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Understanding the last three-year cryptocurrency rollercoaster
The global financial system is under an increasing amount of pressure to get with the times and evolve to the needs of its customers. Crises like the 2008 housing bubble's collapse, and failing currencies in places like Venezuela and Zimbabwe saw people looking for alternatives to traditional banking and financial systems.
Many people turned to Bitcoin as a solution, liking its ability to be used as an international payment system without involving third parties or governments.
Although Bitcoin has gained momentum primarily in the last three years, due to mass media and public attention, it's been around for over a decade.
Back in 2010 - 2014 cryptocurrencies were not well known and their primary reported use was as a tool for buying guns and drugs on the dark web.
Soon, innovators and techies saw the potential in cryptocurrency not just as a tool for the tax evader and shady buyer, but also as one which could benefit users with fast, stable transference of value.
The general public realized there was nothing to fear from Bitcoin, and people from all walks of life, fed up with the system, as well as with banks and high fees, started doing their own research. Once individuals started taking an interest, cryptocurrencies were on the rise.
It was the massive spike in interest and public awareness that forced banks, governments, and companies on the scale of IBM, Microsoft and Amazon to look into digital currencies and their underlying technology. These last three years have laid a fascinating foundation for what could be the future of money.
Piquing Mainstream Interest
Around three years ago news about early miners and investors seeing their thousands of accumulated Bitcoins turning into millions of dollars started cropping up as the price grew steadily.
Overnight millionaires were popping up everywhere as the price of Bitcoin rose to $1,000. Suddenly, Bitcoin was being bought by amateurs, and by investors seeing a chance at achieving the getting-rich-quick dream.
Bitcoin was easy to get, easy to trade, and seemed like a good option to make money as the interest in the digital coin was making the price bubble upwards. It took Bitcoin less than a year to 20x its value through 2017 - which should have been a warning sign to any cautious investor.
With all the hype, initial coin offerings (IPOs with cryptocurrency) started popping up everywhere. Blockchain companies would create a token for their business and then put it to market for investors to buy up in the hopes of making massive returns on their investment.
On the one hand, ICOs disrupted the venture capital model in a way not seen before, with companies able to fund their venture within minutes, hours and days beyond their expectations and without all the regulation traditional companies experienced. They had the opportunity to self-fund with thousands of investors around the world, eager to invest in the cryptocurrency gold rush.
On the other hand, however, the space became packed with scammers and amateurs eager to grab at the opportunity for funds in the unregulated space, often with no intention of paying back their investors in any way. People were throwing money at the flimsiest of projects, not doing their due diligence and with little knowledge of the company's model for success. In the past few years many ICOs, some of which raised millions in capital have failed, taking the money with them while others were purpose-built scams.
The predominance of blockchain
The hype caused a bubble that quickly popped and, from $20,000 Bitcoin dropped to lows of $3,000 in 2018 kicking off a long bear market, and burning many speculative investors.
The bear market made many newcomers back off, some leaving the market altogether and some holding on to a few Bitcoins in the hope it would turn. The bear market was bad for many of those who invested, but was on the whole a good thing for cryptocurrency as it caused people to stop using Bitcoin as the speculative asset it was never intended to be.
With fewer people crowding the space, enterprises and regulators were able to enter and focus on what they found to be most important about the cryptocurrency, it's underlying technology, blockchain.
Suddenly, IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, and others were building blockchain divisions. Banks, who once laughed at the ecosystem, were now hiring blockchain engineers, adding incredible legitimacy to the space.
Regulators now saw that blockchain, and digital tokens had a lot of value and could be separated from the scams and hacks often seen in the ICO markets. Regulators wanted to work with the technology and businesses wanted to leverage it for their systems.
The second coming
Having taken a massive hit through 2018, the cryptocurrency market started relying on the legitimacy that its technology - blockchain - had gained. Suddenly, after mostly losing gains, a few cryptocurrencies began gaining momentum in early 2019.
Soon, positive news about the cryptocurrency market saw the public's interest return - only this time, the interest was based on more than speculation, it was backed by big institutionalized money.
The media started labeling the first quarter of 2019 as the 'Cryptocurrency Spring' which excited investors as well as businesses. People had predicted that an institutional buy-in would propel the space once again, and it looks like 2019 is becoming the year for enterprises exploration of cryptocurrencies.
Eyal Hertzog, Co-founder and Product Architect of Bancor and long time cryptocurrency enthusiast talks about his predictions for the future of cryptocurrencies:
"Cryptocurrencies as we know them today are only the tip of the iceberg. In the future, we'll see tokens for everything from artists and artwork, to neighborhoods, charities, startups and more, creating new network models and embedding localized incentive structures into online and offline communities across the globe,".
"Right now, the Libra project represents a watershed moment as Facebook, one of the largest corporations in the world, has entered the fray along with giants like eBay, PayPal and Visa."
Bitcoin has now passed the $12000 mark and is showing no signs of slowing down in its return to the good graces of the public.
Hopefully, with regulation on the way and legitimate establishments at the helm this time around, the crypto market will become a steadier, more reliable space for real companies and new technologies to flourish, bringing transactions into the 22nd century and changing the financial systems we use for the better.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
So far, 30 student teams have entered the Indy Autonomous Challenge, scheduled for October 2021.
- The Indy Autonomous Challenge will task student teams with developing self-driving software for race cars.
- The competition requires cars to complete 20 laps within 25 minutes, meaning cars would need to average about 110 mph.
- The organizers say they hope to advance the field of driverless cars and "inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>Completing the race in 25 minutes means the cars will need to average about 110 miles per hour. So, while the race may end up being a bit slower than a typical Indy 500 competition, in which winners average speeds of over 160 mph, it's still set to be the fastest autonomous race featuring full-size cars.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is no human redundancy there," Matt Peak, managing director for Energy Systems Network, a nonprofit that develops technology for the automation and energy sectors, told the <a href="https://www.post-gazette.com/business/tech-news/2020/06/01/Indy-Autonomous-Challenge-Indy-500-Indianapolis-Motor-Speedway-Ansys-Aptiv-self-driving-cars/stories/202005280137" target="_blank">Pittsburgh Post-Gazette</a>. "Either your car makes this happen or smash into the wall you go."</p>
Illustration of the Indy Autonomous Challenge
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>The Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://www.indyautonomouschallenge.com/rules" target="_blank">describes</a> itself as a "past-the-post" competition, which "refers to a binary, objective, measurable performance rather than a subjective evaluation, judgement, or recognition."</p><p>This competition design was inspired by the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge, which tasked teams with developing driverless cars and sending them along a 150-mile route in Southern California for a chance to win $1 million. But that prize went unclaimed, because within a few hours after starting, all the vehicles had suffered some kind of critical failure.</p>
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>One factor that could prevent a similar outcome in the upcoming race is the ability to test-run cars on a virtual racetrack. The simulation software company Ansys Inc. has already developed a model of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on which teams will test their algorithms as part of a series of qualifying rounds.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We can create, with physics, multiple real-life scenarios that are reflective of the real world," Ansys President Ajei Gopal told <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/autonomous-vehicles-to-race-at-indianapolis-motor-speedway-11595237401?mod=e2tw" target="_blank">The Wall Street Journal</a>. "We can use that to train the AI, so it starts to come up to speed."</p><p>Still, the race could reveal that self-driving cars aren't quite ready to race at speeds of over 110 mph. After all, regular self-driving cars already face enough logistical and technical roadblocks, including <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53349313#:~:text=Tesla%20will%20be%20able%20to,no%20driver%20input%2C%20he%20said." target="_blank">crumbling infrastructure, communication issues</a> and the <a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/would-you-ride-in-a-car-thats-programmed-to-kill-you" target="_self">fateful moral decisions driverless cars will have to make in split seconds</a>.</p>But the Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5da73021d0636f4ec706fa0a/t/5dc0680c41954d4ef41ec2b2/1572890638793/Indy+Autonomous+Challenge+Ruleset+-+v5NOV2019+%282%29.pdf" target="_blank">says</a> its main goal is to advance the industry, by challenging "students around the world to imagine, invent, and prove a new generation of automated vehicle (AV) software and inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
A new Harvard study finds that the language you use affects patient outcome.
- A study at Harvard's McLean Hospital claims that using the language of chemical imbalances worsens patient outcomes.
- Though psychiatry has largely abandoned DSM categories, professor Joseph E Davis writes that the field continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system."
- Chemical explanations of mental health appear to benefit pharmaceutical companies far more than patients.
Challenging the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Mental Disorders: Robert Whitaker, Journalist<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="41699c8c2cb2aee9271a36646e0bee7d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-8BDC7i8Yyw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This is a far cry from Howard Rusk's 1947 NY Times editorial calling for mental healt</p><p>h disorders to be treated similarly to physical disease (such as diabetes and cancer). This mindset—not attributable to Rusk alone; he was merely relaying the psychiatric currency of the time—has dominated the field for decades: mental anguish is a genetic and/or chemical-deficiency disorder that must be treated pharmacologically.</p><p>Even as psychiatry untethered from DSM categories, the field still used chemistry to validate its existence. Psychotherapy, arguably the most efficient means for managing much of our anxiety and depression, is time- and labor-intensive. Counseling requires an empathetic and wizened ear to guide the patient to do the work. Ingesting a pill to do that work for you is more seductive, and easier. As Davis writes, even though the industry abandoned the DSM, it continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system." </p><p>That language has infiltrated public consciousness. The team at McLean surveyed 279 patients seeking acute treatment for depression. As they note, the causes of psychological distress have constantly shifted over the millennia: humoral imbalance in the ancient world; spiritual possession in medieval times; early childhood experiences around the time of Freud; maladaptive thought patterns dominant in the latter half of last century. While the team found that psychosocial explanations remain popular, biogenetic explanations (such as the chemical imbalance theory) are becoming more prominent. </p><p>Interestingly, the 80 people Davis interviewed for his book predominantly relied on biogenetic explanations. Instead of doctors diagnosing patients, as you might expect, they increasingly serve to confirm what patients come in suspecting. Patients arrive at medical offices confident in their self-diagnoses. They believe a pill is the best course of treatment, largely because they saw an advertisement or listened to a friend. Doctors too often oblige without further curiosity as to the reasons for their distress. </p>
Image: Illustration Forest / Shutterstock<p>While medicalizing mental health softens the stigma of depression—if a disorder is inheritable, it was never really your fault—it also disempowers the patient. The team at McLean writes,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"More recent studies indicate that participants who are told that their depression is caused by a chemical imbalance or genetic abnormality expect to have depression for a longer period, report more depressive symptoms, and feel they have less control over their negative emotions."</p><p>Davis points out the language used by direct-to-consumer advertising prevalent in America. Doctors, media, and advertising agencies converge around common messages, such as everyday blues is a "real medical condition," everyone is susceptible to clinical depression, and drugs correct underlying somatic conditions that you never consciously control. He continues,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Your inner life and evaluative stance are of marginal, if any, relevance; counseling or psychotherapy aimed at self-insight would serve little purpose." </p><p>The McLean team discovered a similar phenomenon: patients expect little from psychotherapy and a lot from pills. When depression is treated as the result of an internal and immutable essence instead of environmental conditions, behavioral changes are not expected to make much difference. Chemistry rules the popular imagination.</p>