‘Blockchain will belong to us’: Putin calls dibs on blockchain

The Russian president is reigniting a decades-old rivalry saying the US has the Internet, but blockchain technology will be Russia’s.

Both start-up companies and established industry giants are scurrying to cut a piece of the market as blockchain technology ushers in a lot of possibilities and drives several existing practices into obsolescence. But private companies are not the only ones who are going in on the blockchain race. Several governments are also working on their own projects in their bid to be on the front line of the industry, or at least to keep from falling behind.

As early as now, Vladimir Putin is eager to plant the Russian flag on the technology, even if only through a verbal claim (for now). As if it were another Moon race, the Russian president was quick to reignite a decades-old rivalry.

“Look, the Internet belongs to the Americans,” Putin says, “but blockchain will belong to us.”

Putin has been openly interested in and actively endorsing blockchain technology. In June last year, he met with Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin. Just a few months ago, he met with Herman Gref, the president of Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, and endorsed the technology, saying the country needs further progress—beyond what they already have. Below is a rough translation of his statement:

“Other colleagues and citizens of the country may ask: Why do we need all this? If we have everything—we have oil, gas, coal, metals of all kinds…gold, platinum, diamonds—everything.”

“But we need to advance further—this is what we need. And we have to work for this,” he added. “One of our colleagues, the former oil minister of an Arab country said: ‘the Stone Age has not ended due to the lack of stones, but because new technologies have appeared. And new technologies are appearing in the world now.”

He added that those who are “late in the race” will quickly become dependent on those who were in the lead.

And despite Russia’s alleged involvement in the US elections, the nation was actually quick to tap on blockchain technology to curb corruption and provide better transparency in voting. Early this year, they started a pilot run for a blockchain-based e-voting system called Active Citizen, although the application was limited to non-political decisions like speed limits and bus routes.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

Australia’s financial watchdog swoops down on ‘misleading or deceptive’ ICOs

The commission is making good on its promise to hold cryptocurrency companies to its legal standards.

Early last month, Australia issued legislative guidelines for cryptocurrency exchanges in the country. This month, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) released an updated set of guidelines for initial coin offerings (ICOs) and cryptocurrencies.

“Australian law prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct in a range of circumstances, including in trade or commerce, in connection with financial services, and in relation to a financial product. Care should be taken to ensure promotional communications about any crypto-currency or ICO do not mislead or deceive potential consumers and do not contain false information,” the release stated. “It is a serious breach of the Australian law to undertake misleading or deceptive conduct.”

To show just how serious the commission is, the financial watchdog followed through with these guidelines by cracking down on ICO’s, forcing some to freeze their token sales.

“These offers can involve significant risks for investors that are often not disclosed or well understood,” the ASIC wrote in a statement. “ASIC is issuing inquiries to ICO issuers and their advisers where we identify conduct or statements that may be misleading or deceptive. This is in addition to our inquiries where we identify potentially unlicensed conduct. As a result of our inquiries, some issuers have halted their ICO or have indicated the ICO structure will be modified.”

The ASIC, which was granted authority over crypto-assets by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in April 19, wants to make it clear that crypto-assets are not exempt from standard laws.

“If you are acting with someone else’s money, or selling something to someone, you have obligations. Regardless of the structure of the ICO, there is one law that will always apply: you cannot make misleading or deceptive statements about the product. This is going to be a key focus for us as this sector develops,” ASIC Commissioner John Price said.

“In addition to potentially misleading statements in the white paper, the offer was an unregulated managed investment scheme. This means the offeror would have been in breach of the relevant provisions of the Corporations Act had the offer proceeded, potentially leading to serious penalties under the Act,” the ASIC statement wrote.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

University of Basel becomes first Swiss university to issue blockchain-based diplomas

Start-up Proxeus is connecting blockchain technology with traditional companies.

Last year, MIT issued 111 digital diplomas that were recorded on a blockchain in a pilot run conducted through an application called BlockCerts. This gives graduates easy access to their certificates as well as control over who gets to see them.

And it looks like blockchain-based diplomas may very well turn into a norm as more are following in on the trend.

Speeding up processes is also one of the biggest benefits of blockchain technology, and blockchain innovator Proxeus—with the help of its partners, is maximizing this value. The company partnered up with the University of Basel’s Center for Innovative Finance (CIF) in creating a prototype that would allow the institution to issue course certificates and register them on a blockchain. This drastically reduced the processing time for the documents, and has placed the University of Basel as the first in Switzerland to issue blockchain-based diplomas.

Proxeus co-founder and CEO Antoine Verdon (left), and Fabian Schär, Director of the Center for Innovative Finance at the University of Basel (right).

And because they are on the blockchain, certificates are easily verifiable and tamper-proof, therefore cracking down on the possibility of fraud. Dr. Fabian Schär, Managing Director at the CIF, says the project can help solve authenticity issues for academic credentials, a burden for both graduates and employers.

“Fraud is a problem in academia just as it is in any field,” Schär said. “By securing credentials on the Blockchain, we provide an extra layer of security for graduates and potential employers. These credentials can’t be faked, and can be easily verified online. It will introduce a new paradigm of security and offer value to all parties – employers don’t lose time checking credentials, graduates have an edge, and the institutions themselves reduce their reputational risk and a significant administrative burden.”

Proxeus has been actively working on similar solutions for different applications. Proxues, in partnership with IBM and other companies, are also working on speeding up legal registry of Swiss businesses—they were able to cut processing down from four to six weeks to less than three hours. In fact, they say that in their test run, they were able to pull it off in only one hour and 37 minutes. Unsurprisingly, they nabbed the 2018 Swiss Fintech Award as the Early Stage Start-up of the Year.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

London Block Exchange lists Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum Classic on its platform

BCH and ETC pairings with GBP and BTC are now on the menu.

London Block Exchange (LBX)—the UK’s first dedicated cryptocurrency exchange has added Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Ethereum Classic (ETC) to their platform. It can be noted that both cryptocurrencies forked away from their legacy chains (BTC and ETH, respectively) in retaliation from what were seen as violations of the original visions behind them.

Yesterday, the exchange announced that they now support GBP (Great British Pounds) and BCH pairs, as well as Ethereum Classic (ETC). BCH and ETC to BTC pairs are also on the menu. This would supposedly set them apart, as these pairings are uncommon in the market.

“This means that not only are we the sole operator in the market to offer UK onshore banking, but we are also one of the only exchanges in the world to offer a GBP pairing for Bitcoin Cash and Ethereum Classic,” the exchange wrote on their website.

LBX CEO and founder Benjamin Dives says they plan to add more cryptoassets depending on what the community wants.

“As we open our doors to UK crypto enthusiasts, we’re listening and acting on what the community wants – and that’s an array of good quality coin options to trade; all backed by a reliable, comprehensive and user-friendly service that they can trust,” Dives says.

nChain CEO Jimmy Nguyen applauds the move, saying in a press release:

“The decision to list Bitcoin Cash shows that the London Block Exchange is listening to the market. Bitcoin Cash is the future. With faster transaction times, lower transaction fees and greater security, Bitcoin Cash represents the true vision of a peer-to-peer electronic cash system.”

Bitcoin Cash is gearing up for massive upgrades on May 15, including a 32Mb block size upgrade and the resurrection of certain OP_Codes that would enable smart contracts and tokenization on the blockchain—something Ethereum currently holds dominance over. Nguyen predicts massive growth for BCH, and a decline for others as it overtakes.

“This move highlights the potential of Bitcoin Cash as the one true all-in-one coin, which can do what all other cryptocurrencies and blockchains claim to do. We expect investor demand for Bitcoin Cash to grow, while demand for legacy Bitcoin Core (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies declines,” Nguyen says.

“A protocol upgrade will occur on May 15, and this will further improve the Bitcoin Cash network. At this point, the BCH block size will increase from 8MB to 32MB, which will significantly increase throughput capacity to handle transactions, as well as keeping transaction fees very low as network usage grows. This protocol upgrade will also restore certain OP_Codes in the Bitcoin scripting language, and enable smart contract and tokenisation solutions on the BCH network.”

Nguyen says the upcoming May 15 upgrade is just the beginning, as Bitcoin Cash prepares for even more massive scaling.

“After this May 2018 upgrade, expect more steps toward massive on-chain scaling of the Bitcoin Cash network. We envision a future with massive block of 1 gigabyte (1000 MBs), and even 1 terabyte (1 million MBs), to achieve a powerful BCH data network that will re-invent how global business is done,” Nguyen says.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

Bitcoin Cash prepares for upgrade: nChain on 32MB blocks, OP_Code resurrection for smart contracts

nChain likes big blocks and they cannot lie.

May 15 is a big day for Bitcoin Cash supporters as the community prepares for the first of a series of big upgrades for the blockchain. The upcoming hard fork will trigger the following upgrades:
• Increasing the size of blocks on the Bitcoin Cash blockchain from 8MB to 32MB;
• Restoring certain OP_Codes for advanced functionality; and
• Increasing OP_Return data carrier limit to 223 bytes.

The 32Mb increase in block size will supposedly enable a capacity of 100 transactions per second, or 8.64 million transactions per day. This is a precursor to the Terab project’s long-term goal of scaling to 1 terabyte blocks—which would theoretically bring in 7 million transactions per second, or a whopping 604.8 billion transactions per day.

In a press release, Jimmy Nguyen, CEO of leading blockchain R&D company, nChain, comments:

“Increasing the Bitcoin Cash block size from 8MB to 32MB begins to ignite the true power of the BCH network, significantly increasing throughput capacity, in terms of the number of transactions that can fit into each block.It will also keep transaction fees very low – and thus ensure the BCH network has capacity to operate efficiently as usage continues to increase as the global peer-to-peer electronic cash. After this May 2018 upgrade, expect more steps toward massive on-chain scaling of the Bitcoin Cash network. We envision a future with massive block of 1 gigabyte (1000 MBs), and even 1 terabyte (1 million MBs), to achieve a powerful BCH data network that will re-invent how global business is done.”

Reinstating previously deactivated OP_Codes from the original code of Bitcoin, according to Nguyen, has huge implications for Bitcoin Cash as it unleashes smart contract and tokenisation capabilities that would bring Bitcoin Cash on the forefront of the industry.

“The second key upgrade is restoring certain OP_codes that had been deactivated in the Bitcoin script language.  These OP_codes are being brought back to Bitcoin Cash to enable the ability for tokenisation and smart contract execution on the BCH network.  This will be a game-changer in the cryptocurrency space because it makes Bitcoin Cash the clear leader, with the ability to do all in one coin-efficient payments and advanced technical functions such as tokenisation and smart contracts – what many other coins and blockchains separately claim to do.  We at nChain and other groups have already been working on new tokenisation solutions to implement on Bitcoin Cash.”

The press release also states that the upgrades will enable Bitcoin Cash to do what Ethereum does.

“The restoring of certain OP_codes in the Bitcoin scripting language will bring advanced technical functionality to the Bitcoin Cash network. In computing, operating codes are the section of automated language which dictates what operation must be performed. The restored OP_codes will enable tokenisation and smart contracts to be executed on the BCH blockchain.  More advanced functions will be possible with future upgrades to the Bitcoin Cash network.

Tokenisation – of financial instruments, assets, rewards, or for Initial Coin Offering (ICO) purposes – and the ability to make use of smart contracts, means that Bitcoin Cash can be used to do anything that other blockchains such as Ethereum, can do. Bitcoin Cash is already a superior payment system, because it is fast, low-fee and allows borderless transactions to anywhere in the world. With these additional technical capabilities, Bitcoin Cash can be the all-in-one coin.”

Given these improvements, Nguyen says it’s a win overall. “These changes will make BCH faster, stronger and more powerful. Win, win, win,” Nguyen says. Using a bit of wordplay, he adds: “Bigger blocks are the only way to make Bitcoin a viable payment option for daily transacting. That is why, here at nChain, we like big blocks and we cannot lie!”

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

Beware of misleading software: Crypto criminals are stepping up their game

Some are just annoying, but some can inflict real damage.

Recently, an application on Google Play has been crossing quite a few users. The software, called “Bitcoin Cash TESTNET,” has nothing to do with Bitcoin Cash. It was also previously named “Bitcoin + Lightning Wallet,” and its recent name change is likely nothing but a deliberate attempt to troll users.

While this may be annoying, there are actually far worse applications currently lurking around in the space. Last year, users lost over $3.2 million to a bitcoin gold (BTG) wallet scam after inputting their private keys into the fake wallet, expecting to receive their BTG shortly after the October 25 fork. Several other scams did the same thing and it has been known that such cons are rampant particularly around the time of blockchain forks.

Phishing scam has also proven damaging, with fraudsters simply switching certain letters with another character that looks similar to resemble legitimate websites as closely as possible. Crypto criminals have also been progressing, going so far as to discreetly hack legitimate websites and replacing official wallet addresses and payment links to lead to their own wallets. This attack has been known to target ICO’s, and became widely infamous after CoinDash fell victim to it.

Some were even able to publish entire mobile applications on Google Play and the App Store dedicated to hoodwinking cryptocurrency enthusiasts, with several of them mimicking Poloniex.

According to a release by RiskIQ in January this year, an analysis of 18,408 apps across 20 app stores has uncovered 661 malicious cryptocurrency applications that were floating around official app stores, with 272 of them on Google Play. The applications steal money and personal data. Fabian Libeau, EMEA VP of RiskIQ, issued a warning to investors.

“We are seeing threat actors around the world exploiting what is already a hostile currency in a lawless digital world. Before handing over any cash or personal data, investors should carry out thorough research into the exchange and wallet apps they intend to use. By checking the developer’s name, user reviews and the number of app downloads, investors can measure the validity of an app and be more confident in their choice,” said Libeau.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

UNICEF turns mining malware into good—donate computing power instead of cash

In a funny twist, the mechanism commonly used as a mining malware is now being used for a good cause: UNICEF now allows you to donate some of your computing power instead of cash.

Since last year, several organizations—including government websites—have been plagued by a series of pestilent attacks based on several hacking tools leaked from the NSA. One of these tools gave birth to the CoinHive, a malware that had gained notoriety after discreetly being slipped into users’ computers through some usability plug-ins and secretly mined Monero for the hackers.

Now, Unicef is using a similar mechanism in order to generate funds without requiring donors to shell out their own cash. According to ZDNet, UNICEF’s donation platform is powered by the same Monero mining program. But unlike the Monero miner, the website—named theHopePage.org, clearly asks users for confirmation before using anybody’s system to mine for UNICEF Australia. Users can also adjust how much computing power they are willing to donate, and can simply keep the browser tab open to keep contributing. This gives people an opportunity to “give hope, just by being here,” as their website says.

“The longer you stay on the page and the more processor power you donate, the more algorithms get solved, which earns cryptocurrency,” they wrote in their website. “Mining is perfectly safe for your computer. If you’re ever worried about power consumption, turn down the amount of processing power you’re donating.”

Upon agreeing, the website then proceeds to use the viewer’s computing power to mine cryptocurrencies, the proceeds of which go directly to the fund, the organizations says.

“The cryptocurrency is automatically donated to UNICEF Australia and is turned into real funds that reach children through life-saving supplies like safe water, therapeutic food and vaccines. Turn the Hopepage into your homepage to give every day.”

As of last check, over 1,600 people were donating to the website.

This is not the first time UNICEF turned to cryptocurrency mining to solicit computing power donations. In February, they also appealed to online gamers, who are likely to have powerful graphics cards perfect for crypto mining. The website, Game Chaingers, would allow gamers to donate their computing power to help Syrian children, although attention to the website has died down since its launch.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

Statement: CoinGeek will support Bitcoin.com in lawsuit over the real Bitcoin

CoinGeek welcomes this opportunity to subject the merits of both BTC and Bitcoin Cash BCH to scrutiny in court.

Recently, a group of BTC devotees launched a website in hopes of gathering a crowd as well as some funds to aid their effort in filing a lawsuit against the website, Bitcoin.com. The group, which also has a dedicated Telegram group started by Twitter user @MoneyTrigz, alleges that Bitcoin.com’s user interface confuses buyers by using the same logo colour for both BTC and Bitcoin Cash (BCH). They add that referring to BTC as Bitcoin Core was enough to mislead BTC buyers into mistakenly purchasing BCH.

The group is now soliciting donations for their cause through their website bitcoincomlawsuit.info. Whether this complaint or its proponents have any viable claims is yet to be seen.

CoinGeek welcomes this as an opportunity to challenge the cultist dogma and subject to scrutiny the merits of BCH against that of BTC in court. Below is CoinGeek’s official statement about the matter.

A statement from Calvin Ayre, CoinGeek.com Founder

CoinGeek.com will support and join any lawsuit related to what is the real Bitcoin.  We look forward to a court reviewing the original white paper and the evolution of the two major branches that are on the chain that originated with the bitcoin genesis block.

It is clear to anyone who knows the history and technology that Bitcoin BTC is inaccurately using the Bitcoin name and has forked to Segwit technology and is no longer bitcoin or even a cryptocurrency.   

Bitcoin BCH forked back to being bitcoin after the Segwit fork and is staying true to the original white paper. CoinGeek has been studying how we could get this issue before a court and would welcome the opportunity to put our substantial resources into getting a judge to review the science and make a decision. We are confident there is only one outcome to this and that is that BTC has stolen the Bitcoin name for a Segwit technology alt coin. 

Bitcoin.com has every right to also have its own opinion in this area and we support this 100 percent also.  Nobody is in a better position to know bitcoin when they see it than bitcoin.com and Roger Ver who have been there since the very start.”

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

AI for governance: Can governments be replaced with decentralized intelligence?

A column exploring blockchain-related possibilities in the far future.
 Here, we look at blockchain technology in conjunction
 with other developing technologies. 
 Disclaimer: this post may be closer to science fiction than fact.

It didn’t take long before technologists decided to combine artificial intelligence (AI) with blockchain technology. I’ve come across projects that use artificial intelligence to recognize patterns and combining these functions with smart contracts—bringing the power of both technologies to unprecedented scales.

The assemblage, called decentralized intelligence, is capable of automating consensus mechanisms as well as managerial decisions for blockchain-based organizations. By analyzing collected data, AI can make business decisions for decentralized applications and subsequently enforce them.

The implications of combining the two technologies are quite vast. And because these are both new and continuously developing territories, it’s hard to see their limits.

One of the biggest questions many have been wondering is whether it’s possible to automate entire governments using this combination. Some have actually started trying: the UK has started their test run for a blockchain-run social welfare system. Russia has also started using it for a voting system. Stretching this use case further, I imagine a world where cases taken to the International Court can instead be decided upon by neutral delegates from anywhere in the world through a blockchain-enabled voting system. Instead of years, decisions can be arrived at faster.

Government adoption

It’s easy to see how this transition can quickly spread throughout government systems. I asked Dr. Paolo Di Prodi, senior data scientist at FortiGuard Labs, Fortinet for his personal opinion on the matter (he would like to clarify that these are his own personal stances, and not his employer’s). Dr. Di Prodi worked very closely with machine learning applications for big firms, including the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in the UK, and Microsoft.

Dr. Di Prodi thinks the UK’s blockchain test run is particularly interesting, but deploying the technology laterally, across all government agencies will be difficult—as interruptions are expected between administration changes.

“Yes, it will be interesting to see the outcome of that trial to manage welfare support payments in the UK. For me, it does solve a very practical security problem as well as an efficiency problem of receiving cash. The larger implication of adopting this payment system is that all the other interconnected services like housing services will need to be crypto-enabled to receive payments. This will reduce spending in processing and IT administration but of course will require an initial expenditure to modernize all the IT platforms which will need to come from the tax payers. The problem of deploying a blockchain solution is that it will span several administrations and thus will require a long term commitment from all political parties. I believe Russia or China will not have the same issue paradoxically.”

Additionally, the rise of AI in governance will be slow, especially because there are limitations arising now when it comes to acquiring the data needed to build machine learning models.  Governments will probably remain cautious as the technology proceeds.

“One of the most interesting projects in this field is openmined.org which allows the construction of decentralized machine learning models without disclosing private personal data. Other companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple—under recent pressure of privacy concerns—are working on privacy preserving machine learning especially after the deployment of the GDPR regulation in Europe.

The largest concern for using AI at a government level and by AI—I mean a fully automated process, is that the decisions will be biased on the actual data as we have seen in the press recently about racial discrimination performed by the COMPAS program in US courts. The governments of this world will be probably still cautious about using AI for decision making but instead still rely on their data scientist to propose new policies. I believe an area where the government will invest more will be more in protecting and exchanging citizen data to improve the quality of service they provide,” Dr. Di Prodi wrote.

He also agrees with blockchain’s advantages as a consensus mechanism, and how it can help curb influence and illicit activities. But admits it has its limits in terms of battling human frailty.

“The citizen could even have a major role in deciding in real time via electronic voting. However a shift will be required to move from a democracy to a technocracy which might still suffer from the influence of lobbies and wealthy individuals perhaps in a lesser form. I think AI will not be able to solve the human nature of greed but with the power of data into the citizen’s hands will be more likely to expose frauds, evasion, crime and in general inefficiencies.”

AI for governance: Can governments be replaced with decentralized intelligence?

Current Limitations

Data collection is crucial in building the necessities of decentralized intelligence, and machine learning as a whole. But data is as powerful as it is energy-intensive, Dr. Di Prodi says, yet he is optimistic that this hurdle will be overcome soon. He adds that a fully decentralized intelligence-run government depends on certain factors

“Yes this would be possible when we will live in a fully digitized word where we could possibly collect and process all the information from the macro to the micro economic factors. This will allow the government to run for example future scenario of the effect of a new tax structure, health service or pension scheme. More data will require more compute power and thus a larger footprint for the environment. Do you know for example that data centres across the world are already using 3% of global electricity supply? This means we will have to be more efficient in storing and computing data. The good news is that GPU and TPU are overcoming the limitation of the Moore’s Law suffered by CPU so there will be enough firepower to process all the data we need.”

Another obstacle he sees is the fact that although AI can be encoded with moral rules, these rules would have to be pre-set by humans themselves—something that is easier said than done due to highly relative and debatable morality standards.

“The AI will need to be programmed with moral rules, over population is a growing concern and we can’t really save the environment if we can’t reduce our birth rate thus consuming less. Look at what China did with the one child policy, most western countries define it as inhumane, but it was rationally the only choice to make the economy sustainable. The AI cannot make those sort of decisions for us, we are still responsible to program what is good and what is bad. To quote an old Latin proverb: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes (who watches the watchmen)?

Is singularity in the horizon?

Dr. Di Prodi doesn’t think so—at least not in the near future.

“Well shallow or deep AI is still in its infancy, the most imminent risk to humans is just what I call ‘poor AI’. We have allowed companies like Uber (and others like Waymo, Cruise, etc.) to run their automated driving cars in our streets without thorough certification and testing. As a result, a few lethal accidents have skewed public perception of AI. There is of course debate whether the accident would have been avoided by a real person but in most accidents, it was evident that the supervisor in the car was not vigilant. I believe the technology right now could be best applied in reducing specific behavior like drowsy driving or driving under the influence of alcohol. I believe there is need to more regulation and testing for physical AI (any AI that interacts with the physical world), because the legal frameworks like the FMVSS in US don’t work for driverless cars.”

He says that developing AI in self-driving cars will help decrease car accidents—which he says keeps him up at night.

“All governments have the same issue and will have to work together to develop one. In the long term when all cars will be automated and being able to talk to each other, there will be far less accidents due to human error but is the transition from mixed automated and manual traffic that keeps me awake at night!”

“We are far away from the singularity point, some people say is 30 years away, and even if we achieve the computational power of the brain we are still far away from understanding how the human mind works,” he adds.

“I believe the most likely scenario will be an AI bug – where bug can be a programming error or unexpected behavior – like the flash crash of the markets in 2010 most likely caused by high frequency trading bots. The most danger comes where AI is used in a closed loop fashion with fast decision making, although we have a kill switch [if] we are not fast enough to press it as in the flash crash or in the self driving accident scenario.”

Cecille de Jesus

China wants to use blockchain audits for big data

Cryptocurrencies are clearly not welcome, but blockchain technology may be fair game.

Despite basically choking the life out of cryptocurrencies in the country, China may be looking to use blockchain technology to “improve the data storage, management, transmission and other work modes in future big data audits.” At least, this was the suggestion released by the office of the National Audit of the People’s Republic of China.

In the release, the office outlines a “more optimistic” view and exploration of possible uses of blockchain technology in the country, particularly in processes that involve the audit office. A rough translation of the document points to perceived problems in the future when the amount of data the office handles increases.

“At present, audit data is managed using a centralized storage method, which is first collected by the accredited agencies to audit objects, then uploaded to the Audit Office Data Center (hereinafter referred to as the data center), and then centrally managed by the data center. The accredited agencies do not store relevant data. Although this management model has a high level of data security and legitimacy, it will also result in unlimited expansion of data center hardware and software equipment requirements. It will never be able to meet the endless cycle of data storage and management, resulting in more data center workload.”

The office also states that developments using blockchain technology would be in accordance with General Secretary Xi Jinping’s goals of strengthening the country in terms of science and technology and big data management. They add that it will help them keep up and streamline their processes to meet the development goals laid out at the 19th National Congress.

“There is still a distance between General Secretary Xi Jinping and the requirements of the Audit Committee Party Group, which requires us to Improve the system at work, earnestly implement it, and achieve results. The “blockchain” concept and technology will open a skylight for us to resolve this problem.”

The office wants to tap on blockchain technology’s capabilities to help monitor activities and automate records.

“The “blockchain” technology’s encryption algorithm, timestamp, and data self-management [will] enable the data center to track and record every auditor’s data events and other activities that require data collection, identity management, and the creation of auditor data operations.”

While blockchain technology may be getting a warmer welcome from the Chinese government, cryptocurrencies remain generally unwelcome in the country (except maybe for the one the government is developing themselves). It looks like this may not be changing for a while based on active enforcement by officials. Earlier this week, authorities seized 600 computers which they believed were being used for mining activities due to unusually high electric usage. Earlier this month, police even crashed and stopped a blockchain conference altogether. Yet cryptocurrency enthusiasts in the country are relentless, resorting to underground activities to continue their participation in the crypto economy.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

Lumiere: A transparency project to promote equality, fight corruption

Lumiere has the platform to push for the right things, but its creator acknowledges that there will be a lot of resistance to the revolution.

Sifting through raging ICO projects at the TOKEN2049 Conference in Hong Kong last month wasn’t easy. Luckily, there were still a few worth taking a second long look at.

Patrice Poujol spent eight years in film finance and capital markets, another eight years in film production, and three years working on his postgraduate research—a peer-reviewed study which will be published as a book with Springer International Publishing this year. The culmination of his PhD project to integrate blockchain into film production has now taken a distinct form: Lumiere.

Referring to ICO’s and exchanges—which are the quickest way for getting rich quick in the space—Poujol asserts a big distinction: Lumiere was the result of years of research and was made specifically for a real problem, one that he himself has firsthand knowledge of.

“We’re not trying to speculate, we’re not trying say to people, ‘we’ll give you the Moon.’ But we’ll give you this—but this is a few billion (in savings),” Poujol laughed. “It’s three years’ PhD period of research. It’s not just me waking up one morning, having a shower and saying, ‘hey, [I’ll build a project].’”

Currently, Poujol says that there is a big disconnect between blockchain technology and film, and they’re trying to spearhead that merger. “We’re trying to bridge these two,” he says.

“We’re trying to bridge blockchain and the crypto world, the tech world, and the film world. I would say they’re not in the dialogue yet. They don’t understand each other, maybe because they haven’t formally met yet.”

Poujol adds that film is a “very human” field, and in that aspect makes it imperfect, whereas “tech and blockchain is something that makes a process, a protocol systematic,” which he says could solve the “trust issues” in film production processes.

Solving the multi-billion dollar fallout

According to Poujol, Lumiere will break down inefficiencies in film production—which actually costs investors a serious amount of money.

“What we’re doing essentially and what we’re planning for the software to do is to bring transparency to the film production process,” he said. “Investor money is going up in smoke—part of it, maybe 15—sometimes up to 25%.”

Considering the overall amount spent by the film industry, this figure is huge.

“Right now, it’s a multi-billion US dollar issue. There are films that basically use a few hundred millions essentially for every shoot. There’s about thousands of films being made that way. Now an average budget for a film is around—in Europe would be around five million (USD), in the US it’s way bigger. Now, we’re talking 50-80 million (USD),” Poujol said. “What we’re trying to do is bring transparency to an industry that needs it.”

To address the issue, Poujol is harnessing the capabilities of blockchain technology and smart contracts for an automated full audit of expenses, as well as streamlining payments for professionals involved.

“What we want to do is change it even more to the point where investors can actually track the flow of money within the productions and they can see the money—how it’s being used, where it’s going. Also where staff—whether they’re cast or crew—can be paid on time and in full through smart contracts. So it’s an entire system essentially to reshape the way films are being made.”

Equality and meritocracy: alleviating the gender pay gap

I asked Poujol what the implications were in terms of meritocracy. In the US, several have spoken up particularly about the gender pay gap. This issue has ignited a thousand online debates about whether women are being paid unjustly less than their male counterparts. Will transparency be extended to include everybody’s salary? And will this help the fight for equality and meritocracy in terms of wages?

“We’ve seen over the past few months that the industry is changing. People start speaking out about certain things and I think it’s good.”

In some areas, he says, problems don’t usually arise from people knowing upfront what everybody else is getting paid. Compared to the US, transparency in salaries may not be a problem for some. But the platform may help alleviate such gender-related salary injustices for those countries where equality is still an issue.

“We want to push it in the last phase where everybody on the set knows how much everybody else is getting. Now, there are people who are against it and I don’t care. I don’t mind being a producer and putting my salary upfront because I can completely justify how much I get.”

Poujol adds that it actually takes more energy to try to keep salaries a secret than it is to be upfront about it and then proceed to focusing on work.

“I don’t think it’s actually counter-productive—I think it’s the opposite. It’s just the mindset [that says transparency in salaries is a bad thing].”

How about corruption?

The biggest implication—and the biggest question of all, is Lumiere’s potential impact against corruption in governments. Corruption is one of the biggest issues that can be affected by the transparency blockchain technology offers. All we need is a platform that would enable this use case, and here it is.

Obviously, if this could be applied to privately funded projects, it can be applied to a government-run agency. In theory, that is. Of course, things are not as simple as that. Corruption persists precisely because the corrupt are persistent.

“Oh, there’s gonna be a huge resistance. We will encounter a lot of resistance,” Poujol affirms. In fact, some have even hinted that his project could literally put him in the crosshairs of that resistance.

“As a joke, someone said to me, ‘You realize that the app that you’re running now can be dangerous for certain people…you better buy a bullet-proof jacket,’” Poujol laughingly said. “I said, ‘well, you know, if I don’t do it, someone else will. It’s not just me—it’s a movement that’s happening.”

Not the cure, but the right step forward

Speaking about those who use such advances purely for their own benefit, and at the expense of others, he knows it’s impossible to eradicate such practices.

“Blockchain is supposed to be here to make things more just and fair,” Poujol said. “I’m in this actually for the features that can bring more equality. We will never get perfect equality but I’m in here because I believe that this can solve a lot of problems that are here at the moment.

And when I see people using and milking the system—there will always be people who do that—but I kinda cringe a little bit.”

Poujol acknowledges that what he and a few others are trying to achieve requires far more than what technology can offer. He is positive, however, that the tech can help propel society towards the right direction, particularly in terms of mindset.

“It’s trying to revolutionize the way films are being produced financially. And then I think the technology and the financials can accompany the change of mindset as well. I don’t think it’s just the tech, I think it’s the tech and it’s also the attitudes, the behaviours, and the mindsets that people have about how they do business—how they consider one another, whether it could be gender issues, whether it could be racial issues.

I’m not saying the tech will address these issues but it can help. It can bring a certain change. In the words of Laozi’s Daodejing: ‘a journey of a thousand miles starts with one footstep.””

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

Binance founder slapped with lawsuit over failed Sequoia deal

This year is starting out rough for Binance. 

Zhao Changpeng, the founder of cryptocurrency exchange giant Binance, has been sued in Hong Kong’s High Court by venture capital firm Sequoia Capital after allegedly violating an exclusivity agreement by engaging with another venture capital firm.

Binance—despite only coming into business in July 2017, rose quickly to become the largest cryptocurrency exchange by January 2018. According to court filings, Sequoia started its relationship with Binance in August, bidding for a nearly 11% stake in the company which they valued at around $80 million at the time. Negotiations stretched on for months, however, with Zhao saying in December last year that their valuation of the exchange was too low.

The other venture capital firm in question—IDG Capital—allegedly came into the picture with a far bigger valuation of Binance, and a far bigger offer. According to Bloomberg, IDG offered two rounds of substantial funding: $400 million and $1 billion. The legality of this negotiation between Binance and IDG was challenged by Sequoia, which brought the case to court. An order was handed down banning Binance from entertaining other investors.

This isn’t the only problem Binance faced in recent months. In February, Binance had to temporarily shut down their platform, citing server issues. But this spiralled into an FUD battle against John McAfee, who later apologized for fanning the flame.

About a month later, the exchange fell victim to a breach which saw hackers infiltrating some users’ accounts and using their funds to pump a little known altcoin. This prompted the exchange to put a $250,000 bounty over the hackers’ heads. The exchange also allocated an additional $10 million in rewards for any other hacks that may happen in the future.

Unfortunately, all this commotion also triggered alarm bells from Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA). Binance received a warning of closure from the FSA, saying they have to comply with licensing requirements if they want to continue their operations. This confirmed an earlier report by news agency Nikkei , who Zhao accused of “irresponsible journalism” as he was initially denying any issues with the FSA.

Zhao Tweeted afterwards that they are finding a solution. “We received a simple letter from JFSA about an hour ago. Our lawyers called JFSA immediately, and will find a solution,” he wrote.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.