Better “AI for Good”

While the dystopian camp perceives digital technologies as a formidable, perhaps even unsurmountable threat to society, those on the other, much more optimistic side do not seem to get tired of repeating its almost countless benefits. The latter camp apparently has the upper hand, at least for now, as its message captures most daily media headlines, mainstream and otherwise. Doom technology scenarios occasionally take center stage when one global personality decides to warn us, once again, about the war we are about to lose should technology be left to its own devices.

Despite such opposing views, both camps share the idea that technology is just like Frankenstein, a human creation that somehow has acquired a life of its own, a distinct personality and a determined will. If we are on the

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Blockchains and Food Safety

Trade is one of the main trademarks of the globalization process. Nowadays, most countries in the world exchange products and services on a regular basis and use local comparative advantages to specialize in specific trade sectors and/or commodities. Food and agricultural products are important components of this process. Within countries, rapid urbanization has increased the demand for food. At the same time, the number of people working in the agricultural sector and living in rural areas has decreased substantially. While some food staples are imported, others are still produced locally but must travel from rural areas to urban centers and big cities to meet the demand.

Food products are thus in perpetual motion, moving from their place of birth as soon as possible towards a wide variety

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Blockchains and Digital ID, II

The Evolution of Digital identity

The emergence of digital technologies provided the ground to shift from traditional systems based on physical identity. In the past, both foundational and functional identity mechanisms were centralized with individuals getting a physical document containing relevant personal attributes required by the issuing entity. Document management was totally in the hands of the end-user who used them as proof of identity to make claims in person.

The Internet and the digitalization of biometrics and other personal attributes propelled new ways of issuing and managing personal identity. This process started around the end of the last century and allowed Internet companies to start issuing online identities to its users. It also promoted efforts to release functional

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Blockchains and Digital ID, I


Like previous technologies, such as the Internet, for example, blockchains have been driven by a high degree of techno-optimism not yet backed up by on the ground impact or reliable evidence. Undoubtedly, the technology, which is still rapidly evolving, has enormous potential in many sectors and could promote human development if harnessed strategically.

One of the many blockchain innovative traits is the use of sophisticated cryptographic tools to generate unique identities for individuals interacting within the distributed network. In principle, such identities can be pseudo-anonymous, immutable, secure and directly created and managed by their owners – thus not need for centralized or federated intermediaries This, in principle, make blockchains an ideal candidate to propel

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On Blockchains Research

Blockchain technology development has been accompanied by a substantial increase in related research. The latter usually trails new technology innovations, but it does tend to catch up in the short-term. Ten years after the emergence of blockchains, there is plenty of ongoing academic and other research. Keeping track of its volume requires some sort of collaborative effort among different actors. Enter the Blockchain Research Network, BRN.

Created last Summer, BRN is an independent network open to all researchers regardless of affiliation. Furthermore, BRN is not linked to any academic institution or business organization, nor does it plan to be. It is thus decentralized, working ins the same fashion as traditional Open Source networks. To date, BRN has over 400 registered members who

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Algorithms and Algocracy – II

In the previous post, I provided a simple definition of an algorithm to then explore their use in the digital world. While algorithms live from the inputs they are feed, digital programs such as mobile apps and web platforms are comprised of a series of algorithms that, working in sync to, deliver the desired output(s). Algorithms sit between a given input and the expected output. They take the former, do their magic and yield the latter.

There is a direct relationship between the complexity of the planned output(s) and the coding effort required. The latter is usually measured by the number of coding lines in a given program. For example, Google is said to have over 2 billion coding lines (2×10^9) supporting its various services. You certainly need an army of programmers to create, manage

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Smart contracts are not that smart

Smart contracts are perhaps one of the most touted features of blockchain technology. While the idea itself dates from the end of last century,  blockchains provided the platform for actual implementation in the Internet era. Undoubtedly, Ethereum was the real disruptive innovator by enhancing the original but limited Bitcoin architecture with a plethora of programmable new features, smart contracts being one of them.1 In fact, Ethereum is defined as a Turing-complete platform.. This same development also opened the door for clearly distinguishing between blockchains and cryptocurrencies, the latter being just one application of the former, a general purpose technology of sorts.

Analysis of smart contracts can be undertaken from at least three different angles. These are 1. Finance; 2.

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1 In fact, Ethereum is defined as a Turing-complete platform.

Waste no time waiting for e-Waste data

The town where I currently reside is planning to change its e-Waste collection policy starting next year. As it is today, town people can go downtown once a month and drop their old computers, laptops, monitors and the rest. This will now be reduced to one day per year. Missing that date will entail people having to go to some other place out of town to take care of business. Or one could try to go to a nearby and more affluent village where one can drop the stuff at any time. Probably not kosher, though.

I am not sure if this change is the result of budget cuts or lower demand for such service  – or both. I am not really following town decision-making processes. But I do know that e-Waste collection is a state law, and all towns must thus take care of business. Note that appliances such

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ICOs: Endangered Species

As expected, ICOs are finally cooling down. There are several reasons for this. First, ICO oversight by regulators in many countries has substantially increased. Regulators are poking not so much into new ICOs. Instead, they are doing deep dives into those that have already been completed and going after those who look fraudulent. Second, the token market is in a massive downswing. Some tokens have lost at least 90 percent of their value thus leading to substantial loses for ICO investors. As a result, crypto tokens have become much less attractive.

Third, many of the successfully completed ICOs are having a hard time showing or delivering on the ground results in spite of massive infusions of capital. While lack of maturity and technology constraints might play a role here, it may also

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The Scale of the Blockchain Scalability Constraints

According to latest estimates, global Internet penetration was close to 54 percent by the end of 2017. That is roughly 4 billion people. Figures for the number of unique cell phone users show that 5 billion people have access to the technology.1 BTW, this means that 1 billion people have a cell phone but are not connected to the Internet. But that is another story.

Armed with this numbers, I asked a business acquaintance who is a blockchain enthusiast and practitioner if the most popular blockchain platforms could effectively cater to all those users. Answer: “Not at this moment. But do not worry, we are working on it.”

The reason for this stems from the scalability constraints the most reputed blockchain platforms face. As I see, the scalability issue is related to three factors: 1.

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1 BTW, this means that 1 billion people have a cell phone but are not connected to the Internet. But that is another story.