David Fuller and Eoin Treacy's Comment of the Day
Category - General

    Bitcoin Drops as Hashrate Declines With China Mining Crackdown

    This article from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Cryptocurrencies have been enduring a lull recently. Bitcoin is trading at about half its record high of nearly $65,000 reached in mid-April. The market value of all cryptocurrencies is about $1.45 trillion, as measured by CoinGecko, versus a high around $2.6 trillion last month.

    One of the factors cited has been concern about China clamping down on mining amid concerns about energy usage, and in the wake of deadly coal accidents.

    The city of Ya’an in the southwestern region of Sichuan has promised the provincial authorities to root out all Bitcoin and Ether mining operations within one year, said a person with knowledge of the situation. According to a report in the Communist Party-backed Global Times, the closure of many Bitcoin mines in the province has resulted in more than 90% of China’s Bitcoin mining capacity being shuttered.

    About 65% of the world’s Bitcoin mining took place in China as of April 2020, according to an estimate by the University of Cambridge.

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    China's tech workers pushed to limits by surveillance software

    This article from Nikkei may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    In China, technology adoption promises its swelling middle classes an easier, more productive life. But as companies bring productivity-enhancing tools into everyday office life, their efficiency is being channeled, not into leisure time, but into squeezing ever more value from employees.

    Just as algorithms have come to govern the workdays of blue-collar warehouse workers at Alibaba Group Holding and food delivery riders for Meituan, elsewhere, white-collar workers are becoming affected by the creep of software-driven management and monitoring into their professional lives.

    This is particularly the case in China's tech industry, where rapid technological development, paired with poor labor regulations, has created a potential for labor abuse. The big tech companies themselves, locked in cutthroat competition for new business opportunities, are pioneering these technologies and tools in their own operations. From hiring and goal-setting to appraisal and layoff, productivity-enhancing technologies look to quantify workers' behavior by collecting and analyzing extensive amounts of personal data.

    Some scholars warn that some practices can be unethical, invading employees' privacy and burdening them with greater workload and mental stress. Others draw parallels to the fatigue faced by factory laborers during industrial revolutions, where workers chased the pace of machines.

    "I felt that I was getting busier and having less time for myself," said the engineer Wang, looking back on his five years at Chinese internet companies.

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    Luxury Boom Helps Birkin Bag Maker Overtake a Beer Giant

    This note from Bloomberg highlights an interesting development.

    Hermes International, best known for its silk scarves and $10,000 Birkin handbags, is becoming one of the world’s hottest luxury stocks. The shares hit a fresh record on Friday, giving the company a market capitalization of about 130 billion euros ($155 billion) and nudging it above beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev NV. Hermes, which only joined France’s CAC 40 Index three years ago, has benefited from a boom in demand for luxury goods that showed no sign of abating during lockdowns, while closed bars and restaurants weighed on AB InBev and other brewers.

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    "Mosquito smoothies" streamline production of promising malaria vaccine

    This article from newatlas may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    This new process, spearheaded by scientists at Imperial College London, could make the process far more efficient. The method involves the batch processing of whole mosquitoes, which are reduced to a slurry that is then filtered by size, density and electrical charge. This process of making "mosquito smoothies" leaves behind the necessary sporozoite products for vaccination.

    “Creating whole-parasites vaccines in large enough volumes and in a timely and cost-effective way has been a major roadblock for advancing malaria vaccinology, unless you can employ an army of skilled mosquito dissectors," says lead researcher Professor Jake Baum, from Imperial College London. "Our new method presents a way to radically cheapen, speed up and improve vaccine production.”

    In addition to making the process faster and cheaper, the technique can also make the vaccine more potent. Traditional extraction of sporozoites brings with it contaminants such as unwanted proteins and other debris, which can affect the infectivity of the sporozoites and possibly the immune system response, compromising the efficacy of the whole parasite vaccine. Conversely, the mosquito smoothies result in pure uncontaminated samples.

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    Seaborg plans to rapidly mass-produce cheap, floating nuclear reactors

    This article from newatlas.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Seaborg's solution is to use another molten salt – sodium hydroxide – as a liquid moderator. Thus, the core design places the fuel salt tube inside a larger tube filled with sodium hydroxide, creating a first-of-its-kind all-liquid reactor that's remarkably compact. But sodium hydroxide itself is a powerfully caustic base, often used as oven cleaner or drain cleaner; the Seaborg design has to deal with this added corrosive agent too.

    And on top of all that, there's the freaky phenomenon of "grain-boundary corrosion" to boot, caused by the presence of tellurium as a fission by-product in the fuel salt stream. Tellurium atoms can merrily penetrate through metals, and swap positions with other elements, leading to embrittlement of the metals at their weakest points.

    The company is well aware of its key challenges here. "Seaborg’s core IP is based on corrosion control in the moderator salt, and applying the lessons learned since the 1950s," says Pettersen. "But it is not just a question of corrosion, it is also how easy it is to put these things together. Hands-on experience is important. They need to be welded, tested, inspected, maintained. We are working towards having perhaps 20 or 30 test loops in Copenhagen, with the experiments designed, set up and executed. The conceptual design is already done; we are now working on the basic design and in that way we are working up towards a full-scale prototype."

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    Lifting the mask

     This initial article by Edward Snowden for his new letter may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    One history of the Internet — and I'd argue a rather significant one — is the history of the individual's disempowerment, as governments and businesses both sought to monitor and profit from what had fundamentally been a user-to-user or peer-to-peer relationship. The result was the centralization and consolidation of the Internet — the true y2k tragedy. This tragedy unfolded in stages, a gradual infringement of rights: users had to first be made transparent to their internet service providers, and then they were made transparent to the internet services they used, and finally they were made transparent to one another. The intimate linking of users' online personas with their offline legal identity was an iniquitous squandering of liberty and technology that has resulted in today's atmosphere of accountability for the citizen and impunity for the state. Gone were the days of self-reinvention, imagination, and flexibility, and a new era emerged — a new eternal era — where our pasts were held against us. Forever.

    Everything we do now lasts forever... The Internet's synonymizing of digital presence and physical existence ensures fidelity to memory, identitarian consistency, and ideological conformity. Be honest: if one of your opinions provokes the hordes on social media, you're less likely to ditch your account and start a new one than you are to apologize and grovel, or dig in and harden yourself ideologically. Neither of those "solutions" is one that fosters change, or intellectual and emotional growth.

    The forced identicality of online and offline lives, and the permanency of the Internet's record, augur against forgiveness, and advise against all mercy. Technological omniscence, and the ease of accessibility, promulgate a climate of censorship that in the so-called free world instantiates as self-censorship: people are afraid to speak and so they speak the party's words... or people are afraid to speak and so they speak no words at all...

    Even the most ardent practitioners of cancel culture — which I've always read as an imperative: Cancel culture! — must admit that cancellation is a form of surveillance borne of the same technological capacities used to oppress the vulnerable by patriachal, racist, and downright unkind governments the world over. The intents and outcomes might be different — cancelled people are not sent to camps — but the modus is the same: a constant monitoring, and a rush to judgment.

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.