Bitcoin declared a failure

Two years ago, British software developer Mike Hearn quit his job at Google so that he could dedicate himself to developing the new online currency, Bitcoin. The currency’s value and prevalence has fluctuated considerably these past two years, but it suffered perhaps its largest blow yet on Jan. 14: Hearn announced Bitcoin to be a failure and admitted that he had sold his entire collection of Bitcoins. The value of the currency fell 10 percent within a day.

In the blog post he wrote about the failure of the system, Hearn wrote, “Bitcoin has gone from being a transparent and open community to one that is dominated by rampant censorship and attacks on bitcoiners by other bitcoiners.”

Yet the need for an effective virtual currency is still great. Venezuelan citizens grapple with hyperinflation that devalues the paper money they own and makes buying simple products at the supermarket nearly impossible. Migrant workers sending money to families in Mexico, India and Africa lose 5 to 12 percent of their earned salary to money-transfer companies. Even in the United States, citizens lose 1 to 2.5 percent in each transaction with a credit-card company.

Bitcoin failed largely because it was unregulated. Criminals and drug users exploited the anonymous nature of the currency; venture capitalists invested millions in Bitcoin start-ups that were forced to navigate the changing value of the currency. Above all, Bitcoin was dominated by an elite few, and therefore it lost its egalitarian potential to help people in countries suffering from hyperinflation or working far from home.

“It (Bitcoin) has failed because the community has failed. What was meant to be a new, decentralized form of money that lacked ‘systemically important institutions’ and ‘too big to fail’ has become something even worse: a system completely controlled by just a handful of people,” said Hearn on his blog post.

Article via The Washington Post, 19 January 2016; The New York Times, 14 January 2016

Photo: Bitcoin by Tiger Pixel  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Will robots become the next speech writers?

As this is an election year, the American public will be hearing many speeches from  politicians addressing the nation.  Phrases such as “My Fellow Americans”, “main street” and “small businesses” are staples that they average person can predict to hear from any politician. These political phrases are not only predicted by Americans, but now are being predicted by robots.

“Mr. Speaker, supporting this rule and supporting this bill is good for small business. It is great for American small business, for Main Street, for jobs creation. We have an economy that has created nearly 2 million jobs in the past couple of months: apparel, textiles, transportation and equipment, electronic components and equipment, chemicals, industrial and commercial equipment and computers, instruments, photographic equipment, metals, food, wood and wood products. Virtually every state in the union can claim at least one of these industrial sectors. In fact, one young girl, Lucy, wanted to make sure that the economy keeps growing. That should not be done on borrowed money, on borrowed time.”

This speech was written by a computer.

This comes from a research project at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The researchers created a predictive algorithm that laid down words based on the previous 5 words that came before them. In program analyzed 3800 speeches that were introduced in the House.

The program is not perfect. There were speeches produced that came out a bit non-sensical. One computer generated address had this to say:

“For example, I mean probably all of us have had a mom or a grandmom or an uncle to whom we say, hey, I noticed your legs are swelling again. Fluid retention. Fluid retention.”

What this project does show is that their artificial intelligence can be useful, and maybe be the starting place for speech writing. It is not unrealistic to assume that future State of the Union addresses may first start with an algorithm.

 

Article via The Washington Post, 25 January 2016

Photo: 01-27-11 at 14-34-48 bySpeaker John Boehner  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]