Bernanke at Ripple Event: Blockchain Has ‘Obvious’ Benefits in Payments
Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is bullish on blockchain.
Speaking at Ripple’s Swell conference in Toronto today, being held the same week and in the same city as Sibos, the annual gathering hosted by Ripple’s rival Swift, Bernanke told a room of several hundred attendees that he believes payments can be slow and expensive as designed using existing tools today.
Bernanke, who led the U.S. central bank during the 2008 financial crisis, outlined the complicated process it would take for a bank in Germany to send a payment to a bank in the U.S., before saying:
“It’s an obvious area where new technologies like blockchain or these electronic currencies can be used to improve the process.”
Bernanke, now a distinguished fellow in residence at the Brookings Institute, called out Ripple by name, saying that he’s read about the company’s work and thinks that any effort in payments to reduce cost, improve accuracy, speed and reliability and “bring the global economy closer together” is a good thing.
While the conversation mostly focused on monetary policy, Bernanke was asked to comment more on cryptocurrency and blockchain during the question-and-answer session, and his responses should come as no surprise as he gave bitcoin both muted praise and criticism as far back as 2015.
Echoing those past statements, Bernanke said, “bitcoin is meant to be an attempt to replace fiat currencies and evade government regulation and government intervention.”
And that attempt, he contends, won’t succeed because governments won’t allow it. “When bitcoin becomes a threat they’ll take whatever action” deemed necessary to quash it, he said.
Unlike bitcoin, which works against regulators, he continued, blockchain businesses that collaborate with governments will likely see more momentum in terms of innovating on the payments system. Central banks around the world (including in Singapore, the U.K. and Europe) have taken more of an interest in blockchain technology recently, trying to figure out how it might create efficiencies within their systems.
Case in point: earlier this month, senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Jim Cunha said blockchain and other fintech startups would be pushing incumbent financial institutions and middlemen to be more innovative in their approach.
When asked if bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies and blockchain might affect monetary policy, Bernanke said he doesn’t see that happening.
“It could be a lack of imagination, but I don’t think monetary policy has changed that much. [Central banks] are supportive of these new technologies because they’ll improve the payment system … but it won’t affect the ability of the Fed to require a certain amount of reserves of affect interest rates.”
Written by CoinDesk
World’s First Ethereum-based eSports Platform Launched
The eSports industry has posted a 41% year-on-year market growth, according to the 2017 Newzoo annual report, making it hard to ignore. Similarly, you would be hard-pressed to find a major industry that Blockchain technology isn’t disrupting. In that light, World of Battles represents the ideal merger between the emerging industries of Blockchain and eSports.
Traditional eSports streaming platforms are rampant with bugs and errors. They come with many shortcomings ranging from streaming interruptions to long waiting periods for processing the betting transactions. Taking advantage of Blockchain technology, World of Battles (WOB)presents innovative solutions that not only provide for enhanced streaming and gaming, but also mitigate the operational risks associated with placing bets. WOB also presents bullet-proof mechanisms for eliminating fraudulent behavior as well as cheating and abuse of its system.
The rundown on WOB
WOB is a decentralized, autonomous Ethereum-based eSports platform that provides an enhanced gaming experience. Utilizing smart contracts, the platform functions independently of third party financial institutions, thus eliminating one major burden. One of its biggest advantages is being publicly verifiable, resulting in increased security through features that significantly reduce the probability of fraud, hacking and embezzlement. Among other things, the platform enables users to place bets and create tournaments.
With more than 450,000 players already registered and projections forecasting the potential for multi-billion dollars in annual earnings, World of Battles’s ambitious development team aims to take hold of 50% market share by September of 2019.
The highly experienced development team has already worked on projects like GNOME, OpenVZ and FreeBSD. WOB is also partnered with Civic and one of the biggest livestreaming gaming platforms Twitch. They offer paid opportunities for partner platforms and payments for additional solutions. Any interaction with their partners is by open API. They also have direct direct and personal contact with managers from partner companies.The following is a summary of how they may be able to achieve that.
Giving gamers what they want
In addition to being able to participate in tournaments, online players want to be able to place bets. According to a recent market research report by Eilers on eSports, gambling is set to surpass $23 blln by 2020. Undeniably, demand for betting on online gaming is through the roof. While the risks associated with placing bets are numerous, they are minimized by integrating Blockchain technology. WOB is built to cater to users’ wagering needs and provides facilitated, fast and secure channels for betting.
WOB has a tournament creation feature which allows users to initiate tournaments between either individuals or teams. The platform hosts large prepared matches complete with standings, the possibility for free-to-play and potential to make tournaments into charitable events. Relying on the Ethereum-Blockchain, the platform will provide uninterrupted and smooth streaming. WOB will also and will eliminate errors that currently exist on traditional platforms which have a high risk of breaking down and disrupting streams.
The experienced development team has already worked on projects like GNOME, OpenVZ and FreeBSD. WOB is also integrated with Civic and Twitch, one of the biggest livestreaming gaming platforms. Partner platforms are paid, including payments for additional solutions. They connect with partners through open API.
WOB draws on the characteristics of the Blockchain to ensure safe and verifiable transactions to process bets and distribute rewards. Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) is well known for countering centralized financial service providers by allowing secure and fast value transfer. Additionally, WOB mitigates fraudulent behavior and prevents any one user from opening multiple accounts — which could be abused to monopolize WOB tokens or to receive more than one jury membership — by requiring ID and contact information as well as enacting a two-factor identification method.
Match outcome determination
eSports betting is a high-stakes endeavor that is becoming increasingly popular. This makes it ripe for manipulation and fraud. WOB stands out among its peers because it utilizes its decentralized infrastructure to verify match results, ensuring transparency and impartiality. At the core of the platform is an automated decentralized proxy server, called the MULTIWOB, which processes matches and rewards. In addition to curating contests and acting as an interface to process contests and rewards, this software powers the platform’s match outcome verification mechanism.
In a nutshell, this mechanism allows any player to contest the results of their match if they do not agree with it. It involves randomly selected witnesses and jurors weighing in on the result and potentially changing it. Any WOB token holder can register to be a witness or juror so long as they run the MULTIWOB software and they meet certain criteria. To be a witness or a juror, one must be a WOB token holder and register by making a transaction using a smart contract. Two witnesses are randomly selected and their input is registered on the Blockchain, checked by the MULTIWOB software and made publicly available. After this process, the platform honors the result by giving the rightful winner their reward. Witnesses and jurors are also rewarded for their participation.
The weight of a juror’s input is directly proportional to the amount of WOB tokes they own. However, to curb abuse of this role and ensure fairness, the maximum weight on a result is 1%. In this way, members are not discouraged from owning more WOB tokens but are prohibited from swaying results.
The platform utilizes a dynamic compensation mechanism to ensure scalability. The platform mimics the surge pricing mechanism used by ride-sharing applications, by increasing compensation to jurors based on the number of matches and its ratio to the number of witnesses and jury members.
User reputation and global ranking systems
Another measure to mitigate risk of abuse and increase protection is the proposed User Reputation System. Players build their reputation through positive activity on the site, whether in playing or betting. Their ranking on this system determines their privileges, which range from subscriptions to participating in professional tournaments. The MMR-based platform mapping mechanism prioritizes players with a higher reputation rating. The platform sets minimum reputation thresholds and players with higher ranking reputations can play at higher levels and place larger bets.
The global ranking system helps to entice players, heighten competition and reward skill. Higher ranking veterans can even give lessons or mentor rookie players.
ICO and investments
A large initial investment by the project’s founder was made in 2016 and alpha testing was closed earlier this year. WOB seems like a solid project with real potential. The ICO opens tomorrow October 17th and lasts through mid-November for a total of four weeks. One ETH will buy 1900 WOB tokens in the first week and 1000 WOB tokens by the fourth. During the first hour of ICO the bonus is set at 100% and the team has plans to finish ICO within one hour.
Written by Cointelegraph
ICO Ban in Japan – a ‘Definite Possibility’
It seems as if the world of cryptocurrency has essentially moved on without China, after they decided to excuse themselves from the race with a ban on ICOs and exchanges. This has led to other countries in Asia taking up the mantle, such as Korea and Japan.
Japan has long been one of the champion states of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, labeling the biggest one, Bitcoin, legal tender earlier in the year. However, despite this friendly approach, those within Japan say an ICO ban could still be coming.
Life after China
The Asian cryptomarket has long been the dominate one, from mining to trade volume, but since China decided to set a hardline precedent, interest in the county has died down.
However, the interest in cryptocurrency itself has not died, in fact, it reached new highs last week. In the Asian market, there has been an appreciation of interest as other countries near to China have picked up the additional flow of cryptocurrency.
South Korea swiftly followed China’s lead in planning to ban initial coin offerings – to the heavy opposition of local entrepreneurs – while Taiwan has warmed up to them instead.
Japan, as one of the early investors with its recognition of Bitcoin, has picked up a huge stake in the market, now trading about 63 percent of the world’s Bitcoin.
Not quite the liberal safe haven
Many in Asia see Japan as the liberal safe haven for cryptocurrency, but Koji Higashi, cofounder of digital token wallet IndieSquare and an outspoken figure in Japan’s cryptocurrency scene, would not be so daring.
Japan is still a risk-averse country, and one that is also strongly conservative in nature. Higashi says he still sees an ICO crackdown as a “definite possibility”. He said:
“Japan’s not really ICO-friendly. Regulators are just more tentative. They’re just trying to figure out if it’s going to be good or bad. It doesn’t mean they won’t start regulating more heavily in the future when problems start emerging.”
However, Higashi is also not dooming ICOs in Japan before they have stood a fair trial. He is optimistic that if ICOs come out looking good through the trials they face, then Japan will be leading the way.
“If ICOs turn out to be a really revolutionary concept … then Japan will have a head start and attract a lot of ICO projects.”
That’s already beginning to happen as companies worldwide are moving their projects to Switzerland and Japan, which would help those countries earn tax revenue.
Written by cointelegraph
The New Classic? Protesters Are Already Plotting Alternative Ethereums
An ethereum hard fork wouldn’t be complete without a protest movement (or two).
The second-largest public blockchain by total value, ethereum successfully forked yesterday, activating a bundle of upgrades that make its blockchain faster and better-suited for developers. But while the shift looks to have gone smoothly (with no problems impacting transactions or contracts), groups that disagree with some of the changes are already gearing up to galvanize like-minded supporters for moves in different directions.
That new blockchains would materialize out of the upgrade is perhaps not a surprise – ethereum classic, the best-known example, showcased last summer that launching a successful protest project in the wake of an unpopular upgrade can be a $1 billion opportunity.
At press time, two projects have cropped up with the goal of launching new cryptocurrencies using the old blockchain, and though evidence of support is slim so far, the reasons behind their efforts may sound familiar.
Like ethereum classic, which took aim at ethereum’s plans to alter how rewards were distributed on the platform (among other issues), newer protest projects focus on appealing to the miners that today secure the blockchain. Specifically, they’re looking to offer alternatives to Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 649, an upgrade some miners believe might impact their bottom line.
Intuitively, the case made by the fork protesters makes sense, since one of the main reasons miners secure a blockchain is to make money. But that doesn’t mean the projects will find enough supporters to take off.
Ethereum Vega, one protest fork, has less than two hundred Twitter followers and Etherite, the other protest fork, has only two posts on its official Reddit page.
A day removed from the news, though, there’s much we don’t know about the projects, including how much support they have or will achieve. But, information is emerging.
Ethereum Vega plans to counter EIP 649 by breaking off from ethereum and creating a new blockchain that removes the code that reduces mining rewards. The developers are now in the process of setting aside newly created cryptocurrency to fund the development of the project and its roadmap.
The strategy is designed so that other ethereum miners can’t try to mine the blockchain until they’ve created 300,000 blocks and made the blockchain public. So, it won’t be until then that users can see how many miners are actually supporting the new blockchain.
Of course, just how serious the project is taking itself is another unknown.
“A new legend borns [sic],” the official project Ethereum Vega Twitter tweeted out, complete with a screenshot of the command line and block number where the fork took place. (“Make Ethereum Decentralized Again!” the account later tweeted.)
Other tongue-in-cheek references are apparent. For instance, the Vega developer team has also released a new ethereum client (called “weth” instead of “geth”) and code for a compatible open-source mining pool so that miners can move over to secure the new blockchain if they so choose.
Etherite has similar goals, aiming to empower ethereum miners who might not have had a chance to weigh in on the reduction of block rewards. But it seems the project’s leaders are taking a slightly different approach: namely, they are not creating any coins to give to developers and have been much quieter about their plans on social media.
Either way, both projects can also be read as a sign that there’s big money in forks.
Rebellions or cash grabs?
Despite the sparse announcements so far, though, there is one group that appears to be taking the idea an alternative blockchain could be created with some degree of seriousness: ethereum developers, many of whom are cautious after what happened with ethereum classic.
Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin even went so far as to execute some rough calculations in a public developer channel on whether the projects could succeed. His conclusion? Protest forks won’t make very much money unless they prove very successful.
Others, like developer Alex Van de Sande see the projects as little more than quick cash grabs.
“They created a development fund for themselves, so if they’re successful they would make money out of it. I think that’s why they want to push the fork,” Van de Sande said.
Adding to the mystery, though, are the remaining unknowns following yesterday’s fork. For example, there looks to be a portion of miners and users that have yet to upgrade to the new software. Since hard forks require all users to upgrade to the new rules, it’s more than likely that some participants were slow to notice the hard fork and are simply dragging behind.
Still, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that it’s in part due to these smaller protest movements.
Ethereum developers, however, are confident overall that the network will stay in one piece. Developer Nick Johnson, for one, believes the latest ethereum upgrade will prove effective, arguing that the Greek colony it was named after foreshadows this future.
“[Byzantium] was famous for its unbreakable chain protecting the harbour from invaders.”
Fork on plate image via Shutterstock
Written by CoinDesk
Blockchain May Play Crucial Role in Artificial Intelligence Development, Regulation
The biggest threat for our future, according to Elon Musk, is the development of artificial intelligence (AI).
As Musk recently pointed out:
“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful. I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.”
Musk addresses a couple of key issues. The first is how we should take care when it comes to the implementation of AI. The second, and perhaps the most important challenge, is how can you regulate and oversee this technology?
In today’s rush to adopt machine learning and AI techniques to gain a competitive advantage, there is a real danger that the technology will be deployed in an unsuitable field. This ultimately results in bias and unfairness becoming encoded in our society.
Cathy O’Neil in her book Weapons of Math Destruction lays out the dangers currently present when it comes to the rapid and unthinking adoption of machine learning and AI in a variety of different fields, including US prison sentencing and education. Her main thesis is that predictive models are never neutral but reflect the goals and ideologies of those who create them. They also tend to load the dice against poor people, reinforcing inequality in society.
From calculating university rankings or credit ratings and processing job applications, to deciding what advertising you see online or what stories appear in your Facebook news feed, algorithms play an increasingly important role in our lives.
This leads to the conclusion that when it comes to the design phase of machine learning, we must ensure that we have tested for and avoided obvious biases from the historic data and the data input itself.
However, it says little about how we might effectively regulate the technology in real time. One option to consider is Blockchain, which has a crucial role to play in the regulation of machine learning and AI technologies. Having an immutable, tamper-proof record of actions is a key mechanism to allow regulation to be performed on autonomous AI entities.
Blockchain can also enable access control for any autonomous AI entity based on the reputation of that autonomous agent. After all, possibly the only sanction that you can apply to a non-human autonomous AI entity is to terminate it; or if you do not have that power, remove access rights to the community. You could consider this a modern day “excommunication.”
So, if we imagine a future where standards are defined around what AI has to write to the Blockchain and the access control mechanism that essentially looks at the “reputation” of the autonomous AI entity, then we have a mechanism that can create a control that is impossible to circumvent by any autonomous AI agent.
If we look at this from a philosophical perspective, the closest approach stems from the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes who wrote the seminal text Leviathan. In this work, he describes the need for citizens to give up some of their power to a ruler or “leviathan” for the good of society.
Much has been written about “perverse instantiation,” where consequences occur that were unforeseen by the creators. However, very little has been written about how we might actually create a leviathan to regulate AI and machine learning.
Enabling an AI leviathan that can enforce identification and reporting by AI autonomous agents to a Blockchain. The immutability of this Blockchain ensures no AI agent can tamper with it, therefore establishing a reputation ledger for all autonomous AI agents. This leviathan would effectively police the agreed set of rules and deliver sanctions if they are not met.
Many have reported on the use cases of Blockchain that keep spring up everywhere. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Blockchain’s most important use case could be this: the survival of humanity.
Written By CoinTelegraph