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Remember Bitcoin? Some Investors Might Want to Forget

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PALO ALTO, Calif. — Last year around this time, a toy called a cryptokitty sold for $170,000. A real estate agent remade himself as CoinDaddy, producing cryptocurrency-themed music videos. The man behind a company called Ripple became for a moment richer than Mark Zuckerberg. Kids barely out of high school were buying Lamborghinis because of a crypto meme. Experts went on CNBC to say Bitcoin was going to reach $100,000 per coin.

For a few sweet months of 2018, all of Silicon Valley was wrapped up in frenzied easy money and a fantasy of remaking the world order with cryptocurrencies and a related technology called the blockchain. A flood of joy hit the Bay Area. The New York Times ran with the trend in an article with the headline “Everyone Is Getting Hilariously Rich and You’re Not.” It was temporarily true.

And just as the American public had been given every possible blockchain explainer that could be written, the whole thing collapsed. The bubble popped.

Today the price of Bitcoin — $19,783 last December — is $3,810. Litecoin was $366 a coin; it’s now $30. Ethereum was $1,400 in January; today it’s $130.

One recent crypto holiday party offered “broken Lambo dreams and an open bar to drown your sorrows in.”

This December closes out cryptocurrency’s most exciting year, ending in a terrible, sober headache of a winter.

At the meetups and the work spaces that remain, those who have stayed are calling this “the winter of crypto.” Believers say this is only “the trough of disillusionment,” pointing to a chart that posits all new technology goes through a similar trough before exploding into inevitable glory.

Those still chipping away at crypto dreams insist that this is all a good thing because only the serious ones, the true crypto believers, remain.

“It’s painful to lose money, but it’s a necessary step,” said Robert Neivert, an investor with the venture capital firm 500 Startups. “2018 was about moving from hype to product.”

This year, the blockchain industry — a subset of the cryptocurrency industry that would very much like to live on its own — went through a Cambrian explosion. But first, an explanation of the blockchain: A blockchain is a relatively new kind of database that was initially introduced with Bitcoin. It is not the digital currency. It is the underlying technology that helps manage the currency. Most important, it is decentralized so no one person, government or business controls it.

Blockchain became a solution for everything — blockchain for journalism, for pot, for dentists. At the kernel of it all was real technological progress and a growing understanding that this decentralized technology could transform financial systems. But the excitement spun out of control.

Even adding the word “blockchain” made stock soar. When Long Island Iced Tea Company changed its name to Long Blockchain Company, its stock went up 500 percent in a day. Scammers flooded the space, launching dubious new investment schemes called “initial coin offerings.”

The computing power needed to “mine” a Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency is now sometimes costing more than that coin is worth. Mines — actually, they are electricity-needy data centers — are shutting down. Images of electronics piled up on street corners are going viral. As demand for Bitcoin has dwindled, Bitcoin’s algorithm has adjusted and the coin has become easier to mine.

But this is actually good, crypto experts argue.

“The fact that miners are shutting down and difficulty is decreasing is a feature, not a bug, of bitcoin’s design,” the venture capitalist Arianna Simpson wrote on Twitter.

Some in the cryptocurrency business would just like the world to know that there are still people working on it. Julian Spediacci, a cryptocurrency investor in San Francisco with his twin brother, James, said he would like people to know that he is still alive and identifies as a HODLer, or someone who is not selling despite market fluctuations.

“A lot of people are reaching out, and they want to find out what happened to us, and if we’re still alive, so it’d be great to clarify that there are a lot of OG HODLers,” Mr. Spediacci said, using language common in the crypto industry to indicate he would remain an investor.

“I think we’re nearing a bottom,” his brother said.

Some of the friends they made have left town. The meetups are quieter. The most recent video from the community’s primary musical voice, CoinDaddy, né Arya Bahmanyar, is set to the tune of Beatles hit “Yesterday.”

But the Spediacci brothers continue. They say they are starting a new hedge fund. And that weekend there would be a holiday party at a new blockchain incubator, Starfish, run by Alicia Ferratusco. An incubator is a space where a group of start-ups work together, in this case working on blockchain technology.

“It’s called Starfish because when you cut off the leg of the starfish, it can grow back,” Julian Spediacci said.

Not everyone is struggling in the downturn. For lawyers, it is a new gold rush.

“Now that the market dropped, everyone is getting sued,” said Chante Eliaszadeh, a law student and the president of a blockchain law club called Blockchain at Berkeley Law.

She said the legal scene is pretty exciting right now. As the Securities and Exchange Commission cracks down, some scammers are trying to escape to Bali or Malta, where regulations are more lax.

At one holiday party in Palo Alto this year, the theme was “real.”

Organizers had pasted the motto — “Real People, Real Money, Real Deals” — on the walls, on boards, on slide shows and handouts.

Moderating a panel was Radhika Iyengar-Emens, a founding partner at a venture firm that specializes in cryptocurrency and blockchain start-ups called StarChain Ventures.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of real use cases,” Ms. Iyengar-Emens said. “And these guys will be here for those very real use cases.”

A use case would be a regular consumer’s being able to use a cryptocurrency to do something other than make a speculative investment.

The audience sat in folding white chairs. The snacks were Ritz Bits.

“What is QuarkChain?” QuarkChain’s founder and chief executive, Qi Zhou, asked the audience. “Next generation blockchain.”

Kerry Washington, a member of the Litecoin Foundation, which promotes Litecoins, gave a presentation about the year, in which the coin lost more than 90 percent of its value.

He talked about a big Litecoin summit this year, which on one slide he specified cost a quarter-million dollars. There, guests could buy candy with Litecoins. This showed everyone how useful Litecoin could be, he said.

The trouble was always that we already have something that lets us buy candy.

An ad played for something called Bitrue, a wallet. It was just a half-dozen people looking straight at the camera saying: “I trust Bitrue.”

And then Curtis Wang, the chief executive of Bitrue, stood up to announce a very special offer. He could promise investors a 10 percent annual percentage yield. There was scattered applause in the crowd.

Someone in the audience raised a hand and asked whether that was even legal to offer.

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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal

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A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist

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Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’

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Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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