Tag Archives: Blockchain

Updates from Chicago Booth

Why Bitcoin and blockchain may stumble
By Alex Verkhivker – In mid-May, the Bitcoin Gold market suffered what’s known as a 51 percent attack. A market participant with sufficient computing power was able to take control of the underlying ledger and commit fraud, Quartz reported. Other cryptocurrencies have reportedly been similarly attacked.

Could this sort of thing sink cryptocurrency markets completely?

Even those who dismiss Bitcoin as a fad often praise blockchain, the open-source digital-ledger technology underlying it, as a breakthrough in electronic record keeping. The innovation of Bitcoin’s founder, Satoshi Nakamoto, was to create a process in which people have trust in a database that lacks a centralized authority such as a government, court, or bank; rather, records are verified by anonymous “miners,” who create a verified trail, or chain, of transactions.

When bitcoins are exchanged, information about the transactions is grouped together into a block. The miners race each other to solve a computationally intense puzzle, and the winning miner adds a block to the chain, while other miners verify that the new transactions are accurate. All miners keep a copy of the chain of transactions, making the blockchain a verifiable and trusted but ultimately decentralized database.

This process was a significant computer-science innovation, but how does it work economically speaking? In thinking that through, Eric Budish crafts a worrying argument about the future of Bitcoin. more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

The good and bad of blockchain
By Rose Jacobs – There’s a drawback: blockchains have the potential to increase collusion, according to Chicago Booth’s Lin William Cong and Zhiguo He.

The researchers’ modeling, part of their research into how blockchains might affect competition, suggests that the way blockchains work as a decentralized ledger involves distributing more information, which could make it easier for competitors to quietly and often tacitly collude to keep prices high, ultimately to the detriment of consumers. But Cong and He propose a few potential remedies.

Blockchain is less well-known than Bitcoin but may have more staying power. Its main functionality is providing “decentralized consensus,” say Cong and He. In most societies and economies, parties in a contract rely on a government, court, or other third-party arbitrator to essentially oversee and enforce rules in private contracts—to provide consensus, as the researchers put it. Blockchain provides that function in a more decentralized manner by generating, storing, and distributing the record of rules and regulations.

Blockchain idealists would have all transactions stored on one chain—the one that already exists, thanks to Bitcoin. This would create a massive, democratic, stable, and unified public record. But most companies don’t buy into this vision.

Critics say this is because they want to control the chains, keeping out new competitors by using private or “permissioned” blockchains. more>

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How Bitcoin Ends

By Douglas Rushkoff – Bitcoin was a clever idea. Idealistic, even. But it isn’t working out quite as its developers imagined. In fact, once all the coin has been mined, bitcoin will simply reinforce the very banking system it was invented to disrupt.

Watching the bitcoin phenomenon is a bit like watching the three-decade decline of the internet from a playspace for the counterculture to one for venture capitalists. We thought the net would break the monopoly of top-down, corporate media. But as business interests took over it has become primarily a delivery system for streaming television to consumers, and consumer data to advertisers.

Likewise, bitcoin was intended to break the monopoly of the banking system over central currency and credit. But, in the end, it will turn into just another platform for the big banks to do the same old extraction they always have. Here’s how.

Central currency is not the only kind of money that ever existed. For many centuries, gold and other precious metals served as money.

In essence, bitcoin is money built and maintained by nerds, based on the premise that good nerds will outnumber the bad nerds. Sure, bad actors can dedicate all of their processing power to fake transactions, but they will be outnumbered by those who want the token to work properly.

What is the incentive for people to spend millions of dollars on computers and power once there’s no more kickback of coin? more>

Is Your Startup Stalled? Pivot to Blockchain

By Erin Griffith – In the high-stakes world of venture-backed startups, not growing is the same as dying. Historically, stalled companies sought a sympathetic acquirer or quietly shut down. Now, startups have a new potential lifeline: They pivot to blockchain.

The rush by startups into cryptocurrencies mirrors similar moves among publicly traded companies, where shares of several cheap, thinly traded stocks have spiked after merely adding the word bitcoin or blockchain to their names.

Even the stock price of the parent company of Hooters leapt nearly 50% at the mere mention of blockchain in a press release. The Securities and Exchange Commission has taken note, halting trading in some cases, because of the risks these currencies posed to inexperienced investors.

The rush by startups into cryptocurrencies mirrors similar moves among publicly traded companies, where shares of several cheap, thinly traded stocks have spiked after merely adding the word bitcoin or blockchain to their names.

Even the stock price of the parent company of Hooters leapt nearly 50% at the mere mention of blockchain in a press release. The Securities and Exchange Commission has taken note, halting trading in some cases, because of the risks these currencies posed to inexperienced investors. more>

Updates from GE

Building The Bitcoin For Energy: This Woman Came Up With A Promising New Idea For Trading Clean Power
By Maggie Sieger & Tomas Kellner – Talia Kohen exudes enough personal energy to light up a ballroom. But her goals are much grander. “I want electricity to be the factor that unites all of Europe, just like the euro,” she says.

That’s why earlier this year, she pulled together a mostly Israeli team to fly from Tel Aviv to a “hackathon” in Berlin, where they designed a prototype for a virtual currency called ElectroEuro. The currency could allow European utilities to price and trade clean power. “It’s like a bitcoin for energy,” she says. The Ecomagination Challenge Hackathon took place alongside GE’s Minds + Machines Europe digital summit, and team ElectroEuro was one of the winners sharing in €50,000 ($56,000) in cash prizes.

Some 100 developers took part in the event on a sightseeing boat anchored in one of Berlin’s industrial harbors. Most of the participants were men, but Kohen, 32, wasn’t intimidated.

The American native has a degree in electrical and computer engineering from Cornell University. Upon graduation, she joined Raytheon, where she worked on radar and missile technology. Still wanting to learn more, she moved to Israel’s Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv and enrolled in a master’s program focusing on computer science, artificial intelligence and natural language processing. more>

The decentralized economy is inevitable. Cities now need to prepare for impact

By Sarah Wray – Bettina Warburg explained that throughout history, we have created “middlemen” to deal with uncertainty about trade – who are we dealing with, how do we know we are getting what we were promised, and what if we don’t receive the goods? These middlemen include banks, corporations and government entities, as well as online platform marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Alibaba.

Now for the first time, she said, we can lower this uncertainty using technology alone – blockchain, meaning no middlemen are required.

Blockchain unlocks the idea of a “network state … which you can think of as shared reality. Blockchain is in some ways giving us an autonomous network state — the ability to manage all that information and make choices on it by transacting it without middlemen,” she said.

“It’s a matter of urgency that public services, and the leadership of those public services, is able to anticipate technology and the disrupted business models it creates; and that it can respond to that by setting out the key demands. We cannot find ourselves in situations again where we have to regulate after the event. That is government not doing its job properly,” commented Andrew Collinge. more>

Post-Capitalist Entrepreneurship: Basic Income, Blockchain Cities, and Local Currencies

BOOK REVIEW

Post-Capitalist Entrepreneurship: Startups for the 99%, Author: Boyd Cohen.

By Boyd Cohen – We are in the very early days of what blockchain can mean for cities. Obviously, the smart cities movement with a strong focus on the Internet of Things (IoTs), big and open data, and sensor technology will likely benefit from the growth of blockchain solutions. But perhaps more interesting is to reflect on how blockchain could be used to support social inclusion and a post-capitalist economy.

Aside from its potentially transformative potential in local cryptocurrencies, blockchain may also support many other important changes to life and government in cities. The blockchain may support alternative forms of sharing economy that challenge platform capitalism.

Take Arcade City as an example. Arcade City is a blockchain-enabled (with ethereum) organization aimed at taking on Uber first, and other platform capitalists later. It is a peer-to-peer app, founded in Austin, Texas, in 2016, which aids people seeking a ride with drivers of passenger vehicles. Unlike in Uber’s model, Arcadian drivers are able to charge their own fees and process transactions directly with their passengers. Since its launch, rides have been facilitated in other cities in the United States, Europe, and Africa. Arcade City has launched their own initial coin offering in 2016, to create Arcade Tokens which can be used for payments with the app.

I suspect in the future, we will witness cities embracing everything from local digital currencies, three-tiered maker communities (in the home, in the neighborhoods via fab labs, and city-level flexible manufacturing production), some form of basic income (perhaps tied to civic contributions), hopefully affordable housing for all through community land trusts and other housing innovations (e.g., Vancouver’s in-fill housing), blockchain-enabled distributed sharing platforms that compete with, or maybe even replace, platform capitalists, entrepreneurial and maker education in all schools. more>

Improving Autonomous Driving Communication and Safety with Private Blockchains

By Greg Bohl – Blockchain technology isn’t just for Bitcoin: It’s driving into several other industries at a breath-taking velocity.

It’s now well established for financial markets and digital identification, with other major industries such as healthcare and insurance companies in fast pursuit.

Emerging areas for Blockchain are also diverse, covering areas such as energy, where micro-grid producers see Blockchain as a method to keep track of the energy generated. Blockchain itself is evolving as well, with Blockchain 2.0 promising even more functionally for broader groups by introducing new applications.

Blockchain can also be used throughout the automotive industry. Automotive applications range from revolutionizing the supply chain to authenticating ride sharing for a passenger and the vehicle owner. However, the clearest overall group of opportunities for automotive targets the critical functions autonomous vehicles perform when under their own control. more> https://goo.gl/kLU7zr

The economy is more a messy, fractal living thing than a machine

BOOK REVIEW

In Our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence, Author: George Zarkadakis.

By George Zarkadakis – Mainstream economics is built on the premise that the economy is a machine-like system operating at equilibrium. According to this idea, individual actors – such as companies, government departments and consumers – behave in a rational way.

Ever since the invention of the assembly line, corporations have been like medieval cities: building walls around themselves and then trading with other ‘cities’ and consumers.

The so-called ‘gig economy’ is only the beginning of a profound economic, social and political transformation. For the moment, these new ways of working are still controlled by old-style businesses models – platforms that essentially sell ‘trust’ via reviews and verification, or by plugging into existing financial and legal systems.

Blockchain technologies promise to replace these trusted third parties with a huge digital record book, spreading out organically across a network of computers that grows and changes but can’t be meddled with.

By getting rid of middlemen, they’re likely to radically reduce transaction costs, and accelerate the mixing of many different actors in the new economy who have been freed from the grip of leaders or institutions. more> https://goo.gl/Gs6f4B

Updates from GE

Beyond Bitcoin: Digital Currency Among Many Industrial Applications For Blockchain
By Mark Egan & Dorothy Pomerantz – Ben Beckmann works as the lead scientist in the complex systems engineering lab at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, New York. In 2012, he made a seemingly inconsequential wager: He bet one of his colleagues that the electronic currency bitcoin would fail.

Bitcoins started trading for pennies after the currency launched in 2009. Today, you can buy one bitcoin for $2,200. Beckmann lost the bet and took his colleague for a nice meal. “If we had taken the $100 we spent on dinner and invested it in bitcoins at the start, we would be millionaires,” Beckmann laughs.

Losing the bet pushed Beckman to take a closer look at the code behind bitcoin. He and others at GE discovered that the real magic that made it work was a public digital ledger called blockchain that keeps a chronological record of all bitcoin transactions. But the currency is just one blockchain application. The technology could be used for tracking trade, contracts, and even renewable energy.

Maja Vujinovic, technical product manager at GE Digital, is leading a push to explore and develop blockchain across the company. She’s looking at everything from purchase orders and budget reconciliation and parts tracking. “The bank receives a fee for every transaction,” Vujinovic  says. “If we can remove the bank and establish a trust mechanism instead, that will save us a lot of money.” more> https://goo.gl/5XIWo7