All posts by Thomas_Prendergast

Is Bitcoin a Waste of Electricity, or Something Worse?

Is Bitcoin a Waste of Electricity, or Something Worse?

 

Tom Pillsworth, right, whose company operates and maintains Bitcoin machines

located at a former paper warehouse in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Credit Jacob Hannah for The New York Times  WASHINGTON — A manufacturing start-up recently announced plans to move into a shuttered aluminum factory in upstate New York, taking advantage of abundant cheap electricity from the St. Lawrence River.

Instead of smelting aluminum, however, the company plans to turn that power into Bitcoins. Money is supposed to be a means of buying things. Now, the nation’s hottest investment is buying money. And the investment rush is raising questions about whether one reason for the slow pace of economic growth in recent years is that the nation is busy distracting itself. While Bitcoin mining may not be labor intensive, it diverts time, energy and capital from other, more productive activities that economists say could fuel faster growth.

“It appears that much of our evolving digital infrastructure is devoted to activities, like the proliferation of cybercoins, that are worse than frivolous,” said James McAndrews, the former head of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. By a wide range of measures, America has a productivity problem. The economy is growing slowly, and almost 20 percent of adults in their prime working years are neither working nor trying to find work. Americans who do have jobs are less likely to start their own companies. Even the most basic kind of production is in decline. Americans are having less sex and making fewer babies.

Some economists see evidence that people are playing video games instead of going to work, logging on instead of getting it on, and plowing a growing share of their time, capital and natural resources into virtual products like social media, games and the latest fad: virtual currencies. Bitcoin, the largest virtual currency, is a particularly voracious consumer of resources because new Bitcoins are distributed in a kind of lottery where each ticket is purchased with electricity.

Bitcoin miners compete for the coins by submitting answers to difficult math problems. Instead of solving the problems, miners use computers to submit a flood of guesses. This can be lucrative: Each Bitcoin is currently valued at about $10,550. Believers insist it is a worthwhile endeavor. They describe Bitcoin as a superior currency that will eventually come into wide use, and they predict even broader applications for blockchains, the digital bookkeeping method used to record ownership of Bitcoins and to verify transactions.

Currently, the average price of one Bitcoin is about $10,715, according to Blockchain.info, a news and data site.But Bitcoin remains so hard to use that a major Bitcoin conference in January had to stop accepting Bitcoin. It is, in practice, a speculative investment, like gold. And Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University, said mining gold was a better use of resources, because even if it lost value, it could be used to fill teeth. “Once the Bitcoin power is burned, it is never coming back,” he said.

Colin L. Read, the mayor of Plattsburgh, N.Y., also sees it as a public nuisance. The city was guaranteed a fixed supply of cheap electricity as part of the construction of power-generating dams on the St. Lawrence in the 1950s. Bitcoin mining companies are plugging into that power supply like a swarm of hungry mosquitoes. Mr. Read said that Bitcoin mining now consumes about 10 percent of the city’s power, and that is forcing Plattsburgh to buy a growing amount of extra electricity on the open market, at rates up to 100 times higher than its base cost.

Mr. Read, who is also an economics professor, said he would rather sell the city’s supply of cheap power to companies employing large numbers of people. Mold-Rite Plastics, which makes bottle caps, also uses about 10 percent of the city’s power, but it employs about 200 people. The mining companies? “They hire a security guard,” he said. “And a guy who comes when something breaks.” David Bowman, who describes himself as Plattsburgh’s first Bitcoin miner — “I started a long time ago, around 2014,” he said — started with a handful of computers. Now he has 20 machines.

Mold-Rite Plastics, a maker of bottle caps in Plattsburgh, N.Y., uses the same amount of electricity as Bitcoin miners, but employs about 200 people. Credit Jacob Hannah for The New York Times Bitcoin companies have begun moving into space at an old paper mill in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Credit Jacob Hannah for The New York Times  A few years ago, he rented a room in an old paper warehouse, where he runs the specialized hard drives around the clock. They sit side-by-side on wire racks, fans whirring to dissipate the heat. About half a dozen other mining companies have since moved into the same building.

Mr. Bowman, who is from Plattsburgh, said he sympathizes with the mayor’s concerns. He is the only employee of his company, and he is presently a full-time medical student on the Caribbean island of Grenada. But Bitcoin mining paid his college tuition and it is paying for medical school. And he doesn’t see that Plattsburgh has better options. “The place needs all the jobs they can get,” he said, although his company employs no one beyond him. He does pay fees to an investor-owned company that operates and maintains the machines and has one employee.

Other governments also are grappling with the merits of virtual currencies. Enel, the largest European power company, said earlier this month it would not sell electricity to a virtual miner, citing environmental concerns. “Enel has undertaken a clear path toward decarbonization and sustainable development and sees the intensive use of energy dedicated to cryptocurrency mining as an unsustainable practice that does not fit with the business model it is pursuing,” the company, partly owned by the Italian government, said in a statement.

Some Bitcoin miners emphasize their reliance on renewable energy, but the energy they use might otherwise be put to other purposes. Consider the example of Quebec, one of the world’s largest producers of hydroelectric power. Local demand has flatlined, leading the province to consider exporting electricity to Massachusetts, which is seeking to increase the share of current power consumption generated by sustainable sources. But Quebec is now weighing that possibility alongside a wave of proposals from mining companies.

David Bowman owns a Bitcoin mining company called Plattsburgh BTC in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Credit Luvnish Karnani for The New York Times  Some American utilities, too, are hungry for new customers. Domestic demand for electricity is in decline as power-hungry industries, like aluminum smelting, have moved to other countries and households are increasingly using LED light bulbs. “They’re thankful that anyone still wants to use energy,” said Robert McCullough of McCullough Research, an Oregon energy consultancy. And plenty of places are hungry for jobs — even the relatively few jobs that virtual mining brings.

Massena, the town with the shuttered smelter, is about two hours from Plattsburgh. It also enjoys a guaranteed supply of cheap electricity, but it has lost several of its major employers, including the smelter and a General Motors factory. The New York Power Authority reserves 490 megawatts of low-cost power for industrial users in Franklin, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, the northern tier that includes Massena. The decline of local industry means only 52 percent of that power is currently committed, which is why officials were delighted when a company called Coinmint proposed to install 16,000 computers in the old aluminum building.

The company, which is still negotiating contracts, told the power authority it would employ 150 people. Employers historically have created 30.5 jobs in exchange for each megawatt of low-cost electricity, according to the power authority, while Coinmint is proposing to create just new 10 jobs per megawatt. But 10 is more than none. “The plan is to get anybody here that you can,” said Steven D. O’Shaughnessy, Massena’s town supervisor. “I have said all along, I’ll take whatever I can.”

Chuck Reynolds

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L.A.’s real estate industry enters the age of bitcoin

L.A.'s real estate industry enters
the age of bitcoin

 

As bitcoin becomes a realistic way to pay for homes,
 
buyers, sellers and Realtors are finding ways to adapt. (Dreamstime / TNS) A little over a year ago, in a first for Southern California, a buyer used roughly 3,300 bitcoins to buy a Cape Cod-style mansion in Manhattan Beach for $3.225 million. Had he waited a year, that same number of bitcoin could've bought multiple beach houses, a few penthouse condos and a private island in the Caribbean. So it goes in the volatile get-it-while-you-can nature of cryptocurrency deals in the real estate industry.

Bitcoin is an open-source digital currency that, through its peer-to-peer exchange system, avoids the need for banks. Its value has increased tenfold in the past year, leaving investors scrambling to make a profit off the tumultuous chaos.A bitcoin real estate transaction is the confluence of two extremely bubble-prone fields. Although the technology is still in the early stages and few people are actually buying goods with the currency, real estate presents a compelling use case for bitcoin in the real world— even though spending it to buy a home can lead to a legion of unforeseen frustrations.The U.S. broke records in 2016 with 19 separate flooding events – the most in recorded history, according to USA Today – and this year’s wildfires continue to…

"Within the context of real estate, it makes sense to use cryptocurrency in those types of transactions," said Neeraj Agrawal, director of communications at cryptocurrency-focused think tank Coin Center. "Cryptocurrency is a way to send large amounts of money pretty easily with relatively low fees and little interference from middlemen."Given the advantages of cryptocurrency compared with cash, Agrawal said that if it does catch on, it'll likely be used to buy things like homes or cars rather than inexpensive goods like Metro swipes or cups of coffee. Brands including Subway, Microsoft and Overstock.com accept bitcoin.

In San Diego, a company brokering the sale of two multimillion-dollar homes in the affluent community said this month that it would accept bitcoin as payment. The custom-built homes are listed for sale for $19.8 million, the equivalent of roughly 1,750 bitcoins. Sellers will also accept cash."We realized there is so much new wealth in the crypto space," said Andrew Canter, chief executive of real estate brokerage and investment firm Canter Companies. "There are a lot of new buyers and a lot of people that have seen their wealth fluctuate over the last year."

Canter is selling his own home and his friend Alan Ezier's. He said accepting the bitcoin for the purchase was a different way of marketing the homes by getting the properties in front of an untapped group of potential buyers.If the buyer pays in bitcoin, Canter said the sellers plan on taking steps to manage the potential risk. He said they will likely use an investment bank that will write a futures contract to lock in for several months whatever bitcoin is valued at when a sales deal is struck. Futures are a contract to buy or sell an asset at a specific date for a specific price.

"It's a personal preference when it comes down to it," Canter said. "I don't think we can speak to a financial benefit here or there. Obviously, the chance (bitcoin's value) goes up is just as much as it goes down right now."There is no real tax advantage to selling a home for bitcoin, said accountant Vincenzo Villamena, a New York-based expert in digital currency. If the seller then resells the bitcoin, they may have to pay capital gains taxes so it cuts into money earned on the sale, he said.Villamena said anyone involved in the transaction looking for secrecy would have trouble because home sales are rigorously documented.

"If you think (bitcoin) will go to the moon, then sell a house and the coin might be worth 10 times that in the coming years," he said. "If you (as the buyer) think it will go to zero, then you might have gotten yourself a free asset."One of the first reported single-family homes purchased with bitcoin took place in September in Austin. When Kuper Sotheby's International Realty facilitated the sale, bitcoin was worth $3,429. The firm said it converted the bitcoin to dollars in 10 minutes to give to the seller.In that case, the bitcoin buyer missed out on a substantial price increase in the coming months. Bitcoin hit a high of $19,343 on Dec. 16 and has since slid back to $10,319 as of late Wednesday, Coindesk said.

Similar scenarios played out in Manhattan Beach last year.

At the time of the January 2017 purchase, it cost 3,300 bitcoins to buy the home for $3.225 million. At its value a year later, 3,300 bitcoins equals around $34 million – which is likely a hard pill to swallow for both the buyer and the seller, who had the bitcoin immediately converted into cash, according to Mike Michalski of RE/MAX Estate Properties, who co-listed the property with Sachi Fujita.In late April, when the price of one Bitcoin hovered around $1,400, a buyer paid roughly 1,285 Bitcoins for a 1960s custom-built home in Manhattan Beach for $1.8 million. Today, that same amount would buy a home worth $13.3 million.One challenge with using bitcoin is that it's still so new that many companies involved in a typical home-buying transaction are unfamiliar with how to process deals involving crypto.

Justin Miller, a Realtor whose agency, Beach City Brokers, represented the buyers in both Manhattan Beach deals, wasn't sure where to start when trying to incorporate bitcoin into the sale."I started asking around to different escrow and title companies to see how I could put the deal together, but I was getting the door shut on me," Miller said. "No one wanted to deal with bitcoin. They didn't understand it."Usually, these companies hold and regulate the payment between the buyer and seller, but with the ambiguity and rapid fluctuation of bitcoin, some refuse to get involved.

Josh Cincinnati, executive director of the Zcash Foundation, planned to buy a house in Virginia with some of the cash he'd accumulated through his bitcoin investments.His loan officer at Chase, however, told him that the bank wouldn't consider the money in his bank account as part of the liquidity required to approve a conventional loan because they weren't sure of its origins."The loan officer said the documentation I provided wasn't enough to prove that the amount deposited in my account was received from a legitimate trade," Cincinnati said.

To go above and beyond the two months of bank statements Chase required to approve the loan, Cincinnati provided a full history of his cryptocurrency transactions for the last two years ­– to no avail.Fearing the delays would threaten the home sale, he sought a loan from Fulton Mortgage instead. He received full approval there, but not before he was forced to renegotiate an extension of his mortgage approval stipulation in his purchase contract with the seller.That's not the only challenge the emerging payment form represents for the industry. How do you provide proof of funds when the funds don't physically exist?

"Proof of funds for a bitcoin sale literally requires the buyer to sit down with a smartphone, open a blockchain app that displays the total value of their bitcoin and show that to the seller," Michalski said."Both the buyer and seller wanted to make the deal happen, but this is all new," Michalski said. "There's just not a lot of understanding or documentation."With buyers eager to cash in on the historically high prices, and sellers offering up homes as a way to get a piece of the pie, deals are happening regardless of the hurdles.

Bloody Bay, a 13-acre slice of beachfront land in the Caribbean, is currently on the market for 400 bitcoins, with no cash offers being accepted.

In addition, websites are popping up that allow anyone to list a property for bitcoin.Homeowner Alex Bartilotti put his home in Portugal on the market for $1.2 million, but found no interest after two weeks. He updated the listing, adding that he'd also accept 100 bitcoins, and immediately received six inquiries about the home.Whether bitcoin will further integrate into the real estate industry is largely dependent on the markets. In the meantime, Miller's getting a head start.

His brokerage handled three bitcoin real estate transactions last year, and they had three listings with a bitcoin payment option hitting the market in February.Pointing to Amazon's new "no checkout" grocery stores, he said, "People are getting more savvy in the ways they pay for things. At the end of the day, if there's an easier and more efficient way, and if bitcoin is able to eliminate wires and banking fees, it will have a future."

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
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Helix, Competing With Ancestry And 23andMe, Raises $200 Million For Marketing War

Helix, Competing With Ancestry And 23andMe, Raises $200 Million For Marketing War

Matthew Herper , Forbes Staff covers science and medicine, and believes this is biology's century.

Helix, a the consumer genetics company spun out of DNA

sequencing giant Illumina, says it has raised $200 million from venture capitalists to aid it in its marketing battle with 23andMe and Ancestry, the leaders in that space. The fundraise, which shows that Helix is able to raise large amounts of funding despite criticism of its platform, shows the renewed interest in genetics as a market by big investors.

The round was led by led by DFJ Growth, with participation from all its founding investors which include  Illumina, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Mayo Clinic, Sutter Hill Ventures, and Warburg Pincus. Barry Schuler, Partner at DFJ Growth and former Chairman and CEO of America Online, will join the Helix Board of Directors. Robin Thurston, Helix's chief executive, says the company "exceeded" all of its targets in the fourth quarter of 2017 after a July launch. He says that the company, which has not done much consumer marketing yet, "certainly benefitted" from the four to five million genetic test kits that were sold in the last three months of the year, but won't give specific numbers.

Helix is different from 23andMe because, instead of just taking isolated snapshots of single letter changes in DNA using a technology called a genotyping chip, it goes the far more expensive route of using the next-generation DNA sequencing technology to sequence the code of all known genes, about 2% of a person's total DNA. But then, instead of giving that information back to people in one go, it partners with other companies that allow people to buy specific bits of information in an app store modeled on the one for Apple's iPhone. One big question about this market: would people who came in to buy a product to tell them about their ancestors from National Geographic, perhaps Helix's biggest partner, want to buy a health app from Mayo Clinic, an iffier app that gives you advice on diet (come on, where's the evidence?) or one that uses you DNA code to make you a scarf?

Thurston says so far the answer seems to be yes, and that more than 20% of customers who buy one product are buying a second. " The magical moment is not when you go buy the first product, the magical moment is when you go buy the second and you instantly get your data," he says.But are those apps delivering value? That's still an open question. Last year, Eric Topol, the Scripps Health cardiologist and genomics researcher, tweeted that it seemed possible to spend $1900 on Helix apps without getting any value. He noted apps dedicated to weight loss and nutrition, where there is no strong evidence that genetic information has any benefit.

James Lu, a Helix senior vice president and co-founder, said that he disagrees with Topol's assertion, noting that every app goes through a rigorous process of making sure they are safe for consumers to use and transparent in what they offer. (It should be noted: Helix apps have not gone through the rigorous FDA process 23andMe had to go through in reaching the market.) Lu says that scientists and consumers should remember what DNA can and can't do. The diet apps, he argues, can nudge people to eat better, with the DNA as a small but interesting facet that makes it more interesting. (For most people diet advice is similar regardless of genetics.) "I think if people are asking DNA to be a crystal ball that's a different framing than we're taking on these products," Lu says. "What we're about is helping inform people about themselves."

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StarbucksCoin? Exec Says Coffee Seller Will ‘Probably’ Use Blockchain

StarbucksCoin?
Exec Says Coffee Seller Will 'Probably' Use Blockchain

Starbucks is likely to utilize blockchain technology

as part of a new payments app, executive chairman Howard Shultz said Tuesday. Speaking with Maria Bartiromo during a Fox Business segment, Schultz discussed the use of a "proprietary digital currency" in conjunction with the payments app. When asked whether the coffee retailer would use blockchain in conjunction with the initiative – as opposed to a more centralized system of accounting – Schultz said that the company "probably" would move in that direction. "I think blockchain technology is probably the rails in which an integrated app at Starbucks will be sitting on top of," he commented.

His comments come roughly a month after the former chief executive spoke broadly during an earnings call about the chain's plans to utilize the tech, especially on the payments front (although he dismissed the idea that the company would use bitcoin in some way). At the time, Schultz suggested that the tech may play a role in how Starbucks works to "expand digital customer relationships," though it remains to be seen how blockchain is ultimately used in practice by the company. "I believe that we are heading into a new age, in which blockchain technology is going to provide a significant level of a digital currency that is going to have a consumer application," he remarked during the earnings call.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
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Opinion: Blockchain will make today’s accountants (and many Wall Street jobs) obsolete

Opinion:
Blockchain will make today’s accountants (and many Wall Street jobs) obsolete


The Big Four accounting firms

—Deloitte, Price Waterhouse, Ernst Young, and KPMG—
seem to be taking an “if-you-can’t-fight-them-join-them” approach to the onset of blockchain technology.

As of mid-2017, Deloitte alone had 250 people working in distributed ledger laboratories, and the other three are being similarly aggressive. Of course, these labs occupy a tiny sliver of these firms’ massive payrolls, but the dedicated R&D speaks to how seriously the companies view the technology. If immutable distributed ledgers become a reality, their audit and accounting divisions will eventually become obsolete, with a huge human impact. At just under 40% of their combined $127 billion in revenues, the firms’ audit and assurance divisions directly employ around 300,000 people.

These firms are exploring how this disruptive technology could affect their clients. What will become clear to them is that accounting as we know it—as a quarterly exercise in which teams of people review samples of past transactions to judge the integrity of past events—will become obsolete.

And the Big Four’s audit divisions are just the tip of the accounting business iceberg. It’s not just the big-name auditors at risk; it’s every auditor—including companies’ internal auditors. In fact, once account-keeping itself becomes fully automated and reconciliation functions become superfluous, both those who keep the books and those who audit them will be out of work. Machines will input the financial data, analyze the financial data, and audit the financial data—all within a few minutes, if not seconds. In the United States alone, there are 1.3 million people employed in accounting, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The labor force disruption won’t stop with the accountants. The entire investment profession, which is structured around the delayed release of official, audited financial figures, is also very much at risk. The investment cycle of Wall Street stock brokerage and research is built around those data releases—analysts come up with updated projections on what they expect a company’s quarterly earnings per share will look like; the market places its bets; and then, when the numbers are dumped on them every three months, investors re-calibrate the share price, either positively or negatively. Everything in equities revolves around the quarterly numbers.

How blockchain can revolutionize government

What happens to this industry when all financial and economic data is being updated, automatically and indisputably in real time? What happens to the people who lose their jobs? What happens to the work culture? If the future foreseen by this book comes to pass, we’ll witness the biggest employment shakeup the world has ever seen. And this time, the most vulnerable jobs are not the usual suspects: the factory workers, the low-level clerks, or the retail store assistants. Now it’s the accountants, the bankers, the portfolio managers, the insurers, the title officers, the escrow agents, and the trustees—and, yes, even the lawyers.

To be sure, the common refrain that lawyers will be replaced by “smart contracts” is somewhat inaccurate since the terms of agreements, the actual contracts themselves, will still need to be negotiated by human beings. Nonetheless, the legal industry is also in for a huge shakeup. Lawyers who don’t understand code are likely going to be valued far less than those who do. (One of the most employable joint degrees to have will be a law-plus–computer science degree.) In any case, you get the idea: the middle class is facing a tidal wave.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
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Why Customers And Marketers Need Human-Like AI

Why Customers And Marketers Need Human-Like AI

If we could summarize our current era in one sentence,

what would that sentence be? Probably that there is no time. There are more ways to spend money, more irreversible risks and less time to make sense of it all. That’s why humanoid marketing solutions are on the rise to walk us through the myriad of options and traps.

Of course, countless product providers have been trying to cater to this problem with time-saving solutions. Since day one, every computer has claimed to be faster than the previous one — and with quantum computers in reach, we could see acceleration at 100,000,000 times the speed. However, for the same reason that widening highways doesn't reduce traffic jams, making more efficient devices will not save us. We used to make a few five-minute calls per day; now we sit on Facebook for hours. This effect, interpreted by prominent urban economist Edward Glaeser as Jevon's Complementarity Corollary, has broader implications: The more efficient the technology, the more engaged with it we become and the less time we have for important choices.

Semi-good searches lead to semi-bad choices.

We have so much information available to us that it should be easy to choose even a complex product — but it's not. Consider picking a home, business location or medical service provider. The decision comes with rational and emotional components, and the wrong choice could kill you.

Not long ago, search engines looked like an answer to the decision-making process. But with the number of new products skyrocketing each year — and up to 75% of them failing — this may no longer be the case. Even currently available AI-driven search-engine derivatives are not sophisticated enough to help with serious choices. "Hey Google, play Jain." Your Google Home begins to play songs with "Jane" in the title. Now, how about choosing your neurosurgeon this way? "Hey Google, just don’t." Because regular and AI-based search engines aren't great at facilitating complex choices for the 21st-century customer, search engine marketing and SEM may not be our future either. According to some, SEO is already dead. Even if it’s not, change in product evaluating behavior is inevitable.

Oh my bot! Star reviews haunt marketing.

Customer reviews have a major downside: You are seeing the world through someone else’s eyes at best. At worst, you bank your future on a four-and-a-half star review by Alice from Ohio. Who's Alice? It can be anyone or no one. The ideal option would be to create a product-savvy machine and have it test market options for you as you — except that sometimes you don’t want to be you. The big question of recommender systems and all marketing automation is if it should always stick to your previous choices and likes or break away to experiment. The top machine-learning algorithms cluster based on patterns that favor proximity over diversity, which is not how we as humans have evolved.

Spotify suggests weekly playlists differently, but even this feels too close to what we already like and too wary of experimentation. With product variations and communications increasingly composed by automated marketers, the need for more selective analytics and personalization is imminent. Humans without artificial support won’t make it, but AI alone won’t make it either. The combination of AI with blockchain can help as it allows for personalization and can tell the real Alice from the bot. This creates almost unimaginable possibilities for marketing that go beyond what is out there now.

Sorry Siri. We need someone else.

We are not talking a better Siri but about personalized distributed intelligence that is Stephen Hawking smart and has a crystal ball where all market options — including the most complex medical treatments — can be dissected to match our needs in real time. These systems must know our desires better than our best buddies and want the best for us like our moms. If they can’t help us choose the right doctor, home or business option, no one can. They must also run faster than the Flash. Technically speaking, they will be content-based and data-driven systems with deep learning abilities and deep personality profiles. Let’s call them "deep cybuddies." Marketing through such humanoid platforms will differ from that of now. Just as content marketing changed promotion and the way products are created, smart recommendation platforms will lead to clear and measurable, but multilayered, unique value proposition (UVP).

Advances in artificial imagination will also enhance the experimental, creative part of the process. Cyborgs will epitomize the best of humans and the best of machines to help us live more fulfilled lives. They may even be fun to have around. Just think about the newly appointed minister for loneliness and get the picture: We need super cyborgs to be both brainy and cool. If they are not cool, they can make you pretty mad. The latest research by Ciechanowski, Magnuski, Glor and Przegalinska shows that talking to avatar chatbots can raise your heart rate to 160 BPM.

It is possible to imagine ideal blockchain and AI-generated marketing content that is custom-tailored and can reach individuals in real time, at a decent price and without major privacy violations. As of now, however, at least one of these ideals has to be compromised: You can’t have it omnisapient, omnipotent, cheap, fair and perfectly individualized all at once. On the other hand, this is what has always been said until someone new comes out of nowhere and changes the game once and for all. Are they coming?

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
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Venezuelan Leader Claims Big Demand for Petro Cryptocurrency

Venezuelan Leader Claims Big Demand for Petro Cryptocurrency

Venezuela president Nicolas Maduro said the government

has received more than 171,000 certified purchase orders for the petro, the country's forthcoming cryptocurrency. In a Twitter post, the country's leader claimed that 40.8 percent of the purchase orders were in U.S. dollars, 6.5 percent were in euros, 18.4 percent were in ethereum and 33.8 percent were in bitcoin. He further claimed that more than 3,500 companies placed bids for petro tokens. The remaining 82,000 purchasers are individuals, according to

Venezuela-based news group teleSUR.

#ANUNCIO "Hasta el día de hoy hemos recibido 171 mil ofertas de intención de compras certificadas para el Petro, 40.8% en $, 6.5% en €, 18.4% en Ethereum , 33.8% en Bitcoin, de las cuales 3523 ofertas son de empresas" manifestó el Pdte.

No information was provided as to who the purchasers are, or what certification procedures were followed. Despite these claims, the Caracas Chronicles pointed out that no petro tokens have yet been distributed to any potential purchasers. Indeed, a look at the NEM transaction ledger shows that the Venezuelan government's petro address still has ownership of all 100 million tokens.

Maduro last week claimed that the petro pre-sale, which will continue through the beginning of March, raised $735 million during its first day, as previously reported. However, he has not released any evidence to support this number. The lack of transfers from the government wallet has not stopped cryptocurrency exchanges from trying to set up shop in the South American nation, however. As previously reported, government documents indicate that eight exchanges may be allowed to set up in the country initially, and some groups have begun efforts to do so.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
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Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple, Stellar, Litecoin, Cardano, NEO, EOS: Price Analysis

Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple, Stellar, Litecoin, Cardano, NEO, EOS: Price Analysis

Goldman Sachs funded, Circle, a cryptocurrency-focused financial-services firm,

has purchased the US-based cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex for $400 million. This shows that large financial institutions are looking for opportunities to grow business in the crypto world. This move, while prices have been in a downswing, might boost positive sentiment. While a number of nations are looking at ways to regulate crypto trading, the Venezuelan government believes that cryptocurrency is an easy way out of its troubles. After the launch of its oil-backed cryptocurrency, Petro, the government has started free cryptocurrency trading courses for its citizens. Still, the success of the Petro is a big question mark for the future. Meanwhile, let’s look at the top cryptocurrencies and see if we can find any profitable trading opportunities.

BTC/USD

In our previous analysis, we had suggested long positions for the aggressive traders in Bitcoin, but it did not move according to our expectation. It turned down from $10,770.23 on Feb. 24 and fell to a low of $9,502.25 yesterday, Feb. 25, but remained above our suggested stop loss of $9,400. The bears were not able to capitalize on the weakness and break below the critical support. Today, the bulls have seized the opportunity and have broken out of the downtrend line and the 20-day EMA, which is a bullish sign. They have one more major hurdle in the way of the 50-day SMA at $10,745. Once the price breaks out of the $10,745 to $10,770 resistance zone, it should move towards the resistance line of the descending channel at $11,500.

There is no change to our recommended stop loss of $9,400, but if the traders find that the cryptocurrency is unable to break out of $10,700, they can raise the stops to breakeven. Let’s play it safe. The BTC/USD pair will be out of the woods once it clears the $12,200 mark. We also see an inverted head and shoulders pattern forming, which should complete in a few days. If this happens, it will indicate a change in trend and traders can expect higher levels. Our bullish view will be invalidated if the bears break down below $9,400 levels.

ETH/USD

Traders who follow us would have entered long positions in Ethereum around the $830 mark, as suggested in our previous analysis. Currently, the price is at the 20-day EMA, which may offer strong resistance. But we like the way the ETH/USD pair sustained above the $808 mark on the previous two days, Feb. 24 and Feb. 25, and did not challenge the lows formed on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23. This shows that demand is at higher levels.

Once Ethereum breaks out of the 20-day EMA, it is likely to rally to the resistance line of the descending channel close to the $965 mark. We find an ascending triangle developing, which will complete on a breakout and close above the $1,000 levels. This is a bullish sign. Therefore, traders can book partial profits at $965 and trail the rest with a suitable stop loss to ride the next up move. But if the price breaks down to $780 levels, our bullish view will be proved wrong.

BCH/USD

We don’t find any buying interest in Bitcoin Cash at the moment. It is struggling to stay above the critical support level of $1,150. Any recovery attempt will face resistance at the 20-day EMA and the 50-day SMA. The BCH/USD pair will show first signs of strength once it stays above $1,600 levels. Currently, we don’t find any buy setup, and that’s why we don’t recommend any trade on it.   

XRP/USD

The bulls have defended the $0.85 levels for the past five days. Ripple can now remain range bound between $0.85 and $1.22961 for the next few days. The next leg up will start once the XRP/USD pair breaks out of the range and the 50-day SMA at $1.23. Until then, price action will most likely remain range bound and volatile. We don’t find any buy setups inside the range; hence, no recommendation on trade so far.        

XLM/USD

The bulls have hung on to the critical support zone of $0.32 to $0.35 for the past few days. But they have not been able to push prices higher. As a result, Stellar continues to languish near its recent lows. If the bears succeed in breaking down below $0.32, it may push the XLM/USD pair towards $0.22 levels. However, if the bulls assert their supremacy, a range bound trading between $0.32 to $0.47 is likely to ensue. We are not certain about the next price move; therefore, we have provided our view on both possibilities to the traders.  

LTC/USD

We had recommended traders to build long positions on Litecoin close to the $200 mark with a target objective of $240 and $260. We assume traders would have entered long positions on Feb. 24. For the past four days, the LTC/USD pair has been facing stiff resistance at the trendline. Currently, $240 is a critical resistance level; we can see a move to $270 and higher from there. Traders can hold their positions and trail their stops higher to break even. We think it’s better to wait and not lose money on the trade. The target objective on the upside is a rally to $270 where 50 percent positions can be closed. Remaining positions can be carried with a trailing stop loss with a target objective of $300. Our bullish view will be invalidated if the cryptocurrency breaks below $175.

ADA/BTC

We had suggested a short-term trade on Cardano in our previous analysis. Though the price broke out of 0.000033, yesterday, Feb. 25, it never reached our target objective of 0.00004070. It turned down from 0.00003520 levels. Traders can close their positions at the current levels with a marginal loss. The ADA/BTC pair continues to be weak as it is below both the 20-day EMA and the 50-day SMA. If the price breaks down of 0.00003033, it can slide to the next support level of 0.0000246. On the upside, the zone between the 20-day EMA and 0.00004070 is likely to act as stiff resistance.

NEO/USD

Today, NEO has broken out of a slew of resistances. It has also triggered our buy level, recommended in the previous analysis. Traders who have entered long positions on our suggestion can keep their stop loss at $105. A failure of a bearish pattern – a descending triangle pattern in this case – is a bullish sign. On the upside, $140 is critical resistance; the NEO/USD pair should quickly rally to $170 levels above this level. On the downside, the cryptocurrency might find support at $120 levels.

EOS/USD

EOS has held on to its critical support of $7.5 for the past five days. Though it had formed a bearish descending triangle pattern, it did not break down of it, and the price has reached the apex of the triangle. The pattern now stands invalidated.  If the EOS/USD pair breaks out of the downtrend line and the 20-day EMA, it is likely to reach the 50-day SMA. We don’t find any reliable setups on it. Hence, we can’t recommend any trade on it.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Facebook’s David Fischer Talks about the ‘Fundamental Shift’ Toward Purpose-Driven Marketing

Facebook's David Fischer Talks
about the 'Fundamental Shift' Toward
Purpose-Driven Marketing

 

The Ad Council's Lisa Sherman discusses pro-social initiatives

with Facebook's David Fischer in this first interview in a new series,
"The Purpose of Purpose."

Lisa Sherman:

There is a growing public expectation for private sector businesses to do their part in addressing social issues. How do you see this expectation playing out at Facebook?

David Fischer:

One very positive trend I see is a growing recognition that doing good in the world is good for companies. The question is no longer whether the private sector should be participating in social initiatives, but rather how best they should do so. It's incredibly heartening to see so many people stepping up not just to answer that question but to drive meaningful change in the world.

One example is the Unstereotype Alliance, which is a group of companies, including Facebook, who have committed to addressing outdated and harmful stereotypes in the industry. We want to ensure creativity–whether in the advertising or content we create–shows people as progressive and modern, authentic and multi-dimensional. There is also so much terrific work happening around the globe on the critical issue of sustainability, led by Coca-Cola, Unilever, Pepsico, Nestle, and many more. These are just a few examples, and we take great pride at Facebook in the opportunity to work with so many partners on social initiatives.

And we're doing our part at Facebook as well. We've invested for many years now in what we call our Social Good initiatives. These include tools such as charitable giving so that people can set up fundraisers for their favorite causes, and the elimination of nonprofit fees so that 100% of donations made through Facebook payments to nonprofits go directly to those organizations. On Giving Tuesday last year, the Facebook community raised more than $45 million dollars in a single day to support causes that they care about.

Another great example is a powerful tool called Safety Check. It's an online notification tool that lets you alert friends and family that you're safe after a disaster. We built it after the Fukushima earthquake in Japan, when we noticed that people were using Facebook to let their friends know they were okay. And now we've given people the ability to activate Safety Check themselves. In the last three years, it's been used more than 1,000 times and has notified people that their families and friends are safe more than three billion times.

Lisa:

Facebook was a big supporter and partner of the Ad Council's new 'Seize the Awkward' Suicide Prevention campaign. Talk to us about how that partnership fits into all that you're doing in the mental health space?

David:

Suicide prevention is an imperative for all of us, and Seize the Awkward is an important campaign to address this issue. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young adults. And for every youth suicide, there are 100 to 200 attempts. It's so important that the friends and family of people going through a tough time feel empowered to broach the subject. As the name of this campaign suggests, it can be uncomfortable to do so—there's so much fear of getting it wrong or offending someone you care about. By educating people that it can actually save a life to reach out to someone when you think they're struggling with their mental health, Seize the Awkward is giving voice to an issue that too many people are afraid to give voice to.

At Facebook, we're in a rather unique position to help facilitate those interactions. Sometimes, people in distress will post on Facebook giving others a chance to help. We are proud of our partnership with the Ad Council on this campaign, highlighting signs of mental health concerns and offering tips and tutorials on just how to reach out to support friends in need in those critical moments when they need a hand. Visit the new Instagram presence that we created for the campaign here. This initiative fits in well with our overall effort to build Safe Communities on Facebook. In 2017, we announced suicide prevention tools to help people in real time on Facebook Live. We also rolled out live chat support from crisis support organizations through Messenger. Over the last month we've worked with first responders based on reports we received via our proactive detection efforts.

Lisa:

The velocity of change in our industry doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon—offering new opportunities for marketers. What trend do you think has the greatest possibility to change the game in social impact marketing in 2018?

David:

What I'm most excited about it is the fundamental shift we're seeing towards purpose-driven marketing. This goes beyond tech across all industries. We're seeing a generational change taking place that's driven by a search for meaning. It's becoming a necessity to do more than just focus on the bottom line. I look at the positions that some of the most significant marketers in the world are taking on important issues like racial equality, gender equality, sustainability. Brands realize that when they do good, they also do well. And this understanding of just how important social issues are in the work of the private sector is exploding. For instance, we're seeing major investment firms make it clear that their portfolio companies need to do more than just deliver profits. They need to make real contributions to the world.

The beauty is that there are so many different ways of contributing. One of the biggest ways Facebook impacts the world is supporting entrepreneurs launching and growing their businesses. This in turn creates jobs and supports communities. There is nothing more rewarding in my job than helping fulfill a dream and create economic opportunities for entrepreneurs and their communities. And so often, this has a meaningful social effect as well.

One great example of a small business that's also doing remarkable good is Two Blind Brothers. It is an apparel company in Dallas, run by two brothers who have an eye disease that destroys central vision over time, and they wanted to dedicate their business to finding a cure. The company employs a team of blind workers and donate 100% of their profits to research. Late last year, it ran a Black Friday sale on Facebook, centered around a unique video shopping experience that replicates being visually impaired. The company raised $100,000 for research to help cure blindness. Stories like these are happening every day around the globe.

Lisa:

What do you think is the biggest barrier that media/tech companies are facing when it comes to doing more in the social good space and how can they overcome it?

David:

Many of the changes that technology has driven in society these past few decades are the result of empowering people. The democratization of access to so many tools has enabled more entrepreneurs to grow businesses, and more smaller companies to act like larger ones. For us, empowering people to do good is a key part of so much of what we do. This is because it's engrained in our mission: whether it's been to help others in times of crisis or to raise awareness for a cause they support, people on Facebook have demonstrated the good they can do when they're empowered. For example, in just the last few weeks, I've heard two separate stories where individuals have used Facebook to find a kidney donor for a loved one. There are many, many examples of amazing things like that happening every day.

The barrier is that it's sometimes hard to surface to people how they can have the biggest possible impact. It's difficult at times to activate groups of people around causes they might care about. Our job is to ensure that we build the tools that enable people to do good, and to do it more easily.

We spend a great deal of time designing the tools we build to ensure they can help businesses of all sizes, and non-profits. A good example of what happens when we get this right came in response to the terrible effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Maria last year. We saw many groups and individuals activating on our platform to support the victims of these disasters. After Hurricane Maria, Mercy Corp was able to raise over $124,000 on Facebook to expand relief efforts in Puerto Rico, 50% of which was from first-time supporters. And, in late August the community rallied to support Harvey relief by raising more than $20 million, which was the biggest fundraising effort for a single crisis in 2017 on Facebook.

Lisa:

What's next for Facebook in the social good space?

David:

Facebook is very good at connecting you with family and friends, of course, but when it comes to getting support or learning a new skill, it can be just as important to connect with someone outside your social circle. One recent initiative is around blood donation. India, like many countries, has a shortage of safe blood. Every week there are thousands of posts from people seeking blood donations. So, we worked with non-profit organizations, blood banks, and donors in India to build a tool to make it easier to give blood. Donors can register on Facebook and get a notification if a person or an organization nearby needs blood, and then they connect through Facebook. Over six million people in India have signed up to be donors and this tool is already being actively used to get and give blood.

We also recently announced Mentorship and Support, a new product that combines the expertise of nonprofit organizations with the reach of the Facebook community to help connect people who have shared experiences and goals but may not already know each other. We started the pilot with nonprofits focused on education and crisis recovery: iMentor and International Rescue Committee. But we know that people on Facebook have all kinds of different needs. Our goal is to expand these tools to help connect people around a variety of causes like addiction recovery, career advancement, and other areas where having someone you can count on for support can make all the difference. We're just getting started.

Lisa:

Before we close, I have to ask: what's your favorite PSA ever, and why?

David:

Love Has No Labels has been so meaningful in promoting acceptance, and in fighting discrimination. This is a campaign with the message that, deep down, we're all the same, that love is love, and that we should examine and challenge our implicit and unconscious biases about each other. The Ad Council does so much work of deep significance and effectiveness, and it is truly special to see the way our entire industry comes together to address important social issues. It's a real privilege to be a part of it.

What stands out about Love Has No Labels is how effectively this campaign has addressed a critical issue for our country, and broken down barriers. Since it launched in 2015, survey results have shown that the campaign has seen significant shifts in key attitudes and behaviors with more adults reporting that they believe they can create a more inclusive and accepting environment.

And there have been so many participants in this campaign – both individuals and companies. So many have stepped up to get involved, including corporate partners who have joined hands with their rivals to extend the message— Bank of America, The Coca-Cola Company, Google, PepsiCo, P&G, Johnson & Johnson, State Farm and Wells Fargo. We've been particularly focused on partnering with the Ad Council on the video creative, since this type of powerful content can really sway hearts and minds on our platform. In a world that can often feel divided, it's felt really good to come together and work on a project that was bigger than any one company. That's a big reason why we take so much pride to participate in the vitally important work of the Ad Council.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Marketing.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Be thankful for bitcoin, even if you think it’s a scam

Be thankful for bitcoin, even if you think it’s a scam

You don’t have to believe bitcoin will herald a new era of nationless, inflationless finance to appreciate that it’s already achieved something previously unthinkable


Don Quixote put a barber's basin on his head
and said it was the golden helmet of Mambrino. This is how bitcoin — and all money — is made.You should be thankful for bitcoin even if you didn’t get rich, even if you think it’s a scam, and even if the Winklevoss twins don’t feature in your fantasies of financial utopia. You should be thankful for bitcoin even if it was invented by a comic-book supervillain, and even if the code he futzed with in his basement a decade ago multiplied into a power-hungry Napoleon testing the limits of our electrical and electoral grids — as well as our sanity. You should be thankful for bitcoin even if it means every financial transaction in history will be written onto one of those endlessly long drugstore receipts.

You should be thankful for bitcoin even if the most profitable use of all the world’s computing power today is solving Sudoku puzzles (in order to generate that endlessly long drugstore receipt). You should be thankful for bitcoin even if the insufferable tech bros and their Sudoku-solving supercomputers both spend their days running an infinite loop of the same word: “mine, mine, mine, mine, mine … ” We should all be thankful for bitcoin, in fact, because bitcoin made us all think. I know. I know. “Think?” Hasn’t bitcoin mania caused people to do the opposite of thinking? Yes. If all the bubbles in history from Dutch tulips to Disney superhero movies teach us anything, it’s that greed doesn’t heed.

And yet, bitcoin BTCUSD, +6.33% has made us think. It’s made us think about the very nature of money, the sheer weirdness of money, which most of the time we’re too busy spending, saving or worrying about to actually think about. In the past month alone I heard kids on the subway debating fiat currency, Uber drivers ranting about central bankers — hell, even my mom has had some choice words about the best store of value. You don’t have to believe bitcoin will herald a new era of nationless, inflationless finance to appreciate that it’s already achieved something unthinkable.

Bitcoin is a philosopher’s stone. It’s also a pet rock. It’s worthless, and it’s worth millions. It’s magic, and it’s marketing — and it reminds us that these same contradictions are true of all money. What is money? Dictionaries and economics textbooks prove inadequate to answer, as Dickens’s flustered Mr. Dombey demonstrates when his son poses the question. Money is “coined liberty,” says Dostoyevsky. It is “frozen desire,” the writer James Buchan puts it in his superb book by the same title. “Money takes wishes, however vague or trivial or atrocious, and broadcasts them to the world, like the

Mayday of a ship in difficulties.”

Is it really so absurd that some dude from MIT can point a finger and declare, ‘Let there be Litecoin,’ and suddenly he has enough cash to buy his own Caribbean island?

Money is a “social technology,” the economist Felix Martin says — one of the twin pillars on which civilization was built. Writing was the other. Of course, writing was originally money, too. When prehistoric Steve Jobs unveiled the invention of writing in his Mesopotamian keynote five thousand years ago, writing’s killer app wasn’t poetry, philosophy or presidential tweets — it was keeping track of debts. The early adopters were the proto-CPAs, and they probably drove all their friends bananas gushing about the stone slab’s cuneiform factor.

All of this is to say the most important thing to remember about money is that we made it all up. Money is an act of imagination. It’s a fiction. The great American novel isn’t “Huck”; it’s the buck. With that in mind, is it really so absurd that some dude from MIT can point a finger and declare, “Let there be Litecoin,” and suddenly he has enough cash to buy his own Caribbean island? OK. That is still pretty absurd. It’s as absurd as Don Quixote putting a barber’s basin on his head and insisting it’s the gold helmet of Mambrino. But if enough people believed Don Quixote or the dude from MIT, would it not be so?

Why do you think money is stamped with the words “In God we trust”? Money is a leap of faith. Even when we had the gold standard, we really only had the god standard. It’s not a god we are trusting in, however, but each other. The word credit literally means belief, my colleague Jason Zweig of the Wall Street Journal points out.

Money is ultimately backed by faith in our institutions, our government and our Facebook FB, +0.36% friends. The dollar is the value and values of America rendered into an abstraction, allowing us to trade and transact with strangers we might otherwise not trust. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are more atheistic. They run on an almost paranoiac guiding principle to trust nothing and encrypt everything — which, admittedly, isn’t as catchy a slogan. Bitcoin would be better off adopting the motto Benjamin Franklin advocated for America’s coins: “Mind your business.”

In our galaxy, money is the Force: It surrounds us, penetrates us, binds us together. Money is also the Matrix: an illusion, a simulation, a game we are all playing. Bitcoin is the red pill Laurence Fishburne gives Keanu Reeves to show him the “real world.” It’s given us a glimpse of the wires and duct work underpinning our moneyed world. Bitcoin is “forcing people to reckon with the fact that all money is virtual,” Felix Martin told me. “And this reckoning is and always has been discombobulating for people.”

No matter what you think of capitalism and free markets, money and the symphony of financial instruments performing its music have made possible much of our scientific, artistic and social achievements. As Niall Ferguson relates in “The Ascent of Money,” the advent of banking, insurance, double-entry bookkeeping, mortgages, bonds, stocks, derivatives and the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.91% all stoked innovation and the betterment of the human enterprise. Has the financial system also inflicted pain, suffering and alienation? Without a doubt. Could it be better and fairer? Yes.

This brings us to the second most important thing bitcoin reminds us about money: We can change it. Consider gold. One of the ironies of gold GCG8, +0.93% is that what was originally prized as the most malleable of all metals is now prized for being the least malleable of all assets. Though many have described it as “digital gold,” bitcoin demonstrates that money itself is flexible. It is continuously evolving. We created it, and we can re-create it. Money is a medium of world change. It can be a force for good in the world, and when it isn’t we can upgrade its operating system to be fairer, faster and more efficient.

So no matter what Warren Buffett, Jamie Dimon, Paul Krugman and all the other naysaying titans of finance and economics say about bitcoin, we are all indebted to the comic-book villain who invented it. Don’t put your whole 401(k) into cryptos, don’t jump on the bandwagon, but do give it some thought. Do try it out. Play some Sudoku. Write yourself onto that endless drugstore receipt. Bitcoin, after all, is the new Oprah: Everyone gets a Lamborghini — and then we get to complain about the taxes. Well, at least we get to complain about the taxes.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614