A Chinese Regime Critic and an Irish Conceptual Artist

Ai Weiwei and Kevin Abosch have teamed up on an art project that uses twin Ethereum-based tokens they have created. This is “conceptual” art -- that is, the sort of art that is supposed to make you say “oh, wow” when you hear the idea explained.

The project, called PRICELESS (PRCLS) involves twin ETH based tokens because one of them is to be made publicly available and the other will be utterly inaccessible. Dear reader: has your head just exploded?

Ai Weiwei is a critic of China’s government who was arrested in April 2011 and held for 81 days on unspecified “economic crimes.” He was allowed to leave the country in 2015 and he now lives in Germany. Abosch is an Irish artist working in film. He once sold a photograph of a potato to an anonymous businessman for  €1 million.

Abosch describes the idea behind the Ethereum project as “just another thing to engage people in the hope that they will spend a little bit more time reflecting on the perversity of hw most of us ascribe value to things.”

Zcash Hard Fork Scheduled Before Halloween

Zcash is an open, permissionless cryptocurrency designed to protect privacy. It is the creation of Zooko Wilcox-O’Hearn, who is also known for “Zooko’s triangle” and the Majo Nation P2P system.

The news is that the founders have just released their version 2.0.0. They are encouraging all users and miners to upgrade to the new version as quickly as possible.

The great thing about 2.0.0? It is “Sapling compatible.” Sapling is the term used in the Zcash orbit to refer to an upcoming hard fork, expected on October 28, that will amount to a major protocol upgrade, allowing shielded/private addresses to be supported by mobile and hardware wallets, exchanges, and payment processors.  

October 28th will also be the second anniversary of the official launch of Zcash.

Facebook and a Crypto Payments Network

Business Insider reports that Facebook has been talking to an open-source payment-tech company, Stellar, about ways in which FB might use blockchain technology.

The gist of the talks is that FB, which has a blockchain apps team led by David Marcus, wants to push into finance and go head to head with the payment networks of the big banks.

One of the most commonly cited benefits of blockchain over traditional payment processing is … speed. A recent JP Morgan Research Note contrasted a transaction on Ripple, that took took four seconds, with one of a traditional banking system, which took three to five days.  

An anonymous Stellar insider apparently told BI that if Facebook does team up with Stellar, “They’d be taking the rug out from under the banks.”

CCN.com goes another step, suggesting that Facebook is planning to fork the public Stellar chain rather than relying on the public Stellar chain, and that it may create its own digital token.

Blockchain Enthusiast Runs for Governor

Congressman Jared Polis is the Democratic Party’s nominee for the position of Governor of Colorado, as the consequence of a primary in June of this year. He is also a blockchain enthusiast, who says he wants to make Colorado a “hub for blockchain innovation in business and government.”

Po, about lis detailed his ideas for blockchain related initiatives, with a certain between-the-lines glee, in an August 8 announcement on his website. He says, for example, that he would create “a statewide safe harbor designed to exempt cryptocurrencies from state money transmission laws,” that he would explore blockchain-based solutions to improvement of the state’s energy grid, and that he would digitize government records, making the state’s contracts and expenditures more transparent.

Polis commends retiring Governor Hickenlooper with having made “progress” toward encouraging blockchain tech in the state and he says he would build on that.  

A Public Firm ICOs in Singapore

Y Ventures Group, (the Group), which describes itself as a data analytics driven eCommerce company, went public on the Singapore Exchange last year. This year Y Ventures has become the first publicly listed company in that City State to launch an ICO. It almost certainly won’t be the last. There is a lot of Singaporean interest in cryptos.

The Group is setting up an eCommerce buying platform that will focus on cross-border purchases on behalf of consumers.  It calls this the AORA platform, and its utility tokens are intended for use thereon.

Luminore 8, the subsidiary of Y Ventures that will be responsible for establishing the platform, has struck a deal with Singapore Post Ltd., and together they will “explore possible enhancements to the E-commerce parcel logistics chain utilizing new technological processes for warehousing and last mile delivery.” Luminore 8 has also issued a white paper that sets out details on the proposed ICO, the AORA Platform and AORA Coins, available here.  


CAHrenheit and the Cars of China

CAHrenheit, an enterprise backed by some of the heavy hitters of China’s ride-sharing ecosystem, looks to use blockchains to shake up the market for buying and selling second hand cars.

At the heart of the business case they make there say they’ll offer a decentralized system of listing, ratings, and review based on real transactions, verified by blockchain. This could be coupled with Internet of Things devices that could be installed in cars providing real-time performance and condition data. These devices could also do the system’s mining, growing the supply of tokens.

An analyst at Hacked cautions against too much enthusiasm, saying that CAHrenheit “is in a very preliminary stage with no working product, barely defined token economy, no concrete details on token sale, etc.”

Still, the idea is intriguing. On the one hand, used car dealers will benefit from participation by “better customer acquisition and retention by establishing a trustworthy presence … or using CAH tokens for targeted promotional campaigns.” On the other hand, buyers benefit by a reduction in the asymmetry of information that has so characterized the automotive aftermarket since around the time horse-drawn carriages went out of style.


Etheremon Moves to Zilliqa

Etheremon, a game that brings Pokemon-style creatures to life through the Ethereum blockchain, is moving at least part of its operations to Zilliqa, a DApp platform, out of frustration with Ethereum’s scalability issues.

For the uninitiated, Pokemon is a huge Japan-based media franchise built around fictional creatures (of more than 800 species) that the human players of the game capture and train for fights.

Ethereum is still the dominant platform for decentralized gaming, with a great ecosystem of developers and community members. And at least for the immediate future, Etheremon progress and assets will remain, so to speak, on the Mothership. But the battles among the monsters will take place on Zilliqa, which will make them cheaper and faster.  

Ethereum, scalability, and gaming … this combination has worried some observers since the CryptoKitties mania of November -- December 2017. On December 5, Ethereum reported that there had been a sixfold increase in the pending transactions on its chain since Axiom Zen had begun releasing its “kitties,” just a week before.

Tutellus (TUT) Gets Beyond Halfway There: ICO

Tutellus, the largest educational platform in the Spanish-speaking world, and a decentralized and tokenized educational platform at that, is in the midst of its ICO. It’s looking for $40 million and has this far raised roughly $22 million.

The ICO token price is one nickel (US$0.05) per TUT.

Tutellus has a fascinating approach. The best students may study for free and, in fact, may earn money through tokens. Students who finish a course get “smart TUT” (STUT) tokens based on the value of their submissions of projects and related works, their participation in evaluations of other students, their participation in tutorials with other students, etc. STUT tokens themselves will not be directly tradeable outside the Tutellus system, but up to half of them may be converted to TUT, which in turn will be tradeable into other cryptos or fiat currencies.

Employers are also brought into the system, which is designed to help them “find the perfect fit for a position or contract,” as the TUT white paper says. Employers may buy access to the profiles of students by buying TUTs, in the process, they’ll help fund the whole ecosystem.

The Intercontinental Exchange

The Intercontinental Exchange, the parent corporation of the New York Stock Exchange, has announced a new platform, Bakkt, which will list a physically settled one day bitcoin futures product.

ICE will serve as the custodian for all assets stored on the Bakkt platform, in the expectation that institutional investors (pension funds, endowments, insurers) will be less hesitant, given this unimpeachable custodianship, to place a bet on an asset class of which they otherwise might still be wary.

This could be a very big step in the mainstreaming of Bitcoin. Bakkt will “seek to develop open technology to connect existing market and merchant infrastructure to the blockchain.”

Kelly Loeffler, the CEO of Bakkt, has been the chief communications officer of ICE for 18 years, and before that -- at the turn of the millennium -- she was an equity research associate at William Blair.

Launching “LGO Launch”

Legolas Exchange (LGO), a new cryptocurrency exchange that ICO-ed in February 2018, reached its hard cap in just a few hours. It says that it is “delighted” with the unexpected sequel, that it has continued to receive “inquiries from different entrepreneurs involved in the blockchain space from all around the world” seeking help with their own tokens.

Accordingly, LGO has announced the creation of a new agency within the LGO Group that will be specifically devoted to ambassadorial/advisory work, aimed at providing “enterprise-grade token generation services,” and known as LGO Launch.

Since the LGO brand will be involved, LGO Launch is going to be particular about the clients it takes on. The article in Medium that explains the creation of this new agency is largely devoted to outlining what blockchain entrepreneurs have to present to LGO to be deemed suitable for this assistance.

“In essence,” the article says, “we approach our potential clients the very same way in which investors would approach them. We ask the same questions that potential investors would ask, and evaluate their responses using similar methods.”