Why we are addicted to 'speed'
BostonCoin Pup-date May -June 2019
Traffic jams and speed traps
If cryptocurrencies are cars, then the blockchain is the highway system on which they run. The better the blockchain, the faster the cars (or cryptos) can run around on it and get where they need to go. Fortunately, there are many thousands of developers around the world who are constantly working on the blockchain system to make it stronger, faster and more stable. Yet they still have some limitations. One of those limitations is the actual network on which the blockchain sits; something which you and I commonly refer to as “the internet”. (My son calls it “the interwebz”, but he’s so much cooler than I am.) The internet is the ground on which the blockchain rests, and it also needs to have stability and speed factors optimised, so that the entire system can run; not just for crypto, but for the internet itself, and the “Internet Of Things” (IoT). A road built on sandy soil will quickly deteriorate and traffic will slow right down or stop completely. Sometimes, someone must dig down deep and upgrade the foundations, so that everything runs more reliably up top. Twenty years ago, internet speeds were slow. It was a truly amazing thing to be chatting in ‘real time’ to someone on the other side of the planet, using Internet Relay Chat (IRC existed before Skype, for the youngsters). You could chat with someone in USA, UK or Australia and they could talk back to you in real time on your computer, like a phone call but without having to pay the long-distance charges. The internet was a game-changer for this reason alone. Communication had evolved and become cheaper and faster. Sure, if your friend wanted to send you a picture of their cat, it may have taken a few minutes to download, but it was a lot faster than them sending you a physical photo in the mail. We are all addicted to speed
Thirty years ago, it would have taken several days for a friend to send you a photo or a news article, through the postal service. Twenty years ago, the internet brought those speeds down to a few minutes, thanks to our trusty dial-up modems. A decade ago, we communicated over the internet much more quickly, not only with voice and photos, but streaming video as well. We started to store large files ‘in the cloud’, because greater speed enabled us to have storage anywhere anytime.
This pervasive cloud was a game-changer, as it freed up the laptop and hard drives of millions of people, and brought about a whole new evolution of hardware devices; ones which did not have to have storage built in. Devices such as tablets, smart phones and smart watches could now be in constant contact with the internet, instead of having to manually dial in. Data could be stored in the cloud, software updates and apps could be completed or upgraded automatically, without having to push a button.
Years ago, you had to set your clock on your phone or your computer all by yourself. Suddenly, millions more devices could connect to the international internet cloud by themselves. It was a kind of magic at the time; now it is seen as standard. And we all want more. More speed. More internet connected devices. Superhighway traffic jams
When the internet first opened to the public, it was called the ‘information superhighway’. An incredible network spanning vast continents and hundreds of countries which brought the world to your computer… if you had a modem and internet access. Sure, you may have been limited to 9600 kbps, but you could go anywhere and do anything on the wide-open road. It was like you had one of the first Model T Fords, and you could travel anywhere you liked (at 17 mph). In more recent years, the superhighway has become crowded. It is not only businesses and universities who have internet access. It is quite literally everyone. There is a tiny computer and tiny modem in a $40 smartphone which is more powerful and one-thousandth of the price of the first computers to access the internet. Some people think nothing of the fact that they have a smartwatch, a couple of smart phones, a tablet and a desktop computer, which are all connected to the internet, pretty much all the time. If you don’t have one already, soon enough you may find yourself looking at a smartfridge, a smartcar and many more devices which connect to the internet of things. Add to that, the trillions of dollars in crypto which changes hands every day, from investors, brokers and spenders, all running on the blockchain, which sits astride the internet. There is so much more traffic on the superhighway now. And to prevent traffic jams, we need some serious upgrades, from the ground up. Backbone technology
The first internet ran over old copper phonelines. Then fibre-optic cable and cellphone antennas brought greater speed and reliable internet to more places. As the existing system is now far more crowded, and about to get more crowded, the whole system needs a major upgrade. Self-driving cars on actual highways in the real world, must have constant access to the internet. Your brain can process millions of pieces of information in a second, which is why you can drive safely. A self-driving car must process upwards of 300 Terabytes of data, in order to navigate the roads. Your brain is operating locally; the new smartcar must have access to the internet and plenty of data, very quickly. A controversial solution
There has been much controversy over the new backbone upgrade to the internet infrastructure. Many people have shared articles on social media, some of it propaganda, some of it written by research scientists. Some say that 5G technology is going to give us a bold new era of reliable internet speed and advanced technological applications, such as remote surgeries and self-driving cars. Some say that the 5G network will give everyone an orange glow due to increased radiation. What are the facts?
The facts are, there are no facts. There have been many experiments, but all have used substitutes and not the real thing. We cannot test the real 5G until we have the real 5G. Just because it may have a radio frequency which is above TV and below microwave, does not mean it will cook your brain. We simply cannot know until we try it. There are some people who are sensitive to electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation. Some people become ill when around powerlines, microwaves and other high-frequency emitters. This is unfortunate. However, society will not turn off all the electricity towers for billions of people, simply to ease the suffering of a few thousand individuals. It may be sad, but it’s true, and that’s how our society works. One of our friends has EMF sensitivity, and breaks out in rashes if she is in the vicinity of a high-frequency transmitter such as power lines or a cellphone tower. This month, she sold her house, to move further away from the new 5G network which is being rolled out. Whether the 5G will affect her in the same way as a traditional tower, we do not know, but she is not taking the chance. I am sure she will be happier “off the grid” in her new home, and I am sure that someone else will be happier living in her old home, with faster internet speeds. The new 5G rollout may be a controversial solution, but unless you can come up with a better solution for dealing with a 10 000% increase in internet traffic, it may be short-sighted to pre-emptively ban the new technology. Will it kill us or save us?
We are officially ‘on the fence’ as there have been no long-term studies and no actual trials using real 5G, to test if it will, or how it will affect humans. We literally do not know enough to form an opinion on that. What we do now, is that progress rarely stops or slows down. We also know that in our society, the needs of the many override the desires of the few. From cavemen’s first fire to the microwave, from television to cellphones; every invention has the possibility of harming someone. For better or worse, our society focuses on ‘the greater good’. If 5G means that a surgeon in Scotland can perform a life-saving procedure on a patient in the USA, or a package can be safely delivered by a drone without risking a tired delivery driver, then the 5G will be rolled out. People such as my EMF-sensitive friend will literally have to deal with it as best as they can. What does this mean for crypto, and BostonCoin?
As cryptocurrencies become more mainstream, this brings additional internet traffic, and more need for a system upgrade. It’s possible that in the next couple of years, your smartfridge may see that you used all of the milk, order a new bottle for you, pay for it automatically with crypto, and your bottle of milk will be delivered by drone, all without your input. This convenience puts more traffic on the internet highway, and upgrades are therefore even more essential. When