In recent years, the tide of public opinion has slowly but surely turned against the intrusive actions of Big Tech companies. People are tired of corporations mining their personal information and censoring or manipulating their content online and, as a result, the biggest social networks, like Facebook and YouTube, are beginning to see a noticeable exodus of users.
Until recently, fleeing users had nowhere else to go. But the advent of decentralized, encrypted technologies has ushered in a new generation of social platforms that prioritize privacy, transparency, and free speech, allowing users more control over their posts and content. There are now dozens of social applications operating on peer-to-peer or blockchain-based networks.
Here are five good starting points in your journey away from Facebook:
Minds – Minds is the oldest network on this list and has slowly cultivated an impassioned legion of users who consider it the heir apparent to Facebook. But Minds is vastly different than Facebook: it is open source, meaning that anyone can help improve the site’s design; it is decentralized and encrypted, which means that corporate data miners can’t poach user data and governments can’t monitor the site’s messaging app; and the site allows its users to earn money through their posts.
Founder Bill Ottman, who launched Minds in 2011 with an innovative model of “hybrid” investing that tapped both tokens and VCs, described the site’s origins: “We started Minds in my basement after being disillusioned by user abuse on Facebook and other big tech services. We saw spying, data mining, algorithm manipulation, and no revenue sharing,” he said. “To us, it’s inevitable that an open source social network becomes dominant, as was the case with Wikipedia and proprietary encyclopedias.”
Minds now has millions of active users. The mission for “Internet freedom” has only grown, underscored in 2018 when hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese users joined the site after their country passed a draconian cybersecurity law that restricted free speech.
Steemit – Steemit is up there with Minds when it comes to popularity and, like Minds, it has a devoted core of users. Steemit’s design and architecture can best be compared to Reddit; however, unlike Reddit, Steemit users earn money when their posts are upvoted. And unlike Minds, Steemit uses a blockchain technology, which supports the site’s cryptocurrency, Steem. There are many ways to earn Steem—posting, voting, curating, purchasing, interest, etc.—and though there’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to the language of the mechanics, the result is a thriving community in which some users make a living through their site activities.
Like Minds, Steemit is the playground of a robust diversity of ideas—some of them controversial—and attracts a good share of anarchists and counter-economic activists. Though it has close to half a million active users, Steemit devotees still dream of bringing this blockchain-based social network to the mainstream.
LBRY – LBRY is a mix between a social network and digital marketplace for content creators. According to its creators, it is the first digital marketplace to be wholly community-run and controlled by its participants instead of a corporation or third party. Unlike Apple, Amazon, or YouTube, for example, LBRY is a peer-to-peer, decentralized, and distributed network; it is both protocol and service.
In 2018 the alternative news website Anti-Media—which had recently been deplatformed by Facebook during a widespread purge of anti-establishment pages—migrated its articles onto LBRY “to build a decentralized content delivery system for [their] website and an uncensorable hub.” This is the perfect example of how a blockchain-based network, which is impervious to censorship, can play a crucial role in the future of liberated media and content delivery. You can support and follow Anti-Media by signing up!
Nexus Social – Nexus is another decentralized social media application fueled by blockchain and a passionate advocacy for anonymity. Nexus is a bit different than the others on this list because it is largely an ecommerce and ad platform community. Imagine a mix between eBay, Amazon, and Google AdSense except without a centralized server (plans call for a combo of Storj and BigchainDB blockchains instead). The Nexus platform, powered by the native cryptocurrency Social (SCL), facilitates a marketplace where users can “make deals or exchange value through cryptographically-signed and executed contracts.”
Founder Jade Mulholland says the goal is to “eliminate all invasion of privacy that large corporations are currently performing.” Mulholland adds that “Social, our cryptocurrency, can be used to do many things on the social network, such as buying and selling in the marketplace, purchasing ad space, and donating to crowdfunding campaigns.”
Obsidian – Obsidian is a good option for people who don’t necessarily post on Facebook a lot but use its Messenger app. Obsidian’s Secure Messaging app is based on the Stratis blockchain, a proof-of-stake system that protects user data from “cookies” and outside surveillance. Obsidian is probably the youngest entry on the list and is still in its public alpha phase. As an open source application, Obsidian keeps a publicly available repository of its code on GitHub.
Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”
In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.
The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.
The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.
The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”
“This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.
“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”
However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.
The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.
“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”
He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”
A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”
One hopes that things don’t reach that point.
In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.
Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour
Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.
In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.
While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.
“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.
See for yourself:
Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.
In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.
Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”
Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.