Month: December 2017

27 Dec 2017
Manahel Thabet

Belarus Acknowledges Bitcoin as a Legal Currency, Legalizes ICOs

The government of Belarus, with the approval of its President Alexander Lukashenko, has officially acknowledged bitcoin as a legal currency and has legalized initial coin offerings (ICOs), smart contracts, and blockchain development.

Tax-Free, ICO Legalized, Blockchain Industry

The document approved by President Lukashenko entitled “On Digital Economy Development,” read:

“The main goal of the document is to create such conditions that global IT companies would come to Belarus, open their representative offices, development centers, and create popular products in the world.”

Unlike several major bitcoin markets like South Korea, the Belarus government will not tax mining, trading of cryptocurrencies, and sale of digital tokens. According to Belarus Hi-Tech Park director Vsevolod Yanchevsky, activities related to mining, creation, acquisition and sale of digital tokens will remain tax-free until 2023, throughout the next five years.

“Having adopted the Decree, Belarus Becomes one of the world’s most comfortable jurisdictions for IT business. Besides, the country is creating favorable conditions for the development of blockchain technology and businesses based on it,” said Yanchevsky.

The primary motive of the government of Belarus in providing a favorable environment for both cryptocurrency businesses and investors is to better facilitate the growth of its digital economy, beginning with the fastest growing technology and financial network in bitcoin.

Similar to Zug in Switzerland, better known as Crypto Valley, the Belarus government plans to address the rapidly growing demand for ICOs and token sales by establishing an ecosystem in which blockchain projects and startups can freely, without being concerned about regulatory conflicts and boundaries, issue crypto-tokens.

Denis Aleinikov, a senior partner at law firm Aleinikov & Partners, who is one of the main individuals that led the cryptocurrency bill to presidential approval, emphasized that the government also seeks to see an exponential growth rate in its smart contracts and blockchain industry.

As such, the government aims to provide full support towards decentralized applications and blockchain projects working toward commercializing and deploying smart contracts at a large scale.

“Smart contract may solve the fundamental problem of all humanity which is a failure to fulfill what has been agreed on paper. A computer program takes the function of a contract’s automatic fulfillment,” said Aleinikov.

Significance of Belarus’ Friendly Regulations

Currently, the global cryptocurrency market is largely dominated by four regions: the US, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. The US and Japan settle more than 60 percent of the global bitcoin and cryptocurrency trades, while South Korea and Hong Kong account for more than 10 percent of the market.

In the past, leading cryptocurrency markets like Australia with innovative startups and well-backed early-stage companies struggled to demonstrate success due to the inefficient and impractical policies imposed by the government. This year, the Australian government passed various regulations to eliminate taxes for investors and offer friendly regulations for businesses. Still, the Australian bitcoin market is lagging behind other regions.

At this early stage of development and adoption, countries like Belarus could solidify themselves as leading regions in the global cryptocurrency market by garnering talents, startups, and projects.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Source: CNN

25 Dec 2017
Manahel Thabet

HoloLens Just Brought a Star Trek: TNG Game That Nearly Killed the Crew to Life

IN BRIEF

Star Trek introduced a number of concepts that have since become real, like AI and smartphones. MIT graduate Robert Burke has brought yet another Star Trek creation to the real world — an AR game that utilizes the player’s own emotional status.

TURNING FICTION INTO (AUGMENTED) REALITY

The sixth episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s fifth season introduced an augmented reality (AR) game that nearly took over the entire Enterprise crew. It was a deceptively simple game that used a person’s emotional state to enter red disks into blue funnels. In the TNG episode (aptly titled “The Game), when a player successfully gets a disk into a tunnel, they’re rewarded with a pleasurable signal, increasing the game’s addictiveness.

Anyone interested in trying the game for themselves can now do so, as it has been almost perfectly recreated using Microsoft’s Hololens AR headset and a biometric sensor. The only difference is that it doesn’t reward players by sending a pleasing signal to the brain, save for the satisfaction you may feel after managing to get a disk into one of the funnels.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate Robert Burke brought the TNG game to life last year, noting on his website that “Star Trek has a history of envisioning technologies that eventually become real. Often faster and more addictive than anyone expects!”

VISUALIZING STRESS

Burke used Hololens because it provides the same AR field of view demonstrated on Star Trek, but since it has no biometric scanning capabilities, he also used the Pip biosensor from Galvanic. The Pip is a handheld device that can measure one’s fluctuating stress levels through their fingertips. Pip “accurately captures these changes and through biofeedback, allows you to visualize them.”

When used in the game, stress is shown by the aforementioned red disk entering — or being rejected by — the blue funnels. The Pip isn’t required to play the game, though, as you can also use voice commands to move the disks to the funnels.

Burke’s game isn’t the first time we’ve seen science fiction become reality. Artificial intelligence (AI) was once thought to only be a sci-fi concept, but now we have Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. Smartphones are another sign of sci-fi made real and are essentially a real-world counterpart to Star Trek’s Tricorder (though, it could be argued that our smartphones are much more stylish and feature-rich).

Source: Futurism

23 Dec 2017
Manahel Thabet

Experts: Each Bitcoin Could be Worth $60,000 by December 2018

IN BRIEF

If its price hikes are any indication, 2017 has arguably been a successful year for Bitcoin. Just how much higher could this cryptocurrency go?

A YEAR OF HIGHS

There’s no doubt about it: Bitcoin has proven itself to be the most resilient cryptocurrency around, overcoming a number of hurdles, including hard forks, in 2017. The currency hit a new record price of $19,796 per coin on December 17, before falling to its current price of $13,164 per coin (at the time of writing). Naturally, the record year has observers rife with speculation about the future of Bitcoin.

Experts predict that, a year from now, the price of bitcoin could grow more than triple its record value. “Bitcoin can reach $60,000 by [December] 2018,” Mike Dumont, a senior editor for Bitcoin.com, told Futurism.

Medicalchain COO Mohammed Tayeb shared a similar prediction. “Bitcoin could reach $50,000 by this time next year, if not more,” he told Futurism. “I think all of us are less and less surprised by the headlines that are coming out nearly monthly about the breakthrough Bitcoin is making and it should come as no surprise when it does reach $50,000.”

Bitcoin’s meteoric price hike has already gone beyond what some experts have previously predicted. Just a few months ago, one estimated that it could hit a now-modest-seeming $6,000 before the year ends, while another said Bitcoin would reach $10,000 by April 2018.

Jeremy Epstein, the CEO of Blockchain startups marketing firm Never Stop Marketing, believes that the price of Bitcoin could go up to $18,000 before the end of 2017. “Like anyone, I’ve been mega-surprised by how quickly Bitcoin has hit the mainstream,” he told Futurism.

“As far as the price goes, I tell everyone the exact same thing. It’s not about a year price horizon. It’s about a 5-year price horizon and there’s a 50-50 chance,” Epstein added, saying that he wouldn’t be surprised if Bitcoin reaches $250,000 or more in the next 5 years. He did note, however, that it’s still “a coin toss between huge success and total failure.”

BURSTING THE BUBBLE?

While the growth of Bitcoin is undeniable, it’s perhaps the same trend that makes some less excited about the cryptocurrency. Critics have often referred to Bitcoin as a bubble, and one that could burst with potentially extreme consequences.

“[I]s it a bubble? … yes,” said Armindo Araújo, the head of finance, planning and control at French corporate and investment bank NATIXIS, in an interview with Futurism. “[T]he demand for it will keep it moving up, yes. For how long? I would love to know.”

“My understanding is that [Bitcoin’s] position in one year will depend, on one side, on the evolution of regulation and acceptance by the global markets,” Araújo added, “and on another side, on the increasing demand and acceptance of Bitcoin as it grows mainstream.”

Epstein shares this sentiment. “Bubble is a convenient, pejorative word used by some to explain something they don’t understand. I don’t think it’s a bubble because the deflationary nature/fixed supply is what makes Bitcoin unique,” he explained, adding that the bubble “is in many of the alt-coins. Much of them are nonsense.”

He did, however, call for caution. “I am planning on HODLing,” Epstein said, which is his acronym for Hold On for Dear Life. “I think it’s wise to take some money off the table… maybe what you invested, plus whatever you consider to be a great return.”

Whatever the case may be, these experts agree that the price of Bitcoin will continue to rise, at least for the coming year. At the same time, cryptocurrencies seem to have a pretty solid future ahead. “Cryptos are here to stay because money can only be digital in our digital world,” Dumont explained. “At some point, humans stopped using seashells and exotic bones as money. Digital money is an upgrade over paper money. You can’t take $1 billion in paper cash and transport it via spaceship to a human base on the moon or Mars.”

“We are seeing a radical shift in power and decentralization,” Tayeb told Futurism. “2018 will continue from 2017, to be an exciting time to be involved in cryptocurrencies.”

Source: Futurism

20 Dec 2017
Manahel Thabet

A Web Company Is Offering to Pay Their Employees’ Salaries in Bitcoin

IN BRIEF

A Japanese web hosting company will begin offering their employees the option of receiving part of their salaries in the form of bitcoin. Starting in February, workers can opt to receive between 1,000 yen ($88) and 100,000 yen ($890) of their paychecks in the popular cryptocurrency.

BITCOIN AT WORK

GMO Internet, a Japanese web hosting company, has just offered to pay a portion of their employees’ salaries in bitcoin.

The shift is entirely optional, and the company is offering a range of entry points into the initiative. Starting in February, some workers will have the option of receiving as little as 10,000 yen (around $88) or as much as 100,000 yen (around $890) of their salaries in bitcoin. The offer will eventually expand to all of the company’s more than 4,000 employees.

Image credit: Antana/Flickr
Image credit: Antana/Flickr

In May, GMO Internet debuted a bitcoin trading and exchange business, and in January, they will add a bitcoin mining business to their roster of services. The company is even planning to launch their own initial coin offering (ICO) for the GMO coin, which owners could use to purchase cryptocurrency, next-gen mining boards, or a piece of a cloud mining business.

GMO Internet believes this employee compensation program could help them become more familiar with bitcoin as they dive further into the cryptocurrency space. “We hope to improve our own literacy of virtual currency by actually using it,” company spokeswoman Harumi Ishii told The Guardian.

INVESTMENT TOOL

Bitcoin has enjoyed a wild ride this year, surging in both popularity and value. At the beginning of 2017, prices hovered around the $1,000 threshold, but now, bitcoin sits well above the $18,000 mark. Expectations are high that it will surpass $20,000, possibly even before the end of the year.

Bitcoin is also gaining traction with businesses, which are helping to legitimize the crypto by accepting it as a valid form of payment. Still, bitcoin is now in an unprecedented position as a currency that’s being used more as an investment than something to spend.

No one can really say, to any degree of certainty, what the future holds for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Some experts see this impressive year as just the growing of a massive bubble set to pop at any moment, while others believe the upward swings in value are ushering in a new era in finance.

GMO Internet is hoping to offset some of bitcoin’s volatility by offering employees a 10 percent bonus if choose to receive a portion of their salaries in bitcoin. Employees that do could convert their bitcoin salary into traditional currency at any point or see where the bitcoin rollercoaster takes them.

Some analysts predict that bitcoin could continue soaring upward toward a value of $400,000, so employees willing to wait out any ups and downs could ultimately be heavily rewarded.

Bitcoin’s path may be unwritten, but with every person or organization that decides to give it a go, the crypto’s continued success becomes a bit more certain.

Source: Futurism

19 Dec 2017
Manahel Thabet

Corporate Power and Censorship: A World Without Net Neutrality

A World Without Net Neutrality

On the 14th of December 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States voted to repeal net neutrality, the Obama-era regulations set to protect consumers from undue restrictions from internet service providers (ISPs). With net neutrality, ISPs recognized broadband as a type of utility, where internet data and all web traffic were treated equally. The 3-2 vote limits the authority of the FCC to regulate ISPS who, in turn, now have more leeway when it comes to controlling how people use the internet.

While it may look like the fight for internet freedom has been lost, that’s not what a coalition of attorney generals from a number of U.S. states think. On the same day the FCC voted against net neutrality, these states pledged to stop the FCC from rolling back net neutrality. One of the people leading the charge is Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General for the state of New York. He believes that American society has a lot to lose without a free and open internet, which is why he is suing to prevent what he calls the “illegal rollback of net neutrality.”

“The internet is the public square of the 21st century,” Schneiderman said in an exclusive interview with Futurism. “But without net neutrality, it will become a private square — with massive corporations deciding what people and ideas get in. Without net neutrality, internet service providers will be able to censor content.”

In the simplest of terms, the repeal of net neutrality means that ISPs “get to decide which websites you have access to — and which you don’t. They’ll be able to intentionally slow down your internet service — and charge you more just to get back up to speed,” Schneiderman added. “Even if [ISPs] promise not to do those things right now, there will be no rule against them changing those promises down the road.”

The coalition of attorney generals now includes Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon, and Iowa. Meanwhile, others in California and Washington have pledged to prevent internet providers, such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter, from restricting internet access by slowing down web traffic or by prioritizing their own content and media. In Connecticut, lawmakers plan to take on the FCC in court.

A Poorly-Made Decision

As far as Schneiderman and his fellow attorney generals are concerned, the FCC failed to follow rather basic — but necessary — procedure when it came to the decision on net neutrality. Now, they intend to sue the agency over it.

“Under the law, federal agencies — including the FCC — have to have a period of notice and comments,” he told Futurism. “This is an important element of our democracy. The American people have the right to make their opinions known and agencies have to take into account what people think. This is a critical part of the rulemaking process.”

Schneiderman believes the entire process went against the Administrative Procedure Act.
“[Y]ou can’t possibly argue that the FCC took people’s comments into account if they didn’t even make the effort to ascertain which comments were real people and which comments were fake comments,” he said.

In that case, the failure isn’t just a procedural one: the entire notice and comments period had been marred by fake comments — which Schneiderman and his colleagues informed the FCC about as early as May 2017. “We discovered millions of fake comments, including many where people’s identities were stolen, some of the names were just made up,” he said. “[The FCC] didn’t care, they refused to respond to us, so we felt we had to go public.”

Schneiderman argued that the FCC’s decision to go ahead with the repeal, despite not having clearly ascertained the public’s true opinion on the matter, sets a dangerous precedent for other federal agencies. “[F]or the FCC to tolerate identity theft — which is a crime in many states, including New York — is really outrageous. This is not the way any federal agency should behave and we’re going to challenge it,” he said.

For the coalition of attorney generals, that concern is as equally pressing as lobbying for the FCC to reverse its decision. The issue of fake comments and identity theft is not likely to become more easily managed, given the extent to which procedures (such as open comment periods) are increasingly conducted online.

“We’re going to challenge [the FCC’s decision] in court, we hope to have this rolled back. But, in the future, they have to address this. I mean, this threatens not just the FCC but other federal agencies. If they can get away with phony comments — some of them have been tracked out of the country, some of them have been tracked back to Russia — they can corrupt all of our rulemaking process and that’s really a blow to democracy.”

In the meantime, the NY attorney general is asking people to keep up the fight for net neutrality. “We’re urging people to stay engaged. Do not let yourself get talked into the idea that this is over now. The fight still goes on,” Schneiderman said. “The lines cannot be more brightly drawn. Those of us in favor of internet freedom are going to keep fighting for it.”

Source: Futurism

18 Dec 2017
Manahel Thabet

Microsoft is Expanding “AI for Earth” Program to Fight Climate Change

IN BRIEF

Microsoft is expanding its “AI for Earth” program with a $50 million investment over the next five years. This could yield new artificial intelligence applications to enable scientists, businesses, and even farmers to better protect the environment.

AN AI INVESTMENT

The tech giant Microsoft is deploying artificial intelligence to the task of protecting our planet.  Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, announced on Dec. 11 that the company would be investing $50 million in their AI for Earth program over the next five years in order to “monitor, model, and manage the Earth’s natural systems.”

This investment is part of Microsoft’s expansion of its environmental policies, which center around the concept of democratizing AI so that both scientists and business owners can easily utilize the technology to analyze climate data and provide information to help us take strategic action. Smith suggested in the announcement that AI could soon be used to collect and analyze data about energy consumption and weather patterns to conserve power and reduce needless water usage in agriculture.

Image Credit: Microsoft
Image Credit: Microsoft

“AI can be trained to classify raw data from sensors on the ground, in the sky, or in space into categories that both humans and computers understand,” Smith said in the announcement. “Fundamentally, AI can accelerate our ability to observe environmental systems and how they are changing at a global scale, convert the data into useful information, and apply that information to take concrete steps to better manage our natural resources.”

BETTER TOOLS

The expansion of AI for Earth will take place in three steps: First, Microsoft will award researchers worldwide with more seed grants for designing and testing new AI applications. The company will then identify applications with the most promise and bring them to scale with larger investments. Finally, Microsoft will incorporate the most useful applications into the services they can provide to climate scientists and those involved with sustainable initiatives.

These new services and tools could not only help conservationists make sense of the mountains of climate data that we’ve collected and continue to accumulate but also help companies and even farmers take control of the impact they make on our environment.

As every nation in the world— save the U.S.—publicly recognizes that human behavior must change in order to preserve the environment, companies like Microsoft are embracing the idea that the more information individuals at every level of society have about their personal sustainability practices, the better they will be able to modify them for the better.

“We face a collective need for urgent action to address global climate issues. When we think about the environmental issues we face today, science tells us that many are the product of previous Industrial Revolutions,” Smith said in the announcement. “…we must not only move technology forward, but also use this era’s technology to clean up the past and create a better future.”

Source: Futurism

16 Dec 2017
Manahel Thabet

New Technique Could Allow Scientists to Create Fusion Energy

IN BRIEF

Despite many varied and valiant attempts, fusion energy has remained out of reach. One new technique uses hydrogen-boron reactions to theoretically achieve fusion in a way that produces no radioactive waste.

FUSION ENERGY

For decades, fusion energy has been an impossible-seeming solution to our energy problems. But creating fusion energy, and doing so without radioactive fuel elements has seemed to many too good to be true, until now. Lead author Heinrich Hora, an emeritus professor of theoretical physics at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney and an international team of researchers has developed a laser-based technique that creates fusion without any radioactive waste.

As described in the researchers’ paper, which is published in the scientific journal Laser and Particle Beams, the team found that it is possible to create fusion through hydrogen-boron reactions using two powerful lasers in rapid bursts. These laser bursts apply precise non-linear forces which compresses the nuclei together. This technique is far different from previous attempts in which high-strength magnets were used in a toroidal chamber to heat radioactive fuel to the temperature of the Sun.

According to Hora, who predicted in the 1970’s that fusion might be possible with hydrogen and boron and without the need to reach thermal equilibrium, “I think this puts our approach ahead of all other fusion energy technologies.”

While fusion has not yet been achieved using this technique, international collaborators and experts have weighed in on the study and think that fusion is entirely possible using hydrogen-boron reactions.

LASER-DRIVEN

One major positive aspect of creating fusion with hydrogen-boron reactions, besides that so far it is theoretically possible, is that it produces no neutrons in its primary reaction. This means that it doesn’t produce any radioactivity.

Fusion energy is often criticized, not only for its potential application as a realistic and viable source of energy, but because of its potential to cause enormous amounts of radioactive waste. Even if everything went according to plan, previous techniques could have amounted in dangerous, excessive, radioactive waste. So even if creating fusion with this technique turns out to be less than an ideal method, it will at least be much safer and less wasteful. Additionally, because of the materials used, this technique could be a lot easier to replicate, Hora explained, “From an engineering perspective, our approach will be a much simpler project because the fuels and waste are safe, the reactor won’t need a heat exchanger and steam turbine generator, and the lasers we need can be bought off the shelf.”

Hora and other researchers still have a long road ahead of them between the publication of this work and the creation of fusion energy. However, as the team moves forward with research it is important to note that this is a positive step forward in terms of our energy future. There doesn’t seem to be a possible future in which fossil fuel is still our primary fuel source. And so continued investment and exploration of alternative energy sources that are renewable and do not cause emissions will pull this movement and other such legitimate efforts to curb climate change.Hora was excited not only about the initial success of this research, but also the potential for this technique to create much more energy than previous methods, “It is a most exciting thing to see these reactions confirmed in recent experiments and simulations. Not just because it proves some of my earlier theoretical work, but they have also measured the laser-initiated chain reaction to create one billion-fold higher energy output than predicted under thermal equilibrium conditions.”

Source: Futurism

14 Dec 2017

Prepare Yourself for the “Tsunami of Data” Expected to Hit by 2025

IN BRIEF

Everything that we do affects the world around us. Updates to a study show that within the coming years, the energy consumed globally by our smart devices could be seriously impeding our efforts against climate change.

DATA TSUNAMI

Our internet-connected devices could be impeding climate change efforts, according to an update to a 2016 peer-reviewed study on power consumption, as reported by Climate Home News. The billions of devices many of us use every day could produce 3.5 percent of global emissions within 10 years and 14 percent by 2040. This would result in the industry using approximately 20 percent of all of the world’s electricity by 2025. This growing problem threatens to disrupt progress toward climate change goals and exacerbate increasingly-stressed power grids.

These severe consequences are caused by one, major, underlying trend: the rapidly growing power needs of server farms which store data from billions of smart devices. As we acquire more devices and use data and these technologies more and more, these servers require significantly more power. And, as it turns out, we are asking a lot of these server farms, and current predictions say it’s only going to get worse.

Swedish researcher Anders Andrae, who worked on the study update, thinks that industry power demands will increase from 200-300 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year to 1,200 or even 3,000 TWh by 2025. Andrae comments: “The situation is alarming. We have a tsunami of data approaching. Everything which can be is being digitalised. It is a perfect storm. 5G [the fifth generation of mobile technology] is coming, IP [internet protocol] traffic is much higher than estimated, and all cars and machines, robots and artificial intelligence are being digitalised, producing huge amounts of data which is stored in data centres.”

DIGITAL UNIVERSE

We have known for years that things like driving, leaving lights on, and letting the water run too long wastes energy and resources, and we should take some personal responsibility for our impact on the planet. But as technology has progressed, the ways in which we affect the environment and contribute to climate change have also changed. The data that we use and the number of devices we own are also now major elements to consider when we think how we use resources. We can even take into consideration our financial investments, as it was recently revealed that the cryptocurrency giant Bitcoin, through mining, consumes more energy than 159 entire countries combined.

So no, this does not exactly mean that we need to stop using our devices. The availability and easy access to information that the internet provides is not only a precious resource, it is a human right, according to the UN. The education that the internet can provide is an essential part of modern life. But as companies continue to advance technologies, and we carry on consuming them, it’s paramount for both sides to take into consideration what impact these devices will have on the future.But does this energy responsibility rest solely on us? The companies whose technologies use this increasing energy could also make changes in order to reduce energy usage or transition to better renewable energy sources. What these companies do, the technologies that they create, and the way we use them each have relative and specific impact on the environment. And, as many experts have agreed, we need to make every effort if we are to meet the climate goals that will prevent further life-threatening consequences of climate change.

Source: Futurism

12 Dec 2017
Manahel Thabet

In Just 4 Hours, Google’s AI Mastered All The Chess Knowledge in History

Chess isn’t an easy game, by human standards. But for an artificial intelligence powered by a formidable, almost alien mindset, the trivial diversion can be mastered in a few spare hours.

In a new paper, Google researchers detail how their latest AI evolution, AlphaZero, developed “superhuman performance” in chess, taking just four hours to learn the rules before obliterating the world champion chess program, Stockfish.

In other words, all of humanity’s chess knowledge – and beyond – was absorbed and surpassed by an AI in about as long as it takes to drive from New York City to Washington, DC.

After being programmed with only the rules of chess (no strategies), in just four hours AlphaZero had mastered the game to the extent it was able to best the highest-rated chess-playing program Stockfish.

In a series of 100 games against Stockfish, AlphaZero won 25 games while playing as white (with first mover advantage), and picked up three games playing as black. The rest of the contests were draws, with Stockfish recording no wins and AlphaZero no losses.

“We now know who our new overlord is,” said chess researcher David Kramaley, the CEO of chess science website Chessable.

“It will no doubt revolutionise the game, but think about how this could be applied outside chess. This algorithm could run cities, continents, universes.”

Image source: Creative Commons/Pixabay

Developed by Google’s DeepMind AI lab, AlphaZero is a tweaked, more generic version of AlphaGo Zero, which specialises in playing the Chinese board game, Go.

DeepMind has been refining this AI for years, in the process besting a series of human champions who fell like dominoes before the indomitable, “Godlike” neural network.

That victory streak culminated in a startling success in October, in which a new fully autonomous version of the AI – which only learns by playing itself, never facing humans – bested all its former incarnations.

By contrast, AlphaGo Zero’s predecessors partly learned how to play the game by watching moves made by human players.

That effort was intended to assist the fledgling AI in learning strategy, but it seems it may have actually been a handicap, since AlphaGo Zero’s fully self-reliant learning proved devastatingly more effective in one-on-one competition.

“It’s like an alien civilisation inventing its own mathematics,” computer scientist Nick Hynes from MIT told Gizmodo in October.

Source: CNBC

10 Dec 2017

Australia’s Stock Exchange Is the First to Use Blockchain Tech

IN BRIEF

Australia is set to be the first securities exchange to switch to blockchain technology. Other exchanges are also experimenting with similar transitions.

BLOCKCHAIN BOUND

In the latest high-profile switch to blockchain technology, the Australian stock market will become the world’s first blockchain-based stock exchange. The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) announced that it will begin using the tech to clear and settle trades. This move has been in the works since January 2016, when the ASX began working with US-based blockchain startup Digital Asset Holdings to develop a blockchain-based system. The exchange will outline its transition to the new technology in March.

Blockchain will control Australia's stock exchange.
Image Credit: Creative Commons/Pixabay

The exchange is currently running on a system known as the Clearing House Electronic Subregister System (CHESS), which has been in use for decades. The new system could allow for the savings to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, according to Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist for CMC Markets in Sydney, speaking with the BBC.

The implementation of the tech will help to make clearing and settling transactions less expensive, easier, and faster by removing the third-party middleman that banks currently have to go through.

BENEFITS OF BLOCKCHAIN

In a press release, Digital Asset’s CEO Blythe Masters said, “After so much hype surrounding distributed ledger technology, today’s announcement delivers the first meaningful proof that the technology can live up to its potential.”

The technology is a decentralized method of digitally recording data — in this case, transactions — and verifying them as having occurred. Instead of the ledger being held on a single computer or server, it is distributed over a network of computers, each having to verify the accuracy of a transaction. In theory, this makes the ledgers that use the tech virtually unhackable. However, after some high-profile hacks, the development has yet to live up to its promise.

Other major securities exchanges around the world, including the Nasdaq, the London Stock Exchange, and the Japan Exchange Group have also been looking into implementing blockchain technology. Even so, finance is not the only area in which implementation of blockchain could be transformative. Businesses and governments could benefit from its potential cost-saving effects as well as increased security and transparency.

Source: Futurism