Blockchains & human progress; the new gilded age; 3D printing vs globalisation; industrial farming…by@azeem
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Blockchains & human progress; the new gilded age; 3D printing vs globalisation; industrial farming…

by AsadOctober 9th, 2017
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I write a weekly newsletter, <a href="" target="_blank">Exponential View</a>, in which I explore the intersections of <a href="" target="_blank">technology</a> and society.
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I write a weekly newsletter, Exponential View, in which I explore the intersections of technology and society.

This week’s issue looks into the most recent developments of crypto technologies and artificial intelligence.


🏬 3D printing might foster local production and cut world trade as much as 40% within 23 years, suggests ING, a bank.

Lower cross-border trade in industrial machinery, automotive and consumer products may take the lead in supressing world trade given that these sectors are front runner industries in 3D printing and have a significant share in cross-border trade.

Of course, one scenario for the “new local production” is that the IP (templates, designs, etc) is actually held by global corporations resulted in the bulk of the value going back to those corporations (rather than benefitting local economies.) We looked at the broader relationship between 3D printing, international security and deglobalisation in EV#68.

🛰️ Will blockchains take us to self-actualisation, asks EV Reader, Trent McConaghy:

Think of tokenized ecosystems as public utilities. A shared infrastructure for file storage and for databases and so on. So far it’s only been for internet infrastructure, like e-gold for bits. But it could also be about atoms, there’s nothing stopping us from tokenizing hyperloop for Europe, crowdfunding a hyperloop for Europe or crowdfunding asteroid mining.

💬 Data scientist, Cathy O’Neil, on how the commercialisation of futurism and how it impedes progress:

Moreover, the technologists and the technoutopianists always refer to either chess or Go when painting their pretty picture of the future because those are two instances where everyone can agree on what success looks like: there is a clear winner and a clear loser. But that clarity of purpose and model of success gets a lot trickier on a planet that is quickly losing its supply of clean water and burning too much fossil fuel.

🐖 Time to say goodbye to industrial farming:

What will future generations, looking back on our age, see as its monstrosities? […] one of them, I believe, will be the mass incarceration of animals, to enable us to eat their flesh […] The shift will occur with the advent of cheap artificial meat.

🎣 Tobias Stone’s fascinating take on the demand and supply side of fake news, tracing the way from kids in Kosovo who found a way to make money online to American who bit the bait. In the end, Facebook is the one to blame. EV touched (Medium registration required.) (See also, the science behind why fake news is so hard to stop.)

One has to wonder how many of those Swastika-carrying young men we recently saw on the streets of America spend their nights at home being inflamed and provoked by some enterprising boys in the Balkans. I wonder if you can trace a line from a boy buying new trainers in Kosovo from the profits of his fake-news business to a white supremacist punching a protestor on the other side of the world.

🔮 We are navigating a new gilded age, argues lobbyist, Bruce Mehlman. What can we learn from the last one? THOUGHT-PROVOKING, but very US-focussed presentation. (A brief summary of his great presentation is here.)


IEEE Spectrum on blockchains and how they will change the world. Very good basic introduction, including a nice infographic of a smart contract in action.

👾 David Galbraith argues that blockchains’ real value comes from their unhackability not their decentralisation:

a public database based on this technology that is literally money, that has managed to survive being successfully hacked for several years, is nothing short of miraculous.

IMF Director, Christine Lagarde, acknowledges the path forward for cryptocurrencies:

And yet, why might citizens hold virtual currencies rather than physical dollars, euros, or sterling? Because it may one day be easier and safer than obtaining paper bills, especially in remote regions. And because virtual currencies could actually become more stable.

In the meantime, Goldman weighs launching digital currency trading operation.

Timothy B. Lee argues that cryptocurrency market will find long-term stability by going through the speculative bubble phase. With new wealth inciting further investments and relatively easy way in, we’re seeing the dotcom bubble all over. Not surprisingly, recent research shows that most ICOs fail. Between July and September of this year failure counts for 59%:

Also, the level of capital raised from a failed token distribution is rapidly declining, from a median of $4mm in July 2017 to $2mm in September 2017 and 21 (43% of the total) raised $1mm or less from their efforts.

South Korea bans ICOs over the “increasing risk of financial scams”.

Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah one of the latest celebrities to hop on the ICO craze train. He co-founded Cream Capital, a company aiming to raise up to $30m in an ICO, and create a digital currency that will be integrated into debit cards. (Cream, as in: Cash Rules Everything Around Me).


Great interview with EV reader John Havens on the key ethical questions facing AI.

If people don’t have access to their data, they can’t correct errors about that data. This isn’t about bias — simply facts. Third party data brokers not providing access to data means a lot of awesome AI tech either can’t be built or will be built on data not representing factual aspects of the people it’s trying to help. This is the big (data) elephant in the room regarding AI, since so much of the tech is built on human data. But humans need to be provided with access and agency over their data so there can be symmetry regarding how people are tracked with tools that allow them to project their own “terms and conditions” to the digital and soon- to-be-here virtual arenas.

DeepMind created Ethics & Society research group to investigate AI bias, aligning technology with ethical values, and researching economic impact of automation featuring at least one Exponential View reader :)

💊 EV reader, Zavain Dar, explains why he has backed Recursion Pharma, a company leveraging intelligent modelling of thousands of diseases to create novel drugs that work.

One major industry theme is the that AI will force a growth in processing to the edge of the network, shifting the balance from core cloud-based computing. One player, Efinix as announced programmable edge chips that are less complex to construct, run on half the power and are ¼ the size of comparable FPGAs. Xilinx, company that invented the FPGA, is one of the major investors.

Google Pixel earbuds leverage Google Translate data at its best, translating between 40 languages in real time during conversations.

📈 Apple ships more microprocessors than Intel.

11,500 crashes later, Carnegie Mellon researchers teach an algorithm to autonomously navigate a drone.

Udacity’s autonomous vehicle spin-off, Voyage, tests its self-driving taxis in retirement communities.

Full issue is available here, and you’ll find all the past 133 issues right here.