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What does hailing a ride with Uber have to do with 19th-century geometry and Einstein’s theory of relativity? Quite a bit, it turns out.

Uber and other location-based mobile applications rely on GPS to link users with available cars nearby. GPS technology requires a network of satellites that transmit data to and from Earth; but satellites wouldn’t relay information correctly if their clocks failed to account for the fact that time is different in space — a tenet of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. And Einstein’s famous theory relies on Riemannian geometry, which was proposed in the 19th century to explain how spaces and curves interact — but dismissed as derivative and effectively useless in its time.

The point is not just that mathematicians don’t always get their due. This example highlights an ongoing controversy about the value of basic science and scholarship. How much are marketplace innovations, which drive broad economic prosperity, actually linked to basic scientific research?

It’s an important question. Plenty of tax dollars and other funds go toward the research performed in academic centers, government labs and other facilities. But what kind of return are we as a society recouping on this large investment in new discoveries? Does scientific research reliably lead to usable practical advances?

Not surprisingly, there are strongly opposing viewpoints on the value of basic research. For example, after World War II the founder of the National Science Foundation characterized scientific research as a valuable fund of new knowledge from which applications could be drawn. In contrast, the “ivory tower” view of academic endeavors suggests that science is an isolated activity that rarely pays off in practical application. Related is the idea that marketplace innovation rarely relies on the work of universities or government labs.

If one perspective is more accurate than the other, it has major implications for policy — specifically, the extent to which governments fund scientific research. In the meantime, federal spending on basic research (as a share of GDP or a share of the federal budget) has been in decline over the last several decades.

So we designed a study to investigate the links between patentable inventions and scientific research.

How Many Degrees of Separation?

Past research on this topic often studied whether scientists themselves at universities and other research institutions produced patents or started businesses; that would support a direct link between scientists and application. The problem with such studies is that scientists’ discoveries, like those of Riemann described above, can be applied by anyone who comes to know about them, even at a much later date — not only by the original investigators. Moreover, a given discovery may lead to other research that is ultimately applied, meaning there can be a highly indirect link between research and the innovations that it supports in the end.

To account for direct and indirect links between basic research and related applications, we looked for connections between all 4.8 million patents granted between 1976 and 2015 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and all 32 million journal articles published since World War II, as indexed by the Web of Science database.

Most patents are filed by businesses, representing potentially marketable innovations. And most research articles flow from universities and other research settings. So these measures help trace not only links from science to invention, but also the flows of knowledge from nonprofit research institutions to firms. (Only in the past decade has the large volume of data required to run such a study been available in accessible form; our research has benefited directly from the Big Data era.)

To find connections, we created a “social network” style map, which connects patents and science papers using the citations in each. This method harnesses the fact that both papers and patents provide references to work on which they are based. We wrote an algorithm that found the shortest distance between any two items — based on the number of intermediary papers or patents cited — effectively identifying the “scientific pedigree” of a given patent/invention, if any.

Science Doesn’t Stay in the Ivory Tower

We found remarkably widespread linkages between scientific research and future practical applications.

While some scientific papers are never cited by any future work, among research articles that receive at least one citation, a full 80 percent could be linked forward to a future patent. Meanwhile, 61 percent of patents linked backward to at least one research article. In fact, most papers and patents across scientific fields were at a distance of only two to four items from the other domain, on average.

Not surprisingly, the average distance from patents of scientific works in more abstract fields like mathematics was higher than that in more naturally applicable domains like computer science, where the average distance was closer to one, suggesting more direct links between research and application. Importantly, the patents with the most impact (by measures connected to market valuation) tended to be the most science-intensive, relying more directly on scientific advances than other patents did.

Overall, our findings suggest that basic research matters. Scientific advances are not like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear. Rather, looking across the corpus of science, we find widespread connections to future patents — especially to the most valuable patents.

Aim for Pasteur’s Quadrant

Our study also has important implications for how to maximize the potential impact of scientific research. That is, how can scientists best choose what to study in the first place?

The romantic view of science is that it’s driven mainly by curiosity: A scholar chooses a line of research because he or she happens to find it fascinating, regardless of its applicability — in fact, a focus on application may be seen by some as at odds with “real” science.

In contrast, our results showed that research that was closest to application was more likely to have impact within science itself. In particular, research articles that are directly cited by patents tend to become “home runs” within science — those rare, exceptionally highly cited papers that other scientists draw upon. So a focus on real-world problems may boost not only direct applications but also new science, bringing potentially profound advances in our understanding of the world.

Research exists along two continua: How much is it driven by curiosity and how much by a search for real-world solutions? Image Credit: Climate Etc., CC BY-SA

This type of application-oriented research is said to fall into “Pasteur’s Quadrant,” named for the famous 19th-century scientist. As a researcher, Louis Pasteur focused substantially on practical issues such as food safety. Yet his efforts to remove harmful germs from milk, for example, led him simultaneously toward one of the most important insights of modern biology: that germs cause specific diseases.

So it’s ultimately not just about basic versus applied research. Both are important, but it appears especially fruitful to do work that straddles the line, as Pasteur did: science-driven inquiry framed by and aimed at real-world problems.

In short, we found that a remarkably high share of scientific research links forward to usable practical advances. Most of the linkages are indirect, showing the manifold and unexpected ways in which basic research can pay off in ultimate practical applications. Yet the science most directly linked to application turns out to have a major impact within science itself. Following Pasteur’s example may be an especially reliable way to hit the ball out of the park.

The post Innovative Technology Would Not Be Possible Without Scientific Research appeared first on Futurism.

Fundamental Skills

As automation looms over the world of work, the changing face of labor factors more and more into decisions about which college course makes for the best investment of time and money. In a recent discussion with Futurism, Robert M. Lightfoot Jr. — a graduate of the University of Alabama and the acting administrator of NASA — had a few pointers for students and educators about how to navigate this increasingly bumpy terrain.

Lightfoot began by noting how quickly progress moves in today’s world, and how this may leave some young people (and some educators) at a loss: “By the time you are a junior in college, what you learned as a freshman is already obsolete.” Of course, he notes that there are some basics you will always need, “there are some fundamental skills that are required either way. If you are in a science program, you need science. If you are in a technology program, you need engineering and math. That’s just the bottom line.”

But still, issues remain.

Regardless of what fundamentals you learn, by the time that you graduate college, much of the information you acquired there will no longer apply—and things are only going to get worse as our research into automation and artificial intelligence continues to advance.

This said, Lightfoot maintains that higher education does teach students a lot of valuable lessons — they just might not be on the syllabus (yet). Ultimately, he outlined what needs to change to prepare young people for the world, and workforce, of tomorrow.

Teamwork Makes Dream Work

Most college courses require students to work alongside one another sooner or later. The way Lightfoot sees it, this kind of experience plays an essential role in preparing the sort of candidates who are going to excel at an organization like NASA.

“There are a couple of skills that will always be needed,” says Lightfoot. “That’s being able to work on a team, to work well with other people, and to understand that you’re never an individual in this. I can tell you, there’s not a soul in this agency that can say ‘I did something.’ No. We did something.”

An organization like NASA can’t complete its important work without every cog in the machine working in sync. Automation and robotics are going to change the kind of job opportunities left available to college graduates in the next decade and beyond, but good collaboration skills will still be valuable.

“You need to learn to communicate,” adds Lightfoot. “Those skills are very important, and they’re something that you can always teach and will always be important.” It may not be much, but in the end, having skills in human-centered interactions will help ensure you are employable in the world of tomorrow.

The post NASA Admin: “By the Time You’re a Junior, What You Learned as a Freshman is Obsolete” appeared first on Futurism.

What Are We Waiting For?

For years, we’ve been told that automation is coming, and that it’s going to have a profound effect on the world of work. However, while robots are already taking care of everything from construction work to delivering packages, widespread adoption of this technology isn’t happening quite as quickly as some would have expected.

Automation can make businesses more efficient, and there are plenty of incentives for companies to invest in the idea. However, there’s a tangible lack of trust in this kind of new technology among many executives, at least for the time being. The old ways are being put to pasture, with a wholly different approach put in their place, and that can be an uncomfortable notion.

“Some of these pretty profound innovations are going to take time to diffuse,” said Andrew McAfee, the co-director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Initiative on the Digital Economy, and co-author of the book The Second Machine Age.

Universal Basic Income: The Answer to Automation?
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This standpoint is evidenced by comments made by outgoing General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt earlier this year. “I think this notion that we are all going to be in a room full of robots in five years … and that everything is going to be automated, it’s just BS. It’s not the way the world is going to work,” argued Immelt.

For some companies, reticence to commit to automation is all about a lack of trust in the technology. For others, the biggest obstacle is finding a way to integrate human workers with robots and computers in the most efficient way. However, there’s something to be said for a cautious approach, as automation is going to have a profound, far-reaching effect on the way we live our lives.

Brave New Work

When we think about automation, it’s easy to jump to the problem of human employment. If machines are taking on more tasks, there’s going to be less work to go around for living, breathing employees.

Of course, it’s important to remember that the automated systems will provide jobs in their own right, both in terms of manufacture and design, as well as ongoing maintenance. Many companies will want to pair machine workers with humans to maximize the strengths of both.

It’s also worth mentioning that automation is set to take care of a lot of jobs that human workers don’t want to do. There are lots of roles in factory construction lines and other similar settings that are repetitive and strenuous enough to cause severe physical injury over time. Machines can simply be replaced if and when they succumb to wear and tear.

All this being said, we are going to need to figure out how people who rely on jobs that are going to be automated will make a living. Universal Basic Income is one compelling solution, although it’s not without its problems.

UBI isn’t cheap — conservative estimates put the cost of implementing such an idea in the United States at no less than $1.5 trillion per year. If it’s being put forward as a solution to jobs lost thanks to automation, companies who are pursuing that technology are likely be taxed heavily to foot the bill, which may actually end up slowing the adoption even further.

The technology that makes heavily automated workplaces possible is only one piece of the puzzle. For a huge shift such as this, there are all kinds of social considerations that have to be taken into account, and those changes tend to take a little longer than technological advances.

The post The Age of Automation Is Coming, Just More Slowly Than Expected appeared first on Futurism.

To sustain a population of 9.7 billion people by 2050 the world is going to need innovations that make careful use of the available resources, human and environmental. Key industry sectors such as energy, water, agriculture and transport are already under pressure to move to more sustainable methods of production and consumption. However, there are barriers in the way.

One of these lies in how the world manages the creation and ownership of inventions and ideas. A protectionist approach to intellectual property is designed to protect and prolong the lifecycle of existing technologies, and allow innovators to capture the profits from their creations. In a paper published with colleagues from universities in Germany and India, we examined how this also makes it harder for new and more sustainable technologies to be developed and adopted. That explains why there are now other approaches being used to move key sectors to more sustainable systems and end this status quo.

Musk made a bold call. Image Credit: EPA/JEROME FAVRE

Electric car manufacturer Tesla, has been doing just that. Tesla CEO Elon Musk “shocked” the world in 2014 when he announced that his company was joining the open source movement and giving away its patents for free.

It is important to understand the rationale here. Why would a company that had worked so hard to develop and protect its technology from its global car manufacturer competitors suddenly give its technology away for free?

Switching Track

Tesla initially developed a patent portfolio to protect its technology. However, Tesla’s concern that it would be overwhelmed once established car makers ramped up their production of electric cars never came to pass.

Instead, it saw the electric car market stagnate at less than 1% of total vehicle sales. So Tesla changed its strategy from trying to prevent others from building electric cars to trying to encourage them into the market.

Part of the reasoning here is that if more electric cars are built, then more battery recharging stations will be built too. This would make electric cars become more visible, and a more conventional choice. Tesla believes that an open intellectual property strategy can strengthen rather than diminish its position by building the size of the electric car market, and as a result, build its own share of the total automotive market.

This kind of careful management of intellectual property at company level, supported by policy-level awareness, can be a powerful way to support the same kinds of transitions to more sustainable technologies in other industries too.

Power companies need to adapt. Image Credit: Chiu Ho-yang/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Energy supply faces an array of difficulties: the depletion of natural resources; air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions; nuclear risks; and security of supply. The water supply sector is restricted by water scarcity, pollutants, extreme environmental events such as flooding and costs associated with supplying water to communities in poor countries and remote communities. The agri-food sector, meanwhile, is under pressure to sustainably produce more food and to address malnutrition in poor countries.

For these industries to navigate a path around these problems, new knowledge and the innovations that follow will be essential. And in knowledge economies, intellectual property can either be an enabler or an inhibitor.

Taking the Medicine

If the ownership of intellectual property is fragmented in an industry, it can slow down technology innovation and uptake, such as in the electronics industry where multiple players own complementary patents. However, firms can instead open up their innovation processes and move away from jealously guarded, internal cultures, where intellectual property is used to protect and prolong lifecycles. This change may see knowledge sharing that leads to accelerated innovation cycles and a more rapid uptake of sustainable alternatives throughout a sector: just what Tesla was hoping for in electric vehicles.

This approach to intellectual property, so-called “open IP”, is well advanced and mature in the software industry and healthcare. It has given access to life-saving medicines to millions of people, particularly in developing countries through patent pools, such as the Medicine Patent Pool. This kind of project relies on multinational pharmaceutical companies sharing their intellectual property, but small companies can also play a strategic roles in creating these new, more sustainable systems, and it’s not all about open IP.

Plumpy’Nut is handed out in Kenya. Image Credit: DFID/Flickr, CC BY

As progress in technology is cumulative, there will always be phases of “closed IP” for small companies to build up their portfolio. This can also be a strategy designed to make a social impact. Take Nutriset, which manufacturers food for famine relief. It protects both its invention, Plumpy’Nut, and its entire business model by patents. Plumpy’Nut is a peanut-based paste for the treatment of severe malnutrition and can be administered at home rather than through a supervised hospital treatment. As a result it can treat more patients.

Nutriset says that it uses patents to enable the development of local production plants for Plumpy’Nut and to protect those in emerging nations from being taken over by global manufacturing sites in more developed countries. The local production of Plumpy’Nut helps with creating skills and employment in the regions where Nutriset’s product is most needed.

An open approach to intellectual property has clear advantages in popularising and establishing new and widespread sustainable technologies, but there is a rationale in some cases for sticking to the more traditional approach. The trick now is to discover when and where different sectors and innovators deploy each strategy. The grand open IP gestures in the mould of Tesla can force through rapid structural advances; a small peanut paste supplier shows that patent protection can still help put the building blocks in place.

The post How an Open Approach to Patents Could Help Build a Sustainable Future appeared first on Futurism.

STEM Industries, STEM Subjects

Though you might not know it from looking at our educational system, the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professions and industries are booming and driving the growth of the economy.

In the U.S., STEM employment grew by 10.5 percent between 2009 and 2015, while non-STEM occupations experienced only a 5.2 percent net growth.

These Will Be the Most Popular Jobs in the Future
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In the U.K. last year, the tech industry grew 32 percent faster than any other, and a 2015 study for the European Parliament predicts STEM job openings will increase in all 28 countries in the European Union until at least 2025.

For years, researchers have asserted that teaching young people how to thrive in the STEM industries will help them succeed in this future workforce. However, amidst a climate of science denial, some experts argue that education is lagging behind the rapid economic developments in motion all over the world.

University of Helsinki professor of pedagogy Kristiina Kumpulainen is one such expert. “Society and the demands of the workforce are changing at a rapid rate, as is our perception of what to teach children and what they need to know to survive,” she explained to Scientific American. “The school environment, teaching methods, and the content aren’t relatable or inspiring to them any longer, which creates motivational problems.”

Furthermore, according to Carnegie Mellon University STEM education experts David Kosbie, Andrew W. Moore, and Mark Stehlik, the U.S. is notably behind peer nations. Only about 40 percent of U.S. schools teach programming, and the programs of those that do vary widely in terms of rigor and quality. In one-third of U.S. states, computer science credits don’t count toward graduation requirements.

In contrast, Israel, the U.K., Germany, and Russia have all integrated computer science into their school curricula for children. And while President Obama’s 2016 “Computer Science for All” initiative was an important step, the budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration and the educational priorities of the new Department of Education leadership threaten to jeopardize the program, which is already reliant upon private funding since Congress has not approved its budget.

Teaching STEM to Children

Research has shown that connecting educational experiences to real-life opportunities is an effective way to get students excited about what they’re learning. Engagement is always an educational challenge, but because young students are prone to perceiving STEM subjects in particular as boring, nerdy, or dull, there are additional hurdles in this area.

Coolest STEM Toys and Gadgets of 2016
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When learning happens in a vacuum, without those real-world connections, teachers have an even tougher time engaging students and inspiring them to feel passionate and motivated.

Fun STEM initiatives can help combat these problems.

Apps like Detective Dot, which teaches coding through storytelling, can make learning and applying coding and STEM skills enjoyable and provide students with positive, diverse images of children excelling in STEM subjects. Math circles have been growing in popularity, and these provide an imaginative, safe space for children to learn to love math and acquire new skills.

First Robotics teams, Rube Goldberg contests, and other activities from similar programs are popping up across the country, offering kids a chance to work with engineers and other STEM professionals to build robots for competitions.

To further help young people prepare for future STEM careers, professionals working in those industries can partner with schools to mentor, offer their experience, and present on their work. This kind of connection can show students what working in STEM industries is like and help create exciting learning environments in science classrooms.

“Education is everyone’s responsibility. We should be making sure that students know how subjects relate to the industry,” Kerrine Bryan, founder of Butterfly Books, told Scientific American. “What they are learning at school relates to real-life things, and knowing that helps them to make important decisions, such as what further education subjects they want to study or what skills they want to go into.”

The post Expert: We Need to Change How We Teach STEM Subjects to Young People appeared first on Futurism.

We’re entering a very interesting stage of human history.

The post Watch: Welcome to Your Future Brain appeared first on Futurism.

Ion Propulsion Robots

Ion propulsion engines are currently powering satellites outside our solar system, but so far, the technology’s applications have been limited here on Earth. These engines work by propelling electrons into a gas-filled chamber; when the electrons collide with gas atoms, the collision bumps an electron off the atom, rendering its charge positive (and making it into an ion). A grid at the end of the chamber with a negative charge then pulls the atom out of the thruster with a force that propels the craft forward.

That tiny atom-sized force, however, can’t compare to the power of battery or fuel powered engines, so ion thrusters have never been practical for any applications on Earth. Their uses are limited in larger scale applications save space travel, where efficiency is king and the surrounding vacuum provides no resistance.

Now, however, this futuristic source of power might run Earthbound miniature robots created for a wide range of uses.

University of California, Berkeley engineering student Daniel Drew grew up immersed in science fiction as a child, a background that inspired him to study miniature robots as an adult. Drew imagined miniature robots like insects that could take on a range of practical problems, and wanted to create them. The problem was finding a way to power these tiny robots without making them bigger. Enter the ion thruster.

After designing ion thrusters on a tiny scale, Drew began to integrate them into the designs of his miniature robots. He called the final product “ionocraft”: robots that are approximately one-half of one inch square — small enough to fit on the face of a penny — and fly linked to a tether.

Tiny Robot Timeline

Drew’s tiny robots might someday be used to monitor air quality, search for disaster survivors in confined spaces, and even pollinate plants in place of real-life insects during local extinction events. However, the technology will need some more time for development.

Right now, the ionocraft is much like a quad copter and can’t be steered, although the team can control its altitude. Thanks to its ion propulsion power and absence of moving parts, the ionocraft moves silently, “like a UFO.”

Drew and his team are now working to make their ionocraft robots more power and faster, and to make them steerable. Ultimately, he imagines humans psychologically interacting with swarms of tiny robots, teaming up with them in VR simulations. Drew aims to make the ionocraft efficient enough to carry tiny on-board batteries and stay aloft for ten minutes at a stretch.

Drew’s team is not the only group hoping to harness the power of tiny robots. Scientists at Japan’s Hokkaido University have developed a miniature robot created from organic compounds that move when exposed to blue light. These miniature robots might one day be used to deliver medicine inside the body to targeted areas. NASA has also been working on a lightweight bot called the Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot (PUFFER). This tiny robot is able to climb steep slopes and adapt its shape to fit through tight spots.

Drew demonstrated one of his bots at a conference in July, but has not said when he expects his ionocraft to be ready for use.

The post The Same Tech Propelling Satellites in Space Could Power Tiny Robots on Earth appeared first on Futurism.

Everything at the Food Ink pop up store in London is 3D printed…even the food!

The post Everything at This Store is 3D Printed. Even The Food. appeared first on Futurism.

A Stipend for Self-Esteem

English business mogul Sir Richard Branson thinks the modern world could benefit from universal basic income (UBI). The Virgin founder published a blog post on the company’s website outlining why he believes the system deserves consideration.

Universal Basic Income: UBI Pilot Programs Around the World
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In the post, Branson describes his experiences during a recent trip to Finland, where a nationwide experiment with UBI that provides 2,000 Finns with an unconditional income of €560 (roughly $655) monthly was launched earlier this year.

UBI has frequently been touted as a potential solution for the unemployment surge expected to result from the increased use of automation in the workplace. However, Branson praises the idea for more human reasons — specifically the sense of self-esteem that comes from not having to worry about having the baseline amount of money needed for life’s essentials.

In his post, he expresses a hope that giving people this leg up would allow them to utilize their own creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to carve out a better life for themselves. “A key point is that the money will be paid even if the people find work,” observed Branson. “The initiative aims to reduce unemployment and poverty while cutting red tape, allowing people to pursue the dignity and purpose of work without the fear of losing their benefits by taking a low-paid job.”

Branson, of course, knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship. Since founding a magazine at the age of 16, the business magnate has pursued a string of hugely successful ventures, including a mail-order record shop, a music label, and an international airline, all of which have contributed to his current net worth of $5 billion.

Pay It Forward

Branson adds his name to a growing list of very wealthy, technologically savvy individuals who have pledged their support for research into UBI.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently made an impassioned case for UBI following an excursion to Alaska. For decades, the state has implemented a version of the idea, which is funded using revenue from natural oil resources, rather than via taxation.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk stated at the 2017 World Government Summit that he believes UBI is something of an inevitability. As he sees it, the bigger problem is giving people something to do when automation makes them unnecessary in the workplace, which dovetails with Branson’s idea that a basic income could act as a springboard for individual entrepreneurship.

However, not every billionaire shares this take on UBI. Dallas Mavericks owner and AXS TV chairman Mark Cuban has been very critical of the concept, describing it as “one of the worst possible responses” to job losses caused by automation.

Billionaires may know money, but they’re not always the best sources for opinions on social policy — that being said, other experts who have spoken on the subject have delivered arguments that are broadly similar to Branson’s. UBI might not be the be-all, end-all for dealing with poverty and unemployment, but it could certainly give people a better foundation upon which to build a full and prosperous life.

The post Sir Richard Branson Thinks the World Needs to Consider Universal Basic Income appeared first on Futurism.

Late last week, the price of bitcoin rose beyond $3,500, and it currently sits slightly above $4,200. While some are skeptical of this steady increase in value, according to an expert observer, it won’t be ending any time soon.

Veteran trader masterluc predicts that bitcoin will be worth $15,000 before the end of the year. He believe the cryptocurrency’s current bull run will then continue into 2019, at which point its price will top out somewhere between $40,000 and $110,000.

Masterluc has historically been adept at predicting bitcoin’s future value. He was able to accurately predict in March 2013 that the crypto would enter into a bear market in November 2013, and then in May 2015, he made a prediction that proved to be just slightly off point, missing the start of the crypto’s current surge by just two months.

Masterluc isn’t the only pundit expecting bitcoin to go from strength to strength. Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs analyst Sheba Jafari predicted that the currency could reach $4,800, having previously forecast a high of $3,691 as recently as July.

Bitcoin is on a roll at the moment, and predicting when this run will start to drop off is no easy task. Masterluc has a history of being right in his predictions, and many experts agree that the uptick will continue for at least a little while longer, which could have some major ramifications for traditional currency.

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.

The post Get Ready. Renowned Bitcoin Trader Says the Currency Will Hit $15,000 in 2017. appeared first on Futurism.

Building Innovation

Science fiction is full of intriguing structures, from floating cities to organic megastructures that often make us wonder if these types of “buildings” could be feasible in our world. These futuristic structures have often inspired today’s architects to push the boundaries of both materials and technology. Often, these architects create both beautiful and interesting designs like the newly created moving sail bridge concept by Margot Krasojević.

Commissioned by the city of Ordos in Mongolia — which is known for its elaborate government projects — Krasojević’s bridge is an impressive bit of architecture designed as a potential bridge for the Wulanmulun River. The design concept is a floating bridge that folds, making it possible to move it either by rowing or by sail to wherever it would be needed.

Image credit: Margot Krasojević Architecture
Image credit: Margot Krasojević Architecture

Its three expandable walkways and carbon fiber triple sail make it look like it belongs to some dystopian future, or as New Atlas reports, like a dragonfly transformer. To complete the futuristic feel, the bridge’s walkways are lined with solar panels which make the structure capable of generating its own power.

Transforming Architecture

This floating bridge is one example of transforming structures. A similar concept features a transforming home, capable of changing shape depending on the weather. Structures like these challenge today’s notion of what makes good design. Not only are these structures futuristic, they will also help to make the future more efficient and green.

Image credit: Margot Krasojević Architecture
Image credit: Margot Krasojević Architecture

Advances in engineering, technologies, as well as the availability of materials previously unheard of increases the chances that such structures might actually be built. For example, it’s now possible to build a house or an office using just a 3D-printer — bringing projects like Dubai’s 3D-printed skyscraper closer to reality.

Other ideas include a drone-flying house, a house with walls and floors made of “malleable skin” that transforms using an app, and DARPA’s concept of a self-repairing house. There’s also the concept of a “sea tree,” an artificially built wildlife skyscraper. However, there are designs, like the floating skyscraper concept, are too dangerous to come to fruition.

Image credit: Margot Krasojević Architecture
Image credit: Margot Krasojević Architecture

Whether this floating bridge and other futuristic structure concepts will ever be built or not, one thing seems clear: the future of architecture isn’t static. These moveable and transforming structures might just be what the cities of the future need.

The post A Moving Sail Bridge Concept is Transforming the Future of Architecture appeared first on Futurism.

Interactive Holographic Images

A working prototype of what will be the first real multi-user hologram table in the world has been created by the Australian company Euclideon. Wearing only a small pair of glasses, up to four people can interact with the table’s holographic images and each other, making this a major advancement from the experience provided by current AR technology. The company estimates that in 2018, the table will be up for sale for $60,000 Australian.

Image Credit: Euclideon
Image Credit: Euclideon

The concept of the hologram table in film and science fiction is hardly new, but because of the many technical difficulties inherent to executing the concept, the idea has yet to be realized. This difficulty originates from the fact that holograms are computer-generated stereo images, dependent on the perspective of the viewer. When a group of people in different positions look at a hologram, the illusion “breaks” as they don’t get the same perspective on it and it doesn’t change as they move. Computer-generated holograms work by tracking the viewer — but which viewer does the computer track when there’s more than one?

Euclideon has solved this riddle in a world’s first — without a gigantic helmet that no one wants to wear, which is the fatal flaw of many multi-user VR/AR systems. After all, it’s hard to interact with your friends if you’re all inside helmets.

Glasses, Not Helmets

The Unlimited Detail (UD) 3D graphics processing engine is what first brought Euclideon renown in the gaming community. The UD engine made it possible for users to be immersed in huge, amazingly detailed, 3D virtual environments, without special graphics cards or high-end computers. And while it didn’t excel with the dynamic motion of objects or physics, its strength in geospatial imaging forms the basis for the new table.

Image Credit: Euclideon
Image Credit: Euclideon

Euclideon’s table requires that users wear only a small, light pair of motion-trackable glasses, which look and feel a lot like 3D glasses. These are much more practical for meetings and social events than huge VR/AR helmets, not to mention more comfortable. As users wear the glasses, the table tracks their eye positions, building a custom image for a potential total of eight user eyes. The table itself is a screen, and the device is made up of projectors that rest beneath a unique film which is sandwiched between two pieces of glass. The result is a mass of mixed up, colored images that the glasses separate out for users, enabling them to see binocular stereo holograms specific to their location.

The glasses themselves have special crystal film layers over them, which can change the frequencies of light waves. When users wear the glasses, the computer can tell which light waves belong to which users. The glasses have small boxes at the temples which contain tiny microcomputers and microchips similar to the VR headset’s tracking jiggers, signaling the user’s position to the table.

Euclideon is currently about to begin the manufacturing process and expects their tables to be ready in February of 2018.

The post The First Truly Applicable Hologram Tech is Here appeared first on Futurism.

Benefiting Whom, Exactly?

The desire for a higher wage is pretty self explanatory. However, the impact a minimum wage increase could have on society is not so clear.

In an effort to shed light on this subject, researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) conducted a study, and they’ve concluded that a minimum wage hike might not necessarily lead to happier workers. In fact, it could lead to fewer workers as such an increase has historically resulted in the loss of more jobs to automation.

For this study, authors Grace Lordan of the London School of Economics and David Neumark of the University of California, Irvine looked at minimum wage changes in the United States from 1980 to 2015. They realized that these changes affected the number of so-called “low-skill” or minimum wage jobs — such as packing boxes or using sewing machines — in various industries in the country.

In other words, if a wage hike meant it would cost more to hire a human to do a job than it would to have a machine do it, employers often chose the machine.

“Based on [current population survey] data from 1980-2015, we find that increasing the minimum wage decreases significantly the share of automatable employment held by low-skilled workers, and increases the likelihood that low-skilled workers in automatable jobs become unemployed,” the authors wrote in the paper’s abstract.

The researchers determined that a $1 minimum wage increase led to a 0.43 percent decline in automatable jobs. Such a wage increase led to a full one percent decline in the case of manufacturing, and older, low-skilled workers employed in that industry were particularly likely to be negatively affected by the wage increase.

A loss of just .43 percent of jobs may not seem like much, but it translates to “millions of jobs across the entire U.S. economy,” according to MIT Technology Review.

The Cost of Automation

While the current federal minimum wage in the U.S. has remained unchanged since 2009 — $7.25 an hour — 30 states have higher minimum wage laws. These are, of course, meant to ensure that the “minimum wage” is the same as the “living wage” — the amount of money a person needs to earn to be able to afford such expenses as rent, food, and other necessities.

Will Automation Steal My Job?
Click to View Full Infographic

However, as the NBER study showed, such wage policies should be carefully considered in the face of intelligent automation. Legislators must ask themselves if increasing the minimum wage would help workers keep their jobs or speed up losses due to automation.

Today’s automated systems are more intelligent than ever before, and machines are now capable of performing even higher-skill jobs thanks to advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. In short, today’s machines are far more advanced than the ones available to employers during the three decades covered in the NBER study.

A number of industries in the U.S. have already started feeling the effects of automation. From Amazon’s “employee-less” grocery store to the factories using autonomous vehicles to transport goods, workplaces that feature routinized tasks are already turning to automated systems.

Experts predict this trend will speed up over the coming years and decades. According to a recent study by consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, 40 percent of jobs in the U.S. are at a high risk of being taken over by robots by 2030. In the U.K., some 30 percent of jobs are vulnerable, while Germany and Japan could lose 35 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

While troubling, studies like these serve a valuable purpose as they give us time to prepare for the future effects of automation before we’re actually living with them. As long as we pursue ways to mitigate the increased use of automated systems — perhaps through universal basic income (UBI) trials, retraining or education programs, or taxes on robots — the world will be able to benefit from the technology.

The post Study Shows That Minimum Wage Hikes Put More Jobs at Risk of Automation appeared first on Futurism.

Science Stories

When a major scientific discovery is made, or a new technological breakthrough is achieved, we want to know the who as much as the how. From Einstein’s tireless work at a patent office to Ben Franklin’s kite tied to a key—we’re as captivated by the story behind the research as we are the actual breakthrough.

That being said, the central figures in these stories are most often the scientists. But they are only part of the story.

Whether the discovery was made on the International Space Station, at a university, or at the bottom of the ocean, there are many people who contributed…people whose names, whose dedication, and whose unique contributions have been (or will very soon be) lost to history.

Brian Koberlein, an astrophysicist and science communicator, is on a mission to find — and tell — those stories. His medium? A television series he’s calling Big Science.

“We see the wondrous discoveries in the headlines, but that’s only the end result of months or years of planning.”

Koberlein and his team are currently in the development phase of the project, which went up on Kickstarter earlier this month. The idea for the show grew out of Koberlein’s own insatiable curiosity about science and where it happens.

“The project began when I visited several big science facilities. One of the first things that hits you is their scale. Many of them are in remote locations, so you don’t just have to build the scientific equipment, you have to build the infrastructure to support it,” Koberlein said. “Teams of people work every day to maintain these facilities and keep things running smoothly, and yet you never hear their stories.”

Big Science would be looking at both the macro perspective, focusing on the incredible research facilities where science is happening all over the world, as well as the microcosm within those facilities—the people and the stories behind it. “Each episode will be filmed on location, and will explore its people and culture,” Koberlein notes. “When you read about discoveries from these facilities, you’ll know about that little restaurant where physicists gather to have a beer or that time a bat got lost in the neutrino detector.”

Koberlein goes on to clarify that the series would tell “the stories of computer technicians who have to work in an oxygenated environment at ALMA because of the extreme altitude, or biologists who help maintain various wildlife at Fermilab, or the cooks who have to feed dozens of people trapped at Kitt Peak during a winter storm.”

The show wouldn’t gloss over the research being done, of course. Koberlein said that another focal point of the show’s storytelling would be providing a glimpse into how scientists — often across multiple disciplines — work together to overcome challenges throughout the research process. “We see the wondrous discoveries in the headlines, but that’s only the end result of months or years of planning, study, and work,” Koberlein notes, adding “Science is a high-risk endeavor, and that means sometimes we fail.”

Making Science Personal

Speaking of challenges, making Big Science a reality will require the same kind of careful planning, dedication, and adaptability that doing science often does. Koberlein and his team aren’t shying away from those challenges, though, one of the first and foremost of which is logistics. They’ve already got the greenlight from Green Bank Observatory to film the teaser they’re Kickstarting for, but there’s a lot to keep in mind: they don’t want to be disruptive, and for remote locations like Green Bank, weather can often present challenges.

Then there’s the issue of bringing the film crews’ tech into the space of the researchers.  “We also have to worry about issues around radio silence. Video cameras emit radio noise, so we can’t film the observatory up close when data is being collected,” Koberlein pointed out, “but we also want to see the facility in action, so timing is critical.”

In addition to Green Bank, Big Science already has other site interest and support from within the scientific community.

“Science isn’t just a human story; it’s our story.”

While a show like Big Science wouldn’t be short on factual information, Koberlein says at its heart, the goal of the program is to make science personal. As science and technology are rooted in complex and, at times, abstract concepts, it can be difficult for people (even the scientists themselves) to feel a personal connection to the work, or see themselves in the broader context of the discoveries made. When that happens, it’s not just about gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation for science and its process – but feeling inspired.

“A young girl who loves computers can see the story of a woman who keeps astronomical data secure across three continents.  A farmer can see how corn fields are maintained above a particle accelerator. A bus driver can see how people are shuttled to an observatory at an elevation of 16,000 feet,” Koberlein said. “Science isn’t just a human story; it’s our story. The goal of Big Science is to tell that story.”

Big Science needs to meet its Kickstarter goal by September 8th in order to be funded. You can learn more, and back the project, here.

This interview has been slightly edited for brevity and clarity. 

The post Meet the Astrophysicist Who’s Using Kickstarter to Save Science appeared first on Futurism.

Bitcoin Rising Again

Business Insider reports that Goldman Sachs Analyst and Head of Technical Strategy, Sheba Jafari, sent a client note on Sunday predicting that the price of bitcoin might soar as high as $4,800. Jafari set a target of $3,691 in late July, which the cryptocurrency came very close to Sunday, and has since surpassed it. On August 12 the price surpassed $4,000 for the first time.

With these milestones in the rearview mirror, Jafari predicted that the price might rise as high as $4,827. This would precede a market correction, however, which would push it back down to $2,221.

Image Credit: Geralt/Pixabay

Business Insider reports that CEO Arthur Hayes of the bitcoin derivative exchange BitMEX agrees with Jafari that bitcoin might near the $5,000 level. Hayes spoke to Business Insider soon after the recent Segregated Witness (SegWit) software update, which is intended to make transactions with the currency quicker to process and improve the coin’s scalability.

At the time of this publication, the price of bitcoin remains above $4,000, at about $4,059. According to CoinDesk, Goldman Sachs has been advising clients that money is moving into the market: “Whether or not you believe in the merit of investing in cryptocurrencies (you know who you are), real dollars are at work here and warrant watching.”

As the future of traditional markets wanes in uncertainty, the welfare of nascent cryptocurrencies is sure to be of critical importance, in the wide world of finance.

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.

The post Goldman Sachs Analyst Predicts Bitcoin Price Could Hit $4,800 appeared first on Futurism.

End-to-End Encryption

Government officials continue to seek technology companies’ help fighting terrorism and crime. But the most commonly proposed solution would severely limit regular people’s ability to communicate securely online. And it ignores the fact that governments have other ways to keep an electronic eye on targets of investigations.

Image Source: Jessica Herron/ Flickr Commons

In June, government intelligence officials from the Five Eyes Alliance nations held a meeting in Ottawa, Canada, to talk about how to convince tech companies to “thwart the encryption of terrorist messaging.” In July, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on technology companies to voluntarily ban all systems that totally encrypt messages in transit from sender to recipient, an approach known as “end-to-end encryption.” British Home Secretary Amber Rudd made global headlines with her July 31 newspaper opinion piece arguing that “real people” don’t need end-to-end encryption.

These claims completely ignore the one billion real people who already use secure messaging apps like Signaland WhatsApp. And it leaves no room for people who may decide they want that security in the future. Yet some technology companies look like they might be considering removing end-to-end encryption – and others installed backdoors for government access years ago. It’s been two decades since the Clipper chip was in the news, but now a revival of the government-business-consumer “crypto-wars” of the 1990s threatens.

One thing is very clear to computer scientists like me: We real people should work on improving security where we are most vulnerable – on our own devices.

Endpoints Are the Weakest Link

For the moment at least, we do have good, easy-to-use solutions for secure communication between computers, including end-to-end encryption of our messages. End-to-end encryption means that a message is encrypted by the sender, and decrypted by the recipient, and no third party is able to decrypt the message.

End-to-end is important, but security experts have warned for years that the most vulnerable place for your data is not during transit from place to place, but rather when it’s stored or displayed at one end or the other – on a screen, on a disk, in memory or on some device in the cloud.

As the WikiLeaks release of CIA hacking toolshighlighted, if someone can gain control of a device, they can read the messages without needing to decrypt them. And compromising endpoints – both smartphones and personal computers – is getting easier all the time.

Why are we most vulnerable at the endpoint? Because we don’t like to be inconvenienced, and because adding more protection makes our devices harder to use, the same way putting multiple locks on a door makes it harder to get in, for both the homeowner and the burglar. Inventing new ways to protect our digital endpoints without reducing their usefulness is very challenging, but some new technologies just over the horizon might help.

Next-Generation Solutions

Suppose a criminal organization or bad government, EvilRegime, wants to spy on you and everyone you communicate with. To protect yourself, you’ve installed an end-to-end encryption tool, such as Signal, for messaging. This makes eavesdropping – even with a court’s permission – that much more difficult for EvilRegime.

But what if EvilRegime tricks you into installing spyware on your device? For example, they could swap out a legitimate upgrade of your favorite game, “ClashBirds,” with a compromised version. Or, EvilRegime could use a malware “network investigative technique” as a backdoor into your machine. With control of your endpoint, EvilRegime can read your messages as you type them, even before they are encrypted.

To guard against either type of EvilRegime’s trickery, we need to improve our endpoint security game in a few key ways, making sure that:

  • EvilRegime isn’t masquerading as the company that makes “ClashBirds” when we install our software.
  • No one has tampered with our “ClashBirds” app before or after installation.
  • The app doesn’t have any backdoors or security holesthat could be exploited by EvilRegime after we install it.

In addition, it would be ideal if users could control their apps’ security themselves, rather than having to rely on app store security provided by yet another vulnerable corporation.

Computer security experts are excited about the idea that blockchain technology might be able to help us secure our own endpoints. Blockchain, the technology that underpins Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, creates a verifiable, unchangeable public record of information.

What this means for endpoint security is that computer scientists might be able to create blockchain-based tools to help us verify the origin of our apps. We could also use blockchains to confirm our data haven’t been tampered with, and to ensure our privacy. And as long as the source code for these programs is also free for us to inspect – as Signal is today – the security community will be able to verify that there are no secret backdoors.

As with any new technology, there is an enormous amount of hype and misinformation around blockchain and what it can do. It will take time to sift through all these ideas and develop secure tools that are easy to use. In the meantime, we all need to continue to use end-to-end encryption apps whenever possible. We should also stay vigilant about password hygiene and about what apps we install on our machines. Finally, we must demand that real people always have access to the best security mechanisms available, so we can decide for ourselves how and when to resist surveillance.

The post End-To-End Encryption Isn’t Enough Security for ‘Real People’ appeared first on Futurism.

Generative Design

The knee-jerk response we often have to artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, or the use of algorithms, in general, is that there is no substitute for human creativity and aesthetic sensibility. However, the amazing world of generative design tools is challenging this notion with their evolution-inspired shapes and lines and a crop of strangely beautiful designs that look both space-age and organic.

Image Credit: Autodesk
Image Credit: Autodesk

Although the world that we have built as humans is all solid surfaces and straight lines, these are anomalies in nature, structural elements that typically fail the product tests of evolution and time. But those simple shapes and lines are easy for us to draw, design, and build with our tools and molds. However, thanks to advances in 3D printing and computing, we are leaving traditional straight edge design and manufacturing behind, and following the spindly, skeletal path of generative design and additive manufacturing into the future. Additive manufacturing is at its cheapest and most efficient when the job consumes the least possible material within certain constraints. This isn’t an easy way for designers to think, but it’s a great fit for a computer. Generative design tools like Autodesk’s “Dreamcatcher,” which is now part of its Fusion 360 software, allow the designer to function as a kind of curator, entering a set of parameters for the computer to follow. The computer then generates every possible iteration of the design within the parameters, so the designer can choose the best option. In the process, the software automatically makes the structures stronger, lighter, more comfortable, and more effective based on what the end goals are.

Image Credit: Autodesk
Image Credit: Autodesk

You would use Autodesk’s generative design tool like this: Say you wanted to design a chair. You’d input the rough size you wanted the chair to be along with how much weight it needed to bear and any other constraints. You’d then give it goals, such as to minimize materials cost or minimize weight. The program would then generate your choices, and if you set the parameters well, they’d be usable. If you missed some important parameters, you might not get your desired result, but then you’d know how to fix the problem. Notably, these designs seem to follow the trends we’ve seen in the evolution of organisms: curved lines, hollows, holes, and no slavish adherence to symmetry.

Our Optimized Future

Autodesk’s manufacturing sales manager in Australia, Richard Elving, spoke to New Atlas about the Project Dreamcatcher generative design tool including the timeline for the technology and its predicted impact: “The first generation, everyone with Autodesk has access to that. The next generation, we expect to release that in early 2018. It’s not that far away, six months’ time.” He continued, “Manufacturers in Australia and around the world will have access to this powerful technology, and I don’t think manufacturers have fully realized what it means. If we don’t investigate and adopt this technology today, companies in Germany, America, China will adopt it, and invent at a much faster rate than what we’re doing, and effectively they may make us redundant. That’s how serious it is for manufacturers.”

Image Credit: Autodesk
Image Credit: Autodesk

Elving says that, at the moment, automotive and aerospace companies are taking advantage of the technology the most, and the ability of the tech to save materials could result in huge cost savings and far lighter racing vehicles, aircraft, and spacecraft. However, he is also certain that this technology will soon be used in other industries. Autodesk has already been collaborating with Under Armour to create a running shoe with an ultra lightweight, 3D printed sole that’s generatively designed. Asked by New Atlas when additive manufacturing progress will be on the same footing as traditional manufacturing, Elving said, “We believe that by 2020, this is not going to be sci-fi anymore, it’ll be everyday. . . . Tomorrow’s students and engineers, they’ll just look at the job a lot differently. I think by 2020, nobody’s going to want to interview me about this stuff.” Here’s to much lighter, more efficient, cooler looking designs in the coming years.

The post Generative Design Could Radically Transform the Look of Our World appeared first on Futurism.

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.

The post Bitcoin Continues to Plow Through Milestones By Surpassing the $4,000 Mark appeared first on Futurism.

In the 160 or so years since the first skyscrapers were built, technological innovations of many kinds have allowed us to build them to reach astonishing heights. Today there is a 1,000-meter (167-story) building under construction in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Even taller buildings are possible with today’s structural technology.

But people still don’t really live in skyscrapers the way futurists had envisioned, for one reason: Elevators go only up and down. In the Harry Potter movies, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and others, we see cableless boxes that can travel not just vertically but horizontally and even diagonally. Today, that future might be closer than ever. A new system invented and being tested by German elevator producer ThyssenKrupp would get rid of cables altogether and build elevators more like magnetic levitation trains, which are common in Japan and China.

Our work at the nonprofit Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat studies how tall buildings can better interact with their urban environments. One aspect is a look at how buildings might work in a world of ropeless elevators. We imagine that people might live, say, on the 50th floor of a tall building and only rarely have to go all the way down to street level. Instead, they might go sideways to the next tower over, or to the bridge between them, for a swim, a trip to the doctor or the grocery store.

This research project, set to conclude in September 2018, will explore as many of the practical implications of ropeless elevator travel as possible. But we already know that thinking of elevators the way ThyssenKrupp suggests could revolutionize the construction and use of tall buildings. Builders could create structures that are both far taller and far wider than current skyscrapers – and people could move though them much more easily than we do in cities today.

It’s hard to get high

Very few buildings are taller than 500 meters because of the limitations of those everyday devices that make high-rise buildings practical in the first place — elevators. Traditional, steel-rope-hung elevators can travel only around 500 meters before the weight of the rope itself makes it inconvenient. That takes more and more energy and space — which all costs developers money.

A wide-angle view of an elevator machine room shows the large spool to wind and unwind the ropes. Image Credit: Dennis van Zuijlekom, CC BY-SA

Replacing steel ropes with carbon fiber ones can save energy and space. But even so, people who want to go to the uppermost floors from the lowest floors don’t want to wait for the elevator to stop at the dozens of floors in between. That means developers need to make room in their buildings for multiple shafts, for express and local elevators, and for “sky lobbies” where people can switch between them. All of that space devoted to vertical transportation reduces the amount of rentable space on each floor, which makes the economics of the building more difficult the higher it gets.

Traveling in three dimensions

new elevator system uses electric linear induction motors — the same kind of contactless energy transfer that powers magnetic levitation trains — instead of cables to move elevator cars around. This also lets them move independently of each other in a shaft, which in turn means multiple cabins can be working in one shaft at the same time. That reduces the need for parallel shafts serving different floors and frees up more real estate for commercial use. And there’s no inherent limit to how far they can travel.

Without ropes, cars can move horizontally and share shafts and passageways through buildings. Image Credit: ThyssenKrupp, CC BY-ND

Even more exciting is that these cabins can travel horizontally, and potentially even diagonally: the motors pivot to follow the powered track, while the floor of the cabin remains level. That opens up a whole world of possibilities. Without the ropes, it is also feasible to reduce the number of shafts a building requires, by allowing more cars to travel in one single shaft. It also becomes feasible to build massive building complexes interconnected by motorized vehicles operating high above the ground.

The difference between an elevator and a car, or even a train, becomes less clear — as does the difference between a building, a bridge and an entire city. Instead of descending from your 50th-floor apartment to the street in an elevator, then taking a taxi or the subway to another building across town, and going back up to the 50th floor, you might instead have a door-to-door ride between buildings, at height, in a single vehicle.

Creating the cities of the future

Is the world actually ready for this? Probably not right away. In the short term, we can expect to see systems like carbon-fiber-roped and ropeless elevators used in some of the very tallest, most high-profile (and expensive) buildings. Many of these structures house spaces used for many different purposes — residences, restaurants, retail stores, offices, cinemas and even sports. The people who live in, work in or visit those buildings have a wide range of destinations — they might want to stop at a shop to pick up something before going to a friend’s apartment for dinner before heading to a movie. And so they need options for traveling within the building.

At the moment, these systems are far more expensive than the conventional alternatives. Building owners won’t use them until they can save — or earn — lots more money by building systems like this. But as we’ve seen with computers and many other forms of technology, the cost goes down rapidly as more people buy the systems, and as research advances improve them.

There are probably physical constraints and efficiency limits on how many elevator cars could share a particular complex of shafts and passageways. And structural engineers might need to analyze what supports and reinforcements are needed to move people and machinery throughout large buildings. But the tall building industry has no standard data or recommendations to guide designers today. That’s what we’re trying to develop.

The technology is arriving — and with them the certainty that the old ways of traveling through a building are about to change more substantially than ever before.

The post Rethinking Elevators Could Transform Cities as We Know Them appeared first on Futurism.

GM Salmon In Stores

After 25 years of pushback from environmentalists and various controversies, genetically modified (GM) salmon have at last made it to shelves on the Canadian marketplace. AquaBounty Technologies has sold approximately five tons of “AquAdvantage Salmon” in Canada since its approval there last year. Although the fish were cleared by the FDA in late 2015, conflicts about labeling the fillets have stalled sales in the U.S.

The Maynard, Massachusetts company is the force bringing the GM Atlantic salmon to market. The salmon boast two extra genes that allow them to grow faster: a chinook salmon growth hormone gene that speeds their growth, and a gene from the ocean pout that keeps the chinook growth hormone gene “on” permanently. The end result of these changes is that the engineered AquAdvantage Salmon grow two times faster than typical salmon while consuming 20 to 25 percent less food.

Image Credit: AquaBounty Technologies
Image Credit: AquaBounty Technologies

These AquAdvantage Salmon are the first GM animal in the world to go on sale. As such, the product has garnered serious opposition from environmental groups. Beyond the labeling issue, these opponents fear that the fish pose a contamination risk to natural populations should they escape from their breeding tanks. However, as the fish are rendered sterile, and the FDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have inspected the facility and judged its containment measures to be adequate.

Controversy Over GM Foods

The fiery opposition to GM foods is no surprise. Although a comprehensive analysis from 2016 penned by 20 scientists and based on more than 1,000 studies, testimony from 80 witnesses in public meetings and webinars, and 700 comments submitted by the public found that GM crops are safe to eat and do not harm the environment, many in the public remain unconvinced. Meanwhile, farmers in India are beginning to plant GM mustard crops, and scientists are working to prove the safety of wheat “supercrops.”

Next Gen GMOs
Click to View Full Infographic

Stranger examples of GM organisms (GMOs) have been making the news recently, such as the GM surrogate hens being tested in the hopes they’ll be able to save rare species of poultry from extinction, and the Impossible Foods meatless burger, which has only recently run into a snag at the FDA concerning not its GM status, but its potential to act as an allergen.

The real breakthrough for products like AquAdvantage Salmon might be time and short consumer memory. As the salmon continues to sell successfully in Canada, other species may join it on the market’s shelves.

The post You Can Now Buy Genetically Engineered Salmon in Canada appeared first on Futurism.

The Flippening

For a time, Bitcoin seemed unassailable in its dominance of the cryptocurrency market, being the first digital currency to really take root and establish itself in the mainstream. Since then, a host of worthy competitors have emerged, and there’s a real possibility that the balance of power could flip.

Many who have been regularly following developments in the cryptocurrency market refer to the tipping point where one digital currency supersedes another as “the flippening”  We almost saw this occur in May 2017, when Ethereum’s market cap approached Bitcoin’s amid a surge in popularity.

When individuals have significant amounts of money invested in one cryptocurrency over another, it’s no surprise that tensions run high when they go head to head. However, these squabbles over which coin is best might be distracting us from a more pressing issue.

Some observers would argue that the true flippening isn’t a case of competition between two different forms of cryptocurrency at all. The sea of change yet to come could have more far reaching consequences, if and when digital currency as a whole becomes more popular than conventional fiat currency.

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

New Money

There would be some major advantages to an all-cryptocurrency future: its value can’t be manipulated as easy as fiat currency, and it lends itself to the concept of universal basic income. In fact, several different programs, such as uCoin and Cicada, are already using cryptocurrency to distribute UBI.

In a future where our transactions with shops and services are likely to be handled by automated systems, cryptocurrency removes many of the intermediaries that would take their own cut. There are many benefits for the individual, but the flippening stands to pose some major challenges for the global economy in its current form.

Should cryptocurrency manage to jump ahead of fiat money in terms of usage, cash won’t be able to close the gap. That’s the trick to the flippening — once changeover takes place, the losing party loses value and can’t do anything about it.

If everyone begins using cryptocurrency, infrastructure would need to be developed with that in mind. It might not take too long for cash to become incompatible. At this point, it remains to be seen whether established financial institutions could pivot to that new status quo in time.

At the highest level, governments will be hit hard, as they will no longer exercise the same level of control over the country’s currency. The idea of printing more money has been raised time and time again in response to financial turmoil, but that option disappears once currency has to be mined.

The flip from fiat money to cryptocurrency is a very real prospect, and it could well change the face of how our society spends and saves.

The post What Would Happen if Cryptocurrency Became More Popular Than Cash? appeared first on Futurism.

During large disasters, like hurricanes, wildfires, and terrorist attacks, people want emergency responders to arrive quickly and help people deal with the crisis. In order to do their best, police, medics, firefighters and those who manage them need lots of information: who is located where, needing what help? And what equipment and which rescuers are available to intervene? With all of the technology we have, it might seem that gathering and sharing lots of information would be pretty simple. But communicating through a disaster is much more challenging than it appears.

The event itself can make communications worse, damaging networks and phone systems or cutting electricity to an area. And regular people often add to the problem as they overload mobile networks with calls, texts and other electronic messages checking on loved ones or seeking help.

As researchers about digital networks and emergency communications, we are developing a faster and more reliable way to send and receive large amounts of data through the internet in times of crisis. Working with actual responders and emergency managers, we have created a method for giving urgent information priority over other internet traffic, effectively creating a high-speed lane on the internet for use in emergencies. While a national emergency responder network initiative called FirstNet is beginning to get going, it requires building an all-new wireless network just for emergency services to use. By contrast, our system uses existing internet connections, while giving priority to rescue workers’ data.

Connecting networks

At the moment, it’s reasonably common for communication networks to become overloaded when disaster strikes. When lots of people try to make cellphone calls or use mobile data, the networks get too busy for calls to connect and messages to go through.

The problem is that standard methods for routing traffic through the internet aren’t always able to handle all those connections at one time. In technical terms, the internet is a collection of more than 54,000 smaller networks. Some of the networks that make up the internet are quite large, like those belonging to major internet service providers or large corporations, but many of them are fairly small. No matter their size, each of these networks has equipment that lets it route traffic to each of the others.

Computer networks don’t all connect directly to each other. And their digital addresses don’t help much — we humans assume 12 Main Street and 14 Main Street are next door, but computers with similar numeric addresses may not be physical neighbors to each other.

As a result, the router connecting each of these 54,000 networks to the rest of the internet must keep a list of every one of its counterparts, and the most efficient way to reach each of them. This is like needing a list of written directions for every place in the world you might want to go.

This system, governed by the rules set out in the “border gateway protocol,” works well most of the time. But when it fails, there can be long delays in communications. In fact, on average, 150 seconds (two and a half minutes) can go by before a failure is identified. In that time, the data just wait in an information traffic jam, not moving. Online, milliseconds matter — hundreds of seconds are effectively an eternity.

When one router detects a network failure, it has to let all the others know what’s happened, and how to reroute their traffic. This is like having just one traffic cop try to coordinate rush hour around a major bottleneck. The process takes at least several minutes, and sometimes several hours. Until then, data in transit can be delayed or lost entirely. In an emergency, that could mean the difference between life and death.

When a link fails, the network system must find a new connection between two communicating devices. Image Credit: Rochester Institute of Technology, CC BY-ND

Developing the emergency protocol

Working with students from Rochester Institute of Technology’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, we have created a new traffic control system tailored specifically to emergency response networks. It runs without affecting other protocols on the internet. We call it the multi-node label routing protocol.

Rather than requiring every router to keep track of the best directions to every other one, we divide possible routes for internet traffic into hierarchies. These mirror existing emergency response plans: An individual responder sends information to a local commander, who combines several responders’ data and passes the data on to regional managers, who assemble a wider picture they pass on to state or federal response coordinators.

Our routing plan makes direct network connections mirror this real-world emergency response hierarchy. When routers are allowed to connect only with their immediate neighbors in the hierarchy, they can notice when links fail and reroute traffic much more quickly.

Testing in the real world

Our system is designed to operate over the same internet as everyone else, and without affecting other traffic. We tested our system on the National Science Foundation’s Global Environment for Network Innovations, a collaborative effort among many universities around the U.S. that allows researchers to develop networking protocols and systems using real computers and networking equipment located across the country. In our case, we connected 27 computers together for our tests, devised by RIT environmental, health and safety students, many of whom are volunteer emergency responders.

Our test – which we did in front of real emergency commanders and personnel — compared our system to the standard border gateway protocol. When we broke links in the 27-node network, multi-node label routing communications resumed within 12.5 seconds, which is 12 times faster than the regular border gateway protocol’s recovery speed. We can shorten that delay even more by changing settings in our protocol’s configuration.

Our system can easily be installed across a much wider area than just 27 test machines, specifically because of how it simplifies the paths information takes between routers. This means incident commanders and managers get information more quickly, and are better able to allocate responders and equipment to meet needs as they develop. In this way, our work supports the efforts of those who support us in our hour of need.

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Amid news of the continued meteoric rise of the world’s first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, another initial coin offering (ICO) is shattering records in its earliest stages of investment. The blockchain data storage network Filecoin began its first public offering today. Despite technical issues, it has garnered an estimated $200 million from investors. In fact, sales came to a halt just about an hour after beginning.

The sale sets a new record for investor interest in an ICO. To put this massive achievement in perspective, the beginning of July saw the launch of Block.one’s EOS tokens, which set a record at $185 million raised in 5 days. A few weeks later, Tezos Blockchain Project raised $232 million in less than two weeks. Filecoin was able to nearly match this record in less time than it might take to watch an episode of Game of Thrones.

CoinDesk’s ICO Tracker shows that with a small push, Filecoin could nudge the amount of money invested in ICOs past the $2 billion mark, which is indicative of how decentralized currency has become a major industry. The entities behind these ICOs have a lot to prove in the near future if they are going to keep their offerings competitive with the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that is Bitcoin.

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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Competition for Condoms

Setting aside the issue of cost and insurance coverage, these days there are many options for birth control — for women, that is. Since the first birth control for women went on the market in 1960, scientists have come up with a variety of pills, inserts, and implants women can choose from for contraceptive purposes. Men, on the other hand, are much more restricted in their options.

When Will the First Male Contraceptive Pill Be Publicly Available?
Image Credit: bark / Flickr

Many are calling for more options for male birth control, both as a way to both give men more control over their fertility and to lessen the burden on women to deal with the responsibility and side effects of contraceptives by themselves. However, innovation in this area has been slow, and a recent attempt was not very promising. We asked Futurism readers when we can expect a version of “the pill” for men.

Apparently, very soon. Almost 80 percent of respondents believe a birth control pill will be available for men sometime during the 2020s. Reader Alejandro Baquero-Lima wrote he thinks the 2030s might be a little more feasible to ensure any kinks in the pharmacology will be worked out. “The male body is very different to that of the female body,” Baquero-Lima wrote. “Therefore, the contraceptive will have to make sure to react accordingly. But it will be coming.”

What The Experts Have to Say

Baquero-Lima is right in that scientists have found designing contraception for men a challenge. “Men make 1,000 sperm every second,” said John Amory, a male reproductive specialist at the University of Washington (UW), Seattle, in an interview with Seeker. “It’s proven to be a lot more difficult to turn that degree of production off compared to one egg a month.”

But that hurdle hasn’t stopped researchers from pursuing potential contraceptives for men. One promising form of birth control in development, put in place by an injection, is 99 percent effective for more than 10 years after a single shot. Researchers have also recently discovered that two known compounds might act as “molecular condoms.” These projects and others in the drug-development pipeline have made Stephanie Page, professor of metabolism and endocrinology at UW, optimistic that we may see a birth control pill for men in about a decade.

“There are a number of targets that are being actively pursued: sperm motility, sperm-egg fusion, and various aspects of sperm development,” Page said in an interview with Endocrine News. “Thus, the 10-year benchmark that we have talked about for a few years now looks more promising than in the past.”

See all of the Futurism predictions and make your own predictions here.

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The Financial Freedom to Take Risks

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is one of many famous tech celebrities that believes everyone should have some amount of basic income. Now, one more voice is joining in to support the social media creator’s idea, and its Slack CEO and co-founder Stewart Butterfield.

Butterfield isn’t only known for making the team messaging app, but is also the co-founder of the Yahoo-owned, popular image website Flickr. On Twitter, the CEO shared his stance on the matter, saying that just by giving people a small amount, people may be more open to pursuing entrepreneurial idea and investments.

Butterfield joins Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Y Combinator president Sam Altman, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Zuckerburg has spoken repeatedly about his opinion on unconditional basic income (UBI), and has pointed to Alaska’s UBI program as as example the U.S. could learn from. Musk, in February, said the rise in autonomous technology will greatly impact the workforce, and could eventually force government to introduce a basic income program.

Photo Credit: Cade Roster / Flickr

Those Opposed

Despite the number of people in favor of the concept, knowing how much it is, and knowing how it works, it’s hard to tell if it will be incorporated any time soon, or at all. The idea of a “free handout” or “free money” doesn’t sit well with everyone, and some would probably prefer to earn their wages with hard work.

Universal Basic Income: The Answer to Automation?
Click to View Full Infographic

Furthermore, not every wealthy tech luminary and philanthropist agrees with UBI. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, for example, has called it “one of the worst possible responses” to the evaporating job market. That said, he also believes existing safety net programs should be better, if only to be more efficient and able to distribute more money with cheaper operating expenses.

One thing is clear: basic income is a conversation that needs to be had, with its positive benefits put on display more prominently than its presumed faults.

The post Slack CEO Voices His Support for Universal Basic Income appeared first on Futurism.

Quantum Leap For Communication

In a huge first for China and the world of quantum communication, researchers at the Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) project have used a quantum satellite and quantum cryptography to transmit data to Earth from space. This data is potentially unhackable, thanks to quantum key distribution (QKD) technology. This was the first such transmission from the satellite, which was launched in August of 2016.

Today, encryptions are based on traditional mathematics. For now, they are mostly safe from hacking, but quantum computing would be able to completely change encryption as we know it now. Therefore, China is hoping to use transform encryption using quantum cryptography, and QKD technology in particular. QKD uses photons to transmit data, allowing two users in different places to, together, produce a common string of random bits called a secret key.

Image Credit: Chinese QUESS Research Team
Image Credit: Chinese QUESS Research Team

This kind of encryption is unhackable because there is no way to copy a photon in a precise enough way for hacking purposes, and measuring a photon would disturb it, clueing in the users about the disruption.

An Unhackable Future

This technology could have huge implications in cybersecurity. Businesses would be safer online, and e-commerce would be free of problems caused by hacking and identity theft. The tech would also make it far more difficult for governments to spy on private communications — something that global leaders and agencies around the world have a vested interest in.

China’s breakthrough transmission traveled about 1,200 kilometers to Earth from space, making it up to 20 orders of magnitudes more efficient than an optical fiber of the same length would be. This transmission is also much further than the previously understood limits of several hundred kilometers. This advancement is part of China’s overall push to become a major presence in space by 2030, a plan that includes reaching Mars by 2020.

China envisions a future with ground-based QKD networks and a global satellite system interacting to form a powerful, worldwide secure network. This transmission is the first step toward making this vision a reality.

The post China Just Used a Quantum Satellite to Send Data from Space to Earth appeared first on Futurism.

 

Return Of The Chip

The first iPhones to hit the market suffered from a serious flaw: they contained an installed Infineon chip whose baseband was exploitable. This resulted in the phones being hacked and used on networks other than AT&T, which was supposed to be the iPhone’s exclusive network. Now, more than a decade later, the same chip has been discovered in years worth of Nissan Leafs, as well as BMWs, Fords, and Infinitis.

It is disturbing enough that a chip with such a known flaw would be used again in cars, but perhaps more unsettling is the fact that the flaw was discovered purely by accident. “We just randomly picked a car at the wrecking yard and happened to find this and our jaws kinda dropped,” McAfee researcher Jesse Michael told Engadget.
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Image Credit: Infineon
Image Credit: Infineon

As of late July, an advisory notice was issued about the flaw. Intel, which now owns Infineon, and Nissan helped researchers to clarify the issue and develop a fix. BMW, Ford, and Nissan have all delivered system updates to disable and/or repair the affected part. However, the problem of hackable cars remains.

Hackable Cars

In August of 2016, a team of researchers was able to trick Tesla’s Autopilot system into seeing things that weren’t there, and missing things that were. This team wasn’t doing this to be hostile, rather, they hacked into the system as part of an initiative to determine the safety of the technology. They concluded that hacking is, in fact, possible, albeit highly impractical for almost anyone, given its six-figure price tag and difficulty. Contrast this with the Volkswagen hack that came to light that same month: researchers discovered that VW’s RFID systems were hackable with a simple $40 Arduino device, and had been for years.

In any case, although, thus far, all known hackers have been friendly, as driverless vehicles become more common, their hackability is something we need to consider. Autonomous driving is only going to save lives if it functions properly and remains secure.

The post Your Futuristic Car Could Be as Hackable as an Old iPhone appeared first on Futurism.

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.

The post Visa, Microsoft, and IBM Are All Hiring Blockchain Developers appeared first on Futurism.

In this age of technological revolution, how can we reorganize societies so that we can do the things that we want to do?

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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.

The post Bitcoin Can Get to $100,000 If It Keeps Following One of Tech’s Golden Rules appeared first on Futurism.

Despite Bitcoin’s recent complications, a group of lawmakers from Australia’s center and left-leaning political parties are strongly encouraging the country’s Reserve Bank to officially recognize the cryptocurrency and perhaps even create its own cryptocoin. They’ve created a group called Parliamentary Friends of Blockchain to push this initiative, which they believe will secure the future stability and competitiveness of Australia’s financial services industry.

“This will be a revolutionary leap for the Reserve Bank and for Australian financial institutions; what we want to do here in Parliament is to create the political environment to allow that leap,” Labor senator Sam Dastyari told The Sydney Morning Herald. Dastyari and Liberal senator Jane Hume are the lawmakers leading the effort.

Blockchain, the technology upon which Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are built, is a decentralized digital ledger that is both more transparent and more secure than most traditional financial systems.

As Australian Digital Currency Commerce Association chairman Ronald Tucker explained to The Sydney Morning Herald, a crypto backed by the federal government would eliminate settlement times, as well as foreign currency exchanges. “It would be an auditor’s dream because you’ll be able to see any transaction that moves on it,” he added.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that a number of nations are adopting this new system of currency. China is the first country to test a national cryptocurrency, and it has plans in the works to release its own version of Bitcoin. Meanwhile, more than 260,000 stores in Japan have begun accepting Bitcoin payments, with three of the nation’s largest banks backing a Bitcoin exchange.

Australia is already showing signs that it hopes to get in on the trend while it’s still emerging, and the Parliamentary Friends of Blockchain group should help push things along.


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.

The post A Bipartisan Group of Australian Lawmakers Want the Nation to Create Its Own Crypto appeared first on Futurism.

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
Click to View Full Infographic

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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We have a lot to be worried about with respect to the evolution of tech and the way it engages us.

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The Splinternet

Both The Economist and WIRED are worried about the “splinternet”. The UK research organisation NESTA thinks it could “break up” the world wide web as we know it.

What is this awkwardly named idea? It’s the concept that someone’s experience of the internet in Turkey, for example, is increasingly different from their experience of the internet in Australia.

Travellers to China, in particular, will be familiar with this phenomenon. Thanks to the government’s tight control, they have to use Baidu rather than Google as their search engine, and are unable to access Facebook or news sites like The Economist and the New York Times.

We have a growing splinternet because of regional content blocking and the need for companies to comply with diverse, often conflicting national policies, regulations and court decisions.

This tension is particularly apparent when it comes to the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter. These platform companies have users in almost every country, and governments are increasingly insisting that they comply with local laws and cultural norms when it comes to access and content.

The Internet Was Never Truly Open

The idea of the internet as an independent, global and unregulated platform has always been something of a fiction. Even at the height of techno-futurist rhetoric about its potential to transcend national boundaries in the late 1990s, there were always exceptions.

The Chinese Communist Party understood from the start that the internet was simply a new form of media, and media control was central to national sovereignty and its authority.

But the splinternet refers to a broader tendency to use laws and regulatory powers within territorial jurisdictions to set limits on digital activities.

Edward Snowden Image Source: LeStudio1 – 2017/ Flickr Commons

A threshold moment was Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013. The documents he shared suggested that the US National Security Agency, through its PRISM program, had been collecting information from global users of Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo.

In countries such Brazil, whose leaders had had their communications intercepted, this accelerated moves towards developing national internet control.

Brazil’s Marco Civil da Internet law, for instance, now requires global companies to comply with Brazilian laws around data protection.

Is This a Bad Thing?

Until now, much of the appeal of the internet has been that it’s driven by user content and preferences, and not by governments.

But people are paying more attention to hate speech, targeted online abuse, extremism, fake news and other toxic aspects of online culture. Women, people of colour and members of certain religions are disproportionately targeted online.

Academics such as Tarleton Gillespie and public figures such as Stephen Fry are part of a growing rejection of the typical response of platform providers: that they are “just technology companies” – intermediaries – and cannot involve themselves in regulating speech.

UK House of Commons report into “hate crime and its violent consequences” noted that:

…there is a great deal of evidence that these platforms are being used to spread hate, abuse and extremism. That trend continues to grow at an alarming rate but it remains unchecked and, even where it is illegal, largely unpoliced.

If we say online hate speech “should be policed”, two obvious questions arise: who would do it and on what grounds?

At present, content on the major platforms is largely managed by the companies themselves. The Guardian’s Facebook Filesrevealed both the extent and limitations of such moderation.

We may see governments become increasingly willing to step in, further fragmenting the user experience.

Fair Play For All

There are other concerns at play in the splinternet. One is the question of equity between technology companies and traditional media.

Brands like Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix and Amazon are eclipsing traditional media giants. Yet film, television, newspapers and magazines are still subject to considerably greater levels of country-specific regulation and public scrutiny.

For example, Australian commercial television networks must comply with locally produced material and children’s content regulations. These mostly do not apply to YouTube or Netflix despite audiences and advertisers migrating to these providers.

It is increasingly apparent to media policy makers that existing regulations aren’t meaningful unless they extend into the online space.

In Australia, the 2012 Convergence Review sought to address this. It recommended that media regulations should apply to “Content Service Enterprises” that met a particular size threshold, rather than basing the rules on the platform that carries the content.

Do We Want a Splinternet?

We may be heading towards a splinternet unless new global rules can be set. They must combine the benefits of openness with the desire to ensure that online platforms operate in the public interest.

Yet if platform providers are forced to navigate a complex network of national laws and regulations, we risk losing the seamless interconnectedness of online communication.

The burden of finding a solution rests not only on governments and regulators, but on the platforms themselves.

Their legitimacy in the eyes of users is tied up with what Bank of England chair Mark Carney has termed for markets is a “social licence to operate”.

Although Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and others operate globally, they need to be aware that the public expects them to be a force for social good locally.

 

The post The ‘Splinternet’ May Be the Future of the Web appeared first on Futurism.

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.

 

The post Bitcoin is Now Worth Nearly Three Times the Price of Gold appeared first on Futurism.

The Letter of the Law

Under the leadership of Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced plans to repeal net neutrality rules that were approved in 2015. These rules classify an internet service provider (ISP) as a “telecommunications service” and not an “information service.” Anyone can comment on the plan, which the FCC is calling “Restoring Internet Freedom,” via the FCC site until August 16, and now, 10 U.S. lawmakers have decided to share their opinion on the matter.

Technology and Privacy Forecast 2017
Click to View Full Infographic

The group of 10 representatives includes Frank Pallone, Jr. and Mike Doyle — both ranking members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce — and the written comment is roughly 20 pages long. It echoes the concerns of the many American citizens who have already voiced their support for stronger net neutrality, and it opens with these lines:

We, as members of Congress who also sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, submit these comments out of deep concern that the FCC’s proposal to undo its net neutrality rules fundamentally and profoundly runs counter to the law. As participants either in the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 or in decisions on whether to update the Act, we write to provide our unique insight into the meaning and intent of the law.

The purpose of this comment isn’t just so the lawmakers can add their opinion to the mix. They are essentially clarifying the “congressional intent” behind the law, and they call the FCC out for getting the facts wrong and misinterpreting the law — despite Pai’s earlier comment about basing his net neutrality decision on the “facts and the law”:

While the technology has changed, the policies to which we agreed have remained firm — the law still directs the FCC to look at the network infrastructure carrying data as distinct from the services that create the data. Using today’s technology that means the law directs the FCC to look at ISP services as distinct from those services that ride over the networks.

The FCC’s proposal contravenes our intent — the FCC should tread carefully before interfering with content creation. While some may argue that this distinction should be abandoned because of changes in today’s market, that choice is not the FCC’s to make. The decision remains squarely with those of us in Congress — and we have repeatedly chosen to leave the law as it is.

The Commission’s proposal performs a historical sleight of hand that impermissibly conflates this fundamental distinction. The FCC proposes to treat network infrastructure as information services because the infrastructure gives access to the services running over their networks. The FCC contends that ISPs are therefore “offering the capability” to use the services that create the content.

However this suggestion obliterates the distinction that Congress set in to law — we meant for the FCC to consider services that carry data separately from those that create data. The FCC’s proposal would therefore read this fundamental choice that we made out of the law. Under the proposal’s suggestion, no service could be a telecommunications service going forward.

Whose Freedom?

Experts criticized the FCC’s plan early on, saying it takes away American citizens’ right to free internet access, handing control to corporations. Without the net neutrality rules, ISPs could potentially force some sites to load slower than others, charge users additional fees to access certain sites, or make some legal sites completely inaccessible.

Furthermore, the lawmakers claim that the FCC’s plan “impermissibly ignores the Commission’s core mandate to fully consider the public interest before taking action” by focusing on just one metric — how much money ISPs have spent upgrading network infrastructure since net neutrality was passed in 2015:

Americans overwhelming support stronger and clearer privacy rules. Yet the Commission — without comment — proposes to eliminate before-the-fact protections at the FCC in favor of an enforcement-only approach. The FCC should not degrade people’s privacy rights without thorough consideration.

Instead of considering these critical national priorities, the proposal single-mindedly concentrates on one issue to the exclusion of all others: the raw dollars spent on network deployment. This narrow focus is clearly contrary to the public interest — if we had intended network investment to be the sole measure by which the FCC determines policy, we would have specifically written that into the law.

The Trump administration had encouraged the dismantling of net neutrality prior to the announcement of the controversial “Restoring Internet Freedom” plan, signing legislation voted on by Congress that allows ISPs to sell users’ browsing history.

The 10 lawmakers suggest in their comment that the FCC might have been taking direction from the White House when crafting their proposal, which presents an entirely different problem: “It appears that the President directly ordered Chairman Pai to repeal net neutrality, potentially during a visit to the Oval Office. If true, this proposal clearly violates our intention to create an agency independent of the executive.”

Overall, the dismantling of net neutrality will have huge implications for the future of the internet and our relationship with it, so it is imperative that those in Congress listen to their voters and amplify their opinions using the platform we give them. This comment from 10 lawmakers is a start, but time is running out for the rest of our government leaders to make their (and our) voices heard.

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Bitcoin Going Strong

According to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (BPI), the price of bitcoin has shot up again, surpassing $3,200 for the first time. Market data indicates this latest surge started after 1:00 UTC on August 5, when the price of bitcoin surged past $2,900. By about 3:12 UTC, the price breached the $3,000 mark.

Screenshot, Screenshot, bitcoin price 8-5-2017 at 4:20pm MST, Coindesk 
At the time of this writing, the BPI shows that markets hit a high of $3,360.87, and are now trading at an average of $3,266.81. The last time the price of bitcoin broke $3,000 was June 12, based on the BPI.The market push also boosted the collective market capitalization of bitcoin beyond the $50 billion mark for the first time. The BPI showed bitcoin’s market cap at around $54.13 billion at the time of this writing.

Screenshot, Screenshot, bitcoin trading volume, 8-5-2017, 4:19pm MST, Bitcoinity
Data from Bitcoinity reveals the jump in trade volume you would expect to accompany the swing in price, with market volumes rising alongside the value of bitcoin. The data shows a peak in trade volume at around 20:00 on August 4, with more volume overall from August 4 to August 5 than at any time during the week.

Although many predicted bitcoin would not fare well after the fork, these numbers seem to indicate otherwise. In fact, as Redditors have been discussing, Bitcoin is now worth more than $1 for each day it has existed. Senior Goldman Sachs technician Sheba Jafari’s prediction about bitcoin starting a wave V — during which its value could reach almost $3,700 — is looking on point.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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How Do you Pay for Everyone?

Universal basic income is the idea that every citizen should receive an amount of money from the government to meet their needs, regardless of age, race, gender, or even need. It has been billed as a solution to a variety of current and potential societal problems, including AI automation, poverty, and people losing the ability to allocate their own time.

However, the key question is how would it be paid for? Especially when individuals like Robert Greenstein, founder and president of Washington think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, estimates that even a fairly modest amount of $10,000 per person per year would cost upwards of $3 trillion.

Various answers have been put forward. Bill Gates believes we should tax robots in order to provide for the people whose jobs they are taking. Some have proposed developing a more aggressive tax system, such as charging polluters for the damage they cause but are the only ones to gain from. Others, such as Andy Stern, have argued for cutting spending in various sectors like the military and existing anti-poverty programs and using the freed-up cash to fund UBI.

A Spacious Paycheck

A novel idea, though, is using the huge amounts of money tied up in space to fund a program — the argument rests on the tenet that space is the property of all, and therefore should benefit all. The money lies in two main fields: space tourism and space mining.

Space tourism is set to explode as an economy. With the democratization of space occurring at an ever faster rate, it won’t be long before it becomes commercial — that Richard Branson is working on a space airline is a testament to the reality of the idea. Companies will charge handsome fees for the luxury of experiencing zero-gravity and staying in space hotels. So why not channel all of these profits, or at least tax the companies, in order to ensure that an international area benefits everyone?

Universal Basic Income: UBI Pilot Programs Around the World
Click to View Full Infographic

Space mining also has the potential to be a billion — if not trillion — dollar industry. Companies that propose mining space objects like asteroids and planets — which include, to name a couple, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources — for precious metals like gold and platinum have already won traction among investors. This is probably partly due to an asteroid containing five trillion dollars worth of platinum passing by earth in 2015.

The argument leveled at these industries is similar to that aimed at space tourism  — why should those who can afford to monopolize space be allowed to, and why should they be the only ones to profit from a zone that all of us have an equal claim on? The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 states that “the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind.” Using the profits from space exploration, travel, tourism, and mining to provide financial relief for the world’s citizens would certainly meet that criteria.

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Support For Bitcoin Cash

Coinbase has softened its stance on Bitcoin Cash. Now the company plans to introduce support for the fork in 2018. After Bitcoin Cash was created on August 1, Coinbase, along with other cryptocurrency exchanges, opted out of trading it since it is not yet proven. Coinbase also took the position that users with original Bitcoin couldn’t claim their Bitcoin Cash entitlement.

However, the company has now changed its position somewhat: in an email and blog post, Coinbase indicated that it will support Bitcoin Cash by January 1, and wait to make a decision about trading support. Users that want to withdraw their Bitcoin Cash will need to wait until support is implemented.

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The shift was probably due to the outcry by Coinbase customers, some of whom threatened to leave or take legal action against the platform. According to analytics firm BlockSeer, Coinbase lost about half of its cold storage reserves after customers withdrew, although many in the community are unconcerned about the fork.

It took less than two days for Bitcoin Cash to become the market’s third largest cryptocurrency (based on total on-market coins). Its market cap of $7 billion follows Bitcoin ($44 billion) and Ethereum ($21 billion) by a significant amount, but given the recency of the fork, its share is still impressive. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

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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Blockchain In China

The Chinese government listed blockchain in its “Thirteenth Five-Year” National Informatization Plan from 2015, and since that time the nation has been working diligently toward incorporate the technology into daily life. The tech’s inclusion in the plan signals the importance China has attached to it, and this was just confirmed by the government’s announcement that it “will utilize blockchain technology for social taxation and electronic invoice issuance matters.”

Image Credit: OpenClipart-Vectors/Pixabay
Image Credit: OpenClipart-Vectors / Pixabay

This is a major development, and given that the Chinese economy is the world’s largest, with a 2016 GDP of over RMB 70 trillion (approximately U.S. $10.4 trillion), this should be an interesting test case for the implementation of blockchain technology. China has already launched a test of its own cryptocurrency based on the technology, so these initiatives should be able to build on each other.

Furthermore, we should also see implementation at the city level in China, as several local and provincial governments have recently promulgated pro-blockchain policies. In fact, a smart cities initiative has already enticed a Chinese automaker to integrate the tech into its business model. Additionally, blockchain-based industrial parks have gone up in Chengdu, Hangzhou, and other major cities, and agencies at different levels of government have created blockchain R&D teams.

Blockchain Technology Applications

This latest development in China is a good example of how blockchain technology can be used in a broad array of applications. Blockchain tech has been proposed for use in elections do to its potential for both transparency and security. It’s these features that make it appealing for taxation as well.

Governments aren’t the only ones exploring the tech’s applications. Walmart has started experimenting with a blockchain database that would protect consumers from contaminated food products as well as guard against product waste. Toyota is using blockchain to get its self-driving cars on the road faster, and the company plans to give customers access to their own data the same way.

Moving forward, we will see more and more innovative uses of blockchain technology as its potential is more fully realized. Transparency and security are both absolute essentials in a digital age, and China appears to be recognizing that need and putting this powerful tech to use through policy.

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.

The post China to Start Using Blockchain to Collect Taxes and Send Invoices appeared first on Futurism.

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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[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.

The post In Less Than 2 Days, Bitcoin Cash Becomes Third Biggest Cryptocurrency appeared first on Futurism.

With recent high-profile security decryption cases, encryption is more important than ever.

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The Automation of Everything

To add to our apprehensions about the future, it seems we’re running out of letters with which to name successive generations: after Baby Boomers, came generation X, then Millennials (aka Gen-Y), who have now been succeeded by Generation Z. Whether or not one finds any symbolism, omen, or irony in this is beside the point. What is important to ask is: what kind of world will those born in the XXI century grow up in?  

Will the automation of everything leave many people behind, bringing despair and disappointment? Or will it urge humanity to redefine self-actualization? Will the realization of one’s potential no longer be defined by career success or measured by net-worth?  If and when it becomes unnecessary for a significant portion of the population to be working, will we be able to adapt our value system to allow for guilt-free leisure, encourage more creative exploration, and recognize the value of lifelong learning?

Just days after the e-commerce giant from Silicon Valley dazzled the world with the introduction of Amazon Go, it has made the first commercial delivery by drone.  The fantasy world of tomorrow — with flying cars and cashless stores — seems to be turning into the mundane reality of today. This fantasy, though, is all too real for people whose livelihoods are threatened by it. Just imagining a scenario where the jobs of cashiers and retail salespersons in the U.S. are fully automated, we are looking at adding 7.5 million people to the ranks of the unemployed.

For comparison, since the beginning of XXI century, the American economy has been adding, on average, 0.8M jobs per year.  Whether it’s Uber, Google, Apple, Tesla, or any other company that will bring a viable driverless technology to the market, it is not a matter of if — but when. Here again, 3.5 million jobs in America could disappear in a heartbeat, should this technology become commonplace. Loss of just those two narrowly-defined professions could undo 14 years’ worth of job creation.

Beyond those vivid examples, a widely-shared blog on the World Economic Forum’s Agenda platform projects that roughly half of all jobs will be lost to automation in less than two decades. One could take solace looking at past experiences — where some vocations fade away, but the new ones come in their stead. Many analysts argue, though, that this time will be different. If those predictions come true, and we are indeed heading for a workless future, now would be high time to kick off a policy discussion on how we must prepare for it.

Just as we intellectually recognize that the world of tomorrow will have much less employment, (or at least, much less of what we define as employment right now), the job-creation rhetoric continues to dominate our political discourse. This proverbial tomorrow may take a decade (or two, or five) to arrive. Undoubtedly, some version of it will — and burying one’s head in the sand is no solution. Focusing on the skills necessary to compete for the yet-to-be-invented jobs is only part of the puzzle. As the gap widens between population growth and automation on one side, and job creation to meet the needs of our machine-powered future on the other, we have to begin making serious adjustments to maintain social cohesion.

What if continued automation of work — be it legal research, or medical diagnostics, or writing of newspaper articles — delivers productivity gains that can be distributed among the population without the need for everyone to contribute in a traditional way?  Should such future be imagined, it will require a major paradigm shift in how our society is organized, how we define contribution, where we find fulfillment, and how we draw meaning from our daily activities.   

Will Automation Steal My Job?
Click to View Full Infographic

Coping With a Jobless Future

The first question, which is already being vigorously debated, is how can one support oneself when one is not expected to be working. Unconditional basic income, or “digital dividend,” is one concept that’s gathering momentum. Some jurisdictions have either toyed with the idea or are piloting it.  “The political debate needs to engage the taboo topic of guaranteeing economic security to families — through a universal basic income.” writes David Ignatius for The Washington Post.  

This novel policy proposal is often contrasted with welfare, with the resulting arguments being both for and against. The problem with that discourse is that it’s framed in terms of the current situation — where policies are designed to discourage “freeriding” of some upon the efforts of others. What we should be considering instead is the circumstance where all humans are freeriding on the efforts of machines. The latter do not create demand, which in turn creates a serious conundrum for our economic system.  

As radical as the universal basic income idea may sound, in strict terms, it’s a simple technical solution to a significant social problem. It would be far more difficult to imagine, let alone incorporate, a new value system where unemployment is not stigmatized. Adopting norms in a society — where one’s contribution is no longer defined by “economic output,” — is a challenge of a different scale and complexity altogether. To address it before the societal tensions boil over, we will need a ton of courage, a lot of blue-sky thinking, and a great deal of policy experimentation.

We must begin by openly acknowledging and ultimately facing the reality. As political careers are made and broken on the promises of job-creation, it will require a great deal of courage for our leaders to take responsibility and initiate a frank debate on the possible workless future. To better cope with the uncertain future, we’ll have to develop a new vocabulary to articulate the dilemmas we have yet to face.

It is also the intellectual framework within which we look at our economic systems that needs to change. Here we can start with redefining GDP to better account for non-compensated contribution (such as childcare and housekeeping) or better yet, move towards a wider matrix such as Social Progress Index or any other methodology that recognizes human contribution and progress in new ways. Perhaps we should also retire terms like labor productivity and, instead, refocus on measuring self-actualization.

One of the simplest, and yet also more complicated, questions to ponder in a world free of traditional employment, is what will we do with our free time? It would be good to ease our way into it by looking at the “6 Hour Workday” policies that Sweden is introducing “to increase productivity and make people happier.” Shorter work days will  help prevent burnout and allow people a space to find other activities from which they can derive meaning. For those who are employed, a job isn’t just a vehicle to earn one’s living, it is a means to address the basic human need for belonging. Exploring how this need could be met outside of the workplace would be a worthy undertaking.

Given that the ambition of an individual today is often conflated with professional aspirations and then measured by one’s career success, ambition of the future could potentially be viewed through the prism of building one’s capacity for imagination and aspiration to learn, generate, and exchange ideas. Popularizing the idea of a sabbatical breaks in professional fields beyond academia (where it is already fairly commonplace), would help us in making this a smoother transition.

All of those efforts will have to go hand-in-hand with addressing the rising inequality and recognizing the Spiritual Crisis of the Modern Economy, “where failure [to find a job after losing one] is a source of deep shame and a reason for self-blame.”

The imagined future where humans may not have to work — as machines will be taking care of ever-widening range of our needs and wants — is not assured, but it is highly probable. We can debate the timeline and keep stuffing this difficult conversation into a can, so that we could kick it down the road. What would be more constructive, though, is delving into this debate headfirst, trying out new policies, learning from one another, and shaping our workless future to minimize its discontents. Our kids (the Gen-Zs) will thank us for it!

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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Of Forks and Splits

It’s official. Bitcoin has split in two. Following weeks of speculation that a hard fork was imminent, Bitcoin Cash has separated from the main Bitcoin blockchain, resulting in two distinct Bitcoin currencies and blockchains that could be used in cryptocoin exchanges.

The primary issue leading to the fork concerned conflicting ideas on how to scale up transaction support over the Bitcoin blockchain. Bitcoin Cash emerged as the final solution. It increases Bitcoin blocks to eight megabytes — the previously agreed upon compromise, BIP91, was expected to double the current block size to two megabytes several months from now.

A Pivotal Moment?

Several experts have weighed in on the potential effects of this split.

Aragon co-founder Luis Cuende thinks it “will positively impact Bitcoin.” He explained, however, that Bitcoin Cash may be short-lived. “Probably a fatal bug will crash the whole network (it already happened with Bitcoin Unlimited, Cash’s predecessor) or people will just lose interest in a currency engineered to look decentralized while being totally centralized,” he said in a statement.

The same concern has led major exchanges like Coinbase and BitMEX to hold off on support for Bitcoin Cash. “When we look back 30 days from now, this is essentially going to be a non-event,” said Coinsource CEO Sheffield Clark. “We have absolutely no plans to integrate Bitcoin Cash at our machines at this time.”

“While the markets will ultimately decide, I think there is little chance that Bitcoin Cash will be successful in the long-term. It may have increased capacity, but several issues remain,” said Ryan Taylor, CEO of Dash Core. He argued that Bitcoin Cash didn’t solve Bitcoin’s scaling issues and that it isn’t really forking.

ZenCash co-founder Rob Viglione is more optimistic: “[T]here are pros and cons to everything. The downside of a split is that Bitcoin loses part of its ecosystem, and network effects are so important to this industry. That said, this isn’t a zero-sum game, and it’s more than possible to see both chains flourish in parallel.”

This new cryptocurrency won’t be usable for trading for some while, however. Bitcoin Cash will first need to make it past initial adjustment difficulties and secure multiple block confirmations. For now, all we can do is wait to see how this fork plays out.


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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In a report published in part on Sunday, Standpoint Research founder and independent stock analyst Ronnie Moas predicts a favorable future for cryptocurrencies.

Moas spent the better part of last month testing out digital currencies. He wrote that he expects the solid performance of cryptocoins like bitcoin and ether to continue, and he predicts the value of the latter will double by 2018 to about $400. He previously said that he expects the value of bitcoin to increase to $5,000 per token by 2018 and possibly reach $50,000 in the next 10 years.

At the time of writing, a token of ether costs $219, up by almost 5 percent from the past week. Meanwhile, a unit of bitcoin is valued at $3,000, despite today’s BTC-BCC fork.

Aside from cryptocurrency heavyweights Bitcoin and Ethereum, the report also featured alternative cryptocoin Litecoin. Moas predicts that the price of this so-called “silver bitcoin” will double in 2018 to $80.

“In my view, the genie is out of the bottle, and cryptocurrencies will continue to rise and take market share away from stocks, other precious metals, bonds, and currencies,” Moas wrote in the new report, according to CNBC.

Ultimately, he encourages investors to give cryptocurrencies a try: “I think investors should take a shot on this and hold for a few years. If you lose a few bucks, at least you took a shot. In life, you miss every shot that you do not take. It will probably be more upsetting to watch it (from the sidelines) go up another 1,000 percent.”


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 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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Technological Revolution

Quantum computers are making an entrance, and it’s a dramatic one. Even in its infancy, the technology is outperforming the conventional competition and is expected to make the field of cryptography as we know it obsolete. Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize several sectors, including the financial and medical industries.

Meet The Most Powerful Computers in the World
Click to View Full Infographic

Quantum computers can processes a greater number of calculations because they rely on quantum bits (“qubits”), which can be ones and zeroes simultaneously, unlike classical “bits” that must be either a one or a zero. The company D-Wave is releasing a version of a quantum computer this year, but it’s not a fully formed embodiment of this technology. So we asked our readers when we should expect to see quantum computers available as consumer products?

Almost 80 percent of respondents believed we will be able to buy our own quantum computer before 2050, and the decade that received the most votes — about 34 percent — was the 2030s. Respondent Solomon Duffin explained why his prediction, the 2040s, was slightly more pessimistic than those of the majority.

In the 2020s, we will have quantum computers that are significantly better than super computers today, but they most likely won’t be in mass use by governments and companies until the 2030s. Eventually toward the end of the 2030s and early 2040s they’ll shrink down to a size and cost viable for consumer use. Before that point even with the exponential growth of technology I don’t think that it would be cost efficient enough for the average consumer to replace regular computing with quantum computing.

Quantum computers are indeed currently out of the price range of the average consumer, and will likely stay that way for a few years at least. The $15 million price tag for the D-Wave 2000Q has a long way to drop before it makes it to a Black Friday sale.

What The Experts Have to Say

But the technology is rapidly advancing, and experts are optimistic that we will soon see a bonafide, functioning quantum computer in all of its glory. In fact, an international team of researchers wrote in a study published in Physical Review, “Recent improvements in the control of quantum systems make it seem feasible to finally build a quantum computer within a decade.”

Andrew Dzurak, Professor in Nanoelectronics at University of New South Wales, said in an interview with CIO that he hopes quantum computers will be able to advance scientific research, for example, by simulating what potential drugs would do in the human body. However, Dzurak said he expects it will take 20 years for quantum computers to be useful enough for that kind of application.

“I think that within ten years, there will be demonstrations of modelling of certain chemicals and drugs that couldn’t be done today but I don’t think there will be a convenient, routine [system] that [people] can use,” Dzurak said in the interview. “To move to that stage will take another decade further beyond that.”

Dzurak also expressed his doubts that quantum computers will be very useful to the average consumer since they can get most of what they want using conventional computers. But D-Wave international president Bo Ewald thinks that’s just because we haven’t imagined what we could do with the technology yet. This is why D-Wave has released a new software tool to help developers make programs for the company’s computers.

“D-Wave is driving the hardware forward,” Ewald said in an interview with Wired. “But we need more smart people thinking about applications, and another set thinking about software tools.”

See all of the Futurism predictions and make your own predictions here.

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Flying warehouses, robot receptionists, smart toilets… do such innovations sound like science fiction or part of a possible reality? Technology has been evolving at such a rapid pace that, in the near future, our world may well resemble that portrayed in futuristic movies, such as Blade Runner, with intelligent robots and technologies all around us.

But what technologies will actually make a difference? Based on recent advancements and current trends, here are five innovations that really could shape the future.

1. Smart homes

Many typical household items can already connect to the internet and provide data. But much smart home technology isn’t currently that smart.

A smart meter just lets people see how energy is being used, while a smart TV simply combines television with internet access.

Similarly, smart lightingremote door locks or smart heating controls allow for programming via a mobile device, simply moving the point of control from a wall panel to the palm of your hand.

But technology is rapidly moving towards a point where it can use the data and connectivity to act on the user’s behalf.

To really make a difference, technology needs to fade more into the background – imagine a washing machine that recognises what clothes you have put into it, for example, and automatically selects the right programme, or even warns you that you have put in items that you don’t want to wash together.

Here it is important to better understand people’s everyday activities, motivations and interactions with smart objects to avoid them becoming uninvited guests at home.

Such technologies could even work for the benefit of all.

The BBC reports, for example, that energy providers will “reduce costs for someone who allows their washing machine to be turned on by the internet to maximise use of cheap solar power on a sunny afternoon” or “to have their freezers switched off for a few minutes to smooth demand at peak times”.

A major concern in this area is security. Internet-connected devices can and are being hacked – just recall the recent ransomware attack.

Our home is, after all, the place where we should feel most secure. For them to become widespread, these technologies will have to keep it that way.

2. Virtual secretaries

While secretaries play a very crucial role in businesses, they often spend large parts of their working day with time-consuming but relatively trivial tasks that could be automated.

Consider the organisation of a “simple” meeting – you have to find the right people to take part (likely across business boundaries) and then identify when they are all available. It’s no mean feat.

Tools such as doodle.com, which compare people’s availability to find the best meeting time, can help. But they ultimately rely on those involved actively participating. They also only become useful once the right people have already been identified.

By using context information (charts of organisations, location awareness from mobile devices and calendars), identifying the right people and the right time for a given event became a technical optimisation problem that was explored by the EU-funded inContext project a decade ago.

At that stage, technology for gathering context information was far less advanced – smart phones were still an oddity and data mining and processing was not where it is today.

Over the coming years, however, we could see machines doing far more of the day-to-day planning in businesses.

Indeed, the role of virtual assistants may go well beyond scheduling meetings and organising people’s diaries – they may help project managers to assemble the right team and allocate them to the right tasks, so that every job is conducted efficiently.

On the downside, much of the required context information is relatively privacy-invasive – but then the younger generation is already happily sharing their every minute on Twitter and Snapchat and such concerns may become less significant over time.

And where should we draw the line? Do we fully embrace the “rise of the machines” and automate as much as possible, or retain real people in their daily roles and only use robots to perform the really trivial tasks that no one wants to do?

This question will need to be answered – and soon.

3. AI doctors

We are living in exciting times, with advancements in medicine and AI technologyshaping the future of healthcare delivery around the world.

But how would you feel about receiving a diagnosis from an artificial intelligence? A private company called Babylon Health is already running a trial with five London boroughs which encourages consultations with a chatbot for non-emergency calls.

The artificial intelligence was trained using massive amounts of patient data in order to advise users to go to the emergency department of a hospital, visit a pharmacy or stay at home.

The company claims that it will soon be able to develop a system that could potentially outperform doctors and nurses in making diagnoses.

In countries where there is a shortage of medical staff, this could significantly improve health provision, enabling doctors to concentrate on providing treatment rather than spending too much time on making a diagnosis.

This could significantly redefine their clinical role and work practices.

Elsewhere, IBM Watson, the CloudMedx platform and Deep Genomics technology can provide clinicians with insights into patients’ data and existing treatments, help them to make more informed decisions, and assist in developing new treatments.

An increasing number of mobile apps and self-tracking technologies, such as Fitbit, Jawbone Up and Withings, can now facilitate the collection of patients’ behaviours, treatment status and activities.

It is not hard to imagine that even our toilets will soon become smarter and be used to examine people’s urine and faeces, providing real-time risk assessment for certain diseases.

Nevertheless, to enable the widespread adoption of AI technology in healthcare, many legitimate concerns must be addressed. Already, usability, health literacyprivacy, security, content quality and trust issues have been reported with many of these applications.

There is also a lack of adherence to clinical guidelinesethical concerns, and mismatched expectations regarding the collection, communication, use, and storage of patient’s data.

In addition, the limitations of the technology need to be made clear in order to avoid misinterpretations that could potentially harm patients.

If AI systems can address these challenges and focus on understanding and enhancing existing care practices and the doctor-patient relationship, we can expect to see more and more successful stories of data-driven healthcare initiatives.

4. Care robots

Will we have robots answering the door in homes? Possibly. At most people’s homes? Even if they are reasonably priced, probably not. What distinguishes successful smart technologies from unsuccessful ones is how useful they are.

And how useful they are depends on the context. For most, it’s probably not that useful to have a robot answering the door. But imagine how helpful a robot receptionist could be in places where there is shortage of staff – in care homes for the elderly, for example.

Robots equipped with AI such as voice and face recognition could interact with visitors to check who they wish to visit and whether they are allowed access to the care home.

After verifying that, robots with routing algorithms could guide the visitor towards the person they wish to visit. This could potentially enable staff to spend more quality time with the elderly, improving their standard of living.

The AI required still needs further advancement in order to operate in completely uncontrolled environments. But recent results are positive.

Facebook’s DeepFace software was able to match faces with 97.25 percent accuracy when tested on a standard database used by researchers to study the problem of unconstrained face recognition.

The software is based on Deep Learning, an artificial neural network composed of millions of neuronal connections able to automatically acquire knowledge from data.

5. Flying warehouses and self-driving cars

Self-driving vehicles are arguably one of the most astonishing technologies currently being investigated. Despite the fact that they can make mistakes, they may actually be safer than human drivers.

That is partly because they can use a multitude of sensors to gather data about the world, including 360-degree views around the car.

Moreover, they could potentially communicate with each other to avoid accidents and traffic jams.

More than being an asset to the general public, self-driving cars are likely to become particularly useful for delivery companies, enabling them to save costs and make faster, more efficient deliveries.

Advances are still needed in order to enable the widespread use of such vehicles, not only to improve their ability to drive completely autonomously on busy roads, but also to ensure a proper legal framework is in place.

Nevertheless, car manufacturers are engaging in a race against time to see who will be the first to provide a self-driving car to the masses. It is believed that the first fully autonomous car could become available as early as the next decade.

The advances in this area are unlikely to stop at self-driving cars or trucks. Amazon has recently filed a patent for flying warehouses which could visit places where the demand for certain products is expected to boom.

The flying warehouses would then send out autonomous drones to make deliveries. It is unknown whether Amazon will really go ahead with developing such projects, but tests with autonomous drones are already successfully being carried out.

The ConversationThanks to technology, the future is here – we just need to think hard about how best to shape it.

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The U.S. Navy has announced that the world’s first functional laser weapon is ready for action. The weapon, known as the Laser Weapons System (LaWS), can be found mounted on the USS Ponce, which is currently deployed in the Persian Gulf.

The weapon was designed to strategically take out flying unmanned vessels. It also has the ability to surgically destroy engines of manned watercraft without endangering the lives of any onboard personnel. The Geneva Convention restricts the use of laser weapons against humans, but the high precision of the laser could allow it to target a ship’s engine without the use of missiles. “That type of precision weapon work is something that you don’t really get with conventional weapons because there tends to be more collateral damage,” Inez Kelly, a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command science adviser, told CNN.

This technology could be the beginning of replacing missiles for the purpose of destroying enemy targets. On top of sparing lives, the cost comparison of a single shot from LaWS and a missile is astounding: while missiles can cost up to millions of dollars, a single LaWS “round” only costs about one dollar.

The weapon is currently only approved for drones and water vessels, but the Navy is also testing other applications — under the cover of classified status, of course.

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While Bitcoin currently leads the cryptocurrency market in terms of adoption and market cap, some argue that other, newer cryptos are actually a better investment. Once proposed alternative is Litecoin. Sometimes referred to as the “silver Bitcoin,” this altcoin could prove superior based on four factors.

First, Litecoin’s algorithm is far simpler than Bitcoin’s, which makes it easier to run on graphics processing units (GPUs). This results in a lower barrier to entry for Litecoin miners in comparison to Bitcoin.

Second, Litecoin has a faster block generation speed. Processing a Litecoin block takes two-and-a-half minutes as opposed to Bitcoin’s 10. This decreases transaction fees, making the Litecoin cryptocurrency more attractive to investors.

Third, Litecoin is about to launch a “lightning network” that will improve its already superior ability to adapt to changes. This network will make it easier for Litecoin to scale as it gains more traction.

Fourth, Litecoin’s lifetime cap is higher than Bitcoin’s (84 million coins as opposed to 24 million). Once this cap is reached, miners will no longer be a part of the process, and this could decrease the security and stability of the blockchain supporting each currency.

While cryptocurrencies in general are increasing in popularity, the individual variants are constantly vying for market dominance. Perhaps Litecoin will come out on top, or perhaps it won’t — the primary characteristic shared by all cryptocurrencies right now is volatility, and only time will tell how the crypto market ultimately plays out.


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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It is a turbulent time for Bitcoin — the cryptocurrency has risen to highs of $2,850 and sunk to lows of $1,836 just in July alone. But now, an influential voice has entered into the equation — Goldman Sachs, whose chief technician Sheba Jafari has claimed, in a report to clients on Monday, that soon Bitcoin will rise to $3,600.

Jafari wrote that “anything above 3,000 (June 13th high) will suggest potential to have already started wave V, which again has a minimum target at 2,988 and scope to reach 3,691.”

Wave V refers to the Elliott Wave theory, described in his 1938 book The Wave Principle, which is a means of technically analyzing financial cycles using stages of growth and fluctuation. Wave V indicates the final period of growth in which “news is almost universally positive and everyone is bullish.”

Despite Bitcoin’s variable month, which also involved a severe hack and a potential crypto civil war being avoided, 2017 has been an astonishingly successful year for the cryptocurrency — and cryptocurrencies as a whole, for that matter.

Bitcoin has risen from $997 to today’s rate of $2,512, which is an increase of 151 percent. Correspondingly, it is being used ever more for real world applications. It is now accepted as a legal form of tender in 260,000 stores in Japan, and many countries, such as South Africa, are now considering how to regulate it — which is a testament to the cryptocurrency’s growth and potential legitimacy.

 

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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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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Meet MXene

Researchers at Drexel University have developed a nanomaterial called MXene which “will lead us to car, laptop, and cell phone batteries capable of charging at much higher rates — seconds or minutes rather than hours” as Yuri Gogotsi, a professor at the University, told Drexel Now.

Batteries operate by storing ions in ports called ‘active redox sites’ — the number of these ports directly correlates to the device’s battery life. Most batteries, though, have relatively few of these ports and are not particularly conductive. MXene, however, is highly conducive to battery making because it optimizes the flow of electrodes and provides many more paths to these ports than current batteries do. Maria Lukatskaya, a researcher on the team, explained to Drexel Now that:

The ideal electrode architecture would be something like ions moving to the ports via multi-lane, high-speed ‘highways,’ instead of taking single-lane roads. Our macroporous electrode design achieves this goal, which allows for rapid charging — on the order of a few seconds or less.

The key to the material’s properties is its two-dimensional structure and the combination of a hydrogen gel with an oxide metal component. This allows it to be dense enough to shield against radiation and water while, but more importantly, equipping it with the ideal characteristics of a battery.

The Future Is Material

While MXene won’t be commercially available or integrated into current technology for about three years, the material has the potential to disrupt current charging tech by rectifying inefficient, long charge times, device deterioration, and systems with relatively short battery lives.

MXene is one of many wonder materials that could change the way that technologies are constructed on a nano-level, which could have huge implications on a macro level. The most notorious of the pack is graphene, which has been touted as having a dizzying spectrum of uses — from desalinating seawater, to creating robobugs, to even carry current with zero resistance.

However, other materials are also promising candidates for pushing us into the future. Among the weirdest of them is the simulated 1D boron, which was created by researchers at Rice University. It is capable of being a one-dimensional chain that is a semiconductor, or two-dimensional ribbon, which is robust and resistant to deformation — or, if you stretch it out, both simultaneously.

We are living in an age where we have the scientific capabilities of manipulating matter more than ever before, creating materials we previously thought were reserved for the realms of science fiction. Whether it is instantaneous phone charging or programmable bugs, the materials of the future are extremely exciting.

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This house can come with you when you move

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Finland’s Failed Experiment?

Universal basic income (UBI) is a hot topic in the world today. So far, however, very few experiments have been conducted to ascertain precisely how best to implement such a system. For that reason, a small-scale UBI experiment in Finland has drawn much attention as one of the few real-world examples we have of how UBI could work.

The trial began earlier this year and is being managed by Kela, the national social-insurance institute. Kela selected 2,000 Finns between the ages of 25 and 58, each of whom was receiving some form of unemployment benefits, to receive €560 (about $645) per month.

In theory, this project would give the world new insights into the logistics and consequences of introducing a UBI system. However, the trial has been riddled with issues and mistakes from the start due to improper planning and a troubled political environment, and now, it is little more than a lesson of how not to run a UBI experiment.

Among the most serious errors was a slashing of the sample size to just one-fifth the number suggested in the original proposition. This extremely small dataset is not enough to be scientifically viable.

Additionally, the trial kicked off during a period of economic turmoil in Finland. The country’s economy had suffered three recessions since 2008, and this state-sponsored UBI project was launched in a time of economic austerity.

Although the results of the project, which will be announced in 2019, may give us some insights into the viability of future UBI programs, even those who designed the Finnish experiment are skeptical of its validity. Olli Kangas, Kela’s coordinator for the program, told The Economist that it was currently in a state of neglect, comparing politicians’ actions to “small boys with toy cars who become bored and move on.”

A Worldwide Question

Universal basic income has been proposed as a solution to two issues that are currently shaking society: poverty and the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into the jobs sector. In an interview with The Guardian, Stephen Hawking warned that the latter will cause “job destruction deep into the middle classes,” and Elon Musk has asserted that “there will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better” as the technology develops.

Universal Basic Income: The Answer to Automation?
Click to View Full Infographic

The idea of a UBI system is to automatically award every citizen with a state-sponsored wage, which could then be augmented by further work. This would provide those displaced by robotic systems with a way to support themselves on the most basic level.

Although Finland’s lackluster experiment remains the largest state-sponsored experiment to date, various governments are considering conducting their own UBI trials.

India, the world’s largest democratic country, has endorsed the system — claiming in a report that it is “basically the way forward” — and is now considering the best way to introduce it to its populous. The state of Hawaii, which also recently accepted the terms of the Paris Agreement despite Donald Trump’s federal withdrawal, has also announced on Reddit that they will “begin evaluating universal basic income.”

The system is not without its skeptics, however. Experts question who would provide the money to fund such projects, asserting that a universal basic income of $10,000 a year per person could add approximately $3 trillion to national spending in the U.S.

Individuals such as Mark Cuban and Robert Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University, have suggested that we should optimize existing benefits systems. Gordon told the MIT Technology Review that his idea is to make “benefits more generous to reach a reasonable minimum, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, and greatly expand preschool care for children who grow up in poverty.”

We won’t know for sure how effective a UBI could be until someone actually implements an experiment large enough to provide meaningful data, and right now, Finland doesn’t appear to be that entity.

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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.

The post Spoiler Alert: Blockchain is About Far More Than Just Crypto appeared first on Futurism.

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.

The post An Airline Just Started Using an Ethereum Blockchain to Issue Tickets appeared first on Futurism.

The Electric Bioreactor Farm

Finnish researchers have created a batch of single-cell protein that is nutritious enough to serve for dinner using a system powered by renewable energy. The entire process requires only electricity, water, carbon dioxide, and microbes. The synthetic food was created as part of the Food From Electricity project, which is a collaboration between Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

After exposing the raw materials to electrolysis in a bioreactor, the process forms a powder that consists of more than 50 percent protein and 25 percent carbohydrates — the texture can also be changed by altering the microbes used in the production.

Image Credit: Laurie Nygren
Image Credit: Laurie Nygren

The next stage, according to Juha-Pekka Pitkänen, principal scientist at VTT, is to optimize the system because, currently, a bioreactor the size of a coffee cup takes around two weeks to produce one gram of the protein. Pitkänen said in a LUT press release, “We are currently focusing on developing the technology: reactor concepts, technology, improving efficiency, and controlling the process.”

He predicted that it would take about a decade before a more efficient incarnation of the system would be widely available — “Maybe 10 years is a realistic timeframe for reaching commercial capacity, in terms of the necessary legislation and process technology.”

A World Without Hunger

The potential impact of food produced using electricity and other widely available raw materials is enormous. Currently, there are two main ways that it could be used.

First, as a means of feeding starving people and providing a source of food in areas that are not suited to agricultural production. Pitkänen said that, in the future, “the technology can be transported to, for instance, deserts and other areas facing famine,” providing a source of cheap and nutritious food to those who need it most.

Future Food: Menu of 2030
Click to View Full Infographic

The machine also works independently of environmental factors, meaning that it could feed people consistently — Jero Ahola, a Professor at LUT, said in the press release that it “does not require a location with the conditions for agriculture, such as the right temperature, humidity or a certain soil type.”

Second, as a means of decreasing global emissions by reducing the demand for food livestock and the crops necessary to feed them. Currently, the meat industry accounts for between 14 and 18 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases, as well as taking up swarths of land that could be applied for other ends.

The food from electricity project could decrease the amount of unsustainable farming needed to fill our bellies as it provides us with a smaller, cheaper, and renewable method of getting our nutrients. Other solutions to this problem include lab-grown meat or turning to insect farming, which produces less waste and requires less energy.

The post A Team of Scientists Just Made Food From Electricity — and it Could be the Solution to World Hunger appeared first on Futurism.

Securing the Internet

For a country notorious for its restrictive internet policies, China seems to be taking the lead on developing next-generation internet communications. The city of Jinan is set to become the hub of this quantum communications network that will boost Beijing-Shanghai internet when the project is launched by the end of August. It is set to become the world’s first “unhackable” internet communications network.

Unlike encryption methods that hide the key under difficult mathematical problems, quantum communication and cryptography use entanglement to do the trick. Concretely, the key is embedded in photons (light particles) and sent ahead of the encrypted message — a method called quantum key distribution (QKD).

Communication becomes “unhackable” this way because any attempt to intercept the key would be obvious to the sender and the intended recipient. What’s even more impressive is that China has the technology to extend quantum communications up to 400 kilometers (about 250 miles), as previously demonstrated in a quantum cryptography research in Hefei.

Favoring Entangled Particles Over Numbers

As technology becomes increasingly more complex, computers are becoming increasingly more powerful. This puts current encryption methods in danger, as number-crunching becomes easier with powerful computing power. Number-based keys need to be prolonged and constantly updated to keep up. QKD potentially solves all of this.

This is the Fastest Internet on Earth
Click to View Full Infographic

Yet, for the most part, it seems China is leaving the West behind in pursuit of this technology. “For a long time people simply didn’t think it was needed,” Myungshik Kim from Imperial College, London, told the BBC. “The mathematical difficulty of the current coding system was so high that it was not thought necessary to implement the new technology.”

Recent security breeches and hacks, of course, reveal the error of this thinking. That’s one reason why China is pursuing quantum communication, but the tech has a number of other possible applications as well.

“We plan to use the [Jinan] network for national [defense], finance, and other fields, and hope to spread it out as a pilot that if successful, can be used across China and the whole world,” Zhou Fei, Jinan Institute of Quantum Technology assistant director, previously told the Financial Times.

The post China’s New Quantum Communication Network Will Be “Unhackable” appeared first on Futurism.

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.

The post A Bitcoin Civil War Has Been Avoided, at Least Temporarily appeared first on Futurism.

In the U.S., about a quarter of all car accidents — 328,000 annually — involve driving fatigue. These crashes cause an estimated 30,000 deaths every year, making drowsy driving almost as dangerous as drunk driving. The magnitude of this problem is shocking — and so is its solution.

Image Credit: STEER
Image Credit: STEER
Steer is a bracelet that will give you a “gentle” electric shock if you are close to falling asleep. It works by using 16 sensors that are equipped within the band. These sensors monitor various vital signs — similarly to the way a polygraph machine records your physiological indicators. Steer measures heart rate and skin conductance to determine how drowsy the wearer is.
If Steer finds that you are getting a little drowsy, it will alert you by vibrating. But if it determines you are on the brink of sleep, then it will deploy an electrical jolt — for your own good, of course. The device checks on you every two seconds and has a battery life of two weeks, so you can rest assured (while wide awake) that Steer will keep you safe on your next road trip.Steer’s makers are taking orders on their Kickstarter page, where the band is currently available for 99€ ($115). It is slated for mass production this fall, with delivery to follow in November.But while it is vital — literally — to stay awake while driving, it’s also important to get good rest on a regular basis. You shouldn’t have to be shocked awake on every excursion. On that front, check out these gadgets that will you catch some Zs once you get safely to your destination.

The post New Wearable Could Save 30,000 People a Year appeared first on Futurism.

If you’ve read the title, then you’re probably aware of an upcoming “film” circling an unlikely duo. The “movie” is called “The Rock x Siri: Dominate The Day,” and is actually an ad styled after the kind of crazy, possibly comedic action move Dwayne Johnson has become famous for. Like last year’s extended commercial collaboration between Taylor Swift and Apple Music, this project is Apple plus celebrity mojo plus, this time around, Siri.

According to Johnson’s Facebook post, the movie is the “dopest” and “funnest,” and Siri is the “greatest co-star of all time.” She certainly received top billing on the poster — no photo though. Check out the full “movie” here:

The “Dominate the Day” theme plays on Johnson’s unlikely all-talented persona — depicting him as a chef, fashion designer, fresco painter, jumbo-jet pilot, musician, and bonsai artist — all with the help of Siri’s FaceTime-, iTunes-, and Lyft-integrated help. The idea is that you too can accomplish an unbelievable list of things with the help of Siri, even if you’re not The Rock.

Dominating your actual day is optional.

The post New “Action Movie” Stars The Rock and Siri…Really appeared first on Futurism.

Ripple Exploding In Q2

The digital currency market has been dominated by Ripple’s XRP for the first half of the year. XRP finished its second financial quarter up 3,977 percent from the beginning of the year at $0.26. It has now dropped to about $0.19, but this is still an impressive display of growth and strength.

Image Credit: ak Yip/Flickr
Image Credit: ak Yip/Flickr
In Q2 alone, Ripple recorded more than $11 million in transactions, and XRP joined 25 new exchanges. XRP now has the third-largest market capitalization in cryptocurrencies — behind only Bitcoin and Ether. Ripple has also recently differentiated the use case for XRP, which, in turn, spiked interest in the cryptocurrency in Q2: “With respect to XRP, we are incredibly focused on international payments, I think we are probably the only digital asset that has a clear use case with respect to what we are trying to do with the asset,” Miguel Vias, Ripple’s head of XRP markets, told CNBC.

Cryptocurrency Renaissance

Ripple and XRP are just part of the latest example of cryptocurrencies booming during an overall digital currency renaissance. Right now, various countries are experimenting with cryptocurrencies, acknowledging their role in the future of finance and looking to secure their place in that future. For example, the South African Reserve Bank, the country’s central bank, is trying on Bitcoin regulation for size; China is testing a national cryptocurrency — a sensible option in a country that has gone almost totally cashless in urban areas; and “Ethereum Island” may be coming to the African coast as Mauritius moves to take its place as a cryptocurrency and blockchain technology hub.

Meanwhile, despite some rocky days, many experts think that now is the best time to invest in cryptocurrencies — whichever platform appeals to you. While some are worried that the cryptocurrency market might be experiencing a bubble, others see this period of rapid growth as a sign of larger changes in the world economy. As countries like China and Japan sway the cryptocurrency market, it becomes clearer that close attention to technological advancement, a desire to achieve cybersecurity, and a need to control one’s money are the decisive factors for many cryptocurrency investors.

This makes Ripple’s focus on international payments seem shrewd, and feel like a strong explanatory factor in XRP’s current strong position in the cryptocurrency market.

 

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.

The post The Third-Largest Cryptocurrency, Ripple’s XRP, Up Almost 4000% in Second Quarter appeared first on Futurism.

Plug-and-Play Smartphones

On Thursday July 20, Facebook published its patent application for a “modular electromechanical device” that includes a phone, GPS, microphone, speaker, and touch display. This kind of modular consumer hardware would allow users to combine several different components together on a single device — a kind of plug-and-play smartphone.

This sort of modular design is also of interest to Google, who has already made one unsuccessful attempt to bring its Project Ara smartphone to market. Some members of the Project Ara team are now at Facebook’s Building 8 — including Regina Dugan, the leader of the research lab. Building 8 is Facebook’s lab for consumer technologies and the epicenter of its futuristic projects.

*4* Facebook is Working on Modular Consumer Device

Several Building 8 employees were named on the patent application. The four employees had previously worked for Nascent Objects, a startup that prototyped modular gadgets using 3D printing. Facebook acquired Nascent Objects last year, and a spokesperson confirmed to Tech Insider that the technologies in the patent application were part of that acquisition.

More Efficient Consumer Electronics

According to the patent application, the device could work as a phone, or it could work more like Amazon’s Alexa does in terms of its music speaker function. The application also notes that the components of millions of connected devices could be loaded with various kinds of software as pieces are swapped out.

The modular system also appears to be a move towards more efficient and long-term use of consumer electronics. The application reads, “Typically, the hardware components included in the consumer electronics that are considered ‘outdated’ are still useable. However, the hardware components can no longer be re-used since consumer electronics are designed as closed systems. From a consumer prospective, the life cycle of conventional consumer electronics is expensive and wasteful.”

It remains to be seen whether Facebook will succeed where Google failed; just because a patient application is filed, there’s no guarantee that a device will actually get made.

The post Facebook Just Filed a Patent for a Modular Consumer Device appeared first on Futurism.

Complete Darkness

In 1977, New York went dark in what many have called the most severe blackout in American history. Panic ensued, shop owners torched their own buildings for insurance profits, and there were two days of absolute confusion and bedlam. While the experience might have better prepared the country for this type of disaster, if the same type of event were to happen in our current advanced technological age, the effects could be even more widespread.

A blackout of this nature has the possibility to happen on a global scale because of the chance of a massive solar storm. Large solar flares and solar storms have the potential to interfere with Earth’s geomagnetic field. This has happened before, and when it does, our technology could be affected. Solar flares can create issues as simple as small inaccuracies in GPS, which creates massive issues not just with personal navigation, but with aviation and precisely tuned clocks.

A solar flare in action. Image Credit: NASA

While this presents a wide array of potential difficulties and disasters, a coronal mass ejection (CME) would be more serious. A much larger burst, CMEs can shoot particles into Earth’s atmosphere and create electromagnetic fluctuations. This can create fluctuations and disturbances on the ground, which could be strong enough to destroy transformers within power grids. This can, quite obviously, cause widespread blackouts (while still interfering with GPS technologies).

These events do not represent the full extent of potential solar storms. In 1859, amateur astronomer Richard Carrington was trying to using glass and projection to study sunspots when “a ray of light had penetrated a hole in the screen attached to the object-glass…for the brilliancy was fully equal to that of direct sunlight.” Now known as the Carrington event, this storm was reported to have started fires, stopped all working electricity, and lit up the sky with auroras.

Widespread Disruption

There is a wide range of severity when it comes to solar storms. But the impacts of these storms range from potentially disastrous, even at the mildest level, to incomprehensibly catastrophic. The Carrington event happened in the mid-1800s, and the effects that it had on the technology of the time were notable and significant. The effect of a similar event occurring during the 21st century would be much worse due to our reliance on technology — for starters, we would probably lose all satellites, causing billions of dollars in damage and confusion as our navigation and communication systems shut down. It is impossible to say with certainty what such an event would lead to, and when or if it might happen.

Hopefully before another major solar event happens, we might at least have the ability to anticipate it. To, at least, mitigate damages, people could be informed of the exact time and nature of the event, lessening panic and chaos. They could also be instructed to stay off the roads, airlines could be entirely shut down, and protective structures could be created/used (or there might be ways for people to maximize safety at home). While these actions wouldn’t ensure safety, being informed would be the key to recovering from the event. NASA is also aware of the potential problems, and is actively researching solutions. The agency says:

[Space weather] is a problem the same way hurricanes are a problem. One can protect oneself with advance information and proper precautions. During a hurricane watch, a homeowner can stay put … or he can seal up the house, turn off the electronics and get out of the way. Similarly, scientists at NASA and NOAA give warnings to electric companies, spacecraft operators and airline pilots before a CME comes to Earth so that these groups can take proper precautions.

You can follow NASA’s space weather forecasts, and rest easy knowing that they are watching the skies (and Sun) for us.

The post The Next Major Blackout on Earth Will Be Caused by This Natural Source appeared first on Futurism.

The Drake Equation attempts to quantify how likely we are to find intelligent alien life.

It takes all of the variables required for an intelligent civilization to exist AND send out communication signals, then multiplies them together.

What the Drake Equation Can Tell Us About the Future of Humanity [Kelsey Pending]

The values of the variables on the left side of the equation are skyrocketing the more we explore the universe with telescopes and satellites. We’ve found far more star systems and planets capable of hosting life than we ever thought possible. Some estimates are as high as 60 billion planets in the Milky Way!

But the N value (the estimated number of alien civilizations in our galaxy capable of communication) must still be small because…well…we haven’t found them yet!

That begs that question — which of the variables on the right side, the unknowns, are the great filters causing that small N value?

The most critical variable to us on Earth is the last one. L is the length of time civilizations release detectable signals into space.

If L is responsible for the small N value, it could mean that species don’t often last long enough to create signals, let alone receive them. It would then stand to reason that the near-term destruction of our species is statistically probable.

SETI researchers hope that, instead, the great filter is behind us. Perhaps the emergence of intelligent life is the rare occurrence rather than how long those lifeforms survive.

Or maybe the Drake Equation is incomplete.

Maybe they have some Star Trek-esque ideal of never meddling with the growth of early-stage civilizations.

Maybe they are out there listening, but they’re so far away that our signals won’t reach them for centuries, and their replies will take just as long to hit our digital ears.

Maybe they’re so much more advanced that we’re just not that interesting to them.

…or maybe we’re one day away from receiving a reply.

Maybe.

The post What the Drake Equation Can Tell Us About the Future of Humanity appeared first on Futurism.

Decade of Discovery

In the Milky Way alone, there are an estimated 300 billion stars that host about 9 billion habitable, Earth-size planets. Could some form of alien life have taken root on any of these planets? Projects like Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have scoured the skies for signs to answer this question, and we asked Futurism readers when they thought these efforts would finally be successful.

The poll shows that more than half of responders believe we will discover extraterrestrial life in the first half of the 21st century, and the decade that received the most votes (about 27 percent) is actually the soonest — the 2020s. This was the prediction of Michael Barker, who wrote, “Technology is seriously Sci-fi these days. If an alien so much as farts in space in the next decade, we’ll be able to hear it. In all seriousness. The sensors we have today are very broad in their capability, and are very versatile.”

Alien or Natural: Strangest Sounds & Signals Detected from Space
Click to View Full Infographic

While little work has been published detecting bodily sounds from other planets, our ability to look for different signs of life is rapidly advancing. Examples of our improved technology include the James Webb Space Telescope, which is seven times stronger than the Hubble telescope, and the equipment used for the Breakthrough Listen initiative.

The initiative is conducting a 10-year survey for signs of life from the 1 million stars closest to Earth using the most powerful instruments available. The Breakthrough website claims that their spectroscopic equipment “could detect a 100 watt laser (the energy of a normal household bulb) from 25 trillion miles away.”

What The Experts Have to Say

In fact, Breakthrough Listen researchers have already published 11 “events” they believe could have been caused by aliens. Other interstellar signals like fast radio bursts have some scientists, Douglas Vakoch, director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute, thinking that we may be on the verge of confirming the existence of aliens.

“[T]he chances are getting better with every passing year,” Vakoch said in an interview with Space.com. He added that “within the next decade, we may well discover we’re not alone in the universe.”

But the extraterrestrial life we discover may not be an advanced civilization, many experts believe. Astronomy researcher Chris Impey said in an interview with Futurism, “I put my money on detecting microbial life in 10 to 15 years, but not at all detecting intelligent life.”

While the increasing sophistication of our technology has many astronomers optimistic about our prospects of discovering alien life, this is of course contingent on whether there is indeed alien life to find. That, and the possibility that we may have wrong ideas about how aliens will communicate are strong reasons for caution, argues Michael Michaud, a member of the International Academy of Astronautics.

“There is no way to predict when contact will take place,” Michaud said to Space.com. “The only generalization I can offer is that expanding ways of searching while continuing to send out our own signals — both intentional and unintentional — may make contact more likely. Until we have solid evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, we must live with uncertainty.”

See all of Futurism predictions and make your own predictions here.

The post When Will We Discover Some Form of Alien Life? appeared first on Futurism.

South African Bitcoin Experiment

The South African Reserve Bank, which functions as the country’s central bank, is partnering with blockchain-based solutions provider Bankymoon to experiment with digital currency regulations. Bankymoon will serve as a “sandbox business” as the team works with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies with the ultimate goal of understanding and legitimizing the growing adoption of cryptocurrency.

Image Credit: fdecomite/Flickr
Image Credit: fdecomite/Flickr
Until now, the South African government has mostly ignored Bitcoin and other digital currencies, but these currencies are being used more and more in the nation among both individuals and merchants, so the government is trying to be more proactive. Bankymoon CEO Lorien Gamaroff commented to Business Tech, “The sandbox will only be Bitcoin-focused during this initial phase, but is focused on applying broad regulations to all cryptocurrencies.”

Support For Regulation

As with any new technology that becomes mainstream, regulation becomes an issue. However, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology they are based upon are, by nature, decentralized. Therefore, there is, at some level, a fundamental tension between the government’s need or desire to regulate and the structure of the technology (not to mention the intent of its users).

However, government regulation of digital currencies could legitimize the technology. Gamaroff believes that regulations will strengthen and give legitimacy to Bitcoin and other digital currencies for novice users, “I think the regulation will move things along and make people on the street comfortable with Bitcoin. With these new regulations, these everyday people can now trust that Bitcoin is not just for hackers and criminals.”

The initiative also enjoys the support of some of South Africa’s leaders and biggest businesses. Former First National Bank CEO Michael Jordaan, for example, believes that digital currency is on track to render central banks and the entire traditional banking model obsolete. Only time will tell whether the government can involve itself in a meaningful way with this kind of regulation — or if the technology will simply continue to expand without that type of constraint.

 

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.

The post Central South African Bank Will Experiment With Bitcoin Regulation appeared first on Futurism.

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.

The post Ethereum Co-Founder Helps Launch New Blockchain Startup appeared first on Futurism.

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

The post Op Ed: The Death of Net Neutrality Could Also be the Death of Blockchain appeared first on Futurism.

Society and working life are changing at an incredible pace today. Sitra Megatrends 2016 is one publication, among others, that introduces the idea that humankind will change more in the next 30 years than in the past 300. This can already be seen as changes in the nature of work and the disappearance of professions. In the future, many companies will not need a large number of employees to produce large profits. One example is Instagram, which had only 12 employees when it was sold to Facebook in 2012 for USD 1 billion. In comparison, the 20th-century photography giant Kodak employed more than 140,000 people at its peak. This example is indicative of the potential change that digitalisation is capable of bringing about.[i]

Even if the boldest predictions about the impacts of digitalisation on the labour market do not come true, polarisation and uncertainty in the labour market is likely to increase in the future.

Many people feel that basic income is the best long-term option for dealing with change caused by technological development.

Many people feel that basic income is the best long-term option for dealing with change caused by technological development. Basic income is considered a flexible way of guaranteeing a minimum income for people in a situation where demand for everyone’s work is not sufficient, income comes from many sources, and social security’s rigid classification of people as employed or unemployed is no longer appropriate. Other reasons used to justify basic income include the need to simplify the social security system, plug loopholes and dismantle disincentives.

Basic income is defined as an income paid personally to all members of society on a regular basis without conditions or means testing. Further income can be earned without losing basic income. Several models for implementing basic income have been proposed, focusing on how to finance the system and other details. However, the models still require development in order to realise the expectations set for basic income.

Many of the models take increased earnings into account when taxing income. Although the benefit is, as a general rule, the same amount for everyone, steps can be added, for example, based on the recipient’s age or some other criterion. Various means-tested components of social assistance can be retained alongside basic income. In addition to basic income, the term ‘citizen’s wage’ has also been used in Finnish discussions. At times, this has referred to income without a work requirement and at other times, to income that requires some sort of service to society. Terms like citizen’s income, participation income and negative income tax have also made part of the discussion.

Finland’s Basic Income Experiment Focuses on Facilitating Employment

Even during the early stages of industrialisation, social reformists proposed that dividends on the income from common property be distributed on a regular basis or as a lump sum. In particular, land and natural resources were considered to be such common property. Similar ideas have also been proposed today, especially in reaction to increases in the wealth gap that may be caused by digitalisation. Some people believe that income taxes are not the only legitimate way of financing basic income, because all wealth is ultimately the result of collective activities. Thus, financing for basic income should be arranged in another manner, for example, by taxing property or capital and the income from them, or even by some sort of robot tax. However, most basic income models link income taxation and basic income, possibly supplemented by other financing.

Many countries are already planning basic income experiments.

Basic income and the ideas surrounding it have been discussed as a way of reforming social security for several decades. In recent years, this debate has been activating in different parts of Europe and North America and also in some so-called ‘poorer’ countries. Many countries are already planning basic income experiments. Several Dutch cities want to launch their own basic income experiments. Canada too, is also preparing an experiment, while a private capital investment company in the United States plans to implement its own basic income project.

The first basic income experiment in Finland was launched at the beginning of 2017 and will last two years. Its target group are labour market subsidy or basic unemployment allowance recipients between the ages of 25 and 58. Two thousand people from this group have been selected at random for the trial. The tax authority is not involved in the first experiment, so the taxation model for the participants is the same as for other Finns. The tax-exempt basic income in the experiment is EUR 560 per month, and it will replace basic daily allowance of the same amount. Any other social security benefits will remain unchanged. If an unemployed person participating in the experiment finds employment, he or she will not lose the basic income and the sum will not be reduced. In practice, this is the feature that is most beneficial to participants and will potentially improve the incentive to work. The primary aim of the experiment is to determine whether participants are more likely to find employment than other unemployed people. It is part of the government programme of Finland’s current government and separate legislation has been passed for the experiment.

The Finnish Basic Income Discussion: Support Across Party Lines, Disagreement on the Goals

The terms ‘negative income tax’ and ‘citizen’s wage’ were first postulated in the 1970s, but the discussion became more regular during the 1980s. Political discussion also addressed the idea of a basic income system, which would harmonise income transfers and guarantee a statutory minimum income regardless of a person’s life situation. Starting in the mid-1990s, the term ‘basic income’ gradually established itself. Although interest has varied, the idea has never completely disappeared from public discussion. The discussion usually peaked prior to parliamentary elections in years when basic income was part of party platforms (1987, 1994, 1996-1998, 2006-2007). The latest and highest peak in discussion occurred prior to the 2015 elections, a result of the planned implementation of a basic income experiment by the government now in power.

Although this interest has crossed party lines, there are many differences concerning the objective of basic income and the best model for it.

The political parties in Finland have shown varying levels of interest in a citizen’s wage and basic income. Although this interest has crossed party lines, there are many differences concerning the objective of basic income and the best model for it. Along with political parties, many interest groups, experts and opinion formers have taken part in the discussion.

The understanding of the nature of the citizen’s wage and basic income has varied over the years. In the 1980s, a citizen’s wage was seen as a potential solution to the decrease in industrial work caused by technological development. Automation was expected to radically reduce the need for human work. A citizen’s wage was primarily considered as a way to reduce the supply of work to meet the reduced demand and provide a decent income for people without employment. A citizen’s wage was seen as a means of sharing work more equally and shifting some people to various non-profit work in the ‘softer’ sector of society (households, associations or local communities). People often called for a complete redefinition of the concept of work.

Discussion of the citizen’s wage decreased during the recession in the early 1990s and revived again after the worst years of recession had passed. At the same time, the term ‘basic income’ gradually became more common and replaced the citizen’s wage term. Record unemployment levels throughout the latter half of the 1990s ensured that interest in basic income remained high. However, understanding of basic income changed after the recession. This was associated with a more general change in social policy discussion that provided more space for policy actions related to labour supply factors and activation of the unemployed. In contrast to the discussion of the citizen’s wage in the 1980s, basic income was considered a way to encourage people to also accept casual and low-wage work rather than only full employment. People believed that expanding the service sector could compensate for the loss of industrial jobs if employment costs were reduced, collective agreements became more flexible and social security changed and moved in a more encouraging direction. Basic income was seen as a way of dismantling social security disincentives so that working would always increase net income. Basic income would be a fairly low base wage serving as a foundation for building income from several sources.

As employment rates improved in the early 2000s, discussion of basic income decreased. The discussion revived in response to a motion to improve the rights of temporary workers made by the precariat movement in 2006. Activists demanded a basic income that would safeguard a decent income and improve the bargaining position of low-income earners on the labour market. Basic income was widely debated in newspaper columns in 2006-2007, with the Green Party highlighting the basic income theme prior to the parliamentary elections. Attention now focused mainly on changes in work and uncertainty of income. The traditional social security system, with its disincentives and complicated rules, was seen as a poor match for post-industrial labour market needs. Basic income was presented as an investment focusing on work and entrepreneurship, which would make it possible to pursue a new kind of full employment (made up of temporary jobs). The latest debate has revolved around digitalisation and the basic income experiment planned by Juha Sipilä’s government.

Other factors behind the new international basic income discussion include the view that the current phase of robotisation and digitalisation threatens to destroy more jobs than technology development can produce in other areas. The new working life that is now evolving will also require a new kind of social security. Basic income is considered an important part or at least a significant option for this new system.

The Arguments Related to Basic Income in a Nutshell

The arguments for and against basic income are rarely based on scientific evidence. No results have been measured because basic income has never been properly tested in practice. Various operators also have a different focus regarding what they see as the most important benefits or threats of basic income. A list of the arguments presented by key defenders and opponents of basic income is presented below.

For:

Basic income would

  • eliminate social security disincentives
  • simplify and clarify the system
  • make casual work more profitable
  • eliminate the problem of falling through the cracks of social security
  • reduce poverty
  • support people’s own life choices
  • enable flexible transition between different life situations
  • improve the opportunities for low-income earners to negotiate their terms of work
  • eliminate the humiliating and controlling features of social security
  • make it possible to adjust working time and work methods according to personal life situation and interests
  • make it possible to turn down unsatisfactory work
  • support opportunities for small entrepreneurship and self-employment and for the kind of creative work and activity that does not provide a high level of monetary compensation but which it rewarding as such
  • reduce exclusion by providing opportunities for meaningful activity also outside the scope of paid employment
  • free up time that social work professionals and labour authorities spend on paper work for helping customers

Against:

Basic income would

  • be either too expensive to implement (high basic income) or insufficient to replace means-tested social security (low basic income)
  • weaken work incentives and provide the opportunity to live off others
  • also distribute money to those who do not need it
  • reinforce part-time jobs and weaken collective agreements
  • require excessively high marginal taxes and thus weaken work incentives
  • polarise society into those who can live off work and those who are not able to do so
  • leave people who need help to manage on their own and promote the exclusion of young people
  • not take individual needs into account if a flat sum was paid to everyone
  • weaken the position of women on the labour market, because women would be more likely than men to stay home and care for children when on basic income

A flat general income has also been considered a more equal way of providing social security to people in different life situations.

The aim of basic income is to influence labour market activities and social policy principles and practices. Although different operators want to achieve different things with basic income, common targets include clarifying support system bureaucracy, eliminating the “disincentives” associated with combining social security and work, preventing people from falling through the cracks of social security, reducing poverty, and enabling flexible transition between different life situations. Automatically granting the same minimum income security to everyone has been considered a way to reduce the red tape associated with granting benefits and facilitate the employment of benefit recipients because all income would no longer have to be reported to the authorities. In addition, basic income has been seen as a way to provide income security for those who, despite a low income, are not entitled to benefits for one reason or another, or who have been unable or unwilling to apply for benefits to which they are entitled. A flat general income has also been considered a more equal way of providing social security to people in different life situations and enabling flexible transition between different forms of work, studies and family life.

Opponents of basic income have generally focused on the presumed high cost of the system and its negative effects on work morale. Opponents argue that basic social security paid unconditionally would provide the right to a free ride and weaken the position of work as the foundation of our society. Opponents and defenders can be found in political circles on both the right and the left. The right has primarily been concerned about the costs of the system and its incentive effects. The left (especially in the union movement) has been worried that basic income would cause an increase in low-income work and polarise the labour market.

Different Basic Income Models

The idea of basic income is to deliver a periodic cash payment to everyone in the system on an individual basis. According to the definition, there are no conditions or work requirement involved with receiving basic income. The purpose is not to increase the net income of middle- or high-income earners, so basic income models nearly always involve a tax system reform in which the added income provided by basic income is recovered from high-income earners via taxation.

The purpose of basic income is generally considered to be the replacement of different forms of means-tested minimum social security. The starting point for Finnish discussion has usually involved separating the housing allowance from basic income, but in theory it could also be covered by basic income if the basic income was high enough. However, this would present a challenge in terms of financing. Another challenge would be how to take regional differences into account. For example, if the basic income paid in a small community was based on housing costs in Helsinki, this could mean an unreasonably high income without a work requirement. On the other hand, basic income based on housing costs in small communities would be inadequate in the Helsinki capital region. Housing costs also differ depending on whether a person owns or rents their home. Regional differences in housing costs could be taken into account by, for example, making basic income proportional to the average rent per square meter in the community. Differences in the type of housing could be balanced by taxation.

One possible method of implementing basic income is a negative income tax model. This model involves only paying basic income to those who fall below a certain income level so that the amount of the payment gradually decreases as the person’s income rises.

Basic income models are very different.

Basic income models are very different. For example, they can be classified according to the model’s:

  • relationship to other social security (target group, level, supplementary benefits).
  • financing method (income tax reform or other sources of financing)
  • targets (related to labour markets, social policy and society in general)
  • effects (to the extent that they can be assessed).

Basic Income and Other Social Security

Depending on the model, basic income is a rather extensive reform of the tax and social security system that has to be combined with existing institutions in one way or another. Basic income is generally seen as a system that would replace means-tested minimum social security benefits and put them on the same level. The higher the basic income, the greater the number of subsidy forms it could replace. However, proposals generally suggest that some means-tested benefits could be retained alongside basic income, at least for such special groups who, for one reason or another, cannot be expected to participate in the labour market.

Basic income models vary according to which groups would be included in the scope of the system. In some models, basic income would only be paid to people of working age. Other models would also include minors and/or pensioners, and in this case basic income could have different levels for different age groups. Some models propose that basic income only be paid to citizens while others would grant it to non-citizens with permanent resident status, for example, after they had lived in the country for a certain period of time. There are also models where a benefit called basic income would only target a certain population group, such as those entitled to social security, people who receive unemployment benefits or have irregular income, or where the right to basic income would have a time limit. Other proposals include models that resemble basic income but are based on a work requirement and/or means testing.

The level of the benefit also varies considerably between different models. Full basic income means that the level of the benefit is sufficient to cover the essential costs of housing and living. Partial basic income means that other social security is needed to supplement basic income if a person’s earnings are not sufficient. Other differences between models include whether basic income would be subject to taxation or whether it would be a tax-exempt benefit. The idea of basic income as a more limited system functioning as part of existing social security has also been proposed.

How Would Basic Income Be Financed?

In theory, there are many different alternatives for financing basic income. Many of the models would reform income taxation so that the added income provided by basic income would gradually be collected back as a person’s earnings increased. The idea is that basic income would not significantly change the net income of an average wage-earner. Adjustment of tax rates and the amount of basic income can affect income distribution: the basic income model can be implemented in a way that maintains the current income distribution or in a way that changes it in one direction or another. Money will circulate in the economy in a different way when everyone receives basic income and also pays a higher income tax. Income taxation can be supplemented with other direct or indirect taxes as needed.

A switch to a flat tax rate for income taxation is often proposed in conjunction with basic income. However, this is by no means essential, because progressive taxation can also be used with basic income.

The basic income models proposed in Finland have generally been criticised for the high marginal tax rates they require, which are seen as disincentives. Financing based on income taxation can be supplemented by other taxes in order to reduce the marginal tax rate in basic income models. The basic income models presented in Finland have, for example, proposed environmental taxes, inheritance and wealth taxes, the elimination of tax deductions, and an increase in property and capital income taxation as ways to supplement financing by means of income taxes. Use of consumption taxes to finance basic income has also been suggested in some connections.

One possibility for implementing basic income is the so-called negative income tax model. Negative income tax is a combination of taxation and automatic income support in which an income transfer is paid when a person’s earnings remain below a certain level. This is gradually reduced as earnings increase. Although basic income and negative income tax have a somewhat different history and support base, they can technically produce nearly the same result. The advantage of negative income tax is that it could help achieve the presumed impacts of basic income at a lower marginal tax rate. However, implementation of this model would require real-time monitoring of earnings. The national income register that is planned to be launched in early 2019 would make this possible in Finland.

How Would Basic Income Affect Us?

Micro-simulation analyses can be used to assess the impacts of basic income models on households and the entire population. These analyses generally indicate that basic income would increase net earnings for low-income earners who have some earnings in addition to social security. However, the effects would vary in different cases due to the joint impact of benefits.

Basic income would most clearly increase net income for social security recipients whose current benefit level is lower than the basic income and for those with no income or a low income who don’t receive any social security benefits. Basic income, for example, would substantially improve the income of entrepreneurs with the lowest earnings, because currently, they are not eligible for an adjusted unemployment allowance. Efforts are often being made to build basic income models so that the net earnings of middle-income earners would not change at all.

The relationship between basic income and the EUR 300 of exempt earnings currently used in Finland should also be examined. If the exempt earnings component is not included in the basic income model, people doing casual work may actually end up with less net earnings. Child and activation increases for labour market subsidy and basic unemployment allowance may also be a disincentive if they remain in force.

The most interesting effects of basic income would, naturally, be so-called dynamic effects, in other words, those affecting human and company behaviour.

The most interesting effects of basic income would, naturally, be so-called dynamic effects, in other words, those affecting human and company behaviour. An experiment is the only way to bring about these effects to some extent. For example, there have been fears that a higher marginal tax rate would weaken work incentives for middle- and high-income earners.

Conversely, it has been suggested that basic income would encourage people to try entrepreneurship because it would guarantee a minimum income even when the company is struggling. Economists have shown that the proposed basic income models would still contain some disincentives unless other social security elements were reformed at the same time. However, the mere knowledge of a steady income could psychologically increase the willingness to accept casual work. One of the problems in terms of today’s social security is the so-called bureaucratic disincentive. This refers to the extra paperwork that casual workers must complete in order to report working hours, work locations and the pay received for that work to the authorities and the delays in payment caused by the need to check that information. The complicated system also makes it difficult for recipients of overlapping subsidies to understand how work affects different benefits. Uncertainty about the effect that work income has on benefits may already be enough to create a disincentive.

In order to achieve the desired positive effects, more attention must be focused on the joint impacts of basic income, other social security components, and taxation. The current basic income model still has many shortcomings, particularly in relation to work incentives. One solution is to lower taxation on low incomes or implement a tax deduction for work income that only applies to low-income earners. The fact that the low level of primary benefits forces many low-income earners to regularly seek basic social assistance represents another disincentive. If we want to restore basic social assistance to its original role as temporary emergency assistance and simultaneously prevent it from causing disincentives, basic income must be higher than the existing minimum unemployment allowance.

A reform of the housing allowance would also be needed in conjunction with the basic income model, by allowing, for example, a certain amount of exempt earnings for low income earners. The possible benefits of the basic income model would probably be most effectively achieved if basic income could be set high enough to also replace the housing allowance and in some way take regional and other differences into account in the costs. However, in this case, the high cost of financing basic income would be a challenge.

This article is based on Johanna Perkiö’s report Suomalainen perustulokeskustelu ja mallit (Public debate and proposed models for a universal basic income system in Finland)[ii].

This article is part of The Next Era, a global initiative to track, connect, and amplify emerging ideas for an open and forward-looking society. The Next Era is a collaboration between the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and the Nordic think tank Demos Helsinki.

[i] Kiiski Kataja, Elina (2016): Megatrends 2016: The future happens now. Sitra. https://www.sitra.fi/julkaisut/Muut/Megatrendit_2016.pdf

[ii] Perkiö, Johanna (2016): Suomalainen perustulokeskustelu ja mallitTyöpapereita 85/2016. Kela. http://hdl.handle.net/10138/159369

The post Does Basic Income Solve Anything? Grasp the Arguments for and Against appeared first on Futurism.

Parity – the “world’s fastest ethereum client” –  just posted an alert on their blog warning of a vulnerability in version 1.5 or later in its wallet software. The alert advises users to “…immediately move their funds to a secure address.”

Users are scrambling to learn the extent of the breach and if their funds were made vulnerable. Coindesk reports that, so far, 150,000 ether (worth $30 million) have been reported to the company as stolen.

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Parity claims to be the “most secure way of interacting with the Ethereum network.” The project was originally devised by a co-founder of Ethereum, Gavin Wood.

Decentralized technologies are rapidly emerging as cryptocurrency is increasing in visibility and popularity. Regardless of how much currency was stolen, the optics of such a breach are not good for these emerging technologies. It will be difficult for them to become a new standard if adopters cannot rely on the highly-touted security of the platforms.


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.

The post This Crypto Wallet, Devised by a Co-Founder of Ether, Has a Major Breach appeared first on Futurism.

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.

The post More Than 150 Organizations Are Working Together to Support the Growth of Ethereum appeared first on Futurism.

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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After a rough weekend of historic lows, Bitcoin prices began to recover on Monday, reaching over $2,300, signaling a crisis averted — for now. It’s also an optimistic sign that the potential network hard fork may be avoided, with more bitcoin shareholders, miners and developers, warming up to a proposed solution.

Bitcoin prices dropped dramatically beginning Friday and continuing well into the weekend. Economic forecasts had suggested that the most turbulent period in the cryptocoin’s history was imminent. It didn’t come as a complete surprise, as many were expecting the so-called Bitcoin Civil War to ensue between miners and developers, after a deadlock in deciding what direction the cryptocurrency should take amidst increased blockchain traffic.

Miners wanted to increase Bitcoin’s block-size limit, while developers have proposed moving data off the main blockchain network, which would diminish the influence miners wield. The scaling solution in question is the Bitcoin Improvement Protocol (BIP) 91, which makes the SegWit2x update and the BIP 148 compatible. Essentially, it would make it easier for the SegWit2x update to be adopted, while at the same time avoiding the split that BIP 148 might cause.

To lock in by July 31, BIP 91 only needs 80 percent miner support — unlike BIP 148, which would require 95 percent. With increased support for BIP 91, the expected July 31 to August 2 bitcoin split could still be averted.

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.

The post As Cryptocurrency Prices Recover, “Bitcoin War” May Be Averted appeared first on Futurism.

The Future of Money

China is quickly transitioning away from paper currency, with nearly everyone in major urban centers using smartphones to pay for almost everything. Alipay and WeChat are the two dominant technologies in use in the country, and they are eclipsing cash almost completely as a payment option.

Street vendors and huge shopping centers now rely on these apps, and even beggars and street musicians use QR codes in big cities in China. “It has become the default way of life now,” IDC research analyst Shiv Putcha told The New York Times. “Literally every business and brand in China is plugged into this ecosystem.”

Three years ago, everyone was still using cash, but the transition to digital payments has happened rapidly. According to consulting firm iResearch, in 2016, mobile payments in China were worth about $5.5 trillion, approximately 50 times the United States’ $112 billion market.

*4* Cash is Disappearing in Urban China — And Elsewhere

Tencent and Ant Financial (the parent companies of WeChat and Alipay, respectively) collect payment data from users, and they also charge both users and the companies being paid for their services — services that require very little in the way of overhead as they involve neither card readers nor interactions with banks.

As a result, Tencent’s 2016 Q4 revenues from “other services,” which includes mobile payments, tripled from 2015 to reach $940 million, and both they and Ant Financial are poised to surpass Mastercard and Visa in total daily transactions by 2018.

Cash-free campuses in cities like Tianjin allow students to pay all of their expenses, from tuition to meals, with their smartphones, making even physical student IDs obsolete.If implemented countrywide, these kinds of plans could save colleges an estimated 300,000 yuan ($44,034) per year in production costs for cards and 10 million yuan ($1,467,825) in annual card loss costs.

Digital payment technology linked to smartphones is also being used to improve health access in China and reduce notoriously long wait times in clinics.

Digital payments are part of the “green finance” project being piloted in China. Cashless technology is a green finance principle because it is more efficient. According to the World Bank, businesses and governments can cut costs by up to 75 percent using digital payment programs.

China is especially receptive to this kind of cashless transformation for several reasons. It has a huge unbanked population (about 12 percent of the unbanked adults worldwide are in China), a low rate of credit card usage (only about 16 percent penetration in 2014), and a lack of credit rating systems. Personal checks are largely obsolete in the nation, while digital options are widely available.

Global Digital Revolution

China isn’t alone in going cashless. Coins and bills comprise just 2 percent of Sweden’s economy, and both Norway and Denmark have eliminated cash in most settings. The New York Times reports that cash was used in about 20 percent of all consumer payments in Sweden in 2015, in contrast to the 75 percent of all transactions throughout the rest of the world. India, too, is digitizing everything from payments to identification.

A primary difference between the Scandinavian countries and China, however, is the use of debit and credit cards. Cards remain common in Sweden, with almost 2.4 billion such transactions taking place in 2013. In China, cards are rarely used, and the transition from cash skipped straight to digital apps. These are gaining ground in Scandinavian countries, though, with everyone from street vendors to churches making use of digital payment apps on smartphones.

Technology and Privacy Forecast 2017
Click to View Full Infographic

The move toward digital payments and a cash-free world has its critics. With local users locked into two platforms in China, for example, it is hard for tourists and other visitors to pay for anything. This could deter foreign businesses from coming to China or anywhere with more specialized digital payment platforms.

Furthermore, digital payment options bring with them privacy issues and cybersecurity concerns. The ability to track payment data and restrict access to money, for example, is a real concern for many users, especially when the government is the one in control.

However, for a host of reasons, the cash-free transition appears to be imminent. Ideally, we can make the transition a positive one by focusing on technologies, such as blockchain, that will ensure these transactions are private and secure.

The post Mobile Payments Are Completely Replacing Cash in One of the World’s Largest Nations appeared first on Futurism.

The IBM Z

On July 17, IBM launched the IBM Z to extend the company’s influence in the financial cybersecurity market. The new mainframe system, which can run more than 12 billion encrypted transactions each day, is designed to address cyberattacks aimed at compromising financial data. The IBM Z will also assist firms in automating their compliance process with financial regulations as well as data protection and confidentiality laws.

“The vast majority of stolen or leaked data today is in the open and easy to use because encryption has been very difficult and expensive to do at scale,” IBM Z general manager Ross Mauri said in a press release. “We created a data protection engine for the cloud era to have a significant and immediate impact on global data security.”

Image Credit: IBM
Image Credit: IBM

This latest of the “Z” mainframe systems encrypts data 18 times faster than IBM’s other platforms. The company plans to initially use the system as an encryption engine for IBM’s blockchain and cloud computing technology services. The implementation of the mainframe will be the biggest system overhaul for IBM in 15 years.

Protecting Data, Automating Compliance

According to Juniper Research, the cost of criminal data breaches may reach a total of $8 trillion by 2022. In addition, the IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index indicates that record leaks were up by 556 percent in 2016, with more than four billion records being leaked just in that year. The IBM Z transaction engine supports $8 trillion worth of payments, 87 percent of all credit card transactions, annually.

This new IBM mainframe will help to prevent breaches and automate the compliance process by using transaction encryption technology. This way, user companies can show regulators that the data they store is encrypted in order to comply with new data protection laws, such as the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) guidance in the US and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU.

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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.

The post More Than Coins: Blockchain is Transforming the Way We Distribute Aid appeared first on Futurism.

Here’s what we can expect should humanity survive for a billion more years.

The post Watch: This Is What Will Happen in the Next Billion Years appeared first on Futurism.

The Rise of Smartphones

These are the quiet times.

From April to June, tech’s biggest companies all held their annual mega-events, laying out their grand visions for the next 12 months or so.

Facebook kicked it off in late April with its F8 conference, followed by Microsoft Build, then the Google I/O conference, and Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference finished things off. Amazon doesn’t really hold events, but it unveiled two new Amazon Echo smart speakers during that period for good measure.

And things will get exciting again, sooner than you know it. This Fall, Apple is expected to reveal a 10th-anniversary iPhone, Google will likely reveal a revamped Pixel smartphone, and Microsoft is expected to hold another one of its regular late-October Surface computer press conferences.

In the meantime, there’s not much to do but reflect on what we’ve learned so far this year about the future of tech. And beyond the hype and the hyperbole, we’re starting to see the very earliest stages of a battle for the next phase of computing.

Because while Apple and Google may dominate the smartphone market today, technologies like augmented reality present whole-new platforms where there’s no clear winner. So Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, having missed out on owning a mobile platform, are doing their damndest to hasten the end of the smartphone — and the end of Apple and Google’s duopoly, while they’re at it.

Skin in the Game

Every major technological shift has created big opportunities for the few entrepreneurs who see it coming early — in the seventies, Apple and Microsoft made big bets that the PC would be a much bigger market than gigantic room-sized mainframes, while the mainframe industry decried the PC itself as a fad. We see who won that one.

Similarly, Microsoft didn’t fully realize the potential of smartphones, until well after Google and Apple proved them wrong. Now, Google’s Android is the most popular operating system in the world, full stop. And the iPhone has propelled Apple to record profits and to the status as the company to beat in tech.

Well, it seems like time is a flat circle. Right now, we’re seeing the earliest growing pains of augmented reality and virtual reality — tech that overlays the digital world onto our human senses. It means information, projected into your eyes and ears, as you need it. Why carry a phone when Netflix and WhatsApp are floating in front of you?

The Smartphone Is Eventually Going to Die, and Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook Are Racing to Kill It
Apple ARkit allows apps to overlay digital imagery into the real world. Image Source: Made With ARKit

Some call it a fad, or just something that’s too new and untested to be considered a real threat to the smartphone. And yet, there’s a veritable arms race to build these augmented reality platforms of the future.

Amazon’s Alexa is primarily thought of as a digital voice assistant, but having a virtual “person” tell you the time and weather definitely qualifies as augmented reality. Microsoft has its reality-bending HoloLens “hologram” goggles. Facebook and Snapchat have both built augmented reality straight into the camera. Even Google-backed startup Magic Leap thinks its yet-to-released goggles have a shot at becoming a new platform.

The net result is a race to build whatever is going to do the smartphone what the PC did to the mainframe. What these companies all have in common is that they missed the boat on building smartphone operating systems of their own. Now, it’s on them to build whatever comes next.

Defensive Position

Apple and Google are well aware of the threat and are not standing still.

Apple has ARkit, a system for building augmented reality into iPhone apps, using the phone’s built-in camera. It’s technologically robust enough and easy enough to use that developers love it, giving Apple a nice foothold in augmented reality. If and when Apple releases smart glasses, those apps will come right over.

Google has various augmented reality efforts in the works, including Project Tango. And although the first version of the Google Glass headset flopped, if Google figures out how to revamp the device, it will have a vehicle to extend Android into the AR realm.

The Smartphone Is Eventually Going to Die, and Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook Are Racing to Kill It
Microsoft’s HoloLens goggles project three-dimensional imagery into your field of view. Image Source: Microsoft

In a weird way, going on the defensive like this almost gives Apple a perverse incentive to replace the iPhone: If Apple can build the next great hardware platform itself, it means that Amazon can’t do it with Alexa, and Microsoft can’t do it with HoloLens.

In the meantime, as we appreciate all the new hardware and software goodies coming out later this year, keep the perspective that everything we’re seeing now is the first salvo in a computing war that will rage for the next decade and beyond.

The post The Smartphone Is Eventually Going to Die, and Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook Are Racing to Kill It appeared first on Futurism.

Advances in AI

On December 2nd, 1942, a team of scientists led by Enrico Fermi came back from lunch and watched as humanity created the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction inside a pile of bricks and wood underneath a football field at the University of Chicago. Known to history as Chicago Pile-1, it was celebrated in silence with a single bottle of Chianti, for those who were there understood exactly what it meant for humankind, without any need for words.

Now, something new has occurred that, again, quietly changed the world forever. Like a whispered word in a foreign language, it was quiet in that you may have heard it, but its full meaning may not have been comprehended. However, it’s vital we understand this new language, and what it’s increasingly telling us, for the ramifications are set to alter everything we take for granted about the way our globalized economy functions, and the ways in which we as humans exist within it.

The language is a new class of machine learning known as deep learning, and the “whispered word” was a computer’s use of it to seemingly out of nowhere defeat three-time European Go champion Fan Hui, not once but five times in a row without defeat. Many who read this news, considered that as impressive, but in no way comparable to a match against Lee Se-dol instead, who many consider to be one of the world’s best living Go players, if not the best. Imagining such a grand duel of man versus machine, China’s top Go player predicted that Lee would not lose a single game, and Lee himself confidently expected to possibly lose one at the most.

What actually ended up happening when they faced off? Lee went on to lose all but oneof their match’s five games. An AI named AlphaGo is now a better Go player than any human and has been granted the “divine” rank of 9 dan. In other words, its level of play borders on godlike. Go has officially fallen to machine, just as Jeopardy did before it to Watson, and chess before that to Deep Blue.

“AlphaGo’s historic victory is a clear signal that we’ve gone from linear to parabolic.”

So, what is Go? Very simply, think of Go as Super Ultra Mega Chess. This may still sound like a small accomplishment, another feather in the cap of machines as they continue to prove themselves superior in the fun games we play, but it is no small accomplishment, and what’s happening is no game.

AlphaGo’s historic victory is a clear signal that we’ve gone from linear to parabolic. Advances in technology are now so visibly exponential in nature that we can expect to see a lot more milestones being crossed long before we would otherwise expect. These exponential advances, most notably in forms of artificial intelligence limited to specific tasks, we are entirely unprepared for as long as we continue to insist upon employment as our primary source of income.

This may all sound like exaggeration, so let’s take a few decade steps back, and look at what computer technology has been actively doing to human employment so far:

Deep Learning Is Going to Teach Us All the Lesson of Our Lives: Jobs Are for Machines
Image Source: St. Louis Fed

Let the above chart sink in. Do not be fooled into thinking this conversation about the automation of labor is set in the future. It’s already here. Computer technology is already eating jobs and has been since 1990.

Routine Work

All work can be divided into four types: routine and nonroutine, cognitive and manual. Routine work is the same stuff day in and day out, while nonroutine work varies. Within these two varieties, is the work that requires mostly our brains (cognitive) and the work that requires mostly our bodies (manual). Where once all four types saw growth, the stuff that is routine stagnated back in 1990. This happened because routine labor is easiest for technology to shoulder. Rules can be written for work that doesn’t change, and that work can be better handled by machines.

Distressingly, it’s exactly routine work that once formed the basis of the American middle class. It’s routine manual work that Henry Ford transformed by paying people middle class wages to perform, and it’s routine cognitive work that once filled US office spaces. Such jobs are now increasingly unavailable, leaving only two kinds of jobs with rosy outlooks: jobs that require so little thought, we pay people little to do them, and jobs that require so much thought, we pay people well to do them.

If we can now imagine our economy as a plane with four engines, where it can still fly on only two of them as long as they both keep roaring, we can avoid concerning ourselves with crashing. But what happens when our two remaining engines also fail? That’s what the advancing fields of robotics and AI represent to those final two engines, because for the first time, we are successfully teaching machines to learn.

Neural Networks

I’m a writer at heart, but my educational background happens to be in psychology and physics. I’m fascinated by both of them so my undergraduate focus ended up being in the physics of the human brain, otherwise known as cognitive neuroscience. I think once you start to look into how the human brain works, how our mass of interconnected neurons somehow results in what we describe as the mind, everything changes. At least it did for me.

As a quick primer in the way our brains function, they’re a giant network of interconnected cells. Some of these connections are short, and some are long. Some cells are only connected to one other, and some are connected to many. Electrical signals then pass through these connections, at various rates, and subsequent neural firings happen in turn. It’s all kind of like falling dominoes, but far faster, larger, and more complex. The result amazingly is us, and what we’ve been learning about how we work, we’ve now begun applying to the way machines work.

One of these applications is the creation of deep neural networks – kind of like pared-down virtual brains. They provide an avenue to machine learning that’s made incredible leaps that were previously thought to be much further down the road, if even possible at all. How? It’s not just the obvious growing capability of our computers and our expanding knowledge in the neurosciences, but the vastly growing expanse of our collective data, aka big data.

Big Data

Big data isn’t just some buzzword. It’s information, and when it comes to information, we’re creating more and more of it every day. In fact we’re creating so much that a 2013 report by SINTEF estimated that 90% of all information in the world had been created in the prior two years. This incredible rate of data creation is even doubling every 1.5 yearsthanks to the Internet, where in 2015 every minute we were liking 4.2 million things on Facebook, uploading 300 hours of video to YouTube, and sending 350,000 tweets. Everything we do is generating data like never before, and lots of data is exactly what machines need in order to learn to learn. Why?

Imagine programming a computer to recognize a chair. You’d need to enter a ton of instructions, and the result would still be a program detecting chairs that aren’t, and notdetecting chairs that are. So how did we learn to detect chairs? Our parents pointed at a chair and said, “chair.” Then we thought we had that whole chair thing all figured out, so we pointed at a table and said “chair”, which is when our parents told us that was “table.” This is called reinforcement learning. The label “chair” gets connected to every chair we see, such that certain neural pathways are weighted and others aren’t. For “chair” to fire in our brains, what we perceive has to be close enough to our previous chair encounters. Essentially, our lives are big data filtered through our brains.

Deep Learning

The power of deep learning is that it’s a way of using massive amounts of data to get machines to operate more like we do without giving them explicit instructions. Instead of describing “chairness” to a computer, we instead just plug it into the Internet and feed it millions of pictures of chairs. It can then have a general idea of “chairness.” Next we test it with even more images. Where it’s wrong, we correct it, which further improves its “chairness” detection. Repetition of this process results in a computer that knows what a chair is when it sees it, for the most part as well as we can. The important difference though is that unlike us, it can then sort through millions of images within a matter of seconds.

This combination of deep learning and big data has resulted in astounding accomplishments just in the past year. Aside from the incredible accomplishment of AlphaGo, Google’s DeepMind AI learned how to read and comprehend what it readthrough hundreds of thousands of annotated news articles. DeepMind also taught itself to play dozens of Atari 2600 video games better than humans, just by looking at the screen and its score, and playing games repeatedly. An AI named Giraffe taught itself how to play chess in a similar manner using a dataset of 175 million chess positions, attaining International Master level status in just 72 hours by repeatedly playing itself. In 2015, an AI even passed a visual Turing test by learning to learn in a way that enabled it to be shown an unknown character in a fictional alphabet, then instantly reproduce that letter in a way that was entirely indistinguishable from a human given the same task. These are all major milestones in AI.

However, despite all these milestones, when asked to estimate when a computer would defeat a prominent Go player, the answer even just months prior to the announcement by Google of AlphaGo’s victory, was by experts essentially, “Maybe in another ten years.” A decade was considered a fair guess because Go is a game so complex I’ll just let Ken Jennings of Jeopardy fame, another former champion human defeated by AI, describe it:

Go is famously a more complex game than chess, with its larger board, longer games, and many more pieces. Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence team likes to say that there are more possible Go boards than atoms in the known universe, but that vastly understates the computational problem. There are about 10¹⁷⁰ board positions in Go, and only 10⁸⁰ atoms in the universe. That means that if there were as many parallel universes as there are atoms in our universe (!), then the total number of atoms in all those universes combined would be close to the possibilities on a single Go board.

Such confounding complexity makes impossible any brute-force approach to scan every possible move to determine the next best move. But deep neural networks get around that barrier in the same way our own minds do, by learning to estimate what feels like the best move. We do this through observation and practice, and so did AlphaGo, by analyzing millions of professional games and playing itself millions of times. So the answer to when the game of Go would fall to machines wasn’t even close to ten years. The correct answer ended up being, “Any time now.

Nonroutine Automation

Any time now. That’s the new go-to response in the 21st century for any question involving something new machines can do better than humans, and we need to try to wrap our heads around it.

Deep Learning Is Going to Teach Us All the Lesson of Our Lives: Jobs Are for Machines

We need to recognize what it means for exponential technological change to be entering the labor market space for nonroutine jobs for the first time ever. Machines that can learn mean nothing humans do as a job is uniquely safe anymore. From hamburgers to healthcare, machines can be created to successfully perform such tasks with no need or less need for humans, and at lower costs than humans.

Amelia is just one AI out there currently being beta-tested in companies right now. Created by IPsoft over the past 16 years, she’s learned how to perform the work of call center employees. She can learn in seconds what takes us months, and she can do it in 20 languages. Because she’s able to learn, she’s able to do more over time. In one company putting her through the paces, she successfully handled one of every ten calls in the first week, and by the end of the second month, she could resolve six of ten calls. Because of this, it’s been estimated that she can put 250 million people out of a job, worldwide.

Viv is an AI coming soon from the creators of Siri who’ll be our own personal assistant. She’ll perform tasks online for us, and even function as a Facebook News Feed on steroids by suggesting we consume the media she’ll know we’ll like best. In doing all of this for us, we’ll see far fewer ads, and that means the entire advertising industry — that industry the entire Internet is built upon — stands to be hugely disrupted.

A world with Amelia and Viv — and the countless other AI counterparts coming online soon — in combination with robots like Boston Dynamics’ next generation Atlas portends, is a world where machines can do all four types of jobs and that means serious societal reconsiderations. If a machine can do a job instead of a human, should any human be forced at the threat of destitution to perform that job? Should income itself remain coupled to employment, such that having a job is the only way to obtain income, when jobs for many are entirely unobtainable? If machines are performing an increasing percentage of our jobs for us, and not getting paid to do them, where does that money go instead? And what does it no longer buyIs it even possible that many of the jobs we’re creating don’t need to exist at all, and only do because of the incomes they provide? These are questions we need to start asking, and fast.

Decoupling Income From Work

Fortunately, people are beginning to ask these questions, and there’s an answer that’s building up momentum. The idea is to put machines to work for us, but empower ourselves to seek out the forms of remaining work we as humans find most valuable, by simply providing everyone a monthly paycheck independent of work. This paycheck would be granted to all citizens unconditionally, and its name is universal basic income. By adopting UBI, aside from immunizing against the negative effects of automation, we’d also be decreasing the risks inherent in entrepreneurship, and the sizes of bureaucraciesnecessary to boost incomes. It’s for these reasons, it has cross-partisan support, and is even now in the beginning stages of possible implementation in countries like SwitzerlandFinland, the Netherlands, and Canada.

The future is a place of accelerating changes. It seems unwise to continue looking at the future as if it were the past, where just because new jobs have historically appeared, they always will. The WEF started 2016 off by estimating the creation by 2020 of 2 million new jobs alongside the elimination of 7 million. That’s a net loss, not a net gain of 5 million jobs. In a frequently cited paper, an Oxford study estimated the automation of about half of all existing jobs by 2033. Meanwhile self-driving vehicles, again thanks to machine learning, have the capability of drastically impacting all economies — especially the US economy as I wrote last year about automating truck driving — by eliminating millions of jobs within a short span of time.

And now even the White House, in a stunning report to Congress, has put the probability at 83 percent that a worker making less than $20 an hour in 2010 will eventually lose their job to a machine. Even workers making as much as $40 an hour face odds of 31 percent. To ignore odds like these is tantamount to our now laughable “duck and cover” strategies for avoiding nuclear blasts during the Cold War.

All of this is why it’s those most knowledgeable in the AI field who are now actively sounding the alarm for basic income. During a panel discussion at the end of 2015 at Singularity University, prominent data scientist Jeremy Howard asked “Do you want half of people to starve because they literally can’t add economic value, or not?” before going on to suggest, ”If the answer is not, then the smartest way to distribute the wealth is by implementing a universal basic income.”

AI pioneer Chris Eliasmith, director of the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, warned about the immediate impacts of AI on society in an interview with Futurism, “AI is already having a big impact on our economies… My suspicion is that more countries will have to follow Finland’s lead in exploring basic income guarantees for people.”

Moshe Vardi expressed the same sentiment after speaking at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science about the emergence of intelligent machines, “we need to rethink the very basic structure of our economic system… we may have to consider instituting a basic income guarantee.”

Even Baidu’s chief scientist and founder of Google’s “Google Brain” deep learning project, Andrew Ng, during an onstage interview at this year’s Deep Learning Summit, expressed the shared notion that basic income must be “seriously considered” by governments, citing “a high chance that AI will create massive labor displacement.”

When those building the tools begin warning about the implications of their use, shouldn’t those wishing to use those tools listen with the utmost attention, especially when it’s the very livelihoods of millions of people at stake? If not then, what about when Nobel prize winning economists begin agreeing with them in increasing numbers?

No nation is yet ready for the changes ahead. High labor force non-participation leads to social instability, and a lack of consumers within consumer economies leads to economic instability. So let’s ask ourselves, what’s the purpose of the technologies we’re creating? What’s the purpose of a car that can drive for us, or artificial intelligence that can shoulder 60% of our workload? Is it to allow us to work more hours for even less pay? Or is it to enable us to choose how we work, and to decline any pay/hours we deem insufficient because we’re already earning the incomes that machines aren’t?

What’s the big lesson to learn, in a century when machines can learn?

I offer it’s that jobs are for machines, and life is for people.

The post Deep Learning Is Going to Teach Us All the Lesson of Our Lives: Jobs Are for Machines appeared first on Futurism.

Ted Schilowitz, a well-known futurist and innovator, has joined the ranks at Paramount Pictures. Previously, Schilowitz worked as a consulting futurist for 20th Century Fox. He has helped the film industry to progress technologically and has contributed to shaping the vision for the future of film.

About the move to Paramount, Schilowitz said:

From immersive cinema to augmented reality and beyond, I’m excited to work with the Paramount and Viacom teams to discover and implement the latest technological advancements and create strategies that will enhance the audience’s experiences across Paramount’s movie, television, and interactive content.

As movies like Avatar and The Matrix have marked technological advancements in movie-making, it seems like we’re on the verge of the next tech revolution in film. With continuing AI developments, new, futuristic robotics, and other such progress, movies are bound to change. And without guidance from an expert, major companies like Paramount might not be equipped to make the transition into this film future. As Paramount pointed out in their press release, their focus on weaving augmented and virtual reality into their films wouldn’t be possible without the guidance of someone like Schilowitz.

No doubt with the support of such experts, movies of the future will be even more technologically savvy and spectacular. While advancements like “smell-o-rama” and 3D wowed audiences in the past, there’s no telling what awe-inspiring entertainment lies ahead for us on the big screen.

The post Paramount Pictures Just Hired a Futurist in Residence to Guide the Future of Film appeared first on Futurism.

The Space Corps

Recently, it was revealed that legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would permit the creation of a sixth branch of the Armed Forces — the United States Space Corps (USSC). Proposed in part to protect satellites from potential interference, this will be, in effect, a space army. While the Trump administration is not in full support of this addition, the bill was passed by the House on Friday. 

Most Awaited Space Science Missions of 2017
Click to View Full Infographic

The USSC, however, still has a long way to go. This new branch would be created through an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the additional effort (and cost) is seen by some to be unnecessary. Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, one person who is not on board with the USSC, was recently quoted as saying,  “At a time when we are trying to integrate the department’s joint warfighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations.”

But how narrow and limited would the space corps really be?

A Safer Future

There are many, like Mattis, who see the progression of the USSC as an extra, unnecessary branch — one that would be too specific to provide a justifiable benefit to the American people. While future advancements in space exploration might broaden and intensify a need for cosmic protection, even just the seemingly narrow role of satellite protection is important, too.

For one, all of our smartphones and other computing devices rely on satellites. Our navigation systems, our hospitals, public transportation — just about everything that we depend on depends on satellites. National security is vitally tied to the our satellites and, as of now, they are relatively unprotected. It might seem somewhat superfluous to create an entire branch of the military to do this job, but as many have pointed out, in today’s world, the task is an essential one. The pushback might keep the Space Corps from becoming a reality for quite some time, but it certainly has a lot of people considering why such a branch might be needed in the first place. If not now, then in the near future.

The post The House Passed a Bill That Could Create a Branch of the Military for Space Defense appeared first on Futurism.

Musk’s New Purchase

This past Friday, Elon Musk got a little bit cryptic on Twitter:

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So what does this mean? Well, this questionable comment came after a late night tweet announcing the launch of x.com.

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If you go to the site itself, you won’t be met by much more than one single, solitary “x.” The website is launched, but far from complete — however, it’s apparently been a long time coming. In the 90’s, Musk founded an online payment company called X.com. This startup is what later became Paypal. The domain x.com has — since it was acquired by the massive payment company — belonged to . Before the formal launch, Musk announced that he’d bought back the domain, and implied that x.com is currently just a sentimental purchase for him.

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An Open Future

Musk’s tweets may well be a completely transparent commentary on his purchase. Maybe x.com really is just a sentimental memento from one of his early successes. Of course, knowing Musk’s reputation and history, there could certainly be far more to it than that. Maybe the website will just be a place to access information about all of Musk’s ventures? Maybe it will reveal an entirely new endeavor? It’s anyone’s guess at this early stage, but as Musk is not one to waste (reusable rockets, anyone?) it wouldn’t be a surprise to see something crop up on the url soon.

The post Elon Musk Buys x.com Domain from PayPal appeared first on Futurism.

International Challenges

Although the purpose of policies that affect travel and immigration may have little or nothing to do with science, in practice researchers are adjusting to policies such as Brexit in the UK and the executive order on immigration in the US. Many scientists are uncertain about their international collaborations, and the future of their current projects — and as early as January scientists were reporting problems with collaborative projects based on travel policy-related concerns.

Marine scientist Andrew Rosenberg, who is director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, explained to The Scientist that collaboration, funding, and travel “are closely linked in people’s minds. If you deconstruct [the contributions of] funding, blocks on where you can recruit talent, and hindering collaboration, you start to impact research departments and laboratories around the world.”

Rosenberg predicts that the US immigration order and other policies that limit travel will have the most influence on scientists who are just starting out in their careers. “It’s more than just countries in an immigration list. People [from all over] will be much more wary of doing their postdoctoral work or being a visiting professor” in the US, he told The Scientist, which could have “a generational effect.”

Image Credit: skeeze/Pixabay

Travel limitations also restrict applicant pools at universities and narrow the range and depth of training students can access. Marga Soler, project director for the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy, told New Scientist in January that the US was in danger of losing its scientific standing in the world community: “In terms of scientific diplomacy, this is obviously a big hit on US soft power — the capacity to attract the best and the brightest,” she said. “Brain drain is a real possibility because other countries, like Canada, are offering to take in the people affected by this policy. It’s a loss for the US.”

In fact, even travelling to conferences and other events is so important to scientific collaboration that professional organizations like the American Society of Hematology (ASH) formally recognize its significance; ASH provides private rooms at its annual meeting that can be reserved by clinicians and scientists to meet and discuss collaboration. In 2016, there were more than 1,000 such face-to-face meetings at the event, and more than one-third of attendees traveled from outside the US.

“A policy that limits travel across borders will hurt science because we don’t know if scientists from overseas will still want to travel to the United States. We don’t know if they’ll feel welcome, or if they’ll even apply for a visa,” ASH President and cancer researcher Kenneth Anderson tells The Scientist. “International collaborations are essential to advance science. Limiting the exchange of ideas or practices or data across cultures will significantly slow down scientific progress, which ultimately hurts public health, not only in North America, but around the world.”

Fruits of International Collaboration

There’s no need to take their word for it; even a cursory examination of the world of scientific research proves that international collaboration has been at the core of some of the world’s most notable discoveries in recent years. Thanks to international collaboration between governments, agencies, nonprofits, and private companies, polio has been almost totally eradicated. Canada is opening an international hub for stem cell therapy in recognition of its importance to human health. The International Space Station (ISS) is a shining example of what international collaboration can achieve.

Invaders From Earth!: How Elon Musk Plans to Conquer Mars
Click to View Full Infographic

The need for collaboration remains pressing. Angela Merkel of Germany prioritized global digital regulation at the G20 meeting this month, another important collaboration which will be taking place in the near future. The European Space Agency plans to have an international moon village in place within 20 years — a lunar microcosm of our own global village.

In fact, research from earlier this year proves that international collaboration is more important now to scientific progress than ever, with the number of papers with authors from multiple countries more than doubling between 1990 and 2015. This trend will surely continue, but only in parts of the world where free travel is possible.

The post International Collaboration Between Scientists Is Becoming Difficult appeared first on Futurism.

By the end of August, China plans to rollout the Jinan Project — the world’s first unhackable computer network, which is based on quantum principles. The project uses the city of Jinan as a quantum computer hub that boosts the Beijing-Shanghai quantum network due to its central geographical position between the two larger cities.

Specifically, the network alerts both users to any tampering with the system — as tampering alters the information being relayed. The disturbance is instantly recognizable and both parties can immediately identify when something is amiss.

Zhou Fei, Assistant Director of the Jinan Institute of Quantum Technology, sees the system having worldwide ramifications. He told the Financial Times that “We plan to use the network for national defense, finance and other fields, and hope to spread it out as a pilot that if successful, can be used across China and the whole world.”

By implementing the quantum computer network, China will become the first country to implement quantum technology for a real life, commercial end. It also marks China as a quantum leader worldwide — a status that is reinforced by their development of the Heifei machine, which could eclipse all current supercomputers, as well as their successful transportation of a photon from a satellite in space using quantum physics.

The post China Set to Launch the World’s First Quantum Communication Network appeared first on Futurism.

The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) at MIT has developed a technology that allows for watching 3D movies glasses-free at home without some of the downsides we’ve come to expect from existing glasses-free 3D options. Better still, this new tech works with any existing 3D movie.

This new method uses automultiscopic displays to convert 3D movies from their stereo format with the help of Home3D, a conversion algorithm. Home3D runs in real-time on a graphics processing unit (GPU) like PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, making previous issues with automultiscopic displays and compatibility a thing of the past. The algorithm could eventually run on embedded chips in Blu-ray players, televisions, or media streaming devices like Google Chromecast, allowing for both aftermarket and integrated options.

Another perk of the Home3D tech is that viewers can customize the depth effect they see. The tech presents even high depth scenes with a very high resolution and accuracy. So, although some people might enjoy wearing specs for the glasses-assisted 3D tech they have at home, there may soon be a much nicer, hassle-free alternative that makes 3D viewing even more popular. If James Cameron indeed comes through with his glasses-free 3D Avatar sequels, that may be the final push that fuels the future of 3D.

The post MIT Developed Glasses-Free Tech to Watch 3D Movies at Home appeared first on Futurism.

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.

The post Tezos Just Finished the World’s Largest ICO, Hitting More Than $200 Million Worth of Cryptocoins appeared first on Futurism.

In 1999, Bill Gates wrote a book titled “Business @ the Speed of Thought.”

In it, Gates made 15 bold predictions that at the time might have sounded outrageous.

Bill Gates Made These 15 Predictions in 1999 — and It’s Scary How Accurate He Was
Image Source: tobin.t/ Flickr

But as Markus Kirjonen, a business student, said on his blog, Gates’ forecasts turned out to be eerily prescient.

Here are the 15 predictions Gates made nearly 20 years ago — and how close they’ve come to being true.

No. 1: Price-Comparison Sites.

Gates’ prediction: “Automated price comparison services will be developed, allowing people to see prices across multiple websites, making it effortless to find the cheapest product for all industries.”

What we see now: You can easily search for a product on Google or Amazon and get different prices. Sites like NexTag and PriceGrabber are built specifically to compare prices.

No. 2: Mobile Devices.

Gates’ prediction: “People will carry around small devices that allow them to constantly stay in touch and do electronic business from wherever they are. They will be able to check the news, see flights they have booked, get information from financial markets, and do just about anything else on these devices.”

What we see now: Smartphones, and now smartwatches, do all of this.

No. 3: Instant Payments and Financing Online, and Better Healthcare Through the Web.

Gates’ prediction: “People will pay their bills, take care of their finances, and communicate with their doctors over the internet.”

What we see now: Tech hasn’t been able to change healthcare the way Uber changed transportation, but sites like ZocDoc aim to make finding a doctor and scheduling easier. Startups like One Medical and Forward are trying to change what the doctor’s office is like by offering monthly memberships for online and data-driven healthcare.

You can also now borrow money online through sites like Lending Club and easily make payments through sites and apps like PayPal and Venmo.

No. 4: Personal Assistants and the Internet of Things.

Gates’ prediction: “‘Personal companions’ will be developed. They will connect and sync all your devices in a smart way, whether they are at home or in the office, and allow them to exchange data. The device will check your email or notifications, and present the information that you need. When you go to the store, you can tell it what recipes you want to prepare, and it will generate a list of ingredients that you need to pick up. It will inform all the devices that you use of your purchases and schedule, allowing them to automatically adjust to what you’re doing.”

What we see now: Google Now, a smart assistant that runs on mobile devices, is starting to head in this direction. Meanwhile, smart devices like Nest collect data on your daily routines and automatically adjust your house’s temperature.

There’s also a wave of voice-controlled devices, like Amazon’s Echo and the Google Home, that you can ask to read your email to you or guide you through recipes as you cook.

No. 5: Online Home-Monitoring.

Gates’ prediction: “Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home.”

What we see now: Google bought Dropcam, the maker of a home-surveillance camera, for $555 million in 2014. But that was just the beginning — Ring makes a smart doorbell camera that can let you see who is at your door. There are even cameras like the Petcube that let you control a laser so you can play with your pets while you’re away.

No. 6: Social Media.

Gates’ prediction: “Private websites for your friends and family will be common, allowing you to chat and plan for events.”

What we see now: Two billion people already use Facebook to see what their friends are doing and plan events. There’s also Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger alongside an explosion of other smaller social networks that more than cover this prediction.

No. 7: Automated Promotional Offers.

Gates’ prediction: “Software that knows when you’ve booked a trip and uses that information to suggest activities at the local destination. It suggests activities, discounts, offers, and cheaper prices for all the things that you want to take part in.”

What we see now: Travel sites like Expedia and Kayak offer deals based on a user’s past purchase data. Google and Facebook can offer promotional ads based on the user’s location and interests. Airbnb, which lets people stay in homes rather than hotels, started to offer specialized trips at destinations so you can live like a local, too.

No. 8: Live Sports Discussion Sites.

Gates’ prediction: “While watching a sports competition on television, services will allow you to discuss what is going on live, and enter a contest where you vote on who you think will win.”

What we see now: A bunch of social media sites allow this, with Twitter being the clear leader — and even streaming some games. You can also leave comments in real time on sports sites like ESPN.

No. 9: Smart Advertising.

Gates’ prediction: “Devices will have smart advertising. They will know your purchasing trends, and will display advertisements that are tailored toward your preferences.”

What we see now: Just look at the ads you see on Facebook or Google — most online advertising services have this feature, where advertisers can target users based on their click history, interests, and purchasing patterns.

No. 10: Links to Sites During Live TV.

The post Bill Gates Made These 15 Predictions in 1999 — and It’s Scary How Accurate He Was appeared first on Futurism.

Going the Extra Mile

At the historic Willard Hotel where a little over 100 years ago Alexander Graham Bell demoed the coast-to-coast telephone call, Microsoft announced on Monday its latest effort to bring internet access to American rural areas. The project makes use of unused television broadcast channels — which are called “white spaces.”

Back in 2010, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules that opened up TV white spaces for broadband use. “Microsoft itself has considerable experience with this spectrum, having deployed 20 TV white spaces projects in 17 countries that have served 185,000 users,” Brad Smith, the company’s president, wrote in a press release.

Image credit: Microsoft
Image Credit: Microsoft

Now, through Microsoft’s Rural Airband Initiative, the tech giant aims to open up broadband access to 2 million people in rural areas in America by 2022. Microsoft has 12 partners working in 12 states — including Arizona, Kansas, New York, and Virginia — for its TV White Spaces projects, which will be up and running in the next 12 months.

This project will provide rural Americans with internet that is a fifth of the cost of fiber cable-based internet and about half the cost of 4G networks.

Bridging the Digital Divide

After the United Nations declared internet access as a basic human right, a number of tech industry heavyweights have stepped up to the task of bringing internet connectivity to the world’s remote areas. There are several other similar initiatives to bring internet access to all of North America, including a couple in New York and Canada.

This is the Fastest Internet on Earth
Click to View Full Infographic

Social media giant Facebook has been working on its Aquila project for the past two years. The idea is to beam internet to far flung areas using Facebook’s solar-powered Aquila drones, which recently completed a second successful test flight.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is approaching the problem with a different strategy. The plan is to improve internet access around the world by launching 4,000 satellites in orbit. SpaceX completed its applications to the FCC for this global internet network back in November 2016. This plan seems to have inspired satellite internet startup OneWeb — backed by Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, Qualcomm, and Airbus — which would launch 720 satellites to build a global wireless internet network.

It seems unthinkable that in such a day and age, where internet is available even through your smartphones and wearable gadgets, there are still 4 billion people who lack such access. Hopefully, efforts like Microsoft’s will soon bridge this information divide.

The post Microsoft Is Bringing Affordable Broadband Internet to Rural America appeared first on Futurism.

Quantum Checks

Checks might not sound like a very high-tech option for sending money safely, but thanks to quantum computing, they may one day be forgery-proof. Researchers using IBM’s cloud-based quantum computer have run a proof of concept study on quantum currency and proxies like checks.

It would work like this: I owe you money, so I go to the bank and prove my identity. They issue me two qubits, both of which are linked to the remaining qubits that are still in the central computer at the bank. I give one of them to you, and after using my passcode to log into the system, I encode the qubit with the amount that I owe you. You can take that qubit to the bank. Since the bank can measure the state of any single qubit in an entangled system and identify the state of all qubits within that system, it can use this entanglement to verify that its own central computer was the origin of any given quantum check. Once it does that, it will give you the money.

Image Credit: insspirito/Pixabay
Image Credit: insspirito/Pixabay
So, what happens if someone steals the qubits and your passcode? Well, they could probably tamper with the qubits in that case — just like a lost ATM card with a PIN written on it is vulnerable. However, unlike the card, as long as you memorize the passcode or keep it safe, the risk of forgery or tampering with the quantum check is far lower.

Practical Problems

This all sounds amazing, but would it work? And, if it’s possible, when could we use it?

There are still a few hurdles to clear. Transporting qubits is still an issue as quantum computers would need massive cooling systems. University of Oxford researcher Subhayan Roy Moulick also pointed out to New Scientist that with today’s technology, a quantum check would probably be about the size of a laptop—not so convenient. (There’s also the other problem, which is that many of us don’t use physical checks anymore anyway, and adding a qubit to physical checks wouldn’t make them seem any more convenient.)

However, despite these obstacles, University of Texas researcher Scott Aaronson suggests that the bank could simply manage the entire transaction, keeping it ultra secure, and eliminating the need to carry quantum checks around. In reality, the quantum check won’t become a reality anytime soon anyway, because the IBM system’s qubits last for just a few, fleeting milliseconds. “Ideally,” Aaronson quipped to New Scientist, “one would like cheques that can last longer than that before being cashed or deposited.”

Furthermore, if you’ve been following quantum computing news, you’ve perhaps noted the other problem. Every check would require the loss of two qubits from the system, and given that the latest quantum systems from IBM boast only 16 and 17 qubits — three times as many qubits as the last version — the obvious dearth of qubits seems clear. Even if Google succeeds in building its 49 qubit computer later this year, it will likely be decades before this kind of qubit surplus is a reality.

The post While a Long Way Away, Quantum Checks Could Be Forgery-Proof appeared first on Futurism.

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.

The post The Finance World Is Preparing for a Bitcoin Civil War appeared first on Futurism.

Black Crypto Tuesday

Tuesday, July 11, was a rough day in the cryptocurrency world, with very few of the Top 100 Coin Market Cap list cryptocurrencies in green. At the time of this writing, bitcoin was still leading the market after plummeting by 8.8 percent on Tuesday; by Wednesday morning it climbed back a little, hovering above $2,300. Ethereum Classic fell by 18.4 percent, opening Wednesday just above $200. All of the other major cryptocurrencies did worse except for Litecoin, which dropped a relatively modest 11.4 percent.

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

However, it’s important to see this problem in context and remember where we were before this period of explosive growth that began just half a year ago. On January 1, 2017, bitcoin closed at $997.69; on January 3, ethereum closed at $8.35.

So while this is the first time since May that the price of ether has dropped below $200, for example, the values are still significantly higher than they were just months ago, and they have retained most of their 4,500 percent growth from this year.

Hanging In

Some analysts predicted that July would be a critical month, given the ongoing Bitcoin network scaling issue. However, although this is certainly a time of turbulence in cryptocurrencies, many experts are advising investors to stand fast — and some are even saying that now is the best time to buy.

“This is the time for all those who thought they have missed the boat to get on board.” — Samuel Dwomfour

Initial coin offering (ICO) consultant Murray Barnetson told Coin Telegraph that holding remains the best choice even though things might still get worse, should people start to panic. ICO expert Priyabrata Dash agreed that the scaling issue underlies the overall drop in major cryptocurrencies, but told Coin Telegraph that August may well be positive.

Bitcoin Powpow’s Edward Cunningham also spoke to Coin Telegraph: “We have all known that July was going to be a bumpy month due to the BTC possible split drama which only adds to the ICO’s dumping for liquidity — let’s hope beginning August the trend changes and heads North. In the meantime, hold as best you can.”

Ghana Blockchain Institute president Samuel Dwomfour is among the experts who think now is a good time to buy. “I’m not perturbed at all. This is the time for all those who thought they have missed the boat to get on board,” he told Coin Telegraph.

The post Cryptocurrencies Took A Hit, But Some Experts Say Now Is the Best Time to Buy appeared first on Futurism.

Say hello to Amabrush, the world’s first automatic toothbrush, and goodbye to brushing your teeth for minutes at a time twice a day. Amabrush resembles a mouthguard with soft silicone bristles in it, and it is magnetically attached to a round handle. Put the mouthpiece in, and don’t worry about the toothpaste, it’ll do that for you. It will then go to work, brushing your teeth in the way that your dentist tells you to, in every location in your mouth, all at the same time.

Using this device, brushing all of your teeth to perfection only takes about 10 seconds from start to finish, so it’s no surprise that the Amabrush is doing really well on Kickstarter. As this article is being written, they have 25 days to go and have already raised $935,891, surpassing their $56,972 goal.

The Amabrush is just one more example of automation doing what it does best: taking over mind-numbingly dull daily tasks, freeing up humans to think about and do more compelling things. Whether it’s a significant step in automation, like self-driving cars, or just a piece of the puzzle, it’s all progress in the same direction. By extension, automation can free us from repetitive, dull jobs and free us up for more challenging careers, hobbies, passions, etc. All we have to do is be willing and ready for this change to happen.

The post The First Fully Automated Toothbrush is Here. And it Cleans Your Teeth in 10 Seconds. appeared first on Futurism.

Global Blockchain Hub

Ethereum startup ConsenSys and the African nation of Mauritius are actively exploring a partnership. This collaboration would allow the two to create “Ethereum Island,” a blockchain technology hub for innovators hoping to extend into Asia, Africa, and elsewhere in the world. ConsenSys founder Joseph Lubin and a team of executives toured Mauritius in early July to meet with the Bank of Mauritius, the country’s Board of Investment, and various authorities in both the public and private sectors.

Located 700 miles east of Madagascar along Africa’s eastern coast, Mauritius is an established, offshore financial hub. Now the nation is hoping to solidify itself as a leader in blockchain technologies. In 2016, it began the regulatory sandbox license process in order to appeal to blockchain innovators.

Mauritius has also been working to become a center for the migration of tech knowledge from Silicon Valley, and other innovation locations, to the rest of the world. This has been referred to as a “Silicon Corridor” approach in a local publication. Beyond this, Mauritius offers enthusiasm for blockchain technology, a knowledge of technologies and regulatory issues more generally, and the nimbleness and ability to adopt new tools and technologies quickly that is typically associated with smaller countries.

Image Credit: Andy R/Flickr
Image Credit: Andy R/Flickr
“We have noted around the world that blockchain technology, especially ethereum, is catching on and driving incredible business growth,” Lubin told CoinDesk. “But where we’re seeing extreme traction is in smaller jurisdictions that are more homogeneous in their focus and in their intent, and where there’s a strong top-down drive from government to either leapfrog technologies or take advantage of this powerful technology.”

The Partnership In Practice

For this plan to work for ConsenSys, it will need to invest locally in human capital — something that’s likely to be beneficial for both the company and the local community. The company would present and establish the basics of a blockchain ecosystem as it worked to develop a talent pool within the ecosystem. A ConsenSys Academy based in Mauritius similar to the Dubai version from May 2017 is one possible human capital tactic the company could take.

*4* Ethereum Island May Soon Exist Off the Coast of Africa

The presence of a strong blockchain ecosystem will also help Mauritius to accomplish its own economic goals, aside from employing its citizens. “We are working to take our economy to another level, and these kinds of technologies are very important in our strategy,” Atma Narasiah, head of technology, innovation and services at the Board of Investment Mauritius, told CoinDesk in May.

Lubin and the ConsenSys team appear to have come away from the meetings impressed by the knowledge and enthusiasm for the technology they saw in Mauritius. Lubin emphasized, “We expected to encounter significant enthusiasm… but we were overwhelmed with the excitement that we felt in every single meeting. If Mauritius puts together a concerted effort to be a world leader, it will be.”

Disclaimer: Futurism has a personal affiliation with ConsenSys. This is a piece of editorial content. ConsenSys does not have any review privileges on editorial decisions.

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.

The post “Ethereum Island” May Soon Exist Off the Coast of Africa appeared first on Futurism.

Supply and Demand

Less than two weeks after sales of recreational marijuana kicked off in Nevada, stores are running out of pot to sell, according to the state’s Department of Taxation.

Nevada Sold Out of Legal Marijuana so Quickly, the Governor Wants to Declare a ‘state of Emergency’
Image Source: ACN/ Flickr

On Friday, Gov. Brian Sandoval endorsed the department’s call for a “statement of emergency,” which would allow for more licensed distributors, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

Nearly 50 dispensaries in the state have licenses to sell marijuana for recreational use. Those sales got underway on July 1.

But those same retailers do not legally have the authority to restock their inventories.

Alcohol wholesalers have the exclusive rights to move marijuana from growers to retailers in Nevada, as part of a temporary court order that was extended in June by a Carson City district judge. The rule aims to “promote the goal of regulating marijuana similar to alcohol” — and protect liquor stores from losing business as the demand for recreational marijuana rises.

Nevada is the only state with legal marijuana that has such an arrangement.

Recreational Marijuana

As of Friday, the Department of Taxation had issued zero distribution licenses to alcohol wholesalers, because of incomplete applications and zoning issues, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

Dispensaries started selling the marijuana they had in stock on July 1. Several establishments told state officials they expected to run out in the coming days.

A statement of emergency could bring relief. The regulation would allow the department to issue distribution licenses to a larger pool of applicants, including those outside the alcohol business. The Nevada Tax Commission is expected to vote on the regulation on Thursday.

Stephanie Klapstein, a spokeswoman for the Department of Taxation, told the Reno Gazette-Journal that a collapsed marijuana market would have far-reaching consequences. A 15% tax on the cultivation of marijuana generates revenue that the state spends on public education.

“A halt in this market will lead to a hole in the state’s school budget,” Klapstein said.

Residents and tourists who are 21 and over can buy up to an ounce of marijuana or one-eighth of an ounce of edibles or concentrates — but only while supplies last.

The post Nevada Sold Out of Legal Marijuana so Quickly, the Governor Wants to Declare a ‘State of Emergency’ appeared first on Futurism.

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

The post No, Ether Isn’t “Getting Crushed.” Here’s What’s Really Going On. appeared first on Futurism.

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.

The post Ethereum Co-Founder Takes to Twitter to Disagree With Tezos Blockchain Plan appeared first on Futurism.

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.”

The post An Anonymous Ether Trader Just Made $200 Million in One Month appeared first on Futurism.

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