A little over two years ago, Mary Lou Jepsen flew to Boston to interview for a professorship at MIT Media Lab. A week later, she got a job in Cambridge—not the professorship, but something even better: chief technology officer of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project, which is working on an ultracheap but versatile laptop for children in developing countries.

If you’re an engineer and a job interview turns into a brainstorming session, that’s probably a good sign. It certainly was for Jepsen, who spent 2 hours of her ”interview” kicking around ideas for the laptop with Nicholas Negroponte, the Media Lab’s cofounder. Negroponte had just launched OLPC, a nonprofit organization independent of MIT, and when he asked Jepsen to be its chief technology officer, she immediately agreed. Little did Jepsen, then a Californian, realize she had just signed up for a seemingly permanent seat on a globe-hopping flight.

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The Spectacular Collapse of CryptoKitties, the First Big Blockchain Game

A cautionary tale of NFTs, Ethereum, and cryptocurrency security

8 min read
Mountains and cresting waves made of cartoon cats and large green coins.
Frank Stockton

On 4 September 2018, someone known only as Rabono bought an angry cartoon cat named Dragon for 600 ether—an amount of Ethereum cryptocurrency worth about US $170,000 at the time, or $745,000 at the cryptocurrency’s value in July 2022.

It was by far the highest transaction yet for a nonfungible token (NFT), the then-new concept of a unique digital asset. And it was a headline-grabbing opportunity for CryptoKitties, the world’s first blockchain gaming hit. But the sky-high transaction obscured a more difficult truth: CryptoKitties was dying, and it had been for some time.

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