from the world's big
Bitcoin’s Big Problem
Bitcoin is just the first virtual currency to make it big – and you can bet it won’t be the last.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the past couple of weeks about Bitcoin, the online virtual currency whose value has been extraordinarily volatile of late. A currency that’s electronic but as untraceable as cash surely has its uses for some people, but there’s one aspect of it that hasn’t been fully considered yet: its uniqueness may not last.
National currencies have one great advantage over currencies like Bitcoin: they usually don’t face much competition. It’s true that countries with weak currencies sometimes use dollars, euros, or even cigarettes as alternative or parallel mediums of exchange. Broadly speaking, however, a national currency is a useful focal point; the government requires that everyone accept it in transactions, and so everyone can agree to use it. That’s what makes it valuable.
Bitcoin is not so well-defined as a currency in comparison to a dollar or yuan, and thus its uniqueness is much less clear. The currency based on a mysterious algorithm whose originator is anonymous. No one really knows whether the algorithm can be trusted to generate Bitcoins as promised, or who would be accountable for errors or frauds; there is no definitive monetary authority.
Were any problems to occur, a new electronic currency, perhaps one vouchsafed in a more transparent way, might arise. If the people who found Bitcoin useful for its anonymity, virtuality, and globality were to switch to this new currency, the value of Bitcoins would tumble. The reason is simple: Bitcoin’s exchange rates with other currencies depend on supply and demand; if no one wants Bitcoins, they’re worthless. And Bitcoin need not run into trouble for a new currency to appear. The new currency’s originators just need to invent an architecture that people prefer.
Of course, people won’t switch away from a popular currency for the sake of small improvements. But Bitcoin is just the first virtual currency to make it big – and you can bet it won’t be the last.
Ever since we've had the technology, we've looked to the stars in search of alien life. It's assumed that we're looking because we want to find other life in the universe, but what if we're looking to make sure there isn't any?
Here's an equation, and a rather distressing one at that: N = R* × fP × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L. It's the Drake equation, and it describes the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy with whom we might be able to communicate. Its terms correspond to values such as the fraction of stars with planets, the fraction of planets on which life could emerge, the fraction of planets that can support intelligent life, and so on. Using conservative estimates, the minimum result of this equation is 20. There ought to be 20 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way that we can contact and who can contact us. But there aren't any.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.