Steven has lost more bitcoin than most people will ever own.
Raised on the remote Shetland archipelago, he left school at 13 to become a trawlerman before moving into construction, eventually earning £85,000 a year digging tunnels for Crossrail.
Despite his self-made success, compulsive cryptocurrency trading, alcohol and drug use took over his life.
In the fog of multiple addictions, he lost the “addresses” of between five and 10 bitcoins, rendering his digital buried treasure – worth up to £300,000 today – impossible to retrieve.
Steven spotted the potential of bitcoin early and he had a talent for trading. But even if he had that money now, his addiction means it would soon be squandered.
“Trading is gambling, there’s no doubt about it,” he says.
“I studied and studied. I taught myself how to be a good trader and tried really hard to manage my accounts and stick to a set of rules.
“But my mind would twist and I’d go all in, like a poker player that thought he had the perfect hand. I was convinced I was going to be a bitcoin millionaire.”
Now in recovery at the Castle Craig residential treatment clinic in Scotland, Steven fears that legions of young people are being lured into high-risk trading and potentially addiction, based on the same misguided quest for untold riches.
“A whole generation think that with a little mobile phone they can win, that they can … beat the market,” he says.
“It scares the bejesus out of me.”
Steven’s fears are founded partly on crypto’s rapid emergence into the mainstream.
When he started investing in 2015, digital currencies meant nothing to most people.
Now, they are being touted as a more democratic alternative to a monopolistic and exploitative global financial system.
Advertisers included relatively obscure names such as Hex, Kraken and Puglife about whom consumers know little, if anything.
Meanwhile, football clubs and players, not to mention globally recognised celebrities, tout crypto investments on a daily basis via social media.
This week, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr were named in a lawsuit alleging that they helped promote crypto firm EthereumMax, as it made “false and misleading” statements that left investors nursing heavy losses.
An Instagram post about EthereumMax, to Kardashian’s 250 million followers, may have been the most widely seen financial promotion of all time, according to the head of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Yet despite their ascendancy – and warnings that governments could suffer “limitless” losses – cryptoassets remain unregulated in the UK, pending a Treasury review.
That means that the FCA, the UK’s financial regulator, is all but powerless to influence how the industry behaves.
While some trading platforms that offer digital assets are regulated – because they also offer more traditional financial instruments – crypto coins and tokens are not.
Cryptoasset executives do not have to prove that they are fit and proper people to take people’s money. The companies they run are not required to hold enough cash to repay investors if they go bust. Nor must they worry about the FCA’s stipulation that financial promotions, such as those splashed across public transport in London, are fair, clear and not misleading.
“Is bitcoin on its way to a new high?,” it asked, as the slide began. “We’ve seen bitcoin rally before. But could this be the one to take it to the MOON?”
The answer, for the time being at least, was “No”. But holders of crypto portfolios were encouraged to stay positive.
“Your account gained 1.87% yesterday,” one app notification read, as the slump abated. “You had a good day. Share the news with everyone.”
No such invitation appeared on the far more frequent days when the value of the Guardian’s portfolio went down.
“It’s a very strategic marketing ploy,” says Dr Anna Lembke, one of the world’s foremost addiction experts, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine and author of the book Dopamine Nation.
“They’re encouraging you to amplify the wins and ignore the losses, creating a false impression there are more wins.”
Asked about this, eToro says that it is “committed to helping retail investors engage with each other and foster an environment of learning and collaboration”, adding that its platform is not “gamified”.
According to eToro’s UK managing director, Dan Moczulski, some users make their account public so that “all investments are visible to others, whether they are profitable or not”.
The company said it also provides educational tools, performs know-your-customer checks and encourages long-term, diversified investing.
But Dr Lembke is concerned by the potential for the social media element to fuel compulsive behaviour in crypto trading, an activity she says bears the hallmarks of addictive gambling products but without the acknowledged risk.
“When you mix social media with financial platforms, you make a new drug that’s even more potent,” she says.
Social media posts pushing crypto frequently refer to Fomo – the fear of missing out – fuelling an urge to participate.
“You get this herd mentality where people talk to each other about what the market is doing, they have wins together, losses together, … an intense shared emotional experience.”
“We get a little spike in dopamine, followed by a little deficit that has us looking to recreate that state.”
This, she says, echoes characteristics of gambling but with a crucial difference.
“It’s less stigmatised,” she says. “It has this socially sanctioned status as something that maverick smart people do.”
Parallels with gambling are becoming harder to ignore.
As with gambling, where every one addict is estimated to harm seven other people, many were suffering at the hands of someone else’s habit.
One recounted how her partner’s trading obsession was leading them to spend time away from the family. Another said their partner had taken to trading while in recovery from alcoholism, spending every waking hour making trades.
GamCare has even dealt with young patients who bought digital coins in a desperate attempt to make enough money to get on to the property ladder, only to lose life-changing sums.
At Castle Craig, where Steven is receiving treatment, the first crypto addict arrived at the clinic in 2016, followed by more than 100 since then.
“More and more people are isolated and are doing this [trading], especially since Covid,” says Tony Marini, the senior specialist therapist at the clinic and a recovering gambling addict himself.
“It’s tenfold already since 2016, so what’s it going to be like in the next five years?”
The researchers compared the results of a conventional and quantum computer to minimise error calculations, which could eventually be scaled up to solve more complicated problems.
Scientists in Sweden have successfully managed to use a quantum computer to solve simple chemistry problems, as a proof-of-concept for more advanced calculations.
Currently, conventional supercomputers are used in quantum chemistry to help scientists learn more about chemical reactions, which materials can be developed and the characteristics they have.
But these conventional computers have a limit to the calculations they can handle. It is believed quantum computers will eventually be able to handle extremely complicated simulations, which could lead to new pharmaceutical discoveries or the creation of new materials.
However, these quantum machines are so sensitive that their calculations suffer from errors. Imperfect control signals, interference from the environment and unwanted interactions between quantum bits – qubits – can lead to “noise” that disrupts calculations.
The risk of errors grows as more qubits are added to a quantum computer, which complicates attempts to create more powerful machines or solve more complicated problems.
Comparing conventional and quantum results
In the new study by Chalmers University, scientists aimed to resolve this noise issue through a method called reference-state error mitigation.
This method involves finding a “reference state” by describing and solving the same problem on both a conventional and a quantum computer.
The reference state is a simpler description of a molecule that can be solved by a normal computer. By comparing the results from both computers, the scientists were able to estimate the scale of error the quantum computer had in its calculation.
The difference between the two computers’ results for the simpler reference problem was then applied to correct the quantum computer’s solution for the original, more complex problem.
This method allowed the scientists to calculate the intrinsic energy of small example molecules such as hydrogen on the university’s quantum computer.
Associate professor Martin Rahm – who led the study – believes the result is an important step forward that can be used to improve future quantum-chemical calculations.
“We see good possibilities for further development of the method to allow calculations of larger and more complex molecules, when the next generation of quantum computers are ready,” Rahm said.
Research is happening around the world to fix the problems limiting the development of more advanced quantum computers.
Earlier this month, Tyndall’s Prof Peter O’Brien told about his group’s work in addressing a key challenge in quantum technology and how quantum communications will make eavesdropping ‘impossible’.
12 Outstanding Tech Resources To Improve Your Skills
If you want to improve your tech skills and don’t know where to start, this list introduces you to some of the resources out there.
If you’re familiar with our advice pieces, you’ll know that we regularly mention various resources you can use to upskill in tech.
We’ve steered readers towards courses from the likes of Udemy, Udacity and Coursera for learning tech concepts from machine learning to data literacy skills. And we’ve pointed out Python meet-ups run by Python Ireland among others.
But what if you’re not sure what these platforms are? Or you aren’t sure which one is the best one for you and your learning style? Maybe you like the idea of Python Ireland and you want to find other similar groups.
Here is an introduction to some of the best resources out to hone your tech skills.
Founded by two Stanford University computer scientists, Coursera is a global online learning platform for techies of all stripes.
It has partnerships with major companies like IBM and Google, as well as with universities such as Stanford and Imperial College London.
If you need a bit of guidance, scroll to the bottom section of the Coursera homepage and you’ll find articles that provide advice on how you can achieve a career in areas such as data analytics using the site.
In terms of courses, it provides everything from short certificates to longer postgraduate degree programmes.
Codeacademy is particularly useful for people who like interactive learning, as it has links to cheatsheets, projects, video and coding challenges under Resources at the bottom of its homepage.
It has a pretty active online community, too.
This Coursera rival – its founders are MIT and Harvard scientists – carries thousands of courses. Like Coursera, many are university-level, with edX making use of its partnerships with the likes of Boston University, University of Cambridge and Google.
Scroll to the bottom of the homepage and you’ll find boot camp courses in topics such as fintech and cybersecurity, as well as longer courses.
Like Codeacademy, Data Camp is quite hands-on and has a lot of short, free courses. It’s best for people who are interested in data science and related technologies.
You can select a specific skill you want to brush up on (like data literacy, NLP, machine learning) or you can explore different career paths such as data scientist, data analyst and statistician.
If you just want to get to grips with a particular tech tool (ChatGPT, Tableau) you can do that too.
Irish meet-up groups
Going along to events run by Irish tech community groups can be a fun way to keep on top of new tech trends and meet like-minded people.
You can find lots of different events on Meetup no matter what you’re interested in. Dublin Linux Community meets monthly, as does Python Ireland and Kubernetes Dublin.
If you want something more casual, there is a coffee chat for indie hackers in Dublin in early June. And it isn’t just the in capital: there are online events and conferences, as well as things going on in Cork, Galway and Belfast.
Khan Academy is another one to consider if you want to do an online tech course, even though it’s not as well known as some of the other names on this list.
Its short video lessons are good for beginners and it provides lessons and learning paths for children, too.
It is a non-profit organisation and it aims to educate people all over the world for free.
The educational offshoot of LinkedIn has business and tech courses galore for anyone who wants to perfect certain skills.
If you already have LinkedIn, LinkedIn Learning is a good bet as you can add your certificates of completion to your profile.
It’s not free, however, but it does offer a one-month free trial.
Software educational platform Pluralsight provides learning plans for teams as well as individuals. It’s quite skills focused, perhaps more so than some of the other resources that include non-tech courses on their sites.
You can pick up new skills like cloud tech, programming and test your progress using specially designed exercises.
Best for creative techies, Skillshare carries courses in things such as graphic design and photography – but many of these areas are arguably tech focused.
If you’re interested in things like UX and UI design or how tech tools can be used for creative purposes, you may find a short course that takes your fancy.
It’s got a lot of creatives on its books that are willing to, yes, share their skills.
An Irish resource for all things technological, Digital Skillnet is a great site to keep in mind for future educational and upskilling opportunities.
If you prefer the familiarity of an Irish-run organisation, it has plenty of information about the types of careers you can break into.
Whether you’re an employer looking to find resources and courses for employees, or an individual looking to reskill, upskill or find a tech job, Digital Skillnet should definitely be one of your first ports of call.
Udacity is pretty good for anyone who wants to try out a tech course as it has a lot of short and beginner courses as well as longer ones.
It also has an AI chatbot running in beta which offers to assist you when you visit its website.
You can pick from courses on topics such as programming and development, AI, data science, business intelligence and cloud computing.
Scroll to the bottom of the homepage for in-depth career-related resources.
One for bargain hunters, Udemy constantly runs sales on its courses. It has hundreds of thousands of courses, too, so you won’t have difficulty finding something.
It’s good for beginners as many of the courses are short and delivered through video. What’s cool about Udemy is there is so much on the site that you can quite easily find courses on a certain topic from beginner right through to specialist level.
How News Helicopters Ushered A Fresh Television Genre In Los Angeles
By Darren Wilson
Fifteen minutes of fame was not enough for Johnny Anchondo. Local television devoted some 100 minutes of live coverage to this repeat offender, following one of the wildest chases Los Angeles has seen in recent years. In that time, the 33-year-old criminal ran a stop sign and caused an immense mobilization of the police as he stole two pickup trucks, rammed into dozens of vehicles at high speed and escaped from at least 15 patrol cars that were hot on his trail for some 12 miles. All of this was recorded by the all-seeing eye in the sky, news helicopters.
“Chases are the best. They are dynamic, they move fast. Things can change in an instant. Sometimes they seem endless from up there,” says Stu Mundel, one of the journalists who have been following events on the city streets from a helicopter for decades. “And I say this from the bottom of my heart, it’s genuine, but I always wish things would end well,” he adds.
In Los Angeles, chases are now a television genre in their own right. Journalists like Mundel fly for hours over a gigantic urban sprawl of 88 cities with 11 million people. From way up high, they report on traffic, crashes, shootings and fires in the metropolitan area. But few events arouse the audience’s interest as much as the chases through the city’s vast thoroughfares. The police chase starring Anchondo attests to that fact; the video has over 28 million views on YouTube.
The genre was born in this city. The idea came to John Silva, an engineer for a local television station, while he was driving his car on a freeway near Hollywood. “How can we beat the competition?” he wondered. The answer came to him behind the wheel. “If we could build a mobile news unit in a helicopter, we could beat them in arriving to the scene, avoiding traffic and getting all the stories before the competition,” Silva told the Television Academy in a 2002 interview.
In July 1958, a Bell 47G-2 helicopter made the first test trip for the KTLA network, becoming the first of its kind anywhere in the world. By September of that year, Silva’s creation, known as the Telecopter, already had a special segment on the channel’s news program. Before long, every major television network had one. Silva died in 2012, but his invention transformed television forever.
The chase genre’s crowning moment came in June 1994, when the Los Angeles police chase of a white Ford Bronco was broadcast live on television. In the back of the vehicle was O.J. Simpson, the former football star, whom the authorities had named the prime suspect in the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. Bob Tur (now known as Zoey Tur after a sex change operation), the pilot of a CBS helicopter, located the van on the 405 freeway being followed by dozens of patrol cars. Within minutes, there were so many helicopters following the convoy that Tur found the scene worthy of Apocalypse Now. The audience was such that TV stations interrupted the broadcast of Game 5 of the NBA Finals to follow the chase, which lasted two hours.
“It’s a very interesting thing. It may sound morbid, but it’s not. People follow [police chases] because they are like a movie, we want to know how it will end and how the story unfolds: will good triumph over evil? Or will this person manage to escape? We journalists are objective, but the adrenaline and excitement is genuine,” says Mundel. In his years of experience, he has seen how technology has evolved. In the 1990s, people used a paper map as a guide. Today, viewers can see a map superimposed on the images Mundel captures with his camera.
Four out of 10 chases are initiated after a vehicle is stolen. The second most common reason for them are hit-and-runs by drivers who are drunk or under the influence of drugs. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, most fugitives are hiding a more serious crime: homicide, rape or violent robbery. In 1998, only four out of the 350-plus drivers arrested after a chase were let off with only a traffic ticket; five hundred chases were recorded that year.
A growing phenomenon
In 2022, 971 chases were recorded. On average, chases last about 5.34 minutes and cover about five miles, although the vast majority (72%) end within five minutes and do not travel more than two miles. 35% of documented chases ended in crashes with injuries or fatalities in 2022. That figure represents a slight decrease from 990 in 2021. In 2019, there were fewer: 651 chases and 260 crashes.
A few decades ago, authorities tried to reassure Angelenos by claiming that a person had a one in four million chance of accidentally being killed in a police chase of a criminal. “There’s a better chance of being struck by lightning,” the police department estimated. But things have changed. An official report presented in April indicates that, over the past five years, 25% of chases have left people dead or injured. That almost always includes the suspect, but the number of innocent people who have been hurt has also increased.
News Helicopters Ushered A Fresh Television Genre In Los Angeles
Although there is plenty of material on the street, uncertain times for local journalism have limited coverage. Univision and Telemundo have dispensed with their helicopters in Los Angeles. Fox and CBS have joined forces and are using one aircraft instead of two. For the time being, KTLA, which invented the genre, remains committed to having a helicopter in the air.
The days may be numbered for these televised events. Some metro police departments have asked their officers to stop chasing criminals at high speed for the safety of the public. Instead, they have employed technology with high-definition cameras and drones to chase criminals, as has happened in cities like Dallas, Philadelphia and Phoenix.
The Los Angeles police have said that they are studying the implementation of the Star Chase system in some of their vehicles. Star Chase features a launcher that triggers a GPS transmitter, tagging a fleeing vehicle and allowing the authorities to track the position of the person who has escaped in real time. Another measure under consideration is the use of an industrial-strength nylon net that traps the rear axle of the fleeing car. All of this could yield dramatic footage for the eye in the sky.
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— By Darren Wilson, Team ‘THE VOICE OF EU‘
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