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A fork in the road: a Bitcoin battle royale

(TECH NEWS) Bitcoin couldn’t handle the heat from all sides and has split in two.

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Bitcoin split

Cryptocurrency is 2017’s hottest buzzword. The blockchain currency has been making waves all year and now we have a tidal wave on our hands.

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A big split in the biggest name in virtual currency has a lot to say about how blockchain technology may change how business works in the future.

You can go your own way

The venerable bitcoin split this Tuesday with the launch of Bitcoin Cash, after a disagreement within the bitcoin community about the technological architecture of the virtual currency. The disagreement escalated to the level of a “hard fork,” a permanent split between the two systems.

Translated to English from Digital Currency Dork, a hard fork is a fundamental change in the protocols used to encode and verify transactions on a blockchain. The change is as basic and permanent as it gets: after it’s made, the people using pre-fork versions of the system will no longer be able to have their transactions verified.

The split

On the surface, this may seem like pure inconvenience: one of the few advantages of printing all your money out on paper and stuffing it in your sock drawer is it rarely requires firmware upgrades.

In this case, however, there’s a serious concern at work.

As bitcoin has grown in popularity, its core infrastructure has begun to struggle to efficiently verify transactions, leading to delays and general inconvenience. The main bitcoin currency’s response is SegWit2x, a two-stage solution involving full implementation of SegWit, a new code optimization for the system, and a timeline for increasing the size of blocks on the chain. Cash, the other tine on the fork, is already increasing the size of their blocks but sticking with the current code.

Decisions, decisions

CoinDesk provides a breakdown of the gritty details here, but which proves to be the working solution, and what effect the fork will have on market values, remains to be seen.

What’s clear, however, is that the event itself matters.

In traditional currencies, management decisions of this kind would be made by experts, typically behind closed doors. Ironically for the iconic instance of constructive digital paranoia, the world’s most famous cryptocurrency is demonstrating a unique feature of peer-to-peer value exchange: transparency.

Brilliant or bizarre

With conventional currency, you don’t know what’s happening to that fat stack in your sock drawer until it’s happened. The bitcoin/Cash hard fork was something the people who possessed the money in question decided among themselves.

That’s new. Whether it’s brilliant or bizarre is a question beyond the scope of this article, but for anyone who intends to do business on the Internet, ever, it’s clearly a question worth asking.

#BitcoinSplit

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Tech News

Another thing that can trick iPhone X facial recognition

(TECH NEWS) The iPhone X has had an array of challenges, even with their innovative facial recognition technology.

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Yiiiikes, a mask tricked Apple’s new Face ID feature. Vietnamese security firm Bkav Corporation recently held a demo pointing out flaws in the iPhone X’s facial recognition, claiming the technology is not as secure as Apple originally touted.

Bkav Corporation focuses on network security, anti-virus software, and mobile security software. Bkav Corp created a 3D mask that “beat” Face ID in a demonstration. The mask was crafted with a combination of 3D printing and 2D images.

When verifying users, Face ID takes photos using infrared cameras. The first photo creates the surface of the face then the second pic makes a mesh, reproducing the face in 3D. From there, Face ID uses AI technology to distinguish faces.

The 2D/3D hybrid is meant to throw off the AI feature specifically. According to Bkav’s VP of Cyber Security Ngo Tuan Anh, “Apple’s AI can only distinguish either a 100% real face or a 100% fake one. So if you create a ‘half-real half-fake’ face, it can fool Apple’s AI.”

Face ID is supposed to have a one million-to-one chance of false recognition.

Compared to Touch ID’s potential fail rate of fifty thousand-to-one, Face ID is meant to be way more secure. However, the risk of a false recognition increases with identical twins, siblings, and children under the age of thirteen since their facial features aren’t finished developing.

When iPhone X launched, Apple stated they worked with professional Hollywood mask makers and makeup artists to ensure Face ID couldn’t be fooled by masks or other prosthetics. While Apple noted Face ID should still work if users get haircuts, change facial hair, or sometimes wear glasses, masks weren’t part of the good-to-go features for unlocking phones.

If you’re one of the adopters of iPhone X, don’t start freaking out yet though. To create their mask, Bkav had to use a handheld scanner to get pictures of their target’s face. As in, the person whose phone they were trying to hack had to be in the same room to get the initial scans.

Plus, Bkav could have intentionally done a subpar job of setting up the Face ID. The obvious solution if you’re still worried? Add a passcode as well and don’t trust anyone who wants to make a mask of your face.

Read also: Do literally anything with your money besides buy the iPhone X

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Tech News

Well great, now the robots can do acrobatics

(TECH NEWS) Do you want Terminators? Because this is how you get Terminators. Bipedal robots can do backflips now…

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This is it. It’s happening. Robots.

A year ago Boston Dynamics robot Atlas was learning to stand and falling over while walking. Now, Atlas has been upgraded, allowing it to easily scale blocks parkour style, doing backflips, and even raising its arms triumphantly after nailing a landing.

And I am raising a card with a 10 for the solid execution, albeit shakily, because the first thing that went through my head watching those eerily fluid, human-like movements, was imagining it stomping over piles of human skulls with an AK in its cold, calculating hands.

We can build it. We have the technology.

Let’s hope it doesn’t find videos all those videos on YouTube of its creators tormenting the thing; prodding it with hockey sticks like a lion tamer with a chair, knocking boxes out of its arms, pushing it over, and kicking its robo-dog companions.

Atlas won’t forget that.

Imagine this thing chasing you in the woods, or down the street. In a few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Atlas bots were wearing badges. Atlas is far more spry than the dopey droids you might find in a Star Wars flick, and well on its way to creating Skynet from Boston Dynamics.

Guys, Atlas can do acrobatics now, like a ninja:

Anywhere human feet can tread, an advanced enough droid will be able to go (can we start calling them droids now?). If you knock them over, they get right back up. Those human-powered mechs have nothing on Atlas. Give it enough time, and Atlas will run circles around both Eagle Prime and KURATAS. They won’t need us puny humans for robot battles.

One day, they might not need us at all.

All jokes aside, it’s an incredible, awe-inducing advancement in robotics. Boston Dynamics also recently revealed a smaller, less creepy version of their robo-dog Spot to bring us SpotMini: a small four-legged robot that can climb stairs and moves similarly to the way a dog would romp about.

Just so you know, this is nothing to be afraid of… We’ve only just found out that robots are evolving at an alarming rate.

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Tech News

Social media giants are trying to operate without human controls but are failing

(TECH NEWS) Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over in fascinating ways, but this big experiment of replacing human tasks is failing. Good news / bad news.

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Let me tell you a story. In fact, let me tell you several.

A village in Macedonia had a small economic boom during the 2016 election, plagiarizing and stitching together pro-Trump messages on social media, then publishing the results as “news” in order to profit from Google ad revenue.

Back during the “Keep Calm and…” T-shirt fad, a shirt company went through a thoroughly justified PR apocalypse for selling products labeled “Keep Calm and Hit Her” and “Keep Calm and Rape a Lot.”

The 17th most popular website on Earth occasionally likes to tell women over 30 to freeze their ova.

So! That’s a parade of fail. What’s it got in common, beyond making any reasonable reader consider moving to an Amish community and trying to forget even the word “Internet”?

People. More accurately, their absence.

Veles, Macedonia churned out profitable nonsense about Trump slapping a protester (that didn’t happen) or getting the blessing of the Pope (Pope says nope) because Google ads are programmatic. There’s no QA component, no human eyes reviewing content and asking “is this worth advertising on?” or for that matter “is this blatantly false?”

Likewise the Evil T-Shirt Crisis. The company generated slogans by dropping memes into an algorithm, then throwing the result on Amazon. That ended… poorly.

We, and every other tech and business network in the digital cosmos, have written in depth about all the dang robots taking our jobs. Usually our primary concern is the economic fallout. We’re a business news organization. It’s our job to warn you about that stuff.

But there’s another problem, and it’s a huge problem, especially as media consumption in general continues to rise, and more and more of that media is moderated by algorithms rather than people.

Robots aren’t just taking our jobs. They suck at our jobs. Algorithms may play go, but they aren’t ready to make value judgments yet. A quick Google will yield a dozen more examples of AI failures just as repulsive and/or hilarious as the ones on my list. And the real punchline for all of that?

It’s good news.

For once, the robot apocalypse is cutting us puny humans a break. It’s creating jobs almost as fast as it’s gobbling them up, because at this point, it is excruciatingly clear that robots aren’t ready to produce work people can actually see. They’re not even ready to put ads on work people see, not without causing a PR catastrophe every other month.

AI isn’t a better widget. It also isn’t an employee that doesn’t want benefits or take long lunches.

It’s a product in permanent beta, desperately trying to catch up to the constantly changing nuance of human interaction. It doesn’t work without homo sapiens holding its robot hand.

Let’s call it Salter’s Law: For every application of AI to customer-facing work, you will need to hire at least one human for damage control when the AI screws up.

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