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A World Where Solar Land is More Valued than Farm Land

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As fossil fuels lose their attractiveness the industrialized world has a fairly big problem. The problem might actually be big enough to threaten various stages of collapse in various region around the world – in other words, the world being forced to transition from fossil fuels could get ugly, and might threaten the investments of a lot of very rich people. The ensuing decrease in services could have a decidedly Dystopian quality. A lot of people could get hurt.

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So now I have affirmed that the transition from a Carbon to a post-Carbon would could get viciously ugly, what would happen if it doesn’t get ugly?

There are a limited number of solutions available if we are to keep society more or less recognizable from 20th century developed nation consumerism, pluriform democracies and freedom. All three – consumerism, freedom and multicultural democracies are a recent phenomenon. Their long term succession is by no means guaranteed, even if most people in modern societies prefer all over their alternatives – autocracy, planned economies and nationalist states.  We have tried feudalism and all of its variants for a few thousand years and my guess is most people would not opt for repressive societies. Repressive societies, no matter how well-intentioned and Utopian in ideology always end up favoring ruling elites.

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The Problem

energyThe problem is that all trappings of a comfortable civilization cost money. As we have come to understand, money doesn’t really exist and is a fiction cooked up by politicians, ideologues and bankers. The substrate that underlies money is actually energy. Having a society that generates (or somehow succeeds in harvesting) an energy surplus can grow. If there’s no energy surplus, no amount of printing “money” can generate long term economic prosperity. We might have pretended for a while this is the case, but we are now running in to irresolvable limits to growth, and most these limits could be overcome if only we had access to sufficient energy.

The American standard of living by some is regarded as the highest form of life on the planet. A reason for the relative prosperity of typical Americans is the rate at which their directly or indirectly consume energy. Most of this energy is petrochemical. America consumes as a society about one fifth all energy of the world, and the world consumes about 20 terawatt per year in energy, again, most of which is non-renewable and carbon based. Apparently a lot of people world wide still consume energy in the form of burning wood. Or it’s less palatable cousin, cow dung.

Let’s for now assume, despite objections to the contrary, that carbon based fuels are either irreversibly depleting, or are becoming otherwise undesirable to consume at anything approximating current rates. I can think of a few reasons, such as mass extinctions and climate change but opinions tends to vary on these topics.

There is no existing alternative source of energy that can in 2015 replace “burning stuff”. We can’t scale up existing nuclear plants – Uranium nuclear has been operating at a nett loss (taking all costs in to account) for decades. Wind energy is too intermittent, Geothermal and Water turbines too regional, Thorium has not been proven, and most other alternatives too small scale. There is only one source of energy that scales up indefinitely and becomes cheaper as we invest in it, and that is Space Based Solar, but we won’t have launch capability to construct that for the better part of a century. That leaves us with planetary solar.

There are several competing formats  for turning sun in to electricity, and it is pretty certain that in coming years we’ll unearth new ways to do so, with less stuff and with higher outputs.

And there’s a problem there. We’d want to produce solar electricity pretty close to where we’d like consuming it. Transporting electricity over vast distances is costly, subject to sabotage, extortion and vandalism, and it is inefficient. But no matter how much solar electricity we’d eventually come to produce,  our society will always demand more to sustain our ever expanding hunger for consumer goods, cheap food, transportation, computation and whatnot. There is absolutely no cap on how much affordable energy eventually would want to consume on the planet (short of cooking away the oceans in doing so) and that means that as soon as means ti transmute sunlight in to marketable kilowatt-hours, there will be markets demanding more.

Right now our planet is covered with large stretches of forests, desert and agricultural land. Solar electricity would be consumed where most paying consumers would be, and consequently where stable states would exist to allow for permanent solar harvesting farms to operate undisturbed. A solar economy therefore might easily be argued to be more likely to be decentralized (no big monopolies), quite averse to violence (wars break all the solar) and democratic (easily taxable). I might break a lance to argue how more favorable a persistent and robust solar economy might be over a hydrocarbon based one, but I am sure a cavalcade of SUV aficionado’s might vehemently disagree with me.

solar plant

Whatever the outcome – if solar does in fact take off in terms of output, safety, sustainability, return-on-investment, marketability (etc.) then we might see ever more sophisticated types of solar dotting the landscape, especially in place where people live.

The scariest and at the same time most fascinating scenario is a world, maybe half a century from now, where solar forests compete with agricultural or natural land. It might come to a point where we become so efficient capturing sunlight and turning it in to prosperity that demand for solar electricity outstrips other demands.

A century ago most currently developed countries had a lot more horses. There are less horses around now. Likewise in 2015 we have a lot of agricultural land and forests. Along the same lines, assuming we as a society get very lucky with Solar, might see large parts of the world covered with some form of structures that turn sunlight in to prosperity. As indicated, I’d rather see that happen in a near planetary orbit with Space Based Solar, but anything that sustains my (soon to be considerably life-extended) standards of living is welcome, and I am not asking for the sky just yet.

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  1. DigitalGalaxy

    September 30, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    One source of power you missed is offshore wind, which is consistent because the wind is almost always blowing out over the ocean. In contrast to onshore wind which is intermittent. That is convenient because most people live near the coast. Also, Japan is developing floating solar panels that can take up ocean space instead of land. So there is hope for clean, non carbon based energy today, here and now, that does not take up all our land.

    (Also we don’t need farmland, we could do vertical farming with hydroponics and do that in skyscrapers, no farm land required, but that is another topic.)

    Thanks for a great post!

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New York-Based TokenBnk Launches Crypto Savings Account

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The blockchain ecosystem is budding with innovation. TokenBnk has added its name to the list of most interesting blockchain startups when it launched a decentralized application that functions very much like a traditional savings account.

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Traditional Finance Meets Cryptocurrency

New York-based TokenBnk is the world’s first Ethereum-based savings account. The general idea behind TokenBnk is that you can deposit tokens into your Savings Contract (instead of a savings account) and earn rewards in the same token you hold. It operates very much like a traditional bank account, only for cryptocurrency. That’s kinda what we’re all about here at Hacked.

To illustrate how the platform works, suppose you receive 1,000 TBK as a reward and hold 500 of them in ether and 500 in OmiseGo. You will receive the same proportion of tokens back into your Savings Contract, thereby boosting your position size.

To withdraw ether from your savings account, you must pay a predetermined fee using the platform’s native TBK token. The fee is distributed as an award throughout the network via smart contract. The amount network participants receive is proportional to the percentage of the Total Network Value they represent.

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The Launch

TokenBnk emerged-by-stealth on or about Thursday, much to the surprise of the author, who has been anticipating this project for quite some time. The release was accompanied by an 11-page whitepaper and plans for a Nov. 30 token launch.

The protocol is being audited as we speak before beta testing goes live. TokenBnk will launch via mobile app some time in Q1 2018, followed by a full platform launch later in the year.

The development team behind TBK is impressive, with the main website listing 14 young men who can’t be more than 35 years old. The team hails from some of America’s most prestigious universities, such as Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Carnegie Mellon and NYU. Private sector experience is also exemplified with stints at Amazon, AngelList and J.P. Morgan. (We’re glad the former JPM employees at TokenBnk didn’t drink from the same Kool-Aid as Jamie Dimon.)

TokenBnk CEO Shayne Coplan makes a strong case for his platform, especially for those of us keen on investing in cryptos over the long term.

“Currently, most long term holders leave their tokens in their Ethereum wallet, but why do that if you can yield automated regular returns by storing them on the blockchain as part of the TokenBnk network?” Coplan told Hacked. “The idea of holding fiat currency long term and earning no ROI is considered foolish, and it will be no different for cryptocurrencies.”

Coplan was part of the ETH presale back in 2014. With ether prices recently surging past $300, most market participants probably regret trading it right off the bat.

“In hindsight, the buy and hold strategy massively outperformed even the most successful of traders,” Coplan adds. “With the new wave of tokens arriving in the market over the next few years, hopefully TokenBnk can help token holders avoid making that same mistake.”

Ether trails only bitcoin in the race for market cap and is widely considered one of the most promising cryptos from a development point of view.

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Blockchain, Insurance and the Crisis of Trust

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Blockchain has been described as the modern-day cure for many ailments facing industry. For insurers, the ledger technology can change the way businesses process claims, share data and prevent fraud.

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Blockchain for Insurance

Fin-tech disruption has played an important role in reshaping the insurance industry. The internet, mobile devices and even data analytics have become indispensable to modern-day insurance providers.  What’s more, the industry full expects this disruption to intensify in coming years.

A survey of financial service providers conducted by PwC found that nearly three-quarters (74%) of insurers identified their own industry as the most likely to undergo significant change as a result of technology. That survey was conducted long before blockchain was even a thing for the average observer.

Fast forward to today, and blockchain is all the rage. Beyond the hype, the ledger technology has radically transformed our perception of record-keeping and trust. As a self-managed system, it can help insurers coordinate claims and boost efficiency without the need for an intermediary.

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Improving Trust

Most people have or at some point will interface with the insurance sector. It is here that they will likely experience the crisis of trust that have caused many to go uninsured. Recent earthquakes in California revealed that only 17% of the state’s homeowners have insurance to cover the natural disaster.

Of course, everyone in the state knows about the San Andreas fault. The choice to go uninsured is a rational one aimed at circumnavigating an industry plagued by a lack of trust. Blockchain isn’t some magic bullet that will fix this problem. But what it can and will provide is transparency.

More transparency can create a more efficient insurance sector by reducing or eliminating all together the need for manual processes. As anyone who has tried to switch healthcare providers knows, manual data entry is prone to huge risks, not to mention fear of losing personal data.  Through blockchain, personal data may be controlled by an individual, but verification is registered on the immutable ledger book.

Blockchain also provides smart contract capability, which can greatly enhance claims processing. By recording and verifying contracts on the ledger, insurers can guarantee that only valid claims are made. For consumers, it also means not having to fill out cumbersome paperwork.

Insurers are also leaning on the blockchain to detect fraud, which drains businesses out of tens of billions of dollars annually. The blockchain’s permanent record provides a decentralized repository insurers can use to verify every customer, policy and transaction. Before the blockchain, this would have required extensive cooperation between various actors.

There’s already a budding community of blockchain companies involved in the insurance industry. Together with other finance companies, they are among the biggest draws of the ICO market. According to CoinSchedule, more than 9% of the total funds raised via ICOs this year have come to finance companies.

When it comes to blockchain, insurance is another sector investors should carefully monitor. It is highly lucrative, but suffers from huge flaws that these new technologies can help fix.

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Gizer and Gaze Coin Join Forces to Shape eSports Future

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Global gaming network Gizer has joined forces with VR platform Gaze Coin in a bid to transform the eSports economy.  The companies are expected to boost monetization channels while providing new opportunities for virtual reality-based gaming.

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Partnership Announced

The strategic partnership, which was just announced via Gizer’s Medium channel, appears to be centered on delivering gaming events in virtual and augmented reality. That’s a powerful concept for the rapidly growing eSports segment.

Gizer launched its crowdsale last month amid much fanfare, and has been ranked one of Hacked.com’s best ICOs of the year. The gaming network made headlines last month after it brought on blockchain heavyweight David Drake to its  advisory board. Drake is the Chairman of LDJ Capital and is regarded as an influential blockchain leader.

Gaze Coin’s ICO is coming down the pipeline for Nov. 28. It will be hosted on the Ethereum platform, with a total supply of 100 million tokens.

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Both companies appear to be synchronizing their development roadmaps to deliver games in virtual and augmented reality. Gizer plans to unveil its marketplace in early 2018. That’s around the same time Gaze Coin intends its launch the mixed-reality game Dream Channel, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival this past May.

eSports Industry Is Booming

The eSports ecosystem is growing at a rapid rate, according to various research reports that peg it as a billion-dollar industry over the next two years. Earlier this year, Newzoo said it expects eSports revenues to reach $1.5 billion by 2020, with brand investment doubling over that period.

Clearly, the idea of creating professional leagues out of multiplayer games is gaining in popularity. Given the number of users already playing online, the need for an integrated network that connects all the dots and provides incentives has never been greater. The blockchain can greatly enhance the end user experience by creating a stable infrastructure to handle all transactions. This not only improves the platform, but ensures toxic members are kept at bay. (How many times have you played your favorite EA Sports game only to have to deal with members abusing one another and cheating? The blockchain is a potential remedy.)

Greater community involvement and more opportunity to grow the ecosystem are the other major benefits offered exclusively by the blockchain. And because this environment can be monetized, there’s huge incentive to grow and improve it over time.

In reality, eSports is just one of a myriad of industries currently being developed by the blockchain community. A total of 27 industries have been represented by the ICO universe this year alone, according to CoinSchedule. Gaming and VR token raises have been among the most lucrative, drawing in more than $120 million through the first ten months. That’s roughly 4% of the $3.25 billion in ICO funding raised this  year alone.

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