way. A blockchain might not be used to
process transactions, as this could prove
an insurmountable bottleneck for a currency with such a huge transaction volume
as the renminbi. But such a distributed
ledger might be used to periodically check
who owns what. “The ownership of digital
currency can be verified directly by the
issuing bank, so as to realize peer-to-peer
cash transaction[s],” Yao writes. O;cials
from the People’s Bank of China declined
to provide any o;cial comment on the
development of the digital currency or
plans for its use.
There may be good reason to proceed
slowly. For all the excitement over digital
currencies, Bitcoin is experiencing technical problems as it grows more popular,
and the community of developers behind
the currency is beset by infighting over
its future direction. Bitcoin’s value has
also oscillated wildly in recent years (as
of writing, the value of a bitcoin is $2,757,
more than double its value in March). A
number of other cryptocurrencies have
emerged, and blockchain technology is
being explored as a way to track all sorts
of di;erent things.
Still, a less decentralized currency
under the control of the central bank has
significant appeal. “In a place like China,
they may see an opportunity to catch up
with other countries, to adopt new technology, and maybe even overtake people,”
says Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT’s
Sloan School of Management who previously served as the chief economist for the
International Monetary Fund. Johnson
notes that China is already at the vanguard
of experimentation in mobile payments
and digital money, which has driven economic growth. “There’s a lot of innovation
in the private sector with things like
Alipay,” he says. “And China is also
the biggest user of Bitcoin, as far
as we can determine.”
“These are pimples on
the back of a whale.”
— Investor Alex Pasteur on why
GlaxoSmithKline decided to sell o; its rare-disease unit, which includes a breakthrough
gene therapy called Strimvelis.
“I think by the time we are
reactive in AI regulation, it’s
— Elon Musk, speaking to the National Governors
Association about the risks of artificial intelligence
if it’s left unchecked by regulators.
“I’ll be honest with you, I
have no clients right now.”
— Cathy O’Neil , a mathematician who runs a
consultancy to help businesses identify and
correct biases in the algorithms they use.
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of mosquitoes infected with sterilizing bacteria that Alphabet’s Verily is releasing in
Fresno, California, this year.
Price of an Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset
today, which is half what it cost when it hit the
market in early 2016.
Amount it will cost to clean up the atmosphere
by 2100, according to a study led by climate
researcher James Hansen. That’s about seven
times the global economy today.
Amount that investor Peter Thiel has invested in
a project to resurrect the woolly mammoth using
genetically modified elephant cells .
Number of heartbeats after which a 3-D-printed
artificial heart developed by Swiss researchers
begins to degrade.
an academic journal, and posted
online recently, Yao Qian, deputy
director of the technology department of the People’s Bank of China,
wrote that a digital currency could
be integrated into the existing banking system, with commercial banks
operating digital wallets for the
central bank’s currency. And while
other countries have proposed following Bitcoin’s
architecture and many
of the largest banks in
the world are experimenting with it, the
by the People’s Bank
of China is also different in design.
Yao writes that
use a distributed ledger
in a limited