How Cryptocurrencies Are Building A New Internet

Author:     Henry Benjamin of SkyCoin

 

At present, no one knows how the FCC plan to roll out their unwelcome Net Neutrality Repeal. Nor does anyone know how it will affect end users and companies who might have conflicts of interest with large Internet Service Providers (ISP’s).

Whatever way it turns out, we know there are going to be changes in the way we use the internet and most will benefit the Service Providers rather than businesses or individuals.

What We Know So Far

When ISP’s decide to change the way they provide us with internet, a lot of companies might find they no longer have access to the fast lane and either have to pay surcharges to keep up full bandwidth, or will have to rethink what and how they conduct their business.

Yet ultimately it will be end users most affected. Services which are now free to sign up to might soon become subscription based with a fee to join. Users will also have to worry about increased data tracking from which is something that has become increasingly profitable and popular.

Running alongside the story of Net Neutrality in the media is the explosion of cryptocurrencies. Yet little discussion has connected the two and asked how the repeal of net neutrality will affect blockchain transactions?

Cryptocurrencies may just be negatively impacted in the same way larger corporations would be. It’s quite easy for an ISP to throttle connections where any cryptocurrency is in use or restrict access to exchanges where coins are traded.

Yet many cryptocurrencies have looked at the way the internet works and taken it upon themselves to see if decentralization is a way they can operate independent of ISP’s. 

To truly decentralize the internet is no easy task but some crypto’s has taken a radical approach to achieve it.

Decentralizing  and Creating A New Internet

To find the best solution to creating a decentralized internet, it is best to look at the cryptocurrencies themselves to see what answers to the Net Neutrality problem they have. Here are some of the ways the internet could be decentralized:

  1. Blockstack

The way this works is through a dedicated browser. The lower layers of the internet are still used while Blockstack focuses on the application layer.

Here users are able to decentralize their storage along with user identity and authentication.

Central points of control are removed, and users run decentralized applications through this browser where they can give explicit read and write permissions to their data.

All data is retained on user devices so there is no central point or data warehouses that can be hacked into.

2. Maidsafe

The SAFE (Secure Access For Everyone) network is next generation and very secure.  It decentralizes the internet and data management. With this, unused computer resources can be shared around the system.

Every user on the SAFE system shares a proportion of their computing resources be it storage, CPU power, and internet connectivity.

All data on the Maidsafe network is broken into separate pieces and spread throughout the network. This is then allocated space on various systems.

These pieces are stored without any users knowledge or having access to it, so the entire process is highly secure and private. Each user that participates in providing these resources receives compensation in the form of Safecoin crypto tokens.

3. Golem

In its purpose Golem is similar to the previous coin in that it shares computing resources in a decentralized network. All resources shared can be from a single user to spare capacity in a data center.

Uses can be anything from hosting a website to the rendering of images or film which takes considerable amounts of computing power.

Golem also pays incentives to users who share their resources by renting out spare computing capacity. These incentives are paid through exchanges, and the entire network runs atop the Ethereum Blockchain.

4. Substratum

This is one coin that many people are looking toward after the FCC-Net Neutrality decision. On this network, users are able to browse or host services between each other compared to a centralized network that has many of these services stored in large data centers on their physical servers.

When the network runs, users will only pay for network bandwidth they consume. As with other systems, users are free to allocate a proportion of their resources to earn coins for themselves.

All this can be set to run specific times, so there is no conflict if their system is in use. Through this method, Substratum offers both browsing and hosting that can be a much cheaper alternative than what end users subscribe to now.

5. Continual Flaws

There is a good deal of cryptocurrencies that aim to fix flaws with first generation or second generation cryptocurrencies, or they seek to offer services in which they think users will be interested in.

One problem though is many still run on top of the current internet infrastructure rather than being separate altogether. They might bypass any restrictions ISP’s imposing yet they might find they are still in the same situation further into the future.

Building a New Internet

One company which has done things a little more radical is Skycoin.  What we are proposing to create is a new internet which is separated from the current Internet. This is done using nodes (miners) which are all interconnected wirelessly.

This takes away the need for current infrastructure and creates a mesh-network that is secure and private.

ISP’s are unable to track users, and as data is divided between these nodes on the Skywire network, no single point has a weakness. The coin also brings benefits as transactions are instantaneous and the coins require no mining.

The miners are paid for hosting the mining rigs, so the entire network is self-sufficient and brings with it plenty of value and interest.

Unlike the BTC Blockchain SKY has their own Blockchain that uses a new web of trust (consensus) to perform transactions. It also gets faster and more secure the more users who join the network.

The company has been developed by some of the original BTC and Ethereum developers who have looked at all the flaws with first and second generation cryptocurrencies and looked at the best way of addressing these issues.

As the network grows, this is one to watch as users will no longer be tied to a connection at home. It will give security, privacy and will be fully mobile. A new internet. 

 

To learn more about Skycoin check out their website here: 

https://www.skycoin.net/

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Fast Food News And Information Obesity

Article was originally published on the Iras Global Observer as part of a new collaboration project between their site and The Conversation Room

Be it the colossal shift in our diets towards snacking processed food to the life changing opportunities of international travel arising from commercial aviation, history shows that for better or worse human behaviour and consumption patterns are shaped by new technologies.

In 2017, nowhere is technology changing our behaviour more rapidly than through mobile consumption of news and information. The research group Pew found that the number of United States citizens who receive news through a mobile device rose from 54% in 2013 to 72% in 2016.

In their more detailed report analysing the demographics of news consumption, Pew found that:

“While solid majorities of both those ages 50-64 (72%) and those 65+ (85%) often get news on TV, far smaller shares of younger adults do so (45% of those 30-49 and 27% of those 18-29). Alternatively, the two younger groups of adults are much more likely than older adults to turn to online platforms for news – 50% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 49% of those ages 30-49 often do so.”

The data shows the explosive effect of smartphone technology and a global youth migration to social media platforms for news and information. In the past people might skim the morning paper on the train to work or catch the six o’clock news while making dinner but today we have an endless minute by minute drip of news and information at the end of our fingertips.

For news outlets this presents stark new challenges. Rather than only competing with other newspapers and magazines in a shop window, news outlets must now fight on a global scale through the thick grass of cat memes and clickbait to fight for our attention and clicks.

This seismic shift in publishing and consumption was aptly summarized by Katherine Viner, editor of the Guardian and Observer who noted in a recent address:

“The transition from print to digital did not initially change the basic business model for many news organisations – that is, selling advertisements to fund the journalism delivered to readers. For a time, it seemed that the potentially vast scale of an online audience might compensate for the decline in print readers and advertisers. But this business model is currently collapsing, as Facebook and Google swallow digital advertising; as a result, the digital journalism produced by many news organisations has become less and less meaningful.”

Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds contain everything from superficial selfies to news of nuclear Armageddon, delivering content in one messy mashup without significant demarcation between news and fun. Information is not ranked in degree of importance or category but algorithmically ranked in its importance to advertisers and what the hosting platform believe will hook your attention the most.

From annoying, automatic advertisements to eye catching, irresistible clickbait, cynical tactics are employed to suck us into a never-ending cycle of meaningless clicks and consumption.

Viner notes:

“Publishers that are funded by algorithmic ads are locked in a race to the bottom in pursuit of any audience they can find – desperately binge-publishing without checking facts, pushing out the most shrill and most extreme stories to boost clicks. But even this huge scale can no longer secure enough revenue.”

This highlights how the capacity for mainstream media to operate its dualistic goal of being a trusted information outlet and a commercially viable business in the digital age have come into radical reconsideration. Subscription based services have failed to garner significant support and reliance on ad revenue means journalists are evermore replaced by BuzzFeed style “content creators” often pumping out 10 commodified stories a day without making a phone call.

“Where once we had propaganda, press releases, journalism, and advertising,” the academic Emily Bell has written, “we now have ‘content’.” Readers are overwhelmed: bewildered by the quantity of “news” they see every day, nagged by intrusive pop-up ads, confused by what is real and what is fake, and confronted with an experience that is neither useful nor enjoyable.

The information overload is having drastic consequences on our mental health and collective social wellbeing. On an individual level the constant competition for our attention can leave many miserable, anxious and eventually feeling they have lost valuable time and years to aimlessly scrolling through newsfeeds and consuming junk news.

There’s also the superficial egoism which has crept into news consumption. If you share an article from the Guardian about climate change, you are signalling to the world that you are a caring liberal who is concerned about the imminent ecological collapse of our world. Sharing news, just like sharing photos of your food has become all about ego and brand. #Vegan #NewYorkTimes.

From a wider societal perspective, we cannot underestimate the massive loss of a common sphere of news. One of the primary public goods of media is the power to engender public debate and provide a platform for different societal groups to communicate with one another. Yet Facebook is wilfully blind to the interests of community and the public good. All its algorithm sees is individual consumers whose attention can be captured and monetized by concentrating content they know you will click upon.

When claims that Russia had hired trolls to bombard certain demographics of the U.S population with “fake news” during the 2016 U.S Presidential election the damage caused may have been more subliminal than obvious. It is not that people believe fake stories (well some believed Hillary Clinton was operating a child sex ring in a Washington DC Pizza parlour) but that they are bombarded with so much information that it becomes disorienting and difficult to determine what to believe and who to trust. This misanthropic media landscape of misinformation and mistrust is a serious threat to the future of liberal democracy.

Individuals are following news that never challenges but only reinforces their ideas about the world and tailors a narrative of world events to suit the audience. Thus, once established an online community can be far more important to individuals than their geographical one. Democracy today is waking up to a world where people are physically living beside each other but digitally couldn’t be further apart.

 

Your Phone is Designed to Control You And Your Life

An alarming new report from The Economist exposes the extent to which tech companies are exploiting our psychological impulses to keep us hooked to our smartphones.

 

It often goes over our head the influence that tech products exert over our behaviour. Former google employee and leader in promoting design ethics in tech Tristan Harris explains:

 “Companies say, we’re just getting better at giving people what they want. But the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Is each one a conscious choice? No. Companies are getting better at getting people to make the choices they want them to make.”

Behaviour Design 

How have companies mastered this? It all stems from the expert study of “Pursuasive Technology Design” an illustrious programme spearheaded by Professor BJ Fogg of Stanford University which has produced everyone from the creators of Instagram to the people at the top of tech in Apple and Google.

Be it the emails that induce you to buy right away, the apps and games that rivet your attention, or the online forms that nudge you towards one decision over another: all are designed to hack the human brain and capitalise on its instincts, quirks and flaws. The techniques they use are often crude and blatantly manipulative, but they are getting steadily more refined, and, as they do so, less noticeable.

And it’s not just tech companies who are adopting this tactic. Even banking and insurance companies have started modelling their customer interface design along the lines of Candy Crush.

“It’s about looping people into these flows of incentive and reward. Your coffee at Starbucks, your education software, your credit card, the meds you need for your diabetes. Every consumer interface is becoming like a slot machine.”

It’s a startling phenomenon of the digital age and something we should all be aware and conscious of. We wouldn’t allow our family or friends become addicted to gambling so why don’t we care about addiction to social media which to the brain is the same thing?

The exciting explosion of smartphone technology has overshadowed the questioning of it’s potentially more pernicious effects and we have nonchalantly accepted the terms and conditions without reading the small print.

Check out Tristan Harris explain how it works in more detail below:

 

Read the Economist article in full here:

https://www.1843magazine.com/features/the-scientists-who-make-apps-addictive

Why I’d Vote For Corbyn

Professor Noam Chomsky speaks to BBC Newsnight to discuss the anger which has raged across the Middle and Working Classes of Western democracies since the economic collapse in 2008.

Discussing the roots of the anger, the rise of far right nationalism as well as the optimistic signs of youth galvanisation around progressive policies on climate change and income inequality – Chomsky discusses why he would vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the UK general election in the context of Brexit.

This is a riveting interview from one of the words best known progressive public intellectuals and gives some interesting insights into the global order and future of western democracy.

What Would Elon Musk Be Working On If He Was 22?

Inventor, Entrepreneur and Englineer discusses what he views as the most important work to be doing if he was a young person in 2017.

Musk has been at the centre of the conversation around artificial intelligence and sustainable energy consumption over the past 15 years. He is ranked the 21st most influential people in the world and his current company SpaceX are working on a project to eventually allow humans to colonise Mars.

What Do Humans Really Want?

Are humans just naturally lazy, comfort and pleasure seeking beings? Or do we really want dignity and fulfilment?

in this riveting excerpt professor Noam Chomsky discusses how the billions upon billions of dollars spent on advertising has been used to psychologically manipulate are ideas of what we want.

Tracing trends from the industrial revolution of the 1800’s to the educated poor in the 1930’s, Chomsky argues that what we really want is a sense of belonging and dignity in our work, not evermore accumulation and consumption of products.

What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

 

Wikipedia Proves Fake News Hysteria is Bullsh*t

Katherine Maher, executive director at the Wikimedia Foundation discusses how Wikipedia went from a site loaded with errors and false information to the world’s trusted open encyclopedia.

Through the process of constant self improvement and a dedication to ensuring accurate information, Wikipedia shows that sorting fact from fiction is a much easier job than has been made out from public figures such as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Maher suggsts that the way news is consumed and how information is spread is more the problem than fake news itself.  It is the profiteering, commercial model of clickbait and stretching of truth as companies and individuals fight for our screen time that must be seen as the focal point of fake news.

She states the product design is flawed and the major providers need to take a stand on the way information is presented to the consumer and allowing quick resolution to removing what is fake, just as Wikipedia has done:

“When I’m looking at a Facebook feed I don’t know why information is being presented to me. Is it because it’s timely? Is it because it’s relevant? Is it because it’s trending, popular, important?
All of that is stripped out of context so it’s hard for me to assess: is it good information that I should make decisions on? Is it bad information that I should ignore? And then you think about the fact that all of the other sort of heuristics that people use to interpret information, where does it come from? Who wrote it? When was it published? All of that is obscured in the product design as well.”

So does Fake News really have the problem or is this an obfuscation of what is really causing the spread of misinformation?