Community News

This Week in Blockchain 11.23.18

Climate Blues

One of the driving principles behind the creation of RChain is the fact that in the coming decades humans are going to need new social coordination technologies. Yet climate change isn’t in the future—its impact is felt on a daily basis. A decentralized communication system in which citizens of diverse countries and continents can turn to in order to transact and exchange is going to be of critical importance. Blockchain can provide a solution; RChain was founded to be one such service.
The day after Thanksgiving is often a time when people tune out of the news, which is likely why the Trump Administration released a new climate report that spells out that things are worse than we thought. Thirteen federal agencies took part in this 1,656-page report, which states that the US economy could lose 10 percent of our entire economy by the end of the century due to global warming.

The report puts the most precise price tags to date on the cost to the United States economy of projected climate impacts: $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by the end of the century, among others.

Burying this news on a holiday won’t change the content one bit. Hiding this news might be politically expedient at the moment, but the price we’ll be paying in the long run is too massive to contemplate. That doesn’t mean we should not attempt to wrap our heads around it, and continue to create tools to lessen the impact of the inevitable.

The End of Mining?

Speaking of climate change, one of the major criticisms of mining cryptocurrency has been the massive energy usage required to keep Bitcoin afloat. A recent study published in Nature Climate Change states that bitcoin mining could raise global temperatures a whopping 2 degrees Celsius within three decades. Perhaps this report didn’t sit well in Norway, or maybe the government simply realized the tax revenue they were missing out on, but the nation has ended a power tax subsidy to miners.

At the moment, larger mining firms receive the same electricity tax discount as other power-intensive industries in the country. Those with a capacity of more than 0.5 megawatts are charged only 0.48 øre ($0.00056) per kilowatt hour instead of the standard rate of 16.58 øre ($0.019). An øre is 100th of a Norwegian krone. That means that eligible miners have been paying just 2.8 percent of the standard rate to power their rigs.

Miners might, as the article suggests, move operations to Sweden and Denmark, but given the global energy impact mining is causing, it’s doubtful many countires will will to incentivize a practice that’s helping harm the entire planet.

Fake News Warriors

When I began studying journalism in 1993, many professionals took the idea of objective truth seriously. Yet journalists and editors have views that will certainly inform their coverage. That said, it is possible to seek truthful information even if you don’t agree with it. That’s why journalism is a profession that must retain some sense of integrity to be valuable.
Of course, many newer strains of “media” have emerged whose impact relies on biased reporting, if much of it can be called reporting at all. A slew of new companies is emerging to try to keep that integrity intact. I’ve covered Proof on a number of occasions here, yet another portfolio company is Inkrypt (which will be featured on next week’s RCast). Whereas Proof is using the “wisdom of the crowds” model to combat fake news online, Inkrypt’s focus is on censorship resistance, which makes sense given that the co-founders are from countries where governmental censorship is common.
Inkrypt is the right solution at the right time. Forbes covered the initiative this week:

The company, which has raised $1.3m in funding to date, is developing a platform which uses blockchain technology to provide “censorship-resistant” publishing. The system allows information to be stored in small, encrypted chunks of data which are distributed across a wide peer-to-peer network, rather than centralized on servers which can be easily attacked by hackers or government lawyers. Each part of the network is cloaked in anonymity so that one storage “node” does not know the identity of any other node.

One of the main user bases will be citizen journalists, says co-founder Farhan Javed, a Pakistani-American born in Saudi Arabia. They might not be trained in objective truths, and that’s just fine. In nations in which the concept of “truth” is being abandoned—too many to count at the moment—we need to hear from voices that are routinely being silence.

Traveling on Blockchain

One industry that’s just waiting for mass adoption of blockchain is mobility services. Earlier this week I chatted with Tesloop co-founder Rahul Sonnad, who discussed what happens when your automobile acts more like your phone, with constant software updates keeping the device humming along. On a broader level, Swiss Federal Railways just completed a proof of concept for a new blockchain identity verification system.

According to Swiss Federal Railways, the project was a huge success and helped to reduce paperwork and save on time and costs. These benefits are frequently reported in whatever industry DLT is integrated into. Swiss Federal Railways employs over 30,000 people across Switzerland and all of these workers need to be medically fit and verified for construction work.

Insurance, car rentals, peak travel time scheduling, ride-sharing, public infrastructure, identity management: blockchain’ impact is going to change the future of how we travel quite soon.

Blockchain Boom in South Korea

During last week’s community call, RChain’s Director of Business Development, Jonathan Kochmer, announced the South Korean government’s intention of greatly expanding the country’s blockchain initiatives, with a $400m facility for companies to utilize as it attempts to bring 220,000 organizations on-chain. And that appears to only be the beginning.
Blockchain investment is only one piece of the broader push, with AI and Big Data initiatives comprising part of its long-term strategy. The Ministry of Public Administration and Security is calling its plan an “intelligent government roadmap,” and has already collected 52 projects from 37 different institutions; another department, the Ministry of Science and ICT, has received 72 blockchain applications from 41 institutions. Overall, the government has tripled its 2019 budget compared to its 2018 investment.
Energy is one domain the government is already transforming. The government and state bank majority-owned KEPCO, which has a $15.9b market cap, is moving on-chain as well:

KEPCO’s new “Open MG” will reportedly harness blockchain and other technologies to improve energy infrastructure, particularly for the local hydrogen economy. To this end, it will focus on decentralization, decarbonization and digitalization, described in the press release as being the three key “trends” driving the future of the energy industry.

As reported yesterday, Access Network is attempting something similar in West Africa with its solar power projects. Of course, this is a private company looking for investments to bring power to 600 million Africans that do not have reliable electricity; government buy-in would be a bonus. South Korea is taking that step from the top-down, with many more blockchain projects on the horizon nationwide.