🤷 Opinions Katya Michaels

As Technological Singularity Looms, Investors Must Fight for the User

Opinions
In the battleground for eyeballs, pulses, lifestyles and wallets, the fight for the user is a zero-sum game for competing companies.
As Technological Singularity Looms, Investors Must Fight for the User

If you are brave and agile enough to follow daily news from the various fields of modern technology, you are likely finding yourself obliged to admit that the idea of the technological singularity becomes less far fetched by the hour.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, cryptography have been moving along swimmingly while you weren’t looking and now they are in your toothbrush.

The singularity is coming, and while the average Amazon shopper is reasonably concerned about a robotic vacuum cleaner going rogue and maliciously chewing up their best shoes, the average tech investor is wondering how to be prepared for the unknown.

The big AI bang

The technological singularity, for the purposes of this discussion, is the hypothetical moment when the combined effects of artificial intelligence and machine learning will produce explosive technological development, leading to societal changes at a rate and on a scale unfathomable to the human mind.

Indeed, unfathomable even to the very imaginative, but unmistakably human minds of such extraordinary individuals of the species as Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook.

Those who possess the intellectual or financial resources for guiding humanity’s socio-economic progress into the future are yet unable to look over the singularity horizon.

However, some facts are undeniable. The way we rely on traditional commodities and resources is constantly in flux, with some being relegated to the past and others coming to the forefront of new, sustainable planning. Values shift and consumption models change. Usage changes; the user stays – in fact, as global population grows, the user keeps on coming…

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The matrix: users as commodity

The conduit through which most investments and returns are flowing today is neither the oil pipe nor the conveyor belt – it’s the retina display. In the aftermath of the Facebook scandals, a saying that seems to have been around for the entire history of advertisement has acquired a new poignance.

If you’re not paying for it, you are the product – Facebook, Instagram, Google. In fact, even if you are paying for it, there are higher-order proceedings in play, and you are still the data product even as you consume – Netflix, Amazon, Apple. In this battleground for eyeballs, pulses, lifestyles and wallets, the fight for the user is a zero-sum game for competing companies.

The pressure will only intensify as highly personalized interactive technologies come into full power. The internet of things, or as Werner Herzog’s 2016 documentary Lo & Behold styles it, the Internet of Me, is the ultimate shrine to the user.

Connectivity and screens on household appliances and wearables mean untapped minutes, nay – hours, of user attention and consumption.

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The bearer is the bond: users as security

Some of the most valuable US companies – and the ones that brought the most returns for their investors in the past decade – have no tangible assets or products. This phenomenon has been extracted into an absolute with some cryptocurrencies and ICOs, where there are no tangible or intangible products, only their expectation.

What gives such assets and products value is user demand and participation. If all Facebook users offloaded to a different platform tomorrow, the valuation would go with them. The fundamental things apply as time goes by – strength is in numbers.

In the opinion of many tech experts, wide adoption of new technologies is the main challenge – in fact, adoption takes longer and is more difficult than scaling. Now, companies and their investors can only depend on user numbers, user loyalty and user data to sustain their financial health through the uncertain future.

As fragile as those factors can be, they are the ones that make or break public companies’ fortunes in the modern economy.

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No taxation without representation: users as community

Barring nuclear winter and cosmic apocalypse, people will continue to desire meaningful connections, to buy meaningless possessions and to watch adorable cats do silly things for hours. The singularity will certainly enable the best and the worst expressions of humanity, to the nth degree.

The transition to an intangible asset economy where users are a commodity is mostly complete, but a real achievement would be to win a fight for the user as a member of the global community.

While investing into users is clearly a solid strategy, there are different ways this can be manifested – from making money off the user, to making money with the user. Public ledger technology that brings transparency and immutability to data networks promises to give users back control over their own data.

As users get a sense of agency – not to mention compensation for their attention – companies enjoy a more substantive relationship with a more engaged audience.

Many Blockchain startups are treating the user as a collaborator, rather than a cash cow.  Whether creating a dating app, a governance model as in cultu.re, a decentralized social network such as Minds, an entertainment portal as in Verasity or a social ledger that is U.Community – they are interested in attracting users through objective benefits and positive social impact, rather than addictive gimmicks.

Potentially, this is the approach that can create a living for the founders, a return for investors and a positive experience for the community – and that’s a fight for the user that everyone could feel good about, technical singularity or not.

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Past ICO Review: Qtum Wants to be Ether, But it’s Built on Bitcoin

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Past ICO Review: Qtum Wants to be Ether, But it’s Built on Bitcoin

Throughout the many Past ICO Reviews, a common trend has emerged: many tokens are ERC20, which are built on the Ether Blockchain. This should not come as a surprise because many innovative Blockchains with tokens want to do something more than be a payment-services solution. To do that, smart contracts come into play and Ethereum is the smart contract’s king. So it is no surprise why so many companies build on Ethereum.

What is surprising is that Qtum is not an ERC20. It is built on Bitcoin’s unspent transaction output (UTXO) transaction model combined with a proof-of-stake consensus model. The developers stated that these elements of the Blockchain make it better suited for business-enterprise systems.

Financials

Qtum entered the cryptocurrency market early in 2017 with a March ICO that raised $15 mln. While it seems small compared to what has been raised over the past six to nine months, it was the fourth biggest ICO in terms of funds raised at that time in March 2017. Token prices debuted at $6.40 in March 2017 and at the time of writing are up 202 percent to $19.34. CoinMarketCap has it ranked at 18.

But now comes the questions that every cryptocurrency fears to hear: what is it good for? What can it do?

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Hybrid functions and subsequent tokens

One of the primary goals of Qtum is to be able to bridge the Bitcoin and the Ethereum world. What makes the software unique is that Qtum’s core technology combines a fork of Bitcoin Core, an Account Abstraction Layer allowing for multiple Virtual Machines, including the Ethereum Virtual Machine and Proof-of-Stake consensus aimed at tackling industry use cases.

21 Dapps and counting

Qtum has 21 Dapps on its page that are either working or a prototype. Many of them are their own coins and platforms such as Energo, which is built to measure and regulate clean energy produced within local microgrids- this model empowers consumers and allows community members to directly exchange energy in a system unburdened by the constraints of a traditional grid.

Designed with stability, modularity and interoperability in mind, Qtum is a toolkit for building trusted decentralized applications, suited for real-world, business oriented use cases. Its hybrid nature, in combination with a first-of-its-kind PoS consensus protocol, allows Qtum applications to be compatible with major Blockchain ecosystems while providing native support for mobile devices and IoT appliances.

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Quantum Team

Patrick Dai graduated from Draper University and was previously employed by Alibaba.                                         
Neil Mahi has 20 years experience developing software and has four years experience in the Blockchain space.
Jordan Earls has been developing software since he was thirteen. Jordan has reviewed over 100 altcoins and identified multiple exploits in coins.
Patrick Dai, Qtum Project co-founder, said that Qtum intends to become a smart contracts platform for business. The Qtum project will make it easier for companies and industries to develop practical applications on top of Qtum. The project envisions a future consisting of automated business practices and seamless machine-to-machine communication. In March 2017, it was announced that PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC) would partner with Qtum.  “Having PwC, which has broad expertise across industries and a global network, support Qtum will help us fulfill our mission,” said Dai. Furthermore, the hybrid nature of Qtum will allow it to interact with Ethereum- and Bitcoin-based Blockchains for better compatibility capitalization.

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Post-ICO Review: Trade.io an Exchange With a Change

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Post-ICO Review: Trade.io an Exchange With a Change

Trade.io is hoping to become the first partially decentralized exchange that maintains liquidity by having its users essentially lend their tokens to the platform in exchange for “interest” paid back in TIO, the platform’s token. However, simply holding TIO does not entitle users to the rewards. They must actively put the tokens into the liquidity pool for the rewards. However, this has some negative side effects as you can lose your TIO.

Stack them high, spend them slow

Despite the strange service on offer, Trade.io managed to raise $31 mln in the ICO which lasted from Dec. 4, 2017 to Jan. 4, 2018. The token entered the market at $1.46 and plummeted within the first few weeks to $0.65 and then continued to slip to the current price of $0.45. They have a market cap of $41,133,662 and a daily trade volume of $1,148,960, according to CoinMarketCap. There is a circulating supply of 89,921,436 TIO and a total supply of 223,534,823 TIO.

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Where are all of the developers? There are too many bankers

A concern about Trade.io is that their whitepaper team is stacked heavy with financial advisors but seems to make little note of the development team only three of the listed people have roles that could be described as development. If they are going to be running an exchange then they are going to need a top team of developers and programmers to get the site up and running and to be able to fix it should trouble strike.

Questions unanswered

I wanted to get to the heart of the matter concerning this company and how this exchange is supposed to work in laymen’s terms. I had sent an email with some questions: “There is a lot of competition for exchanges, what sets yours above the rest and why are clients going to choose yours over the others? What is your next milestone? The working exchange? When do you plan to have it online?” I was met with a rather automated response that read: “I will pass this onto the relevant department and if we are interested, we will be in contact accordingly.

Please feel free to send some further information over regarding costing packages, traffic, channel and ROI.”

Maybe they thought I wanted to advertise with them? Traffic, channel and ROI? We are not really sure when the exchange is going to come online, perhaps it is the lack of developers that is contributing to the launch delay.

Worthless coins in the junk drawer

While there are plenty of exchanges out there that function well, some better than others, I don’t see the benefit of lending your own funds to fund the liquidity of others, you could lose easily. The decentralized aspect of the exchange is good, but they state it is only semi-decentralized. There is just a lot about this exchange that does not add up right. Best of luck, but we might be reading about Trade.io in ICO failures a year or two from now.

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Bankex is an organization that unites members of the financial markets in order to build a community and implements the Proof-of-Asset Protocol that enables the community members to profit from the mutual use of assets. Furthermore, it allows for the tokenization of other assets, like many other coins promise.

Financials

In a one-month ICO token sale from Nov. 28 to Dec. 28, 2017, Bankex raised a whopping $70 mln! Its token (BKS) entered the market on Jan. 23, 2018 at $2.82 and has been in decline ever since its launch into the market.

It is currently down to $0.18, losing 93 percent of its initial value over the past eight months. While it has a relatively high trade volume, $1.2 mln per day, its market cap has taken a plunge by 80 percent to $14 mln a fall from the initially raised funds of $70 mln.

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Barebone website

While reviewing the website, it was hard to find information that most companies make very accessible, such as who is on the team.  

Constantine Kurbatoff- CEO

Kurbatoff has previously been involved with founding other companies in the US, Luxembourg, Russia and Israel. He has a BA in computer sciences.

Denis Khoruzhiy- CTO, Blockchain Analyst

Previously an associate professor in radiophysics at Volgograd University for almost 10 years, he left academia to join the corporate world when he became the CTO at wired and then ID East for 10 years. He has been at Bankex for one year now.

Dmitry Dolgov- COO

Previously, Dolgov has been CEO of several other technology companies before coming on as COO at Bankex. He has been with Bankex for 2.5 years.

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Everything as a service (EaaS)

Nowadays, the -aaS acronym is very popular and just about everyone tries to market their products as a service.

Bankex is offering, you guessed it, Banking as a Service or BaaS. BaaS is a business model that allows building new financial products integrated with numerous existing technological solutions and jurisdictions.

That is, this is a single window that a corporate or retail end customer addresses, selects and receives services that are provided by different banks and technology companies and in different countries.

This platform takes on the solution to the problem of technical and legal connection of various players in the financial market.

Lots of hype little info

It appears to be that there is a lot of hype about this company, but little concrete information about the company or the services it provides on the website and in general. Without a proper explanation from on the website, it is hard to tell what is actually going on with the project.

To try and fill the gaps, we reached out to the company to try to learn more but were met with silence.

It’s funny, you have got media inquiring about your project and you don’t want to reply; it does not speak well about the company. Silence isn’t golden when you are a Blockchain-based company trying to make a name for yourself; silence is deadly.  

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Timothy May is a formidable figure on the cryptography and privacy scene and a voluminous writer on all things cypherpunk. His peak work was in the 90s, but it hasn’t aged much, and the recent waves of Blockchain popularity and interest make it all the fresher.

Tim May penned the highly influential The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto in 1988 and coined the term “crypto anarchy”.

I highly suggest that you read his essay Crypto Anarchy and Virtual Communities, which is a fantastic piece printed back in 1994 and that is very prescient on a lot of points of what’s happening today.

There’s a piece from the essay that I’d like to particularly dwell on that recounts how Tim May came up with the word “crypto anarchy” and what he meant by that:

I devised the term crypto anarchy as a pun on crypto, meaning “hidden,” on the use of “crypto” in combination with political views (as in Gore Vidal’s famous charge to William F. Buckley: “You’re crypto fascist!”) and of course because the technology of crypto makes this form of anarchy possible. The first presentation of this term was in a 1988 “Manifesto,” whimsically patterned after another famous Crypto Anarchy and Virtual Communities manifesto. Perhaps a more popularly understandable term, such as “cyber liberty,” might have some advantages, but crypto anarchy has its own charm, I think.

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Cyber liberty

Think of the term “cyber liberty” as this is where I’d like to deviate a little from what’s elaborated upon in “Crypto Anarchy and Virtual Communities” and put it in the perspective of today.

Whether we like it or not, the words anarchy and crypto anarchy can be a boogeyman to the general public, and Tim May went along with the term because he liked it, but the “cyber liberty” might be more fitting by his own admission.

At its essence — and if you remove any emotion and the multitude of connotations that weight the word down — anarchy means that communities and community members can function in a highly conscious state. In a state in which they can freely cooperate and self-govern without the need of the government. Anarchy is not about actively getting rid of the government; it’s about operating as a tightly knit community.

And yet the term “cyber liberty” is a better one and is extremely fitting today.

With the spread of mobile technology, mobile money has become not only popular and accessible but pretty much a necessity to a lot of people. Today, there are about 168 million active mobile money accounts worldwide, and the center of its active use is Africa. In Zimbabwe — to bring forth the most salient example — 96% of all transactions are the electronic mobile ones.

What happens is that with the spread of technology — cheap smartphones as in the case with Africa — more and more people are joining the world economy and getting the means to cross the local boundaries. What would people in Zimbabwe use for money, when their national currency completely collapsed, were it not for the access to technology, and cheap access too? This is cyber liberty. Albeit a limited one, but liberty nonetheless.

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Chasing the opportunities of cyber liberty

The advance and spread of the Blockchain technology gives even more opportunities for people to go translocal and transborder. All that people need is a device, an Internet connection, and a willingness to learn. This is not to say that all three of these are easy to accomplish, but they are a possibility and they are opportunities.

While mobile money is just that — a currency, even though a currency that’s convenient and even life-saving to some, that also gives a taste of joining the world economy, the Blockchain is the next step and the opportunities that come with it are truly fitting the term “cyber liberty”.

Imagine being able to generate content regardless of where you are and be paid for it. Imagine being able to grow your community and online presence and be rewarded for it. Imagine realizing that your attention is actually worth something. Think of what happens when it dawns on people that the effort of learning, exchanging information, and sharing the knowledge is what has a direct and inalienable value. The value that is also financial and all of it is a part of a vast ecosystem.

No boundaries. Hassle free. You immediately gain by merely becoming a part of the world economy, and all you need for it is a device (not necessarily a powerful one), a connection, and a willingness to learn. This is what is U°Community, among other things. An easy way into becoming part of the economy and an understanding that you, your attention, your effort, and your drive are worth a lot. And your value is inalienable.

This is cyber liberty.

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The Weird Connection Between Bitcoin and Tobacco

France is taking serious steps towards Bitcoin and cryptocurrency adoption as recently authorized the Federation of Tobacco Shops to sell Bitcoin at the beginning of 2019
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France is taking serious steps towards Bitcoin and cryptocurrency adoption as the French Prudential Supervision and Resolution Authority recently authorized the Federation of Tobacco Shops to sell Bitcoin at the beginning of 2019.

What this means is that thousands of retail tobacco shops will offer the option to buy BTC in the easiest way possible: just buy a pack of cigarettes (or don’t) and add a BTC purchase of 50, 100, or 250 Euros. No exchange account needed, no hassle, no complicated procedures, and no regulatory hurdles. This will surely increase the number of cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin) users and could generate a price rise, but, even if it doesn’t, it is still another notable step towards mainstream adoption.

Charts at a Glance – BTC/USD

Charts at a Glance – BTC/USD

The crypto markets continue to bleed out as the total market cap dropped below 140 billion USD within the last week. Bitcoin is down almost 22% over the last 7 days and almost 4% during the last 24 hours, so things are not looking too bright now. The good news, at least for the time being, is that Bitcoin has found support in the 4200 area.

After dropping very close to our predicted target ($4,000), BTC/USD bounced higher and is stabilizing around the 4200 mark. The downtrend is still going strong, but the pair needs some bullish retracement or at least more of this sideways movement before attempting to break below the 4000-key level. If in the meantime, it manages to create a higher high and to break 4600 resistance, we may see a stronger recovery.

Support zone: 4220 - 4030

Resistance zone: 4600

Most likely scenario: choppy movement between 4200 and 4600

Alternative scenario: rise above 4600 resistance

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