September 19, 2023

Emerging Technologies Highlights: Week of Sept 19, 2023

This week, we delve into a diverse array of topics across crypto, AI, NFTs, and the metaverse. 

On the AI front, a group of experts, including philosophers, neuroscientists, and computer scientists, has proposed a framework for evaluating the potential consciousness of AI, shedding light on the evolving science of consciousness. Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders has sparked discussions with his proposal that workers should reap the benefits of AI and robotics advances in the form of reduced working hours. In the legal arena, the ongoing Google antitrust trial, ostensibly about past dealings between Google and other companies, will effectively establish the rules governing the tech landscape for the next decade, impacting not only online search but also the emerging realm of commercialized artificial intelligence (A.I.).

In the world of digital art and collectibles, we've witnessed a significant shift in the landscape of NFT exchanges. Platforms like OpenSea have rescinded their policy of mandatory royalty payments to NFT creators, thereby killing the art world’s utopian dream of long-lasting income streams for content creators. Even if NFT enthusiasts have received good news in the past few days with the rise of the new NFT marketplace Magic Eden, this change in creator revenue could mark the end of the medium’s value proposition. 

In the cryptocurrency sphere, crypto gaming and metaverse investment giant Animoca Brands has unveiled plans to launch a unique metaverse ecosystem token on the Bitcoin blockchain. This development shows the evolving intersection of crypto and the metaverse. Partly as a result, crypto analysts have suggested that the cryptocurrency market may be on the verge of a bullish trend. 

Lastly, in China, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has signaled its intent to become a global standards-setter for new technologies by forming a working group to establish standards for the metaverse sector. This move underscores China's ambitions in the field of virtual shared worlds, as the West withdraws from the metaverse hype.


The bottom line: The fuzziness of consciousness, its imprecision, has made its study anathema in the natural sciences. Nonetheless, a few weeks ago, a group of philosophers, neuroscientists and computer scientists, Dr. Lindsay among them, proposed a rubric with which to determine whether an A.I. system like ChatGPT could be considered conscious. The report, which surveys what Dr. Lindsay calls the “brand-new” science of consciousness, pulls together elements from a half-dozen nascent empirical theories and proposes a list of measurable qualities that might suggest the presence of some presence in a machine.

The bottom line: If the US’s ongoing A.I.  and robotics boom translates into more work being done faster, then laborers should reap some of the gains of that in the form of more paid time off, the liberal US senator Bernie Sanders said Sunday. “I happen to believe that – as a nation – we should begin a serious discussion … about substantially lowering the workweek,” Sanders remarked on CNN’s State of the Union. Citing the parenting, housing, healthcare and financial stresses confronting most Americans while generally shortening their life expectancies, he added: “It seems to me that if new technology is going to make us a more productive society, the benefits should go to the workers.

The bottom line: The Google antitrust trial, which began last week, is ostensibly focused on the past — on a series of deals that Google made with other companies over the past two decades. The prosecution in the case, U.S. et al. v. Google, contends that Google illegally spent billions of dollars paying off Samsung and Apple to prevent anyone else from gaining a foothold in the market for online search. But the true focus of the trial is on the future. For the verdict will effectively establish the rules governing tech competition for the next decade, including the battle over commercialized A.I., as well as newer technologies we cannot yet envision.

The bottom line: It only took a few months to kill the art world’s utopian dream of long-lasting income streams for content creators. As of September 1, OpenSea, once the leading marketplace for art linked to non fungible tokens, rescinded its policy of mandatory royalty payments to NFT creators. The decision came after it lost its dominance to no-fee competitor Blur, which only appeared on the scene in October but then quickly gobbled up market share by not charging platform processing fees and became the top NFT trading site in February. Overall NFT trading volume has plummeted from about $5.36 billion in January 2022, according to The Block, to $410 million in August. OpenSea’s share of the struggling NFT market has plummeted to under 30%.

The bottom line: China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT)said on Monday that it will form a working group to establish standards for the metaverse sector as Beijing seeks to be a global standards-setter for new technology. The ministry released a draft proposal to form a working group for the metaverse, shared virtual worlds accessible via the internet, on Monday. The proposal said that the metaverse is one of the nine emerging tech sectors which China should strive to establish standards for.

The bottom line:  Crypto gaming and metaverse investment giant Animoca Brands has unveiled plans this week through one of its subsidiary companies to launch a first-of-its-kind metaverse ecosystem token on Bitcoin via the Ordinals protocol. Game studio Darewise Entertainment (aka Life Beyond Studios), an Animoca subsidiary, aims to create an all-encompassing metaverse ecosystem built around Bitcoin Ordinals—a protocol that lets users inscribe NFT-like assets to the blockchain and create BRC-20 tokens on Bitcoin.

The bottom line: Crypto analyst Jason Pizzino has suggested that the cryptocurrency market is on the cusp of a bull run. In a recent video, Pizzino claimed that the market is showing strength and potential for growth similar to previous cycles. "This is the beginning of a bull market just like it happened the previous cycle and the previous cycle before that. The beginnings aren't always as clear." He emphasized that once the market becomes clear and retail investors jump in, it means the end of the early stages of a bull market.

The bottom line: Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire technology investor Mark Cuban lost some $870,000 worth of tokens over the weekend after likely clicking on a phishing link after “months of inactivity.” Phishing attacks trick users into divulging sensitive data, downloading malware, and exposing their private information. Such attacks are extremely common in the crypto industry, as users may fail to check the source of requests on a crypto wallet, or unknowingly download a fake application that mimics the original – one that exists only to steal holdings.

The bottom line: After the 2008 financial crisis, a new approach to urbanism and service delivery began to take root worldwide. With advancements in technology, city planners devised new ways to monitor the needs of urban residents and use technology to deliver services. By deploying the internet of Things across myriad tasks of urban management, the “smart city” was born. More than a decade later, the smart city revolution has become commonplace in the world’s leading cities. Yet, the concept appears to have been more of a branding coup than a total revolution in urbanism.

The bottom line: Nonfungible token (NFT) marketplace Magic Eden has announced that it will support Solana’s compressed NFTs (cNFTs) to provide a cost-efficient and scalable alternative to owning digital collectibles. CNFTs differ from the usual Solana NFTs because their data is compressed and stored off-chain. Because of this, production in larger quantities is more feasible as they require lesser fees to mint. According to Magic Eden, this type of NFT is ideal for creating mass-produced collections in various industries like gaming, music, events and the metaverse. The NFT marketplace believes that it allows creators to reach wider audiences without spending more.

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