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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.


In OneZero. More on Medium.

Pattern Matching

Blockchain takes a substantial toll on the environment that experts are beginning to reckon with

The price of one bitcoin, as I write this, is $57,383 — more than 10 times what it cost just a year ago. That price is volatile, so it will be different by the time you read this. But rest assured it will remain expensive.

There’s another toll, though, for every bitcoin created: the toll it takes on the environment. It’s one that is not paid in full by either the miner or the buyer. As bitcoin reaches new heights, fueled by advocates such as Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey, it’s a cost that’s becoming impossible to ignore.

The Pattern

Crypto faces…

The first two eras of the internet

During the first era of the internet — from the 1980s through the early 2000s — internet services were built on open protocols that were controlled by the internet community. This meant that people or organizations could grow their internet presence knowing the rules of the game wouldn’t change later on. Huge web properties were started during this era including Yahoo, Google, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. In the process, the importance of centralized platforms like AOL greatly diminished.

During the second era of the internet, from the mid 2000s to the present, for-profit tech companies — most notably Google…

Complex interplays are pushing up the price of cryptocurrencies — including the potential for criminals to profit

Flagstaff, Arizona. Wakulla County, Florida. Virginia, New York, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. All have been hit by crippling ransomware attacks recently — and U.S. senators last month called on the Department of Homeland Security to step in to help state and local governments survive the aftermath.

Ransomware attacks may represent a problem beyond shutting down local and state services, though. Cybersecurity company Emisoft believes that the value of bitcoin — which was used in 98% of all ransomware payments in the first three months of 2019 — is being bolstered by such attacks.

Victims choosing to pay up when they’re attacked…

Why that might be the wrong question to ask

PayPal, eBay, Stripe, Mastercard, and Visa have all recently withdrawn their support for Facebook’s plans for a global digital currency network by pulling out of the Libra Association, the network’s governing body. With the news of these high-profile dropouts, it certainly feels as though Facebook’s plans may be slowing down, with many asking whether Libra is now effectively dead in the water.

For individuals and parties in strong opposition to Libra, these developments may induce a sense of relief. But this relief is shortsighted. The complex issues Libra raises are not going away anytime soon. Rather, they are questions the…

Donations of digital currency like bitcoin can get money, and power, to people suffering under authoritarian governments

A video from San Cristóbal, Venezuela, dated March 2019 shows a never-ending line of people waiting on the street. They are all waiting, the narrator tells us, for their turn at the bank, hoping to withdraw money to buy food and goods before hyperinflation drives the value of Venezuela’s currency further into the dirt.

Venezuela’s political and economic crisis has been escalating since 2010. President Nicolas Maduro’s refusal to declare a state of national emergency means aid groups can’t intervene on the people’s behalf, and in February 2019 the government began to block shipments of supplies donated by U.S.-backed aid…

Californians alone use more power playing games and heating their pools than entire countries in Africa. That has to change.

People walk under electric wires connected above roofs in a district of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire on June 1, 2019.
People walk under electric wires connected above roofs in a district of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire on June 1, 2019.

Co-written with Jake Kincer

Modern life is amazingly energy intensive. All those computers, data servers, and air conditioners devour a lot of electricity. In fact, virtually everything about how we live, move around, communicate, and work is embedded with immense quantities of energy.

It’s now even in our money. Bitcoin is so energy-hungry that people are seriously starting to worry that it might cook the planet. …

Blockchain technology explained in simple words

Blockchain technology is probably the best invention since the internet itself. It allows value exchange without the need for trust or a central authority. Imagine you and I bet $50 on tomorrow’s weather in San Francisco. I bet it will be sunny, you that it will rain. Today we have three options to manage this transaction:

  1. We can trust each other. Rainy or sunny, the loser will give $50 to the winner. If we are friends, this could be a good way of managing it. However, friends or strangers, one can easily not pay the other.
  2. We can turn the…

Loopholes in lending laws are allowing cryptocurrency users to escape taxes — and the government can’t keep up

Wealthy families and merchants first conjured up the idea of offshore banking in 19th century Europe, seeking a place to store funds away from tax-hungry governments in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars. Since then, it’s been a race to the bottom. Over the course of the last two centuries, deregulation and lenient financial laws have allowed the rich to tread the fine line between legal tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion.

But blockchain, which first emerged as a concept in 2008, is now offering ordinary people the same possibilities. …

The social media company’s move into cryptocurrency takes advantage of regulatory loopholes

Facebook is very knowingly exploiting a very specific gap in regulations and technology made possible by the cryptocurrency industry that will allow their planned “Libra” cryptocurrency to flow into the black market economy while still being compliant with traditional financial entities’ compliance policies.

(I don’t use “black market economy” as a bad word here. The right to financial services should be universal, since leaving the control to gatekeepers creates a tool that is much more likely to be successful at oppressing people than at keeping the bad guys out. The problem with the Libra is that it’s a part of…


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