Ethereum is more important than Bitcoin

On June 6th of 2017, people owned $23.4 billion worth of Ether. That’s the cryptocurrency that powers the Ethereum ecosystem–a system that claims that it will be the “new internet.” The people building this ecosystem aren’t crazy, either. Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase, and Toyota are just a few of the 100+ enterprises betting big that Ethereum is the future of contracts, money, and business management.

Ethereum vs. Bitcoin
Ethereum is a blockchain-based technology like Bitcoin but while Bitcoin is primarily used for transferring money between individuals, Ethereum’s technology includes one huge evolution: Smart Contracts. Smart contracts are basically the combination of agreements between people and automatic flows of money based on the rules of the contract. So, for example, a marketer, a developer, and an investor could all enter into a smart contract that says that each person gets ⅓ of the money created from a new piece of software that the developer builds, the marketer sells, and the investor funds… and all of these distributions will be made automatically… and maybe even outside country-specific financial systems. This dramatic lowering of transaction costs has huge implications for banks, insurance companies, workers, and governments.

Big Companies are Paying Attention
Already, companies like Accenture, JP Morgan, Microsoft, BP, and more than 100 other enterprises have formed the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance which is is connecting these huge companies with startups to find ways of using their technologies at scale. Toyota is even working on using an Ethereum system to manage a fleet of self-driving cars.

How to Learn More 
1: Follow Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum, on Twitter
2: Read a post on Ethereum and the DAO or “decentralized autonomous organization” to get familiar with some of the early successes and obstacles of this area of innovation
3: Learn more about the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance
4: Buy yourself a little bit of Ether at Coinbase — just try it out with as little as $5 to get yourself familiar

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How Blockchain will Revolutionize the World’s Data

🎥 Ludell Jones, Eazl’s Marketing Director, has been publishing some awesome vlogs about the day in the life of a modern marketer. Check out her latest installation here 🎥

Big Blockchain Data
We live in a world where owning data is the way that companies compete but as more industries–from finance to insurance to ecommerce–transition to more secure and scalable blockchain-based systems, things in the world of data will change. Some people are calling this “the industrialization of data.” Read more here.

Facebook’s Data Factory
Facebook’s collection of data makes it one of the most influential organizations in the world and Serbian CS professor Vladan Joler has been leading a massive project to map the massive Facebook data collecting machine. See tons of beautiful maps and original articles about his team’s findings here.

AI-proof Jobs
The new mantra in the labor market is that robots and artificial intelligence are going to take over everything. But for those who don’t want to work in artificial intelligence or robotics, there are some “robot-proof” careers, at least for now. According to some experts, they are: creative folks, healthcare practitioners, child care workers, engineers, teachers, human resources executives, and traditionally blue-collar jobs like carpenters, plumbers, and electricians. Read about Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg’s take here.

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There are Big Opportunities in Craft Products

Big brands like Coke, Budweiser, and FritoLay are seriously vulnerable to locally-made craft competitors. I think that there are big opportunities to take market share and then either hold it or sell a craft brand you’ve built on to big firms for large amounts of money. This Brain Boost is all about these big opportunities for smart, locally-focused, craft entrepreneurs.

The Craft Beer Takeover
In 2006, around 8m barrels of craft beer was shipped in the US. A decade later, in 2016, nearly 24m barrels of craft beer was made–nearly triple in just 10 years. Meanwhile–who was losing out? It was Budweiser. During the same period, Budweiser’s US shipments halved. That’s why AB InBev, Budweiser’s Europe-based parent company, has bought 10 American craft brewers in the last 10 years.What we’re seeing in beer makes sense to replicate in many other product categories: a locally-made, craft production takeover.

Craft Producers Have a Sustainable Advantage: Authenticity
Stanford MBA professor Glenn Carroll recently ran a massive survey which found that what drives sales in advanced economies like those in Europe, Australia, and the US is authenticity. He said “consumers are buying on the basis of their interpretation of the product and its story.” Craft products will always have a better story than industrial products because people want to feel a connection to the creators of a product.

Many Sectors with Opportunities
There are so many vulnerable product categories that it’s basically a menu for local teams ready to capture market share in their cities. Sodas and sparkling water is the fastest growing category and others include beer, liquor, and cider, snack foods, healthy packaged foods, dishware and ceramics and many more.

Our staff here at Eazl would be interested in helping your team take market share with locally-made products. Reach out to us any time at care@eazl.co–let’s talk!

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Three Ways to Build a More Supportive Family and Friend Network

You might like Eazl’s new course on giving great feedback. Here’s a link that will save you $5.

When you’re trying to launch something new, it’s critical to get some early momentum. Many of us hope that our family and friends will be the first people to support our work and if they don’t it can be hard. Recently, I launched a campaign to raise awareness about how we can use new laws to shift more than 1% (the current percentage) of the United States’ $1.4tn of personal savings to local communities (find out more at www.thebigdeal.us).

The campaign is making steady progress but I’ve been disappointed with the support I’ve received from some of the people in my close personal network. Part of that is my fault and in this Brain Boost, I’ve shared 3 recipes that have helped our family network learn to be more supportive of one another. I thought I’d share them with you.

Strategy #1: Build the habit of celebrating small wins. You can find Harvard’s research behind this here.

Strategy #2: Teach your family and friends how to use social media well. Specifically, using hashtags and profile tagging will make their social media support much more effective.

Strategy #3: Build a culture that supports progress. When you’re doing something that will take a while to build, you need people to help you stay focused by reminding you of your progress. You should do the same for them.

Have you had an experience when your family and friends network didn’t support you?

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Is Marijuana Good for Your Brain?

Is Marijuana Good for Your Brain?
New evidence shows that low doses weed might reverse the symptoms of aging in older brains. Exposure to THC might help older brains learn more easily and prevent memory loss. Andreas Zimmer from the University of Bonn in Germany says that after many repetitions of the experiment, his research team is seeing a “very robust and profound effect” of THC reversing the signs of aging in the older brains of mice.

The Experiment
Zimmer’s team gave young, middle-aged, and elderly mice a dose of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, over the course of a month. After a month, the team tested the mice’s ability to perform tasks like finding their way around mazes and recognizing other mice. There were two primary findings to these experiments:

1. Young mice who weren’t given any THC tended to perform better than middle and older-aged mice who also hadn’t gotten THC

2. Middle-aged and older mice’s performance improved significantly when exposed to consistent small doses of THC over the previous month.

Stronger Case for Weed
The University of Vermont notes that in 2016, legal marijuana sales hit $6.7bn in the United States. By 2020, they expect that the market for legal marijuana in the US will grow to $22bn –larger than the amount of money generated by the National Football League. With increasing evidence that there are wide opportunities for the use of marijuana for natural health, the legal marijuana industry might be one of the breakout industries of this generation.

Further reading:
Chronic Low Doses of THC Restores Cognitive Function in Older Mice
Follow Dr. David Nutt, Chair of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs on Twitter
University of Vermont’s Report on the Legal Marijuana Industry in 2016

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Are We Living in a Simulation?

Elon Musk and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman have now publicly said in recent days that there is a strong possibility that we’re all living in a simulation. Are we? Is this the Matrix?

The Case for It
Though this idea was floated as early as the 17th century, it was popularized again in 2003 by Nick Bostrom, the founder of the Future of Humanity institute at Oxford University in the UK. It basically goes like this:
1. In the future, it is inevitable that human civilization will have enormous computing power
2. This computing power will surely be strong enough to run simulations to understand how their ancestors (us) thought, behaved, and evolved.
3. There is a strong chance that humankind will not self-destruct in the future
4. There is a strong chance that if future humans have the power to run simulations, they will run them.
5. Therefore, there is a strong chance that we are now in one of those simulations.

The Case Against It
People like MIT professor of physics Max Tegmark believes that, while there’s a chance that we’re in a simulation, it’s a slim one. His argument against this idea goes like this:
1. The laws of physics show evidence of ever-increasing complexity
2. Those laws would need to be mastered in order to run a simulation good enough for today’s smartest humans not to find flaws in the simulation.
3. We do not observe such flaws in the laws of nature, therefor it is unlikely that we are in a simulation.

Here are some fun links related to this subject
• Follow the Future of Humanity Institute on Twitter 
MIT Prof. Max Tegmark on Twitter
Y Combinator discussion of this topic
• Nick Bostrom’s 2003 paper on why we are likely to be in a simulation

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Facebook is Making You Sick

Facebook promises to deliver social connectivity, a way to promote your business or cause, and a lot more but we think you should beware about investing in the platform as more and more warning bells are signaling that social backlash is building.

Facebook in Bed
According to Facebook, the average Facebook user spends almost an hour on the site every day and recent survey found that the first thing many people do when they wake up is check social media applications like Facebook on their phones.

Comparison Causes Negative Impacts on Well-being
In today’s individualistic world, many of us compare ourselves to other people to gauge how we’re doing in life. Because people tend to display the most positive aspects of their lives on Facebook, users increasingly believe that their own life compares negatively to the people they’re connected with on Facebook. In a new study, which was the largest ever conducted on Facebook use, researchers conclude that the use of Facebook is clearly connected to a negative impact on people’s overall well-being and especially on their mental health. You can find the study here.

Risky Business
Facebook has tried to convince business owners, bands, and brands that it is the place they need to build a following but here at Eazl we’re not so sure. There are growing calls from the health and academic communities for people to quit Facebook altogether and if you’re trying to grow a brand or a community, putting all of your eggs in the Facebook basket is risky business.

Check out some of Ludell’s tips for a technology detox that will help you be more productive.

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Getting Right With Your Finances (Actionable Calendar for May 2017)

getting right with your finances

Your ability to use modern financial tools and systems is a crucial ingredient for a successful and happy life. Credit scores, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, tax-deferred investment accounts, and financial instruments like index funds, mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, and bonds are fundamental to existence in our modern world.

Commit to getting right with your finances this May with this calendar that will keep you on track, taking you from assessing your current financial health to creating a plan for adding more income and determining investment opportunities.

personal finance calendar

Use the calendar (download and/or print) as a supplement to the tools and process we laid out for you in our newest course.

Ignorance is an expensive choice and there are plenty of organizations who would be happy to keep taking advantage of people who can’t navigate these systems. Get out of the weeds and upgrade your financial prowess!

Three Mobile Apps to Help You Manage Debts and Save

It’s personal finance month here at Eazl and we wanted to share some mobile finance apps we love with you. If you want to learn about managing your credit and money, getting started with investing, and buying a house, go to here to save 40% on Eazl’s new financial empowerment class.

• Acorns automatically invests your spare change. Every time you make a purchase with a card connected to the app Acorns rounds it up to the next highest dollar and automatically invests the difference in a portfolio of low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that you select based on your risk preference. When you want to take money out, you withdraw and however much you take out is sold from your portfolio. Acorns costs $1/mo. and is available to people in the US and Australia. Link: https://www.acorns.com

• Digit makes the decision to save for you. It’s an automated savings tool that connects to your checking account, analyzes your income and spending patterns, and then makes micro withdrawals–sometimes as little as $1 or $2–to set aside for you. When you want to access the money, you just text the app and the money comes right back into your checking account. It costs $2.99/mo. and it only works with US banks. Link: https://digit.co

• You Need a Budget (or YNAB) is a budgeting tool that doesn’t let you create budgets around money you don’t have – it forces you to live within your actual income. If you get off track it will help you see what you need to do differently to balance your budget. It also has a built-in “accountability partner” and online classes to help you get started. YNAB costs $50/year and it works everywhere but some direct data import functions only work in North America. Link: https://www.youneedabudget.com

FYI–nobody paid us to share these apps with you!

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How Social Media is Changing Credit Scores

LifePower, the Financial Empowerment Series from Eazl, just launched!☆

The credit system is one of the core systems of our society and it tends to lag behind social changes. There’s a perfect storm of social media platforms, big data, and fintech startups who are changing how we build credit and get credit scores.

Problems with the System:
Credit scoring systems are designed to predict the likelihood of future repayment by a borrower and currently, the credit scoring industry has problems…

Problem 1: There is currently a near-monopoly in the system. Three companies who set the credit scores of everyone in most of the developed world: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian

Problem 2: Older models are becoming outdated. Specifically, more companies are running credit checks for all sorts of reasons and each inquiry lasts for 2 years on your credit score. The problem is that too many inquiries drive down your credit and also, these frequent credit checks are insecure. Last year, Experian lost the SSNs and much more for more than 15m t-mobile customers. Additionally, credit ratings agencies give people a boost for having the same job for 5 years straight. That’s a problem in a world where 40% of the US workforce will be freelancers by 2020.

• Social Credit Scoring:
Today, live in a world where we share tons of personal data on social media platforms. Soon, credit scoring will likely include information from our use of platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn. Instead of analyzing our past behavior to predict our creditworthiness, models will work to build an idea of who we are based on the patterns we reveal about ourselves on social media.

• Real World Examples:
One example of a company leveraging social credit scoring is Germany-based Kreditech, a company that uses more than 20,000 datapoints from social platforms and other sources to determine the creditworthiness of people with no prior credit history. Recently, the World Bank made an investment in Kreditech because social credit scoring is likely to help millions of people get access to the global financial system.

Key takeaway: Your interactions online are already starting to have an impact on your financial health.

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