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Bitcoin’s price has risen stratospherically, a fact that leaves many minor players in the market with massive gains and many bigger players millionaires. But is this a bubble? Are the gains real? And are the bitcoin whales in for a sad Christmas?
First we must understand what drives bitcoin price and (in particular) this boom. The common understanding for current growth leads us back to institutional investors preparing for the forthcoming BTC futures exchanges.
The primary theory about the astonishing rally being put forward by investors on social media is that bitcoin will soon benefit from big institutional money injections via the introduction of the first BTC futures products. C.B.O.E. Global Markets and CME Group are launching new futures contracts on December 10 and December 17, allowing investors to go long or short on bitcoin. This ability makes bitcoin far more palatable to big investors who are currently flooding the market to make profits if and when the bitcoin price falls.
This move also legitimizes bitcoin in Wall Street’s eyes, an important point considering cryptocurrencies are still suspect.
Further growth comes from the «bitcoin as a store of value» crowd. This group of enthusiasts bought and held bitcoin and will not sell it at any current price. More and more bitcoin fans are entering into this group and they are driving up demand increases. In a world where people expect bitcoin to be worth $1 million soon this sort of activity – whether rational or irrational – is quite popular.
We see a common thread between these points: hype and news. All cryptocurrency movements are based on domain specific media and conversations between traders. Bitcoin traders, it can be said, are now akin to the jolly colonists selling stocks under buttonwood tree. This small but influential market is prone to panics based on a single tweet and users work together to at least bolster themselves with cries of «HODL!» The market is so nascent that there are no dark pools, no popular algorithmic trading systems, and no real way to automate your buying and selling activities (although, without futures, there was never a need to). That is all coming and at that point the market will harden itself against panics and booms. Until then we enjoy rises and dips and volatility that puts most bitcoin dilettantes off their lunch.
Ultimately new and old users are testing the limits of a system that, for a decade, has been untested. The futures market will be a big driver in growth and bust over the next few months as institutional investors begin using the currency. CoinDesk writer Omkar Godbole notes that the price should remain stable but «a pullback to $11,000 cannot be ruled out, but dips below the upward sloping 10 day MA of $11,500 are likely to be short-lived».
«As of now, a significant correction is unlikely and could be seen only on confirmation of a bearish price RSI divergence and or if RSI and stochastic move lower from the overbought territory», he wrote.
Is this dangerous? Yes, to those who are betting big on BTC. Again, I cannot tell you whether to buy or sell but the common expectation is that bitcoin raises to a set point and then fluctuates between a high and a low until the next run up. Many expect foul play.
«The current price isn’t truly driven by demand. When CME Group went live with Bitcoin futures we saw a sharp increase in demand and an increased number of users in the network», said Matthew Unger, CEO and Founder of iComplyICO. «Now, some institutional major players are flooding the network with new cash and creating what appears to be market manipulation. Now that Bitcoin futures are available it is easy to buy into futures market first and then create a massive number of buys or sells of Bitcoin to ensure the price swings in favour of your futures contract».
«In many jurisdictions, Bitcoin has yet to become subject to regulations, leaving an investor with no recourse or protection from fraud or market manipulation», said Unger.
Is this a bubble? Many are disappointed in the moves, believing the rise is happening because of market manipulation. But we must remember that the real value of a cryptocurrency is not driven by price but instead is driven by utility. While bitcoin may always be the proverbial hidden pot of gold for early buyers the future of all cryptocurrencies is still being written. Just as, in 1994, no one could have predicted the prevalence and value of open source projects like Linux and Apache, no one can currently predict what bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will do for us in the future. Until we know, it’s best to buckle up and enjoy the ride.
This week has been a good one for those who like to talk about the limits of technology. Over in the U.K., a prankster managed to fool Trip Advisor into naming his shed the #1 ranked restaurant in London. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a city struggling to manage several wind-fueled wildfires, the L.A.P.D. has asked drivers to refrain from using navigation apps because they’re steering drivers onto open routes that may in fact, be on fire.
In the world of higher education, technology has always had the potential to upend the academic enterprise. In the late 1990s, as I began working in higher education, The New York Times mused about the transformative potential of online education: «Just by doing what he does every day, a teacher potentially could grow rich instructing a class consisting of a million students… ‘Faculty are dreaming of returns that are probably multiples of their lifetime net worth, said Kim Clark, dean of the Harvard Business School».
As anyone who has taken an online course will tell you, none of this came to pass. Nearly 20 years ago a company called UNext, founded by disgraced junk bond king Michael Milken, spent $180 million to build million-dollar simulation-based business courses with universities like Columbia, Stanford and Chicago, only to disappear several years later.
No one has really tried to do this since. Why bother when more than 3 million students are enrolled in online degree programs that are largely text-based, translated from traditional onground college courses in such a literal manner that it’s almost robotic: read material, participate in discussion, submit weekly assignment. And the faculty who deliver these courses are about as far from rich and famous as you can get.
About five years ago, two Silicon Valley companies, Coursera and Udacity, made new waves with big-name tech founders, mountains of venture capital and a goal of revolutionizing learning. Their model was Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), free self-paced courses, open to everyone.
When it turned out that few learners completed the MOOCs, and that it was difficult to build a viable business model on a foundation of free anything, both companies pivoted to tuition-based novel credentials: Udacity nanodegrees with curriculum from brand-name companies like Google and Apple. Coursera specializations with curriculum from brand-name universities like Yale and Stanford, but with additional content from some of the same brand-name companies e.g. Google, Splunk, Yelp, Qualcomm.
One of the challenges facing online providers is the question of efficacy. It turned out that the online education revolution wasn’t in quality or outcomes, but rather access, allowing millions of Americans to pursue degrees on their own time. Completion rates remain low and prominent researchers have questioned the return on investment of online programs.
Concerns about quality may explain why none of the major employers associated with Coursera and Udacity have committed to hire or even interview graduates of these novel online programs. No one seemed surprised at VentureBeat’s report from mid-2017 that of the 10,000 nanodegree graduates, «more than 1,000 participants have found jobs», a about 10 percent placement rate that should spell the demise of any last-mile program.
As a result, Udacity has resorted to a series of money-back guarantees for graduates who don’t find jobs. But of course, money-back guarantees don’t address the real guarantee students are seeking: a job. Udacity may give you back your money, but who’s going to give you back your time?
The lesson Udacity, Coursera and others are learning is that developing skills-based online courses and credentials is the easy part. The hard part is getting employers to pay attention.
One thing all successful last-mile programs have in common is that they’re intensive. Many are eager to embrace the bootcamp moniker. In contrast, Coursera and Udacity online skills-based offerings are self-paced and might lead one to believe that an «online bootcamp» is an oxymoron.
There’s simply no way to guarantee intensity in an asynchronous online program. At any moment online students are likely to surf to another site, turn away from the screen or simply drop out. Based on the completion rates of these courses, that’s often what happens.
These online programs are in stark contrast to programs like Galvanize, where employers are present in the same physical environment, come into contact with students and appreciate the high intensity. Demonstrating confidence in Galvanize’s model, WeWork, the leading co-working space company, recently acquired coding bootcamp Flatiron School with the objective of integrating Flatiron’s programs into some of WeWork’s 170 global offices.
While employers show great interest in physical proximity, they’re less interested in engaging with online programs and graduates of such programs. As a result, expect continued inferior placement outcomes for online programs, which defeats the purpose of last-mile training.
But surely there must be ways to use technology to bridge the skills gap. There are, but they’re more nuanced than throwing a bunch of courses online, hoping employers will bite.
MIT’s experience is instructive. Several years ago, MIT began offering MOOCs through its partnership with edX, a nonprofit version of Coursera. One of these courses was Entrepreneurship 101, which aimed to teach the «essential skills needed to effectively identify and target customers». As is usually the case, tens of thousands of students enrolled in the free course, but only a small percentage completed it.
In thinking about the MOOC’s purpose, MIT Lecturer Erdin Beshimov had the idea of inviting successful students to apply for a one-week onground bootcamp that would challenge students to start a company in five days.
A single email to students who completed the MOOC generated 500 applicants interested in paying $6,000 for the one-week bootcamp. Forty-seven students enrolled in MIT’s first entrepreneurship bootcamp and had a transformative experience based on the following principles: (1) A meaningful goal (e.g. launch a new business). (2) Intensity (according to Beshimov, the typical student slept 10 hours that week), Team-based active learning (leading to bonding and a typical «hero’s journey» i.e. adventure-crisis-victory). and Exposure to employers. Employers judged the final competition and met students.
One student in that initial bootcamp, David Anderton from the U.K., described the program as «super-intensive».
«The first day we formed groups and ideas for projects, and we had the week to develop the project before a final pitch. Every night our team worked till 3 or 4 a.m. There was lots of problem solving and team arguments. Our team won the bootcamp with our idea, Uplook», Anderton related. «Say you read a fashion blog and you want to buy the outfit the model is wearing. In Uplook, you can click to buy that outfit in a widget, without leaving the page. this captures people in the emotional high to buy, the blogger gets higher commission, etcetera».
But Anderton’s team experienced major stress the night before the presentation. «I remember one guy was writing an idea on the board, and right behind him another person was erasing it. The lesson I learned was to respect each other, and we hadn’t done that», he said. «We put on professional faces for the presentation, but when we got a real offer, nobody from our team wanted talk to each other. Another team that didn’t win got a half million dollar offer from Verizon».
Since that first bootcamp, MIT has gone on to extend MOOCs into bootcamps for Food Innovation (large food companies provide the challenge and judge) and Internet of Things. Bootcamps have run not only in the U.S., but also in South Korea and Australia, attracting students from over 30 countries.
Beshimov says that the bootcamps appear to be producing strong outcomes for students. «in just two years, bootcamp graduates have raised tens of millions of dollars for their ventures». Moreover, MIT’s MOOCs «command convening power for latent talent from every corner of the globe». Unlike many other last-mile programs, MIT spends zero on marketing.
When my son Ben was young, he only ate white food. Spaghetti, bread and popcorn all made the cut. Broccoli and peppers, not so much. I couldn’t let it go. I formed spinach into «Shrek pancakes», told him Batman loved peas and challenged him to string bean eating contests. I knew he loved superheroes and any kind of competition, so I worked every angle I could.
That was long before I heard the term design thinking, a method of problem-solving that relies on empathy, observation and careful listening. Design thinkers don’t believe in one right solution, so they continuously generate and test ideas to meet individuals needs, explains Erin Cohn, a senior partner at Leadership + Design, a consulting company that works with schools.
The design thinking process helps educators relate to students experiences, but it may be an even more natural fit for parents. «I try to put on my designer hat with my toddler, to have ideas in my back pocket, that motivate her to try something new», says Colleen Murray, vice president of strategy at Jump Associates, an innovation firm in California. «You have to observe your child and know how to morph or evolve given the situation».
Here, are 10 strategies that design thinkers and innovators use to heighten children’s creativity and resourcefulness.
Run experiments and flip ideas.
Brendan Boyle, a partner at IDEO and founder of its Toy Lab, tested ideas to get his son to ease up on cellphone use. At one point, he put the phone in a sealed envelope. «He could keep it, but he just couldn’t open it for a set amount of time», Boyle says, adding that running experiments is more effective than setting tons of rules. «One of my favorites is to flip ideas», he says. «For instance, you can’t do your homework until you’ve gone out and played for 45 minutes».
Teach kids how to create.
Part of parenting like a designer is teaching kids to create, and the earlier the better. «Keep lots of drawing supplies on hand», Boyle says. «More importantly, give drawing instructions. If this isn’t something you can do, hire a local art student or teacher». The most creative people he knows are not necessarily great artists, but they are comfortable doing back-of-the-napkin sketches. Another idea: Learn how to draw with them.
Throw out the parenting manuals.
Designers tend to ignore set theories about what people want and focus instead on tinkering, Cohn says. She adds that there is no such thing as best parenting practices, because kids have different needs. «This is really liberating, because it frees you from the expectation to follow some externally-imposed parenting doctrine», she explains. Instead, parents and kids can work together and try different approaches, then discuss what worked.
Step off the dance floor and onto the balcony.
To come up with the right solutions, parents may have to create distance. Cohn says that when her daughter makes a mess, she often is too in the weeds to think strategically. «She’s rushing to get to school, and I may think I should help her clean up, but my own emotional involvement is clouding what she really needs, which is to learn responsibility».
Embrace different ways of learning.
Most designers were not top students, says Sarah Rottenberg, associate director of the Integrated Product Design program at the University of Pennsylvania. «We tended to be more of the artsy kids who couldn’t sit still in the classroom, and those are not the skills we prioritize in elementary or even most high schools». Not every child is a linear thinker or traditional classroom learner, she explains. Rottenberg suggests that parents highlight the ways kids can use their strengths to make contributions in an increasingly complex world.
Solve problems flexibly.
Rottenberg teaches her graduate students that people’s bizarre behavior makes perfect sense to themselves. For example, her 12-year-old twin boys are into the water-bottle-flipping craze. «It’s this super annoying, repetitive habit», she says. «I don’t know whether it’s about social status and being the best water-flipper, or if they just want to move around». She notes that she can make the choice to yell at them or just suggest they go outside. «Designers know it doesn’t have to be an either or trade-off where only one person ends up happy».
Let go of your own agenda.
Factoring in kids point of view requires a mind shift. «If it’s 8 p.m. and I have a lot of work to do, I just want my daughter to brush her teeth, but she doesn’t have those needs», Murray says. «How do I get in her mind to get her excited to take some action? I can will it all I want, but it will result in a tantrum». On a good day, Murray says she can be joyful and creative about moving the needle. «Other times I’m more rigid, and that’s not the way to get human beings to change their mind», she notes. When children feel understood, they are more likely to cooperate.
Walk kids through scenarios.
If a child is having a conflict, such as a fight with a friend, parents can help them think through different approaches. «Ask, what is the outcome you want? How can you act when you go to school?» Murray says. She recommends presenting a variety of options. As kids consider both good and bad ideas, they can make predictions about what might happen.
Delight in what you don’t know. Designers like to adopt a beginner’s mind-set and stay open to possibilities, Cohn says. «Everything changes, both in our relationship with our kids and in the way we engage the world ourselves, as soon as we become learners alongside our kids rather than trying to be their teachers». When children ask questions you can’t answer, make finding answers a joint project.
Establish rules as a family.
Involve kids in the rule-generation process, Rottenberg says. «Number one it gets their buy-in, and number two they often have better ideas than we do», she says. «We got our kids cellphones this year and had them brainstorm rules with us. They came up with no using the phones after school on weekdays, which was much stricter than we would have been». Parents can then say, «It’s not my rule, it’s our rule».
Ben is now 15 and eats vegetables without prodding, but every phase brings new challenges. A year ago, I started getting all of his texts on my iPad. It was a glitch and I came clean right away, expecting him to be freaked out. «It’s fine», he told me calmly. «Whatever».
I paused. The texts were popping up rapid-fire as I tried to work. I also was pretty sure his friends would not appreciate my reading them. I suggested he might want to fix the problem, but he insisted it was no big deal.
My son’s openness may run counter to common wisdom about teen boys, who tend to be portrayed as intensely private, but that’s the point. Design thinking is not about making generalizations. It’s about understanding the kid in front of you.
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