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The Geek’s Reading List: Week of January 16th, 2015

Brian Piccioni: “The first major trial involving Bitcoin is under way and, it turns out, the joke is on the miscreants who have learned that, by golly, all Bitcoin transactions are completely traceable once certain conditions have been met.” (Pictured: Ross Ulbricht, who is accused of managing Silk Road)
This has been a reasonably good week for tech news, however, no real theme emerged.

A major auto show meant there were a fair number of cars related stories (EVs and self-driving in particular). The “anonymity” of Bitcoin has been unmasked as an illusion as the first Bitcoin related trial started. Finally – and most significantly – Deloitte launched its TMT Predictions roadshow. Check with Deloitte to see if and when they are presenting in your city.

GM to Introduce Electric Car With 200-Mile Range

The core problem with all Electric Vehicles is the fabulously expensive, short lived, battery pack. Battery technology has stagnated, meaning the price per kilowatt hour is not likely to drop significantly unless and until an unexpected, major technological advance occurs, no matter what any celebrity CEO has to say. In order to bring the price of an EV battery pack down, you need to either reduce the weight of the vehicle (resulting in more km/kw) or reduce the distance traveled. I suspect, in this case, the former is most likely what is planned. A $30,000 EV probably has a $10,000 battery pack, meaning it might make economic sense, depending on the price of gasoline, since you have to replace it every 8 years or so. It is worth noting that many mainstream auto vendors have released or will release EVs, likely eliminating the market for the sale of related tax credits – historically a major revenue source for Tesla.

“General Motors Co. is expected Monday at the North American International Auto Show to unveil an electric vehicle concept that gets 200 miles of electric range — a vehicle that could challenge upstart Tesla Motors Inc. — according to two sources familiar with the automaker’s plans. The concept car is named the Chevrolet Bolt and would get 200 miles or more of electric range and would be sold in all 50 states, according to a person briefed on the plans who asked not to be identified because the plans have not been made public. GM executives have talked about developing a 200-mile electric vehicle for nearly two years, but never confirmed plans to show it or what it would be named. The new Chevrolet Bolt is expected to retail for less than half the Tesla Model S — around $30,000 — and about what Tesla’s future, lower-priced car is set to cost.”

People ‘horrified’ by self-driving cars, says survey, as trials begin

Survey data can be interesting, but always has to be taken with a grain of salt. For example, if I ask one of my cats their opinion of quantum mechanics, I might garner a different responses than if I ask an actual physicist. Similarly, asking the man (or woman) on the street their opinion of a technology they know nothing about, “horrified” might be an appropriate response. I wonder what the answer would be if I surveyed airline passengers how they felt about the “self flying airplane” they were flying on.

“Many British people are “horrified” by the idea of self-driving cars, according to a new survey. Autonomous cars are set to begin trials later this month in four British cities, and they took centre stage at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, but the British public are still unconvinced. Almost half of consumers wouldn’t want to be a passenger in such a vehicle, and 43 per cent wouldn’t trust it to drive safely, according to the research commissioned by And 16% of people are “horrified” by the idea of being driven in one.”


This article is an excerpt. You can subscribe to the full version of The Geek’s Reading List here.


TMT Predictions 2015 The future in Technology, Media & Telecommunications

My friends Duncan Stewart and Paul Lee put together this extensively researched and thought provoking set of prediction every year and launch simultaneously in Toronto and London. The presentations are very good and well attended (you can download the presentation from the link, below). If you couldn’t get there this year, sign up for next year!

“ In-store mobile payments will (finally) gain momentum; For the first time, the smartphone upgrade market will exceed one billion; Print is not dead, at least for print books; The ‘generation that won’t spend’ is spending on TMT; Click and collect booms: a boon for the consumer, a challenge for retailers; The connectivity chasm deepens as gigabit Internet adoption rockets; The end of the consumerization of IT?; The Internet of things really is things, not people; 3D printing is a revolution: Just not the revolution you think; Short form video: a future, but not the future, of television.”

In the Silk Road trial, Bitcoin is a cop’s best friend

It’s been a while since we have heard of an entertaining Bitcoin scam, but, as we more or less predicted, the fraud itself is becoming unraveled. Bitcoin was favored by drug dealers and other miscreants because it was anonymous, or so the story went. The price really picked up when it came to the attention of “Internet Libertarians” who were attracted to the existence of a “currency” not controlled by a state. The whole thing was great fun, especially as said Libertarians were regularly robbed by said miscreants as we have frequently reported. The first major trial involving Bitcoin is under way and, it turns out, the joke is on the miscreants who have learned that, by golly, all Bitcoin transactions are completely traceable once certain conditions have been met. Of course, this is sad news if you are a drug dealer. Not that the fraud victims have any chance of getting their money back since there is no reason to believe Bitcoin theft is actually illegal.

“But now, as Ross Ulbricht defends himself against charges of running the Silk Road and profiting from drug transactions, Bitcoin may be the single biggest problem for his defense. The same features that made Silk Road possible have now turned against him, and casual observers are realizing that Bitcoin isn’t as anonymous as they thought. The public Bitcoin ledger details Ulbricht’s enormous financial holdings and a wealth of potentially incriminating transactions. Now that his wallet address has been discovered, the perfect anonymity tool has turned into the perfect source of evidence. Skeptics sometimes called the currency “prosecution futures,” and now it looks like some of those futures are coming due.”

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