Plus an AI cagefight between tech’s most famous founders, and a path to salvation through handwriting.
Raise your hand if you understand the blockchain. OK, smarty pants, you can skip to the next story. But most of us may need a primer (or three). And given that blockchain technology dominates tech and business news these days, it seems a good moment to point Daily readers to a trio of relatively painless pieces that will give you a good overview of how it all works.
Start with this short Medium piece from 2013 (yes, four years ago), entitled Explain Bitcoin to me. One of the first bitcoin/blockchain pieces to go viral, author Nik Custodio uses a simple example (a digital apple) to explain the core concepts behind bitcoin, which was the first at-scale use of blockchain technology.
Move on to this current piece, also on Medium: Making Money. This piece dives deeper into bitcoin, but given its recency, it makes full use of emojis, which is entertaining at the very least. The prose is approachable, it’s written by an engineer (so it must be right!) and there’s a picture of a puppy near the end. Plus, there’s a poop emoji. No word if the two are connected.
Finally, move on to this longer, more nuanced HackerNoon piece, WTF Is The Blockchain? This overview widens the aperture to consider the larger societal issues at play, in particular how blockchain obviates the need for third party institutions (like banks, for instance). It also does a great job of explaining the core logic, terminologies, and processes behind the blockchain.
Read all three? Great! Now you’re ready to dive into the really fun stuff… like political battles over forking! But seriously, if you want to stay close to all things blockchain, a good place to start is Coindesk, though the inside-baseball nature may be a bit off-putting. Shift also covers the impact, here’s our latest. Happy mining!
Who’s Really Smarter About Artificial Intelligence?
This is shaping up to be a debate for the history books: over the past week Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, have traded barbs over whether artificial intelligence needs to be more proactively regulated. Musk is convinced we need to get in front of this potentially human-ending technology, Zuckerberg calls such talk irresponsible (and did so while streaming live from his backyard BBQ to 4 million fans. Billionaires are so funny!).
It’s not often tech’s most famous founders square off in a public arena, but the stakes are high, and it’s easy to find smart sounding academics who back your point of view. Yuval Noah Harris’ Homo Deus warns of the rise of super humans, aided by tech, who will leave the rest of us behind, and Nick Bostrom’s Super Intelligence goes one further, claiming the machines alone are on their way to doing so. Whether you believe AI is essentially safe, or whether it’s potentially one of the most dangerous technologies ever devised, it’s clear this debate will only intensify over the coming years. If you’re looking to understand those issues, NewCo Shift has a good primer here.
Might Penmanship Be The Answer?
How often do you actually write, you know, by hand? I keep four hand-written journals (one for each kid, one for me) and have for decades. But over the past few years, I’ve noticed it’s been getting harder and harder to post my entries — my hands are literally losing the muscle memory of how to write, in particular that fussy and unique script known as cursive. A Quartz article notes that teaching handwriting is on the decline around the world as modern humans thumb and keyboard their way through life, but a recent study at the University of Washington showed that kids who write by hand learn more than those who use keyboards.
“Brain scans during the two activities also show that forming words by hand as opposed to on a keyboard leads to increased brain activity,” the article states. “Scientific studies of children and adults show that wielding a pen when taking notes, rather than typing, is associated with improved long-term information retention, better thought organization, and increased ability to generate ideas.”
It seems there really is something to the hand-written word. Grab a pen and start writing — it just might save humanity.
We’re pleased to announce another new series in our Medium partnership: Which Half Is Wasted, by Rick Webb.