The October 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

The World’s First Bitcoin Conference

True believers and profiteers meet in the flesh for a two-year checkup on the global cryptocurrency

7 min read
10NW.Bitcoin.jpg
Photo: Nancy Palmieri/The New York Times/Redux

Being at the opening of the world’s first Bitcoin conference was like showing up for the first day of camp—a boys’ camp—and finding that everyone already knew one another in an alternate universe. For a couple of days in August, the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City served as a real-world meeting place for about 50 people who had spent months riffing with one another on the phone, in chat rooms, and over Skype. They came to talk about how Bitcoin could change the world—and how it could make them rich.

Bitcoin is a digital cryptocurrency designed to resolve the discord between the way we move money online and the decentralized nature of the Web. The Internet has already eliminated other barriers to communication and trade, such as time and geography. You can browse Moroccan floor tiles in a virtual showroom at 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve if you feel the urge, but paying for your purchase will inevitably require the cooperation of a third party. The problem is that dollars do not exist on the Internet, only promises of payment that require the backing of trusted and centralized financial surrogates like banks and credit cards.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

This Idea Wasn't All Wet: The Sensing Water-Saving Shower Head Debuts

An engineer’s dinner-table invention is finally a consumer product

4 min read
A mounted and running showerhead that says oasense and has a blue light on it.
Oasense

For Evan Schneider, the family dinner table is a good place for invention. “I’m always, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if this or that,’” he says, “and people would humor me.”

In 2012, with California in the midst of a severe drought, Schneider, then a mechanical engineering graduate student at Stanford University, once again tossed out a “cool idea.” He imagined a shower head that would sense when the person showering moved out from under the stream of water. The shower head would then automatically turn the water off, turning it back on again when the person moved back into range. With such a device, he thought, people could enjoy a long shower without wasting water.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}

Can AI’s Recommendations Be Less Insidious?

Artificial intelligence has us where it wants us

5 min read
illustration of hand holding megaphone with different bubbles of computer widgets
iStock

Many of the things we watch, read, and buy enter our awareness through recommender systems on sites including YouTube, Twitter, and Amazon. Algorithms personalize their suggestions, aiming for ad views or clicks or buys. Sometime their offerings frustrate us; it seems like they don’t know us at all—or know us too well, predicting what will get us to waste time or go down rabbit holes of anxiety and misinformation. But a more insidious dynamic may also be at play. Recommender systems might not only tailor to our most regrettable preferences, but actually shape what we like, making preferences even more regrettable. New research suggests a way to measure—and reduce—such manipulation.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
WIPL-D

Handling various complex simulation scenarios with a single simulation method is a rather challenging task for any software suite. We will show you how our software, based on Method-of-Moments, can analyze several scenarios including complicated and electrically large models (for instance, antenna placement and RCS) using desktop workstations.

Download this free whitepaper now!