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The invisible use case that should define the crypto movement
- The image of cryptocurrency tends to focus on privilege and flaunted wealth.
- Financial institutions dismiss Bitcoin as a fad, while exploiting the benefits of the underlying technology for themselves.
- But the story in developing countries paints a different picture – one of vast potential.
In 2018, The New York Times published a comprehensive expose on the burgeoning crypto movement that detailed the luxurious lives of the newly crypto rich. The article, aptly titled, "Everyone is Getting Hilariously Rich and You're Not" is emblematic of the coverage that often typecasts crypto enthusiasts as amateur wealth connoisseurs.
It's a common storyline about crypto diehards that is imminently popular because of the ostentatious numbers and the perceived greed of the whole thing. For example, when Ripple surged in value by more than 1,240% in a month, the headlines often reported on the company's CEO, Chris Larsen, who briefly became richer than Mark Zuckerberg.
The notion that a few people, 4.11% of Bitcoin owners to be exact, are becoming incredibly wealthy from the crypto movement only perpetuate the idea that cryptocurrencies are about becoming fabulously wealthy.
Of course, this penchant for discussing privilege has created a limiting narrative that propels skepticism about the transformative potential found in cryptocurrencies.
More specifically, continuing narratives about the culture of privilege surrounding cryptocurrencies is a distraction from what should define the primary use case for the crypto movement.
The skepticism of financial institutions
While traditional financial institutions are happy to benefit from Bitcoin in the form of derivatives contracts bought and sold through their institutions, they are continually dismissive of the crypto movement.
Most famously, JP Morgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon, described Bitcoin as a "fraud," adding that it's a good option for murderers and drug dealers.
Meanwhile, Bill Harris, the former CEO of PayPal, described Bitcoin as "a colossal pump-and-dump scheme...best suited for one use: criminal activity." Similarly, billionaire Charles Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, explained that he "detested it the moment it was raised."
Moreover, Bank of America has expressed continual incredulity about crypto's underlying technology, the blockchain, even as they rack up the most patents for the technology.
To be sure, financial institutions have every reason to prevent the proliferation of cryptocurrencies. Not only do they circumvent their once-unchallenged grip on the monetary system, but these institutions, and those who run them, have little use for an alternative to the existing financial infrastructure.
Simply put, the incredulity the financial elites feel is self-serving at best. Not only do they sit in powerful positions that prop up their privilege, but their access to vast financial resources encourages them to be dismissive of a new asset class that serves less well-positioned people.
Creating Financial Inclusion
With all this noise, an important expression of the crypto movement is struggling to breakthrough. For some, cryptocurrencies are just a modern way for a few people to become incredibly wealthy, while others see it as a threat to their business model and bottom line.
However, for many others, cryptocurrencies are a savior, a crucial way of exchanging value in turbulent and unstable situations. In between the headlines and hot takes, cryptocurrencies are making a real difference in the lives of the unbanked, those living in developing countries, and those impacted by geopolitical turmoil.
While Facebook's highly touted Libra is yet unproven, the purpose is right on the mark. The currency is targeting the worlds' 1.7 billion adults who don't have access to the financial system. In the US alone, 25% of the population is considered unbanked, meaning that there is a significant need for a better option.
Therefore, tech titan IBM notes, "we have reached a tipping point in the banking industry where our relationships with banks and how they extract value from us is going to be transformed."
For a lot of people, that transformation is already taking place. In Venezuela, where the national currency's annual inflation rate is 1.7 million percent, cryptocurrencies are allowing people to buy things like food, milk, and housing. As Venezuelan economist, Carlos Hernández, wrote in a Times op-ed, "'Borderless money' is more than a buzzword when you live in a collapsing economy and a collapsing dictatorship."
Indeed, cryptocurrencies effectively combat inflation, corruption, and high remittance costs. With cryptocurrencies, people aren't dependent on financial elites or established organizations to provide relief or opportunity. They can create this for themselves.
Creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs
Beyond the use case of blockchain as cryptocurrencies, the open, censorship-resistant nature of the technology has fostered a startup culture that's positively buzzing with innovation, the benefit of which isn't just limited to wealthy hubs like San Francisco and Singapore.
For example, Matic Network is an Indian company that is rapidly becoming the base protocol of India with its fast, scalable second-layer solution for Ethereum. Whereas Ethereum has struggled to scale beyond around 15 transactions per second, Matic uses side-chain technology to scale up to 65,000 transactions per second.
The company has already established partnerships with well-known names in the blockchain space, including Binance and Coinbase Ventures. As a development platform, Matic provides ready-made infrastructure to help kickstart the Indian blockchain startup scene, encouraging tech entrepreneurs to bring their applications to life
Despite its status as a developing country, India has long been the IT outsourcing hub of choice for companies the world over and contains a wealth of programming talent.
Open source, shared benefits
For the many people who won't become Bitcoin millionaires and who aren't members of the financial elite, cryptocurrencies and blockchain are becoming a vital resource that levels the playing field, inviting total participation in a trustless economy that has a place for everyone. Furthermore, the low barrier to entry for building blockchain-based applications offers the potential to open new channels for entrepreneurship in developing countries.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.
Women today are founding more businesses than ever. In 2018, they made up 40% of new entrepreneurs, yet in that same year, they received just 2.2% of all venture capital investment. The playing field is off-balance. So what can women do?
In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.