TechKNOW Tomorrow – The Beginning of Digital Currency

Image by Bermix Studio via Unsplash.

Last year, Facebook revealed their plans to release a digital currency called Libra. Now that it’s 2021, that currency is set be released at some point this year.

That announcement had some ramifications, unfortunately. Other countries such as China have accelerated their work on their own digital currencies, a race to be the first to release what many expect to be a revolutionary technology.

When a digital currency is released here in North America, physical currencies – bills and change – will slowly be phased out like the penny was many years ago. The U.S. already has a disproportionate amount of power over the global economy. With the removal of physical currency, several issues will inevitably arise.

What About Cryptocurrency?

An argument might be made that digital currencies already exist, so this might not seem like a big deal at all. That’s not exactly true. A digital currency is not the same thing as virtual currency or cryptocurrency. Virtual currency “is a digital representation of value, not issued by a central bank, credit institution or e-money institution, which, in some circumstances, can be used as an alternative to money”. Virtual currencies have no physical means, making them difficult to quantify.

This differs from banks, debit, or credit in that the money you spend has something represent it in the real world. When you spend money on your credit card, for instance, you have to pay that back (with interest). A dollar in your bank account shares the exact same value as a physical dollar.

This is not true for cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin fluctuate dramatically in terms of value, meaning the value they hold isn’t based on the value of a physical dollar. A Bitcoin can be worth thousands of dollars one day… and then next to nothing the next.

Image by Kyle Wiseman via Google.

On top of this, digital currency “is regulated in a centralized location, like a bank. Cryptocurrencies … are governed by the majority of the community”.

The information behind transactions are kept private with digital currencies or cash. Think about it – no one knows where the cash in your hand has been spent in the past. With cryptocurrencies, none of this information is hidden. Anyone can see every transaction made or received.

There’s also less safety involved with these forms of currency. If you have problems with a seller, who are you going to contact to deal with the issue? There’s little chance of getting your money back.

As long as cryptocurrencies are managed by everyone, there will never be a set value and your money will never truly be secure.

Issues with Digital Currencies

Okay, so what’s the big deal with digital currencies, then?, you might be thinking. If they’re regulated and private, doesn’t that mean they’re still safe to use to exchange goods and services? Not quite.

One of the main concerns with digital currencies is that they require an intermediary to perform transactions. This means that your transactions will be even less private than they are through debit or credit. Every transaction you make will be traceable, meaning economic privacy will be next to impossible.

Another issue is in control and the issue of business over government. If a digital currency is launched by Facebook or a similar tech company, a company entirely focused on commercial interests (earning money), elected governments could face instability and drastic changes in policy.

If a currency is controlled by a company instead of the government, how do we know that the various programs created will be in the interests of the people, and not in the interests of shareholders? Free education and hospital visits are things we take for granted.

Without government control over the currency, we could start seeing basic human rights becoming monopolized into expensive services. We’ve already experienced this in university and prescription costs. Privatized control of these industries could potentially lead to increased social inequalities.

Of course, it could be many years before we see physical currencies phased out of existence. For now, we can only speculate on the future of the economy.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

5 Great Christmas Movies That Aren’t About the Holiday

Image by Jamie Davies via Unsplash.

Christmas is a time in which we think of others and give back to our community in some way. It’s also a time of joy and laughter, bringing friends and families together for the holidays.

This week, I thought I would do something a bit more casual. Everyone has their list of annual Christmas movies – the classics. Is there a better way to bring families together than to watch a holiday classic? Well, maybe you’ve exhausted your usual movies and need something fresh.

There are some great Christmas-themed movies that often get overlooked. This is because they take place during Christmas, yet have little to do with the actual holiday. Yet people still find an excuse to watch Die Hard every year.

So if you’re looking for a “new” movie appropriate for the season, maybe give one of these a shot. Regardless of what tech you use – DVD, Blu Ray, Netflix, etc. – gather the family, turn on the TV, and enjoy one of these five underrated holiday movies.

NOTE: You may want to put the little ones to bed before watching these movies!

1) Gremlins

Gremlins (1984).

Probably the most family-friendly movie on this list, Gremlins blends elements of horror and comedy into something special. When Billy’s dad is out looking for the perfect Christmas gift for his son, he happens upon a cute pet. Unfortunately for Billy, his pet is actually a monster that can spawn other monsters to wreak havoc on the town.

Gremlins offers a black comedy style mixed with a Christmas Eve setting. If you’re looking for a movie that fits the atmosphere yet offers something different for the holidays, check out this movie that has Steven Spielberg as producer!

2) Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon (1987).

An apparent suicidal jump brings Murtaugh and Riggs, two incredibly different cops in L.A., together. They soon find out that the victim was likely poisoned, leading to a chase against numerous bad guys involved with a heroin-smuggling operation. Over time, they’ll have to learn how to get along with each other… unless one kills the other first.

A handsome Mel Gibson combines drama and comedy with the most hideous haircut of the 1980s. That pretty much sums up this terrific, yet cheesy, action flick. It’s super fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously. Plus, it takes place during Christmas. What’s not to love?

3) The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

What do you get when you combine Tim Burton’s dark Halloween-like visuals with a Christmas theme? Batman Returns. Oops, wrong movie! But still an excellent one, all the same (consider that a bonus sixth entry). No, I’m talking about The Nightmare Before Christmas, Burton’s stop motion musical masterpiece.

The imagery in the film is incredibly dark and likely frightening for children, but no more so than Gremlins. In classic Disney tradition, the film boasts a number of catchy songs and a Christmas atmosphere that would feel right at home over the holidays.

4) The Shining

The Shining (1980).

When an aspiring writer, Jack Torrance, became the caretaker of an isolated hotel during the Christmas season, he didn’t know that it would be haunted by the spirits of people that died there horrifically. The previous caretaker killed his family and himself after the bitterness of isolation and the supernatural forces haunting the hotel drove him insane. Now, the same thing might be happening to Jack…

While The Shining isn’t exactly a horror film, the way it plays with the psychosis Jack experiences due to isolation parallels a familiar experience that we’ve now been exposed to thanks to COVID-19. The film is fantastic, if a bit overrated, and perfectly fits the tone of Christmas from a darker perspective.

5) Black Christmas

Black Christmas (1974).

This one is definitely not for the kids! Imagine being stuck in a sorority house for the holidays. You lock the doors and windows from an outside threat… only to realize that the threat has been inside with you all along.

This is the premise behind Black Christmas. The 1974 edition of the film is one of the finest horror films ever crafted, equally disturbing and magical. The movie develops the community into one that’s believable, and the dramatic irony involved with the girls not knowing that the killer’s in the house with them allows the movie to become something entirely original. It only helps that the movie has one of the best endings in horror movie history.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

TechKNOW Tomorrow – Medicine That Can Alter Your DNA

Imagine having a child with an extremely rare disease caused by a genetic mutation. You go to every doctor in the city with the hopes of at least identifying her condition. None of them seem to have the answers you seek. Until you come across one who gives you some unfortunate news: your daughter has an extremely rare illness that has no known cure. Even worse, because it’s so rare, there may never be a cure!

This would be a parent’s worst nightmare. Surprisingly, it happens more often than you would think. There are numerous diseases in our world that haven’t even been identified yet, let alone cured. Whether it’s due to limited resources, a lack of studies, or unavailable technology, numerous people die every year from genetics-related diseases.

You might be surprised to learn that recent breakthroughs in medicine may soon be able to solve this problem.

The Case of Mila Makovec

In early 2017, a little girl named Mila Makovec was suffering from a genetic disease called Batten disease, which “progressively damages brain cells and leads to death by adolescence“. As the disease wasn’t very common, little research had been initiated in finding a cure. A team of neurologists offered to help the girl and managed to create a strand of RNA which would potentially mask the deadly mutation in the girl’s DNA.

Within a year, the team was able to synthesize the drug and get it approved for trials by the FDA. Keep in mind that this process regularly can take up to twelve years, including trials and distribution time, of course. It wasn’t long after testing the drug that the neurologists noticed dramatic improvements to Mila: she was suffering from less seizures, she could stand and walk with assistance, and her condition had mostly seemed to stabilize.

While Mila still isn’t cured, the fact that these scientists were successfully able to prevent her symptoms from worsening by slightly altering her DNA is an incredible feat. It’s only a matter of time before a cure will be available for this disease that few have heard of.

Altering Your DNA

So what does this mean for the future of incredibly rare genetic diseases, then? With the recent success of the drug used to treat Mila, we may start seeing other rare mutations being treated to save lives. More clinical trials and a rapid production in the speed of treatment, for instance, can save lives before these diseases have a chance to progress too far.

With gene replacement, gene editing, and antisense on the horizon, we may soon start seeing treatments that “can be programmed, in digital fashion and with digital speed, to correct or compensate for inherited diseases, letter for DNA letter“.

What might be problematic with this notion is the fact that most genetic mutatuions are induced by nature, either hereditarily or over the course of one’s lifetime. Ethically, how can we alter someone’s genes if nature chooses them for a rare disease? Who are we to mess with natural selection? Should we not merely be observers?

The argument against this idea is that we have already messed with nature in irreparable ways. We’ve destroyed forests and animal ecosystems for the sake of human comfort, driven numerous species to extinction, and developed medicines to help us live much longer.

We’ve also seen restoration projects with trees being planted, endangered species being monitored and protected, and humanitarian aid delivered worldwide thanks to the wonderful work of non-profits. With this in mind, adding curable genetic diseases to that list doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.