Five Minute Blockchain – No. 57
Estimated reading time: 3 mins 42 seconds
Quote of the Week
Science Fiction writer Ted Chiang in an interview with the Financial Times: What could be a better word to describe “artificial intelligence”?
Chiang’s main objection, a writerly one, is with the words we choose to describe all this. Anthropomorphic language such as “learn”, “understand”, “know” and personal pronouns such as “I” that AI engineers and journalists project on to chatbots such as ChatGPT create an illusion. This hasty shorthand pushes all of us, he says — even those intimately familiar with how these systems work — towards seeing sparks of sentience in AI tools, where there are none.
“There was an exchange on Twitter a while back where someone said, ‘What is artificial intelligence?’ And someone else said, ‘A poor choice of words in 1954’,” he says. “And, you know, they’re right. I think that if we had chosen a different phrase for it, back in the ’50s, we might have avoided a lot of the confusion that we’re having now.”
So if he had to invent a term, what would it be? His answer is instant: applied statistics.
“Platforms have given up on 2020 lies”
Spreaders of misinformation get their accounts re-activated for several reasons. This looks problematic from the outside because wrong statements and views will be amplified again. In other news: Twitter is currently negotiating with Google Cloud services; in principle, they want to change a contract. This, though, will affect all kinds of services Twitter uses, for example, to avoid spam or other malicious content.
Management versus users: The big fight over at Reddit
These days thousands of Reddit communities are not reachable. Their administrators, all volunteers, have taken the communities “private”.
The reason for the move is that Reddit plans to charge for the use of its API. The changes were announced in April and will become effective by June 30, 2023.
Before usage of the API was free, which led to the creation of some successful apps, providing access to Reddit users using mobile phones.
Those apps, one example being Apollo, will now stop working. Based on preliminary calculations, they would have to pay up to $20 million per year to Reddit. On the other side, the company says that the external apps are not helping to make any money (e.g., through advertising) and that they even cost money, based on the need to maintain the API and other parts of the software.
Though users’ protests are loud and clear, it is unlikely that the API charges will change. The main reason is that Reddit is preparing for an IPO.
Swift explores blockchain interoperability to remove friction from tokenised asset settlement
Swift, the global financial transactions network, aims to overcome the fragmentation of multiple blockchains, specifically for institutional investors.
“In capital markets, there’s a growing view that blockchain technology has the potential to generate efficiencies, reduce costs and open up opportunities for some parts of the industry. For example, private markets have historically been dependent on legacy systems and processes, which add costs and deter investment. By rationalising operations and settlement processes, blockchain could attract more investors into the private markets and ultimately increase liquidity.”
Swift Press Release
Venture company Andreessen Horowitz opens crypto-focused office in London
The move is partially understood as a reaction after the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Binance and Coinbase in the U.S. The expectation is that in London, where many financial institutions have headquarters, regulatory clarity for crypto assets might be achieved faster than in the U.S. This could lead to start-ups and even established companies in the crypto market moving to the U.K.
Quote from Axios: “If they can get regulatory clarity soon in the U.K., I think you’ll see U.S. companies move there and new companies start there,” says Chris Dixon, who founded and leads Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto practice (known as a16z crypto).
$43 million funding for Gensyn, a blockchain-based marketplace for compute power
London-based Gensyn, a blockchain-based marketplace protocol connecting compute power buyers and sellers, announced a $43 million Series A fundraising today.
A16z Crypto led the round alongside CoinFund, Canonical Crypto, Protocol Labs, Eden Block, Maven 11 and various angel investors.
- Robin Hood to delist Solana, Cardano & Polygon tokens after SEC describes them as securities (Web3isjustgoinggreat)
- Former SEC Chairman Jay Clayton on Enforcement Actions: Crypto Should Be Treated With ‘Nuance’ (Bitcoin.com)
- Binance Labs and FunPlus lead a $6.6 million investment in Fusionist – the platform has a community of 800,000 people. (The Block)
- Tencent backs Aave’s decentralised social networking protocol, Lens (Ledger Insights)
Thank you for reading. If you have questions or suggestions, please get in touch with us via email@example.com.
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Five Minute Blockchain – No. 56
Estimated reading time: 6 min 12 sec
Quote of the Week
“Mitigating the risk of extinction from A.I. should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks, such as pandemics and nuclear war.”
One-sentence statement signed by AI experts, published on the Center for AI Safety webpage. LINK
AI experts warn about AI
This week’s big trust/content/tech topic is puzzling: Why would experts warn about the potential threats of AI? After all, this is the technology they are working on, in a race one against the other to make the technology better.
Essentially, founders like Sam Altman urge that AI platforms should be regulated. Another idea is that AI platforms should be required to have a license to operate from a government agency which has yet to be established.
The New York Times ($)
Google rolls out AI/LLM powered “Search Generative Experience” to some users.
As announced during the recent Google Event I/O 2023, users who have signed up for the Search Labs program can now use “Search Generative Experience” (SGE) – a Google search supported by AI.
The key idea of SGE is to support users with “longer, multistep searches. These queries might not necessarily be answered by one website.
Below is an illustrative example of how this could work:
“Maybe you’re starting to map out a decision that you’d typically need to break down into smaller parts, like ‘Learning ukulele vs guitar.’ Search will provide an AI-powered snapshot so you can get help understanding what factors to consider.”
BabyLM Challenge aims to create powerful AI with small language models
ETH Zurich and others are part of a particular challenge to perform research towards small but effective language models for AI. This is interesting because large current models can only operate with extensive cloud resources. Smaller models could be easier to handle while still providing lots of output.
The New York Times ($)
BabyLM Challenge (Github)
How Adobe adds “product” to AI
The big tech and software companies are racing to react to generative AI. Last week Adobe introduced its offering, called Firefly. The software enables the generation of images and is part of the well-established Photoshop. Firefly enables “generative fill”, providing many new options for visuals and pictures.
Benedict Evans on how this is different from other offerings.
“Adobe made a very successful shift to subscription SaaS in the last decade. Now it’s trying the same with generative AI, launching a de novo image generation product in Firefly and adding generative features to Photoshop.
The more generally important part of this, I think, is the move to add interface, control and product to the prompt: instead of typing 50 words into a box and waiting to see what you get, there are options and switches to give you some control.”
Examples of how Firefly can be used (Thread on Twitter)
Was Google Bard trained on Gmail data? Yes, no, maybe?
Asked what data was used for training, Bard, the AI software from Google, recently replied to a user that Gmail data was used. This might have been a case of AI hallucination, where platforms make up answers. But even the potential use of (private) Gmail data set off a flurry of comments and articles, as many users and journalists would consider this a breach of privacy … and trust. Google wanted to ensure that Bard was not trained in using Gmail data and that the software was “hallucinating” in this particular answer. But the honest answer is a bit more complicated. A good write-up of the whole situation can be found under the link.
Apple App Store generated $1.1 trillion of commerce in 2022
Apple released a study with data about the amount and type of revenue generated globally in the App Store. To this end, the company commissioned a research firm for a report, which can be downloaded for free.
The numbers are very, very high. $1.1 trillion (Europe, long ladder = one billion)
“Apple says its App Store ecosystem generated $1.1 trillion in developer billings and sales in 2022, 90% of which was commission-free — a metric it likes to tout to downplay the growing complaints about the high cost of doing business on a marketplace that generally takes a 15% to 30% commission on in-app purchases and paid downloads, with some exceptions.
This $1.1 trillion breaks down as $910 billion in total billings and sales from the sale of physical goods and services, $109 billion from in-app advertising and $104 billion for digital goods and services.”
In 2019 the full-year revenue was “only” $519 billion (Europe: Milliard), which means the figure doubled during the pandemic.
Apple Press Release
Analysis Group (PDF)
An app for short attention spans
“Web Roulette, a mobile web browser app for iOS built for the short attention spans of the TikTok era. With the debut version out now, you can add your favorite websites or choose from its suggestions, then swipe through the sites to see what’s new or shake the app for a surprise web page when boredom strikes.”
Digital nomads are a new type of tourist but with some adverse effects on local communities
Cities from Canggu to Medellín are welcoming tech workers, but locals complain they’re being priced out.
Rest of World
Fireside Chat: A Twitter competitor with (potentially) 45 million users
A key element and difference to Twitter are rewards for good entries:
“Created by Pi Network and dubbed Fireside Forum, the initially text-based social platform is enlisting a model where users can spend tokens rewarding and elevating posts they like or invest them in penalizing the posts they don’t. The company’s aim is the Pi Network model will help suppress content considered spam, misleading, toxic or all of the above.”
White Paper from World Economic Forum suggests ways to regulate Crypto
Here is a new approach to creating trust and some form of regulation for crypto assets:
“The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently published a white paper titled “Pathways to the Regulation of Crypto-Assets: A Global Approach,” advocating for a collaborative approach towards crypto regulation on a global scale. The white paper highlights the unique challenges and necessary considerations regarding the regulation of crypto-assets. Considering the borderless, open-source, decentralized nature of these digital currencies, their regulation requires a delicate balance between preventing harm, protecting users, and promoting innovation.”
World Economic Forum – Pathways to the Regulation of Cryptoe-Assets: White Paper
Tokenization gains popularity in finance, elsewhere
“Asset tokenization is increasingly being tested to improve costly capital markets operations like securities issuance. New York-based Fireblocks, which helps businesses create and manage digital assets, believes tokenization will enjoy exponential adoption over the next two years, as early-adopter businesses start to experience the very tangible benefits.”
SAP to start NFT platform
“SAP sees NFTs as an extension of digital twins where the twin is a promo item, a ticket for an event, or can be redeemed for physical goods.”
An initial trial has been done with a German retailer in the area of customer loyalty:
One of the companies that SAP has worked with to build the solution is Tchibo, the German coffee shop and online retailer with more than 1,000 stores and revenues of more than €3 billion.
… As a trial, Tchibo minted 1,000 NFTs on the Polygon blockchain for its Royalty Club. Some Golden NFTs were redeemable for small prizes.
Thank you for reading. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Five Minute Blockchain – No. 54
Estimated reading time: 7 min 55 seconds
QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“Given the proliferation of AI models being released these days, do we need a sort of Linnean system (i.e. kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species) to classify and make sense of the space?”
Situational awareness: The discussion about trustable content is as relevant as ever. However, the focus has shifted from decentralised blockchain architecture towards anticipating the many changes of “new” content coming through generative AI. So many areas of work might be affected. But what are the risks, and what are the market effects?
One thought: How can this be an opportunity for the EU? Currently, the perspective is that most future technologies will come from a few substantial-tech companies (Open AI/Microsoft, Google, etc.) But a big part of using AI is how it is deployed, how it is regulated and how the technology is used for economic growth. This week a senior Google engineer wrote an internal memo that open-source AI could outpace both Google and Microsoft and lead to a much broader, new tech world in the next ten to twenty years.
“Sparks of General Intelligence”
Noteworthy: A scientific article concludes that the newest version of GPT-4 shows “sparks of “artificial general intelligence” or, in short, AGI. The researchers conclude:
“We demonstrate that, beyond its mastery of language, GPT-4 can solve novel and difficult tasks that span mathematics, coding, vision, medicine, law, psychology and more, without needing any special prompting. Moreover, in all of these tasks, GPT-4’s performance is strikingly close to human-level performance, and often vastly surpasses prior models such as ChatGPT. Given the breadth and depth of GPT-4’s capabilities, we believe that it could reasonably be viewed as an early (yet still incomplete) version of an artificial general intelligence (AGI) system.”
AI can fool voice verification systems
Exclusive by The Guardian:
“Using just four minutes of audio, a Guardian Australia journalist was able to generate a clone of their own voice and was then able to use this, combined with their customer reference number, to gain access to their own Centrelink self-service account.”
Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) both give people the option of using a “voiceprint”, along with other information, to verify their identity over the phone, allowing them to then access sensitive information from their accounts.
NPR (National Public Radio): Elon Musk threatened to reassign NPR’s Twitter account
In an unprompted email to an NPR reporter, Elon Musk asked if NPR planned to start posting on Twitter again, “or should we reassign @NPR to another company?”
Comment from “Daring Fireball” on this story:
“This is a shakedown, pure and simple. What a message to big brands and celebrities: stop posting to Twitter, and they’ll reassign your longstanding username.
It’s bizarre that Musk thinks this might prompt NPR to start posting to Twitter again when the only rational reaction is to feel assured that walking away from Twitter was the right move.”
Twitters Verification Fiasco might end in a US court
Before the Elon Musk take-over, Twitter provided a blue verification checkmark to users with many followers, journalists and celebrities. Then the company tried to make verification a subscription business, but interest was low. Then many celebrities got their blue checks back, which created the impression that the stars did, in fact, pay – which was not the case. Wired reports that giving such an impression for marketing is forbidden in the US.
How Google AMP Ruined the Trust of Publishers in the Company
In 2015 Google started a new standard called “Accelerated Mobile Pages” AMP. The key idea was to speed up news content to load faster for quick display in search results, specifically on mobile devices. As of 2023, the technology has, by and large, faded away. Publishers do not care, and even Google seemingly has given up on AMP.
“…AMP came with huge tradeoffs, most notably around how all those webpages were monetised. AMP made it harder to use ad tech that didn’t come from Google, fraying the relationship between Google and the media so severely that AMP became a crucial component in an antitrust lawsuit filed just five years after its launch in 2020 by 17 state attorneys general, accusing Google of maintaining an illegal monopoly on the advertising industry.
Spotify cleans thousands of AI-made songs
The music streaming platform found AI-made songs connected to potentially fraudulent listening numbers. If successful such as deception would mean that Spotify would have to pay real money for fake listening.
Before forming an opinion about generative AI, we should start using the new technology. The goal should be to determine what the technology does well and where the limits are. Wired US has a list of links pointing to resources where you can learn:
Learn Prompting (free)
Free course teaching how to write prompts at different levels.
How to take your prompts to the next level (Wired)
Comprehensive article with examples of how to enhance prompts.
Inside my head
Run by technologist Linus Ekenstam, it features a host of useful AI-related material, covering tutorials on getting the optimum results from these tools and crafting the smartest prompts”. (Substack, some posts free, some only for a subscription.)
A generative ML model for icons.
Scientific paper on how to use a generative AI model to generate Icons.
Analysis: The costs of training LLMs
Training AI platforms means you need to have a big budget for computing resources.
“Navigating the High Cost of AI Compute”:
“…We’ve seen many companies spend more than 80% of their total capital raised on compute resources! In this post, we try to break down the cost factors for an AI company. The absolute numbers will of course change over time, but we don’t see immediate relief from AI companies being bound by their access to compute resources.”
Google is expected to demonstrate new AI platforms this week
At Google I/O, the search company will present PaLM 2, the latest AI development platform. PaLM 2 will include more than 100 languages, according to internal documents viewed by CNBC. The new AI platform will be used for coding, math, creative writing and analysis.
Adobe Firefly AI
Adobe Firefly is a new offering bringing the capabilities of generative AI to Adobe software products. Firefly enables users to generate images and text effects from descriptions, and Adobe says the platform is trained content licensed or out of copyright.
IBM introduces WatsonX, its own AI platform
“IBM, like pretty much every tech giant these days, is betting big on AI. At its annual Think conference, the company announced IBM Watsonx, a new platform that delivers tools to build AI models and provides access to pre-trained models for generating computer code, text and more.”
Amazon buys search engine “Snackable AI”.
The technology will be used for podcast projects, enabling the discovery of people, topics, etc.
Visa: “Learning by Doing” critical for the long-term success of digital currencies
“Visa has developed a programmable finance platform designed to help Brazilian farmers better negotiate contracts.”
“…Visa presented its solution for the Banco Central do Brasil’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) competition, the Real Digital LIFT Challenge. The prototype consists of a programmable finance platform for small and medium-sized businesses (particularly farmers), which allows tokenising sale contracts into NFTs and auctioning them to global investors. Microsoft, Sinqia, and Agrotoken were also part of the submission.”
Mastercard introduces Crypto Credentials to increase trust in blockchain technology.
“Mastercard says Crypto Credential has been developed to “establish a set of common standards and infrastructure that will help attest trusted interactions among consumers and businesses using blockchain networks”.
The standards will help users verify blockchain-based transactions, with Mastercard also providing the technology necessary for those wishing to interact across Web3 environments. The firm says trust is “critical” if blockchain is to reach its full potential, while a lack of robust protections and standards has often eroded the trust of consumers, businesses and governments.”
Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Deloitte and other companies will use a blockchain platform to link financial applications.
Digital Asset has developed the system, which will be called Canton Network.
A group of firms including Goldman Sachs Group Inc, MicrosoftCorp, Deloitte and Cboe Global Markets Inc are joining a new blockchain system aimed at linking disparate institutional applications, potentially encouraging broader adoption of distributed ledger technology in financial markets.
Everledger was an Australian company that hoped to use blockchains to track provenance of diamonds, other precious gems, fine wines, and other luxury goods. Things apparently didn’t pan out, though, when an investor’s planned funding fell through and the company was placed into voluntary administration.
Everledger had in the past raised US$37 million in funding. AUD$3 million (~US$2 million) of that funding came from the Australian government’s blockchain grants program in 2021.
Web3 is going just great
- Italy lifts ban on ChatGPT after data privacy improvements (Deutsche Welle)
- With Sandbox and Decentraland looking static, crypto investors are looking for other credible alternatives (Crypto News Flash)
- PayTM, India’s leading mobile payment platform, reported a surge in revenue and reduced its losses by 57%. (TechCrunch)
- Goldman Sachs found that 62% of family offices are neither invested nor interested in crypto. In 2021 the percentage of wealthy people not interested in crypto was much lower, at 39%. (The Block)
- “You can now create a shitcoin in less than 23 seconds” (Cointelegraph)
Thank you for reading. If you have questions or suggestions, please get in touch with us via email@example.com.
Five Minute Blockchain – No. 53
Estimated reading time: 7 min 14 sec
A weekly update from TruBlo –> https://www.trublo.eu
QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
Too much content about Web3 platforms, tools and stats. Not enough about artists.
@musicben_eth (Twitter User)
“We’re at a tipping point where AI is going to break trust in what you see and hear — anddemocracies can’t survive when people don’t agree on facts. You have to have a baseline of understanding of facts”
Dana Rao, Adobe’s general counsel and chief trust officer (TechCrunch)
Policy update for Open AI Codex will affect research papers
Scientists need access to machine learning (ML) models to conduct research. One of the access points is Codex, by OpenAI, which is not open source.
On Monday, OpenAI announced that it would discontinue support for Codex by Thursday. Hundreds of academic papers would no longer be reproducible: independent researchers would not be able to assess their validity and build on their results.
AI Snake Oil
Who is Shou Zi Chew, the TikTok CEO?
This Thursday, the boss of TikTok will be at a hearing in the US, where politicians want to decide about a potential ban on TikTok, mainly based on security concerns.
The 40-year-old CEO has worked at Goldman Sachs, studied in the US and manages TikTop from an office in Singapur. The “Wall Street Journal” has a profile of the executive.
TikTok argues that the company would never share user data with Chinese authorities, and there is little trust in this claim in the US, Europe, and India.
Wall Street Journal
Blacklight – a real-time website privacy inspector
On the pages of The Markup, you can access a tool to check the privacy settings on any website, including your own. Service is free.
The new Luddites
Between 1811 and 1816, English workers repeatedly destroyed new machines, specifically in cotton and woollen mills, because the new technology threatened their jobs. They were called “Luddites“.
Now there is a new group, not as violent as their predecessors, but with a similar opinion about new technologies. In New York, a group has formed the “The Luddite Club”. They promote “self-liberation from social media and technology”. Part of that is to evade smartphones by using flip phones from the 90s, meeting in person, and to read from physical books.
According to a survey “68.6% of people say that screen time has had a negative effect on their mental health, while one in three admitted it had a detrimental effect on their work or personal lives. In response to this, we’re seeing the emergence of a new movement of people, groups and brands who are questioning technology’s unchecked impact on our lives, with many championing a return to tactile, physical, off-line experiences.”
Wunderman Thompson: The New Luddites
You can’t make this up
The new AI platforms are the big topic in early 2023. How can the new options be used? What are the shortcomings? What are the dangers to jobs, society and for truth and trust?
Here is a quick run-down of exciting headlines this week:
- RightWingGPT is an AI model trained on conservative political viewpoints. Its creator thinks that ChatGPT has a “left-leaning bias. (New York Times, $)
- Canva, the design platform, introduces AI-based tools to simplify creating images or presentations by writing prompts. The Australian company, founded in 2012, has around 125 million users, with revenue of $1,6B annually. (Forbes).
- GitHub has announced Copilot X, which means AI support for developers. OpenAI GPT-4 is used to facilitate coding tasks. (Bloomberg)
- News Publishers want their share. An alliance of media companies are discussing how to demand a percentage of the revenue from Microsoft, Google and other AI platforms for using their content to train the AI software. (Wall Street Journal)
- Character.AI faces legal troubles for allowing users to make and share chatbots of famous people or fictional movies, or comic characters such as Yoda or Harry Potter. (Bloomberg)
- Ubisoft has launched an AI tool called Ghostwriter to assist video game developers with writing in-game dialogue. (Kotaku)
- First Batch ID (FID) is a decentralised identity to personalise a user’s news feed. (Gravitates)
Google and Microsoft plan to enhance office software with AI magic
AI software might change how work is done for millions of jobs by offering new options for typical office tasks, such as writing an e-mail or a marketing message. Both Google and Microsoft are in a race to deploy such features:
In a replay of last month’s dueling chatbot launches by the tech giants, Alphabet touted a “magic wand” for its popular Google Docs software that can draft a marketing blog, training plan or other text, then revise its tone at users’ discretion, a company official demonstrated to reporters.
Alphabet announced that the AI software could summarise messages in Gmail, craft slide presentations, personalise customer outreach and take meeting notes.
Meanwhile, Microsoft organised an event to discuss how it is “reinventing productivity with AI”. Like Google, the company plans to connect AI options to Word, Powerpoint and Excel.
It can be expected that there will be a debate about the amount of AI-generated content for a while. Still, with such deep integration into everyday life, most people might get accustomed to using AI to speed up the completion of standard office tasks.
Reuters /via Yahoo
Glaze aims to prevent AI crawlers from stealing art
A free tool called Glaze, developed by a team from the University of Chicago, seeks to help artists to prevent AI from copying their art.
“…the (beta) app works by adding almost imperceptible ‘perturbations’ to each artwork it’s applied to — changes that are designed to interfere with AI models’ ability to read data on artistic style — and make it harder for generative AI technology to mimic the style of the artwork and its artist. Instead systems are tricked into outputting other public styles far removed from the original artwork”.
Blockchain technology used for refugee aid programs in Ukraine
The UN refugee program is among the pioneers of using blockchain technology for aid programs, specifically for transferring financial aid to refugees. The agency had already used similar technology to support refugees in Jordan in 2018, but with a different setup.
In Ukraine, the UNHCR works with the Stellar Development Foundation, a nonprofit alongside the money transfer company MoneyGram. A fourth organisation involved is Circle Internet Financial, the issuer of USDC stablecoin.
“For now, the stablecoin program in Ukraine is being piloted on a microscopic scale, with fewer than 100 participants in the cities of Kyiv, Lviv, and Vinnytsia. The UNHCR is preparing to expand the initiative to up to 5,000 wallets by April, but this would still represent only a fraction of the number of Ukrainians displaced by the war.”
Distributed technology and digital wallets can solve several challenges, such as handling and distributing large amounts of cash.
UNHCR Press Release (December 2022)
US authorities send notice to Coinbase
Coinbase and Tron received SEC notices that the exchanges might have violated US securities laws by selling securities. Coinbase said that the warning does not mean any changes to current offerings. (CNBC)
“Brian Armstrong, the co-founder and CEO of crypto exchange Coinbase, has compared the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to “soccer refs” in a game of pickleball, criticizing U.S. regulators for not being able to “agree on the rules” of “this new game.”” (Cointelegraph)
SEC sues Tron-founder and eight celebrities
Meanwhile, the SEC sued Justin Sun, the founder of Tron, for selling unregistered securities, market manipulation, and fraud. Also, eight celebrities are charged for promoting crypto assets without disclosing that they were paid for it. (SEC Press Release)(Coindesk)
Luxembourg recognises bill for DLT-based securities
Last week the Luxembourg parliament adopted a bill that recognizes DLT-based securities as collateral. It also expands the definition of financial instruments to include those issued under the EU’s DLT Pilot Regime, which comes into force later this month.
- “A Moody’s report said municipalities could save money and improve transparency using blockchain technology. The firm added that doing so comes with potential risks, namely cyber attacks and volatility.” (The Block)
- “South Korea cranks up pressure to extradite Do Kwon, founder of failed Terra-Luna stablecoin”. (Forkast)
- In Nigeria: “A youth-led online movement propelled an outsider candidate into the political mainstream.” (Wired UK)
- On the launch of Microsoft Loop, which is partially similar to Notion: “If you create software that gains traction in work environments, it’s inevitable that Microsoft is going to follow.” (Daring Fireball) (The Verge)
- Status of Neobanks in Europe -profits, outlook (Tech.eu)
- Flying Sheep Studios announced that the Cologne-based studio had received $1.2 million from a German ministry for “Star Life”, a social massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. (Venture Beat)
- Chainalysis breaks down how scammers adapt during the bear market (Cointelegraph)
- Ponzi 2.0: “An investment fund announces a $16 million investment in an Estonian startup. But there’s a problem — the startup doesn’t exist, and the funding didn’t happen.” (Tech.eu)
Thank you for reading. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Five Minute Blockchain – No. 52
The weekly newsletter from the crossroads of trust, content & blockchain.
TruBlo is an EU research project. We support 45 early-stage projects to research and create new solutions.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes 44 seconds
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“A platform that can mimic humans’ writing with no commitment to the truth is a gift for those who benefit from disinformation. We need to regulate its use now.”
Emily Bell: A fake news frenzy: Why ChatGPT could be disastrous for truth in journalism
Bank failures in the US affect start-ups and crypto platforms
In the US, three banks defaulted in the past week. First Silvergate, then Silicon Valley Bank, and then – only since Friday – another bank called Signature was closed in New York. The reasons are different, though three have in common that creditors lost trust. It is bad enough for the US government to step in.
After receiving a recommendation from the boards of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Federal Reserve, Treasury Secretary Yellen, after consultation with the President, approved actions to enable the FDIC to complete its resolutions of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in a manner that fully protects all depositors, both insured and uninsured. (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System)
The downfall of Silicon Valley Bank will have repercussions for venture capital and start-up financing, potentially around the world. If the bank behind many deals in this space suddenly fails, there is a need to investigate the causes.
The unraveling at Silicon Valley Bank will have far-reaching implications for U.S. venture-backed startups, half of which did business at the bank, and the broader tech ecosystem. (Crunchbase)
The lightning collapse of Silicon Valley Bank Friday raised the specter of a broad tech-industry crash for the first time since the dotcom bubble burst in 2000. That threat, which loomed all weekend as legions of the startups that made up the bank’s clientele worried about meeting next week’s payrolls, receded after the federal government intervened Sunday to backstop depositors’ assets even over the $250,000 FDIC threshold. After a year of layoffs and market retreats, the run on the industry’s own community bank put tech’s new status as a troubled business in sharp relief. (Axios)
In the UK, HSBC bought the British subsidiary of Silicon Valley Bank for one British pound (New York Times, €)
Crypto platforms are also involved because some might have exposure to these failing banks. Circle and Coinbase published statements to assure clients can redeem their holdings this Monday.
The shutdown of Signature and the collapse of Silvergate leave many companies in the crypto industry without much access to the US banking system. (Web3 is going just great)
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Joint Statement by the Department of Treasury, Federal Reserve and FDIC
The Economic Times
Web3 is going just great
Fractional ownership investments are popular in South Korea
After each financial crisis (2003, 2008), one would think that there is a lesson learned about making a lot of money, fast. But there are repeating patterns, and of course, there is pressure on the next generation to make enough money somehow, usually to buy a flat or a house.
So, in South Korea, there is an early cycle of investing, which – as of now – is not very critical but could be the nucleus of another crisis and loss of trust in five to ten years:
“Young South Koreans are unusually keen to put their meagre savings to work—perhaps because the country’s lacklustre jobs market makes it hard for them to buy property or support a family. A survey in 2021 found that eight in ten people in their 20s and 30s invest in stocks, cryptocurrencies or other assets. And they start young; 7% of shareholders in Samsung Electronics, a tech manufacturer, are in their teens.”
The Economist (€)
Meta is developing a text-based decentralised social network as a Twitter competitor.
Meta is working on a text-based social network. Based on current information, the platform will use ActivityPub, a decentralised social networking protocol which powers Mastodon and other decentralised apps. The codename, for now, is P92, and the platform will be Instagram-branded. The current plan is to publish a minimum viable product with no clear release date.
The week in generative AI
Generative AI is so quickly evolving right now that it is challenging to keep track. However, here is a quick update on some of the most relevant stories this past week:
- ChatGPT and Whiper are accessible via an API (OpenAI) at meager prices. (Nathan Labenz)
- Antrophic, another AI company founded by ex-Open AI employees and funded with $124 million, is offering its language model to other companies. (TechCrunch)
- Elon Musk is considering setting up a rival, despite being one of the co-founders of OpenAI. (The Information)
- Generative AI helps developers to boost productivity (WSJ) (€)
- Video: How Nvidia powers the AI revolution (CNBC)
- A developer manages to run the LLaMA model on his laptop. LLaMA was developed by Meta for $13B and is considered competitive to GPT-3 from OpenAI. Costly hardware is needed to run GPT-3. (Simon Willison)
- Using LLaMA with M1 Mac (l1x/dev)
- Dalai is a “dead simple way to run LLaMA on your computer (Cocktailpeanut.Github.io)
- Neal Mohan, the new CEO of YouTube, released a statement saying that YouTube will introduce new AI-driven features for creators (YouTube Blog)
Come on, Google, let’s dance: Bing says it crossed 100 DAUs
Since introducing Chat GPT to assist with search queries four weeks ago, Bing has experienced user growth. According to Microsoft, the search engine crossed the number of 100M DAUs (Daily Active Users), though the blog post did not specify the number before introducing new AI features.
“Of the millions of active users of the new Bing preview, it’s great to see that roughly one third are new to Bing. We see this appeal of the new Bing as a validation of our view that search is due for a reinvention and of the unique value proposition of combining Search + Answers + Chat + Creation in one experience.”
For comparison: Google is still the market leader, with a market share in many countries in the 95% and above range. But Bing had already gained some market share in the past and will grab more. We are witnessing a new phase of the competition, not only for search but for the quality of answers and information retrieval. New generative AI is just the opening for intense competition in the search business. There is one particular sentence in the blog post from Microsoft clearly showing how this has energised the company:
This (the number of DAUs, sic) is a surprisingly notable figure, and yet we are fully aware we remain a small, low, single digit share player. That said, it feels good to be at the dance!
Grammarly announces GrammarlyGO which uses generative AI to write & rewrite content
Launching in the coming months, “GrammarlyGO” is a generative AI product that is designed to “accelerate productivity where people write.”
Like ChatGPT, GrammarlyGO is able to create text based on a short prompt, though Grammarly’s special trick is that the content generated copies your usual writing style – after all, Grammarly already analyzes everything you write for typos, so there’s plenty of data to work with. Use cases for this that Grammarly points out includes writing email replies based on one-click prompts such as “I’m not interested.”
The “Bold Glamour” TikTok Filter is highly problematic
A newly released TikTok Filter called “Bold Glamour” will change your appearance from ordinary to model features. The generated visual looks highly realistic and works dynamically in a short video, and the superficial perfection draws considerable criticism. It is one thing to be confronted with beautiful people on magazine covers, even when you know all images are heavily worked on in Photoshop. But it is another escalation when new filters can make you a “beauty” with one click. According to at least one study, comparing machine-generated images and actual appearance leads to a desire for plastic surgery.
When influencer parents use their kids to produce content
Claire, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, has never known a life that doesn’t include a camera being pointed in her direction. The first time she went viral, she was a toddler. When the family’s channel started to rake in the views, Claire says both her parents left their jobs because the revenue from the YouTube channel was enough to support the family and to land them a nicer house and new car. “That’s not fair that I have to support everyone,” she said. “I try not to be resentful but I kind of [am].” Once, she told her dad she didn’t want to do YouTube videos anymore and he told her they would have to move out of their house and her parents would have to go back to work, leaving no money for “nice things.”
When the family is together, the YouTube channel is what they talk about. Claire says her father has told her he may be her father, but he’s also her boss. “It’s a lot of pressure,” she said. When Claire turns 18 and can move out on her own, she’s considering going no-contact with her parents.
YouTube and the multi-million-dollar dubbing economy
From “Rest of World”:
- Unilingo, the dubbing provider for MrBeast and PewDiePie, is part of a new localisation strategy for some of YouTube’s biggest stars.
- YouTube dubbing is helping creators reach new audiences worldwide and monetise the same video in several languages.
Rest of World
European politicians suggest building a European blockchain called “Europeum.”
Mathieu Michel, Belgian Minister digital Minister, talked to Coindesk, offering a blockchain solution for infrastructure and public services:
“After regulating cryptocurrencies, European politicians are contemplating the next step in the race to attract Web 3 business – and it might be a tailor-made blockchain that respects privacy, Belgium’s digital minister told CoinDesk in an exclusive interview. A new “Europeum” blockchain could be the vehicle to record property ownership, driving licenses or professional qualifications while sticking to the European Union’s high regulatory norms, Mathieu Michel said.”
USDC stablecoin depends on Silicon Valley Bank collapse
The financial services firm Circle confirmed Friday that $3.3 billion of its reserves were tied up at Silicon Valley Bank, resulting in the USDC stablecoin going below one US dollar.
“Stablecoins derive their value from those reserves; if one is worth more than $43 billion – as USDC was earlier on Friday – there should be roughly that much cash or cash-like fixed-income instruments stashed somewhere backing that up. USDC’s market capitalization has now slumped below $40 billion.”
Crypto was born in the aftermath of – and, to some, in response to – the 2008 crisis. Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin paper debuted into a world where governments had just propped up the financial system by pouring money into it. Crypto lacks such a centralized authority. If SVB customers, including Circle and its USDC stablecoin, are forced to take a haircut on their money, the repercussions are unclear.
Crypto.com lost the ability to accept US-Dollar.
Crypto.com announced it could only provide euro-denominated banking last week. The exchange lost its ability to accept US-Dollar deposits due to problems with banking partners. Gemini denied that the relationship with JPMorgan had ended in a tweet.
- PeopleDAO loses $120,000 after the payment spreadsheet is shared publicly (Web 2 is going just great)
- Meta to end Canadians’ access to news on Facebook and Instagram if Bill C-18 becomes law (The Globe and Mail)
- WhatsApp has started a fight with the UK about encryption (Wired UK)
- A conservative Catholic group in Colorado bought a mobile app tracking data worth millions of dollars to identify gay priests across the US. (PC Mag)
- More than €1.4 billion was invested in European Tech this week (Tech. eu)
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Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash
Five Minute Blockchain – No. 51
Your weekly newsletter from the TruBlo project reports from the intersection of trust, content and blockchain.
Estimated reading time: 8 min 27 sec
(Sorry, it was hard to keep in the five-minute range this week, lots of exciting and relevant updates).
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“Biased input leading to biased output is a big issue across the board here”.
John Oliver in “Last Week Tonight” on the current state of Artificial Intelligence.
Crypto-focused US bank Silvergate in crisis
The big fear of any bank is that people lose trust in its ability to pay out money.
This is what currently happens with Silvergate. The US bank had served many crypto clients, making it simpler to convert dollars to Bitcoin, etc. The bank achieved a profit of $76m in 2021, and it experienced a net loss of $949m in 2022.
By March 1 this year, the bank said it would not file its annual report to the SEC on time and that the losses were even higher than previously known. In the past few days, crypto exchanges like Coinbase and others said they would stop transactions with the bank. The bank has warned that it might not survive the next 12 months.
Crypto exchange Binance must answer difficult questions
Another crypto company under some external pressure is Binance. The crypto exchange seemed to emerge as the winner after the collapse of FTX. But now Forbes Magazin has published an investigation. The journalists say they found evidence that Binance invested $1.8B, which was meant as collateral for customers’ stablecoins, into a hedge fund. Such practice is considered risky and problematic because there is no real transparency. Binance says nothing is wrong; all transactions were within the boundaries of proper investment. But the market is watching.
Coinbase (with an interview of the author of the Forbes article)
Why do the EU and US want to ban TikTok?
TikTok is considered suspicious. Governments outside of China worry that the app could be used to track users and get their data, such as names, locations and other information. It could be that Bytedance has to comply with requests by the Chinese government. As a result, several governments have ordered their staff to delete TikTok from their phones. This week, the EU, the US, Canada, and Denmark are considering a ban.
Benedict Evans, an expert in the digital economy, says the threat is not that people could be spied upon and their data being passed on, as operating systems by now provide considerable protection. Amazingly, in a world of digital devices and highly measurable data flows, the recent actions are primarily based on assumptions but no more profound knowledge of actual data misuse.
How EU data acts affect the handling of data
This spring, several EU acts will be put into practice. Currently they still in draft status. But companies and organizations should anticipate that the new rules go further than GDPR. On the upside the rules are not meant to be only restrictive. In fact the EU commission hopes that the new guidelines will enable a market for data and a productive exchange of information between companies.
Here is a quick overview of the several acts from an article published by Mckinsey:
- The Data Governance Act creates a new way of managing data to increase trust in and facilitate data sharing.*
- The Digital Markets Act creates fair and contestable markets for innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the digital sector.
- The Digital Services Act creates a safer digital space where the rights of all users of digital services are protected.
- The Data Act regulates access to data in B2B, B2C, and B2G (business-to-government) relationships and while switching between cloud providers.
- The AI Act enacts stringent regulations of (high-risk) AI systems and prohibiting certain practices.
EU Commission: EU Digital Strategy
Reuters investigation reveals a recycling initiative by Dow as just greenwashing
Determining whether certain initiatives actually deliver on their promises is often difficult in today’s information environment. A few weeks ago, The Guardian had a story that up to 90% of rainforest carbon offsets are worthless.
This week Reuters published the results of an investigation into a sneaker recycling program initiated by the government of Singapore and Dow, the US petrochemical company. They equipped used sneakers supposed to go into the program with hidden AirTags to see where they would end up. As you might have suspected: They were not recycled. Instead, the investigators found them in second-hand stores in Indonesia. Just one story reveals a massive gap between promises and reality. But the story is an example of what needs to change to achieve trustability in many areas of environmental activity.
The new hot job: AI whisperer
The ability to write the right “prompts” for the new AI platforms is becoming a profession in high demand. It is not coding, not writing. Instead, generating prompts is finding the fitting instructions for the best possible results from an AI platform. There are pretty several articles and YouTube videos about the art of the prompt. One awe-inspiring video (link below) shows how to generate highly realistic pictures using certain variations of prompts. You can even use ChatGPT to help you write prompts for visual AI platforms like Dall-E or Midjourney. There are evolving dark arts here, too. An example is the “prompt injection”, – which aims to instruct an AI platform to reveal its instructions (see link below to Ars Technica).
Midjourney prompts (via Medium)
Midjourney prompts for Ultra-Realistic Images (YouTube)
Hyper Realistic Midjourney Images – Complete prompt guide (YouTube)
Ars Technica: How to trick a language model into revealing its programming
AI companies rush to find income streams
Operating the newest AI platforms is expensive, and they demand a lot of computer processing, translating to high hardware, software and electricity costs. Chat GPT reached 100 million users in record time. As a result, AI companies are quick to introduce usage options for money.
Last week Open AI released an API which enables the use of Chat GPT for business. The costs are “0.002 per token or about 750 words”. According to Techcrunch, Snap, Quizlet, Instacart and Shopify are early clients.
One company already seeing increased sales is Nvidia. The graphic card specialist produces a $10,000 chip called the A100, which is in strong demand because of its performance. Need for the follow-up model, the H100, which is only recently going into mass production, grows as fast. (CNBC)
The latest version of Stable Diffusion, an image generator, was trained on 256 A100 GPUs, or 32 machines with 8 A100s each, according to information online posted by Stability AI, totaling 200,000 compute hours.
At the market price, training the model alone cost $600,000, Stability AI CEO Mostaque said on Twitter, suggesting in a tweet exchange the price was unusually inexpensive compared to rivals. That doesn’t count the cost of “inference,” or deploying the model.
Open AI ChatGPT API for Business
CNET Editor leaves the job to work on AI content
CNET recently admitted that they used Chat GPT for several published stories, and the criticism was that the origin of the stories was not revealed. Now the CNET editor-in-chief has resigned and will join Red Ventures, a VC fund which had bought CNET, to work on AI projects. At CNET, management announced mass layoffs.
How to verify
AI-generated content will profoundly change journalism. But how? To learn more about the expected impact of this technology read an interview with Nic Newman, a senior analyst at Reuters Institute. And, if you want to learn more about verifying content, there is a helpful website.
How to verify
Visual misinformation on Facebook
Scientific results of an extensive study of visual misinformation on Facebook:
“We conduct the first large-scale study of image-based political misinformation on Facebook. We collect 13,723,654 posts from 14,532 pages and 11,454 public groups from August through October 2020, posts that together account for nearly all engagement of U.S. public political content on Facebook. We use perceptual hashing to identify duplicate images and computer vision to identify political figures. Twenty-three percent of sampled political images (N = 1,000) contained misinformation, as did 20% of sampled images (N = 1,000) containing political figures. We find enormous partisan asymmetry in misinformation posts, with right-leaning images 5–8 times more likely to be misleading, but little evidence that misleading images generate higher engagement.”
Journal of Communication
Transparency by design: How next-gen blockchain could help to make greenwashing impossible
Reliability of information and data is the big goal for the future. Blockdata reports a company from Vienna, Austria, named Riddle&Code that tackles this problem. The team has previously worked for several industrial clients, including BMW and Wien Energy, a regional energy provider.
“The company is is now evolving from a project-driven company to a product company. In doing so, it’s taking the well-worn path taken by Amazon with AWS, in the sense that it is making its own infrastructure available commercially, so that others can benefit from the software and hardware stack they’ve developed in-house.”
How to scale blockchain into the future
Three challenges here: Decentralization, security, and scalability. Interesting article here which discusses potential steps towards achieving these goals.
Most innovative crypto, web3 & metaverse companies 2023
Fast Company has a list of companies showing the path to implementing new platforms towards a web3 future. On the list:
- ROBLOX – For raising the metaverse through its adolescence
- CHAINALYSIS – For being crypto’s cop on the block(chain)
- NIKE – For kicking it in digital expression
- ETHEREUM FOUNDATION – For executing a successful Merge
- LEDGER – For building the iPod of crypto wallets
- THE HUNDREDS – For exploding how artists and collectors benefit in Web3
- DRESSX – For outfitting our avatars
- LINKSDAO – For hitting the green with its next-gen golf club membership
- EMPERIA – For building high-street retail in the metaverse
- MILK ROAD – For laughing all the way through the crypto crash
eNaira CBDC in Nigeria: Low usage and technology problems
Only 0.5% of the population uses it; there are few transactions. The Bank of Nigeria is now seeking a new provider for the technology. It seems there are issues with the blockchain platform used (Hyperledger), for example, regarding scalability. So, the search is on for a different technology stack. Unrelated: Flutterwave, a fintech start-up in Nigeria, is embroiled in a scandal.
- Bank of Korea finds performance issues with CBDC blockchain tech (Ledger Insights)
- Another British bank is limiting crypto purchases (Coinmarketcap)
- In India, a public platform successfully introduced digital payments even for petite purchases (New York Times) ($)
- Amazon is closing eight cashier-less stores in NYC, San Francisco and Seattle (Bloomberg)
Thank you for reading. If you have questions or suggestions, please get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.