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2017 has been a crazy year in science and technology. From Trump putting a climate skeptic in charge of the EPA to the Nobel Prize for gravity waves—there are so many directions we could take this. I’ve selected a few choice topics that seem particularly relevant heading in to 2018.

Bitcoin Mania

So let’s just address the elephant in the room, shall we? You may remember that back in February of this year I came out of the closet with regards to Bitcoin. I’d once owned one. I thought the technology was fascinating. I believed (and still believe) its creator to be a straight-up genius. That was a quaint time, when the price of a bitcoin was around $1,000. At the time of writing the price is now $18,879.68 $14,635.00 (it’s been a volatile month for BTC). For those who aren’t good at doing math in their heads that is almost a 1500 percent rate of return. For reference, a “good” year in the stock market will earn you about 10 percent. The total market capitalization of all “cryptocurrencies” is now sitting at around half a trillion dollars. A year ago I was an outlier for even knowing how to buy a bitcoin—now your grandma probably has half her life savings in bitcoins.

Don’t worry, though, my dear readers. I was an early investor in Bitcoin, way back when the price was only $300 and I made sure to get out before we entered this current bubble. I sold my bitcoin for $400 and made myself a tidy little hundred dollar profit that I’ve since invested in long term U.S. Treasury Bonds.

My little rags to riches story aside, though, what does a $15,000 bitcoin tell us about the future of cryptocurrencies?

We’ve got true believers claiming BTC will grow until it rivals gold as a “store” of value (at which point the price will be approximately $500K per bitcoin). We’ve got seasoned financiers screaming on CNBC that the whole thing is a sham and the federal government needs to outlaw Bitcoin before it really gets out of control. And what about all those “other” cryptocurrencies? Ethereum and Litecoin and the 1,300 or so other “altcoins” that have popped in and out of existence over the last 5 years? What does the future hold for them? And what is the future of the “blockchain”—the piece of technological wizardry that is behind all these new cryptocurrencies?

This tweet wins Best Bitcoin/Blockchain Dig for 2017.

Honestly, I have no idea. But if anyone tells you they know where this thing is going ask them to prove it to you by showing you their bank account. And remind anyone who talks about the Dotcom bubble that the entire species of internet companies didn’t go extinct after 2000. I know of at least one company that seems to have done alright.

Remember when people were laughing at Amazon for never turning a profit? Bezos plays the LONG GAME people. He has his own rocket company and I’m guessing he plans to seed some alien planet with his own DNA in about 50,000 years.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

As someone who is fully divested of all my bitcoins, I’m not losing any sleep over the day to day price swings. AI, on the other hand, is something very near and dear to me. So it’s been a bit of a roller coaster for me this year, as I’ve wavered back and forth on the near term future of AI.

Back in October, I wrote about how maybe the latest revolution in AI is coming to an end (rather than just beginning). Maybe a robot that will be my friend is further out than I thought. And then in November I wrote about how AI may not need to be smart to control us. By the time I’d finished the second piece I was convinced that the near term future of AI was going to be rather dull.

Then, within a day of that piece being posted I saw this on Facebook:

(You NEED to go watch the full video here).

This adorable back-flipping robot that no doubt could rip your head right off your neck is the work of Boston Dynamics.

Let me not mince words here folks: Boston Dynamics is Skynet.

They may be two decades late, and as far as I know they don’t have contracts to control our missile systems yet, but no doubt they have some deal in the works. Even the name Boston Dynamics sounds like something right from a movie. It’s eerily similar to both General Dynamics, an actual gigantic defense contractor that absolutely has access to missile control systems and to Massive Dynamic [1], a fictional multinational corporation specializing in biomedical technologies and also complicit in screwing around with the space time continuum on Fox’s hit series Fringe.[2]

If you think I’m overstating the situation please take a gander at some of Boston Dynamic’s other “totally benign” robotic creations. Here is a robotic “mule” that not only walks around unassisted but has the ability to avoid wiping out on ice (and looks as stupid as a person while doing it!):

And here is one of an adorable dog-like robot:

What is there even to say at this point? I don’t know how smart their robots are, but it doesn’t matter. Humanity was put in check the moment Boston Dynamics created WHATEVER THE FUCK THIS IS:


The only question left is what will the price of Bitcoin be on the day that the machines wage their uprising?


[1] Massive Dynamic is not a real company, but in one of those creepy marketing ploys the show creators built a website for this fictional company on the real internet. Not unlike what the creators of Lost did when they created a whole site for Oceanic Flight 815.

[2] Still not convinced that something hinky is going on? Consider the following “coincidence”: Massive Dynamic + General Dynamics + Boston Dynamics. You see it too, right? MASS GENERAL IS A HOSPITAL IN BOSTON!!!!!!!!!!! I’m not sure what exactly is happening at the nexus of a real robot company, a real defense contractor and a fictional secretive biomedical corporation, but you can bet that when I do figure it out I’ll be posting about it right here on The Prompt. So stay tuned.

Jesse Stone

Jesse B. Stone loves science and writing. Apologies if you were looking for the "Jesse Stone" played by Tom Selleck in the CBS movies.

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