

Bitcoin also enjoyed some significant gains this weekend, crossing $3,200 for the first time in history.

Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies in general, are enjoying an uptick in public visibility, which is undoubtedly fortifying the impressive gains being made. It will be interesting to see how meteoric the rise of Bitcoin will continue to be.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

 

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Blockchain Could Be the Answer to Stopping Climate Change

Blockchain’s Interpersonal Capabilities

Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize almost any industry it is applied to: we can take comfort that it can be used to ensure food gets to Syrian refugees, will soon experience the mountain of data it will give us on driverless cars, and could have the ability to rebalance the exploitive music industry. One of its most exciting implications, though, is to help combat the climate change that humans have caused over recent centuries.

According to We Forum, blockchain‘s key property in fighting climate change is its decentralized nature, which enables interconnection between the human “swarm.”

Climate change is a fundamentally international problem, and a major difficulty in tackling it is navigating the web of different languages and regulations between countries. Blockchain provides a solution by cutting out middlemen and bureaucracy, providing a way for individuals to have interpersonal relationships that can be the beginning of a bottom-up solution, rather than politicians dictating from the top-down after lengthy and often inefficient political communication.

An example is the recent and successful trial of a blockchain based microgrid that allowed individuals to share renewable energy with one another in New York.

Blockchain’s Other Benefits

This application of blockchain to climate change is one of many potential uses of the technology — and the others that have been proposed are just as ingenious.

Perhaps most promisingly is that blockchain could also allow us to have much cleaner information. Currently, emissions data is frequently fiddled with, inadvertently laden with mistakes, or incorrectly taken in the first place.

Blockchain data cannot be changed when it is in the network, meaning that — coupled with the internet of things — we could receive totally secure information from machines, devices, or producers that could not be tampered with, intentionally or unintentionally. This is would allow for a much better diagnosis, which could lead to a more targeted prognosis — in which those responsible could be disciplined and those who are helping are rewarded.

Technological Fixes for Climate Change
Click to View Full Infographic

In May 2017, at the UN Climate Change Conference, the idea of blockchain being used against climate change was discussed extensively. Ideas included improved trading of carbon emissions, facilitating clean energy trading between consumers, financing climate change research transparently, and tracking and reporting of emissions reduction. IBM and Energy Blockchain Labs, out of China, are developing a marketplace that uses blockchain to trade carbon assets. The Australian company Power Ledger allows people to buy, sell, and exchange surplus renewable energy without a middleman by using blockchain. Many companies are also working on blockchain-powered smart energy grids, which regulate the demand on the grid so that power outages don’t happen.

The need to fight climate change is becoming ever more pressing, with apocalyptic predictions being made frequently by reputed individuals like Stephen Hawking. Therefore, we should use any means we can to make positive changes towards tackling emissions, whether it be blockchain, radical new ways of producing energy, or using new technology to clean our air.

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History Is Rhyming: Fitness Functions & Comparing Blockchain Tokens To The Web

The Future of Cyrptocurrency

At the end of 2013, I wrote a blog titled: In The Future, Everyone Will Have Their Own Cryptocurrency. It was based on the premise that because we can easily create cryptocurrencies, we are going to see tokens minted for almost all networks of value, including every person. It started a multi-year rabbit hole towards designing the technical infrastructure for tokens (e.g. I worked on dogeparty, scrypt altcoins & I was a key contributor to the ERC20 standard) & the economic design of them.

The reality is:

Blockchain tokens have reduced the cost to tokenize coordination by orders of magnitude, and thus we are likely to see the effective tokenization (and by extension, the introduction of markets) into almost everything.

The reason why is quite simple: blockchain tokenization decreases the cost to coordinate by orders of magnitude. Coordination systems are utilized when the cost to run them are less than the benefits they provide. New coordination systems will come to exist because we’ve substantially lowered the costs to implement them:

Value of a coordination system > cost to coordinate.

We’ve seen this before: the web decreased cost to share information by orders of magnitude.

Value of information shared > cost to share that information.

Before the web, when you received a letter with some photos of loved ones far away, one might’ve wished to extend gratitude back immediately, but it wasn’t within our frame of reference that it would ever be possible to forward something as low bandwidth as a “like” back: which is now just a double-tap whilst you are lying in bed at night.

It was possible to do Twitter before the web, but good luck getting someone to use Twitter where we have to send it all through mail.

“Dear Donald Trump.

I hope this tweet finds you well. I think you are a terrible president. #carpediem

Yours in lulz,

Simon”

Blockchain Tokenization

Information systems today just didn’t fit into the context of the pipes that was available before the web. It was too costly, and unreasonable to do them. It’s why newspapers were bundled: they ALSO had a market (classifieds) in them, because this channel was already open. The hard work of distribution was done. But then… we began to program & automate information.

In the same vein, the modern limited liability, joint-stock corporation, (which everyone could create one), is about ~160 years old. Before then, you had to get a royal charter to allow access to tradable ownership and limited liability.

There are many coordination systems today that are being invented as we speak and that are going to be invented that just does not fit into the pipes of a corporation. A modern corporation succeeds because we have systems of law & systems of enforcement to enable them. In order to do so, we essentially rely on the massive cost of a nation state to enforce them. But now… we can now program & automate coordination.

I don’t think we can ultimately fathom how ground-breaking this is. Tokenized coordination systems that exist on scales we’ve never imagined. Like your great-grandmother not even pondering about the existence or need of something akin to sending a “like”, we haven’t even scratched the surface. We should absolutely be asking where this fits in, and where this could help. The result of which will create massive amounts of wealth.

The reason is that like information systems before the web, they under-fit the potential of information systems. We didn’t have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Wikipedia, Medium, etc because they couldn’t fit into the channels that were available. We could build substantially more granular information systems, making them fit more for specific niches and needs. The modern corporation, as great as it was, only allowed us access to certain kinds of coordination systems.

Fitting information systems more appropriately led to more information sharing: as low bandwidth a ‘like’ is, it’s likely more ‘likes’ have been shared (in size), than all newspapers in history.

If we are going to fit tokenized, coordination systems more appropriately, the result is simply: more wealth creation… Perhaps greater than anything we’ve seen before. Perhaps greater than giving access to the joint-stock corporation to everyone in society.

Image Source: Scikit Learn

Do you think it would ever have made sense to en-masse create ownership in just a song? Tokenizing attention? Tokenizing a contract directly? Tokenizing memes? Tokenizing people? Tokenizing this blog post? Tokenizing public goods? We invented something as low bandwidth as a ‘like’. How granular does blockchain tokens go? What’s the lowest bandwidth coordination system blockchain tokens allow? 10 second organizations? Idea derivatives? Meme derivatives?

Much of these coordination systems might seem overkill, but you also have to remember that much of our information systems are just machines talking to each other. The liquidity of say tokenizing a contract and effectively trading it is costly for humans. It’s likely much of these coordination systems will be primarily exploited by machines to offset inefficiencies in the markets to our collective benefit.

Conclusion:

We’ve opened the Pandora’s box. We are on the multi-year path to tokenizing almost everything.

To combine the aphorisms:

Past performance doesn’t predict future results, but it sure rhymes.

PS: I’ve been busy writing a substantially longer blog post that puts it much broader context, including the history & theory of the firm, corporate legal innovations over time, systems and complexity theory, meme & curation markets, prediction markets, graph markets, history of collectibles & multi-disciplinary research from other fields that explains it all. Coming soon.

Disclaimer: I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. I’ve held cryptocurrencies since 2011.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Futurism or its affiliates.

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In Less Than 2 Days, Bitcoin Cash Becomes Third Biggest Cryptocurrency

[Un]Expected Boom

Less than two days after splitting from the main Bitcoin network, Bitcoin Cash [BCC] now ranks third amongst the world’s most valuable cryptocoins. The budding cryptocurrency has reached a market cap of more $7.7 billion as of this writing, overtaking Ripple’s $6.7 billion market cap.

With a market cap of a little more than $44 billion, the original Bitcoin currency is leading the market, while Ethereum comes in second at $20.9 billion. In terms of value per coin, Bitcoin Cash is even ahead of Ethereum’s current valuation of $223.54, with a per unit value of $470.27.

The surge in Bitcoin Cash comes despite a lack of support from several mining pools and major exchanges like Coinbase and BitMEX. Some Coinbase users are even threatening to sue the exchange for not recognizing the currency.

Blockchain Global’s recently re-opened Australian Cryptocurrency Exchange, on the other hand, is confirming Bitcoin Cash trades and claims to have seen a huge demand for the currency. “We are receiving a lot of off-market orders for bitcoin cash — they’re exploding!” venture partner Sebastian Quinn-Watson told Business Insider.

A Volatile Currency

The creation of Bitcoin Cash was the result of an ongoing debate regarding how to scale Bitcoin blockchain transactions, and experts are currently divided on how the split will ultimately play out.

For now, this sudden increase in value is understandable. Bitcoin Cash carries all the history of the original Bitcoin platform up until the fork on August 1, which means anyone with Bitcoin now has an equal amount of Bitcoin Cash.

Eventually, Bitcoin Cash should be able to stabilize itself for market exchanges, but right now, speculation is causing a surge in initial interest. “People are selling their Bitcoin positions and buying Bitcoin Cash as a proposition that it is the ‘new coin’ that has more value in the future,” explained Quinn-Watson. “It’s a bit speculative.”

No one knows for sure how long Bitcoin Cash can sustain this upshot. As with other digital currencies, Bitcoin Cash’s value depends mainly on how much value investors assign to it and how easily it can be used for “real-world” transactions.

“There’s no infrastructure available out of the box to support BCC,” Fran Strajnar, co-founder and CEO of Brave New Coin, told CNBC. “The network needs further support and infrastructure needs to be as easy as Bitcoin; otherwise, it’s over for BCC.”


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Bitcoin “Civil War” Leads Cryptocurrency to Split

The Split

Bitcoin power brokers were unable to come behind a single solution that would have preserved a unified cryptocurrency by Tuesday morning’s deadline.

As such, the digital currency has split in two: bitcoin and bitcoin cash.

“There seems to be some technical issues that might be slowing it down, but yes, the fork has happened,” Peter Borovykh of Blockchain Global, a blockchain technology company, told Business Insider.

“Bitcoin cash is here.”

Eric Voorhees, CEO of ShapeShift, a digital trading company, took to Twitter at around 9:30 a.m. ET to announce the fork this morning.

“Fork has happened,” he wrote.”Now awaiting first block from bitcoin cash. Regardless of opinions, this is very exciting/fascinating day in cryptoland.”

Supporters of the newly formed bitcoin cash (BCC) believe the currency will “breath new life into” the nearly ten-year-old bitcoin by addressing some of the issues that have underpinned the bitcoin (BTC) as of late, such as slow transaction speeds.

The “Civil War”

To recap, bitcoin power brokers have been squabbling over the rules that should guide the cryptocurrency’s blockchain network.

On one side of this civil war, there are the so-called core-developers who are in favor of smaller bitcoin blocks, which make up the network, to protect it against hacks. On the other side, are the miners who want to increase the size of blocks to make the network faster and more scalable.

Until last week, the solution known as Segwit2x, which would increase the size of bitcoin blocks to two megabytes, was slated to become the standard.

Then, bitcoin cash came along. The solution is a fork of the bitcoin system: it’s a new software that has all the history of the old platform but bitcoin cash blocks will be eight megabytes.

Bitcoin cash came out of left field, according to Charlie Morris, the chief investment officer of NextBlock Global, an investment firm with digital assets.

“A group of miners who didn’t like SegWit2x are opting for this new software that will increase the size of blocks from the current one megabyte to eight,” Morris told Business Insider.

Only a minority of bitcoin miners, the folks who unlock bitcoin from bitcoin blocks, support the new currency. Furthermore, a number of exchanges have said they won’t back bitcoin cash.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a dud or that it couldn’t potentially usurp the original bitcoin. Miners might rally behind bitcoin cash if it turns out to be the better digital currency.

“Bitcoin cash has a chance to become the dominant cryptocurrency contingent upon its ability to gain trust and support from both current and new players as well as security of its network,” Borovykh said. “Due to, at least temporary, solution of the scalability issues, bitcoin cash could attract more new capital to the entire crypto space, thus helping increase overall market cap.”

Arthur Hayes, CEO of BitMex, a bitcoin derivative exchange, told Business Insider he thinks a fork will benefit the cryptocurrency in the long run, despite short term volatility and confusion.

“There are people with billions of dollars of skin in the game and they will ultimately go with the superior bitcoin network and the market will follow,” Hayes said.

Bitcoin is trading down 5.78% at $2,715 following word that bitcoin cash has gone live.

Get the latest Bitcoin price here.

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Bitcoin Swings Ahead of Tuesday’s Big Decision

Bitcoin traders are on edge as they await the outcome of the civil war that will decide the fate of the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is trading up 0.52% at near $2,773 a coin.

On Tuesday, core developers and miners will decide whether bitcoin remains as is, or if there will be a hard fork that splinters the cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin developers want to keep the blocks that make up bitcoin’s network limited in their size to 1 megabyte per block while miners want to make the blocks bigger to improve the network’s speed.

Up until recently, it looked like everyone was on board with SegWit2x, a proposal that, according to bitcoin evangelist Paul McNeal, moves the threshold for implementation down to 80% and also allows for a small increase in the size of blocks on the chain to 2 MBs. That was until bitcoin cash, an alternative to both bitcoin and the SegWit2x version, entered the picture.

“Bitcoin cash basically came out of nowhere,” Charlie Morris, the chief investment officer of NextBlock Global, an investment firm with digital assets, told Business Insider.” A group of miners who didn’t like SegWit2x are going to opt for this new software that will increase the size of blocks from the current 1 megabyte to 8.”

For what it’s worth, the majority of bets placed in the gambling markets aren’t predicting a good outcome for bitcoin. Accroding to Ed Pownell, a company spokesperson at Bodog, of the 470 people who have wagered on the event, “310 people think the price will dip below $2,000 per coin.”

Bitcoin is up 186% in 2017.

Bitcoin Swings Ahead of Tuesday’s Big Decision

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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What Does Net Neutrality Mean for the Future of Cryptocurrency?

Net Neutrality

Americans are slowly realizing the significance of the potential consequences of the FCC’s current net neutrality regulations being repealed. These regulations once protected small businesses and content providers from intrusion by private, monopolistic internet service providers (ISPs), such as Verizon and Comcast. Before net neutrality, ISPs could disrupt, slow, and even censor content on the internet without any liability. This controversy reached its climax in 2007 when Verizon was exposed for blocking group chat conversations coming from a large pro-choice abortion group. However, many defenders of net neutrality are currently overlooking the political dynamic between net neutrality and the development of cryptocurrencies.

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have greatly benefited from past net neutrality regulations. Bitcoin’s price has increased 300 percent since Obama’s regulations were put in place in February 2015. This growth has been attributed to many factors, including the governments of Japan and China becoming more tolerant of cryptocurrency use. Not to mention countless initial coin offerings (ICOs) also hitting the worldwide market. The last two years have been the most profitable and evolutionary period for cryptocurrencies since their inception. However, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been in the middle of a financial bubble, and a series of interventions from ISPs could force that bubble to implode  — which may not be a bad thing. Without net neutrality regulations, ISPs can function without any accountability. What that will mean for cryptocurrencies remains yet unknown.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

The Effect of ISPs on Cryptocurrency

It’s no secret that many American corporations lean staunchly conservative, and would happily wipe out a disruptive technology that  works against their interests — something like cryptocurrencies. ISPs and the U.S. government maintain close ties, something which has become increasingly obvious in the past few months. The appointment of former Verizon lawyers such as Ajit Pai, as the head of the FCC is just one example, and state policies continue to keep 60 percent of Americans confined to just a single internet provider option.

The concentration of power amongst ISPs allows the government to more effectively regulate and influence the internet’s evolution. When and if cryptocurrencies are viewed as a problem by the U.S. government, the internet service provider will be looked at to find the solution. Under the current status quo, Bitcoin will not be considered as an alternative monetary system because it is too difficult to control and tax. Not to mention that Congress’ position on virtual currencies is still unclear, and interpretations of the Stamp Payments Act of 1862 may provide Congress with the legal footing to leverage against cryptocurrencies.

The Act states that:

Whoever makes, issues, circulates, or pays out any note, check, memorandum, token, or other obligation for a less sum than $1, intended to circulate as money or to be received or issued in lieu of lawful money of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

A simple way in which an ISP can affect the attractiveness of cryptocurrency investment is by slowing down broadband speeds of blockchain sites, which would in turn  slow down transaction speeds. Yet, the speed (or lack thereof) of transactions has seemingly had zero effect on investment. Thus, cryptocurrencies themselves aren’t necessarily at risk unless ISPs conduct structural attacks on blockchain servers. By nature, blockchains are immune to human intervention. However, the internet provider holds the ability to implement a partition or delay attack. These attacks could effectively create a blackhole, where all bitcoin transactions are lost and made impossible to track. This could lead to wasted processing power and doubled spending for miners. However, these concerns are coming from the lawyers and businessmen, not the engineers.

Engineers see this “problem” as a perfect example of why blockchain was designed the way it was. To them, repealing net neutrality regulations would invite the possibility of having to reposition themselves back onto an I2P network, like Kovri.

Net neutrality— while it does embody the decentralization mantra of blockchain—is far from a requirement for the functionality of blockchain. The future of the monetary system is a global currency free from human intervention. If Bitcoin fails to survive the coming storm, it would be because of structural errors — not ISP intervention. In addition, if the ISPs start  a war against blockchain and cryptocurrencies, the internet may experience an accelerated evolution of decentralization. In the context of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, net neutrality may be a blessing in disguise, forcing further development in the industry.

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A Tech Startup Is Releasing a Wearable Cryptocurrency Payment Device

Wearing Your Wallet

Cryptocurrencies are enjoying a groundbreaking year. The market is growing in popularity, attracting investors and sending crypto values to ever new heights. However, the market currently lacks the technology necessary for everyday use in real-world scenarios.

Bitcart is looking to rectify this.

The Irish startup has developed the world’s first Dash cryptocurrency payment wristband. Named Festy, the device allows the wearer to pay for products with the Dash cryptocurrency. Users can add funds to their wrist-mounted “wallet” at a Festy-branded ATM or using an online transfer service.

Although Dash is a cryptocurrency, Festy is compatible with any point-of-sale system that accept Visa contactless payments. It can also be used to make payments on any phone or computer using near field communication (NFC) tags or offline payments via quick response (QR) codes. The wristband is designed primarily for bar and festival hoppers and can also be used to store tickets, which could play a role in eliminating fraud or verifying ages of compliance at events.

A Better Payment System

For customers, Festy offers several advantages over traditional credit cards. Payments made via the wearable are nearly immediate and a card number or private key is never displayed.

Vendors benefit from the system, too. “Our partnership with Dash makes the perfect payment solution for everyday transactions,” Bitcart CEO Graham de Barra told Bankless Times. “Unlike existing traditional bank payments that take a two to five percent fee, there is no cost on receiving Dash for merchants.”

Cryptocurrencies are built on blockchain technology that has the potential to revolutionize transactions worldwide. They boast increased transparency and security, but they are unlikely to go mainstream without easy to use tech like Festy.

Thankfully, Bitcart is just one company working hard to help cryptocurrencies break into the mainstream. A number of Bitcoin debit cards are making it easier to make payments via the currency, and in nations like Japan, bitcoin is on track to become a commonly accepted form of payment.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Spoiler Alert: Blockchain is About Far More Than Just Crypto

Blockchain

Blockchain on the brain and I can’t sleep.

There is a fundamental problem with the way I’m hearing blockchain discussed. I’ll be skipping over a lot of central aspects of the technology, so if you are unfamiliar, please check out the Satoshi white paper here, the Ethereum white paper here, and the Gnosis white paper here. These will give you a good starting point on blockchain fundamentals and what’s going on in the current world of crypto currencies, although crypto currencies have been discussed since the 80’s.

cryptocurrency ubi blockchain automation
Image Source: Stefan Bohrer/Wikimedia

Let’s start with the fundamental misunderstanding of blockchain technology solely as a currency. It’s easy to see why this would be the default perception (after all, the bitcoin white paper is titled “A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”). As early as 9,000 BCE, people were using grain for money, and over time money has been represented by a variety of objects, including shells, gold coins, and paper. Historically, people have looked to objects that are scarce, hard to replicate, and durable as a form of currency. Some forms of currency have had commercial use, while others have solely acted to represent value. For example, our USD is a piece of paper not good for much other than paying for stuff (see fiat currency). Silver, on the other hand, is useful for many industrial applications.

Blockchain is more like silver than fiat currency. If we believe that blockchain is inherently valuable as a building block for future business models, we should stop thinking of it simply as a currency, and more as a platform that is going to change the way we build all kinds of systems. Blockchain tokens represent the first time that a digital asset is able to exist in one place at one time, securely and with certainty. By thinking in these terms, I believe that we will be able to expand our view of the possibilities for what this technology can do. But how will these businesses get built?

ICOs in the house! ICO stands for Initial Coin Offering and involves the launching of a new token on a blockchain. ICOs certainly have the potential to change a lot about how companies get funded in the future. However, we should all realize that there are reasons for the SEC and their regulations around who can invest in private companies, the primary reasons being to protect individuals from getting scammed, and keeping them away from assets whose risks are tough to understand and can lead to bankruptcy. Typically, these private investments are restricted to qualified investors because rich people “can afford” the risks of potentially losing their money and should have (or can hire) the expertise to understand complex financial instruments.

Being a libertarian, I’m not a fan of protectionist regulations, but the rules were put in place for explicit reasons, and those reasons haven’t changed. A general best practice is for people to save the extra money they have in a combination of safe and risky assets in a measured way. Now, there is excitement about the ability for anyone to participate in ICOs, because at this time they are largely unregulated. However, if the only difference is that now any person can send crypto to fund / invest in an early stage company, that will almost certainly wind up being regulated in the same way investments are currently regulated. Yes, the ICO market is very hot and yes, some of these projects are getting massive amounts of funding very quickly, but let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Cryptocurrency

Over the past few years there have been many individuals that have had massive windfall returns from their investments in blockchain protocols and specific tokens. Let’s use an example of someone using Ethereum (ETH). “Alex” bought $10,000 of ETH in January 2016 for $1 because he thought it sounded cool and just let it ride. Now, Alex has about $4,000,000 USD equivalent in his digital wallet and probably feels pretty good. But there are two big questions here: 1) where does Alex spend all this newfound wealth and 2) what about taxes?

Anyone close to the crypto space realizes that there is a liquidity problem. (This is less true for Bitcoin and Ethereum, but if you are looking to go down that rabbit hole here ya go.) Here’s a simple example. Alex bought his crypto using Coinbase and now has $4MM USD equivalent of ETH in his wallet. He wants to convert that to real USD in his bank account so he can buy some stuff. If he hasn’t done much to increase his limits, it could take him several months to get this money out. There are other ways to get more liquidity with BTC and ETH, but the point here is that illiquid markets create artificial damming of value.

The tax question may be an even bigger element of friction keeping value locked up in the crypto markets. If Alex were to liquidate all $4MM USD, he would need to pay taxes on the $3.999MM worth of gains. However, if he keeps it in crypto, he can postpone that taxation event to a later date, maybe indefinitely. So between liquidity and taxation, a lot of value is tied up in the crypto currency markets that would otherwise flow elsewhere.

Cue the market for ICOs. ICOs are a way for anyone to buy company specific tokens. These tokens can be used for several purposes: 1) a form of ownership in a company, 2) a form of voting, and/or 3) as a way to participate in whatever product, service, or application the company is offering. The first two sound a lot like equity, which I will discuss more later, but in regards to purpose 3, many players with massive illiquid returns carrying with them large potential tax consequences now have something to spend those returns on that provide additional upside and avoid triggering a taxation event, #WinWin. Because while turning ETH into USD can be tough, sending ETH is very easy. Just point a transfer at a wallet id and send away (Want to try it? Hit me at 0xE8d8c7bE6E9F5Ed7A3Fa7ceF090Bb5044c2735Bf ;-))

Jokes aside, it is my feeling that these returns are being spent more like lottery dollars than they are being used as investment dollars. When a person wins the lottery, they often spend that money in careless ways. Similarly, many people who have experienced these massive windfall returns and don’t have an easy form of liquidity are viewing these token launches as a way to put some of that value to work. The result is a heavily inflated ICO market on the back of the massive returns driven initially by the earlier protocol appreciation. The truth is that 90% of startups do not work out, as will almost certainly be the case with companies raising via ICO. I just want to echo a recent AVC post and say, “Be cautious.”

Enough doom and gloom. Tokens are great and going to totally change the world we live in. Also, this massive shift of value through ICOs is going to fuel many incredible projects that will pave the way for future companies. One in particular working on the liquidity problem, for example, is Omega One.

While I’ve spent a lot of time talking about what’s going on in the ICO market, the point I really want to drive home is that crypto tokens on top of blockchain technology represent a fundamental advancement in technology. It is the first time a digital asset can exist in one place at one time with certainty, and while this has led to tokens being viewed and used as a currency, that is a narrow application. There are so many things that this will change- the way games are built, the way media is stored, the way personal data is monetized (anyone working on this?) are just a few initial targets, with many more left to be discovered. My hope is that by expanding the perspective of this technology, we start developing truly revolutionary ideas that will change the world for good.

This is not a new pattern. Early radio hosts just read the newspaper out loud, and early movie stars performed as if they were still on a stage. The problem with a new technology is that typically, the first move is to push old models on top hoping to make it better, but true innovation comes when we can see the technology for what it is and what it will make possible that before was impossible. One method I use to do this is an innovation chart.

Spoiler Alert: Blockchain is Far More Than Just Crypto

It’s simple. Write a list of old industries on the top and then list new technologies on the side. Then assess where they intersect and what opportunities that might unveil. For example, if you put something like cell phones as a new technology and maybe something like yellow cab as an old industry, you could arrive at an interesting place.

This is a space I’m spending a lot of time in and am always interested in talking to entrepreneurs working on cool projects, so please reach out!

Twitter: @lapecc

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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An Airline Just Started Using an Ethereum Blockchain to Issue Tickets

Russian magazine Kommersant has reported that the airline S7 began selling tickets using an Ethereum blockchain on Monday. The country’s largest private financial institution, Alfa-Bank, is supporting the move, which was made to simplify payments and decrease settlement times between airlines and agents — a process that usually takes two weeks.

The decision may have been made to get ahead of another Russian airline, Aeroflot, which recently released a request for proposals on how to incorporate cryptocurrencies into their own services.

S7’s decision to utilize Ethereum represents two wider trends in the world of blockchain. First, Russia’s interest in the technology. This is reflected by the central bank testing an Ethereum-based blockchain system and Vladimir Putin optimistically announcing that blockchain is “essentially the foundation for creating brand new business models” at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum.

Second, the move shows a worldwide increase in the integration of blockchain into everyday transactions. The system has been adopted by shipping companies such as Maersk and retailers like Walmart to keep track of shipments, and if S7’s integration is successful, citizens outside of Russia could soon find themselves booking their own travel on the blockchain.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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A Bitcoin Civil War Has Been Avoided, at Least Temporarily

This Way or That Way?

Like a season premiere of the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, the finance world is eyeing July 31 with both anticipation and slight trepidation.

An ongoing disagreement between miners and developers over the future of Bitcoin’s blockchain has had many Bitcoin analysts, investors, and enthusiasts fearing a potential split in the cryptocurrency at the end of this month. However, as a moderate solution seems more likely to be accepted, fears of a network hard fork are beginning to die down.

As previously reported, the Bitcoin crisis is the result of a clash of ideas for the future of the popular cryptocurrency and its blockchain’s transactional capacity. Miners wanted to increase Bitcoin’s block limit, while developers proposed moving data off the main blockchain network.

The more moderate solution, which was activated on July 22, is Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) 91. This protocol update prevents a hard fork from occurring by providing a compromise between what miners and developers want. Last week, more than 80 percent of bitcoin miners expressed support for BIP91, passing the threshold required for implementation.

Temporary Calm

This is definitely good news, but the potential for chaos hasn’t been entirely avoided. It’s only July 25, so five days remain before the required July 31 lock in. More than 51 percent of miners must begin using the BIP91 protocol by then for it to be fully adopted.

For now, though, it seems less and less likely that a hard fork is coming between July 31 and August 2. As if anticipating future smooth sailing, bitcoin’s value has risen to $2,729 as of this writing. That’s a $570 increase over last week’s value.

Still, some are quick to point out that this current period of peace could be temporary.

“Segwit2X locked-in on July 21st with +90% miner support so many people could now be tempted to assume that the scaling debate is over and Bitcoin is now good to scale to the masses,” Juan Manini-Rios, CEO of SHA256 Trading, wrote in a Medium post. “Unfortunately, that is not the case at all and a Bitcoin fork is still almost certain.”

For AQR Capital Management former managing director Aaron Brown, a currency split may not be that bad for Bitcoin. “It is the rule, not the exception, that currencies evaporate due to hyperinflation, government default or expropriation, or a losing a war,” he told MIT Tech Review. “People do not use them because they have faith in their long-term survival, but because they can facilitate transactions today.”


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Ethereum Co-Founder Helps Launch New Blockchain Startup

The food industry is warming up to blockchain, thanks to the likes of Ambrosus. The Swiss startup was founded last year, but officially launched yesterday. An Initial Coin Offering (ICO) will begin in September.

According to Ambrosus’ website, the company aims to use cutting-edge technology to improve the food supply chain: “Combining high-tech sensors, blockchain protocol, and smart contracts, we are building the world’s first publicly verifiable, community-driven ecosystem to assure [sic] the quality, safety, and origins of food.”

The idea is to keep track of produce as it moves from farm to fork, with the blockchain ensuring the integrity of the data. Russia’s ITcoin is doing something similar for the nation’s beef products.

Ambrosus is built on the Ethereum blockchain, and Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood’s Parity Technologies is its core technology partner. Parity’s co-founder Jutta Steiner joins Wood as a technical advisor for Ambrosus.

It’s worth noting that Parity has been in the news itself recently. Just yesterday, the company reported a breach that compromised its crypto wallet, leading to the theft of $30 million in ether. The news threatens to cast a shadow on the supposed security of blockchains.

Despite the bad timing of this Parity news, Ambrosus co-founder Angel Versetti appears optimistic about the potential for his company’s technology to push Ethereum into a largely untouched industry: “The combination of the maturity of the technology and the brainpower and creativity of participating actors provides a unique and clear opportunity to build a bridge between Ethereum and the food sector.”


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Op Ed: The Death of Net Neutrality Could Also be the Death of Blockchain

Net Neutrality

The Internet is great. It has music, video games, cat videos, more cat videos…, etc. However, the Internet is only as good as it is because it is open and free. Anyone can access the Internet (not exactly, but that’s another issue) and everyone can contribute. Unfortunately, this is changing.

As many of you already know, the FCC has voted to overturn Net Neutrality rules and will begin rolling back crucial protection for the internet.

If you don’t know what Net Neutrality is, watch these videos!

Net Neutrality ensures that large corporations and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) don’t control the internet. For example, let’s say that you started up a small store to sell artisan donuts. Of course, you want to easily reach a large and global audience. So, you start a web commerce store and start selling your donuts online. Sadly, there’s a big existing company, DonutsRUs Inc. DonutsRUs Inc. does not sell artisan products. They sell factory made chemical donuts that are terrible for the environment. DonutsRUs Inc. sees you as a threat to their business. Because Net Neutrality doesn’t exist in this dystopian world, DonutsRUs Inc. is able to go to internet providers and pay to slow down your site or pay for their site to be faster. Customers that wanted to buy your donuts would get bored waiting and leave to DonutsRUs Inc.

Cryptocurrency Ecosystem

With Net Neutrality in place, the Internet is “neutral” and “fair”. No website is able to get preferential treatment. There’s been a lot of videos, blogs, and opinion articles done on why Net Neutrality protects companies. However, there has not been a lot of work done about Net Neutrality and Blockchain.

(If you’re reading this, I hope you have a good understanding with the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Token Sales, transactions, etc. However, it’s ok if you don’t. Check this out, you’ll thank me later.)

Recently, there have been a lot of token sales and ICO’s. Without getting into the arguments about the benefits and drawbacks, it is obvious that these are important and a very large part of the crypto ecosystem.

Net Neutrality forces internet traffic to be treated the same. This would include blockchain transactions. It’s estimated that 30% of the Bitcoin network is hosted by 13 ISPs60% of all Bitcoin transactions cross only 3 ISPs. (ETHZ) It’s not impossible to imagine a world where ISP’s could slow down the transactions to a certain address or smart contract. If one company, (we’ll call it TastyDonutCoin) had a crowdsale to fund their donut company, another company (EvilDonuts) could pay ISP’s to slow down or block the transactions to TastyDonutCoin, which would prevent TastyDonutCoin from raising any money.

It could get even worse. Looking beyond ICO/Token Sales, many blockchain companies are running or considering running operations on Smart Contracts and blockchain-based code. If a competitor was able to tamper with these transactions in any way, it would be a disaster. Imagine a traditional hosting system (AWS, DigitalOcean, Google Cloud, etc.). Now, imagine if other companies could mess with the connections hosted there. Companies would be forced to pay out large “protection fees” just to ensure that their market had access to their content. How is this a good free market system?

There’s already been some research done on how ISP’s can interfere with blockchain. Basically, when a crypto transaction goes through an ISP, that ISP can interfere with it and do a partition attack (separates the network) or a Delay Attack (delays the block). This interference would destroy any attacked blockchain.

So, now you’re thinking to yourself, “How can I help save Net Neutrality?” (If you’re not, look at this and think about how your Internet experience would be destroyed.)

There’s a few very simple and easy ways.

  1. Share this article and the videos linked in this article with your friends. The more people that know about this, the better.
  2.  Go to https://www.battleforthenet.com/ and fill out the form to send an email directly to the FCC.

Let’s save the Internet. #BetterTogether

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More Than 150 Organizations Are Working Together to Support the Growth of Ethereum

A Growing Blockchain

Owing perhaps to the growing popularity of cryptocurrencies, several corporations have taken it upon themselves to learn a thing or two about blockchain. What they’ve found is that the technology is useful for far more than finance, with members of the manufacturing, shipping, and even music industries adopting blockchain initiatives to improve how they operate.

Since blockchain is relatively new, it makes sense for companies to band together to ensure that the potential of the technology is understood and reached. Helping in that pursuit is the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA).

The EEA connects established organizations, startups, university researchers, and tech vendors with Ethereum experts to help facilitate the creation of applications using the platform. Since the EEA was launched in February of this year, the industry group has grown to include more than 150 organizations, and following the addition of 34 new members since late May, it is now the world’s largest open-source blockchain initiative, according to a recent press release.

“EEA’s newest members represent a wide variety of business sectors, including technology, banking, government, healthcare, energy, pharmaceuticals, marketing, and insurance, as well as a number of fast-growing Ethereum startups,” notes the press release. These new members include Cisco Systems, Antibiotic Research UK (ANTRUK), and the Technical University of Munich, and they join founding member corporations such as Accenture, Banco Santander, ConsenSys, Intel, J.P. Morgan, and Microsoft in the initiative.

An Enterprise Solution

The growth of the EEA is indicative of Ethereum’s potential to be the world’s foremost enterprise blockchain. At the very least, a more robust EEA could facilitate the extension of the Ethereum blockchain into a variety of fields and pave the way for a widespread adoption of Ethereum.

“This open source framework will enable the mass adoption at a depth and breadth otherwise unachievable in individual corporate silos and provide insight to the future of scalability, privacy, and confidentiality of the public Ethereum permissionless network,” today’s announcement read.

Ethereum is already being used within a wide range of industries, and an open-source initiative like the EEA makes it easier for new projects to take advantage of the platform. While the currently more popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin stares down a potential civil war, the EEA is helping unify Ethereum users and ensure that the future of the platform is grounded in collaboration, just like the blockchain itself.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Want to Invest in Crypto? Here’s A Crash Course.

A Major Return on Investment

When the first cryptocurrency was developed in 2009, it could be had for a song. One bitcoin was worth a mere eight hundredths of a cent. By 2010, 10,000 units were still only enough to purchase a pair of pizzas. When Ethereum first began selling ether in July 2014, 2000 tokens could be purchased for one bitcoin, meaning each token was valued at just about $0.30.

Now, ether tips the digital scales at more than $200 per token, and the bitcoins used to buy dinner in 2010 would be worth roughly $20 million today.

Clearly, these currencies are trending upward, but many are still unfamiliar with the world of blockchain and the cryptocurrencies that operate on them. As such, buying and selling crypto is murky territory. So let’s take a moment to cover the basics of what you’ll need to know to tread through this newly emerging landscape.

A Crash Course in Crypto

The first step to investing in cryptocurrencies is understanding how they differ from traditional currencies.

A traditional currency, such as the U.S. Dollar or the Euro, is controlled by a centralized authority. In the U.S., that authority is the Federal Reserve, and it is responsible for promoting economic stability and regulating the nation’s financial institutions, such as banks or investment firms. Each of those institutions is then responsible for maintaining and securing records of their transactions.

A cryptocurrency has no centralized authority. The value of the currency is set by the market, and transactions happen directly between parties. These transactions are recorded on a digital ledger known as a blockchain. Every cryptocurrency has its own blockchain, and this ledger is stored across a large network of computers, each known as a “node.”

When two parties decide they want to make a transaction using a cryptocurrency, the request is broadcast to all of these nodes, and they each record the change on their copy of the ledger. Ultimately, a group of these individual transactions will comprise one timestamped block in the blockchain.

The whole transaction process takes seconds or minutes, instead of the days or weeks sometimes required by a traditional bank. Cryptocurrencies then use a layer of cryptoeconomics to incentivize validators to always keep the blockchain honest. This works similarly to games like the prisoner’s dilemma. In cryptocurrencies, any one individual is incentivized to tell the truth because if they lie and the others tell the truth, the liar misses out.

Distributed databases are also more secure than the centralized databases used by traditional financial institutions, which are susceptible to hacking and other cyberattacks. Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether are also far easier to use across international borders.

Those are just a few of the reasons tech experts view blockchain-based systems as a massive improvement on current methods of record keeping, and not just for financial transactions. Blockchain is poised to transform everything from the healthcare industry to the Internet of Things (IoT), and entire countries have even announced plans to transition to blockchain systems.

So now you know the basics of how blockchains and cryptocurrencies function, but how do you actually invest in them?

Entering the Market

The first thing you’ll need to do is decide which cryptocurrency you want to purchase. You have hundreds to choose from, and each is slightly different from the others.

To make this decision, the two things you will most likely want to familiarize yourself with are Bitcoin and Ethereum. Ultimately, bitcoin and ether are the cryptocurrencies with the greatest market caps (approximately $38 billion and $18 billion, respectively). They have a number of differences, but the primary one is that the Bitcoin blockchain is currently used strictly for peer-to-peer financial transactions (though that may change), while the Ethereum platform supports a range of transactions.

Rather than researching the multitude of cryptocurrencies currently in existence and diving in headlong, for first-time investors, it may be a better idea to spend some time following the trends and getting to know just a few currencies, and then begin to branch out once the basics of a few tokens are fully understood.

Once you’ve decided on a cryptocurrency you want to invest in, you’ll need to choose an exchange. Exchanges are websites that allow you to buy, sell, or trade cryptocurrencies, and once again, you have a lot to choose from. Like cryptocurrencies themselves, each exchange is unique.

One of the most important things to understand is that not every exchange supports every cryptocurrency, so you’ll need to find one that works with your crypto of choice. For example, CoinBase, one of the most popular exchanges, supports the trading of both bitcoins and ether, as well as litecoins. However, if you want to trade in a less “in demand” cryptocurrency, such as ripple, you’ll want to consider an exchange like Kraken, which supports 16 different cryptos.

Sites like Coin Market Cap are great resources for choosing an exchange, as they can provide you with information on trading volume, market values, and most frequently traded pairings. When choosing one to join, you’ll also want to consider such variables as an exchange’s reputation, accepted payment methods, and geographical restrictions.

After you’ve settled on an exchange, you’ll need to create an account, which will generally require ID verification. Once that is done, you’ll then be able to add money to your account, make trades, or withdraw funds (do note that each action requires a small fee). If you decide you want to trade on a different exchange, you’ll have to repeat the process and pay the fees required by that particular exchange.

A Better Way to Trade

Though the process thus far may seem relatively straightforward (if a bit time-consuming), actually making money via crypto trading is anything but simple. Cryptocurrencies are still in their nascent stages, and unfortunately, not all of the kinks have been worked out just yet, which has led to a volatile, expensive market for investors.

Having a large number of crypto exchanges does more than just burden investors with extra fees — it also leads to problems with liquidity, which is a market’s ability to enact transactions without affecting an asset’s price. To break this down to the basics, if an exchange doesn’t have enough of a cryptocurrency available at or near the market price when a buyer makes the decision to buy, that buyer will be forced to pay what is called a “liquidity fee,” and they can amount to 1 to 10 percent the total value of the trade.

An illiquid market can also cause flash crashes like the one ether experienced in June, which dropped the crypto’s value by 99.9 percent in less than one second. This volatility is intimidating for investors, and it’s slowing down the adoption of blockchain-based finance systems.

Thankfully, a new platform has emerged that could stabilize crypto markets while simultaneously lowering trading costs for investors: Omega One.

Instead of buying or selling crypto directly through exchanges, Omega One users simply create a wallet on the platform and do all of their trading through it—no need for multiple accounts. When you want to make a transaction, you place the order through the platform. Once the system verifies that you have the funds to make the trade, it locks the transaction. You won’t be able to spend those funds elsewhere, but they are still in your possession.

Omega One then executes the trade for you across as many exchanges as necessary to ensure the lowest fees. It may even spread out the transaction over a period of time rather than completing it instantaneously, if that makes the most financial sense. Ultimately, this intelligent execution of transactions increases the liquidity of cryptocurrency markets and prevents destabilization, all while keeping costs low for investors — in fact, large orders could see a fee reduction of up to 90 percent compared to traditionally executed transactions.

Omega One is poised to make crypto trading cheaper and simpler, all while helping stabilize the market as a whole, providing a benefit to both new and seasoned investors alike. So keep a lookout for their launch later this year.


The preceding communication has been paid for by Omega One, and Futurism has a small financial stake in Omega One’s token launch. This communication is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer or solicitation to sell shares or securities in Omega One or any related or associated company. The Omega One tokens described herein are not being structured or sold as securities or any other form of investment product, and consequently, none of the information presented herein is intended to form the basis for any investment decision, and no specific recommendations are intended. This communication does not constitute investment advice or solicitation for investment. Futurism expressly disclaims any and all responsibility for any direct or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever arising directly or indirectly from: (i) reliance on any information contained herein, (ii) any error, omission or inaccuracy in any such information or (iii) any action resulting from such information.

Each recipient of this communication expressly acknowledges that the Omega One tokens are being sold solely for the purpose of providing purchasers of such tokens with access to the services associated with the tokens, and that such persons are not being offered, and will not be purchasing, any tokens for any other purposes, including, but not limited to, any investment, speculative or other financial purpose. Each recipient further acknowledges that they are aware of the commercial risks associated with Omega One and the network associated with its tokens.

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More Than Coins: Blockchain is Transforming the Way We Distribute Aid

More Than the Hype

There’s been a lot of talk lately about cryptocurrencies, particularly bitcoin and ether, which have both seen rising values. While their market stability and viability for mass adoption remain unsure at best, the same can’t be said of the technology that powers these cryptocoins. Blockchain has proven itself useful not just in the financial sector, but also in the world of charities and philanthropy.

Blockchains are digital ledgers that record transactions — or smart contracts — in a distributed, decentralized network. These networks are maintained by miners, who receive a cryptocurrency in exchange. For example, those who keep the Ethereum blockchain “mine” ether coins. Blockchains are also very transparent and secure, as no transaction is kept by just one system. So, it’s found favor among banks and other financial institutions.

Over the past months, however, blockchains have increasingly become a reliable fund transfer platform for several aid programs. Among these is Disberse, which a U.K.-based network of local and international aid agencies called Start Network, began testing last week.

“This exciting partnership could lead to the transformation needed in the way money flows through the humanitarian system,” Start Network director Sean Lowrie said in a Start Network statement. “The Start Network is testing innovative solutions to many humanitarian challenges to enable aid agencies to be more efficient and effective.”

Changing Transactions, Changing Times

The Start Network isn’t the first one to rely on blockchain for its aid programs. The United Nations’ own World Food Programme (WFP) ran a trial of an Ethereum-based cash assistance program called Building Blocks. This seems to be the first of many, as the UN recently revealed that a number of its other programs are also exploring the possibility of using blockchain.

According to the UN Office for Project Services, the agencies involved include the UN Development Programme, the UN Children’s Fund, UN Women, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Development Group, and, of course, the WFP.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

Blockchain’s potential for charity comes as no surprise. Because it doesn’t use cash, it eliminates some of the biggest problems that plague aid and fund transfer programs — corruption and fund leaks, where according to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon about 30 percent of developmental aid is lost.

Other efforts that rely on blockchain to deliver aid include BitNation’s Refugee Emergency Response, which won the 2017 Netexplo Grand Prix for innovation. There’s also a basic income program called Grantcoin that uses blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Apart from these, blockchain is also seeing use in other industries. Brooklyn-based startup LO3 Energy, for example, uses blockchain to manage microgrids. It’s also supporting sustainable governance systems and could even allow us to build a new internet.

As the potential of blockchain continues to be explored, it won’t be surprising how this technology could end up transforming the way we run the world.

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Australia Joins the Tech Train With AI and Blockchain

The Future of Australian Business

Australia is currently seeing the first manifestations and ramifications of two of the business world’s key technologies: blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI). Both could fundamentally change how financial and professional operations are conducted in Australia.

Currently, blockchain technologies are being explored through research and start-ups looking to implement the purely digital ledger. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Australian government’s federal agency for scientific investigation, released a report last month exploring how blockchain could support the country, along with the risks it presents. In addition, in June, Melbourne hosted the Annual blockchain summit, while the newly formed Blockchain Association of Australia finished its first meeting on July 13th.

Businesses in Australia have also started implementing and trialing blockchain technologies. Three companies, in particular, are using the ledger for food and water related purposes. Civic Ledger is researching blockchain solutions for the governmental water market, TBSX3, and is using it as a method of exchange that ensures that food exports are genuine and authentic. AgriDigital is using it to centralize and organize the agriculture process from field to shelf. Meanwhile, Othera has proposed the use of blockchain to begin a lending business.

AI has also come into vogue within the country. Testra, a key player in the Australian telecommunications and media industries, has announced that it will begin introducing AI into its operations. The company’s CEO Andrew Penn  labeled the technology “perhaps [the] most significant driver of technology innovation” during his speech at AMCHAM, and he continued by explaining that AI will be the “highest priority at Telstra [which] is to improve customer advocacy.”

The impact of AI on Australia’s business world was highlighted in a recent speech in Sydney made by Peter Norvig, the research director of Google, who urged every company to appoint at least one member of staff to assess the potential benefits of AI to their company. He said, “You have to have somebody who understands how to make the call and, from that, the rest will flow.”

A Worldwide Movement

Australia’s federal and corporate progress concerning the integration of blockchain and AI are symptomatic of a worldwide growth, development, and implementation of the technologies.

Blockchain technologies are being used to investigate currencies and transfer systems on a national and international basis. Multiple countries have launched efforts to try to understand the complexities and intricacies of digitizing a national currency. China has developed a prototype that could become a progenitor for a real life equivalent, Singapore is looking at a ‘tokenised’ form of the currency in collaboration with Fintech, and Sweden and India are both considering cryptocurrencies as part of their larger plans to become cashless societies.

A similar worldwide change can also be seen in the adoption of AI, which is being accepted into a variety of institutions at an exponential rate. The Canadian government has developed a $125 million budget to fund investigations and research into AI, while the US government has been holding meetings to plan and consider the effects of implementing the tech.

This revolution, however, is being most directly felt in technology circles. Recently, Google has announced that they are focusing all of their resources on developing an AI that can take over many of the company’s other functions. However, the nature of the transition — or perhaps the threat — is reflected best by the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, a collaboration between tech giants that ensures that AI is implemented responsibly on a worldwide basis.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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Tezos Just Finished the World’s Largest ICO, Hitting More Than $200 Million Worth of Cryptocoins

No Caps, Just Coins

If you’re building a new blockchain system, might as well fund it using digital currency generated by other blockchains. That’s what Tezos did when it decided to launch an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) back on July 1 for its new decentralized blockchain. Now, after 13 days of crypto asset crowdsale, the Tezos ICO generated more than $230 million worth of bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH) coins, making it the largest ICO to date.

The Tezos ICO closed with 65,627 BTC (with current prices hovering around $155-6 million) and 361,122 ETH (about $76 million), reaching a total of $232 million. That’s almost 100 million more than the previously highest Bancor ICO, which ended with about $150 million worth of ether coins. It helped that the Tezos ICO that didn’t have a cap for total coins sold and was launched back when 2,000 transaction blocks were added to the Bitcoin blockchain.

Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether are used to pay for miners who maintain their respective blockchains — the decentralized digital ledger of transactions that’s recently found applications in not just finance, but other industries as well.

Challenging Blockchain Governance

As mentioned, Tezos is a blockchain. It wants to be different from existing blockchains, however, by refining the way these decentralized networks are governed and developed. Tezos describes its blockchain as a “self-amending” cryptoledger, i.e. it gives stakeholders the ability to decide on network-wide changes at the protocol level.

Essentially, this could eliminate the current conundrum Bitcoin finds itself in. Bitcoin miners and developers — who have opposing goals when it comes to the future of the blockchain — are in a deadlock regarding whether to accept and implement an improvement that would handle increased traffic in the network.

Tezos isn’t free of critics, however: Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin previously expressed his disagreement with the idea of eliminating the need for outside protocol governance. Tezos, however, will offer support for smart contracts that use Proof-of-Stake (PoS) as a consensus algorithm — something that Ethereum is supposedly working on.

While regular investments are already volatile by nature, ICOs are even more so. There’s no guarantee how many of these startups with ICOs will actually last. For now, though, Tezos is just enjoying the overwhelming amount of funding and support its generated.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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The Finance World Is Preparing for a Bitcoin Civil War

A House Divided

Bitcoin may be the most popular, longest standing cryptocurrency, but that doesn’t mean its path forward is without potential conflict. In fact, analysts are now predicting that the cryptocurrency is on the brink of a civil war that would put Captain America and Iron Man’s to shame.

Like the Marvel story, the Bitcoin rift is an ideological one. On one side of the divide are the bitcoin miners who oversee every transaction made on the Bitcoin blockchain. On the other side are the developers that have maintained Bitcoin’s bug-proof software — they’re led by a group called Core.

The problem of how to handle increased Bitcoin traffic has caused the rift. The former group wants to increase Bitcoin’s block size limit in order to process more transactions. Meanwhile, the latter wants to move data off the main network, which would diminish the influence of miners and essentially make Bitcoin more enterprise-friendly, like its main competitor, Ethereum.

“It’s moderates versus extremists,” Stephen Pair, chief executive officer of bitcoin wallet provider BitPay, told Bloomberg. “It depends on how much a person values the majority of people staying on one chain at least for a little while longer, versus splitting and allowing each [to pursue] their own vision for scaling.”

Of Forks and Roads

What’s ironic about this situation is that it’s made possible by blockchain’s decentralized nature, which is often heralded as one of the technology’s most interesting features. The absence of a central Bitcoin authority has made it difficult for a consensus to be reached.

At any rate, a compromise called the SegWit2x update has been developed, and it should be available by July 21. It changes how some of Bitcoin’s data will be stored while also doubling the block size limit.

Though support for SegWit2x is reportedly high, no one knows for sure how it will be received until it is actually released. “It’s a high-stakes game of chicken,” Arthur Hayes from Hong Kong-based BitMEX told Bloomberg. “If you’re a trader, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to what happens.”

Bitcoin has been enjoying a continuous upward trend in market value for the past several months — at one point, it was even more valuable than gold. We’ll have to wait to see if this growth can continue past the next couple of weeks, which will possibly be the most turbulent in Bitcoin’s history. As Hayes said, “Once there’s a definitive signal about what will be done, the price could move very quickly.”

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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No, Ether Isn’t “Getting Crushed.” Here’s What’s Really Going On.

A Misleading View

In case you missed it, yesterday, Business Insider published an article entitled “Ethereum is Getting Crushed.” If you give the article a casual glance, the piece seems to be heralding the downfall of ether (the value token of the Ethereum blockchain, and the latest darling child of cryptocurrencies). The author, Jonathan Garber, supports this claim with the following:

  • The cryptocurrency is trading at its lowest level in more than a month;
  • Ether is down 9.9 percent, at $215/ether;
  • Ether has fallen more than 45% since reaching a record high of nearly $400 on June 13; and
  • This chart (which was the featured image on the article):

Market Insider

While the article and associated chart are factually accurate, the chart and main title of the piece are ultimately a bit misleading.* For starters, the chart that they decided to use only goes from $210 to $245. This is a remarkably small monetary value. Second, the chart only spans one day. All of this serves to make the dip look significant.

If you head to the source image and check the three-month view (3M), you will immediately see that such fluctuations are, and have been, common place over the last few days, weeks, and months. Given the extreme rise that we’ve seen recently, this is to be expected—ether has risen an unbelievable 4,500 percent in 2017, after all.

Later in the article, Garber does note this same fact (that these fluctuations are to be expected and that, in the long term, ether looks promising). He quotes Mike McGovern, the new head of investor services fintech offerings at Brown Brothers Harriman, who asserts that ether is actually remarkably stable: “When looking at bitcoin blockchain versus Ethereum, there’s no doubt Ethereum is superior. It doesn’t cost as much to mine ether tokens, because it requires less electricity than bitcoin.”

So the title and chart herald the downfall of ether, but the article seems to be saying the opposite…?

Let’s take a moment to dive into a bit of history and break down what’s really going on here. TLDR: No, ether is not getting crushed, and given the short attention span of most internet browsers, it’s a bit problematic to structure articles with the title and featured image that were selected by Business Insider.

A State of Flux

Check out our graph that shows the price of ether over the last few months:

*5* [Don’t edit] No, Ether Isn’t “Getting Crushed.” Here’s A Better View.

You’ll see that $210 is still fantastically high. Yes, there is a dip. Such dips were anticipated and mimic what was seen with bitcoin (as we noted in a previous article, the rapid boom of both Ethereum and Bitcoin showcase not only the massive potential of blockchain technology, but the volatility of the cryptocurrency world). And to this end, the main focus should be the incredibly steep rise alongside the dip. At the time this article was written, ether was at $214. This is up $203 since last year – a total 1,870% increase.

Yes, it has dropped since last month, and while this drop may be significant to some, history indicates that it’s most likely temporary. As CoinDesk’s Pete Rizzo notes, “while it has yet to surpass bitcoin’s total value, as some had predicted, there is still broad optimism about the asset among traders, who believe it to be a rare cryptocurrency that has established a viable value proposition by enabling token issuance.”

Ether’s success this year is, in some respects, even eclipsing bitcoin’s. At the start of the year, ether was worth only around five percent as much as bitcoin, but as of last month, The New York Times reports that “outstanding units of the ether currency were worth around $34 billion…82 percent as much as all the bitcoin in existence.”

It’s too soon to tell how ether will end the year, but this dip needs to be taken into consideration alongside the impressive rise seen in recent months.

* Editors note: Writers are often not the ones who choose titles or featured images, so the decision may not actually have fallen to Garber

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Ethereum Co-Founder Takes to Twitter to Disagree With Tezos Blockchain Plan

Vitalik Buterin, the 23-year old co-founder of Ethereum, recently got in a long Twitter exchange over the future of the blockchain startup Tezos. In case you haven’t heard of them yet, here’s a quick refresher: Ethereum is the world’s first true enterprise blockchain. Tezos is a startup that boasts a type of blockchain that offers a “self-amending” cryptoledger.

Blockchain offers a digital ledger of transactions that’s decentralized, and therefore more secure. Tezos wants to give all token holders the ability to make decisions on the blockchain. These decisions could be made transparently and would then be pushed to the network automatically — eliminating what’s called as extra-protocol governance. This is the element that Buterin doesn’t agree with:

Vitalik said that he’s not convinced such a “rough consensus” would be a sustainable governance model for blockchain. Tezos, meanwhile, didn’t leave the Ethereum co-founder’s comment hanging: Tezos replied that it wants to eliminate the need — but not the possibility — of extra-protocol governance.

Tezos is currently running what could be the largest Initial Coin Offering (ICO) there is, generating more than $200 million worth of bitcoin and ether, meaning it’s likely to remain a competitive member of cryptocurrency’s future.

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An Anonymous Ether Trader Just Made $200 Million in One Month

0x00A651D43B6e209F5Ada45A35F92EFC0De3A5184

Nope, that header isn’t a typo. That’s the identification code for the virtual wallet of an anonymous cryptocurrency trader that’s made more than $200 million in just over a month. Supposedly, this unknown trader was able to raise their cryptocurrency assets from $55 million to $283 million in that short span of time; a 413 percent accumulated profit from Ethereum blockchain’s digital money, ether.

In an Instagram post, someone (or maybe several people) purporting to be the trader in question said, “I get many private messages asking how much ether I have. One of the cool things about Ethereum is that all wallets around the world are transparent and open for everyone to see. And this is my wallet’s savings.”

While the amount of earnings from cryptocurrency trading is incredible, it isn’t at all impossible. Recently, the values of both bitcoin and ether have been going up. The total value of cryptocurrencies reached an all-time high on June 6 when it surpassed $100 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Anonymity and Security

Faced with the growth of cryptocurrencies, experts are asking whether anonymity is beneficial or not. It’s certainly one of the key reasons cryptocurrencies are becoming so popular. “One of its more important features is that you don’t have identities tied to this,” Spencer Bogart, research head at venture firm Blockchain Capital, said in Bloomberg “This financial privacy is an important characteristic.”

That’s also the source of some of its troubles, though: there have been a handful of cyberattacks that asked for ransom in bitcoin, and that trend could continue as it becomes more widely used. “The credibility of virtual currencies will not rise if they are used for criminal purposes,” a draft online currency legislation by the European Parliament noted. “In this context, anonymity will become more a hindrance than an asset for virtual currencies.”

To this end, would tying digital wallets to identifiable persons be a problem for a mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies? For a cryptocurrency like ether — which is used to pay for applications that run on the Ethereum blockchain — it may not be such a big deal. It could even help ether avoid having its reputation sullied by cyberattacks like bitcoin. At present, ether seems to be moving into the mainstream. The rise of Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is helping, and Ethereum is working to make their transactions even more efficient and powerful.

For now, though, it wouldn’t hurt to be careful. As Peter Denious from Aberdeen Asset Management told Bloomberg, “A lot of lessons will be learned. A lot of money will be lost before a lot of money can be made.”

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In the Age of Blockchain, Crypto Has a Major Problem

The Blockchain Revolution

Less than a decade after blockchain first emerged as the foundation upon which digital currency bitcoin could thrive, the technology has evolved into something with so much more potential. Nearly every facet of society could benefit from the secure, decentralized database provided by blockchain, and indeed, many already have.

Blockchain has already helped companies across the globe keep track of their international shipmentscombat insurance fraud, and develop better autonomous driving systems. The tech has been used to support the implementation of renewable energy, provide refugees with food and supplies, and manage universal basic income (UBI) trials. Some experts predict that blockchain could improve how we collect taxes and vote in elections within the next five to 10 years, and it could even help usher in the era of quantum computing.

Everyone from renowned futurist and Google’s head of engineering Ray Kurzweil to internet pioneer Brian Behlendorf is bullish on the technology, but despite its remarkable growth and expansion, blockchain still has major obstacles to overcome in the industry in which it was born: finance. Though these issues are currently preventing the tech from realizing its full potential, we may soon have a way to solve them.

Stunted Potential

Before blockchain can become the foundation upon which the world conducts its financial transactions, we must address a fundamental issue stressing blockchain-supported digital currency markets, such as bitcoin or ether: the problem of liquidity.

Liquidity refers to a market’s ability to handle a transaction without affecting the asset’s price. For example, cash is the most liquid asset, so if someone wanted to buy USD$1 million worth of Euros, the market would be able to absorb the transaction easily. The value of the dollar and the Euro would remain almost completely unaffected, likely changing by less than .01 percent, and the massive amount of available Euros to buy would mean the trader completes their order at roughly the cost they expected when they placed it.

However, buying USD$1 million worth of bitcoin would affect the crypto’s value by 1 to 10 percent, meaning a transaction that would barely cause a ripple in the Euro market could cause a relative tidal wave in bitcoin. This is due to the market’s lack of liquidity. Specifically, the amount of bitcoin available on the specific exchange at or even close to the market price when the buyer made the decision to buy will run out, leaving the transaction to be completed at a price 1 to 10 percent higher than expected. This will cost the buyer of bitcoin between $10,000 and $100,000 more than the original price to make the $1 million trade, and that liquidity cost alone could be enough to discourage trading.

Compounding this issue, trading of cryptocurrencies is fragmented across many exchanges. Bitcoin alone is traded across dozens of exchanges: Coinbase, Gemini, Kraken, etc. This prevents any one bitcoin exchange from offering as robust liquidity as it could. The exchanges themselves are also struggling to keep up with increases in volume, causing outages that can further dampen liquidity. For example, during bitcoin’s value surge in late May and throughout June, some exchanges had trouble keeping up with increased activity. The crypto’s value plummeted briefly when Coinbase — an exchange CryptoCompare claims accounts for roughly 17 percent of bitcoin’s trade volume — suffered outages due to “unprecedented traffic and trading.

A Volatile Situation

A combination of these two issues contributed to the flash crash ether experienced in June.

After a multi-million dollar market sell order was placed on the GDAX exchange, the value of ether dropped by more than 99.9 percent, from $317.81 to $0.10 within a second. The initial sell order dropped the price to $224.48, but this further triggered additional sell orders from customers who had stop loss orders and margin positions. Ether sales from the triggered stop loss orders further triggered even more automated stop loss orders, creating a cascading effect that sent the price of ether down to $0.10 within a second.

The ether market did stabilize soon after, with the price returning to more than $300, but this price volatility is one of, if not the, biggest barriers to widespread cryptocurrency adoption. The average person doesn’t want to invest in an asset prone to large value swings, and until we find a way to stabilize the market, a global finance system built upon blockchain will remain a pipe dream.

For the foreseeable future, cryptocurrencies will continue to be traded on multiple exchanges with no single, stable asset keeping their value in check. That means overcoming the problems of fragmentation and liquidity will require a different solution, and that solution is Omega One.

The End to Crypto Markets’ Woes

The Omega One platform is designed to support the growth of the digital currency market by addressing its fragmentation and liquidity problems. It facilitates trades across all cryptocurrency exchanges, thus preventing the destabilization that can occur when a single exchange is forced to absorb a major transaction.

The way it works is rather simple. When an Omega One user decides they want to make a transaction, they place an order through the platform. Once the system verifies that they have the necessary funds, the order is locked. They cannot spend those funds elsewhere, but they retain control of them for the duration of the transaction.

The platform then completes the transaction. However, instead of executing it as a single trade on a single exchange, Omega One breaks it into smaller transactions across multiple cryptocurrency exchanges, executing those transactions over a period of time rather than all at once if necessary.

By intelligently implementing transactions in this way, Omega One increases the liquidity of cryptocurrency markets and prevents a large transaction from destabilizing an asset’s value the way the multi-million dollar ether sell order did in June. Users aren’t hit with higher-than-expected liquidity costs, and they maintain custody of their funds until the process is complete.

The platform is set for a token launch later in 2017, at which point its potential to solve blockchain’s woes will be put to the test. Right now, however, Omega One seems like the most promising solution to the problems preventing the blockchain revolution from truly transforming the world of finance.


The preceding communication has been paid for by Omega One, and Futurism has a small financial stake in Omega One’s token launch. This communication is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer or solicitation to sell shares or securities in Omega One or any related or associated company. The Omega One tokens described herein are not being structured or sold as securities or any other form of investment product, and consequently, none of the information presented herein is intended to form the basis for any investment decision, and no specific recommendations are intended. This communication does not constitute investment advice or solicitation for investment. Futurism expressly disclaims any and all responsibility for any direct or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever arising directly or indirectly from: (i) reliance on any information contained herein, (ii) any error, omission or inaccuracy in any such information or (iii) any action resulting from such information.

Each recipient of this communication expressly acknowledges that the Omega One tokens are being sold solely for the purpose of providing purchasers of such tokens with access to the services associated with the tokens, and that such persons are not being offered, and will not be purchasing, any tokens for any other purposes, including, but not limited to, any investment, speculative or other financial purpose. Each recipient further acknowledges that they are aware of the commercial risks associated with Omega One and the network associated with its tokens.

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Is Ethereum Ready for Widespread Adoption?

A Learning Trend

The popularity of cryptocurrencies is on the rise. This is evident in the recent huge increases in the market value of Bitcoin and Ethereum, perhaps the two most popular crypto coins around, despite suffering some recent setbacks. The growing popularity of Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) is another hopeful sign that we may, indeed, be moving towards a cashless world.

But how ready are these cryptocurrencies for mass adoption? China seems to be on board, as it plans to test a national cryptocurrency. But how viable is such widespread adoption really?

According to Coin Telegraph’s Pascal Thellman, Ethereum might already be moving towards mass adoption, though it might be paced similarly to how the internet became mainstream, aka, slowly but surely. “The Internet didn’t go mainstream the moment Tim Berners-Lee developed the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). It went mainstream when search engines like Google, social networks like Facebook and email services like AOL were introduced,” Thellman wrote. “We may be seeing a similar trend with the Ethereum network right now.”

A Global Trend

There are a number of issues that have to be considered with the growing Ethereum market. Among these is the transaction capacity of Ethereum. Currently, it can process about 20 transactions per second, which is measly compared to Visa’s equivalent of 24,000 transactions.

This is confounded by the huge amount of electricity and computing power required to maintain Ethereum’s Blockchain, following its current Proof of Work setup. Moreover, most people aren’t technically familiar with how to handle an Ethereum wallet — in fact, many probably haven’t even heard of Ethereum or Bitcoin.

Ethereum is working towards solving these, particularly through improving its Proof of Work model by shifting to a Proof of Stake (PoS) setup by 2018. In terms of popularity, the ICO craze is definitely helping. As businesses get funded through crypto coins, more and more people will become familiar with the currency and the process. The ICO-funded companies that end up surviving in the long-term would also help in moving towards the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies.

For Ethereum, it also helps that its first intended market has always been business. As an enterprise blockchain, Ethereum has a sizable base of large corporations that use it for transactions. There’s also the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance (EEA), which links up Fortune 500 companies — like Microsoft, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and Intel — with Ethereum experts.

For now, we will just have to wait and see.

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These Technologies Are Critical to Today’s Businesses, According to Survey

Critical Roles

Leaders in the business world are recognizing the importance of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). A survey by the CNBC Global CFO (Chief Financial Officer) Council has found that more than one in four CFOs (26 percent) consider AI and machine learning as critical to their company, and nearly half (44 percent) think that it is “very important.”

Image Credit: CNBC
Image Credit: CNBC

The survey is a key indicator of trends and viewpoints in big business, taking account of the views of some of the largest private companies worldwide which collectively have a market cap of more than $4 trillion in a variety of sectors.

AI’s role in business may be even more significant than this survey suggests, as there is an overlap between this category and the second most critical technology in the survey, the IoT. Most IoT systems utilize AI, particularly to learn, streamline themselves, and self correct.

Although Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are making headlines — such as Bitcoin prices soaring to over $2,000 and China testing a cryptocurrency for potential national implementation — they are not a major concern among these massive corporations. About 23 percent said that technology related to virtual currencies was “not at all important,” and only 3 percent said that it was critical.

Technological Future

These results show a real-world reflection of the trends in business, cutting through the marketing, jargon, and verbiage surrounding technologies. They show that AI has not just become critical in some industries, but has permeated the business world itself, changing the very way companies operate.

It is being applied across the board to the entire spectrum of the production and consumption processes: from being used to help hire employees, to replacing cashiers in retail stores, to taking the jobs of money-management workers.

AI Forecast for 2017
Click to View Full Infographic

Blockchain did not rank highly on this year’s survey, but this may be because it is only having a fundamental effect in a small number of sectors — such as humanitarian aid and some aspects of the food industry — and because these statistics show the current world, not a forecast of the one to come.

Companies are extremely interested in blockchain technology, but it has not become crucial to them yet because of issues of risk and integration. Blockchain likely will be ranked much more highly on the survey in the coming years. The writing is on the wall already: Wall Street is trying to implement it by 2018, IBM has launched its own cryptocurrency, and cities like Dubai want it to be the default for their economies by 2020.

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The Tezos ICO is Already Worth $200 Million, Making it the Largest “Crypto-Funding” Ever

Revolutionizing Blockchain

The growing popularity of cryptocurrencies owes everything to the system that makes it all possible — the blockchain. Basically, this is a highly secure digital ledger that’s decentralized because of the way it records information and transactions. It’s already impressive as it is, but the innovators behind blockchain startup Tezos want to take the technology even farther.

Tezos is a new crowdfunded blockchain. It allows for consensual upgrades to its protocols, which empowers it to govern itself via what the Tezos white paper calls a “self-amending” cryptoledger. “It facilitates formal verification, a technique which mathematically proves the correctness of the code governing transactions and boosts the security of the most sensitive or financially weighted smart contracts,” Tezos claims.

Now, to get it’s blockchain up and running, Tezos is running an “initial coin offering” (ICO) through Bitcoin and Ethereum funding. At the time of this writing, the Tezos ICO has already received 53,418 Bitcoins and 273,068 Ethereum. That’s roughly $207 million at current valuation, making the Tezos ICO the largest “crypto-funding” to date. Moreover, the Tezos ICO is uncapped — there’s no upper limit to how much funding the company can raise, given the remaining eight days of crowdfunding it has left.

The ICO Phenomenon

What is an ICO, anyway? Laura Shin describes it wonderfully in an article she wrote for Forbes. “An ICO is what you get if bitcoin and Kickstarter had a baby — a crowdsale of a new crypto asset (with a cryptocurrency like bitcoin being one type of crypto asset) that powers some kind of peer-to-peer blockchain network,” she wrote.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

Essentially, Shin wrote, it enables companies to develop new business models while “making a lot of money for the developers and entrepreneurs who are launching them.” Instead of relying on the usual funding channels, ICOs give businesses a huge amount of leeway. However, it’s not without its dangers. “And we’re not really sure how legal they are,” Shin added.

“ICOs which are uncapped are dangerous as they imply and show a complete disregard for corporate discipline — and to an extent an element of disrespect for the investor,” Charles Hayter, CEO of CryptoCompare, told Mashable. “The question that needs to be asked is can the job be done with less money (…) and that throws a spotlight on the fairness and truthfulness of the proposition being offered.”

But despite its yet unsolved legalities, ICO crowdsales have become popular. Prior to Tezos, there was that recent Bancor ICO which raised $153 million. It’s proof that blockchains and cryptocurrencies are, indeed, changing the way we conduct business.

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Innovative Refugee Project Wins Major Award for its Blockchain Solution

BitNation Takes Grand Prix

The 10th edition of Netexplo Forum convened on April 26 and 27 of this year in Paris. At that meeting, organized in partnership with UNESCO, the winner of the Grand Prix was voted on and announced. The award is a major distinguishing achievement because, each year, it is chosen from numerous innovative digital projects identified throughout the year. After two days of debates and meetings among leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, start-ups, sociologists, and even philosophers — not to mention a public vote — the Grand Prix for 2017 was awarded to BitNation for the BitNation Refugee Emergency Response (BRER).

BRER gives refugees who have lost their citizenship or identities due to the upheaval of their situation cyber citizenship using blockchain technology. This helps to create a verifiable “web of trust” as members of each refugee’s family and community verify who they are. The paperless citizenship package also comes with a Bitcoin payment card so each user can get back on their feet, without the need for access to a bank account that might have been left behind, or otherwise be out of reach.

Image Credit: Award Winner Amin Rafiee, Bitnation Refugee Emergency Response/Netexplo
Image Credit: Award Winner Amin Rafiee, Bitnation Refugee Emergency Response/Netexplo
This refugee project is one among several housed under the digital BitNation umbrella. Members of the BitNation community can propose new projects to the decentralized borderless voluntary nation (DBVN), with the aim of amassing support and funding. Some of the governance projects currently trending on the platform include smart, self-executing child-support solutions, safe “vaults” for “cryptowill” contracts, and smart academic tokens that could replace credit hours and transfers systems — all of which use blockchain tech.

Netexplo Award

Netexplo was created in 2007 and has been a UNESCO partner since 2011, functioning as an independent observatory. Its purpose is to study the impact that digital technology has on business and society. Netexplo is supported by various agencies in the French government, including the French Senate and the Ministry of Innovation and the Digital Economy.

Various universities around the world, each renowned for their work in tech, comprise the Netexplo Observatory’s international spotting network. Members of the network spot projects each year that exhibit new uses of digital tech which embody the group’s innovative, unique approach to understanding our digital society. Universal access to knowledge and the free circulation of ideas are also critical values of Netexplo. The development and success of projects like the Bitnation Refugee Emergency Response prove just how valuable and important this type of advancement can be.

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Blockchain and Renewable Energy Are Utterly Disrupting Society as We Know It

The Grid of the Future

Renewable energy and blockchain are two technologies that are worth betting on. The former is considered to be the most effective way to combat the world’s climate problem. The latter is a promising new technology whose potential for disruption of current financial and societal structures is yet to be fully realized. Here’s a thought: why not put the two together? That’s what Brooklyn-based startup LO3 Energy had in mind when it started a project that does just that, creating an innovative retail model for electricity.

“Oh, this is shared economy. This is Airbnb, this is Uber, this is 21st century,” Brooklyn resident Michael Guerra told Politico, recounting the time when LO3’s Sasha Santiago first introduced him to the idea. Back in 2012, Guerra installed 24 solar panels on the rooftop of his Park Slope home. Now, aside from providing him with a cheaper and greener way to power his air conditioning in summer, he’s also providing solar power to others in the neighborhood — and earning money in the process.

Essentially, the Brooklyn Microgrid runs an electricity-sharing ecosystem that’s maintained directly by consumers. Those with solar panels sell environmental credits, through a phone app, to residents without direct access. The entire setup is made possible by blockchain, the same technology behind the increasingly popular cryptocurrencies — such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, among others.

The Power of Decentralization

Thanks to the decentralized nature of blockchain as a digital information ledger, the transactions are very secure. Blockchain allows for meters to communicate with one another reliably, with the phone app acting as the bidder that gives microgrid consumers the power to control transactions.

“The idea is that it isn’t just rich people with solar panels selling energy to each other, but really, it’s the entire community,” LO3’s director of business development Scott Kessler explained to Politico. “So if you’re low-income and you need the cheapest power you can get, we’ll still provide that to you. We don’t want to be dictating.”

After a successful trial run, LO3 plans to formally launch the microgrid later this year, with interest from 300 households and small businesses. Already, there are 50 generation sites throughout Brooklyn, mostly solar and one small wind turbine. “After I learned about it,” Guerra said, “I thought, ‘This is definitely happening. This can’t not happen.’”

This is one rather effective example of how blockchain can be a practical and useful technology. Its applications go far beyond just cryptocurrencies. Already, there are efforts to try and implement blockchain-based file systems for medical records, as well as international money transfers — including a basic income model and even UN financial aid programs. Some even consider blockchain to be the foundation for a new kind of internet, one that’s truly decentralized and free.

The Brooklyn Microgrid is “a glimpse of the future,” Duke University economist Campbell Harvey told Politico. “The idea with blockchain is that everything is done peer to peer. With a microgrid, people that have solar panels can actually trade amongst themselves. They don’t have to have a centralized person in the middle that is taking a piece of the action.”

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Ethereum Could Be Using More Than a Country’s Worth of Electricity

A Cryptocurrency Powerhouse

Thus far, 2017 has proven to be a notable year for cryptocurrencies — and not just the one most everyone’s familiar with. While Bitcoin has been on a continuous upward trend, it’s major competitor Ether is following close behind. Despite last week’s flash crash and Sunday’s “fake news” market value drop, the price of Ether is back up, opening today (Wednesday) at $282.44. That’s up by more than 13 percent since markets closed on Tuesday, and it’s continually going up.

Aside from an increase in market value, Ethereum’s price per coin is also up. It’s reached $300, which is a substantial jump from an initial value of $10 at the beginning of 2017. This is making Ethereum a more attractive option for amateur miners than Bitcoin. Therefore, there’s been a surge in Ether mining from homes, using just computer graphics cards to pump new Ether units while at the same time securing the Ethereum blockchain — the public ledger of transactions that makes it all possible.

Real-time index from cryptocurrency analysis site Digiconomist’s founder Alex de Vries shows that Ethereum mining is powered by an amount of electricity equivalent to that consumed by a small country. All those household computers turned into Ether miners each have blockchain transactions consuming at least, if not more than, 45 kWh of electricity. According to de Vries, the entire Ethereum network could be consuming as much as 4.2 Terawatt-hours (tWh) — which is only a little bit more than what’s consumed by the Middle Eastern island of Cyprus.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

Redefining Mining

Still, the methodology behind de Vries index isn’t totally exact, and since blockchain is decentralized, it would be next to impossible to truly ascertain just how much electricity these home-based Ether mining operations are consuming. The estimates do indicate, however, just how energy-intensive cryptocurrency mining has the potential to be. One major reason for this is the power-hungry graphics cards involved. It’s ironic that mining cryptocurrencies in order to maintain blockchains — which are perhaps the most efficient and secure information ledgers we have — is a process that’s not particularly efficient.

This may not be the case for long, though. Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum has plans to move away from its existing energy-intensive mining algorithms. Instead of operating on a Proof of Work model, it’s building a hybrid one that incorporates Proof of Stake. Simply put, this new protocol could allow an Ether holder to mine just by having their computers connected, Vries explained to Motherboard. In a full Proof of Stake algorithm, “energy consumption would become negligible,” he added.

Until then, mining for Ether will continue to demand huge amounts of electricity and computing power. Plus, as the price for Ether units continue to increase (with the market value of Ether following with it) more and more miners will be mining for it. Ultimately, they could wind up consuming as much electricity as the price of Ether could support. The question is, is this energy and computing power for digital currency worth it? For the time being it seems that it is, if the growing number of miners are any indication.

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Why a Respected CEO Believes “Bitcoin Is a Tool for Freeing Humanity”

Bitcoin Frenzy

Recently, there has been a lot of hype and — equally — criticism of Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency has, just this far into 2017, jumped well over 100 percent in value, garnering suspicion and questions regarding its potential for long-term success. However, besides these doubts, Naval Ravikant, an investor and the CEO and co-founder of Angel List, has come to Bitcoin’s defense on Twitter:

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Claiming that Bitcoin could free “humanity from oligarchs and tyrants…” Ravikant asserts that the quick rise in value that is making many wary of Bitcoin is just superficial. But how could a cryptocurrency free humanity of tyranny?

Well, through the potential power of blockchain. The blockchain ledger, which includes cryptocurrencies, essentially streamline the financial world. They eliminate a need for a “middle-man,” so-to-speak, so institutions like banks would no longer be necessary for a society based in blockchain. And while that might seem like a small difference, think about how many different aspects of a modern society rely on even the simplest financial transactions.

Financial Futures

Are Ravikant’s opinions of Bitcoin extreme or off-base? It’s impossible to say, as some consider the cryptocurrency to be a bubble about to burst, but the potential blockchain itself has to change the way that societies operate is very real. It’s not just a passing phase, as many thought with the emergence of seemingly joke cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin. It is something that, if adopted on a wider scale — which has already begun in countries like Japan — the authorities who currently control consumption and financial transactions would no longer be relevant.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

Money makes the world go round. Peace, suffering, conflict, power; so much of modern life centers around transactions. From information to finances, all of these transactions rely on some middle step, some outside authority or management. This has made countless people over the years dependent on these outside power structures, creating control and dominance differences that have the potential to create what could be construed as “tyranny.”

Now, this might be pushing current boundaries by saying that Bitcoin, just one specific blockchain, could make such a big change. So, one some level, Ravikant is stretching this. Bitcoin itself is still relatively unstable and there is some possibility that its most recent rise in value is a bubble that is certain to eventually burst. It is only one of multiple cryptocurrencies and blockchains, none of which are close to completely taking over any economic structures yet. However, if blockchain’s potential coupled with Bitcoin’s popularity eventually leads to such a revolution, perhaps tyranny and oligarchs would truly become obsolete.

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China Becomes First Country in the World to Test a National Cryptocurrency

Benefits of Digital Currency

China’s central bank — the People’s Bank of China — has developed a prototype of a cryptocurrency that it could end up in circulation in the near future. It would be introduced alongside the China’s primary currency the renminbi (also called the yuan). China will be simulating possible scenarios and running mock transactions using the cryptocurrency with some commercial Chinese banks.  

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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The potential benefits of developing a digital currency are significant, particularly in China. First, it would decrease the cost of transactions, and therefore make financial services more accessible, which would be a big help to the millions of people in the country who are unconnected to conventional banks. Second, as it would be supported by blockchain, it has the potential to decrease the rates of fraud and counterfeiting, which would be of service to the government’s attempts to reduce corruption — a key concern. Third, it would make the currency easier to obtain, which would increase the rate of international transactions, allowing for more trades and faster economic growth.

The Rise of Cryptocurrencies

Since Bitcoin’s humble beginnings back in 2009 (when it was only valued at around 0.0007 USD) the digital currency, and the very idea of cryptocurrencies in fact, has grown monumentally. The total market cap of cryptocurrencies on April 1st of this year was over $25 Billion. A single Bitcoin is now worth more than $2,500. Now many national economies, as China’s plan shows, are considering the idea of developing their own variant.

Although China’s experimental approach to simulate a self-developed cryptocurrency’s usage is the first of its kind, other countries and institutions have made strides in that direction as well. The Deputy of Russia’s central bank has emphatically stated that “regulators of all countries agree that it’s time to develop national cryptocurrencies.” Over 260,000 stores in Japan will begin accepting Bitcoin as legal tender this summer, and big banks like Santander have announced plans to develop their own version.

Cryptocurrencies have the potential of revolutionizing not only the business world, but many methods of transaction. There has already been talk of using cryptocurrencies to administer Universal Basic Incomes due to their traceability, as well as for the delivery of human aid; the potential for which was demonstrated by a recent experiment to help refugees in Jordan by the UN.

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A New Trial Proves that BlockChain Could Help Us Feed the World

Blockchain Feeds the World

On May 30, the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) announced that 10,000 individuals had taken advantage of its trial to deliver food to Syrian refugees in Jordan using the Ethereum blockchain. The WFP’s platform was implemented by Parity Technologies, a startup lead by Gavin Wood, co-founder of Ethereum, as well as blockchain big data firm Datarella.

Food Waste: An Epidemic Of Abundance
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The operation allowed Syrian refugees to collect food paid for by the WFP from participating markets in the refugee camp in Jordan. Individuals had their eyes scanned to confirm they were one of the more than half a million refugees cleared to receive aid, after which they could receive their food.

This project could be a model for feeding refugees worldwide. Five million people have fled Syria alone, and many now live in poverty in nearby Jordan. The country is dealing with a major refugee crisis — in 2016, the UN estimated it is now home to 630,000 Syrian refugees, two million Palestinian refugees, and an ever-increasing number of asylum-seekers fleeing conflicts in Yemen, Somalia, and Iraq.

Is Blockchain the Future?

Blockchain could provide help on a much larger scale, and the WFP has an ambitious goal: to expand to 100,000 individuals by August, help the entire Jordanian refugee population by 2018, and eliminate hunger worldwide by 2030. The project’s success supports claims that blockchain could be used to transform the humanitarian and sustainability sectors.

“Through blockchain, we aim to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly in the wake of emergencies,” explained Robert Opp, the WFP’s Director of Innovation and Change Management, in a UN press release. “Using blockchain can be a qualitative leap — not only for WFP, but for the entire humanitarian community”

Blockchain, the distributed ledger system supporting the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, has the potential to impact other industries as well. Toyota has proposed using the technology to expedite the development of driverless cars, and a recent report by Rethink Music claimed a change to cryptocurrency would decrease exploitation and corruption in the music industry: “The money would be automatically split according to the set terms, and each party’s account would instantly reflect the additional revenue.”

As famed futurist Ray Kurzweil asserted at the Exponential Finance Summit in New York City last week, Bitcoin might not prove to be the currency of the future, but blockchain is a technology well worth considering.

 

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Ray Kurzweil Says He Wouldn’t Put His Money in Bitcoin but Doesn’t Dismiss Blockchain

 

Perceived Instability

Ray Kurzweil, a leading futurist, author, inventor, and the head of Google’s engineering lab, has made some impressively accurate predictions about the future. However, this may not be the best news for the burgeoning cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. Kurzweil spoke at the Exponential Finance Summit in New York City late last week and he had some less than flattering things to say about the currency. While he may see the value in the decentralization of currency, he doesn’t feel like Bitcoin is the way forward.

He explained:

Currencies like the dollar have provided reasonable stability. Bitcoin has not. And it’s not clear to me that the whole mining paradigm can provide that type of stability… We’ve seen tremendous instability with bitcoin, so I wouldn’t put my money into it. I certainly do think there could be alternatives to national currencies emerging in the future. Algorithmic ones are a possibility, I just don’t think we’ve arrived at the right algorithm yet.

Image credit: edkohler/FlickrImage credit: edkohler/Flickr[/caption]

Bitcoin Bubble?

Kurzweil is not the only high-profile Bitcoin skeptic or opponent. Billionaire investor Mark Cuban spoke out about Bitcoin last week, denouncing it as a currency and discussing it as a bubble. Kurzweil’s comments echo these sentiments, especially with his view of the cryptocurrency’s instability. However, Daniel Roberts from Yahoo! Finance sees Kurzweil’s view of that instability as an oversimplification. When looked at in the long term, Bitcoin is showing steady gains.

Bitcoin has enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent weeks as prices have surpassed $3,000 (albeit briefly). In the first moments of 2017, Bitcoin could barely reach the $1,000 mark. As of today, the cryptocurrency stands at more than $2,550.

Bitcoin is powered by blockchain technology. A blockchain is a decentralized ledger that allows for complete anonymity, security, and transparency for all transactions taking place on the ledger. Kurzweil is more optimistic about blockchain, saying, “I think once we can demonstrate confidence, then yes, a blockchain currency makes sense, and being able to document transactions securely, but there’s a lot to work out.”

In an effort to work out those kinks, many companies and even some countries are adopting blockchain technology. Some countries are even exploring switching their national currencies over to cryptocurrencies. We are in the early stages of its development, but this could go down as one of the few predictions Kurzweil gets wrong.

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The Cryptocurrency Market is Exploding. Here’s What You Need to Know.

A Major Spike

On April 1, 2017, the total market cap for all cryptocurrencies was slightly higher than $25 billion. Roughly two months later, the cap exceeded $100 billion. In just over 60 days, the value of cryptocurrencies surged by 300 percent. So what is going on?

The leading cryptocurrency, Bitcoin,  recently made headlines by climbing dramatically in value (it’s currently sitting around $2,600 USD, about 160 percent higher than its value in April). But Bitcoin hasn’t been alone in this extreme growth. The cryptocurrency market as a whole has spiked in value within the last few months.

While those already invested in Bitcoin might be celebrating, this jump is clearly reason to pause for anyone considering entering the market. Historically, what goes up super-fast must come down — at least when it comes to the stock market. This has prompted many to call this rise a bubble, leaving investors to wonder when it will burst.

In an interview with Bank Innovation, cryptocurrency trader Jacob Eliosoff, who runs a Bitcoin-focused investment fund, explains:

Factor number one in the general price rise is just another of crypto’s periodic bubble[s]: see Nov 2013, March 2013, July 2011. Lots of coins which patently have no plausible long-term use case or value — the classic example is Dogecoin, an obsolete joke — have set new highs during this frenzy — a bad sign.

Author, professor, and game designer Ian Bogost has previously written about bitcoin for The Atlantic. He shared his view on the latest cryptocurrency surge in an interview with Mic, explaining how the investors themselves could cause a drop in value:

We’ve seen with these sort of ups and downs, these small groups of mostly Chinese pools end up with more than 50% of the capacity. And we don’t know anything about these organizations. Are they state controlled? The moment [there is too much consolidation in the mining pools], then effectively the platform is dead, at least as a currency.

Anyone looking for proof of the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin, got it when Mark Cuban publicly criticized the currency. After the billionaire entrepreneur claimed on Twitter that Bitcoin was in a bubble and not, in fact, a currency at all, the cryptocurrency dropped significantly in value, seemingly illustrating a fragile and unstable nature.

An Upward Trend

Whether due to historical precedent, a monopoly on investment, or simply an easily swayed investor pool, it seems pretty likely that this recent rise of cryptocurrencies will lead to some sort of drop. However, that doesn’t mean cryptocurrencies don’t have the potential to be a major player, if not the only player, in the future of finance.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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One positive development is the increasing diversity of cryptocurrencies. While Bitcoin was long the definitive leader in the market, holding roughly 80 percent of the total market cap, others such as Ethereum are making major gains, knocking Bitcoin down to just about 50 percent. As TechCrunch writer Fitz Tepper notes, “The fact that these gains have come from currencies other than Bitcoin are a good sign that this is less of a bubble and more of a resurgence of interest in crypto.”

Other experts note that while drops in value are likely, they don’t signal an end to cryptocurrency by any means. As Brian Kelly, CEO and founder of global investment management firm BKCM, told CNBC, Bitcoin is “in the first years of what is likely to be a multi-year bull market. Of course there will be corrections and even crashes along the way, but Bitcoin is here to stay.”

Blockchain, the technology supporting these digital currencies, may be even more worthy of the investment than the cryptocurrencies themselves. “I would say I think conventional wisdom now is that blockchain and the underlying technology is probably more interesting and has more potential than maybe Bitcoin does by itself,” Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari explained in a Reuters report.

The link between digital currencies and this super-secure distributed database lends further support to the argument that digital currencies are a sound investment. However, only time will tell whether this current period of rapid growth will slow, plateau, drop, or continue skyward. As with any investment, the potential for reward comes with its share of risks, but right now, the future looks pretty bright for cryptocurrency.

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Scientists May Have Found a Way to Combat Quantum Computer Blockchain Hacking

Russia’s Solution to Quantum Hacking

A serious concern in the computing industry is that when true quantum computers are produced, the principles of encryption will break down due to the dizzyingly superior processing power.

Although blockchain is a far more secure method of transaction than our current financial system, even it will become vulnerable to a brute force attack by a quantum computer. Andersen Cheng, co-founder of U.K. cybersecurity firm Post Quantum, told Newsweek, “Bitcoin will expire the very day the first quantum computer appears.”

A team lead by Evgeny Kiktenko at the Russian Quantum Center in Moscow, though, may have found a way to protect blockchains by fighting fire with fire using quantum mechanics. They are designing a quantum-secured blockchain where each block, hypothetically, is signed by a quantum key rather than a digital one.

They propose that transmitting and encrypting information using quantum particles such as photons, which cannot be copied or meddled with without the particles being destroyed, ensures the blockchain’s safety. The principle is based on Zero-knowledge proofs which allow you to validate information without sharing it.

Protection in a Quantum World

In recent months Russia has become increasingly interested in blockchain. The central bank is composing new laws focused on cryptocurrencies and is interested in developing one of its own. This research marks a step forward in these efforts because it concerns the protection of such systems.

Meet The Most Powerful Computers in the World
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If the quantum-secured blockchain proves successful it would be hugely beneficial to the rest of the world as well. Blockchain has the potential to do a lot of good for the world by streamlining the transaction system, making it more secure, and ensuring transparency like never before. Countries such as Senegal have developed currencies that are entirely digital, Japan is accepting bitcoin (which uses blockchain) as legal tender in 260,000 stores this summer, and Ukraine is considering using it to combat corruption.

If the advent of quantum computing could be the apocalypse for blockchain, it is therefore crucially important that we begin thinking about how to protect these system before entire countries and currencies could be subject to hacks from the abusers of quantum computers.

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Bitcoin’s Rival Just Caught Russia’s Attention

Russian Evolution

You’ve likely heard of Bitcoin as the future of money, but it is not the only cryptocurrency in the running for cashless economy dominance. The second largest among them is found on the Ethereum blockchain and is called Ether. One of the critical differences between Bitcoin and Ether is that while Bitcoin is first and foremost a currency, Ether, however, can be a platform for a variety of decentralized applications. In short, Ether can do much more than Bitcoin.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
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The adaptive quality of the platform may be part of the reason why Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, seem to be showing great interest in Ethereum. Reporting from Bloomberg reveals that Putin has been thinking about digital currency. “The digital economy isn’t a separate industry, it’s essentially the foundation for creating brand new business models,” he said at last week’s St. Petersburg Economic Forum.

Russia could be looking at Ethereum as a way to expand the country’s economic profile of fossil fuels with technology. Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky suggests that Putin is “…under the impression that, to wean the country off its oil dependence, they needed a major leap in some specific area of technology that wasn’t yet dominated by Western, Chinese, or Japanese tech giants.”

Global Decentralization

Russia is already testing an Ethereum-based blockchain system through its central bank. When Deputy Governor Olga Skorobogatova was asked if Russia is pursuing a national virtual currency, she did not deny the possibility. Currently, there are a few countries already experimenting with national cryptocurrencies.

Coindesk cites eight cryptocurrencies from a variety of countries in the Eurozone. Among them are Iceland’s Auroracoin, Pesetacoin and Spaincoin from Spain, Gaelcoin from Ireland, and Aphroditecoin from Cyprus. Cryptocurrencies offer a lot of benefits including both transparency and security. The level of encryption essentially makes counterfeit transactions impossible.

Russia is among the most powerful countries in the world. Adoption of this technology would be a major boon for the platform and could accelerate the expansion of its influence across the world.

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Mark Cuban Asserts That Bitcoin is Not Currency

Mark Cuban’s Twitterstorm

Mark Cuban has recently raised a series of criticisms of bitcoin on Twitter, which has resulted in the cryptocurrency’s exchange rate dropping rapidly— illustrating many of the issues with the currency that he discussed in the Tweet themselves.

Mark Cuban rose to wealth by selling his start-up businesses MicroSolutions (a PC company that he sold to CompuServe for $6 Million) and Broadcast.com (which transmitted sports games over the internet, and was subsequently sold to Yahoo for $5.7 Billion) in the 1990s, and rose to prominence by becoming owner of the NBA team the Dallas Mavericks.

Earlier today he took his opinions of Bitcoin toTwitter:

Cuban crucially differentiates between blockchain and Bitcoin: the former being a means of transaction that is more secure, transparent, and distributive, and the latter a cryptocurrency.

However, Cuban likens bitcoin to the religious worship of gold as an asset and describes it as a “stock”, which is fundamentally different from a currency — currencies measure how much of an asset you have. This is why Cuban progresses to state “I am not questioning value. I’m questioning valuation.”

Just because bitcoin’s exchange rate has reached thousands of dollars, this doesn’t mean that anyone would be willing to give you thousands of dollars for your bitcoin. Currencies are universal measures of value in the country you operate which allows anyone to trade with anyone as part of a universal system of value. This is in contrast to assets which you can buy with that value system but not necessarily trade anywhere as easily.

Currencies, in order to operate in this way, need to be relatively stable — which Cuban showed bitcoin was not due to the almost instant drop after his tweetstorm. To analogise: can you imagine the dollar, pound, or euro drastically dropping in a matter of hours just because of a few tweets?

Bitcoin's Exchange Rate to Dollars Over the Last 24 Hours. Image Credit: xe.com
Bitcoin’s Exchange Rate to Dollars Over the Last 24 Hours. Image Credit: xe.com

Bitcoin’s Huge, But Possible Fatuous Rise

On the surface, Bitcoin looks monumentally impressive: it has grown every year apart from 2014, has climbed 141 percent in value this year alone, even peaking at $2,900 this past week. However, the precise reason for this success is the reason for its potential failure — it is too turbulent, too successful.

This means that while Bitcoin may seem extremely seductive — it has been billed as, among other things, the ultimate investment and a universal currency — we must be careful when investing in it (particularly because it is difficult to convert back into dollars), putting faith in it, and being overoptimistic about its potential.

Bitcoin is one particularly famous use of a potentially more promising and widely applicable system called blockchain, which has the potential to revolutionize everything from the music industry to sustainable development and even banking accountability.

According to many, it is blockchain, not bitcoin, that has the potential to revolutionize future transactions: “If the internet bought us near instant digital communication, then the blockchain brings us near instant asset transfer, asset movement and security of data movement” said Simon Taylor, the previous head of Barclay’s cryptocurrency division.

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Blockchain Could Help Us Save the Environment. Here’s How.

What is Blockchain’s Potential?

Blockchains are secure, transparent and efficient. They record transactions as ‘blocks’ on a synchronized and distributive ledger — each one has to be ratified by more than one party, and is tied to the previous block. This means that supply chains involving more than one transaction can be traced along their entire sequence. If they are integrated with smart contracts, they could cut out middlemen. The most well-known manifestation of the blockchain is cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin; however, as it is a transaction system, it can be used for far more than currencies.

The applications of the system are wide-ranging. Imogen Heap plans to use it to ensure recording artists get fairer deals, stating, “Blockchain is the catalyst for change in the industry;” Toyota plans to use it to amass information about driverless cars from vehicle owners, fleet managers, and manufacturers in order to expedite the technology’s development; and Walmart is using it to identify contaminated food sources.

That Tunisia is putting their currency on the blockchain and Japan is accepting transactions using it at 260,000 stores by this summer testifies to the seriousness of its potential.

Using Blockchain for Sustainability

Among this revolutionary system’s most promising applications, though, is its potential use in sustainable governance systems, as Guillaume Chapron has argued on Nature. She details four ways in which it could improve governance and sustainability:

First, by making ownership concrete. As blockchains cannot be altered, manipulated, or changed without consent by all parties involved in the network, blockchain could prevent corrupt governments or companies from evicting or seizing the assets of people unfairly. Benben in Accra, Ghana, is already performing this task, along with Georgia and Honduras.

Second, by using its unique traceability. If Blockchain is used in conjunction with the internet of things, the efficiency, waste, and/or emissions of individual commodities, as well as entire company’s supply chains, could be securely and reliably logged. This would enable a reward structure for sustainability because it would provide a way to ensure there is no manipulation of figures or deliberate misinformation.

Third, by providing reliable payments. Blockchains do not require bank accounts — which is beneficial to people in countries that lack the infrastructure to supply them. This would ensure that money intended to be a reward for conservation, or charity payments to specific causes, does not disappear into unintended pockets through bureaucratic labyrinths. Blockchained money could be released automatically to the correct parties in response to meeting environmental targets. Another potential use in this sector is the direct trading of energy, rather than having to rely on middlemen’s conversions or evaluations.

Fourth, by making the corrupt accountable. This can apply on a number of levels, from the governmental to the individual. Votes could be registered on blockchains, making electoral manipulation extremely difficult — or, on a more personal level, evidence could not be tampered with, nor deals changed or fiddled with.

Blockchain can work in tandem with companies advocating sustainable development, governmental improvement, and individual empowerment in a variety of ways — freeing people from webs of complicated contracts, bullying by those in power, and the lack of accountability that often stems from the complexity of the digital age.

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Toyota Is Using Blockchain to Get Its Self-Driving Cars on the Roads Sooner

Blockchain And Driverless Cars

At Consensus 2017 on Monday, Toyota announced a plan to use blockchain to amass driving data that will help them development driverless cars. The move could also decrease insurance costs for drivers, as well as pave the way for new carpooling solutions. Chris Ballinger, chief officer of Strategic Innovation at Toyota, said in a statement from the company:

Hundreds of billions of miles of human driving data may be needed to develop safe and reliable autonomous vehicles…Blockchains and distributed ledgers may enable pooling data from vehicle owners, fleet managers, and manufacturers to shorten the time for reaching this goal, thereby bringing forward the safety, efficiency, and convenience benefits of autonomous driving technology.

Autonomous Car Forecasts: When Will They Actually Be on Our Roads?
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Customers will have access to their own data, Toyota confirmed. If the information derived from sensors in a car is stored in a blockchain, customers will be able to give their insurance companies “increased transparency to reduce fraud, plus granting them access to driving data to measure safe driving habits,” Toyota wrote in the statement. Neha Narula, director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the MIT Media Lab, said in the statement that she was “excited Toyota is spearheading this initiative that uses blockchain technology to create an open platform where users can control their driving data.”

Blockchain Revolution

Blockchain is a new way to record and store data in a transparent, public ledger. Each piece of information (called a “block”) in the chain is linked to the others cryptographically, making the system tamper-proof unless a hacker attacked every computer holding the information simultaneously.

Toyota’s use of blockchain shows that the system can extend far beyond the financial and cryptocurrency. It has the potential to be applied and revolutionize almost any sector. Its significance lies in its security, speed, and lack of middlemen or bureaucracy.

Simon Taylor, a former executive of Barclays who helped lead the bank’s blockchain efforts, said in a U.K. Government Office for Science video that “if the internet bought us near instant digital communications, then the blockchain brings us near instant asset transfer, asset movement, and security of data movement.”

Blockchain has already been used effectively in a number of areas: The U.N. is using Ethereum (one of the biggest blockchains) to ensure money reaches the people it was intended to, and they estimate they will help 500,000 by 2018; Imogen Heap is applying it to the music industry to try and ensure artists get paid fairly; and Walmart is using it to track down contaminated food sources. Blockchain’s applications continue to expand, with some saying it even potentially has the power to change the very nature of the internet.

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Automation Could Lead to the World’s Smartest Society

The Opportunity of Automation

“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.” – Dori Lessing in The Golden Notebook

Automation will make most jobs obsolete. Rather than mourn the loss of the 9 to 5, we should see this as an opportunity to liberate humanity from the need to work for somebody else to survive. Coupled with universal basic income, it should be seen as a chance for every individual in society to more fully realize their potential.

To do so we will also need to redefine and reform education. Today it is a means to an end, a way of getting a job; but education should be seen as a lifelong quest and automation enables us to take this view. No longer will we need to confine ourselves to learning one tiny branch of knowledge or developing one particular skill, instead we will each be able to examine what really matters to us and explore all the variety that life has to offer.

Fixing Politics

Education reform could also enable us to improve our democracies. Democracy relies on the wisdom of crowds, but our crowds are no longer wise because most people don’t have time to learn about all of the issues at stake in each election so they vote based on a handful of issues that they think are most important to them. Rather than producing leaders who inspire, this has led to populist strong men who appeal to our fears.

We do not have to be stuck in this paradigm forever; automation and universal basic income along with education reform have the potential to give us the time and the tools we need to be able to make more informed decisions.

The biggest leap could come from incorporating the blockchain to enable a return to direct democracy where everyone has a say in every issue they deem relevant to them instead of the present system where we exercise what little political rights we have by casting a vote every few years to pick someone to make decisions for us.

Reform Has Begun

All of this relies on having an education system that gives everyone, children and adults alike, the tools, knowledge and skills needed to contribute and engage in society.

Each of us can now leverage emerging technologies to learn anything from anywhere, and which gives anyone access to some of the best teachers on the planet. Virtual and augmented reality could also soon be used to create enriched learning environments that are more captivating than any classroom ever could be.

Some schools are already catching on and have begun implementing sorely needed change in the classroom. One such school is High Park Day School in Toronto where they have gotten rid of traditional classrooms, rote based learning, and curriculum geared around testing and grades. Instead they have small integrated classrooms with students of varying age ranges that are built on project based learning assignments where students learn and apply skills like 3d printing and software design starting from as young as grade 1.

As Amanda Dervaitis, the Principal and founder of High Park Day School states…

“At a systemic level, I believe we are focusing on the wrong markers of “success” which end up driving curriculum development and policy. The focus is on the fundamentals – reading, writing and math, and improvement plans work towards strengthening these areas to increase “success”. However, we should be focusing on the skills identified that are needed for success in today’s global and technological world; critical thinking, collaboration, communication, computational thinking, global digital citizenship, etc.

The lack of tech curriculum integration should be particularly concerning. Right now, you can graduate from high school in Ontario without having taken a single tech or computers course! Schools are increasing access to use of computers, tablets, etc. in the classroom, but it’s not enough to interact with computers at a consumer level in school. We need to implement technology curriculum (computational thinking, coding, systems, etc.) so that students have a deep understanding of computer technology and are more prepared for a technological future.

The size of our schools and school systems is impeding the development of skills (on a personal level) and progressive programs (on a board/systems level). The factory model no longer serves our students’ needs and the changes in our world have out-paced the potential of our school to support them. Every industry is in an “adapt or die” situation with the advances of technology. The ministry itself will not “fail” as a system (as there is no competition to contend with), however, our education system will fail our students, and society in the end.”

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Bitcoin Surges Past $2,200

The Rise of Bitcoin

Bitcoin (for its history, see this infographic) has experienced unprecedented success since their domain name was registered on anonymousspeech.com. Monday, it was reported that the single bitcoin hit a landmark point, reaching $2,251.61 dollars, which far exceeds the price of gold. Its exchange rate has increased in 23 of its past 26 sessions. It has been the top performing currency every year since 2010 (besides 2014). By the summer, it will be accepted at more than 260,000 stores in Japan, since it is officially legal tender in the country. The verdict against the Winklevoss Twins to not allow it to enter the U.S stock exchange may, in the wake of this success, be overturned.

All of this seems to point to Bitcoin becoming a currency on par with the Dollar, Pound, Yen or Euro; or — because of its decentralized and digital nature — it could become the global currency.

Bitcoins. Photo Credit: PROfdecomite, Flickr
Bitcoins. Image Credit: PROfdecomite, Flickr

Why This Might Not be so Great

These figures, however, may not tell us the whole story. “All that glitters is not gold.”

The first thing that Bitcoin will have to do to continue its rise is to become more stable. The reason Bitcoin is so successful is also the reason it could fail. It has the ability to swing and shift extremely quickly: we need only look at when it dropped 15% in a matter of minutes in response to the Winklevoss Twin’s ETF verdict. One key characteristic of a successful currency, rather than its worth as an asset, is stability, which Bitcoin has not yet achieved.

Second, it will need to increase its transaction speed. In comparison with payment processors like Visa, the number of transactions Bitcoin can process is tiny: around 7 compared to thousands. This is because of each transaction has to be validated and verified by an individual due to it being part of a blockchain. And, even though it has the potential to stretch to 27, unless this value is increased there will forever be a serious limitation to how much bitcoin can grow.

Third, these exciting new figures may be artificially caused by an indirect centralization (centralization not through the legal process, but by market means — similar to a hostile takeover of a company). While Bitcoin is an uncentralized currency, if an individual miner (or collection of miners) take control of most of the mining then they are able to abuse the majority loophole, created as a democratic foundation of the currency. This would also allow the individual or group to rewrite the blockchain. As the majority of the miners are Chinese companies, and demand for the currency is increasing in the country due to the value of domestic currency falling, some fear the rise of state control in a system designed to be anti-state.

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Soon, Tech Could Make Cash and Credit Cards Utterly Obsolete

A New Way to Pay

A variety of new payment methods, processors, and banking tools that use smartphones will revolutionize the way we use money — particularly for small businesses and developing countries. Polish futurist Piotr Turek stated in an interview with Thomas Frey that, “in less than five years, smartphones, watches, and other devices will replace credit/debit cards, wallets, lenders, stockbrokers, and insurance agents.”

So, what technologies and enterprises are acting as a catalyst to a cashless, cardless society? Sumsung Pay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay — to name a few. Numerous technology giants are launching mobile payment and banking applications that only require the user to have a smartphone to pay for products. Start-ups, which include B, Starling, and Monzo (which raised £1 Million in 96 seconds in its crowdfund during March, 2016) have also had success in the sector.

These ventures are booming most in developing countries, in which banking is difficult due to a lack of physical banks. A 2016 report by the Global Economic Governance Program found that nine of the 10 top mobile banking companies were in Africa. But these technologies and businesses could have a big impact on first-world economies as well.

Better Business

Mobile points of sale are replacing the need for cash registers. Examples include Square and Shopkeep, which reduce the start-up costs for businesses. These can be integrated with other apps to provide small businesses with management, project planning, and payment tools, greatly decreasing the cost and learning curve for small business owners.

The use of these mobile banking tools makes managing finances: quicker, because there is no need to go through banks and money transfers are often instantaneous; easier, because app’s interfaces are designed to be as simple as possible; and more secure, because there are no physical cards and money to steal, and even if a phone is stolen, one cannot access money without a passcode.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

As more and more of the mobile banking and payment solutions integrate into blockchain cryptocurrencies (purely digital currencies), security and speed will increase even more. IBM has stated that 15 percent of big banks will be using blockchain by the end of 2017, and the fact that many major banks have recently joined the R3 blockchain gives testament to this prediction. The popularity of bitcoin is reflected in its ever increasing exchange rate.

An interesting potential consequence of payment being conducted over blockchain more and more could be a universal global currency, as blockchain is capable of functioning using only cryptocurrencies. As Turek said in the interview, “There is a good chance that we will have a default global currency arise from the cryptocurrency movement.”

The post Soon, Tech Could Make Cash and Credit Cards Utterly Obsolete appeared first on Futurism.

The UN Could Help 80 Million People Each Year With Blockchain

Giving That Can Last

Technology has the power to improve people’s lives — and not just by supplying flying cars to millionaires. The computer networks that brought us Bitcoins are advancing in ways that will make humanitarian giving simpler and more secure than ever.

These networks are called blockchains. They are decentralized digital ledgers that allow for an incomparable level of transparency and are equipped with cryptography-based security, making them optimal for making and monitoring transactions. Simply, they take out the middle man (banks) and make the transfer of funds more streamlined and safe.

The United Nations (UN) chose one specific blockchain, Ethereum, to distribute funds from the World Food Program (WFP) in a pilot program earlier this year. The experiment was a success, distributing aid to 100 people in Pakistan.

Meeting a Need

The UN will be putting Ethereum to an even greater challenge now, because, having started May 1, the system will now be used in Jordan to distribute funds to more than 10,000 people. To protect the privacy of those who accept WFP aid, the monetary amount being dispensed is not being announced. Assuming all goes according to plan, the UN expects to use the blockchain to help support 500,000 recipients by 2018.

This program is designed to demonstrate the aptitude of blockchain technology for distributing humanitarian aid to people who need it. It is also a strategic investment for the UN, as the resilient digital infrastructure could allow these charitable services to outlive the UN itself.

The UN is considering more ways it can use blockchain to optimize aid distribution, WFP financial officer Houman Haddad said in an interview with CoinDesk. Strategies include sending funds directly to food stores instead of the actual recipients, thereby cutting down on transactions, and potentially using cryptocurrency instead of state-issued currency to circumvent currency volatility.

With the power of blockchain, the WFP can potentially (and more effectively) help 80 million people each year — and maybe even expand that number.

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The “City of the Future” is One Step Closer to a Blockchain Based Economy

Dubai’s Blockchain Goals

Dubai has quickly grown into a global hub for trade. Now, it’s planning to use blockchain as the basis for its economy, further enhancing this status. Blockchain has the potential to simplify record-keeping and the transport of goods all over the world. In concert with Dubai’s advanced transportation infrastructure and near-zero taxes, businesses will experience Dubai as a secure, reliably business-friendly environment.

Although Blockchain is primarily known as the technological basis of the digital currency Bitcoin, the technology itself can function in many roles. Blockchain allows users to share and track information from transactions and contracts using a digital ledger, and the records are secure, verifiable, and permanent. With blockchain serving as the basis for both private business and government services in Dubai, service provision will be more efficient. In short, doing business in Dubai will become far simpler for any kind of business.

“We want to make Dubai the first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020,” Aisha Bin Bishr, director general of Smart Dubai, a government office charged with facilitating innovation, told The Wall Street Journal. “It is disruptive for existing systems, but will help us prepare for the future,” she says. This commitment to using blockchain at the government level makes Dubai the first city in the world to promote the technology in this way.

In March, a citywide implementation effort began, led by Smart Dubai. The office will educate both the private and public sectors about the potential of blockchain, and conduct workshops with key stakeholders, public and private, to identify which services can best be enhanced by blockchain and prioritize them for implementation. It also will educate the public and private sectors about the technology’s potential. Once these efforts are finished, Smart Dubai predicts that the blockchain rollout will begin later this year as the public and private sectors collaborate on pilot projects. The office will also build a shared Blockchain as a Service platform for implementing government projects.

Dubai: City of the Future [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

City Of The Future

Dubai’s vision for becoming the city of the future goes far beyond a blockchain economy. By 2030, 25% of Dubai’s road transport system will be using AI and will, therefore, be driverless. The use of rooftop solar power will be mandatory by 2030 — the same year the country plans to reach 25% of its goal to generate 75% of the city’s energy via solar power by 2050. With what will be the world’s largest 1000 MW concentrated solar power plant scheduled to open in Dubai in 2020, the city should be on track to reach that goal.

Dubai is also home to “Smart Palm Trees,” 3D-printed trees with Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP) that act as community tech hubs throughout the city. The trees provide free wifi, city information, and device charging powered by solar. Dubai is also going to be home to the world’s first 3D-printed skyscraper; the first 3D-printed office is already in use. The city is also planning for a hyperloop, and inviting entrepreneurs and innovators with working ideas for technical solutions to pressing problems to join the Dubai Future Accelerators program to foster more great work.

A blockchain economy will be the next step in this process, and it will fit right in. “We have a very clear objective to make Dubai the capital of the blockchain industry,” Ms. Bishr tells WSJ. “By 2020 we’ll have 100% of applicable government services and transactions happen on blockchain.”

Disclosure: The Dubai Future Foundation works in collaboration with Futurism and is one of our sponsors.

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Blockchain Technology Has The Power to Let Us Build An Entirely New Internet

A New Internet

From the birth of language to the dawn of the Internet, the technologies that push humanity forward allow us to collaborate at new scales. We agree on a common purpose, and work together in groups of increasing size and power.

Today, with so many of us connected online, the goal of 3.5 billion people frictionlessly sharing knowledge and collaborating is, in theory, an achievable one.

So why hasn’t the Internet united us? Why is our trust in institutions — government, media, and business — eroding? Why is it so hard for us to make compromises to achieve the ends we desire?

There are, of course, many answers, but here’s a simple one: the Internet is broken.

Information

The Internet democratized access to information in a way previously the realm of science fiction. Texts, videos, and ideas became widely available, and transmittable, and our ability to communicate with each other, organize groups, and choreograph our activities, exploded.

But just when it seemed like the world had opened up, we identified a new type of information, more valuable than any before, and stashed a lot of it away in private vaults. The Internet allowed us to generate, strategically collect, and deploy, rich data about people, programs, companies, markets, and societies. A small, exclusive group of users siphoned this data off, to store in guarded silos and leverage for private gain.

In the end, our minds and their ability to create new ideas are the ultimate source of all human wealth. That’s a resource nearly without limit. — Ramez Naam

To resist the privatization of data, the open source community has existed as long as computing, beginning with cypherpunks and basement hackers. Their movement produced Linux, Wikipedia, and countless more platforms, tools, and projects that succeeded. But it lost the battle for control of the Web 1.0 and 2.0. The winners were personal data collectors, repackagers, and vendors like Facebook and Google.

Finally, though, the tide is turning. Today we have a chance at a new Internet, enabled by decentralizing technologies such as Ethereum, the world computer. Big players are recognizing the benefits of open source, and exploring the community-driven business models they bring. Creators and developers can take power again if we come together in time. We can build a new Internet that puts us, the users, first.

Value

There’s an uncomfortable tension online today. Contributors of songs, ideas, art, code, and stories want to enrich the public sphere, but they need to sustain themselves and get paid for their work. That work adds enormous value to our lives, makes them vibrant, and sometimes even saves them.

The problem is that the way we exchange money captures value in only two dimensions. In truth, value is being created everywhere. Let your eyes linger on an ad in the subway, and value has been created. Tweet a popular hashtag. Turn on the lights. Sign in using Facebook. Report traffic on Waze. Tell someone your secret.

In the twenty-first century, our personal data is probably the most valuable resource most humans still have to offer, and we are giving it to the tech giants in exchange for email services and funny cat videos.— Yuval Harari

There is a shift coming in the way we use the Internet, from an Internet of information to an Internet of value, where we frictionlessly exchange and communicate with no intermediaries.

In this new world, our value is something we carry around with us, that belongs to us and us alone (unless we opt to trade it). Value is captured in as many dimensions as reality. The representation of value that exists on the virtual plane becomes so rich with data that virtual becomes flush with real.

Trust

Without trust, there is no love. — Myth of Eros and Psyche

Why don’t we trust each other? Maybe we did when we lived in tribes. In a small group, it’s possible to remember everyone from birth and the characteristics that make up their identities. There’s no, “She’s warm-hearted.” “He exaggerates.” “She prefers to sleep all day.”

Today, we empower institutions to guard the trust. We pay them royally for that service, because without trust, there is no business deal, no stamp on a passport, no line of credit, and no peace treaty.

But what happens when we create universal identity — a common and accepted baseline of trust, that exists without need for authority? What if we build a system that is inherently logical, programmable, and safe? What if everyone could share it, access it, and help grow it, all at the exact same time?

Join Us

“Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to someone.” — Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral & The Bazaar

There is a new Internet coming, and with it, a new reality.

The architects of the future are already building these systems. But those systems are open source, which means if you help build them, they will be even better and stronger. Join some of the world’s most innovative technologists, entrepreneurs, and humanitarians at Ethereal Summit on May 19th in Brooklyn.

We can use technology to make the world better.

The post Blockchain Technology Has The Power to Let Us Build An Entirely New Internet appeared first on Futurism.

A New Startup Just Proved That Blockchain Is Going to Utterly Transform Our Future

The Launch of Gnosis

Like any beloved ’90s sitcom, ConsenSys, an Ethereum development firm, is getting a spin-off. However, unlike “Joey,” this one is poised to be a success.

Th development of Ethereum, the blockchain network, has many incubation projects under its umbrella. But Gnosis is the first project to blossom into its very own startup, splitting off from ConsenSys with a new headquarters and a beta launch in August. That was followed by an official launch this week.

“[Gnosis] will still have very strong ties to ConsenSys, but we are now our own company,” the startup’s co-founder, Stefan George, told Coindesk.

Gnosis is a decentralized prediction platform built on Ethereum. Developers can use the platform to create a prediction market for any event, such as the Super Bowl or an art auction. People can then voice their prediction by buying “shares” in one outcome or the other using Gnosis tokens. This can be done with a simple tweet.

The event’s final outcome is determined by one or more oracles — human, hardware, or software agents that find and verify the outcome of a real-world event and then submit it to a blockchain. Those on the winning side of the prediction can then redeem their shares for money, while those who predicted incorrectly suffer a financial loss.

Gnosis held an auction of these tokens today, reaching its goal of selling 250.00K Ethereum in under 15 minutes, giving it a market cap of $300 million. With digital tokens in hand, owners are now free to start predicting.

A Better Predictor

While polls can be a useful predictor for future events, they have flaws. Because there’s no penalty for being wrong, anyone can contribute to a poll, even if they don’t actually have any knowledge of the subject. For example, someone who has never seen a football game may still be willing to contribute to a poll asking who will win the Super Bowl because they have nothing to lose if they’re wrong. The results of that poll, then, aren’t a very accurate predictor of which team is likely to win.

Gnosis aims to address this flaw by requiring people to effectively put their money where their mouth is in order to contribute to its prediction market. This should ensure that only those with at least a reasonable belief in what they are predicting will contribute.

Another benefit to Gnosis is its transparency and security. Users needn’t worry about a market being removed or their funds disappearing. “By creating prediction markets on a Blockchain layer, we can ensure that the data always remains open and accessible to all parties,” explained Gnosis CSO Matt Liston in a video introducing the platform.

With its successful token auction, Gnosis is now one step closer to its goal of building the world’s most efficient forecasting tool. Who wants to bet it reaches it?

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Experts Are Gathering to Discuss How Blockchain Will Transform Our Future

New Kid on the Block

Most people have heard of the blockchain, but sadly, most people don’t really understand what it is (or how it’s transforming our world). As Investopedia notes, it’s all about creating secure, global connections and getting rid of middlemen: “A blockchain is a public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions [or other cryptocurrency transactions] that have ever been executed. It is constantly growing as ‘completed’ blocks are added to it with a new set of recordings.”

This “ledger,” of sorts, acts as a direct connection between consumers and producers, eliminating the need for third-party entities like traditional banks.

Ultimately, blockchain technology and its developing applications promise a future with safer, more efficient ways to manage finances. Instead of relying on banks as a middleman to ensure the security of finances (which, as past recessions have shown, include a serious risk element), a “chain” of computers that are connected through a global network can verify a transaction. As such, blockchain could totally disrupt the financial sector.

However, blockchain has applications far beyond banking and finances.

Currently, there are two main prevailing blockchains in existence: the Bitcoin blockchain, and the Ethereum blockchain. While the Bitcoin blockchain is dedicated to the trade and storage of Bitcoins, Ethereum took the possibilities of blockchains further. Some say it could be used to disrupt politics or even feed the hungry.

From bitcoin enthusiasts to financial innovators and beyond, more and more people are becoming interested in the concept of blockchain. With this in mind, coming to Brooklyn, NY  on May 19, 2017 is Ethereal Summit, an event designed to bring together those involved with—and excited about—this field.

Since blockchain is a relatively new concept, it is important that the possibilities within it are explored from every angle, and the Ethereal Summit could be a great way for those working in and around this field to come together and pave a way for the future of blockchain.

This culture-focused event will “aim to highlight the technologies and innovators that are ushering in the next generation of the internet, and catalyzing our transition into a decentralized world.”

Planning the Future

The event will include “art installations, virtual reality experiences, keynote speakers, and panels featuring some of the most prominent names in blockchain and beyond.” Among the keynote speakers are Vinay Gupta, a prominent blockchain thought leader; Maximilian Bech, creator of the first 3D blockchain model; Geena Rocero, transgender and identity activist; and Elizabeth Rossiello, co-founder and CEO of BitPesa.

This event will bring together professionals from a variety of backgrounds, giving the audience a well-rounded exposure to a multitude of perspectives.

For example, Gupta will discuss Ethereum and what this trend of decentralizing means for our future. To give another perspective on blockchain, Rocero will speak about the inherent inclusivity that blockchain provides. They will work through ways that women and other underrepresented groups can push forward as leaders in the quickly advancing future of tech and blockchain.

The discussions the are scheduled to take place at Ethereal Summit could help shape the direction that this field goes. If you’d like to attend, you can get a significant discount on tickets using the promo code “Futurism.”

The post Experts Are Gathering to Discuss How Blockchain Will Transform Our Future appeared first on Futurism.

By This Summer, Bitcoin Will Be Accepted at More Than 260,000 Stores in Japan

A Financial Revolution

Many contend that Bitcoin has long since passed its shadowy reputation for being the transaction standard for the internet’s darker corners. Bitcoin trading, for one, has reached record-breaking values. Now, major bitcoin exchanges in Japan are teaming up with retailers to start a transaction revolution that would allow stores to accept Bitcoin payments.

Bitcoin is an example of a cryptocurrency, i.e., a digital currency that’s based on a data structure called Blockchain. A blockchain is a digital ledger that allows for recording and keeping transactions in a decentralized and cryptographically secured manner.

Each block in a blockchain is maintain by so-called “miners” through servers spread all over the world. These miners then receive cryptocurrencies in exchange. While most markets have been slow to accept cryptocurrencies, some retailers are beginning to test the new form of payment.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Japanese consumer electronics retail chain Bic Camera is going to try out a payment system using Bitcoin in two of its stores in Tokyo. To do this, it will partner with Bitflyer, which is the largest bitcoin exchange by volume in Japan.

Bic Camera is not the only Japanese company to adopt cryptocurrency. At the same time, Recruit Holdings’ retail support arm Recruit Lifestyle plans to work with Coincheck bitcoin exchange to implement a similar system. This partnership with Recruit Lifestyle will add more stores that accept Bitcoins, according to Coincheck. “Bitcoin will be accepted at 260,000 shops by this summer,” the company stated.

Digital Currency and the Future

Cryptocurrency and its blockchain foundation have a growing number of users. Naturally, the first to gravitate to this technology were banks and other financial service firms. The nature of blockchain, however, has opened up this technology to applications beyond that of digital currency. Blockchain companies, such as Ethereum, have been working towards finding other ways to put this technology into use. There’s IBM’s Hyperledger, as well as a blockchain application for a universal basic income (UBI) setup.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

Currently, about 4,500 stores in Japan accept Bitcoin as payments, according to Nikkei. Furthermore, in a Bitcoin.com interview this January, said Kagayaki Kawabata, Coincheck’s Business Development Leaddisclosed that there are already more than 5,000 merchants and websites in Japan that accept Bitcoin payments using the company’s system.

The move to adapt Bitcoin isn’t an arbitrary one, of course. Aside from security, another reason for opting for cryptocurrency is the relative ease with which transactions can be conducted. Bitcoin allows tourists to make purchases in Japan without having to go through currency exchange rates. Additionally, if more outlets accepted Bitcoin, more individual consumers would likely be persuaded to get Bitcoin accounts.

The rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin may be ushering in a new way of conducting financial transactions. To date, over 20 million people worldwide now use Bitcoin. Bitcoin is no longer seen as something to be hoarded — it’s used for shopping. As Japanese stores adapt Bitcoin, this cryptocurrency is steadily making its way into mainstream financial transactions.

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The Future May Owe Itself to Blockchain Technology. Here’s Why.

Crowdfunding the Future

The rise of the internet and the ubiquity of mobile computing devices have changed everything from travel and shopping to politics – think Uber, Amazon, and Twitter. 

CubeSats: The Latest Evolution in Space Exploration
Click to View Full Infographic

But for the next revolution in commerce, governance and social interaction we need to look up – about 100 miles up, into the low Earth orbit. There, falling prices for communication and earth monitoring satellites, along with blockchain-enabled security, will make everything from broadband communication to crop monitoring available not just to technology elites, but to the most remote farm, village or machine.

This sharing economy in space could give even those not employed by large corporations or governments access to real-time, trustworthy data about everything from weather patterns and economic outlooks to cross-border migrations.

By democratizing access to space-based resources, we can create a more humane and just world. But realizing these benefits requires overcoming complex technical, legal, political and regulatory challenges. It also means genuinely caring about, and addressing, the suspicions of those who, in an increasingly nationalistic and fearful world, will bridle at anonymous, crowdfunded satellites looking over their shoulders.

The Democratization of Space

Multiple technical advances are creating the infrastructure for the sharing economy in space.

First, and most obvious, is a wave of start-ups driving dramatic and ongoing reductions in launch costs with innovations such as reusable boosters. The second is the development of nano sats that are dramatically smaller, lighter and less expensive to build and launch than those typically used by governments or industry. These satellites use common standards and off-the-shelf parts, transforming satellite manufacturing from crafting one-off designs to the mass assembly of standard products.

The use of software-defined components, which can be updated with new capabilities and new techniques for speedier development of custom sensors, further slashes the cost and time required to provide new space-based services. The increasing intelligence of satellites and the communication bandwidth between them will allow them to operate as autonomous swarms, allocating monitoring or signal relay work to the satellite that can do it most efficiently. Finally, all these advances mean more and more space-based sensing and connectivity services with continual increases in image resolution and the area satellites can cover at a lower cost.

From satellite constellations to Mother Earth’s 24×7 digital twin

Now, Add Blockchain

However, community or civic organizations must know the data they receive is reliable and that their ownership stake in a satellite (or the service it provides) is secure and they will get proper payment. The low-cost, distributed trust provided by the blockchain distributed ledger provides these assurances through a series of decentral and encrypted technologies provided by the Next Generation Internet.

Blockchain-enabled “smart contracts” can also allow satellites and systems that need their services to autonomously negotiate and complete transactions based on predetermined criteria such as the price a customer is willing to pay for a certain image and how quickly they need it. Users, satellite owners and even the satellites themselves could dynamically create new services to pay for their launching, insurance, and other costs.

Ideally, a “digital twin” of earth – the sum total of all real-time data about everything from endangered biospheres to animal migrations and air pollution – could be analyzed by artificial intelligence algorithms to identify threats to the integrity of the earth and trigger countermeasures.

A Sharing Economy in Space

A sharing economy in space means the distributed ownership of space assets and the data and communication services they produce. In this economy, satellites and their “products” would not only be owned by for-profit entities and governments, but by non-profit community groups, NGOs and individuals. They could even be “self-owned” by the assets.

This new economic model could provide much more accessible, faster and lower cost remote sensor data, as well as low-cost universal broadband communications for previously underserved areas and remote machines.

These capabilities could be used for everything from increasing business efficiency to reducing pollution and crime and empowering local and non-profit organizations to protect the earth or their local communities. They also pave the way for new granular, decentralized markets for the rental, lending, and sharing of satellites.

It’s not too hard to imagine the benefits, which range from improved tracking of transit, weather and traffic conditions to more accurate economic forecasting – think tracking the number of cars at shopping centers, as indicators of consumer confidence or the location of oil tankers and rail cars to monitor economic output. Humanitarian organizations could better target relief efforts and even remote villages could fund their own broadband communications or track illegal logging.

Not So Fast

Like any major change, this sharing economy in space faces major legal, regulatory and technical hurdles. They range from determining who owns the information and analytics to providing opt outs for those who don’t want satellite data about their property recorded. It will also require mechanisms to track and control satellites to prevent their being used for criminal or terrorist purposes, as well as finding ways to safely destroy failed satellites so they don’t cause damage to other satellites or space vehicles.

Then there is the question of how these decentralized, cryptographically secure eyes in the sky will look to those who feel left behind by globalization and economic, social and technological trends. It is all too easy to imagine how a sharing economy in space could be seen as just another top-down, utopian vision that helps urban elites at the expense of poorer, rural or economically-depressed areas.

Fighting this perception requires work to make sure it does not become a reality. The onus is on business and government leaders to proactively and aggressively ensure that the sharing economy in space genuinely helps everyone, regardless of where they live, their social class, political orientation or level of formal education. Such benefits for those who feel left behind range from: broadband access that gives remote users entry to the global economy; faster access to climate, market and pricing trends that can help farmers negotiate with middlemen; and even locally-controlled monitoring of national borders to defuse fears of mass illegal migration.

Now is the time to begin detailed discussions about issues such as:

  • How to regulate this infrastructure to prevent its misuse without stifling innovation.
  • When and how to eliminate barriers to nano sats, such as high license fees and other funding/capital requirements, as well as requirements that operators provide indemnity against damages beyond that provided by a launch partner.
  • What types of funding (crowdfunding, private investment, government subsidies) should be encouraged to stimulate development of the sharing economy in space.
  • Who should own the data, and the resulting analysis, and how to balance private ownership of the data one group has paid for against its value to the public.
  • Whether and how this data, services, and transactions should be taxed and which tax authority should receive the revenue.

Building the Future Now

The future of space may not evolve as we’ve predicted here. As with the internet, humans have found unexpected ways to use new technology and the dangerous side effects – such as the polarization of society through self-reinforcing interactions on social media – often take tech visionaries by surprise.

But the basic technologies, from falling costs for space-based communications and sensor data to blockchain-enabled smart contracts, are maturing rapidly. Together, they will create an internet-like, standard, scalable and low-cost platform on which innovators can build radically new businesses and social models. Realizing the potential benefits – and spreading them beyond the traditional capitalist stakeholders and urban elites to wider society – will require close attention to technical, legal, security, ownership, privacy and equity issues.

Tackling these issues proactively will help prevent the inevitable unexpected consequences that could threaten the game-changing benefits of a truly shared economy in space.

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All the Evidence You Need That Bitcoin Is Turning Into a Real Currency

Whether or not you know what blockchain is, you have probably heard of the seemingly mysterious cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain network are quietly making headlines around the globe. The recent success of Bitcoin and the security of blockchain may have some consumers considering an investment in the new denomination, but others are still wary. Newly released data further legitimizing the currency could be just the thing to push the undecided into the realm of Bitcoin proponents, however.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

In 2008, Bitcoin was introduced by an anonymous group of programmers under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto, and then it was released to the public as an open-source software in 2009. Unlike other online payment services like PayPal and Venmo, Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer network that takes place privately between two users — there is no intermediary involved. The virtual currency is completely decentralized from any external influence, and all transactions are accounted for through a blockchain ledger.

While Bitcoin is thoroughly anonymous, all transactions on the blockchain ledger are available publicly. Using the time and date of a particular transaction, individuals could potentially match someone’s online address to their identity. However, all transactions made through Bitcoin are encrypted with military-grade cryptography, ensuring that the deals are secure.

Sending and receiving bitcoins is already as easy as sending an email, and it’s poised to get even easier thanks to BitPay.

The Way to Pay

Bitpay is a payment processing service that allows users to spend bitcoins within a larger network of merchants. With Bitcoin’s unexpected rate of growth leading to longer delays in transactions and higher fees, Bitpay developers were pushed to accommodate the sudden popularity of Bitcoin.

“This friction is making us get more creative in how we do user experience design for delayed payment states on the BitPay platform,” co-founder Stephen Pair explained at the Distributed: Markets 2017 conference. “Our designers and engineers are constantly attuned to how we can make using Bitcoin intuitive,” he added.

The frequent updates appear to be paying off as the company recently released a series of charts revealing a positive trend in Bitcoin usage. The data shows a significant increase in the number of Bitcoin payments being processed daily and in the value of the payments being processed.

*3* Evidence That Bitcoin is Turning Into a Real Currency

*3* Evidence That Bitcoin is Turning Into a Real Currency

Experts attribute this to the “wealth effect.” Essentially, people who bought Bitcoin when it was significantly cheaper want to spend it now that the value is high. The trend also affects what people are buying with bitcoins. Bitpay merchant CheapAir, a site that sells plane tickets, hotel reservations, and car rentals, has noticed a higher upper limit in the spending of their Bitcoin customers.

“With bitcoin we tend to generate more sales in premium cabins like business class or first class,” CheapAir founder Jeff Klee told Quartz. “Certainly the average spend for the bitcoin customer is higher than a non-bitcoin customer.”

*3* Evidence That Bitcoin is Turning Into a Real Currency

This increased movement of bitcoins from consumers to companies highlights an important moment in the history of the cryptocurrency. While people initially saw bitcoins as something they could hoard, they’re now seeing them as something to spend.“Bitcoin [is being used] as a store of value, as a currency hedge, and as a payment method for economies without widespread credit card or banking access,” James Walpole, BitPay’s marketing manager, told Quartz.

If these trends continue, the increased acceptance of the cryptocurrency as an alternative payment method might be enough to push it all the way into the mainstream.

The post All the Evidence You Need That Bitcoin Is Turning Into a Real Currency appeared first on Futurism.

IBM Just Launched Blockchain Beyond Currency

Blockchain has the potential to become an integral part of our future. Essentially, it’s a decentralized digital ledger that’s secured by cryptography and boasts transparency that’s unparalleled in any digital platform. Though initially linked to cryptocurrency, the technology has since seen various applications beyond Bitcoin.

The Entire History of Bitcoin in a Single Infographic
Click to View Full Infographic

Blockchain networks are employed in the financial sector, in universal basic income (UBI) programs, and even for humanitarian purposes. A number of institutions have begun investing in research and development of other blockchain-based applications, exploring its potential use in various transaction-based industries. Indeed, the technology has the potential to be as disruptive as the internet itself.

IBM saw that potential when it introduced IBM Blockchain last year. The goal of that public cloud service was to give customers the means to build secure blockchain networks. On Sunday, IBM launched its own “Blockchain as a Service,” and it’s the first enterprise-ready implementation of IBM Blockchain.

The blockchain is based on The Linux Foundation’s open source Hyperledger Fabric. “Think of it as an operating system for marketplaces, data-sharing networks, micro-currencies, and decentralized digital communities,” explains Hyperledger on its website. “It has the potential to vastly reduce the cost and complexity of getting things done in the real world.”

A Blockchain Future

Through Hyperledger, IBM is offering a set of cloud-based services to help customers create, deploy, and manage blockchain networks, according to Jerry Cuomo, VP of blockchain technology at IBM. “Some time ago, we and several other members of the industry came to view that there needs to be a group looking after, governing, and shepherding technology around blockchain for serious business,” he told TechCrunch.

Though open source, Hyperledger promises to be secure and safe. “Only an Open Source, collaborative software development approach can ensure the transparency, longevity, interoperability, and support required to bring blockchain technologies forward to mainstream commercial adoption,” they explained. “That is what Hyperledger is about – communities of software developers building blockchain frameworks and platforms.”

To satisfy enterprise users, IBM adds another layer of security services using the IBM cloud. The computing giant also claims that their blockchain network is built around a highly auditable way of tracking all activity. This gives administrators a trail they can follow in case something goes wrong, like in the unlikely event that the network could be breached.

IBM’s vision for blockchain isn’t just limited to enterprise use. In 2015, IBM and Samsung presented a proof-of-concept for a blockchain-based, decentralized Internet of Things (IoT) called Autonomous Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Telemetry (ADEPT). It’s a testament to just how much potential blockchain has. Ultimately, the technology puts digital security and transparency on a whole new level, one that we’ll need as we push further into a future of extreme connectivity.

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Blockchain Is Helping Us Feed the World’s Hungriest Families

A Different Way to Help

Blockchain is making headlines everywhere — from the trading markets to even the arena of universal basic income. Now, this super secure, decentralized digital network can also help feed the world. In a project using the Ethereum blockchain, the World Food Programme (WFP) is changing its approach to feeding the hungry. Instead of just giving food, the WFP has opened up a cash assistance program Building Blocks.

“Blockchain can revolutionize the way WFP delivers assistance to vulnerable families across the globe. It can bring us closer to the people we serve and allow us to respond much faster,” said Farman Ali, from the WFP Karachi provincial office in a WFP press release.

Image credit: WFP/Farman Ali
Image credit: WFP/Farman Ali

A first phase of Building Blocks was tested in Pakistan in January, 2017. Now, with the lessons of this first foray into Ethereum blockchain, which is a global blockchain network that many businesses utilize, the WFP is getting ready to implement a full-scale program. Building Blocks is being implemented as part of WFP’s Innovation Accelerator.

Securing Welfare and Aid

The WFP’s move to adapt Ethereum was part of an effort that explored better, cheaper, and less risky means to deliver cash-based transfers. It had to be secure and fast at the same time. Blockchain, being the decentralized digital ledger that it is, seemed to be the most viable option. It offers a level of transparency, coupled with cryptography-based security, that makes it ideal for monitoring transactions.

Image credit: WFP/Houman Haddad
Image credit: WFP/Houman Haddad

This transparency and security eliminated the fear of potential misappropriation of funding or tampering with transactions. The WFP reported that as it launched Building Block’s first stage, vulnerable families in Pakastain were able to receive food and cash assistance that WFP personnel were able to authenticate and record with a smartphone using the Ethereum blockchain. The WFP was immediately able to track and verify the way families used these funds.

Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize humanitarian assistance, especially in some of the world’s most undeveloped environments. When disaster strikes areas where people do not have access to financial infrastructures, humanitarian organizations could utilize blockchain as a way of disseminating cash assistance. Alexi Lane, CEO of Ethereum-based application Everex Wallet, noted in an interview that this method of sending aid will also help disater relief efforts insure transparency.

“Ethereum can provide cost efficient and transparent solutions to replace bank accounts and to serve the un(der)banked population,” Lane said.

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Blockchain Tech Has Never Been More Valuable or More Ready for World Domination

How Blockchain is Changing the World

By now, you have probably heard of the term “blockchain” somewhere amidst discussions of digital currency, banking, and the future of finance. Many believe it’s going to revolutionize the world — from Wall Street adopting blockchain technologies by 2018 to companies trading publicly with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. But what exactly is blockchain?

The system of Blockchain has been quietly growing since its inception in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto (the pseudonym for the suspected group of individuals who co-created Bitcoin). Blockchain serves as the underlying infrastructure for Bitcoin, a form of cryptocurrency that has become increasingly popular: at the time of publication, 1 XBT was worth $1,031.14 USD. Blockchain serves as a peer-to-peer network that takes place privately and exclusively between two users. Information stored in blockchain technology is completely decentralized from any external influence, and all movement of information is accounted for through a blockchain ledger.

Outside of banking and currency, blockchain is gradually changing how business is done in other fields. The most popular form of blockchain development in enterprise technology is Ethereum. Originally founded in 2013 by developer Vitalik Buterin, the company was developed by the Swiss nonprofit Ethereum Foundation. Ethereum is a custom-built blockchain that can be used in payment systems, crowdfunding, gold investing, and other cloud computing functions. The custom-built blockchain system has attracted the interest of some big names in technology, like Accenture, Microsoft, Intel, several large banks, and blockchain startups around the world.

Ethereum’s All-Time High

Global corporations like Maersk are adopting blockchain systems for record keeping and information sharing. This industrial shift has elevated blockchain developers like Ethereum to new heights. Almost remarkably so: Ethereum (ETH) hit an all-time high, trading at over $50 a share — an almost four hundred percent increase from last month when it sold at around $13 a share (at time of publication, it was trading at $44 a share). While the all-time high value only lasted a few days, the implications for Ethereum are clear. Blockchain systems are well on their way to becoming the new industry norm.

As mentioned, corporate giants like Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase are working together to form the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA). The EEA aims to create a standard of the Ethereum software so that business around the world can collaborate effortlessly. So far, 30 companies have joined the nonprofit initiative. It’s been speculated that the formation of this entity is what’s behind the recent surge for the blockchain company.

The benefits of the EAA could mean greater transparency, reduction in costs, and more appeal to national and international governmental organizations. While the consistency of the Ethereum trend isn’t a guarantee, it’s definitely something worth keeping an eye on.

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Google’s New Security Tool Lets You See Who Is Accessing Your Medical Records in Real-Time

Secure Data Management

We live in a world where data management has become an increasingly crucial part of most industries — even in health care.

Quick access to patient records can lead to better handling of health cases, as well as more precise treatment. This kind of access, however, is a need-to-know type. Patient records are highly confidential. So, how does one combine easy access and data security?

Members of DeepMind, Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) research arm, think the solution is in a Blockchain-like data auditing system they call Verifiable Data Audit. The thought behind this technology was explained by DeepMind announcement written by Mustafa Suleyman, DeepMind Co-Founder & Head of Applied AI, and Ben Laurie, Head of Security and Transparency at DeepMind.

“Given the sensitivity of health data, we’ve always believed that we should aim to be as innovative with governance as we are with the technology itself,” Suleyman and Laurie wrote. “Over the course of this year we’ll be starting to build out Verifiable Data Audit for DeepMind Health, our effort to provide the health service with technology that can help clinicians predict, diagnose, and prevent serious illnesses – a key part of DeepMind’s mission to deploy technology for social benefit.”

New Database System Proves Blockchain Will Utterly Transform Our World

Verifiable Data Audit is simple. As a data audit system, it will give hospitals — and even patients, later on — the ability to see who is accessing health records and what they’re using them for. The ability to oversee medical data is especially important because of its sensitive and personal nature, Suleyman and Laurie argue in the announcement. The audit trail could also help enforce rules around patient consent.

“For example, an organization holding health data can’t simply decide to start carrying out research on patient records being used to provide care, or repurpose a research dataset for some other unapproved use,” Suleyman and Laurie wrote. “In other words: it’s not just where the data is stored, it’s what’s being done with it that counts. We want to make that verifiable and auditable, in real-time, for the first time.”

Blockchain-Like Security

DeepMind’s audit security tool isn’t exactly blockchain. But, it does have everything that makes blockchain an attractive system for industries, especially the financial sector. Verifiable Data Audit will use cryptographic mathematics, just like blockchain. Every time data is accessed, a new code is generated that covers all previous activity. So, whenever someone tries to access and edit a specific record for dubious reasons, every subsequent record would be messed up. This quickly reveals the misused data.

“Each time there’s any interaction with data, we’ll begin to add an entry to a special digital ledger,” Suleyman and Laurie wrote. “That entry will record the fact that a particular piece of data has been used, and also the reason why.”

This type of transactional security is what blockchain-based systems provide. Blockchain, simply put, is a digital ledger of transactions that is not governed by a central body and uses cryptography for security. Everything on a blockchain is monitored by everything else on it — as transactions check each other all the time.

Blockchain use had initially been limited to cryptocurrency, but has since expanded to a host of other potential applications, such as payment systems, crowdfunding, and gold investing, just to name a few. Of all blockchain-based tools and systems, perhaps the most popular one is Ethereum.

In short, with blockchain and blockchain-like systems, we are moving towards a more secure future

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Universal Basic Income Could Become a Reality, Thanks to This Technology

Revolutionary Concepts

Though not an entirely new idea, universal basic income is becoming an increasingly viable and revolutionary solution to the looming job disruption due to automation. Another revolutionary concept — which is also not that new — is cryptocurrency. Some believe that the union of the two might be the answer to challenges increased automation in the workforce could present.

UBI is all about giving a regular income to people regardless of their socioeconomic status or employment condition. A fixed amount is decided on, which should ideally be enough to cover a person’s basic needs. In the context of automation, however, UBI is being explored as a means to cushion the effects of unemployment. As such, receiving basic income wouldn’t necessarily stop when a person finds a job, like government unemployment programs.

universal-basic-income-digital
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UBI is a simple concept, but as its critics point out, implementation is not so easy. For one is the issue of funding, and whether or not governments could actually approve such a program. That’s where cryptocurrencies come in.

Cryptocurrencies used to have a bad reputation, thanks to Bitcoin and its association to the dark web. However, while it is the most popular, Bitcoin isn’t the only cryptocurrency around. Recently, more cryptocurrencies have been popping up — like Ether and Zcash.

Cryptocurrencies are mined from a decentralized system of ledgers and transactions known as blockchain. In a blockchain, transactions from various sources get recorded and are kept by a network of specialized computers. Usually, these blockchain keepers are “compensated” for their efforts in maintaining in a block with cryptocurrency. This process is called mining. For every digital transaction recorded and stored, a miner is paid in Bitcoin, Ether, or Zcash, depending on which blockchain they are using.

Faster Than Government

Several governments — notably Finland’s — are already implementing a UBI trial program. However, experts say “[a] government solution to this issue will not be swiftly implemented,” according to an article in the BTC Manager. Still, several institutions have begun conducting trials of UBI programs that use cryptocurrencies.

One such program, the first of its kind, is run by a U.S.-based nonprofit called the Grantcoin Foundation. It uses a digital currency called Grantcoin (GRT) to distribute basic income to participants from all over the world. Grantcoin’s UBI program began in January 31, 2016, and has since then distributed digital coins to participants on a quarterly basis. Currently, the program is on its third leg of implementation, and has already distributed digital currency to 1,132 applicants since February of this year.

Another known UBI program running on cryptocurrencies is Daniel Jeffries’ open-source distributed application platform known as Cicada. A unique characteristic of Cicada is that it makes everyone on its network into miners, with everyone limited only to one miner. It’s also based on Distributed Proof of Work (DPoW), which is regarded as being more efficient than Bitcoin’s Proof of Work. As such, individuals can mine even on their mobile phones and get paid for it, creating a UBI system from the bottom up.

These cryptocurrencies can be converted to cash, or used directly to buy goods, eliminating the need for government to fund a UBI program.

“Basic income, and especially universal basic income, requires a secure, tamper-proof ledger that can be audited by anyone to ensure the safe delivery of funds.” — Greg Slepak, a developer for the okTurtles Foundation

Additionally, there are other cryptocurrency-based UBI programs like uCoin and Swarm, as well as Circles, which uses Ethereum. There are also UBI-like programs by Kiwicoin in New Zealand, Cubecoin, Strangecoin, the Worldwide Globals Organization, and the Basic Income Project, LLC.

As increased automation is set to disrupt employment in various industries by 2020 to 2045 — with an expected 47 percent of jobs lost in the U.S. alone —, it’s crucial to have working options. UBI is one such option. And UBI via digital currency seems an even better one.

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Blockchain Will Change Far More Than How Your Money Is Managed

Organizational Upgrade

The times they are a changin’. Spurred by technological innovation, our world is hurtling forward at unprecedented speeds and it is altering how we work, play, and live. However, our organizations, institutions, and governments have not been able to keep up with the pace of change. Too many of them were built on outdated systems that never could have predicted the impact things like the computer or the internet would have. Thankfully our methods for organizing ourselves are themselves finally evolving and nothing has been a bigger breakthrough in that regard than blockchain technologies which have the ability to fundamentally change how we organize ourselves.

blockchain

What is revolutionary about blockchain is that it enables a distributed check on power. Today our systems still rely on centralized authority where trust is given to a select few. What blockchain enables us to do is replace these systems with ones that have no need for a central authority.

The key to the blockchain is that everything on it is monitored by everything else on it. Using bitcoin as an example, whenever a bitcoin gets exchanged, that transaction gets checked against every other transaction in the system to make sure it is authentic and then gets tied to the history of that bitcoin. The entire history of each bitcoin is stored in an open ledger making every transaction traceable.

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But the real beauty of a blockchain is that it enables people to have absolute trust in whatever it is powering. Trust is the foundation of all institutions, they must earn the trust of its participants and then continue to prove themselves trustworthy in order for people to keep using them. This is why we exchange goods and services for money, we have faith that the currency we traded for will hold its value. Credit, without which no economy can function, is itself defined as “the ability of a customer to obtain goods or services before payment, based on the TRUST that payment will be made in the future.”

What the blockchain enables us to do is to never have to make those leaps of faith. The systems powered by blockchains are inherently trustworthy because there is no wiggle room in the system for corruption, fraud or even human error to play a part as everything is distributed, verifiable and open to anybody using the system. For more on how it works click here.

It is hard to understate the kind of impact that this can have. As stated in the book Blockchain Revolution, “some scholars have argued that the invention of double-entry book-keeping enabled the rise of capitalism and the nation-state. This new digital ledger of economic transactions can be programmed to record virtually everything of value and importance to humankind…In fact, soon billions of smart things in the physical world will be sensing, responding, communicating, buying their own electricity and sharing important data, doing everything from protecting our environment to managing our health. This Internet of Everything needs a Ledger of Everything. Business, commerce, and the economy need a Digital Reckoning.”

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More Than Money

Not only are a host of financial services now using blockchain technologies, but it is also being used to write smart contractssecure our digital identities, and even to back marriage. IBM is a leading player in blockchain technologies and recently launched a blockchain powered tool for government organizations to help them gain more trust from their citizens. The technology is spreading rapidly as more and more companies are seeing its merits.

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But its real potential is the role it could play in reshaping our political systems. The technology allows for direct democracy where every citizen could vote on issues themselves rather than just electing representatives to decide on issues for us. In addition, if national currencies began using blockchain backed systems then each citizen would be able to track exactly how each of their tax dollars gets spent. It has within it the promise of a world that is incorruptible, completely transparent and one in which anybody who wants to participate can have equal say in how society chooses to order itself.

The technology that enables the blockchain has only been around for 9 years, and like all good ideas, it will take time before its potential is realized. But it does seem to be one of those ideas that has staying power as it holds within it the ability to change how we organize the world we live in.

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Surprise! Another Major Company Is Turning to the Blockchain

The Precedent of Blockchain

The system of Blockchain has been quietly growing since its inception in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym for the suspected group of individuals who co-created Bitcoin. Blockchain serves as the underlying infrastructure for Bitcoin, a form of cryptocurrency that has been gradually taking the world by storm. Now, companies like Maersk are looking for ways to incorporate the blockchain infrastructure to make themselves more efficient.

Bitcoin is built upon a digital ledger that is decentralized throughout the internet. Information on all transactions is anonymously recorded and impossible to modify thereafter. This is achieved through blockchain, which provides a secure, accurate, decentralized system across a network of computers. Blockchain is a relatively new system that hasn’t been fully tested, and it has several potential drawbacks.

To execute a successful blockchain, many organizations are required to agree on the fundamental rules of the network — which could be challenging since opinions on this topic widely vary. Since a blockchain system depends on a decentralized network, multiple protocols must be accommodated in order to launch a blockchain system. Despite these drawbacks, a major company is now turning to the blockchain system.

Blockchain Beyond Bitcoin

The shipping company Maersk has officially announced its partnership with IBM to use blockchain to keep track of international shipments. Rather than tracking entire shipment, the company is now narrowing its focus on the individual shipment containers. At the same time, the companies hope to use blockchain to address the inconvenience of maintaining paperwork for deliverables with short or long trips to their destinations. During delivery, a single shipping container could involve 30 different people and over 200 or more interactions in total.

For the sake of convenience, IBM established a blockchain that allows every participant involved to witness the shipment’s progress at any stage. They have a plan to start updating the user on the whereabouts of the container and the status of their goods in late 2017.

And IBM is not alone. Blockchain technology is finding itself at use in some impressive circles. From Big Blue to Wal-Mart, blockchain is slowly infiltrating corporate structures around the world.

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For the First Time Ever, Bitcoin Has Surpassed Gold in Value

Yesterday was a monumental day for bitcoin. For the first time ever, a single unity of the most mainstream of all cryptocurrencies surpassed the price of an ounce of gold. According to both CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI) and Coinbase, the value of a single bitcoin hit $1,238.11 at a time when Bloomberg reported the price of gold being $1,237.73 per ounce.

*5* Here’s a First: Bitcoin Surpasses Gold in Trading Value
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It’s worth noting that this isn’t a one-to-one valuation and that people aren’t necessarily trading their gold for bitcoin. Value fluctuations in trade are normal, so yesterday’s historic bitcoin valuations may well have been a product of a good trading day, whereas gold was just experiencing a bad one.

However, this was no outright fluke. The value of bitcoin has slowly been on the rise, as CoinDesk and Coinbase have tracked. The currency has been been recovering from an all-time low point of $200 per unit back in mid-2015 for more than a year now.

Gold has long been the standard as far as secure trading investments go, so bitcoin’s rise may be indicative of how people are seeing cryptocurrency as more secure — a promise held by blockchain-based technologies.

As of the time of today’s writing, CoinDesk’s BPI puts a single bitcoin at $1,283.76, while Coinbase has it at $1,286.26. It’s remained comparably higher than an ounce of gold, which Bloomberg puts at $1,228.03. We’ll just have to wait to see how long bitcoin can remain on top.

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In Case You Missed it, The Blockchain Revolution’s Officially Begun

Blockchain: More Than Bitcoin

Blockchain and cryptocurrency are relatively new. Most people might even think that Bitcoin —  invented just in 2009 and probably the most popular blockchain-based cryptocurrency out there — is the only one of its kind. But blockchain is more than just Bitcoin.

world-of-tomorrow
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Blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions. It’s public and is not governed by a central body. As such, there’s a relative level of transparency coupled with security through cryptography. In other words, it’s safe and reliable, and monitored by hundreds of miners who keep these ledgers. It’s quickly becoming of interest to not just existing financial markets, but humanitarian and sustainability efforts.

At the moment, blockchains are most frequently used for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. But it has other uses — like what distributed public blockchain network Ethereum does. Instead of focusing on just digital money like Bitcoin, the Ethereum blockchain runs the programming code of decentralized applications, allowing for enterprise use. Transactions in the Ethereum network rely on a crypto-token (also known as security tokens) called Ether.

The Future of Blockchain

Now, Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency research and development company IOHK wants to open new doors in blockchain research. IOHK was established in 2015 by Jeremy Wood and Charles Hoskinson, one of the founders of Ethereum. They’re planning to invest up to $1 million in two facilities for research: one at the University of Edinburgh, and the other Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The labs will cover topics such as cryptography, smart contracts, and how to upgrade cryptocurrency systems. Best of all, their research will be open source and accessible to everyone. “This is commonly not done in the startup setting,” Hoskinson told Business Insider. “Usually, this is something you do if you’re a company like Microsoft — Microsoft has research campuses at many major universities.”

Hoskinson also said that setting up these research labs can provide perspective and better understanding of the growing blockchain technology. “After having discussions, they [the experts] said, actually we don’t have answers to a lot of these fundamental questions,” explained Hoskinson. “We said, how do we get those answers? And they said, we need to write some papers, we need to do some basic research. Over time we started moving into the university research space.”

We already know that blockchain is more than Bitcoin, but now that there will be research labs dedicated to understanding its potential, the future of the technology is bound to develop rapidly. The days of digital cash becoming globally dominant could arrive sooner than we think.

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Ethereum Is Poised to Become the Global Blockchain of Choice

Industry Adoption

Blockchain has become increasingly popular in the last few years, but many people still aren’t sure exactly what it is. Essentially, it’s a way to arrange and keep data digitally, where it can be shared across networks and accessed by those who need it, without requiring it to be centrally located. Most people are probably familiar with it through cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. In recent years it’s also become particularly popular with enterprise users, notably banks and other financial institutions — even WallStreet. For those familiar with the technology, all of this comes as no surprise. As far as databases go, blockchain is a particularly safe, secure, and decentralized way of storing records.

future of tech
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That being said, outside of Bitcoin and banking, it has a lot a host of other potential uses. Perhaps the most popular blockchain-based development technology for enterprise use nowadays is Ethereum. Introduced in 2013 by then-19-year-old developer Vitalik Buterin and developed through Swiss nonprofit Ethereum Foundation, Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs on a custom-built blockchain.

Ethereum is used in payment systems, crowdfunding, gold investing, and many other cloud computing functions. Industry users include Accenture, Microsoft, Intel, a number of banks, and several blockchain startup innovators. Considering the scope of usage around the world, users have come together to form the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA).

Augmenting Ethereum

The EEA was formed to ensure a better future for the Ethereum blockchain. Its founding members include Accenture, Banco Santander, BlockApps, BNY Mellon, CME Group, ConsenSys, IC3, Intel, J.P. Morgan, Microsoft, and Nuco. Together, the members of the EFA hope to learn from the success of Ethereum and promote software development that can make the complex process usable for businesses around the world.

“[E]nterprises expect resilient secure systems and a robust controls environment. EEA aims to bring these together, both to provide enterprises the forum they need and also to advance Ethereum generally,” Jeremy Millar, founding board member of EEA, explained in a press release for the launch.

Buterin is hopeful that this partnership will bring about a future of diverse Ethereum use. “The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance project can play an important role in standardizing approaches for privacy, permissioning and providing alternative consensus algorithms to improve its usability in enterprise settings, and the resources the project and its members are contributing should accelerate the advancement of the Ethereum ecosystem generally,” he said.

As competition amongst businesses in many industries stiffens, blockchain technology is likely to become even more in-demand in the years to come. While there are many competing blockchain programs out there, with the backing of the EEA by so many high profile companies, it stands to reason that Ethereum could become the go-to as more businesses seek to incorporate the technology.

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Bitcoin Prices Have Surged to an All-Time High

Tales From the Cryptocurrency

Bitcoin is a term we often hear tossed around in the headlines. We know that it deals with money, online transactions, and just maybe the deep web. Back in 2014, the Washington Post established that only 24% of the American public was aware of what bitcoin actually was. Meaning that almost three-quarters of the country had no idea. But maybe they just might want to start paying attention, especially now since it is at its all-time high value.

Bitcoin was introduced in 2008 by an anonymous group of programmers under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto and was eventually released to the public in 2009 as an open-source software. Unlike other online payment services like PayPal and Venmo, Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer network that takes place privately between two users—meaning there is no intermediary involved. The cryptographic virtual currency is completely decentralized from any external influence while all transactions with the currency are accounted for through a blockchain ledger.

While bitcoin is thoroughly anonymous, the blockchain ledger has all transactions available publicly. Therefore, theoretically, if you know the time and date of a particular transaction, you may be able to match someone’s online address to their identity. On the other hand, all transactions made through bitcoin are encrypted with military grade cryptography, ensuring that all deals are secure. Sending and receiving bitcoins is as easy as sending an email, but does that mean it’s worth it?

Time to Invest?

With all that said and done, Bitcoin has made it far since it’s substantial price drop in 2013. Since then Bitcoin has stabilized around a margin of $250, with most experts believing it was doomed. However, it seems to have returned to a relatively stable rise since last year. This time last year bitcoin was valued at $367, with its steady rise, it is now valued at 1,177.18. Many speculate as to what is causing the recent trend from Congress to WallStreet to even sheer luck.

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Blockchain Will Completely Revolutionize How We Run the World

I recently traveled to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, and was surprised to find blockchain on the minds of many of the leaders convened there. Even those who were not particularly knowledgeable about blockchain were aware that they should know about it. I participated in three events, including a panel at the Swedish Lunch, where I spoke about reimagining our global identity infrastructure, in front of a well-informed audience.

This was encouraging, not only because it affirmed my belief that our work at ConsenSys is poised to make a large impact, but because these leaders and changemakers were discussing blockchain in the context of solving many of the world’s most urgent humanitarian problems.

From left to right: Yobie Benjamin, Crister Fuglesang, Oren Falkowitz, Sam Cassatt

Frequently, conversations around blockchain center on its potential to: create massive efficiencies for the financial services industry (a recent McKinsey report projected up to $110 billion over the next few years), enable businesses to transfer data more securely, and allow for the creation of new markets and financial products. These are valuable undertakings that can also have positive humanitarian implications, but often the missing piece is how directly blockchain and especially the Ethereum platform can impact development, sustainability, and charity.

At WEF I also participated in a roundtable discussion about how technology can help the UN reach its Sustainable Development Goals. Certainly there are many new technologies (such as innovations in agriculture like aquaponics and vertical farming) with the potential to help us in this direction, but blockchain in particular is uniquely positioned to accelerate our impulses toward inclusivity, solving hunger and poverty, and creating sustainable jobs.

As an extension of that conversation, I’d like to lay out how the technology we work with is prepared to help the UN toward several of its ambitious Sustainable Development Goals.

Source: UN.org

No Poverty

Blockchain-based systems will lower the barrier to entry to the global financial system. According to the UN and the ID2020 project, currently 2.5 billion people lack identity in a way that allows them access to financial and government services. M-Pesa is an example of a digital platform that enables people without such access to claim a financial identity. It was quickly adopted in Kenya because of the vacuum there for government-provided identity.

Those 2.5 billion people currently are unable to capitalize on their human creativity or desire to produce. Without identity, they are barred from creating contracts, securing loans, or developing credit history. Blockchain-based identity unlocks their potential to participate and add value to the global economy as they bring that identity into contact with decentralized applications (DApps) that behave like financial services, offering vehicles for loans, banking, and investment. uPort provides the cornerstone of blockchain based identity upon which these other services can be layered.

Decent Work and Economic Growth

Normally becoming an entrepreneur has required funding for projects, and access to lawyers in order to, for example, create stock purchase agreements. Today with blockchain-enabled applications like WeiFund, becoming an entrepreneur can literally be “just a few clicks away”. The previous generation of entrepreneurs did not necessarily have the access, financial, or legal tools to secure funding or create legally sound contracts. Blockchain-based funding is the logical next step in the trajectory from traditional venture fundraising, to crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, to a world where investors can track how their funds are used and invest any amount of currency, in a trusted fashion, in projects across the world.

The price of smartphones is projected to decrease over time. Tomorrow’s smartphones will cost the same as today’s feature phones, which is the price most of the world’s least economically advantaged pay for mobile today. That means people in developing countries, or people who lack access, can leapfrog desktop computers. In theory they can raise funds and make strides toward creating products on smartphones alone.

Gender Equality

Blockchain is a new technological arena where the winners are yet to be born. This means an opportunity for emerging markets to make strides in their economic development leveraging the technology, without need for significant overhead investment in infrastructure.

Similarly to how developing economies can leapfrog post-industrial economies in terms of blockchain development (since there is no deeply established set of blockchain businesses) women and minorities also have a unique opportunity in blockchain to experience the same barrier to entry as others approaching the field.

In the blockchain space, there is currently no entrenched mentorship hierarchy, and no need to be part of a specific social group or boys’ club in order to access information and libraries that tend to be open source. With its open-source roots, blockchain is inherently a technology of inclusion, and that structure is already being reflected (though it should and can be even more) in terms of the diverse group of people who are already taking the lead. At this point, anyone who enters is getting in early, and has the chance to seize the reins.

For example, Fereshteh Forough at Code to Inspire is teaching Afghani women to code and skills specific to blockchain. Ola Dudin, founder of BitOasis, is another powerful example of women leading in our space.

That inclusion is already starting to happen with microfinance. Evidence has demonstrated the power of offering micro-loans and other forms of financial support for burgeoning female entrepreneurs in developing communities. Blockchain-based funding applications will make these types of investments more widely accessible.

Climate Action

Blockchain technology is poised to enable individuals and government groups to fight climate change by allowing them access to better monitoring tools and models for their individual energy consumption and contributions to factors such as air pollution.

Affordable and Clean Energy

Co-Tricity is an example of an energy project based on the Ethereum blockchain that incentivizes communities to invest in clean energy and create value for local communities.

With the infrastructure in place, blockchain-enabled systems allow individual solar panel owners to directly sell extra solar energy to their neighbors, at prices set by the counterparties in the transaction, without relying on the centralized and antiquated energy grid accounting infrastructure. Decentralized energy production and sharing is more secure, since it avoids a centralized single-point-of-failure system, and also creates new opportunities for entrepreneurship in communities, who are then allowed to retain that value within their geographical location. If all you need in order to become an entrepreneur is a solar panel or Tesla wall battery (and, of course, the regulatory framework to allow peer-to-peer energy sharing) the barrier to entry to the economy lowers.

Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

Blockchain enables the creation of new business models for industries that require less prerequisite infrastructure investment and immediately take part in a fourth Industrial Revolution. As mentioned earlier, the potential here is for developing nations and communities to leapfrog industrial and post-industrial economies and immediately plug into the global economy.

A person in a developing country could secure a loan from EtherLoan or funding through WeiFund from halfway around the world based on the strength of his reputation for financial responsibility connected to his blockchain-based identity, and without access to a bank or official legal services create and execute smart contracts on the blockchain. The individual’s investor abroad can feel confident that their resources are going to good use, using transparent blockchain-based governance tools such as Boardroom to directly monitor use of funds.

Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

Blockchain is sometimes positioned as a disruptor to governments, or described in the context of enabling anonymous sales of illegal materials. This comes from the first highly publicized use cases for bitcoin as the basis for transactions on dark web sites like the Silk Road. However, smart regulators and government officials (listen to Episode 12 of Laura Shin’s “Unchained” podcast where she speaks with Kathryn Haun, for example) have realized that blockchain, just like all tools, properly governed in the interest of our society, holds the potential for great benefit.

Governments have already discovered several strong use cases for blockchains; paper land titles are one example. When Haiti was hit by the 2010 earthquake, the municipal buildings containing paper records such as land titles were destroyed. This is a prime example of a vulnerable, single-point-of-failure system. Moving paper records to decentralized blockchains, and attaching ownership of assets to people’s blockchain-based identities put governments in a far better position to preserve citizens’ claims to assets, increasing confidence in those governments and economies. Many governments store all their data in centralized databases which leave them open to human errors, accidents, and tampering.

Additionally, government agencies frequently perform redundant functions, such as KYC (know your customer) checks. If those agencies coordinate and create blockchain-based shared source of truth resources, that allows agencies to eliminate redundancies and spend taxpayer funds more efficiently. Those shared data pools allow governments to create higher-quality models enabling them to better serve public interests. If every decision an agency makes is tracked to individual employees’ or groups’ blockchain-based identities, it makes for easy audits and excellent tracking in case of an error to determine how a process went wrong.

Zero Hunger

Blockchain-based systems for tracking the distribution of agricultural resources contribute to less food waste and loss. Reducing waste in food supply chains could have enormous positive consequences and allow governments, large-scale growers, and individual farmers to ensure that the resources they produce are allocated as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Partnerships for the Goals

Ultimately, nearly every technology that has produced a massive, positive impact for humanity has enabled increasingly large groups of humans to collaborate and work together toward a common goal. With the advent of the Internet, the number of people that could potentially work together today has reached 3.5 billion, the portion of the planet that is currently connected to the Web. That number grows every day. One of the reasons this enormous population is not able to effectively collaborate is the lack of universally shared mechanisms for trust. Trust, after all, is the foundational element, or prerequisite, for people to work together.

Something we often say at ConsenSys is that wherever trust is a problem, blockchain could offer a solution. The blockchain creates a secure and transparent record of business processes and functions that go on in societies that is far less subject to errors and manipulation than previous systems. It is inherently logical and governed by code, removing the need for trust in third parties, like governments and legal systems, which can be corrupted or make mistakes.

If we work together to create the regulatory environment and technological infrastructure (through STEM and specifically blockchain education, and the creation of technology hubs, such as what Dubai is becoming) for shared, accepted blockchain-based systems, we have the power to create the foundation for worldwide trust and unlock deep connectivity and collaboration between parties that might never otherwise be able to come to the table together.

The potential for good here is truly enormous, and in order to actualize that potential, blockchain will need experts, advocates, and partners at every level to help usher in a future that is more inclusive, open, and just.

Sam Cassatt is CSO at Consensus Systems (ConsenSys), a blockchain venture production studio, where he defines strategy for new business models in the emerging decentralized economy.

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