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Latest Tron “scandal” highlights the problem of fake news in the crypto markets

Recently, Tron appears to have been at the center of the latest fake news scandal to hit the crypto world. It started on July 8, after Twitter user Hayden Otto posted a tweet stating that Chinese police were raiding the Tron offices in Beijing. The accompanying video initially seemed credible, showing uniformed police in an office that also displayed the Tron logo. The implication was that police were raiding Tron for participating in a scam.

However, this was far from truth, as Tron founder Justin Sun quickly jumped in to clarify. Protesters had stormed the offices, after finding out that a project called Wave Field Super Community was actually a Ponzi scheme (the project had associated itself with Tron, despite the company' attempts to dissociate itself). The police presence was, in fact, there to monitor the situation and protect Tron's employees.

Despite fast action on behalf of the company, Tron's price immediately plummeted. The incident wiped over $100m from Tron's total market cap in the space of just a few hours which it later recovered.

A recurring problem

Unfortunately, the Tron incident isn't the first case of fake news plaguing the digital currency space. In May, Primitive Ventures founder Dovey Wan outed a fake news scam in China. The report appeared to indicate that Craig Wright had transferred funds out of a BTC wallet known to belong to Satoshi Nakamoto and transferred it to Binance, thereby confirming that Craig Wright is indeed Satoshi.

This relates to an ongoing point of contention between Craig Wright and Binance founder Changpeng Zhao (CZ). The latter had delisted Craig Wright's Bitcoin SV coin from Binance a few months back following Wright's repeated (and unproven) claims that he was Satoshi Nakamoto. Again, the fake news had a market impact, as the value of BSV spiked immediately after the "news" broke.

Neither are these new incidents. Back in 2017, a Steemit writer had warned of the market impact of fake news. They cited a story that had circulated, stating that the IOTA project had partnered with Microsoft and Cisco. In fact, IOTA had only been in talks with those companies. The writer warned:

"This is a PRIME example of how virality with news about popular currencies can create massive, artificial pumps that are destined for a short life once the inaccuracy is revealed for what it is."

While some may dismiss these rumors as frivolous, the truth is they can inflict severe damage on markets. Investors can quickly lose trust and dump their holdings, causing markets to nosedive in response. The Tron and Bitcoin SV incidents are illustrative of just how easily this can happen.

Navigating the sea of fake news

It's not just necessarily a crypto problem, although crypto-Twitter seems to be an unhealthy source of truth for many in the industry. One problem with Twitter is that it becomes a breeding ground for fake news because projects are competing with one another. However, one project losing value doesn't equate to others gaining. This isn't how markets operate.

Nevertheless, traditional markets are also often subject to ups and downs depending on rumors and misinformation. Elon Musk caused shockwaves in the financial markets last year when he suddenly tweeted that he was taking Tesla private at $4.20 per share. He wasn't - resulting in the SEC taking swift action against him.

Because of incidents like these, 40% of Americans report fake news as one of their serious concerns in making investment decisions. Even seemingly reputable brands like Walgreens have faced SEC action for misleading investors.

However, crypto is far more volatile in general than the traditional markets, meaning fake news disproportionately affects market swings. With the influx of institutional money into crypto, we need more reliable sources of news and information than just Twitter. If markets continue to fluctuate so violently, it may ultimately cause institutions to pull their money out. This would be catastrophic for the digital asset space, which is only just starting to gain a veneer of credibility with big investors.

Is there an answer?

Some sources, Mark Zuckerberg included, point to artificial intelligence algorithms as the solution to the fake news problem. In the future, it may be possible that crowdsourced intelligence will help to reduce the instances of fake news. But currently, AI algorithms aren't advanced enough to differentiate all the levels of human nuance contained in even the shortest texts.

The cryptocurrency media operates at breakneck speed, resulting in reporters often picking up stories and reporting them as rumors, asking questions later. The mainstream media only tends to report on significant events in crypto and doesn't track every story. Therefore, crypto media needs to take responsibility for putting facts before clickbait headlines.

However, individuals can also take steps to ensure that they are applying reasonable doubt to tweets and clickbait headlines they see online. If you read an outrageous claim online, check multiple sources, and verify the author before sharing it. Check to make sure the website or Twitter account isn't a spoof or a fake. If something seems inauthentic, don't give it the oxygen of publicity.

In the end, there is no easy solution to the fake news problem. It's down to each individual and entity to take responsibility for what they post, what they share, and what they choose to believe and the markets will do what the markets will do. But let's try and make sure that as much as possible is based on facts, rather than fake news.

Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

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Human brains remember certain words more easily than others

A study of the manner in which memory works turns up a surprising thing.

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Mind & Brain
  • Researchers have found that some basic words appear to be more memorable than others.
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Cognitive psychologist Weizhen Xie (Zane) of the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) works with people who have intractable epilepsy, a form of the disorder that can't be controlled with medications. During research into the brain activity of patients, he and his colleagues discovered something odd about human memory: It appears that certain basic words are consistently more memorable than other basic words.

The research is published in Nature Human Behaviour.

An odd find

Image source: Tsekhmister/Shutterstock

Xie's team was re-analyzing memory tests of 30 epilepsy patients undertaken by Kareem Zaghloul of NINDS.

"Our goal is to find and eliminate the source of these harmful and debilitating seizures," Zaghloul said. "The monitoring period also provides a rare opportunity to record the neural activity that controls other parts of our lives. With the help of these patient volunteers we have been able to uncover some of the blueprints behind our memories."

Specifically, the participants were shown word pairs, such as "hand" and "apple." To better understand how the brain might remember such pairings, after a brief interval, participants were supplied one of the two words and asked to recall the other. Of the 300 words used in the tests, five of them proved to be five times more likely to be recalled: pig, tank, doll, pond, and door.

The scientists were perplexed that these words were so much more memorable than words like "cat," "street," "stair," "couch," and "cloud."

Intrigued, the researchers looked at a second data source from a word test taken by 2,623 healthy individuals via Amazon's Mechanical Turk and found essentially the same thing.

"We saw that some things — in this case, words — may be inherently easier for our brains to recall than others," Zaghloul said. That the Mechanical Turk results were so similar may "provide the strongest evidence to date that what we discovered about how the brain controls memory in this set of patients may also be true for people outside of the study."

Why understanding memory matters

person holding missing piece from human head puzzle

Image source: Orawan Pattarawimonchai/Shutterstock

"Our memories play a fundamental role in who we are and how our brains work," Xie said. "However, one of the biggest challenges of studying memory is that people often remember the same things in different ways, making it difficult for researchers to compare people's performances on memory tests." He added that the search for some kind of unified theory of memory has been going on for over a century.

If a comprehensive understanding of the way memory works can be developed, the researchers say that "we can predict what people should remember in advance and understand how our brains do this, then we might be able to develop better ways to evaluate someone's overall brain health."

Party chat

Image source: joob_in/Shutterstock

Xie's interest in this was piqued during a conversation with Wilma Bainbridge of University of Chicago at a Christmas party a couple of years ago. Bainbridge was, at the time, wrapping up a study of 1,000 volunteers that suggested certain faces are universally more memorable than others.

Bainbridge recalls, "Our exciting finding is that there are some images of people or places that are inherently memorable for all people, even though we have each seen different things in our lives. And if image memorability is so powerful, this means we can know in advance what people are likely to remember or forget."

spinning 3D model of a brain

Temporal lobes

Image source: Anatomography/Wikimedia

At first, the scientists suspected that the memorable words and faces were simply recalled more frequently and were thus easier to recall. They envisioned them as being akin to "highly trafficked spots connected to smaller spots representing the less memorable words." They developed a modeling program based on word frequencies found in books, new articles, and Wikipedia pages. Unfortunately, the model was unable to predict or duplicate the results they saw in their clinical experiments.

Eventually, the researchers came to suspect that the memorability of certain words was linked to the frequency with which the brain used them as semantic links between other memories, making them often-visited hubs in individuals's memory networks, and therefore places the brain jumped to early and often when retrieving memories. This idea was supported by observed activity in participants' anterior temporal lobe, a language center.

In epilepsy patients, these words were so frequently recalled that subjects often shouted them out even when they were incorrect responses to word-pair inquiries.

Seek, find

Modern search engines no longer simply look for raw words when resolving an inquiry: They also look for semantic — contextual and meaning — connections so that the results they present may better anticipate what it is you're looking for. Xie suggests something similar may be happening in the brain: "You know when you type words into a search engine, and it shows you a list of highly relevant guesses? It feels like the search engine is reading your mind. Well, our results suggest that the brains of the subjects in this study did something similar when they tried to recall a paired word, and we think that this may happen when we remember many of our past experiences."

He also notes that it may one day be possible to leverage individuals' apparently wired-in knowledge of their language as a fixed point against which to assess the health of their memory and brain.

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