“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” says a proverb often attributed to Yogi Berra. Imagine the world of freedom, or lack of it. Who could foresee the technologies that make our lives so rewarding and convenient? The same technologies have us all under the government’s giant microscope. Thankfully, the brave have turned the microscope around.
In the months since Edward Snowden revealed the nature and extent of the spying that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been perpetrating upon Americans and foreigners, some of the NSA's most troublesome behavior has not been a part of the public debate.
The problem for NSA apologist is that when guys like Snowden disclose that the government conducts comprehensive surveillance in ways that would have made 1984’s O’Brien drool, it puts the entire progressive agenda in jeopardy.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The financial world is plodding along like a drunken sailor avoiding debt collectors by keeping no cash in his wallet. It’s not the kind of calm that’s going to last or end well. But the storm will have to wait until after the Olympics.What a game! We’ve never watched ice hockey closely before. But watching […]
In times of war and national emergency, it’s sometimes necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to secure vital gains in public safety. In those cases, we may have to accept a loss of privacy or freedom rather than invite mass slaughter of Americans.The National Security Agency’s domestic phone records collection is not one of those.Never have […]
Last year was quite the year for Bitcoin. We’ve seen exponential growth in Bitcoin’s exchange rate and extensive coverage in the media. Another phenomenon we have witnessed is the proliferation of alternative cryptocurrencies, five of which we’ve provided below.What all of these cryptocurrencies have in common is that they rely on a decentralized network to […]
Image: ShutterstockBitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, along with alleged co-conspirator Robert Faiella, was arrested by federal authorities last week for allegedly laundering more than $1 million worth of Bitcoins. This is a tiny amount compared to the largest drug-and-terrorism money laundering case ever. Yet when British bank HSBC was found guilty in 2012 of laundering billions, […]
The exercise had an awesome name, inspired by the movies: “Quantum Dawn 2.”On July 18, scads of U.S. banks, stock exchanges and government agencies took part in a digital fire drill — a practice run in the event all of Wall Street came under massive cyberattack.This isn’t the first time banks have come under an […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
We’ve pointed out in the past that President Obama’s views on the surveillance state shifted completely from when he was Senator to when he was President. As Senator, he supported a bunch of reforms that are very much like the ones his panel have suggested — and which he’s about to ignore. The NY Times […]
Bitcoins are largely considered digital currency (or “crypto currency”) so you’d expect it to be treated like currency on a retail web site. But the Internal Revenue Service might not think so.
The great inventors/businessmen of the First Industrial Revolution, such as James Watt and Matthew Boulton of steam-engine fame, were not just smart but privileged. Most were either born into the ruling class or lucky enough to be apprenticed to one of the elite. For most of history since then, entrepreneurship has meant either setting up […]
Both research and production look poised for a revolution as 3-D printing applies its high-tech charms to the business of creating chemical compounds and turns the production of medicine into a DIY project.
“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”When Capt. Jean-Luc Picard wants a steaming beverage in his ready room aboard the starship Enterprise, he just utters those words. The ship’s “replicator” then assembles the necessary atoms — including those for the cup — and produces it, ready for the drinking. Picard thinks nothing of it — it’s hardly more […]
The market has selected different things as money throughout history. Some of these items have served as money in isolated places for specific periods of time — for instance, cigarettes in prisoner-of-war camps. Cigarettes continue to be a currency in prisons if allowed, but if not, according to Wikipedia, “postage stamps have become a more […]
[Ed. Note: This article originally published on Jan. 24, 2013]Stocks up. Gold down. Bitcoin… waaay up.The S&P 500 busted through the 1,500 mark this morning. Stocks haven’t been this expensive since 2007… right before they got a whole lot cheaper… for a whole lot longer. Gold, meanwhile, dipped a tad. This, despite central bankers of […]
Before the housing market collapsed and the government pumped billions into the economy to save it, there was a programmer named Satoshi Nakamoto. And without much fanfare, he created an idea that’s in the process of changing the world. His idea was Bitcoin.Some background information is in order before I go any further.Think back to […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
The online Internet exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act are up and running.OK, they’re up. Uhh, OK, some of them are sort of up.It has been almost a week since last Tuesday’s initial launch, and there have been more than a few problems.Website crashes, excessive response times and other problems have plagued the exchanges. […]
A growing consensus of IT experts, outside and inside the government, have figured out a principal reason why the website for Obamacare’s federally sponsored insurance exchange is crashing. Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping.This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government […]
As much as I love technology, part of me hates being so dependent on a live wall plug wherever I go. You find yourself trapped in some setting without accessible wall plugs and your phone is dying. You charge from you laptop, but that is dying too. You take recourse to your tablet, but that […]
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ […]
Today, like most days, I fired up my computer.I read freely available information on the latest developments in technology that would, in the not too distant past, have required a drive to a library to flip through journals too numerous for me to afford. I read the latest national and global news without having to […]
On a Sunday afternoon swim, a 6-year-old boy was bugging me in a sweet sort of way. He rode up and down the handrail on the stairs in the shallow end of the pool where I was trying to sit in peace. He was laughing and talking, but I couldn’t understand a word through the […]
I’ve just completed a heavy schedule of talks at the Agora Financial Investment Symposium in Vancouver. All my talks centered on information economics, Web startups, and the productivity of the Internet and its meaning. As usual, I learned as much from the attendees as (I hope) they learned from my talks. The research I did […]
Last year was quite the year for Bitcoin. We’ve seen exponential growth in Bitcoin’s exchange rate and extensive coverage in the media. Another phenomenon we have witnessed is the proliferation of alternative cryptocurrencies, five of which we’ve provided below.
What all of these cryptocurrencies have in common is that they rely on a decentralized network to keep track of transactions. Their scarcity and security is based on cryptography.
Note: All figures from coinmarketcap.com.
[Ed. Note: We should add that this article is from a month ago, so many of the current prices of these digital currencies, as well as their market capitalization, have probably changed.]
Market Capitalization: $600 million
Of all the competing cryptocurrencies, Litecoin is the most similar to Bitcoin. It has been thought of as silver to Bitcoin’s gold, or MasterCard to Bitcoin’s Visa. It has also managed to gain the second-highest market capitalization amongst digital currencies.
One key difference includes a different hashing algorithm designed so that mining Litecoins won’t result in a similar hardware arms race to the one Bitcoin is currently involved in. Litecoin mining these days involves rigs of video cards, or GPUs. It’s similar to how Bitcoin mining was a few years ago, until its ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) were designed from the ground up to mine Bitcoins.
Litecoins also feature faster confirmation times due to shorter and faster block rewards. It’s scheduled to produce 84 million Litecoins, four times as much as Bitcoin’s 21 million.
Market Capitalization: $131 million
Peercoin’s distinguishing feature is that is uses a method called proof of stake as part of its mining, or as Peercoiners often like to say, “minting.” Proof-of-stake rewards minters for the Peercoins they hold over time.
This is measured in “coin days,” one coin day being equivalent to holding one coin for one day. It’s similar to how a kilowatt hour is defined as using a kilowatt over the course of one hour. So the more coins you hold over a longer time, the more Peercoins you receive through minting.
This is in contrast to most cryptocurrencies’ proof-of-work mining, which rewards miners based on how much computing power they contribute to the keeping track of transactions. Peercoin also uses proof-of-work mining in conjunction with proof-of-work minting, although Peercoin is programmed to eventually rely only on proof-of-work mining.
The maximum limit for the number of these coins is 2 billion. This is so much higher than Bitcoin’s 21 million that it encourages inflationary pressure, which counterbalances the deflationary pressure caused by everyone trying to mint Peercoins and holding onto them.
Price: 4.1 cents
Market Capitalization: $40 million
Nxt is most similar to Peercoin in that is utilizes proof of stake to generate more coins. But unlike Peercoin, it uses proof of stake exclusively.
The only way to get more Nxt coins is to hold them or exchange them in a process dubbed “forging,” in contrast to Bitcoin mining and Peercoin minting. This has a “green” appeal in that it requires no massive, power-consuming hardware rigs, just a small program that will run on pretty much any modern computer.
This also has the practical appeal of not requiring users to invest in the extra hardware and electricity. Instead, you merely exchange something for your initial Nxt coins. Nxt’s developers also pride themselves on having written the Nxt code from scratch, while most alternative cryptocurrencies were developed from using Bitcoin’s code as a basis.
Market Capitalization: $52 million
Namecoin is similar to other cryptocurrencies, but with the additional feature of being a way to register domain names. Instead of .com or .net, Namecoin domain names have the .bit extension. Any method of registering and controlling a domain name is called a domain name system, or DNS.
The current method of domain name registration is regulated by a nonprofit organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. Because ICANN is a centralized organization, it ultimately has power over domain names and can shut down websites for political or other reasons. But because Namecoin is a decentralized network, no one is in control of it.
Just like Bitcoin is a decentralized network that takes the power away from banks and other financial institutions, Namecoin is a decentralized network that takes the power away from ICANN or any other centralized DNS organization. Namecoin is also traded for its own sake, just like Bitcoin.
It’s just like any other cryptocurrency but with the added feature of a decentralized DNS system, which amounts to more “intrinsic value,” which everyone is looking for.
Price: 0.045 cents
Market Capitalization: $11 million
Dogecoin is a cryptocurrency inspired by the “Doge” Internet meme.
Compared with the other cryptocurrencies, Doge is most similar to Litecoin. It uses scrypt, the same cryptographic function as Litecoin. A total of 100 billion Dogecoins will ever be mined, which is even more than Peercoin. Yet because the block reward is so large and frequent (every minute), Dogecoin miners have already mined almost 25 billion Dogecoins, almost 25% of the total.
While Doge gets my vote for the best Internet meme of 2013, you would think that a cryptocurrency wouldn’t manage to go far based on novelty. Yet Dogecoin’s market capitalization is almost $7 million. Wow.
This article originally appeared here.