Last Friday China’s central bank and its National Development and Reform Commission announced a ban on all cryptocurrency mining and made all cryptocurrency transactions illegal. Furthermore, they prohibited any company from providing cryptocurrency trading to Chinese citizens. These new bans extend China’s 2019 ban on cryptocurrency trading.
The statement from China’s Central Bank makes clear that those who are involved in “illegal financial activities” are committing a crime and will be prosecuted. The country plans to target “any Chinese citizen working for crypto-related companies abroad, declaring their work as illegal and putting them at risk of being legally investigated,” said Luisa Kinzius, a director at the consultant firm Sinolytics.
One reason for China’s action is the leadership’s desire to create and market their own digital currency. They have just launched the state-backed Digital Chinese Yuan, which works much like cryptocurrency but, as Wired suggests, “with none of the privacy and decentralisation benefits of it — or, arguably, its lack of governmental oversight.” By outlawing bitcoin and other crypto, China has essentially removed all competition to its own currency. And the timing couldn’t be better, as it plans to offer Digital Chinese Yuan during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
There are also environmental concerns leading to this decision. Wired points out that a year ago China announced that it was taking steps to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, with the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2060.
Because crypto mining is so resource-intensive, cracking down on this activity is a big step towards their goal. Before the initial ban in 2019, China had the largest number of bitcoin miners in the world. Even with mining activities somewhat reduced, Quartz reports that last year Oslo-based Rystad Energy estimated that China’s bitcoin mining used 86 terawatt-hours of electricity, as much as countries such as Belgium or the Philippines use in total over a year.
However, don’t get too excited on behalf of the ozone layer. While the ban will have short-term positive effects on energy use, analysts expect that mining efforts will soon exceed previous levels in a relatively short time. Although some bitcoin miners have put their equipment up for sale, many fled China for more hospitable locations outside the country that have fewer restrictions and cheaper electricity, particularly locations in Europe and the United States.
For crypto investors everywhere, the impact on the crypto-marketplace in the coming weeks will be interesting. After the announcement, the price of Bitcoin fell by more than $2,000. Will it rebound quickly, or will China’s decision shake the confidence of the crypto market long-term? As with so many stories, this is one to watch.
In other news
- Bovine toilet training. In an effort to reduce greenhouse gases, German scientists have successfully trained cows to use special latrine areas when they need to urinate. Cow waste turns into ammonia, which then converts to nitrous oxide thanks to soil microbes. As Gizmodo explains, the researchers were able to train about a dozen calves to use the ‘MooLoo.’ As animal psychologist Jan Langbein said in a press release, “Cattle, like many other animals or farm animals, are quite clever and they can learn a lot. Why shouldn’t they be able to learn how to use a toilet?” Indeed, the scientists discovered that the ability of calves to hold it until they make it to the MooLoo exceeds the ability of young children to do the same.
- New telescope to supersede the Hubble. One of the most difficult things about looking into space is being able to see what is actually there. When the James Webb telescope launches in December this year, it will supersede the power of the Hubble telescope, being 100 times more powerful. Built by a partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency and Canada, predictions are it will completely transform the way we look at space and what we can see. Caitlin Casey, Assistant Professor of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin says “we’re going right up to the edge of the observable universe.” The Webb telescope will search for the first stars and galaxies, more planets in orbit, and embark on a search for signs of life.
- Micro-drone surveillance in the wind? Scientists have created microdrones the size of a grain of sand that can be carried by the wind and surveil populations. (If you’ve just done a “what???” so have we.) Smaller in size than a pencil tip, the miniature drones known as “microfliers” are the invention of researchers at Northwestern University. Basing their propellor-like design on free-falling maple seeds which slowly reach the ground using non-motorized propulsion, it is hoped (by some) that the drones could eventually make up a swarm to survey contaminated areas and gather data.Not to be outdone by the tiny wind-borne drones, MIT has also developed a miniature insect drone crawler for earth-bound surveillance. This tech trend seems to indicate you’ll need to think twice before reaching for your insect-swatter!While these advances have some legitimate scientific and environmental uses, they also could be quite perilous in the wrong hands, and like our previous stories of robot dogs in real life, lend themselves to comparison with an episode of dystopian sci-fi drama series Black Mirror back in 2016, where killer autonomous drone insects (ADIs) attacked people.
- Birds attacking delivery drones. While human observers wring their hands over the potential abuse of drone technologies, some members of the Animal Kingdom are matters into their own… beaks. This week in Australia, ravens attacked equipment operated by new drone parcel delivery carrier Wing. Said to be territorial and defensive when nesting season arrives, the ravens must have thought moving flying drones were some kind of competition for their nesting sites or worse, a predator. Captured video footage shows a raven determined to ground a flying drone which came near to its territory — and succeeding.
Tip of the week
This week we learned that a new phishing ploy enables cybercriminals to gain access to your banking and other accounts that require a one-time password or security code. Reported by KrebsOnSecurity, it’s yet another reminder that we all must remain vigilant when using the web for our business, our personal finances, and more.
October is Cyber Security Awareness Month in both the US and in Europe, and there’s lots of impartial information to help you Do Your Part and be #BeCyberSmart. If everyone does their part — implementing stronger security practices, being aware of all the relevant dangers and threats, raising community awareness, and educating vulnerable audiences — our interconnected world will be safer and more resilient for everyone.