Cryptocurrency mining consumes a massive amount of energy, and that's prompting a crisis in Kazakhstan. The Financial Timesreports the country's electrical grid operator KEGOC said it would start rationing electricity for 50 registered miners after their demand reportedly invoked an emergency shutdown mode at three power plants in October. They'll also be the first disconnected if there are grid failures, the quasi-public company said.
The energy ministry estimated that electricity demand has jumped by eight percent so far in 2021 versus the more typical one or two percent. There have been blackouts in six regions since October.
Officials and observers have pinned the power cuts on climbing numbers of unregistered crypto miners illegally generating currency from their homes or even factories. China's war against cryptocurrency may be partly responsible. Energy demand started climbing when mining firms moved from China in early 2021, and it jumped again when China made mining illegal this May. Electricity has been relatively inexpensive in Kazakhstan, making it a haven for companies hoping to make larger profits from crypto operations.
Kazakhstan is trying to compensate for the power shortages. It's asking a Russian energy company to supplement the national power grid, and it will charge registered miners a compensation fee of 1 tenge (about $0.0023) for every kilowatt-hour starting in 2022. Both efforts will take time, however, and this is forcing miners to either scale back or move equipment.
There are also worries the government isn't being honest about its problems. The University of Glasgow's Luca Anceshi argued to The Times that Kazakhstan was scapegoating miners for reliability problems with the country's electrical grid. Whether or not that's true, it's safe to say the mining demand hints at the potential problems for other countries if their local crypto production takes off.
The modern world has grown around steel bones — everything from tools and home appliances to skyscrapers and airplanes use the versatile material in their construction. But the process of making steel is a significant contributor to global warming and climate change. In 2018, reportedly every ton of steel produced generated 1.85 tons of carbon dioxide, accounting for about 7 percent of global CO2 emissions that year. This poses not just environmental challenges for our ever increasing world, it could also impact steel producers’ bottom line, which is why the industry is developing a “fossil-free” means of making the alloy, one that relies on renewable-sourced hydrogen rather than carbon coke.
Steel is an alloy composed of iron, which in its pure form is relatively soft, with a small amount of introduced carbon, usually about 2 percent of its total weight. This improves the material’s strength and reduces its propensity for fracturing. The process starts by combining iron ore, before coking coal and limestone (which remove impurities) in a blast furnace to create pig iron.
That molten pig iron is then poured into a furnace and high pressure air is introduced via a water-cooled lance. The oxygen chemically reacts with the molten iron to purge impurities — as well as produce significant amounts of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. The oxygen also forces impurities like silicates and phosphates present in the pig iron to react with limestone flux, trapping them as waste slag. Today, per the World Steel Association, some 1,864 million metric tons of crude steel are produced annually with China producing a vast majority of it.
While the WSA points out that “in the last 50 years, the steel industry has reduced its energy consumption per tonne of steel produced by 60 percent” and notes that steel is infinitely reusable, and that “new” steel typically contain 30percent recycled steel on average the traditional methods of iron and steel production are becoming untenable — at least if we want to mitigate its impacts on climate change. What’s more, the International Energy Agency estimates that global steel production will grow by a third by 2050, which will only compound the industry’s environmental impacts. That’s where fossil-free steel comes in.
Take HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology), for example. This process has been developed as a joint venture between three Swedish companies: SSAB, which makes steel, energy company Vattenfall, and LKAB, which mines iron ore. Rather than using coking coal and a blast furnace to convert raw iron ore into metallic iron, the HYBRIT method uses hydrogen generated from renewable energy sources and a technique known as direct reduction, which lowers the amount of oxygen contained within the ore without heating it above the metal’s melting point, to create sponge iron.
Like pig iron, sponge iron is an intermediary material in the steelmaking process (it’ll get shipped off to SSAB to be turned into steel slabs), but in HYBRIT’s case, its production results in the creation of water vapor rather than carbon dioxide.
“The first fossil-free steel in the world is not only a breakthrough for SSAB, it represents proof that it’s possible to make the transition and significantly reduce the global carbon footprint of the steel industry,” Martin Lindqvist, CEO of SSAB, told reporters in August. “We hope that this will inspire others to also want to speed up the green transition.”
The HYBRIT coalition opened a pilot direct reduction plant in Luleå, Sweden last year and has announced plans to increase production to an industrial scale by 2026. The team claims that eliminating fossil fuels from the steelmaking industry in Sweden could drop the country’s total CO2 emissions by at least 10 percent. However, they are not the only group looking into fossil-free steel production. The H2 Green Steel company has announced its intent to open a large-scale plant in northern Sweden by 2024 and expects to produce 5 million tonnes of the material annually by 2030.
In June, Volvo announced that it would be partnering with SSAB to develop fossil-free steel for use in its products — both passenger cars and industrial machines. Last week, Volvo unveiled the first vehicle to be made with fossil-free steel, an 8-plus ton load carrier designed to operate within mines. Not only is the load carrier powered by a fully electric drivetrain, it can autonomously navigate across a worksite as well. Granted only about 3 of the vehicle’s 8 tons were made from fossil-free steel (the drivetrain’s steel components, for example, were made through traditional smelting means), this marks an important first step towards a carbon-neutral transportation future.
“When we have been talking about ‘fossil free’ in the transport sector, we have been focusing a lot on emissions from the vehicles in use. But it's clear to us and to everyone else that we also need to address the carbon footprint from the production of our vehicles,” Volvo Group’s Chief Technology Officer Lars Stenqvist told Forbes. “That's why it's so important now to team up with everyone in the value chain and collaborate in order to drive out all the fossil fuel also used in the production of components, parts and also running our production facilities.”
Volvo expects the autonomous load carriers to enter real-world operation by next year, though the company concedes that its ability to ramp up production of fossil-free vehicles will depend largely on SSAB’s ability to deliver sufficient quantities of the material.
Jack Dorsey says that Square is “considering” building its own Bitcoin mining system using custom silicon and open source software. “Square is considering building a Bitcoin mining system based on custom silicon and open source for individuals and businesses worldwide,” Dorsey wrote in Friday.
He added that such a project would follow a similar approach as the bitcoin Square began working on earlier this summer. But building a mining system would be considerably more complicated for the payments company than simply building a wallet. Creating custom chips is, as Dorsey points out, “very expensive,” and would be new territory for the payments company, which has been a major supporter of Bitcoin.
“Mining needs to be more efficient,” Dorsey wrote. “Driving towards clean and efficient energy use is great for Bitcoin’s economics, impact, and scalability. Energy is a system-level problem that requires innovation in silicon, software, and integration.”
3/Silicon design is too concentrated into a few companies. This means supply is likely overly constrained. Silicon development is very expensive, requires long term investment, and is best coupled tightly with software and system design. Why aren’t more companies doing this work?
As with his earlier tweets about plans for the hardware wallet, Dorsey didn’t share many details about how the mining system would actually work. But he said the goal would be to make mining more efficient and accessible to more people, which could address two of the most important issues related to cryptocurrency mining.
Bitcoin-related power usage has reached in recent years, raising about the cryptocurrency’s impact on climate change. Mining has also driven up the prices and scarcity , which has made it increasingly difficult for the average crypto enthusiast to mine on their own.
Our team led by @jessedorogusker will start the deep technical investigation required to take on this project. We’d love your thoughts, ideas, concerns, and collaboration. Should we do this? Why or why not? We’ll update this thread as we make our decisions. And now over to Jesse.
"Bitcoin mining should be as easy as plugging a rig into a power source,” Dorsey said. Whether or not Square will be able to accomplish that, is less clear. He said that the company “will start the deep technical investigation required to take on this project,” and is hoping to hear feedback on the idea in the meantime.
A few months ago, Volvo teamed up with Swedish steel producer SSAB to develop a type of steel it can use for its vehicles that doesn't use fossil fuels. Now, the automaker has revealed what it says is the world's first vehicle made of fossil-free steel: A four wheeled fully electric load carrier made for quarrying and mining. In addition to having no greenhouse gas emission, it's also autonomous and can follow a pre-programmed route to transport materials at a job site.
SSAB produces fossil-free steel by replacing the coal used during the manufacturing process with hydrogen from electrolysis. As Forbes notes, though, the whole vehicle isn't exactly fossil-free, since the steel used for its components provided by third-party suppliers, such as its electric motor, were made using traditional means. Still, Volvo Group CTO Lars Stenqvist told the publication that "majority of the steel" in the vehicle is fossil free. He said three tons of the carrier's 8.2-ton weight is made of green steel from SSAB, and those eight tons include other heavy components like the vehicle's tires.
Volvo plans to start a small-scale production for the vehicle next year and to scale up production, depending on the availability of steel from SSAB. The Swedish manufacturer is hoping to start mass-producing its fossil-free steel in 2026, so we may see more Volvo vehicles made using the material by that time.
Martin Lundstedt, President and CEO Volvo Group, said in a statement:
"This initiative with SSAB sets the benchmark for a fossil-free future. Just as the nations of the world come together at COP26 to address climate change, so too must organizations and industries work in collaboration to develop innovative new solutions for a greenhouse gas emission free future. Volvo Group is committed to pioneering partnerships such as this with SSAB to develop attractive, safe and efficient new vehicles and machines that pave the way for a more sustainable transport and infrastructure system adopted for the future."
China's war against cryptocurrency could soon extend to a broader ban on crypto mining. Reutersreports the country has added crypto mining to a draft "negative list" that limits or outright bans investments in a given industry, whether by Chinese or foreigners. Would-be investors would need to get approvals, and those are unlikely given China's anti-crypto stance.
Bitcoin.comnotes China's Development and Reform Commission is asking for public commentary on the list through October 14th. It's doubtful public input will change the approach to crypto mining, however. China has deemed crypto transactions illegal, claiming the digital currency sparked a rise in money laundering and other financial crimes. The country has been testing its own cryptocurrency, though, and some suspect the country just wants a more stable currency it can directly control.
The move could further make cryptocurrency impractical in China. Just don't mourn for crypto as a whole. The price of Bitcoin has surged over 30 percent since China's September crackdown — these bans may have given crypto a second wind where it was otherwise poised to level off. It may just be a question of whether or not an official Chinese currency skews the market.
Bitcoin and similar blockchain-based cryptos exhibit the same radical divergence from traditional scarcity economics that we first saw when MP3s and Napster cratered physical album sales at the turn of the century. Unlike gold, which derives its value from both its myriad uses in fashion and industry as well as the difficulty involved in extracting it from the Earth, acquiring new Bitcoin is as simple as digitally mining more of the stuff. In his latest book, The Future of Money, Senior Professor of Trade Policy at Cornell University, Eswar S Prasad deftly examines how we collectively assign value to these digital constructs and what that means for the economics of tomorrow.
At a conference held in Scotland in March 2018, then Bank of England governor Mark Carney observed that “the prices of many cryptocurrencies have exhibited the classic hallmarks of bubbles including new paradigm justifications, broadening retail enthusiasm and extrapolative price expectations reliant in part on finding the greater fool.” The last phrase in his statement was an allusion to the period of seemingly ever-rising real estate prices during the US housing boom of the early to mid-2000s. High and rising real estate valuations seemed to be based on the notion that all it took to make money from a house purchased at inflated prices was to find just one buyer—an even greater fool than oneself—willing to pay an even higher price.
Carney’s speech came on the heels of another by Agustín Carstens, head of the Bank for International Settlements; he described Bitcoin as “a combination of a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster.” Skeptics, including central bankers and academics, correctly note Bitcoin’s extremely volatile prices and the periodic price collapses it has experienced. Indeed, from an economist’s perspective, there is no logical reason Bitcoin should be priced beyond its value in providing an anonymous payment mechanism, let alone the sort of value it commands. Yet, even as it has shed all pretense of being an effective medium of exchange, Bitcoin has maintained the faith of its adherents. It seems not just to persevere but has become an increasingly prized store of value—or perhaps more accurately, an attractive speculative asset (at least as this book is being written—this could all change in a moment). What accounts for this?
To address this question, we must first consider what gives a financial asset, tangible or not, economic value. For one thing, an asset represents a claim on future goods and services. Owning a share of stock or debt issued by a firm is a claim on the firm’s future earnings, which in turn is based on its ability to create real products or services that have monetary value. The same is true for real estate, which yields real services to homeowners or renters that can be monetized. Owning a government bond is in principle a claim on future government revenues, which could come from taxes or other sources.
Gold is different. It has an intrinsic value based on its industrial use, and it is also used in jewelry (and tooth fillings). But its market value seems far greater than its intrinsic value based on these uses. It appears that gold derives its value mainly from scarcity rather than its usefulness or any claim it offers of a future flow of goods and services. Scarcity by itself is clearly not enough; there has to be enough demand for an asset as well. Such demand could hang on a thread as slender as a collective belief in the market value of the asset—if you think there are other people who value gold as much as you do and enough people feel the same way, gold has value.
So is Bitcoin just a digital version of gold, with its value determined mainly by its scarcity? The limit of twenty-one million bitcoins is hardcoded into the algorithm, making it scarce by construction. But there still needs to be demand for it, as even Bitcoin cannot escape the basic laws of market economics, especially the determination of prices based on supply and demand. Such demand could of course be purely speculative in nature, as seems to be the case now that Bitcoin is not working well as a medium of exchange.
It does take copious amounts of computing power and electricity to mine Bitcoin, and unfortunately, computers and electricity have to be paid for in real money—which is still represented by fiat currencies. It has been argued that Bitcoin’s baseline price is determined by this mining cost. One research company estimated the electricity cost of mining one bitcoin in the United States to be about $4,800 in 2018. Another company estimated the overall break-even cost of mining a bitcoin in 2018 at $8,000, suggesting that this constituted a floor for its price. But this is hardly reasonable logic. Just because something takes a lot of resources to produce is not enough to create demand for it and, therefore, to justify its price.
Bitcoin devotees, needless to say, have an answer for this; given the technologically inclined nature of this community, it had to be a quantitative model. The model, if it can be called that, uses the ratio of the existing stock relative to the flow of new units as an anchor for the price.
Consider gold. The total stock of gold that exists in the world (above ground) is estimated at about 185,000 metric tons. Roughly 3,000 tons of gold are mined each year, which amounts to about 1.6 percent of the existing stock. Thus, the stock-to-flow ratio is about sixty. It would take that many years for annual gold production, assuming it continues at the average rate, to reproduce the existing stock. For silver, this ratio is about twenty-two. The logic of this pricing model appears to be that even doubling the annual rate of gold or silver production would leave their stock-to-flow ratios high, in which case they would remain viable stores of value with high prices. The physical constraints on supply—ramping up mining operations would take a long time—mean there is little risk of a surge in supply knocking down prices of the existing stock. By contrast, for other less precious commodities, including metals such as copper and platinum, the existing stock is equal to or lower than annual production. Thus, as soon as the price begins rising, production can be ramped up, preventing large price hikes. With these commodities, prices are more closely tied to values based on industrial and other practical uses.
In 2017 the stock of Bitcoin that had been mined was estimated to be around twenty-five times larger than that of the new coins produced in that year. This is high but still less than half of the stock-to-flow ratio for gold. Around 2022, Bitcoin’s stock-to-flow ratio is expected to overtake that for gold. Thus, if one accepts this logic, the price of Bitcoin must eventually rise.
This valuation is built entirely on a fragile foundation of faith. As one influential Bitcoin blogger puts it: “Bitcoin is the first scarce digital object the world has ever seen. . . . Surely this digital scarcity has value.” This blogger makes profuse allusions, which are echoed on most websites and chat boards frequented by Bitcoin adherents, to how Bitcoin and gold are analogous: “It is [the] consistently low rate of supply of gold that is the fundamental reason it has maintained its monetary role throughout human history. The high stock-to-flow ratio of gold makes it the commodity with the lowest price elasticity of supply.” Fiat money and other cryptocurrencies that have no supply cap, no Proof of Work consensus protocol, and no need of large amounts of computing power to keep operating are seen as less likely to retain value because their supplies are not constrained and can be influenced by the government or small groups of individuals or stakeholders.
Clearly, logic and reason are not important underpinnings of Bitcoin valuations. And it is hard to argue, as I have learned, with a twenty-fiveyear-old who bought his first bitcoin at $400, then kept buying, and now views every dip in Bitcoin prices as a buying opportunity to add to his stash. But, as an economist, one does worry for that young man (whom I sat next to at a conference in January 2019 and with whom I ended up having a long and heated discussion) and others who have bet their life savings on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Then again, with the price of Bitcoin where it is in April 2021, perhaps my time would have been better spent in the past few years acquiring some bitcoin rather than laboring on this book.
The Vivo brand may not immediately ring a bell in the West, but its recent mobile photography ambitions are worth paying attention to. The company's latest flagship, the X70 Pro+, is the world's first smartphone to feature optical image stabilization (OIS) across all four of its rear cameras. Like the previous model, these all have Zeiss optics and Zeiss T* lens coating, but the main camera is further enhanced by an SLR-grade high-transmittance glass lens to reduce chromatic aberration.
Vivo continues to offer one of the more versatile sets of cameras I've seen lately. The X70 Pro+ comes with a 48-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide camera, which is further stabilized by Vivo's now-signature micro gimbal; a 50-megapixel f/1.57 main camera powered by a large Samsung GN1 sensor (as featured on the X50 Pro+); a 12-megapixel f/1.6 portrait camera with the much newer Sony IMX663; and an 8-megapixel f/3.4 5x zoom periscopic camera.
All four rear cameras support electronic stabilization for video shooting, and if you really want to, the main camera can film at up to 8K resolution. The X70 Pro+ also packs Vivo's very own "V1" AI imaging chip for better noise reduction in low-light video recording, as well as more efficient motion smoothing in video playback and gaming.
I don't usually spend much time in the camera filter section, but Vivo's selection of bokeh effects look fun, as they were apparently meant to mimic classic Zeiss lenses. The X60 series already introduced the "swirly" Biotar filter, and with the new X70 series, you also get the "anamorphic" Distagon, the "genuine" Planar and the "creamy" Sonnar. Apparently Zeiss took part in developing these bokeh effects, so that should speak for their faithfulness.
On the other side of the X70 Pro+, you get a 32-megapixel f/2.45 punch-hole selfie camera at the top of a 6.78-inch screen. This 3,200 x 1,400 AMOLED panel offers better colors (10-bit or 1 billion colors) and brightness than before, thanks to Samsung's latest E5 LTPO tech. It also delivers a refresh rate of up to 120Hz and a touch sampling rate of up to 300Hz, which should deliver some silky smooth scrolling and gaming.
The Android 11-based X70 Pro+ comes with many other flagship elements, namely a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888+ processor, fast LPDDR5 RAM, IP68 dustproofing and waterproofing, stereo speakers and a dedicated Hi-Fi chip. There's even an infrared remote feature to let you control home appliances the old-fashioned way.
As for charging, the 4,500mAh battery here supports Vivo's 55W FlashCharge and 50W Wireless FlashCharge. The latter requires a special charging stand, which packs two coils to handle both portrait and landscape orientations. You can also use any Qi pad, with the trade-off being a slower charging rate, obviously. The phone itself does 10W reverse wireless charging, should you need to revive other phones, smartwatches or wireless earbuds.
The X70 series includes two other models: the quad-cam X70 Pro and the tri-cam X70. Both models are powered by MediaTek's Dimensity 1200-vivo chipset, and their smaller 6.56-inch AMOLED screens (2,376 x 1,080, 120Hz) translate to smaller batteries as well. But hey, you still get an infrared remote on either model.
While the X70 Pro and X70 also receive the Zeiss treatment, they baked the micro gimbal into their main cameras (50 and 40 megapixels, respectively) instead of their 12-megapixel ultra-wide cameras. It's also worth mentioning that their 12-megapixel portrait cameras lack OIS. Given their missing V1 imaging chip, it'll be interesting to compare their low-light shots with the X70 Pro+.
For what it's worth, the version of the X70 Pro sold in China will be powered by a Samsung Exynos 1080, and it also includes a V1 chip.
Outside of China, Vivo's X70 series will initially roll out in markets like India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates, among others. There's no word on a European launch just yet, but Vivo might want to plan one soon to keep up with the likes of Oppo and Xiaomi. Meanwhile, stay tuned for our upcoming X70 Pro+ hands-on.
The smartwatch market doesn't appear to be cooling down any time soon — if anything, it's heating up. Strategy Analytics estimates smartwatch shipments grew by a whopping 47 percent year-over-year in the second quarter of 2021, with 18.1 million of the wearables shipping this spring. Demand (at least from retailers) has returned to "pre-pandemic levels," according to the analyst firm's Steven Waltzer — it hasn't been this hot since 2018.
Strategy Analytics attributed the spike to continued demand for personal health devices. It's not clear how much the pandemic recovery fuelled demand, although it wouldn't be surprising if the renewed interest in going outside prompted extra sales.
It wasn't just the usual companies that benefited from the surge, either. Apple held on to a comfortable lead with 52 percent of the market and the most popular individual smartwatch (the Apple Watch Series 6), and Samsung saw its shipments jump 54 percent. Garmin's fitness-focused watches still jumped 25 percent, though, and "others" (including Fossil and other Wear OS backers) saw their shipments climb 55 percent. This was a strong overall market, even for smaller brands.
There are signs this spike will continue. Apple Watch Series 7 could be weeks away as we write this, and Samsung's Wear OS-packing Galaxy Watch 4 might revitalize Android smartwatch sales. Low-cost LTE smartwatches from Chinese brands like Oppo and Xiaomi might also help, according to the analysts. This momentum will eventually die down, but it's unlikely to fade in the near future.
Last year, Boss Team and Saber Interactive announced that Evil Dead: The Game with Bruce Campbell reprising his original movie role would arrive sometime in 2021. Now, the developers have tweeted out an update with a specific and slightly later release date: February 2022.
Evil Dead: The Game will be releasing in February 2022 Hey groovy gamers, we're targeting a new release date to give the team some extra time for polish and to ensure this is the ultimate Evil Dead experience you’re all waiting for! pic.twitter.com/c5I4OSQshA
The reason for the delay is to "give the team some extra time for polish and to ensure this is the ultimate Evil Dead experience you're all waiting for," the team tweeted. "This additional time is also allowing us to implement a single-player option that will let you enjoy the game when you are without your co-op compadres."
As we saw in the launch trailer in December, Campbell's Ash along with Kelly and crew have to work together to fight Deadites led by a powerful demon. You can think of it as a Dead by Daylight-style asymmetric title with a chainsaw hand and Bruce Campbell's clever catchphrases. It also comes with a big dollop of nostalgia with familiar characters, locales and plenty of gore in the form of blood-soaked zombies.
Evil Dead: The Game will offer "multiplayer co-op and PvP for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch," according to the developer's website. They advised that you stay tuned to their Twitter page "for more information about new character updates, pre-order availability, and the next gameplay video featuring Bruce Campbell."
We hope you weren't planning to festoon your wrist with a titanium Apple Watch Series 6. As Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Mac Rumors note, the titanium Apple Watch is largely unavailable through the company's online stores in the US and other countries, whether you try for delivery or pick-up. This applies regardless of your case or strap choices.
Gurman speculated in his "Power On" newsletter that Apple underestimated demand. It likely made a small number of titanium Apple Watches and stopped production "months ago" in anticipation of switching focus to Series 7, according to Gurman, but ran out prematurely as sales remained relatively strong. While we wouldn't classify the titanium Series 6 as a runaway hit if that's true, Apple's luxury wristwear might have fared better than expected.
Whether or not Apple offers a titanium Series 7 is uncertain. The tech giant has frequently shaken up its Watch Edition strategy, ditching its solid gold originals in favor of more affordable ceramic and, eventually, titanium. It might decide that the costs of manufacturing upscale watches doesn't justify the comparatively meager sales. There's always the Hermès models if you want to splurge. At the same time, though, titanium versions don't cost that much more in practice — and they might serve as halo watches that attract conventional watch enthusiasts as well as the wealthy.