I first heard about Bitcoin when Steve Gibson did a podcast on it a few months ago. Essentially, it’s a medium of exchange just like any other currency. The major differences are 1. “coins” are simply bits in the system with no physical reality (actually, most of the US money supply has no physical reality either, but that’s a post for another day), 2. transfers can’t be traced, and 3. there is little to no transaction cost.
Jason Calacanis, a well known tech entrepreneur, recently made the following statements about the open source project.
1. Bitcoin is a technologically sound project.
2. Bitcoin is unstoppable without end-user prosecution.
3. Bitcoin is the most dangerous open-source project ever created.
4. Bitcoin may be the most dangerous technological project since the internet itself.
5. Bitcoin is a political statement by technotarians (technological libertarians).
6. Bitcoins will change the world unless governments ban them with harsh penalties.
There are currently a number of exchanges where it is possible to buy and sell bitcoins using real-world currencies. It’s a money launderer’s dream come true; just like anything else using encryption, it’s math, it exists and there’s not much authorities will be able to do about it.
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Slate has an article from Ken Jennings talking about his match this week against IBM’s Watson Supercomputer. This was my favorite quote.
So my defeat at the hands of a machine has a happy ending, after all. At least until the whole system becomes sentient and figures out the nuclear launch codes. But I figure that’s years away.
Pretty soon we’ll all need some Old Glory Insurance.
This was an interesting story from Wired about a Canadian statistician who cracked the Ontario lottery scratch-off algorithm.
The apparent randomness of the scratch ticket was just a facade, a mathematical lie. And this meant that the lottery system might actually be solvable, just like those mining samples. “At the time, I had no intention of cracking the tickets,” he says. He was just curious about the algorithm that produced the numbers. Walking back from the gas station with the chips and coffee he’d bought with his winnings, he turned the problem over in his mind. By the time he reached the office, he was confident that he knew how the software might work, how it could precisely control the number of winners while still appearing random. “It wasn’t that hard,” Srivastava says. “I do the same kind of math all day long.”
The trick itself is ridiculously simple. (Srivastava would later teach it to his 8-year-old daughter.) Each ticket contained eight tic-tac-toe boards, and each space on those boards—72 in all—contained an exposed number from 1 to 39. As a result, some of these numbers were repeated multiple times. Perhaps the number 17 was repeated three times, and the number 38 was repeated twice. And a few numbers appeared only once on the entire card. Srivastava’s startling insight was that he could separate the winning tickets from the losing tickets by looking at the number of times each of the digits occurred on the tic-tac-toe boards. In other words, he didn’t look at the ticket as a sequence of 72 random digits. Instead, he categorized each number according to its frequency, counting how many times a given number showed up on a given ticket. “The numbers themselves couldn’t have been more meaningless,” he says. “But whether or not they were repeated told me nearly everything I needed to know.” Srivastava was looking for singletons, numbers that appear only a single time on the visible tic-tac-toe boards. He realized that the singletons were almost always repeated under the latex coating. If three singletons appeared in a row on one of the eight boards, that ticket was probably a winner.
From Thomas Friedman. I love this.
More than ever, America today reminds me of a working couple where the husband has just lost his job, they have two kids in junior high school, a mortgage and they’re maxed out on their credit cards. On top of it all, they recently agreed to take in their troubled cousin, Kabul, who just can’t get his act together and keeps bouncing from relative to relative. Meanwhile, their Indian nanny, who traded room and board for baby-sitting, just got accepted to M.I.T. on a full scholarship and will be leaving them in a few months. What to do?
We don’t seem to realize: We’re in a hole and still digging. Our educational attainment levels are stagnating; our infrastructure is fraying. We don’t have enough smart incentives to foster both innovation and manufacturing; we’re not importing enough talent in an age when we have to compete for jobs with low-wage but high-skilled Indians and Chinese — and we’re still piling up debt. Responding to all this will require a whole new hybrid politics for where to cut, where to save, where to invest, where to tax and where to untax. Shaping that new politics is a revolutionary role I still hope President Obama will play.
Sobering politics these days in Ireland. I’m not sure our own government would be capable of passing a budget like this.
DUBLIN — Pressured by onerous debts and fears of financial contagion, the Irish government introduced one of the strictest budgets in the nation’s history Tuesday, raising taxes and slashing government and welfare spending to qualify for an 85 billion euro aid package from its European partners.
“This is a bailout for the speculators and the financial markets of the world. The I.M.F., the E.U. commission and the E.C.B. were over here 2 weeks ago, not in any sense as friends of the Irish people, but as friends of the speculators in the financial markets, and their strategy is to turn working people of this country into serfs,” Joe Higgins, one of the Irish parliamentarians who walked out of bailout discussions in Brussels a couple weeks ago with E.U. Commissioner Ollie Rehn, shouted into a microphone as crowds cheered.
GigaOM had a good article this morning called Get Business Intelligence Ready for the Real-Time Web. Here’s what they say BI 2.0 should look like. Not sure the tools exist yet to accomplish, but I can see things moving in this direction. Well designed dashboards do some of this already.
The future of BI 2.0 will not rely on server power, but on the human power of the entire organization to capture everything, convert social media into tangible business objects, and automate real-time business processes. BI 2.0 needs to help enterprises do three things:
1. Monitor everything. We need to give workers the ability to better monitor a million things at once: news, competitors, visual brand identities, consumer feedback, e-reputation, etc. (10 competitors x 10 major news searches x 5 social media sites = 500 sites each worker needs to check manually everyday just to stay industry aware!)
2. Self-organize. Flickr and YouTube’s content was considered too big to organize, until tagging came along. Similarly, we need to help enterprises self-organize the billions of clicks, searches, Tweets and reports they produce every year within their company by harnessing the tagging talents of experts within their organization. Private tag clouds, anyone?
3. Trigger processes. As we uncover trending topics within the organization, we need to enable it to automatically trigger actual business processes in real-time, like purchase orders or ad budgets.
Nashville Business Journal had a story this morning about mortgage interest rates continuing to fall. The 15 year fixed average is barely higher than average annual inflation. It’s crazy.
If you are in the market for a home, now is the time. It doesn’t get any better for buyers than this.
Long-term mortgage rates fell to new lows this week, after the Federal Reserve’s announcement to step back into the Treasuries market.
A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.17 percent in the week ending Nov. 11, down from 4.24 percent last week. A 15-year fix averaged 3.57 percent, down from 3.63 percent last week. Both are the lowest rates since Freddie Mac (OTC BB: FMCC) began keeping track.
I enjoyed this article. I used to share projects with Deloitte’s office in Hyderabad, India. During busy season, I would work on gathering the relevant project components during the day, discuss the requirements on the phone that night, and when I came in the next morning, there in my inbox would sit the completed project. Pretty amazing, really.
One gentleman worked over 400 hours during January 2008 to meet my project deadlines. If there was one thing I learned about that culture. they don’t raise slouches.
This week’s award for not knowing what world you’re living in surely goes to the French high school and college students who blockaded their campuses, and snarled rail traffic, in a nationwide strike against the French government’s decision to raise its pension retirement age from 60 to 62…France already discovered that a 35-hour workweek was impossible in a world where Indian engineers were trying to work a 35-hour day — and so, too, are pension levels not sustained by a vibrant private sector.
This is interesting. Not sure I agree with the ruling. However, my father is a dentist who’s owned his practice for 25+ years, so I’m a little biased.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington recently held that goodwill created while a dentist was employed by his solely owned corporation belonged to the corporation and not to him. As a result, the dentist was required to characterize as a corporate dividend rather than a long-term capital gain the amount he received for the goodwill from the sale of his practice.
Some economic predictions from a “strategic forecaster” named Pierce Snyder at an AICPA meeting in New Orleans. One can only hope that his prediction on government deleveraging (a nice way of saying debt retirement) is true. The others aren’t really a huge shock but interesting nonetheless.
Snyder listed seven economic inevitabilities for the next seven to eight years. Those are:
* The entry-level labor pool will shrink by 5%. Workers 16 to 24 years old will be in short supply with intense competition among employers to attract this more tech-savvy generation.
* The share of the work force held by individuals 55 and over will increase from 20% to 30%.
* Unemployment will remain above 7.5%.
* Fiscal and financial deleveraging will constrain government and consumer spending.
* Commerce will become essentially paperless and cashless.
* Health care will account for a quarter of all economic growth even as the health care industry consolidates.
* The construction industry will shrink and consolidate.