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TECHNOLOGY

Crypto 101: What is Cryptocurrency and is it safe to buy?

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Cryptocurrency has entered the mainstream and if you feel like you’re way behind, you’re not alone.

TAMPA, Fla. — At Florida’s Bitcoin and Blockchain Summit earlier this month (which was held here in Tampa) Mayor Jane Castor announced she was going to take her next paycheck in bitcoin.

Miami and New York’s mayors recently did the same.

Over in Los Angeles, the Staples Center, one of the world’s most famous arenas, will get its name changed to “Crypto.com Arena” come Christmas Day, for a reported $700 million.

Apologies for coming late to the conversation – we’ve been busy preparing for today’s cryptocurrency conference here in the @CityofTampa. 🪙😏 But I’m certainly up for the challenge! #ForbesTopEmergingTechnologyCity #FloridasTechCapitol #TechTown

— Jane Castor (@JaneCastor) November 5, 2021

Cryptocurrency has entered the mainstream and if you feel like you’re way behind, you’re not alone. But, all of this Bitcoin and crypto talk can be a heck of a lot for us newbies to the coin game, even if it has been around for more than a decade.

So, let’s learn together. It’s a journey I like to call: Crypto 101.

To make this easier, we’ll break it down into four parts:

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  • What is cryptocurrency?
  • How can I buy it?
  • How safe is it? 
  • Am I too late to the game to get in?

What is cryptocurrency?

Bitcoin, Blockchain, Coinbase, Etherium, To the Moon – it’s all a part of the crypto vernacular, but let’s get down to the basics.

In simplistic terms, it’s essentially a peer-to-peer digital cash system that’s decentralized, so it doesn’t go through any bank, government or third party, like how we’d traditionally use cash or a credit card.

“Cryptocurrency, very simply, is just a digital or virtual currency that’s secured by code, which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit,” said Nick Agar, the founder of AXIA, an ecosystem and non-profit for hyper deflationary virtual currency. 

“These currencies run on something called a blockchain, which is a distributed ledger where these transactions are being tracked. What makes them that much more secure is they have to go through a proper validation process.”

And that process is called mining, which verifies the transaction via sophisticated computers solving very complex math problems.

“In bitcoin, all of these miners are processing the transaction, which is ultimately securing the network and making sure all the transactions are secure,” said Mark Palomba, the founder and chief investment officer at Deltacore Capital, a hedge fund for digital assets based here in Tampa. 

“In return, they get newly minted bitcoin.”

Najah Roberts, the chief visionary officer of a crypto services company called Crypto Blockchain Plug, likened it to what we’re already doing with digital payments, like Apple Pay or Venmo.

“Money is changing,” Roberts said. “We’re already in the digital space…this is just one step further, which is a digital currency, such as bitcoin. I tell people to get knowledgeable about Bitcoin first.” 

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So let’s do that because there are thousands of cryptocurrencies, but Bitcoin is the most popular and the most lucrative. It’s like the McDonald’s of crypto. 

Satoshi Nakamoto created bitcoin in 2009. He wanted an independent way for users to send money to each other – fast and with little to no transaction fee.

“There will only be 21 million bitcoins ever in existence,” Palomba said. “They are slowly trickled into the flow of the system by miners, decreasing every four years until 2141.”

So, they’re limited and clearly in demand, with Bitcoin exploding over the last decade. CaseBitcoin says its 10-year compounded growth rate is unmatched in financial history, nearly tripling your money every year for a decade.

How can I buy it?

Okay, so now I’ve got your interest, but how do you buy, trade or sell crypto, like Bitcoin?

“Always make sure you’re using a trusted exchange with a lot of security,” Palomba said. “In the U.S., the biggest exchange is Coinbase, which is the quickest and easiest way for beginners to get into the market.”

“Similar to when you open a bank account,” Agar said. “You go through a registration process at one of these exchanges and then you receive one of these cryptocurrency wallets to go into the market and purchase whatever crypto you want at that time.”

How safe is it?

So, now that you know how to buy some, how safe is it?

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The Federal Trade Commission says consumers lost north of $80 million on crypto scams during the back end of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, but experts say that has more to do with a lack of research and knowledge than it does with the crypto process itself.

Blockchain technology is known for its unparalleled security. The user has their identity protected, but all transactions are public, making it nearly impossible to hack or cheat the system. With thousands of miners keeping track of the transactions and showing proof of their work to get paid, it increases the security.

“We should actually be looking to crypto as a far, far more secure way to make our payments,” Agar said. “Because of the immutable nature of blockchain transactions and because they’re so transparent on that ledger at all times.”

“Anybody that’s talking about massive gains, immediately you have to put up your red flags,” Roberts said. “I meet so many people who are scammed in this space and they don’t know better. The moment you begin to get greedy, that’s the time you begin to get scammed.”

Is it too late to get in?

We’re a decade in, so is it too late to get into the crypto game, or are we just getting started?

“This is a marketplace that’s in its infancy,” Agar said. “We’re almost at an inflection point in our economic system in terms of what is possible.”

“The sky is the limit,” Palomba said. “We’re only scratching the surface on the technology and the tools and the solutions that this can really offer. In 5-10 years, I don’t think we’ll recognize a lot of the difference that it’ll make in how we transact and do things on the internet.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Einstein, Empathy and AI

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Einstein, Empathy and AI


Albert Einstein once said: “The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty and Truth.”

Kindness, beauty and truth. You don’t often hear these words in the digital world. How do we integrate these life essentials in technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, edge computing, internet of things (IoT) and data at scale? Technology, after all, makes things less personal, right?

One company is working hard to disprove this assumption. Not only that, they have a direct tie to Einstein himself.

A hundred years after Einstein shared his views about human existence, NVIDIA is on a path to connecting kindness, beauty and truth with AI as it explores the human qualities of inference, context and nuance in supportive technologies. As for the famous scientist with the wild white hair, NVIDIA has proven he was right about his prediction of gravitational waves, which can now be seen by astronomers for the first time at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).

This makes sense. After all, NVIDIA has powered 352 out of 500 of the world’s supercomputers.

NVIDIA has long been known for gaming technologies – it invented the graphics processing unit (GPU) in 1999, triggering the steep growth of the gaming market (much to the chagrin of many parents everywhere) with superior computer graphics and intuitive AI.

Chances are you’ve touched NVIDIA’s tech some time along your day today. Since its launch in 1993, it has been the “AI engine” for thousands of companies, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Meta, Alibaba, Tencent, Pinterest, PayPal, Snap and Spotify. The full-stack computer company fuels data center-scale computing solutions with the help of some 20,000 employees in more than 50 countries.

GPU-powered AI solutions impact critical insights needed for businesses to make better decisions, improve customer service and reduce fraud. The technology is particularly impactful in financial services where around 80% of firms are using artificial intelligence to improve services. NVIDIA’s State of AI in Financial Services 2022 Trends Report reveals that 8 of 10 financial firms are using AI to reduce the estimated $5 trillion in global fraud each year and that conversational AI is being used to mimic customer service representatives in self-service chatbots and call center virtual agents by many banks. AI-led recommendation systems are delivering hyper-personalized experiences to bank customers by giving personalized recommendations.

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Conversational AI, however, is where GPU technology can make a significant difference. To date, it has often been seen as deeply flawed by many people, myself included.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You call a company hoping to resolve an issue. Its AI-driven customer service agent answers in a monotone voice. Soon thereafter, the exchange goes off the rails. You’re asking if they have a product in stock and the agent is asking if you want to make a return. Finally, you request a live agent. I’ve gotten lost in the digital loop of big companies when connecting with a real human being is akin to hitting the jackpot.

What’s missing? From moment one, it’s empathy.

Just to be on the same page, Merriam Webster defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”

Feeling understood by another is the point of NVIDIA’s article “May AI Help You? Square Takes Edge Off Conversational AI With GPUs”, which explores AI’s unique potential for going beyond the facts, entering the realm of “sympathetic listening.”

As more companies adopt conversational AI, empathy plays a larger role in the customer experience – and, ultimately, growth factors like profitability, customer retention and brand equity. According to Zendesk, 81% of consumers say a positive customer service increases the chances of them making another purchase. AI is more than taking care of business. Customers want to feel good about the exchange and not like a “number.” They want a kinder, more memorable touch point that resolves their real problem and makes them feel “seen.”

Can digital assistants and digital agents get us there?

With the help of NVIDIA, the popular payment platform Square is making progress. You could say NVIDIA invented one of AI’s greatest solutions – the GPU. The company’s article points out that Square’s tech team “started training AI models at Eloquent on single NVIDIA GPUs running CUDA (a programming interface) in desktop PCs.” Eloquent is an NLP startup acquired by Square in 2019. In addition to the GPU enabled desktop stations, large model training jobs were run on NVIDIA GPUs in the AWS cloud service.  The results were impressive on both training and inference fronts. In particular, Square found “inference jobs on average-size models run twice as fast on GPUs than CPUs. Inference on large models such as RoBERTa run 10x faster on the AWS GPU service than on CPUs.”

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Progress? Listen to this: Merritt writes that “Square Assistant can understand and provide help for 75 percent of customer’s questions, and it’s reducing appointment no-shows by 10 percent.”

Trust takes so much time to build. One poor experience breaks it immediately. In an ideal world, our conversations with others are fluid as long as the level of service meets our satisfaction. When an experience falls short, the ramifications interrupt our perception of a brand or worse.

Like New Year’s Eve 2021 when I made a large payment to my house remodeler via check. I sent the check a week ahead to ensure it can be processed before the end of the year. My bank texted me to confirm my identity. I verified that the payment was legit. More than an hour later and seven – SEVEN – transfers from one digital assistant to another and then to a live agent later, the issue was finally resolved. By that time, however, it was already the new year.  As a small business owner, that one day delay had implications on taxes and a supplier’s revenue. 

Many consider Einstein as a great scientist, but I think of him as a great thinker. He understood the power of the human touch. In one essay, he wrote: “When we survey our lives and endeavors we soon observe that almost the whole of our actions and desires are bound up with the existence of other human beings.”

When AI understands the nuances of language, we will have taken the next big leap. Intuitive, empathetic AI is upon us. The question is: will it inspire greater kindness, beauty and truth for those who use it?

Explore NVIDIA’s AI solutions and enterprise-level AI platforms driving the future of financial services. 



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