Darpa

Spoiler Alert: Blockchain is About Far More Than Just Crypto

Blockchain

Blockchain on the brain and I can’t sleep.

There is a fundamental problem with the way I’m hearing blockchain discussed. I’ll be skipping over a lot of central aspects of the technology, so if you are unfamiliar, please check out the Satoshi white paper here, the Ethereum white paper here, and the Gnosis white paper here. These will give you a good starting point on blockchain fundamentals and what’s going on in the current world of crypto currencies, although crypto currencies have been discussed since the 80’s.

cryptocurrency ubi blockchain automation
Image Source: Stefan Bohrer/Wikimedia

Let’s start with the fundamental misunderstanding of blockchain technology solely as a currency. It’s easy to see why this would be the default perception (after all, the bitcoin white paper is titled “A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”). As early as 9,000 BCE, people were using grain for money, and over time money has been represented by a variety of objects, including shells, gold coins, and paper. Historically, people have looked to objects that are scarce, hard to replicate, and durable as a form of currency. Some forms of currency have had commercial use, while others have solely acted to represent value. For example, our USD is a piece of paper not good for much other than paying for stuff (see fiat currency). Silver, on the other hand, is useful for many industrial applications.

Blockchain is more like silver than fiat currency. If we believe that blockchain is inherently valuable as a building block for future business models, we should stop thinking of it simply as a currency, and more as a platform that is going to change the way we build all kinds of systems. Blockchain tokens represent the first time that a digital asset is able to exist in one place at one time, securely and with certainty. By thinking in these terms, I believe that we will be able to expand our view of the possibilities for what this technology can do. But how will these businesses get built?

ICOs in the house! ICO stands for Initial Coin Offering and involves the launching of a new token on a blockchain. ICOs certainly have the potential to change a lot about how companies get funded in the future. However, we should all realize that there are reasons for the SEC and their regulations around who can invest in private companies, the primary reasons being to protect individuals from getting scammed, and keeping them away from assets whose risks are tough to understand and can lead to bankruptcy. Typically, these private investments are restricted to qualified investors because rich people “can afford” the risks of potentially losing their money and should have (or can hire) the expertise to understand complex financial instruments.

Being a libertarian, I’m not a fan of protectionist regulations, but the rules were put in place for explicit reasons, and those reasons haven’t changed. A general best practice is for people to save the extra money they have in a combination of safe and risky assets in a measured way. Now, there is excitement about the ability for anyone to participate in ICOs, because at this time they are largely unregulated. However, if the only difference is that now any person can send crypto to fund / invest in an early stage company, that will almost certainly wind up being regulated in the same way investments are currently regulated. Yes, the ICO market is very hot and yes, some of these projects are getting massive amounts of funding very quickly, but let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Cryptocurrency

Over the past few years there have been many individuals that have had massive windfall returns from their investments in blockchain protocols and specific tokens. Let’s use an example of someone using Ethereum (ETH). “Alex” bought $10,000 of ETH in January 2016 for $1 because he thought it sounded cool and just let it ride. Now, Alex has about $4,000,000 USD equivalent in his digital wallet and probably feels pretty good. But there are two big questions here: 1) where does Alex spend all this newfound wealth and 2) what about taxes?

Anyone close to the crypto space realizes that there is a liquidity problem. (This is less true for Bitcoin and Ethereum, but if you are looking to go down that rabbit hole here ya go.) Here’s a simple example. Alex bought his crypto using Coinbase and now has $4MM USD equivalent of ETH in his wallet. He wants to convert that to real USD in his bank account so he can buy some stuff. If he hasn’t done much to increase his limits, it could take him several months to get this money out. There are other ways to get more liquidity with BTC and ETH, but the point here is that illiquid markets create artificial damming of value.

The tax question may be an even bigger element of friction keeping value locked up in the crypto markets. If Alex were to liquidate all $4MM USD, he would need to pay taxes on the $3.999MM worth of gains. However, if he keeps it in crypto, he can postpone that taxation event to a later date, maybe indefinitely. So between liquidity and taxation, a lot of value is tied up in the crypto currency markets that would otherwise flow elsewhere.

Cue the market for ICOs. ICOs are a way for anyone to buy company specific tokens. These tokens can be used for several purposes: 1) a form of ownership in a company, 2) a form of voting, and/or 3) as a way to participate in whatever product, service, or application the company is offering. The first two sound a lot like equity, which I will discuss more later, but in regards to purpose 3, many players with massive illiquid returns carrying with them large potential tax consequences now have something to spend those returns on that provide additional upside and avoid triggering a taxation event, #WinWin. Because while turning ETH into USD can be tough, sending ETH is very easy. Just point a transfer at a wallet id and send away (Want to try it? Hit me at 0xE8d8c7bE6E9F5Ed7A3Fa7ceF090Bb5044c2735Bf ;-))

Jokes aside, it is my feeling that these returns are being spent more like lottery dollars than they are being used as investment dollars. When a person wins the lottery, they often spend that money in careless ways. Similarly, many people who have experienced these massive windfall returns and don’t have an easy form of liquidity are viewing these token launches as a way to put some of that value to work. The result is a heavily inflated ICO market on the back of the massive returns driven initially by the earlier protocol appreciation. The truth is that 90% of startups do not work out, as will almost certainly be the case with companies raising via ICO. I just want to echo a recent AVC post and say, “Be cautious.”

Enough doom and gloom. Tokens are great and going to totally change the world we live in. Also, this massive shift of value through ICOs is going to fuel many incredible projects that will pave the way for future companies. One in particular working on the liquidity problem, for example, is Omega One.

While I’ve spent a lot of time talking about what’s going on in the ICO market, the point I really want to drive home is that crypto tokens on top of blockchain technology represent a fundamental advancement in technology. It is the first time a digital asset can exist in one place at one time with certainty, and while this has led to tokens being viewed and used as a currency, that is a narrow application. There are so many things that this will change- the way games are built, the way media is stored, the way personal data is monetized (anyone working on this?) are just a few initial targets, with many more left to be discovered. My hope is that by expanding the perspective of this technology, we start developing truly revolutionary ideas that will change the world for good.

This is not a new pattern. Early radio hosts just read the newspaper out loud, and early movie stars performed as if they were still on a stage. The problem with a new technology is that typically, the first move is to push old models on top hoping to make it better, but true innovation comes when we can see the technology for what it is and what it will make possible that before was impossible. One method I use to do this is an innovation chart.

Spoiler Alert: Blockchain is Far More Than Just Crypto

It’s simple. Write a list of old industries on the top and then list new technologies on the side. Then assess where they intersect and what opportunities that might unveil. For example, if you put something like cell phones as a new technology and maybe something like yellow cab as an old industry, you could arrive at an interesting place.

This is a space I’m spending a lot of time in and am always interested in talking to entrepreneurs working on cool projects, so please reach out!

Twitter: @lapecc

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

The post Spoiler Alert: Blockchain is About Far More Than Just Crypto appeared first on Futurism.

Spoiler Alert: Blockchain is About Far More Than Just Crypto

Blockchain

Blockchain on the brain and I can’t sleep.

There is a fundamental problem with the way I’m hearing blockchain discussed. I’ll be skipping over a lot of central aspects of the technology, so if you are unfamiliar, please check out the Satoshi white paper here, the Ethereum white paper here, and the Gnosis white paper here. These will give you a good starting point on blockchain fundamentals and what’s going on in the current world of crypto currencies, although crypto currencies have been discussed since the 80’s.

cryptocurrency ubi blockchain automation
Image Source: Stefan Bohrer/Wikimedia

Let’s start with the fundamental misunderstanding of blockchain technology solely as a currency. It’s easy to see why this would be the default perception (after all, the bitcoin white paper is titled “A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”). As early as 9,000 BCE, people were using grain for money, and over time money has been represented by a variety of objects, including shells, gold coins, and paper. Historically, people have looked to objects that are scarce, hard to replicate, and durable as a form of currency. Some forms of currency have had commercial use, while others have solely acted to represent value. For example, our USD is a piece of paper not good for much other than paying for stuff (see fiat currency). Silver, on the other hand, is useful for many industrial applications.

Blockchain is more like silver than fiat currency. If we believe that blockchain is inherently valuable as a building block for future business models, we should stop thinking of it simply as a currency, and more as a platform that is going to change the way we build all kinds of systems. Blockchain tokens represent the first time that a digital asset is able to exist in one place at one time, securely and with certainty. By thinking in these terms, I believe that we will be able to expand our view of the possibilities for what this technology can do. But how will these businesses get built?

ICOs in the house! ICO stands for Initial Coin Offering and involves the launching of a new token on a blockchain. ICOs certainly have the potential to change a lot about how companies get funded in the future. However, we should all realize that there are reasons for the SEC and their regulations around who can invest in private companies, the primary reasons being to protect individuals from getting scammed, and keeping them away from assets whose risks are tough to understand and can lead to bankruptcy. Typically, these private investments are restricted to qualified investors because rich people “can afford” the risks of potentially losing their money and should have (or can hire) the expertise to understand complex financial instruments.

Being a libertarian, I’m not a fan of protectionist regulations, but the rules were put in place for explicit reasons, and those reasons haven’t changed. A general best practice is for people to save the extra money they have in a combination of safe and risky assets in a measured way. Now, there is excitement about the ability for anyone to participate in ICOs, because at this time they are largely unregulated. However, if the only difference is that now any person can send crypto to fund / invest in an early stage company, that will almost certainly wind up being regulated in the same way investments are currently regulated. Yes, the ICO market is very hot and yes, some of these projects are getting massive amounts of funding very quickly, but let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Cryptocurrency

Over the past few years there have been many individuals that have had massive windfall returns from their investments in blockchain protocols and specific tokens. Let’s use an example of someone using Ethereum (ETH). “Alex” bought $10,000 of ETH in January 2016 for $1 because he thought it sounded cool and just let it ride. Now, Alex has about $4,000,000 USD equivalent in his digital wallet and probably feels pretty good. But there are two big questions here: 1) where does Alex spend all this newfound wealth and 2) what about taxes?

Anyone close to the crypto space realizes that there is a liquidity problem. (This is less true for Bitcoin and Ethereum, but if you are looking to go down that rabbit hole here ya go.) Here’s a simple example. Alex bought his crypto using Coinbase and now has $4MM USD equivalent of ETH in his wallet. He wants to convert that to real USD in his bank account so he can buy some stuff. If he hasn’t done much to increase his limits, it could take him several months to get this money out. There are other ways to get more liquidity with BTC and ETH, but the point here is that illiquid markets create artificial damming of value.

The tax question may be an even bigger element of friction keeping value locked up in the crypto markets. If Alex were to liquidate all $4MM USD, he would need to pay taxes on the $3.999MM worth of gains. However, if he keeps it in crypto, he can postpone that taxation event to a later date, maybe indefinitely. So between liquidity and taxation, a lot of value is tied up in the crypto currency markets that would otherwise flow elsewhere.

Cue the market for ICOs. ICOs are a way for anyone to buy company specific tokens. These tokens can be used for several purposes: 1) a form of ownership in a company, 2) a form of voting, and/or 3) as a way to participate in whatever product, service, or application the company is offering. The first two sound a lot like equity, which I will discuss more later, but in regards to purpose 3, many players with massive illiquid returns carrying with them large potential tax consequences now have something to spend those returns on that provide additional upside and avoid triggering a taxation event, #WinWin. Because while turning ETH into USD can be tough, sending ETH is very easy. Just point a transfer at a wallet id and send away (Want to try it? Hit me at 0xE8d8c7bE6E9F5Ed7A3Fa7ceF090Bb5044c2735Bf ;-))

Jokes aside, it is my feeling that these returns are being spent more like lottery dollars than they are being used as investment dollars. When a person wins the lottery, they often spend that money in careless ways. Similarly, many people who have experienced these massive windfall returns and don’t have an easy form of liquidity are viewing these token launches as a way to put some of that value to work. The result is a heavily inflated ICO market on the back of the massive returns driven initially by the earlier protocol appreciation. The truth is that 90% of startups do not work out, as will almost certainly be the case with companies raising via ICO. I just want to echo a recent AVC post and say, “Be cautious.”

Enough doom and gloom. Tokens are great and going to totally change the world we live in. Also, this massive shift of value through ICOs is going to fuel many incredible projects that will pave the way for future companies. One in particular working on the liquidity problem, for example, is Omega One.

While I’ve spent a lot of time talking about what’s going on in the ICO market, the point I really want to drive home is that crypto tokens on top of blockchain technology represent a fundamental advancement in technology. It is the first time a digital asset can exist in one place at one time with certainty, and while this has led to tokens being viewed and used as a currency, that is a narrow application. There are so many things that this will change- the way games are built, the way media is stored, the way personal data is monetized (anyone working on this?) are just a few initial targets, with many more left to be discovered. My hope is that by expanding the perspective of this technology, we start developing truly revolutionary ideas that will change the world for good.

This is not a new pattern. Early radio hosts just read the newspaper out loud, and early movie stars performed as if they were still on a stage. The problem with a new technology is that typically, the first move is to push old models on top hoping to make it better, but true innovation comes when we can see the technology for what it is and what it will make possible that before was impossible. One method I use to do this is an innovation chart.

Spoiler Alert: Blockchain is Far More Than Just Crypto

It’s simple. Write a list of old industries on the top and then list new technologies on the side. Then assess where they intersect and what opportunities that might unveil. For example, if you put something like cell phones as a new technology and maybe something like yellow cab as an old industry, you could arrive at an interesting place.

This is a space I’m spending a lot of time in and am always interested in talking to entrepreneurs working on cool projects, so please reach out!

Twitter: @lapecc

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

The post Spoiler Alert: Blockchain is About Far More Than Just Crypto appeared first on Futurism.

Neuroreality: The New Reality is Coming. And It’s a Brain Computer Interface.

The Virtual World

With the release of the Oculus Rift in March 2016, the age of virtual reality (VR) truly began. VR tech had been generating buzz since the 1990s, but the Rift was the first high-end VR system to reach the consumer market, and early reviews confirmed that it delivered the kind of experience users had been hoping for.

Virtual reality was finally real.

Research into VR exploded in this new era, and experts soon started to find innovative ways to make virtual experiences more immersive…more real. To date, VR technologies have moved beyond just sight and sound. We’ve developed technologies that let users touch virtual objects, feel changes in wind and temperature, and even taste food in VR.

The World’s First Virtual Reality Headset [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

However, despite all this progress, no one would mistake a virtual environment for the real world. The technology simply isn’t advanced enough, and as long as we rely solely on traditional headsets and other wearables, it never will be.

Before we can create a world that is truly indistinguishable from the real one, we will need to leave the age of virtual reality behind and enter a new era — the era of neuroreality.

Reality 2.0

Neuroreality refers to a reality that is driven by technologies that interface directly with the human brain. While traditional VR depends on a user physically reacting to external stimuli (for example, swinging a controller to wield a virtual sword on a screen) a neuroreality system interfaces directly with the user’s biology through a brain-computer interface (BCI).

Notably, this technology isn’t some far-flung sci-fi vision. It’s very real.

To rehash the basics: BCIs are a means of connecting our brains to machines, and they can be either invasive (requiring an implant of some sort) or non-invasive (relying on electrodes or other external tech to detect and direct brain signals). Experts have predicted that advances in BCIs will lead to a new era in human evolution, as these devices have the potential to revolutionize how we treat diseaseslearncommunicate…in short, they are set to utterly transform how we see and interact with the world around us.

In fact, some companies are already innovating in the newly emerging field of neuroreality.

Founded by physicist Dan Cook in 2013, EyeMynd’s goal is to create a VR system that allows the user to navigate a virtual world simply by thought—no immersion-breaking controller required.

“When you’re in the virtual world—whether you’re playing a game or something else—you don’t want to have to keep thinking about what you’re doing with your hands,” Cook told Digital Trends in November. “It’s much better to have pure brainwave control. It will be a much more satisfying experience and will allow for a much greater level of immersion. You can forget about your live human body, and just focus on what’s going on in front of you.”

Cook likens the experience to dreaming. “In a dream, you can run around without moving your physical legs. That dreaming and imagining creates brain signals that we can read,” he told The Guardian. “With what we want to do, you won’t need eyeballs to see, or ears to hear, or hands and feet. We can bypass all of that.”

EyeMynd’s system is non-invasive, meaning it wouldn’t require the user to undergo any sort of device implantation. Instead, they would wear a headset that includes EEG sensors to track their brainwaves.

Cook’s isn’t the only company exploring the use of brainwave-detecting external tech to make the VR experience feel more seamless. Boston-based startup Neurable, bioinformatics company EMOTIV, and social networking giant Facebook are all working on non-invasive devices that would allow users to navigate the virtual world through thought alone.

However, as Joy Lyons, chief technology officer of audio tech startup OSSIC, told Vice at the 2016 VRLA Summer Expo, the ideal hardware for creating a new reality isn’t an external headset, no matter how advanced. It’s “a chip in the brain.”

A World in Your Mind

Earlier this year, serial entrepreneur Elon Musk founded Neuralink, a company with the goal of developing cutting-edge technology that connects a person’s brain to the digital world through an array of implanted electrodes. Shortly before Musk’s announcement, Braintree founder Bryan Johnson announced a similar venture—that he is investing $100 million to unlock the power of the human brain and make our neural code programmable. Johnson’s company, Kernel, is working to create the world’s first neuroprosthesis

Musk himself has predicted that we’ll eventually be able to create computer simulations that are indistinguishable from reality, and if these brain interfaces come to fruition, they could act as the platform through which we experience those simulations, allowing us to not only see a realistic world but touch it and truly feel it.

The Evolution of Brain-Computer Interfaces [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

In a detailed report announcing the launch of Neuralink, Tim Urban described the potential impact of this proposed tech on our understanding of reality. Instead of relying on external hardware like goggles, gloves, and headphones to trick our senses into believing that what we encounter in the virtual world is real, we could program realities that trigger the same parts of our brains that would be engaged if the experiences actually were real.

“There would be no more need for screens of course — because you could just make a virtual screen appear in your visual cortex. Or jump into a VR movie with all your senses,” asserted Urban. “You’ll be able to actually experience almost anything for free.”

The same part of your brain that is stimulated when you taste pizza could be triggered to engage when you bite into a slice in this new reality, and the same part that lets you smell the ocean air in reality could  be simulated and provide that feeling while standing on the shore of a virtual Atlantic ocean.

The difference between the real world and the virtual one would be undetectable. For all intents and purposes, a difference would not exist.

Figuring out the tech to actually make this happen won’t be easy, and overcoming the non-tech related obstacles will present an additional challenge (such as developing a comprehensive map of the human brain and all our neurons). Elective brain surgery is an extremely controversial subject, and past experiments haven’t yielded such promising results. Neuralink and like-minded companies will need to engage in years of research before their devices will be ready for human implantation, and even then, they’ll have regulatory hurdles to overcome.

Still, BCI research is progressing rapidly, so while a system of electrodes that can effectively project an entirely new world directly into our brains might seem like a sci-fi pipe dream, it really shouldn’t. After all, just two decades ago, the virtual reality experience delivered today by the Rift felt woefully out of reach, and now, anyone with $600 can bring it home with them (and the price is dropping at a remarkable rate).

As Cook told The Guardian, we aren’t as far as we may think from the day when navigating virtual worlds using just our thoughts is the norm: “Ten years from now, this will seem obvious.”

Disclosure: Bryan Johnson is an investor in Futurism; he does not hold a seat on our editorial board or have any editorial review privileges.

The post Neuroreality: The New Reality is Coming. And It’s a Brain Computer Interface. appeared first on Futurism.

Neuroreality: The New Reality is Coming. And It’s a Brain Computer Interface.

The Virtual World

With the release of the Oculus Rift in March 2016, the age of virtual reality (VR) truly began. VR tech had been generating buzz since the 1990s, but the Rift was the first high-end VR system to reach the consumer market, and early reviews confirmed that it delivered the kind of experience users had been hoping for.

Virtual reality was finally real.

Research into VR exploded in this new era, and experts soon started to find innovative ways to make virtual experiences more immersive…more real. To date, VR technologies have moved beyond just sight and sound. We’ve developed technologies that let users touch virtual objects, feel changes in wind and temperature, and even taste food in VR.

The World’s First Virtual Reality Headset [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

However, despite all this progress, no one would mistake a virtual environment for the real world. The technology simply isn’t advanced enough, and as long as we rely solely on traditional headsets and other wearables, it never will be.

Before we can create a world that is truly indistinguishable from the real one, we will need to leave the age of virtual reality behind and enter a new era — the era of neuroreality.

Reality 2.0

Neuroreality refers to a reality that is driven by technologies that interface directly with the human brain. While traditional VR depends on a user physically reacting to external stimuli (for example, swinging a controller to wield a virtual sword on a screen) a neuroreality system interfaces directly with the user’s biology through a brain-computer interface (BCI).

Notably, this technology isn’t some far-flung sci-fi vision. It’s very real.

To rehash the basics: BCIs are a means of connecting our brains to machines, and they can be either invasive (requiring an implant of some sort) or non-invasive (relying on electrodes or other external tech to detect and direct brain signals). Experts have predicted that advances in BCIs will lead to a new era in human evolution, as these devices have the potential to revolutionize how we treat diseaseslearncommunicate…in short, they are set to utterly transform how we see and interact with the world around us.

In fact, some companies are already innovating in the newly emerging field of neuroreality.

Founded by physicist Dan Cook in 2013, EyeMynd’s goal is to create a VR system that allows the user to navigate a virtual world simply by thought—no immersion-breaking controller required.

“When you’re in the virtual world—whether you’re playing a game or something else—you don’t want to have to keep thinking about what you’re doing with your hands,” Cook told Digital Trends in November. “It’s much better to have pure brainwave control. It will be a much more satisfying experience and will allow for a much greater level of immersion. You can forget about your live human body, and just focus on what’s going on in front of you.”

Cook likens the experience to dreaming. “In a dream, you can run around without moving your physical legs. That dreaming and imagining creates brain signals that we can read,” he told The Guardian. “With what we want to do, you won’t need eyeballs to see, or ears to hear, or hands and feet. We can bypass all of that.”

EyeMynd’s system is non-invasive, meaning it wouldn’t require the user to undergo any sort of device implantation. Instead, they would wear a headset that includes EEG sensors to track their brainwaves.

Cook’s isn’t the only company exploring the use of brainwave-detecting external tech to make the VR experience feel more seamless. Boston-based startup Neurable, bioinformatics company EMOTIV, and social networking giant Facebook are all working on non-invasive devices that would allow users to navigate the virtual world through thought alone.

However, as Joy Lyons, chief technology officer of audio tech startup OSSIC, told Vice at the 2016 VRLA Summer Expo, the ideal hardware for creating a new reality isn’t an external headset, no matter how advanced. It’s “a chip in the brain.”

A World in Your Mind

Earlier this year, serial entrepreneur Elon Musk founded Neuralink, a company with the goal of developing cutting-edge technology that connects a person’s brain to the digital world through an array of implanted electrodes. Shortly before Musk’s announcement, Braintree founder Bryan Johnson announced a similar venture—that he is investing $100 million to unlock the power of the human brain and make our neural code programmable. Johnson’s company, Kernel, is working to create the world’s first neuroprosthesis

Musk himself has predicted that we’ll eventually be able to create computer simulations that are indistinguishable from reality, and if these brain interfaces come to fruition, they could act as the platform through which we experience those simulations, allowing us to not only see a realistic world but touch it and truly feel it.

The Evolution of Brain-Computer Interfaces [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

In a detailed report announcing the launch of Neuralink, Tim Urban described the potential impact of this proposed tech on our understanding of reality. Instead of relying on external hardware like goggles, gloves, and headphones to trick our senses into believing that what we encounter in the virtual world is real, we could program realities that trigger the same parts of our brains that would be engaged if the experiences actually were real.

“There would be no more need for screens of course — because you could just make a virtual screen appear in your visual cortex. Or jump into a VR movie with all your senses,” asserted Urban. “You’ll be able to actually experience almost anything for free.”

The same part of your brain that is stimulated when you taste pizza could be triggered to engage when you bite into a slice in this new reality, and the same part that lets you smell the ocean air in reality could  be simulated and provide that feeling while standing on the shore of a virtual Atlantic ocean.

The difference between the real world and the virtual one would be undetectable. For all intents and purposes, a difference would not exist.

Figuring out the tech to actually make this happen won’t be easy, and overcoming the non-tech related obstacles will present an additional challenge (such as developing a comprehensive map of the human brain and all our neurons). Elective brain surgery is an extremely controversial subject, and past experiments haven’t yielded such promising results. Neuralink and like-minded companies will need to engage in years of research before their devices will be ready for human implantation, and even then, they’ll have regulatory hurdles to overcome.

Still, BCI research is progressing rapidly, so while a system of electrodes that can effectively project an entirely new world directly into our brains might seem like a sci-fi pipe dream, it really shouldn’t. After all, just two decades ago, the virtual reality experience delivered today by the Rift felt woefully out of reach, and now, anyone with $600 can bring it home with them (and the price is dropping at a remarkable rate).

As Cook told The Guardian, we aren’t as far as we may think from the day when navigating virtual worlds using just our thoughts is the norm: “Ten years from now, this will seem obvious.”

Disclosure: Bryan Johnson is an investor in Futurism; he does not hold a seat on our editorial board or have any editorial review privileges.

The post Neuroreality: The New Reality is Coming. And It’s a Brain Computer Interface. appeared first on Futurism.

Instagram is down for some users

 Instagram seems to be down for some users. According to the live outage map on Down Detector, the service is not performing well for some folks in the U.S. and Europe. While it went down for me for a hot second, it’s back up and running now. That said, Twitter is still freaking out, so it seems it may not be functioning properly for everyone at this time. Instagram has yet to say… Read More

Instagram is down for some users

 Instagram seems to be down for some users. According to the live outage map on Down Detector, the service is not performing well for some folks in the U.S. and Europe. While it went down for me for a hot second, it’s back up and running now. That said, Twitter is still freaking out, so it seems it may not be functioning properly for everyone at this time. Instagram has yet to say… Read More

Google launches its own AI Studio to foster machine intelligence startups

 A new week brings a fresh Google initiative targeting AI startups. We started the month with the announcement of Gradient Ventures, Google’s on-balance sheet AI investment vehicle. Two days later we watched the finalists of Google Cloud’s machine learning competition pitch to a panel of top AI investors. And today, Google’s Launchpad is announcing a new hands-on Studio program… Read More

No Time to Cook? This Smart Oven Is Like Having a Live-In Chef

No time to cook? This smart oven is like having a live-in chef

The post No Time to Cook? This Smart Oven Is Like Having a Live-In Chef appeared first on Futurism.

Consumer Reports Upgrades Tesla’s Newest Model to Top Safety Rating

Consumer Reports and Tesla have been at odds quite a bit in the past few years. In October of 2015, Tesla stocks fell when Consumer Reports called the cars unreliable. Then again this year, Tesla’s stock fell after Consumer Reports downgraded the Model S because the second generation Autopilot hardware’s Automatic Emergency Braking wasn’t enabled at highway speeds.

Image Credit: Tesla
Image Credit: Tesla
However, Tesla updated the feature, and Consumer Reports has now returned the Model S to the top safety rating category. Consumer Reports writes: “CR’s engineers then verified at our test track that the AEB operated at higher speeds by driving the electric Model S at a target that mimics the back of a car. We also verified that Tesla had sent the software update to its other cars by checking online forums and inspecting cars at Tesla dealerships.”Meanwhile, it remains a fact of life that various studies on autonomous vehicles and car fatalities all indicate that self-driving cars will save lives. In the US alone, around 30,000 to 40,000 people die in auto accidents annually, about 94 percent of which are caused by human error. Bizarrely, around six million drivers admitted they hit other cars intentionally, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). It seems obvious that self-driving cars are the safest option and, when integrated into everyday life, will save lives.

The post Consumer Reports Upgrades Tesla’s Newest Model to Top Safety Rating appeared first on Futurism.

Obscured by Hype, ICOs Mark A Fundamental Shift in How Businesses Are Built

A Crypto Bubble?

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of volatility in the world of crypto, and that certainly seems to have people on edge. Thankfully, it seems that the potential chaos around August 1 has been figured out thanks to consensus around Segwit.

However, ever since the run up in the crypto markets earlier this year, I have been talking about a correction, and I believe we could see one in the next six months. Speculation has driven the rally, and at some point, it will be time to pay the piper.

That said, corrections are not all bad. Often the strongest companies emerge out of difficult times, as only the strongest trees remain in a forest after a fire. In this post, I want to expand on what we talked about previously and, hopefully, give you some tools to understand what is going on here and why I do not think these market fluctuations matter in the long term.

Over the past couple of years, it is safe to say that blockchain has gone mainstream as far as being a technology that people are talking about. While blockchain is certainly being discussed all over the place, however, the technology behind blockchain is still a long way away from being fully adopted.

So what about this correction? The common term being thrown around right now is that there is a bubble in the crypto markets fueled by speculation. The financial definition of a bubble is “an economic cycle characterized by rapid escalation of asset prices followed by a contraction.” Certainly, the first part of this is true, and while there has been some pullback in the past couple weeks, these markets are still significantly above where they were at the beginning of the year — if you’ve been even tangentially watching this market, you’ve made money.

I do not like the term “bubble” because it gives the impression of something filled with nothing but air, and comparing the technology behind blockchain to air is insulting. So, even if there is some inflationary movement due to speculation, if you believe that the core technology is fundamental, than these short-term movements should not cause you too much concern.

The Value In Tokens

Understanding how there can be real value supported by these tokens and how that value translates into value for the underlying currency is important, so let’s look at an example.

Gnosis is a prediction network that allows people to make predictions on outcomes and be rewarded for accurate predictions. If you believe that those ideas have value and that value is contained within GNO, then those tokens absolutely are supported by something that contains real value. Taking it a step further, since Gnosis is built on top of Ethereum, ETH itself should have its value supported by the value contained in GNO.

The thinking around this is still being developed, but I do think that if the value being represented is real, then that value will also be reflected onto the underlying protocol. However, while these protocols may be creating real value, the market itself is still relatively small and much of the growth has been fueled by speculation.

Ethereum and Bitcoin, arguably the two most central protocols right now, have a combined market cap of less than $70 billion. Here is a quick list of things more valuable than that:

Maybe Softbank should just buy up all the ETH and BTC. Masayoshi Son, if you do this, I am claiming credit.

Jokes aside, my point is that the market is still small, and markets that are small and built on top of massive speculation are very unstable. See the GDAX flash crash.

A Coming Correction

I think a few components will contribute to a pending correction in the crypto markets.

First, I doubt the stability of many of the ICO projects that have been funded to date as well as the diligence process most of them are going through.

I spend a lot of time reading white papers of companies launching tokens and building new protocols. For each one, I try to understand what they are building and how it will create long-term value. The problem is that, for many of these projects, I either do not see where the value will be created or proof that the team behind the project will actually be able to deliver.

Many groups have raised money via ICOs before they have done anything beyond getting a white paper together. In my opinion, it is important for founders to be optimistic about what they are working on, but they should also be honest about where they are in their progress and how much work it will take to move forward.

Just putting a white paper together and raising a ton of money to work on a project that has no clear roadmap feels irresponsible. It is reminiscent of the headiest days of the dot-com bubble, when just about anyone could launch a successful IPO for a company with either “.com” at the end of the name or the letter “e” at the beginning.

These naïve bad actors may end up misleading people into thinking a product is bigger or more revolutionary than it might actually be, and when they fall apart, many people will likely get burned. (It took the S&P 500 information technology index 17 years, as of this week, to recover its lost ground from the dot-com crash.)

Given that the blockchain space is unregulated, unlike public stock offerings, there really aren’t any rules surrounding what a company can or can’t say about their project. This makes it hard to know just what you are buying into, which elevates the risk of scammers and phonies entering this market to make a quick buck.

According to Forbes, 90 percent of all startups fail, and this is almost certainly going to be true for companies that get started via ICO. The failure rate may actually be higher than 90 percent.

There needs to be more accountability on the company side as well as more care taken on the side of the people investing in these tokens. The question of “Can this team execute?” is an important one. Traditional investors test for this heavily during the diligence process, and people buying tokens should do the same.

I believe that we may see many cases of over promise / under deliver here, which will be bad for everyone. Issues around the security and scalability of these projects could also lead to loss of investor confidence.

In addition to these more naïve bad actors, there are also legitimately bad actors. I would not be terribly surprised if we see massive scam project that shakes up the crypto space in the future (see: Bernie Madoff). My point here is to do your diligence.

Massive Growth, Massive Potential

The first half of 2017 was a rocket ship, especially for Ethereum and the ERC20 ICO market, as well as for new protocols such as Tezos and EOS. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised in these token launches, and a wide range of projects have been kicked off.

This is great. Some of these projects have incredible teams and are working on important problems that will make the world a better place and help to move the new world of blockchain forward. In the same breath, many of these will fail; it is just the law of the startup jungle. The real problem is the combination of speculation-driven returns with the inevitable failure of massive projects and a sprinkling of a few bad actors.

As massive amounts of value have flowed into these markets, individuals have seen incredible returns, which drive more people to invest in the space. However, if a loss of confidence in the market happens and prices start to go down, people might start pulling their money out in order to conserve value, which will in turn affect the value of the companies who have raised via ICO. These companies could start selling as a way to preserve their own value, which would then lead to increased panic on both the investor front as well as within the individual companies.

Not too dissimilar from the way a run on a bank can spiral in on itself, turning a bad situation into a worse one, this market seems to be inflated on itself and thus ripe for a correction. I personally wouldn’t be surprised to see ETH go to $55.

While this is certainly reason to proceed with caution, I am by no means trying to keep people from getting into blockchain companies or investing in these projects. If you believe as I do that blockchain is the most important technological advancement in our recent history, these temporary market fluctuations shouldn’t bother you at all.

The value is not in the speculation that is going on currently, but in the transformational companies that are being built here. As tokens are used to build businesses that could not even have existed before, that value will persist in the protocol, and over time, we will come to recognize blockchain technology as a component of our everyday lives.

The future is bright.

A Sturdier Foundation

Taking all of this into account, there still needs to be a lot of infrastructure built out, and in time, more and more institutions and governments will come on board. Right now, a lot of experimenting is going on with these larger institutions around private blockchains, and the work being done by the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) and IBM with Hyperledger is certainly helping groups become more comfortable with blockchain. If you are working at a major enterprise and want to get involved, those are two great places to go. I’m biased toward the EEA.

In thinking of the future and what needs to happen for the market to reach maturity, one problem I have seen in particular is in the difficulty of trading tokens. Right now, if you buy into a token launch and it goes well, it is incredibly hard to use those tokens directly to buy other tokens.

Swap is one company I know is working on solving that problem using a peer-to-peer solution. What this ultimately means is that there will be a more efficient market between tokens, and with a more efficient market, there should be fewer dramatic market movements. It may also make transacting across platforms easier because there might not be the need to ever move back into fiat to do business. Obviously, I think what they are working on is really cool, but I would love to hear what others think, so please feel free to hit me on Twitter (@LaPecc).

Additionally, groups like ConsenSys are working hard to put in place standards for token structures, diligence, and a wide range of other frameworks to build confidence in the space.

Often, people attempt to put things in terms of a hype cycle, but I think these sorts of structures end up giving people false confidence. Instead, I choose to focus on finding and investing in long-term value, and I see plenty of that in the world of blockchains.


Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

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