Jan. 17-23, 2021
A brief, enthusiastic podcast pick to get started this time:
Ex-Facebooker Anthony Pompliano just did an excellent episode in which he interviews programmer Isaiah Jackson about bitcoin's potential to economically empower Black America.
Based on private conversations, I know this is a topic of interest to several readers of this newsletter as well. So I definitely want to call it to your attention.
In their 30-minute talk, which you can check out here, "Pomp" and Isaiah cover a lot of ground about bitcoin as a solution to redlining in traditional finance, deflation vesus inflation, and more. Plus they drop a couple of killer quotes, like this one:
"F!#@ the banks."
Well, then! 😂 On to the rest of the week's news:
- Ether hit a new all-time high. The number-two cryptocurrency, which is the basis of the Ethereum ecosystem, topped $1,400, breaking its previous record set in January 2018. Ethereum has recently been bolstered by its increasing usage as a tool to build decentralized finance apps, as well as the initial rollout of version 2.0 of its network software. The recent gains have pushed ether's market capitalization above $152 billion.
- BitMEX Research said it documented a dreaded "double spend" on the bitcoin blockchain, though several independent analysts dismissed the claim. The term "double spend" refers to a scenario in which the same token is used in more than one transaction -- a major pitfall to be avoided for bitcoin's core principle of scarcity to work. After looking at BitMEX's data, most analysts said the transactions BitMEX had flagged were verified slowly but correctly in the end, without true double spend. Nevertheless, the incident has set off a controversey that continues among crypto developers about what the optimal consensus method for a blockchain network should look like. In essence, the bitcoin community's best defense to BitMEX's complaint boils down to: "Hey, we didn't get it wrong. We were just slow." But slowness is also a problem in its own right.
- Bitcoin sagged, although Wall Street remains keen on it. The flagship cryptocurrency tumbled 8% for the week, recently trading above $32,000. But the financial industry's biggest players continued to take early steps toward getting involved. CoinDesk reported that Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Citi are all looking at establishing custodial services to hold bitcoin on behalf of clients. And recent regulatory filings by asset-management giant BlackRock would open the way for the firm to invest in bitcoin futures in some of its funds.
- Misinformation is down 73% on Twitter since the platform banned Donald Trump, according to a new analysis by Zignal Labs.
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation published a transition memo for the new Biden administration. The document essentially serves as a handy primer on major tech-policy issues right now, including privacy, broadband access, antitrust, and more. (One minor pet peeve, though: EFF's memo is oddly silent on crypto. You know, that thing with a nearly $1 trillion market cap, a murky regulatory picture, and potential to disrupt Wall Street? Seems kinda important, guys.)
- Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma made his first public appearance in months after a mysterious disappearance. The Alibaba co-founder hadn't been seen since shortly after his company's initial stock offering was abruptly halted by the government following his remarks calling for freer regulation of tech. But he resurfaced on Wednesday in an online ceremony for 100 rural teachers. He was also shown in a video touring a primary school in his home town of Hangzhou.
- Build a cheaper soccer ball, and the world will beat a path to your door. Fast Company reports on the Japanese design firm Nendo's efforts to build a soccer ball made entirely from interlocking parts rather than the traditional construction of panels over an inflatable bladder. The old method also necessitates buying a pump to occasionally re-inflate the ball, makes it difficult to repair if the bladder pops, and pushes the ball's price to about $12 -- a significant sum for families in some developing countries. By comparison, Nendo's ball needs no pump and can be fixed one piece at a time if necessary, so more kids can play away. Pretty cool stuff indeed. 😀 ⚽
That's it for now. Thanks for spending some time with the newsletter today! If you'd like to get updates like this in your inbox every Sunday, please join our email list here.
— Peter A. McKay
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