Iceland's bitcoin problem

Iceland might be a small country, but it's got something of a problem on its hands: within months the country expects to use more energy to mine bitcoin than it does to power homes. The reason people are choosing Iceland? Renewable energy... and it's cold:

Among the main attractions of setting up bitcoin mines at the edge of the Arctic Circle is the natural cooling for computer servers and the competitive prices for Iceland’s abundance of renewable energy from geothermal and hydroelectric power plants.

Yes, it's now getting so expensive to mine Bitcoin as it gets harder to crunch the equations in the final pool. Iceland expects about 100 megawatts of energy use for cryptocurrencies soon, which is more than 340,000 homes would use.

Companies are fighting to build datacenters as quickly as possible in remote places, buying up energy in bulk and using the cold Icelandic air to directly cool their servers. 

Ironically, Iceland is also a country which was a symbol of a financial bubble just a decade ago when its banks grew to ten times the size of its own economy. 

​Google brings interaction to email

As someone who sends a lot of email, I didn't really expect this to ever happen: Google is bringing its AMP project to email, which will let developers create experiences for interaction right inside your inbox soon.

This new technology, if it works as promised, will allow email in the future to actually be capable of updating itself — and for the first time in memory will offer an improvement to a protocol that's been stagnant for decades.

Instead of showing out of date information, like flight times or an old post, email will be able to update as soon as you open it with the latest information. There's also an interaction component, which will allow basic tasks like filling in forms, booking appointment and so on. 

This is a promising development, however it'll require developer adoption to work. AMP email won't show up unless the email application being used supports it — luckily, Google backs AMP, which means it'll be coming to Gmail in a few months' time.

Some people are arguing that this is a terrible idea — because the inbox is a 'sacred' place where nobody owns the way we manage our own email and its limitations are a part of the reason it's still great: 

But if these everyday tasks take place inside Gmail, Google exerts control over the intimate details, defining what other companies can and can’t do inside the email system — rather than using the natural limitations of email, which I hasten to reiterate are a feature, not a bug.

I don't disagree, but I will say that if Google ensures AMP can be implemented in other clients, I don't really see the issue outside of whether or not this is a trojan horse for advertising. 

It's true that this may invite dynamic advertising into the inbox, given Google's motivation there, but I'm optimistic the opportunity unlocked by the protocol will revive interest in email again (I have some ideas for implementing things myself for Charged). 

Email might just get interesting again, soon. Richer email experiences would mean less stale content in our inboxes, and a slightly better chance at getting to Inbox Zero. 

Tab Dump

Uber's revenue is growing
As Uber gets ready for IPO, some numbers give us interesting insight into the state of the company: $7.5 billion in sales, and a $4.5 billion loss. The scale, and cash flow, of this company even at this phase is pretty incredible — Uber still has $6 billion in the bank.

UK government tests extremism blocking tool
Er, wow: the UK government spent £600,000 developing a tool that automatically detects extremist content. The software works with up to 94% of IS uploads, but requires manual intervention if it isn't sure. 

It's also mulling forcing technology companies to use it, raising a question of how far a government can push for something to be programmatically censored past here. We can all agree that blocking such content as intended by this tool is interesting, but I can only imagine it being a convenient way to censor other forms of speech once implemented. Thanks for the tip, Adam — share your thoughts in the Discuss thread here.

What to do when laptops take over your cafe?
Amazing NYT piece about the problem of balancing cafe culture with laptop people. Here in Amsterdam, there's a huge trend of banning laptops in cafes — but the piece argues that strategy doesn't work.

Google's R&D team offers up 'smart reply' tools
Those automatically generated replies from Google's Inbox app might come to third party tools, too. Developers will be able to work with the tools to offer auto-generated replies to Android users (and maybe even iOS soon) to make life a little easier. I use the Allo messaging app after switching to Android, and its smart replies are disturbingly good — so I'm totally into this.