Tag Archives: future

The Fall and Rise of Bitcoin

It has been quite interesting to watch Bitcoin as it has gone through one bubble, and consistently risen since. Many people thought that Bitcoin was finished after its stratospheric rise in 2011, and it’s subsequent collapse to $3. Can Bitcoin survive such a massive devaluation?

Image courtesy of Bitcoin Charts

Image courtesy Bitcoin Charts

Recently Bitcoin has achieved quite a bit of attention, because of WordPress.com announcing that they will accept payment in Bitcoin. More recently, Reddit has decided to accept Bitcoin. The more interesting (and perhaps) exciting development is that you can now buy pizza with bitcoins.

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The Eve of Construction — A Holiday Greeting

Well, we dodged another apocalypse. That’s, like, the third in two years.

The 2012 Mayan prophecy turned out to be a non-prophecy at all. Probably because it was never meant to be one in the first place, but that didn’t stop dozens of people from making lots of money off of well-meaning, but naive folks who are always looking for the end-of-the-world, perhaps because they’re not crazy with how the world is currently.

And that’s what I want to talk about.

It’s easy to be drawn into media-saturated visions of a world going to hell in a handbasket.

Children being massacred. Rampant gun violence. An economy perpetually on the skids — and forever teetering over a fiscal cliff.

But, if you strip away the graphic scenes of carnage, reports of a gun-nutty populace running wild, and the bickering of political party ideologues, the true picture of a peaceful, prosperous — but flawed — world begins to statistically emerge.

Violence and crime are down.

Gun violence is down.

The truth is the world is more peaceful and less violent now than ever. You can read The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker if you don’t believe me.

“As technology accumulates and people in more parts of the planet become interdependent, the hatred between them tends to decrease, for the simple reason that you can’t kill someone and trade with him too.”

— Steven Pinker

While this truth can not bring back the 20 innocent lives shed in Newtown, Connecticut, it can perhaps reframe our perspective away from the one deeply damaged soul who took those lives and focus them on the wonderful human beings whose lives we shared for a brief time, the hundreds who were spared and the thousands who are among us and next to us today.

While it’s true the economy is struggling and partisan politics is playing pass-the-buck with the budget, we should still think how our economy survived a historic downturn in a relatively bloodless way. Downturns like this before have led to bloody revolutions, wars, and the establishment of autocratic governments.

And while pessimists want you to mire in the mud of past, I want you to think about some facts about the future.

Technology has united us and freed us from a lot of the restraints of previous economic shackles. You are viewing this on a device that probably has more computational potential than most corporations had 50 years ago and each year or so, that power increases exponentially.

On the horizon: medical breakthroughs and cures, longevity technology, quantum computers, 3-D printing, crowdsourcing, crowdventure capital, cheaper and faster electronics, virtual reality, augmented reality, new energy sources, and who knows what else is percolating in some lab somewhere.

All of these have the potential to revolutionize our economy.

Do we face obstacles and hurdles to create a better world? Yes.

But facing these challenges with hope is far more effective than being overwhelmed by doubt and hopelessness.

I wish you the best of holidays!


Are You Ready to Smartify? The Meatbot’s Guide to the Singularity

So, there I was in the middle of downtown Washington D.C. and I wasn’t able to find any parking.

What did I do? I drove around aimlessly. Asked a few people, who had no idea where they were going. Got more frustrated. And swore until I stumbled onto a parking spot a few minutes later.

So. There I was in downtown Raleigh, N.C. and I wasn’t able to find the convention center.

What did I do? I took a breath, tapped my fingers a few time and a few seconds later had a lock on the building and — boom — walked right over to it.

In about a two weeks, I went from being a directional dummy to a confident destination finder.

What happened?

Did I spend hours studying maps? Did I somehow become able to navigate automatically?


I bought a smart phone.

Vance Woodward says in his book, The Meatbot’s Guide to the Technological Singularity: Prepare to Smartify!, that this type of smart phone-augmented intelligence isn’t just the beginning, it’s the beginning of the beginning of the rapidly approaching ability to radically augment  our intelligence. He calls it our ability to Smartify.

How much will we smaritfy? Try infinitely.

Vance, who writes at the Fantastic Future,  has become one of my favorite futurists and his book didn’t disappoint. The Singularity, in case you haven’t heard about this, is loosely defined as a point when technology leads to greater-than-human superintelligence.

2035 was a big year. In 2035 improvements in nanoscale engineering and SINI (Super-intelligence nonhuman intelligence) combined to enable humans to use seemless interface between human brain matter and external computer hardware. — Vance Woodward, The Meatbot’s Guide to the Singularity.

The book is an unusual volume in the Singularity meme. It’s a mixture of science and vision that’s also pretty funny. That’s unusual because, at least based on the last few books I read on the subject, futurist writers appear to come from two backgrounds. Either they are the engineering types, or they’re the science fiction-y types. On one side you get the science of things like accelerating returns and exponential increases, or you get weird visions of the future.

Vance is able to offer both. He lays out current science and technological trends, then he leads you to where these trends could end up. And it may just be a really weird future. Weirder than we can imagine. And I have a weird imagination.

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A Brief History of Bitcoin

Bitcoin is the first and most popular crypto-currency. It has some very interesting characteristics that make it similar to a commodity and a fiat currency. It even has had a history of a typical bubble.

Image courtesy Bitcoin Charts

As you can see from the chart above, Bitcoin has undergone a typical bubble. Does that mean that Bitcoin is dead? I don’t think so. It has stabilized since November 2011. In addition, there are thousands of companies that accept Bitcoin as payment has been growing steadily. (Apparently the site is having an issue with its SSL certificate, so you may get a warning).

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The Clenching Economic Punch The We All Will Soon Feel

Credit Flickr CC Elvert Barnes

While you go about your day and fret about the latest economic downswing, five fingers are folding into an economic punch that will soon spread across the globe.

This economic punch will not be good, or bad.

There is no defense for the punch.

It’s coming.


The first part of this punch is artificial intelligence — or AI. For years, people wrote AI off as hype. Now, robots and super-smart computer applications are getting noticed. From Siri to Jeopardy-winning Watson supercomputer, A.I. can no longer be ignored. More and more factories are utilizing robots to improve production.

3-D Printing

Remember when desktop printers were the rage? They actually revolutionized the office and created entire new industries. Now, imagine a device that can sit in your home and produce objects–real, three dimensional objects. Experts say this will change the way we shop, the way we recycle, and the way we make and save money. There are also plans to create printers that can make pharmaceuticals and revolutionize health care.

Personalized Medicine

Speaking of health care… Today’s medicine is like a shot gun. You take a whole bunch of treatments and pills and throw them at patients and see which ones have the best chances to succeed. The truth is, however, that there are physiological differences between individuals. An effective treatment for you, might be ineffective for me. A pill that causes side effects for you, may not have any problems for me. Personalized medicine will treat people as they are — as individuals. It could save lives. And save trillions of dollars.

Crowd Sourcing, Crowd Funding

Karen Klein was a school bus monitor who was mercilessly bullied by a group of middle school students. She won’t need that job now. A crowd-funded project that was attempting to raise $5,000 so she could take a vacation ended up generating more than $700,000 in donations. This is just one story. More will follow, including new plans to allow people to crowd invest in start-ups.

Augmented Reality

New technology will blend cyber-reality with reality. It’s called augmented reality. One way this works is through glasses and contact lenses that display data for the user. Think fighter pilots and their heads-up display.

Good and Bad

There’s always good news and bad news with technological developments. This five-finger economic punch is no different.

On the one hand, robots will make our lives easier. On the other hand, they may also take our jobs.

3-D printing can usher in an age of abundance. But, during a transition, stores may shutter and businesses could be wiped out.

Despite the bad news, the overall, long-term prognosis is good. With every wave of technological change, there’s been struggle, but in each case, people have found a way to absorb the economic punch of new tech and counter with new opportunities and even better technological solutions.


Weekly Wisdom: Are Ebooks More Expensive Than Print Books?

Creative Commons--Jerry Bunkers

Welcome to Weekly Wisdom.

I’ll be sharing some links to great stories and articles in a sec, but right now I’d like to pass on my on bit of wisdom.

I just realized that eBooks are becoming more expensive than print books.

Yesterday, I was shopping for eBooks through my Kindle and saw one title I was interested in.

It cost $13.99. Not exactly cheap.

It’s a new title, so there wasn’t a paperback version, but the hardback cost $16.99.

I know what you’re thinking: “You nut, the hardback is still 3 bucks more than the electronic version.”

I though that, too, but the re-sale value is in the $8 range. So, you could get that hardback for $8.99, or 5 bucks cheaper than reading it on your Kindle.

Recently, there have been stories that publishers are pushing for higher prices on e-books. Is this a sign of that? Not sure, but it’s something I will think about as I shop for books.

Here are some other interesting thoughts for the weekend…


Nova Spivack — A New Approach to AI: Non-Computational AI

DiggResearcher Wants to Build Biodegradable Robot

WiredTechnology May Help You Read Your Dog’s Mind

Next Big FutureMichigan Tech Research Using Nanoclays to Make Better Asphalt

Science BlogsEntangled in the Past: Experimental Delayed-Choice Entanglement Swapping

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Weekend Wisdom–Links to the Future… And Elsewhere

Creative Commons--Flickr

There’s an old saying, “Keep an eye on the past, your heart in the present, and your mind in the future.”

Actually, I just made it up.

But, anyhoo, I decided I would pass along some links today about future science and research. Each week that I think has been a breakthrough week for technology is followed by another week of startling breakthroughs.

And another one.

So. Here goes:


GizmodoFuture Internets Will be Powered by Quantum Particles

ForbesHow to Manage One Million Cars With Big Data

IEETThe Dyson Sphere

Phys OrgWill 3D Printing Launch the Next Industrial Revolution?

Science DailyEngineered Stem Cells Seek Out And Kill HIV in Living Mice and Artificial Photosynthesis Breakthrough

Daily MailUniversal Cancer Vaccine Tested on Humans for the First Time

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Weekly Wisdom: Idea Easter Eggs

Flickr Creative Commons

There are the Easter eggs that you’ll find dyed and hidden.

Then there are idea Easter eggs.

These are colorful ideas that you find unexpectedly. They can range from unconventional breakthroughs to good, old, common sense wisdom that serve as reminders. Easter egg ideas can challenge your conventional wisdom, or reinforce your views.

They can change your life.

Here are idea Easter eggs that I found this week.

Pick the BrainHow to Breathe — Literally

Immortal HumansThe Health Benefits of Red Wine

Dumb Little ManYou Have to Work for Your Happiness

Financial SamuraiShit is Fucked up and Bullshit and The Psychology of Wealth Giveaway

UntemplaterHow Much Severance Pay Would You Need to Leave Your Job?

Money ReasonsAre You Trying to be Financially Independent?

Fast CompanyIBM’s Quantum Computers Could Change the World

BBC NewsPrint Your Own Robot

The Digerati LifeUsing Debt Leverage: Should You Use Debt to Get Ahead



Weekend Wisdom–No Foolin’ Edition

Flickr Creative Commons

Just a quick look at some of the good reads I found around the web this week…

Big Brand System — The 13 Minute 33-Second Website

Financial Samurai — Reducing Credit Card Spending One Month at a Time

Wealth Informatics — Investing to Make the Roth IRA Work Its Magic

Life and My Finances — What Doesn’t Count as Passive Income

The Future

Scientific American — Jetson-Like Gadgets and Smart Homes

Engadget — Amazon Stores 1,700 Human Genomes in the Cloud

Wired — Navy is 4 Years Away from Lasers on Ships

Yahoo News — Smart Homes Will Watch Your and Remember Your Needs

Discovery — Print Me a Spacecraft

New Scientist — Smart Windows Let Light In, Keep Heat Out



Good Looking Waitress Indicator and 49 Other Indicators to Save Your Portfolio

Good looking waitresses could be bad for your assets. (Creative Commons.)

Can the number of good looking waitresses in a restaurant tell you something about the state of the economy?

Could Big Mac sales help you trade currencies?

They just might. You can check out The WSJ Guide to 50 Indicators by Simon Constable and Robert E. Wright for these–and a lot more financial forecasting devices.

Not all the indicators are as fun to research as waitresses and Big Macs. In a serious, but highly readable style, the authors introduce you to a wide-range of the most important portents of coming economic conditions.

The book does a good job of introducing a range of indicators–from macro-economic to micro-economic and from established to esoteric. There is the well-known Libor indicator, but there’s also, for instance, the aforementioned “good looking waitress”–or Vixen–indicator. Here’s how the latter works: Count the number of good looking waitresses–the more there are the worse the economy is.

Although, the authors also tell you that’s a risky trade and, depending on your marital status, a risky practice.

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