Sunday, July 20, 2014

Enterprise Bitcoin and the Brain as a CryptoCurrency Network

If Dell, New Egg, and TigerDirect now accept Bitcoin, and Paypal's CEO contemplates the same, eBay and Amazon might also accept Bitcoin in the not too distant future, and this would start to really push cryptocurrency into the mainstream. Faster still if Google Wallet were to join. Bitcoin seems to be 'going enterprise' (= key step to mainstream) as fast as the Internet-of-things (Enterprise IOT: Microsoft, Ernst & Young, etc. offering connected POS (point of sale) networks and all 'devices' as an IOT service to businesses). However, even though Bitcoin in its entirety is a radically new concept, from a vendor standpoint, accepting Bitcoin is not a big deal - it is analogous to accepting any other kind of payment mechanism. Anyone (individual or enterprise) receiving, or wanting to pay out in Bitcoin can easily convert national currencies via Coinbase, bitpay, or other sites, or now the purported (as of July 2014) 33 worldwide Robocoin Bitcoin ATMs. Conceptually, Bitcoin is a payment mechanism for vendors, but for money businesses like banks, it is much more critical to develop explicit Bitcoin strategies and policies.

However, there is still much risk in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin as a currency is still new and volatile, and it is not clear if it is a faddish or persistent transformation, although the concept may have considerable resiliency even if specific cryptocurrencies do not (i.e.; Baconcoin). Also, there is only about $8 billion USD in Bitcoin now, and it would need to be on the order of $50-100 billion USD to receive more serious financial consideration. The currency does have a number of important features that could propel acceptance including architecture (psuedo-anonymous and trustless), openness, low-cost (eliminates currency exchange costs), and fungible worldwide availability. As Kevin Kelly points out, Bitcoin is not just a payment mechanism, it is a revolutionary way to enable collaboration at an unprecedented scale. Bitcoin is the reinvention of the institution of capital. Further, in the automation economy, Bitcoin is automated and open accounting; a transparent ledger. The concept of Bitcoin and its architecture and operation is a new model which is not unlike the brain, where (at minimum) many functions are handled automatically, and there is a certain modular aspect to function. Bitcoin might be a universal mathematical model of nature that human intelligence is just now discovering.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Prediction Markets Round-Up

Prediction Markets are a tool for collecting group opinion using market principles. The price is usually based on a conversion of an opinion of the percent likely an event is to happen (i.e., the probability), for example there is a 40% change that Candidate X will win the election. The premise is that there is a lot of hidden information that can be sharable but there are not mechanisms to share it because information-holders either cannot or do not wish to share it (for example that a current work team project may not finish on time). Some research has found that prediction markets may beat polls or experts in terms of forecast accuracy [1].

Figure 1. Prediction Market Example

To aggregate hidden organizational opinion and expertise, Prediction Markets are in use at 100-200 large US organizations as of June 2014: Paypal, HP, BestBuy, Electronic Arts, Boeing, Amazon, Harvard, GM, Hallmark, P&G, Ford, Microsoft, Chevron, Lockheed Martin, CNN, Adobe, American Express, and Bosch. There are several enterprise Prediction Market vendors for enterprise idea management: Consensus Point, Inkling, Spigit/Crowdcast, Bright Idea, and Qmarkets. The main applications of Enterprise Prediction Markets are revenue forecasting, demand planning, and capital budgeting; innovation life cycle management (rate, filter, and prioritize ideas), and project management and risk management.

There are Enterprise Prediction Markets and also Consumer Prediction Markets for event prediction such as politics: election results; economics: box office receipts, product sales; and health: pandemic prediction. Some of the leading markets are Iowa Electronic Markets (and Iowa Electronic Health Markets), the Hollywood Stock Exchange (film box office, TV shows, celebrities), simExchange (gaming: video game consoles, video game launches), CROWDPARK (general), and LongBets (futurist). A new market, SciCast, has recently launched for detailed science and technology predictions.

Markets are typically real-money, reputation-based, or anonymous. In the wake of Intrade’s regulation-forced closure, Bitcoin Prediction Markets are enjoying a surge of trading activity; markets like Predictious, Fairlay, and Bitcoin Bull Bear.

More Information: Prediction Markets @ Singularity University

[1] Trepte, K. et al. Forecasting consumer products using prediction markets. MIT. 2009.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Cognitive Enhancement Memory Management: Retrieval and Blocking

One familiar notion of cognitive enhancement is prescription drugs that boost focus and concentration: ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) medications like Modafinil, Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, and Methylin [1], and amphetamines like Adderall, Dexedrine, Benzedrine, Methedrine, Preludin, and Dexamyl [1-3]. These drugs are controversial as while there is some documented benefit, there is also a recovery period (implying that sustained use is not possible), and they are often obtained illegally or for nonmedical use.

What is new in memory enhancement drug development is the possibility of targeting specific neural pathways, like long-term potentiation induction and late-phase memory consolidation [4]. A cholinesterase inhibitor, donepezil, which has shown modest benefits in cognition and behavior in the case of Alzheimer’s disease [5], was also seen to enhance the retention performance of healthy middle-aged pilots following training in a flight simulator [6]. Ampakines are benzamide compounds that augment alertness, sustain attention span, and assist in learning and memory (by depolarizing AMPA receptors to enhance rapid excitatory transmission) [7, 8]. The drug molecule MEM 1414 activates an increase in the production of CREB (the cAMP response element-binding protein) by inhibiting the PDE-4 enzyme, which typically breaks it down. Higher CREB production is good for neural enhancement because it generates other synapse-fortifying proteins [4, 9].

Memory management in cognitive enhancement could also include blocking or erasing unwanted memories such as traumatic memories brought on by PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Since even well-established memories require reconsolidation following retrieval, the memory reconsolidation process could be targeted by pharmaceuticals to disrupt or even erase aberrant memories [10]. Critical to memory reconsolidation are the glutamate and b-adrenergic neurotransmitter receptors. These neurotransmitter receptors could be targeted by drug antagonists like scopolamine and propranolol, which bind with these receptors, to induce amnestic effects so that unwanted memories are destabilized on retrieval [11-14].

Summarized from: Boehm, F. Nanomedical Device and Systems Design: Challenges, Possibilities, Visions. CRC Press, 2013. Ch17.
Full article: Nanomedical Cognitive Enhancement  

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[2] Varga, M.D., Adderall abuse on college campuses: A comprehensive literature review. J. Evid. Based Soc. Work 9(3), 293–313, 2012.
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[7] Chang, P.K., Verbich, D., and McKinney, R.A., AMPA receptors as drug targets in neurological disease—Advantages, caveats, and future outlook. Eur. J. Neurosci. 35(12), 1908–1916, 2012.
[8] Arai, A.C. and Kessler, M., Pharmacology of ampakine modulators: From AMPA receptors to synapses and behavior. Curr. Drug Targets 8(5), 583–602, 2007.
[9] Solomon, L.D., The Quest for Human Longevity: Science, Business, and Public Policy. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ, 2006, 197pp.
[10] Milton, A.L. and Everitt, B.J., The psychological and neurochemical mechanisms of drug memory reconsolidation: Implications for the treatment of addiction. Eur. J. Neurosci. 31(12), 2308–2319, 2010.
[11] Debiec, J. and LeDoux, J.E., Disruption of reconsolidation but not consolidation of auditory fear conditioning by noradrenergic blockade in the amygdala. Neuroscience 129, 267–272, 2004.
[12] Lee, J.L.C., Milton, A.L., and Everitt, B.J., Reconsolidation and extinction of conditioned fear: Inhibition and potentiation. J. Neurosci. 26, 10051–10056, 2006.
[13] Ferry, B., Roozendaal, B., and McGaugh, J.L., Role of norepinephrine in mediating stress hormone regulation of long-term memory storage: A critical involvement of the amygdala. Biol. Psychiatry 46, 1140–1152, 1999.
[14] Sara, S.J., Roullet, P., and Przybyslawski, J., Consolidation of memory for odor-reward association: รก-adrenergic receptor involvement in the late phase. Learn. Mem. 6, 88–96, 1999.