Transhumanism is not a particularly coherent movement, and you’ll find many disagreements between individuals in the transhumanist “herd of cats.” In the last few years, there has been a growing divide between “leftist” Transhumanists and “right-wing” (primarily Libertarian or Laissez-faire capitalist) Transhumanists.
In this divide, there seem to be more leftists in Europe, and more rightwingers in the US. Most people who label themselves left-oriented (or progressive) Transhumanists seem to be social-democrats with a soft spot for European political values. The circles around Ray Kurzweil and the Singularity University can be characterized as relatively corporatist (which does not necessarily imply a desire for free markets these days).
There are other growing divisions in Transhumanism. The bigger Transhumanism gets, the more it seems to generate heated international debates and some old-timers in the field meet these diatribes with amusement. For the Paleo-Transhumanist crowd, heated debate is quite enjoyable until the backchatter turns feudal. Since most Transhumanists are little else than fans of the core ideas, Transhumanism is in large part about endless talk on various forums, gatherings, and Facebook.
Transhumanism Is Gradually Catching On Worldwide
Essentially Transhumanism unifies Science Fiction fans, Cryonics-advocates, Life Extension advocates, Space Industrialization radicals, Political Radicals, Technology fetishists and similarly “oddly spotted memetic predators.”
People in Transhumanism tend to be colorful, a bit narcissistic and convinced they bring a unique signal to the movement. Many people who discover Transhumanism tend to conclude “I have been thinking this kind of stuff all along” and feel right at home in the ongoing interchange. Transhumanism mixes the various outré viewpoints of its adherents in a complex world view. Transhumanists believe that the various components of their personal ideologies add up to expectation about technology and the future. Some Transhumanists believe we’ll see radical progress in our lifetimes. Some Transhumanists believe that technological progress will far exceed anything we have seen in the last few decades and will culminate in the often quoted revolutionary transition that has become known as “The Singularity.” More transitional Transhumanists postulate something like a Singularity in the second half of the 21st century, while more radical Transhumanists expect a completely uncontrollable technological runaway as soon as ten or fifteen years from now.
Transhumanists tend to be cautious on whether or not people can stop (or legislate) runaway technology. Libertarian minded Transhumanists insist that any attempt of the state, to constrain various technological revolutions, will only add unnecessary social pain to the already convulsive change and want less state, no matter the consequences. More socialist-minded Transhumanists often debate solutions such as Basic Income to mitigate the social upheaval that is almost certain to emerge in the next decades. Most Transhumanists think the “spiking” effect in technology and progress will be quite difficult to control, and some Transhumanists might even concede that, as humanity staggers ever closer to The Singularity, a lot of people might end up in considerable distress, or die.
Some Transhumanists imagine “Existential Threats” and large numbers of human beings dying as a result of violent technological advance. Some in the field of Existential Threats think most or all of humanity is likely to go extinct shortly before or during a Singularity. It is fascinating to see that this view has recently trickled up in mainstream articles from major scientists.
Transhumanism is all about patching up various aspects of human nature and making them better. The best metaphor for that is upgrading a car by adding quality accessories. – humans will remain recognizably human but they will be enriched with various prosthesis, augmented with Virtual Reality (VR), nanotechnology components, or neural interface hacks.
In this regard, Transhumanism borrows heavily from Cyberpunk, although Transhumanists are consistently more Utopian. Cyberpunk is notoriously depressing and dystopian – most Transhumanists are Utopian-minded to a fault.
Become Male and Do Sex on Weekends
In comparison, the newly emerging Post-Humanist ideology is making assertions about the long term results of all that. Post-Humanists speculate about a radically new evolutionary phase where agents are no longer meaningfully “human,” and any remaining “human qualities” are chosen. As just one example, many Post-Humanists speculate about future sexuality. It is no surprise that Post-Humanists treat sexuality and gender as optional – something that will eventually become a consumer choice. Some Post-Humanists wish to switch off gender entirely, or making it some kind of software application that’s “run” only in a strictly recreational capacity. In weekends, you become “male” and “do sex,” while other days you are out working hard dismantling asteroids or something like that.
Post-humanism is closely linked to the idea of uploading minds. In Post-Humanist speculations, people will become a blend of nanobots, synthetic organs, and hard metallic shapes. Some Post-Humanists might not even (want to) remain consigned to purely humanoid bodies, and choose more outlandish designs instead – intricate clouds of limbs, swarms of collaborative micro-bots, or post-individualist group minds distributed over multiple bodies.
Of course, there’s is massive overlap between Trans-Humanists and Post-Humanists. Most Post-Humanists speak their mind only within the overall community, for fear of being labeled as techno-religious crackpots. Of course, even “mild” Transhumanist ideas are seen as outlandish by average people, so the more radical Post-Humanist ideas tend to come across as nothing short of science fiction talk in casual water-cooler conversation at the office.
What needs to be said is that we already live in absurd times. The degree of progress that we take for granted in 2014 is already magical compared to a few decades ago. Just a casual comparison between technologies in the 1970s and today suggests that a similar amount of progress in the next decades would be at the very least unpredictable and traumatizing.
That is the most compelling argument that Trans-Humanists and Post-Humanists have when engaging “average Janes and Joes”. There is no actual evidence that the Trans-Humanist or Post-Humanist predictions are based on reality – both viewpoints are essentially revolutionary ideologies and belief systems. Both Trans-humanists and Post-humanists wish to improve the world in ways that outsiders may not understand or consent to, and these ways are critical when looking at the destiny of the human species. Does humanity actually have a “destiny,” or are we just flotsam washed along by unknown probability currents? Is our trans and post-human future inevitable, or is the technological progress of the last century merely accidental?
These are profound and troubling questions. Trans-Humanists and Post-Humanists ask questions that arouse emotions. Quite a lot of people hate anyone raising these questions, and understandably so. These ideological frameworks (beyond being speculative and fantastic) are exclusive. It’s like being pregnant – you can not have a world that is “just a little bit Trans-human or Post-human.” If all that stuff is plausible, it will saturate every aspect of our lives in mere decades from now. Even more alarmingly, extremely uncomfortable choices will be forced on the average Janes and Joes. Will the Jane and Joe of the year 2114 be the Jane and Joe that used to be alive a century before (life extension) and how will they have changed? It may be that the person, who used to be you a century before, will have evolved into something incomprehensibly alien. For average Janes and Joes, that is good reason to instinctively want to reject the core value systems of Trans-humanism, let alone Post-Humanism.
But their rejection won’t remain common for long. It will be not more than a decade before the core ideas of Trans-humanism become commonplace, plausible and mainstream. By the late 2020s, Trans-humanism discussions may dissolve in mainstream debates about the future, technology and progress. By the 2040s, the movement may well be extinct as a result.
Images from Shutterstock.
Will CME and CBOE Change the Course of Bitcoin Trading?
There has been a lot of media buzz in the investment world around the introduction of bitcoin futures trading. Two of Chicago’s major firms, namely Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME Group Inc) and Chicago Board Options Exchange (Cboe), have announced plans for bitcoin futures trading on their respective platforms, with the latter already launching its contract on Sunday. While the main fear regarding future bitcoin trading at this point is price manipulation, investors are skeptical about how the whole situation will pan out.
Fear of Price Manipulation
As mentioned earlier, price manipulation is a big threat to the profitability of bitcoin futures trading. According to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), they will only play the role of a derivatives regulator and not actually manipulate the underlying cash contract. Exchanges will continue to play a major part in handling the underlying cash contract, keeping it safe from the dangers of manipulation. Since the underlying cash market of bitcoin is not regulated, the CFTC has also warned investors about this fact.
Figure 1: Hypothesised Daily Trend of Bitcoin Values
The Role of CBOE and CME in Bitcoins Trading
The CBOE and CME both have been competing to become the market of choice in the United States. CBOE has already rolled out its bitcoin futures contracts, which they call XBT futures, with a limited free trading offer for the rest of the month for its customers. The rival CME group, on the other hand, is scheduled to release their version of hitcoin futures Dec. 18.
These announcements played a pivotal role last week, influencing traders and institutional investors to perform bitcoin futures trading in a more recognized and secure market. The price of a single unit of bitcoin was also affected, jumping from a formidable $10,000 to a new record high of close to $20,000. The main reason for this can be attributed to investors who understand that the exchanges will bring liquidity and price stability on an otherwise unstable and volatile cryptocurrency.
Here are just some of the ways bitcoin futures trading will change the course of bitcoin trading significantly.
- Risk: There’s no denying that bitcoin’s past has been marred by volatile spikes and crashes. Some of these price changes have occurred over a very short period, enabling traders to recover their positions within a short period of time. However, with the introduction of CME and CBOE futures trading, the United States markets might prolong the decline through the “domino” effect of selling futures trading. Moreover, a snowballing effect through selling can affect the entire market. The Futures Industry Association has already stressed on the bitcoin volatility issue and has requested for some form of “guarantee fund” to clear settlements to the community.
- Unstable Exchanges: Besides the CME and CBOE, the majority of bitcoin exchanges in the world come from unregulated markets without proper overseeing or supervision. This is problematic for traders since such exchanges form a reference point in price for the asset. Frequent outages in exchanges are a real threat to bitcoin’s price, often resulting in wild price swings. For instance, Coinbase and IG group, two famous bitcoin exchanges stopped trading on a Friday. As a result, bitcoin’s price shot up and subsequently crashed within 20 minutes.
- Increased Volatility: Futures markets work very differently than commodity markets, which draw in a lot of traders as well as speculators. When it comes to bitcoin, the recent Whipsaw in price is unfavorable for the introduction of new traders in the market at this point.
The increase in speculation surrounding bitcoin price will result in even more price volatility if the number of traders is increased. Many people are of the opinion that the recent parabolic price curves will attract traders with added incentives to play with its price.
- Trading Profits: The aspect of trading profits becomes more complicated with the CME’s contract rules. CME’s contracts have price limits which are 20% above or below bitcoin’s reference price. This is done in order to curb unpredictability and regulate volatility. The sole purpose of these price limits is to minimize the adverse impact of the cryptocurrrency’s wild price swings on futures markets.
Economists, however, have stated that this might result in an opposite effect, where the trader’s profits are compromised significantly. This is due to the fact that the reference price of the whole bitcoin market is based on exchanges, which are largely operational in unregulated markets. Such unregulated markets see frequent price swings in excess of 20%. This directly results in futures traders who will no longer benefit from the spike of a greater than 20% increase in bitcoin prices, at the aforementioned exchanges.
Side Effects of Bitcoin Futures Trading on the Market
The bitcoin market is poised to receive institutional money as a result of futures trading. It will also open up various avenues of asset investment, as many funds that are currently prohibited from dealing in bitcoin-like alternative assets will also be able to participate in the trading exercise.
This, however, can be a major problem, as investors won’t actually be pouring their funds into the bitcoin market, but rather acquire synthetic derivates instead. No extra money goes into bitcoin itself, as these futures do not require ownership of actually bitcoins.
The introduction of bitcoin futures trading in two major firms is definitely a blessing as well as a curse. Both exchanges are seeking to exploit bitcoin’s popularity by attracting interest from Wall Street. Institutional investors have also been keen to trade the asset in a more recognized and regulated environment, which have also seen the increase in CME/CBOE shares by at least 9%. Normal traders are also required to pay higher than normal accounts to backstop their bitcoin trades and allow continued funding for their trade positions. However, it still boils down to the trader’s decision and his or her understanding of the movement of the bitcoin markets, which have in the past experienced significant and unpredictable volatility.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Power Consumption for Bitcoin Mining Is Now Ranked 61st in the World
Bitcoin prices have been towering in the past couple of weeks. This is cause for celebration for users who have heavily invested in the cryptocurrency; but, it appears the value of bitcoin is not the only thing that has hit the roof in 2017. Bitcoin mining energy consumption has also reached new heights.
A research study conducted by PowerCompare—a U.K.-based company for energy comparison tariff—found that the average power used to mine bitcoins this year has already gone beyond the annual energy consumption for some 159 countries. In particular, the global average power spent on bitcoin mining has far outstripped the energy consumption in Ireland and a couple of African countries.
This new study was based on data from Digiconomist, whose current estimation of power used to mine bitcoin hovers around 30.14 TWh annually. This figure is way above Ireland power consumption that currently stands at 25 TWh yearly. In fact, recent research from Dutch Bank ING found out that one bitcoin transaction consumes sufficient electricity to power an average household for a whole month.
At this rate, if bitcoin miners were a single country, it would be positioned 61st in the world based on power consumption, comparable to Slovakia and Morocco. PowerCompare has already predicted that if the trend continues, bitcoin mining will expend the entire world’s electricity by February of 2020!
Why bitcoin mining is increasing power consumption levels
What makes bitcoin mining an energy black hole?
Apparently, it is the computational requirements that process the complex cryptographic problems that miners must solve to be rewarded with the cryptocurrency. Just like other notable cryptos such as Ethereum and Litecoin, Bitcoin depends on miners to validate transactions performed in their respective blockchains.
To verify transactions, miners are required to solve complex mathematical problems, which on becomes increasingly difficult as more and more miners join the mining bandwagon. The more byzantine the cryptographic problems, the more the processing power that is needed to solve them.
In the case of bitcoin—the most popular cryptocurrency—a multitude of miners now make it absolutely necessary to use ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) which consume considerable amounts of electricity. At present, ASICs have been designed to provide far more efficient computations, both in terms of the hash rate and power consumption when compared to CPU or GPU mining.
But the ASICs haven’t really resolved the hurdles of power consumption.
Ideally, the use of ASICs meant that the total time required to validate new blocks drastically reduces too. This hasn’t happened because of the way the bitcoin protocol was conceived. Apparently, the mining difficulty in bitcoin ensures that the total time taken for generation of new blocks must be kept constant.
As a matter of fact, the Bitcoin network automatically alters the difficulty level for bitcoin mining to ensure the discovery of new blocks every 10 minutes by miners based on two factors. First, there is the global block difficulty that forces valid blocks to have a hash value that is below the target to ensure the difficulty level is maintained.
Second, the number of miners that are actively participating in the mining process has been soaring, meaning the difficulty level has remained constant for a while now. Also, the mining difficulty automatically adjusts after every 2016 blocks on the Bitcoin network. Depending on how many users were actively mining – together with their combined hashpower—and the time it takes to find the 2016 blocks, the difficulty can either go up or down.
As the mining difficulty increases, miners should acquire more powerful hardware to accommodate for the adjustment which again increases the computational electricity. It is also worth noting that there is no maximum mining difficulty that has been set for the Bitcoin network. There is a possibility that the mining difficulty will continue to rise until all the Bitcoins are mined have been mined by the year 2140.
This means that power consumption in Bitcoin is not likely to decrease in the near future.
Challenges of mining Bitcoins
Here are some challenges of Bitcoin mining:
#1: Environmental hazards
The massive growth of cryptos has set up an exponential demand for processing power. The inordinate amounts of power required to mine bitcoins make it an environmental hazard since much of the earth’s electricity is still generated from greenhouse-gas-generating fossil fuels. This implies that bitcoin mining could be contributing to the climate changes and global warming.
#2: Stumbling block for mass adoption
The bitcoin cryptocurrency was conceived as a decentralized, peer-to-peer and trustless currency free from regulations of government agencies and financial institutions such as banks. Unfortunately, the adoption rate is discouraging. This can partly be attributed to the high energy consumption costs.
A recent study conducted by researchers from the HINUI (Hamilton Institute at the National University of Ireland) found that the cost of Bitcoin mining on the commodity hardware at present far exceeds the price of the rewards. In fact, Bitcoin mining has now been left to the big players who have the money to buy expensive ASICs with some of them leasing their hardware to small players in the so-called cloud mining.
#3: Rise of illegal piracy
The rise of bitcoin values is a cause for celebration in the crypto universe. It means that the entire global community is beginning to appreciate the value of cryptocurrencies in the world economy. However, mining energy consumption is soaring at an alarming rate. The quicker we find mechanisms to make bitcoin and other cryptocurrency mining electricity use “greener,” the better it would be for the Blockchain technology that is often heralded as the next internet.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Cryptokitties Made Us Realize These Biggest Industry Challenges
You may not be in the loop but Cryptokitties have just surpassed the major distributed cryptocurrency exchange such as EtherDelta to become the largest smart contract on the Ethereum network by gas consumption. As of writing this, the Cryptokitties are accounting for slightly more than 14% of the Ethereum’s transactions in over 1,500 blocks according to ETH Gas Station.
This is a staggering volume of traffic for an online game that, on the surface, appears quite bland. But the popularity of this cryptocollectible has underscored one of Ethereum biggest downsides which were never envisioned: lack of scalability. According to Etherscan, Ethereum transactions have increased six-fold since the game’s release on 28th November 2017.
Already some investors are raising concerns that this frivolous game is crowding out more genuine and serious business users in the network. But how exactly have Cryptokitties phenomenon congested the Ethereum network?
Well, in “Cryptokitties Made Us Realize These Biggest Industry Challenges” we dive deeper to explore how the Cryptokitties phenomenon has contributed to Ethereum’s scalability challenges. Let’s jump in.
Challenges of Cryptokitties
Here are some challenges the Cryptokitties phenomenon presents for the Ethereum ecosystem.
#1: Scaling challenges
While the sensations of Cryptokitties is great for Ethereum adoption, the pressure it has placed on the Ethereum blockchain means that developers have to work out a scaling solution. The traffic is making it extremely difficult for users to play the game, and many transactions such as buying and selling of cats are taking a lot of time to process with some demanding multiple attempts.
All of these intricacies are related to the Ethereum blockchain’s throughput limit that is set at roughly 15 transactions per second. Until the throughput limit is expanded, Cryptokitties have to contend with the current 15 seconds which is shared among other popular smart contracts as well. There’s no doubt that Cryptokitties has become popular within a short time and raising the bar for gas auctioning in Ethereum.
With Ethereum protocol soon hitting its capacity, research into new scaling options to help the distributed technology scale is needed soon. But this scaling issue isn’t the only problem Ethereum protocol has to contend with. Cryptokitties is just one viral game that hasn’t even spread across the tech universe. In fact, it was just launched a couple days ago (28th November)!
If Cryptokitties (one viral game) can slow down the entire Ethereum network, what will happen when the blockchain grows to accommodate real-world apps? Obviously, a long term solution is required. The Ethereum community can’t afford to have scaling challenges whenever a great smart contract hits the decentralized web.
#2: Divergent opinions about Ethereum growth
Just as is the case with the bitcoin scaling problem, we’re starting to see cracks in the Ethereum blockchain community as each side takes diametrically opposing sides about how to scale the network. For some time, bitcoin has been experiencing near or sometimes full blocks with transactions taking nearly 20 to 40 minutes to be validated on the blockchain.
Some Ethereum enthusiasts are already suggesting that miners should increase the so-called gas—a measure of computational effort in Ethereum—limit (just as is the case with bitcoin’s block size limit). Ideally, the gas limit determines the kind of operations such as the addition of numbers, calculation of hashes or even sending transactions that you can compute in Ethereum. Each operation has a fixed set of gas attached to it.
By setting the gas limit, we’ll be capping the maximum amount of gas which can be included in Ethereum block. With a maximum of gas in place, the block size and the speed of the network will be greatly be impaired. Ideally, this proposal is hinged on the philosophy that developers shouldn’t decide on the ideal gas limit but market actors such as the miners, the applications, and the investors.
As you are aware, the block size and speed of the network are at the core of Ethereum protocol. Altering any of them completely does away with Ethereum’s vision. Also, Ethereum miners are unlikely to agree to this proposal as it has its own undesirable effects. As of writing this, the Ethereum network uncle rate is already peaked at over 30% compared to the network DoS (Denial of Service) attacks.
This implies that at present, every third block gets orphaned. Now raising the gas limit is most likely going to make the current mining situation even worse. Without considerable enhancements on how large blocks will be processed using current implementations and decentralized in the network, increasing the gas limit isn’t feasible just yet.
While high-end systems will still be able to validate the heavy blocks within several 100 milliseconds, low-end systems are already gobbling up few seconds to validate their transactions and distribute the block.
#3: Other ICOs are at a risk
The Ethereum gas market is an unknown equation that allows users to increase gas and ensure that transactions such as the sale or breeding can take place in time. At present, Cryptokitties cautions users of keeping an eye on gas consumption, to avert high prices. An acutely high gas price would, in fact, expedite the transaction but make it flop completely.
The lackluster performance and gas speculations may make users abandon the Ethereum network completely. Bitcoin has been attracting speculative investments lately because of the unprecedented high prices that have been hovering north of $15,000. Now the presence of Cryptokitties and their network demands places hundreds of ICOs implementing their projects on Ethereum network at risk.
The specifics of the cryptographic computation may imply that smart contracts will never quite work to the levels anticipated by investors in the ICOs. This means that these ICOs are likely to fail because of the scaling challenges presented by Ethereum network.
It’s no secret that Ethereum—and its smart contracts—has literally revolutionized applications. However, the launch of Cryptokitties has raised more controversies regarding the future of Ethereum protocol. The Ethereum protocol was once viewed as a perfect replacement for Bitcoin. But at these rates of network jamming, users are becoming cynical.
While I am not a futurist, one thing is certain: there are tell-tale signs of Ethereum fracture. Amidst all the hype and uncertainties about the scaling problem, it’s only proper for you to continue speculating before investing in Cryptokitties.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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