Bitcoin now has a total market capitalisation of about $18 billion — far more than other so-called “crypto-currencies” although a fraction of the value of other globally traded commodities. And it nears record high as it becomes ‘safe haven’ asset.
What is a Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a virtual currency that is created from computer code. Unlike a real-world currency such as the U.S. dollar or the euro, it has no central bank and is not backed by any government.
Instead, its community of users control and regulate it. Advocates say this makes it an efficient alternative to traditional currencies because it is not subject to the whims of a state that may wish to devalue its money to inflate away debt.
Just like other currencies, bitcoins can be exchanged for goods and services — or for other currencies — provided the other party is willing to accept them.
Where does it come from?
Bitcoin was launched in 2009 as a bit of encrypted software written by someone using the Japanese-sounding name Satoshi Nakamoto.
In 2016, secretive Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright said he was the creator, but some have raised doubts over his claim.
Other digital currencies followed but bitcoin was by far the most popular.
Transactions happen when heavily encrypted codes are passed across a computer network. The network as a whole monitors and verifies the transaction in a process that is intended to ensure no single bitcoin can be spent in more than one place simultaneously.
Users can “mine” bitcoins — bring new ones into being — by having their computers run complicated and increasingly difficult processes.
However, the model is limited and only 21 million units will ever be created.
What’s it worth?
Like any other currency, it fluctuates. But unlike most real-world analogues, bitcoin’s value has swung wildly in a short period.
When the unit first came into existence it was worth a few U.S. cents. Its price topped out at $1,165.89 on the Bitcoin Price Index, an average of major exchanges, in 2013.
There are presently more than 16 million units in circulation. Some economists point to the fact that because it is limited its price will increase over the long run, making it less useful as a currency and more a vehicle to store value, like gold.
But detractors point to bitcoin’s volatility, security issues and other weaknesses as flaws that will eventually undermine it.
Why has its value risen in recent months?
Analysts have suggested a number of reasons, including investors buying bitcoins as a hedge against currencies that are weakening against the U.S. dollar.
Other reasons include the currency turning into a virtual safe haven at a time of global economic uncertainty.
The currency may also have been strengthened by the rise of digital payments and the dwindling supply of new bitcoins.
What’s the future?
Some commentators say that like many technological developments, the first iteration of a product will encounter difficulties, possibly terminal ones. But the trail it blazes might smooth the way for the next crypto-currency.
Problems include an apparent vulnerability to theft when bitcoins are stored in digital wallets.
A major Hong Kong-based bitcoin exchange suspended trading in 2016 after $65 million in the virtual unit was reportedly stolen by hackers.
The virtual currency movement also faces legitimacy issues because of the way it allows for anonymous transactions — the very thing that libertarian adopters like about it.
Detractors say bitcoin’s use on the underground Silk Road website, where users could buy drugs and guns with it, is proof that it is a bad thing.
If bitcoin does become more widely accepted, experts say, it could lead to more government regulations, which would negate the very attraction of the bitcoin concept.
Darknet, also known as dark web or darknet market, refers to the part of the internet that is not indexed or accessible through traditional search engines. It is a network of private and encrypted websites that cannot be accessed through regular web browsers and requires special software and configuration to access.
The darknet is often associated with illegal activities such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services, although not all sites on the darknet are illegal.
Examples of darknet markets include Silk Road, AlphaBay, and Dream Market, which were all shut down by law enforcement agencies in recent years.
These marketplaces operate similarly to e-commerce websites, with vendors selling various illegal goods and services, such as drugs, counterfeit documents, and hacking tools, and buyers paying with cryptocurrency for their purchases.
Anonymity: Darknet allows users to communicate and transact with each other anonymously. Users can maintain their privacy and avoid being tracked by law enforcement agencies or other entities.
Access to Information: The darknet provides access to information and resources that may be otherwise unavailable or censored on the regular internet. This can include political or sensitive information that is not allowed to be disseminated through other channels.
Freedom of Speech: The darknet can be a platform for free speech, as users are able to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship or retribution.
Secure Communication: Darknet sites are encrypted, which means that communication between users is secure and cannot be intercepted by third parties.
Illegal Activities: Many darknet sites are associated with illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services. Such activities can attract criminals and expose users to serious legal risks.
Scams: The darknet is a hotbed for scams, with many fake vendors and websites that aim to steal users’ personal information and cryptocurrency. The lack of regulation and oversight on the darknet means that users must be cautious when conducting transactions.
Security Risks: The use of the darknet can expose users to malware and other security risks, as many sites are not properly secured or monitored. Users may also be vulnerable to hacking or phishing attacks.
Stigma: The association of the darknet with illegal activities has created a stigma that may deter some users from using it for legitimate purposes.
AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as recognizing speech, making decisions, and understanding natural language.
Virtual assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are examples of virtual assistants that use natural language processing to understand and respond to users’ queries.
Recommendation systems: Companies like Netflix and Amazon use AI to recommend movies and products to their users based on their browsing and purchase history.
Efficiency: AI systems can work continuously without getting tired or making errors, which can save time and resources.
Personalization: AI can help provide personalized recommendations and experiences for users.
Automation: AI can automate repetitive and tedious tasks, freeing up time for humans to focus on more complex tasks.
Job loss: AI has the potential to automate jobs previously performed by humans, leading to job loss and economic disruption.
Bias: AI systems can be biased due to the data they are trained on, leading to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.
Safety and privacy concerns: AI systems can pose safety risks if they malfunction or are used maliciously, and can also raise privacy concerns if they collect and use personal data without consent.