INFORMATION, OPINION, Uncategorized

Des brosseurs cherchent des bosseurs pour le climat

A2-95437843.jpgDes milliers d’élèves belges ont décidé de sécher les cours tous les jeudis jusqu’à obtenir une réponse ambitieuse des dirigeants politiques dans la lutte contre le changement climatique. À quoi sert d’aller à l’école si la planète est détruite et que notre avenir est en péril?

Les scientifiques nous donnent jusqu’à 2030 pour que, par le biais de mesures drastiques, le réchauffement ne dépasse pas 1,5°C. Malgré ces multiples appels, malgré les changements irréversibles, malgré les catastrophes environnementales et humaines, les politiciens tardent à imposer les mesures nécessaires. Le 2 décembre, 75.000 personnes ont parcouru les rues de Bruxelles. Deux jours plus tard, la Belgique a voté contre la directive sur l’efficacité énergétique. Les quatre ministres de l’énergie trouvent que “ce n’est pas réalisable d’une manière efficace au niveau des coûts”. Le monde adulte manque à ses devoirs. Heureusement, la jeune génération ne s’en contente pas. Ils secouent le prunier et placent devant les adultes leur écrasante responsabilité.

Greta Thunberg, une Suédoise de 15 ans, une activiste est l’inspiration des marches. Elle prouve que la vérité vient de la bouche d’un enfant. “Beaucoup disent que la Suède n’est qu’un petit pays et que ce que nous faisons importe peu. Mais j’ai appris que nous ne sommes jamais trop petits pour faire une différence ». ” Vous ne parlez de ‘croissance économique verte’ que parce que vous avez peur de devenir impopulaire. Vous ne parlez que de progrès avec les mêmes mauvaises idées que celles qui ont provoqué ce gâchis. Vous n’êtes pas assez mâture pour dire la vérité telle qu’elle est. Vous laissez ce fardeau aux enfants. ” À présent, il est temps d’agir. Il n’y a que de cette façon que nous pourrons parler “d’espoir pour l’avenir”.

De nombreux politiciens et de nombreuses directions préfèrent qu’il n’y ait pas de grèves. Les jeunes ont répondu que les dirigeants ne les écouteraient jamais s’ils restaient bien gentiment dans les clous. Greta Thunberg serait-elle connue si elle menait son action dans la classe, pendant la leçon ? Parfois, la désobéissance citoyenne est nécessaire.  Parfois, pour que quelque chose soit fait, nous devons enfreindre un peu les règles. « Notre seul moyen de faire pression est de ne pas aller en classe, à la manière d’un travailleur qui décide de faire grève”

Les enseignants ne veulent-ils pas former des élèves actifs, impliqués et engagés? Que tout un nombre d’élèves soit prêt à sécher les cours, à manifester ensemble et en supporter les sanctions prouve surtout qu’ils ont réussi.

Ces marches me semblent être une circonstance exceptionnelle d’un intérêt collectif exceptionnel, qui justifie des actions exceptionnelles.

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INFORMATION, SCIENCE, Uncategorized

STRIKES ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old Swedish activist working to put an end to global warming and climate change. She is an inspiration for millions of teens all around the globe. This is because in August 2018, she became the first kid to start a school strike for climate outside the Swedish parliament building. These demonstrations have meanwhile taken place in more than 270 cities in countries likes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Japan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Although these strikes are seen as something positive, some schools are sceptical about them. I have had the privilege to interview Lara Greiff, the European School of Alicante pupil representative, about the topic.

Why are you in favour of the strikes?

lara

I am in favour of the strikes because I think it is an effective way for teenagers to really show how unhappy and how angry they are about climate change. As kids there is not much that we can do. We cannot really donate any money; we are limited by the fact we live with our parents. I cannot go vegan because my mum will not let me, but striking and protesting is something we can do regardless of age and I think it is a really empowering tool for teenagers like us.

How would you encourage more pupils to participate in the strikes?

I think it is really important for the school to use statistics and show people what is happening. It is so scary to look at the statistics to be snapped into action! And I think initiatives like this are really important. Knowing how the world can change within our own lifespan and knowing what is happening. With these two steps, we could encourage people to participate more!

What can we do to make the school more sustainable?

mundo verde

There are a lot of ways which can make the school more sustainable – just the other day we were talking about making Ecosia the default search engine for the school computers. For every search that you do with the Ecosia engine, the company will plant trees in places where the trees were cut down. So, for example, if the school made Ecosia their default search engine, imagine how much more we could contribute to that. Other measures that I propose are using recycled paper when we have to print out stuff, or try not to waste food in the canteen.

INFORMATION, Uncategorized

ENTREVISTA AL DIRECTOR ADJUNTO DE SECUNDARIA, SR. JOSÉ LUIS HERNÁNDEZ

José Luis

 

 

Salome Klopfer y Lorena Schindler (S6 dea)

Desde septiembre de 2018 nuestra escuela tiene un nuevo director adjunto, José Luis Hernández. Para que los alumnos, profesores y padres puedan conocerlo mejor, la revista Eurotimes ha decidido hacerle algunas preguntas:

EuroTimes: Para empezar, ¿Qué es lo que le hizo querer trabajar con niños? 

J.L. Hernández: Fue cuestión de tradición y educación familiar-personal. Provengo de una familia numerosa, siempre estaba rodeado de gente. Cuando fui más mayor también me gustaba bastante enseñar, a mis compañeros, hermanos, … Al final era casi inevitable que acabase como un maestro, ya que en mi familia numerosa no había mucho dinero en casa y tenía que hacer una carrera corta, el magisterio duraba 3 años, así que podía ponerme a trabajar rápidamente.

EuroTimes: Antes de venir a nuestra escuela, ¿qué hacía, dónde estaba?

J.L. Hernández: Empecé como maestro de primaria, di clase de educación infantil y primaria. Después he sido profesor de secundaria en la especialidad llamada psicología y pedagogía en el departamento de orientación. Ayudaba con los trabajos de orientación personal, académica y profesional para alumnos y profesores.

Siempre he tenido un puesto de responsabilidad: secretario, jefe de estudios y director en primaria y secundaria. Siempre he tenido un trabajo de orientación, era el único consejero que también era orientador en el sistema español.

EuroTimes: ¿Y cómo ha llegado a trabajar en nuestra escuela europea? 

J.L. Hernández: Trabajé en Madrid y allí intenté copiar el estilo/ modelo de las escuelas europeas a la española. Provoqué que se hiciese una sección francófona, que en España es muy inusual, ya que casi todos quieren ser bilingües en inglés.  Una vez en marcha, se desarrolló durante 8 años. Después de eso quería conocer profundamente el sistema de las escuelas europeas. Me presenté y vine aquí a Alicante y mi sueño se hizo realidad en septiembre 2012.

EuroTimes: ¿Según usted, cuáles son las diferencias entre las escuelas europeas y españolas? 

J.L. Hernández:  Muchas. El perfil del alumnado mayoritariamente proviene de familias que pertenecen a un organismo internacional y que por tanto tienen unas características muy singulares. Muchas son  parejas mixtas de varias nacionalidades, lo que hace que los alumnos, ya de nacimiento, tengan a veces dos o tres lenguas. La del padre, de la madre y la del país, que a veces no son las mismas y entonces esa singularidad marca las escuelas europeas.

El propio sistema, lo que son las asignaturas, la composición de primaria y secundaria, todo es diferente; no tiene nada que ver con el sistema español, aunque afortunadamente las escuelas europeas tienen la virtualidad de que sirven para todos los sistemas.

Dicho de otro modo, cualquier alumno que quiera salir del sistema de las escuelas europeas, puede ir a un sistema nacional, el que sea, de Europa y es acogido inmediatamente en el curso al que corresponde con el nivel que le corresponde. Mientras que al revés, a veces tenemos más dificultades. Por ejemplo, cuando alguien viene de un sistema nacional en séptimo, no se puede incorporar. Hay que incorporarse obligatoriamente en sexto, para tener como mínimo dos años y luego, como sabéis, si te incorporas en sexto, tienes que tener obligatoriamente tres lenguas: tu primera lengua y la primera y segunda lengua extranjera (L2 y L3).”

EuroTimes: ¿Para usted, qué es lo mejor de su profesión? 

J.L. Hernández: El trato con la gente. Desde mi punto de vista es lo que más me interesa y entusiasma. En concreto, de la educación siempre disfruto muchísimo cuando después de unos años nos venís a ver y nos contáis los recuerdos que os habéis llevado. Eso es lo más bonito que puede pasar. Ya con mi edad he tenido ocasión de tener a hijos de antiguos alumnos de nuevo en la escuela e incluso he tenido a un alumno como compañero de trabajo. Eso te da mucha alegría. Todo lo que es este sentimiento que podemos contribuir a mejorar un poquito las cosas o hacer que la gente pueda cumplir sus sueños, me encanta.

EuroTimes: ¿Tiene objetivos que quiere lograr aquí? 

 J.L. Hernández: El sistema europeo me parece muy bueno cómo es, pero creo que siempre podemos ir añadiendo cosas para mejorar. Por ejemplo, me gustaría mejorar, si fuese posible, el tema de conciencia de cuidado y conservación del medio ambiente. Es una de mis preocupaciones, por eso, no sé si habéis notado, al principio de curso he limitado el uso de los papeles, de las copias y las circulares que se mandaron en papel. Con el uso de los dispositivos electrónicos, se pueden salvar muchos árboles. En fin, avanzar en la idea del reciclado es una de mis tareas prioritarias. Otra también fundamental es el tener una buena comunicación con los alumnos, las familias, los profesores. Siempre voy a estar a vuestra disposición. Tengo una hora a la semana en la que profesores, padres y alumnos puedan hablar conmigo, siempre que me envíen un correo electrónico antes. También me gustaría seguir participando en todos los proyectos que sean de colaboración con otras escuelas europeas y participación del alumnado. Veo que eso enriquece mucho la vida de la escuela.

EuroTimes: Para acabar, ¿tiene algo que decir a los alumnos?  

J.L. Hernández: Hay que buscar la felicidad y esa se encuentra haciendo lo que a uno le gusta. Aunque a veces nos digan que algo es muy difícil, que no se puede conseguir, ¡olvídate!

Con trabajo y esfuerzo ya verás si es imposible o no.  Animaos a trabajar mucho o a colaborar mucho, pero siempre haciendo lo que más os guste.  No hay que fijarse en obtener mucho dinero, sino en lo que nos hace verdaderamente felices.”

Agradecemos al Señor Hernández sus respuestas y su disponibilidad.

INFORMATION

Being a Year 7 – Applying to University

In every 7th year’s lpanic_cartoonife, there comes a time when a lifechanging decision must be made (insert dramatic music). Yes, the big questions, what to study? Where to study? Take a gap year? Not pursue secondary education? Become a burlesque queen? Work at McDonalds for the rest of your life? The options are endless. The world is your oyster. These are the questions racing through every 7th year’s mind from the very first day of school in September, when teachers are telling you “this year will determine your future”. No pressure. None at all. Everything is good.

Year 7 is an emotional rollercoaster: the cake sales, the events, the planning for the future, the essay deadlines and the exams (aka death). From writing your personal statement to sending off your application to receiving offers and making a final decision while trying to juggle your social and study life in perfect balance, there is a lot of stress involved. There are so many options and the whole process can be overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be exciting and fun!

There is always that one friend who has known exactly what they would do after finishing high school and whenever someone asked them, they would answer immediately without a single doubt, “I’m going to study chemical engineering”, “I’m going to study history of art” or “I’m going to study neuroscience”. Then there’s the rest of us, who are completely clueless and have no idea what to do. Don’t fret, you are not alone!

Figure it out! 

Time to get to work! Instead of watching the next episode on Netflix – I know that might be tempting –  or starting another game of Fortnite, step away from the distractions and start thinking about your future! Get out a small notebook or a piece of paper and a pen and make a list of the three subjects in school that don’t completely make you want to sleep or poke your eyes out. Start from there, what possible degrees have to do with those subjects?

My next tip is to go and ask your best friend, the internet, what course options are available (you will be surprised at what you find, there is a whole course about the Harry Potter books in the UK in case you are interested in that). Take some time to browse university websites and have a look at their programs, maybe something will catch your attention. Note down any courses and universities that seem interesting to you for future reference.

The way you go about this also depends on what your priorities are, is it the quality of the education? Is it being able to go to the beach in between lectures? Is it being able to take nice strolls in a park? Or is it having awesome bars and clubs to party at when you aren’t studying? Getting your priorities straight can help you decide which country/city you want to study in, which can narrow down your options and bring you closer to the answer.

Applying to university  

Depending on which countries you want to apply to, you will have to go through different processes. I’m most familiar with the UCAS process for the UK as it is the one I have done. For UCAS, you start off by making an account on the website and filling in all the details as explained on the paper given to you by your counsellor. You will have to choose a maximum of 5 courses to apply to, you can also apply for different courses at the same university.

Then comes the fun part. Selling yourself! You write your personal statement where you try to convince the reader that you are perfect for the course in under 4,000 characters. It’s important to show your enthusiasm, mention any work experience you may have had in the field and mention if you have been to MUN or MEC meetings. Explain your passion for your subject, making sure to use concise language. Before you send in your statement, let others proofread it and give you advice and let your counsellor have one final look at it before you send it off. Your counsellor will have to write you a letter of recommendation in which they give a brief overview of you saying what a good student you are! Make sure not to sound arrogant and most importantly, don’t lie, you might be asked to attend an interview where you will have to go into detail about the achievements mentioned on your statement.

Once this is all done, you just sit and wait. Try not to pull your hair out. Within a couple of weeks, you will start receiving offers, but don’t worry if you don’t because the universities have until May to reply, so don’t stress about it. The offers you will receive are most likely going to be ‘conditional’ offers, and they will ask you to obtain certain marks in your Baccalaureate.

When you have heard back from all your universities you pick a first choice, which is the university you want to go to and you also pick a backup (one that usually asks for lower grades in case the BAC doesn’t go as planned). Then you will do your BAC in June and when results come in, you send them to your first choice and hopefully you will have achieved the required grades.

Other popular countries/systems for university 

CAO (Ireland)

Selectividad (Spain)

Germany

Netherlands

Off you go! 

Time in year 7 passes surprisingly fast. One minute you’re on your first day of school, greeting friends and talking about the summer, the next it’s the PREBAC and the day after it’s the BAC. After the BAC, you will feel like a whole load was lifted from your shoulders, you will be so happy and relieved that it’s over. But you will also start to get this weird feeling in your stomach, thinking about leaving your friends and your family behind. Before you know it, you will be saying goodbye to everyone and you will be off to university, to start a new chapter in your life…

INFORMATION, OPINION, Uncategorized

Interview with a graduate from the European School of Alicante

cataMy sister Catalina Schlienger (19) attended the European School of Alicante until 2017 and was brave enough to say goodbye to the sunny weather and sandy beaches to live in Maastricht (Netherlands).

Are you happy with the decision you’ve made moving to Maastricht?

Yes, I am. I don’t know if I would have been happier somewhere else, so I can’t really compare it but I’m glad that I ended up in Maastricht.

Why did you actually decide to study in Maastricht? 

I really liked the international vibe of the town and the huge number of courses that my faculty has to offer. I needed something that would constantly catch my attention, and I have found this at the University College Maastricht. I had also applied to Trinity College Dublin but my maths grade wasn’t sufficient enough. In the end, I’m very happy I didn’t get accepted because I love Maastricht too much.

What are you studying right now?

The course that I am doing is called “Liberal Arts and Sciences” and within that I am studying “Social Sciences”. It takes (if everything goes well, of course) three years and by the end I’ll have a “Bachelor of Arts”.

If you could turn back time, would you choose different subjects for Year 6/7?

I don’t regret the choices that I made back then, because even though they might not have been ideal, I still learned something from it. But now, in hindsight, I would have probably continued with Spanish and maybe even History 4 (Ms Dodds would be proud…), instead of taking Physics 4, which in the end I dropped out of in my last year. Also, maybe I should have taken Maths 3 instead of Maths 5, but I don’t know if that’s just me being lazy…

Do you miss school sometimes?

I actually do at times. Looking back now, there were so many things that you don’t appreciate enough. School was also easy in a weird kind of way, while university is so much more complex at times. School is very guided compared to university and I always knew my way around, who to ask when having questions, what to expect,…

What kind of difference is there between living alone and at home? And what are the good things about it?

Obviously the freedom that comes with living by yourself is great. You’re very free to decide what to do with your money, and no one is really there to tell you how or when to do things. With that freedom also comes a lot of responsibility, which in my opinion is the main difference: there are far more things that I have to do (apart from university work), which, if I am honest, I underestimated a bit.

Was it easy for you to settle down in Maastricht? Such as social life?

Maastricht is a great student city, not too big, not too small and there’s always an event going on somewhere (sometimes even too many). So, in that respect it was very easy to settle down. My faculty is also rather small, and I felt welcomed from the beginning and found it pretty easy to integrate.

Looking back, do you think the school you’ve been at is a good school?

I’m very glad that I got to experience the European School system, especially the way I got taught and I definitely feel very privileged to have been at a school where they put so much emphasis on languages and the way they teach them. The international aspect and being able to take part in so many extra-curricular activities is also something that I always appreciated a lot. So yes, I would say I was at a “good” school, for what I needed and wanted to get out of secondary education.

Is there anything you really miss about your hometown which you have to do without in Maastricht?

This sounds a bit cliché, but the CLIMATE AND THE FOOD. Life is just so much easier when it’s warm and the sun is shining (although Maastricht is very beautiful on a cold sunny winter day) and the freshness and taste of Spanish food is just something that I haven’t found anywhere else… Also, I never appreciated enough how cheap Alicante is.

Is there anything you could advise other S6 or S7 students, so they don’t make the same mistakes you might have made?

I feel like I’m not really able to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do or choose, but they should definitely pursue their interests. Whatever they end up doing, they should ask themselves if they can see themselves doing this for the next three or four years and enjoying it of course. And don’t stress or feel pressured (I know that’s easier said than done) and really try to figure out what you want. And if everything goes wrong, do not worry: there’s always a plan B and C and D.

 

INFORMATION

Elektroschrott

Bild zum Artikel ElektroschrottSeitdem es Elektrogeräte gibt, gibt es auch Elektromüll, und er nimmt stetig zu. Leute besitzen ein Handy und fünf Monate später erscheint ein neues auf dem Markt. Dann kaufen sie es und entsorgen das alte, obwohl es noch voll funktionstüchtig ist. Doch was passiert mit dem alten Handy?

Bloß 10% der zu entsorgenden Elektrogeräte landen auf dem Recyclinghof, und der Rest kommt auf Mülldeponien, leider meistens in Entwicklungsländer. Der Müll folgt einem bestimmten Weg. Wenn zum Beispiel dein Kühlschrank kaputt ist, kommt vielleicht eine Firma und holt ihn ab. Sie lagern ihn auf einen Müllhof mit anderen Kühlschränken.

Reporter haben einen Müllhof besucht. Dort wurde ihnen berichtet, dass fast jede Nacht dort eingebrochen wird, oder dass manchmal die Mitarbeiter die Geräte an illegale Händler verkaufen. Nehmen wir an, sie nehmen euren Kühlschrank mit. Was passiert eigentlich mit ihm? Die Reporter haben einen Radar an den Kühlschrank befestigt, um seine Position zu verfolgen. Der Kühlschrank befindet sich nun auf einem Lagerplatz von einem Schrotthändler. Sie befragen ihn. Er behauptet, er habe schon seit langer Zeit keine Waren mehr ins Ausland geschickt, doch da stimmt etwas nicht. Sie verfolgen weiter und es stellt sich heraus, dass der Kühlschrank doch zum Hafen kommt. Der „ehemalige“ Händler hat gelogen. Der Radar beweist es ihnen, und sie finden heraus, dass das Gerät in Agbogbloshie landet.

Agbogbloshie ist ein Slum in Accra, die Hauptstadt von Ghana, und dazu noch die größte Elektromülldeponie von Afrika. Die Müllhalde ist 16 km² groß und dort wohnen mindestens 40.000 Menschen. Früher war es eine Lagune, wo es Fische und grünes Gras gab. Viele Menschen damals lebten von den Fischen, doch derzeit ernähren sie sich von dem wenigen Geld, das sie verdienen, wenn sie die Rohstoffe aus dem Elektromüll gewinnen und dann verkaufen. Doch um diese zu gewinnen, muss man das, was außen herum ist, verbrennen, also Plastik oder andere Metalle. So gelangen sehr viele Schadstoffe in die Luft, was dazu führt, dass viele Kinder, die dort gearbeitet haben, schon mit unter dreißig Jahren an Krebs sterben.

In ihren Ermittlungen finden Reporter heraus, dass dort das Gerät an lokale Händler weiterverkauft und auseinandergenommen wird, um die Rohstoffe daraus zu gewinnen, um dann schließlich verkauft zu werden. Doch der verfolgte Kühlschrank ist kein Einzelfall, sondern es fällt eine illegale Elektroschrottmenge von ungefähr dreißig Millionen Tonnen im Jahr an.

Was kann man also tun, um Elektroschrott zu reduzieren?

Zum Beispiel könnte man sich genauer überlegen, ob man Geräte, die man reparieren kann, wirklich schon durch ein anderes Nachfolgemodell ersetzen möchte.

Ein Artikel von Mira Graul / S3 FR

 

INFORMATION, SCIENCE

Bitcoin and Blockchain: building a better future

blockchain

Ever since the financial industry crashed in 2008, distrust and resentment towards banks, multinational companies, and government institutions have been rising across the globe. These establishments are seen by many as incredibly powerful and even, to some extent, corrupt. The reason for their ever-growing influence over many industries is the result of a lack of a better option than using their services for trade. But what if there was a way to cut out these middlemen and create a new system in which they weren’t necessary? What if, instead of having to rely on multinational banks or companies as trade intermediates, one could use a system which had trust built into it and would provide the same services but more efficiently and at a cheaper cost? What if there was a way to disrupt these extremely powerful industries? Well, now there is, and it’s in the form of a system called the Blockchain.

The main application of blockchain in today’s society is for cryptocurrencies – the most well-known of these being Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). In 2008, right after Wall Street crashed and public trust for the American Federal Reserve was at an all-time low, a mysterious document called the white paper was released. It was written by an anonymous person, or group of people, who called themselves Satoshi Nakamoto, and in it the ideas for a new financial system which was to be built on the blockchain were discussed.

So, what is the blockchain and how does it work?

In simple terms, blockchain is a continuously updated record of who holds what. This record is called a ledger, and it is open to everyone and can be viewed by anyone who wishes to do so. This means that anyone can see when an asset or a service is transferred onto blockchain. It uses cryptography – a very advanced mathematical equation – to guarantee security. It operates through a decentralized peer-to-peer  system, which works through millions of computers all across the world rather than through one central authority. These computers that allow blockchain to function are called miners, and they do so through competing to solve difficult mathematical problems related to how the transactions should be put together. The solutions to these problems, which are called blocks, hold 10 minutes’ worth of transactions in them, and when the computers have figured out how to put them together, the problem is solved and a block is created. This block is thereafter put into a chain together with all the other blocks that have ever been created, hence the name. To incentivise people to use their computers as miners, whenever a new block is created, the miners are rewarded using cryptocurrency. For a transaction to go through, it must be verified by the network of miners, so if a block has been tampered with, it is rejected by the rest of the system. Due to this and the fact that all the blocks are connected, to alter the blockchain, one would need to alter all the blocks that have ever been created (which, depending on the blockchain, can be more than 100,000 blocks), not to mention every computer which has ever played a part in creating a block, keeping mind that these are all using the highest level of cryptography. Simply put: it’s practically impossible to hack.

As mentioned, Bitcoin was the first system as well as the first cryptocurrency to ever use the blockchain. So what are some of its features, and what are the reasons behind the massive interest it is generating from both investors and individuals? Bitcoin is a currency unlike any other, not only because it is solely virtual but also because it isn’t regulated through a Central Bank (and in turn the government), but rather through the blockchain (in other words, by the users of it). As previously explained, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are created through the miners putting together transactions and creating blocks, guaranteeing a constant creation of new Bitcoin. Therefore, the more Bitcoin traded, the more blocks will be created by the miners and the more of it will be produced. Furthermore, it is very similar to gold in the sense that there is a limited supply of it – 21 million BTC. However, Bitcoin can be divided into smaller and smaller units to facilitate the needs of the Economy.

To trade Bitcoin, one must create a wallet – an address which only you have access to. Through this wallet and the advanced cryptography used in the system, the user is ensured that the Bitcoin they send reach the intended person and that the money they are expecting to obtain reaches them as well.

So, what is it that is so exciting about these different technologies, and why is there so much media coverage about Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and the blockchain?

Well, when it comes to Bitcoin, many people are looking to it as it provides a new form of currency which is decentralised and regulated by its users rather than through a centralised, powerful bank. This aspect is key, as it builds trust into the system and ensures that people have the right to control their own money, which they don’t when using a centralised currency. Nevertheless, being decentralised has its downsides: Bitcoin is currently facing scaling issues regarding how many transactions can be made on its blockchain per second. Nevertheless, the virtual currency is gaining momentum and is at time of writing worth 9000€ (meaning 1 BTC = 9000), which is incredible considering that it was only valued at 3000 in September 2017. However, one could say that it’s hit somewhat of a rough patch seeing as it was valued 16400  in December 2017. It needs to be said that the cryptocurrency market is rather unstable and is prone to huge short-term price changes, with price changes of thousands of euros being commonplace.

Moreover, Bitcoin is easy to join. Setting up a wallet is simple and only takes a few days (depending on which website you use) and trading is quite straightforward, with it generally taking less than an hour to send Bitcoin across the world. Bitcoin can also be used as a trustworthy alternative as a store of value for people living in crisis countries, such as Venezuela, which is affected by hyperinflation and where people cannot rely on the national currency nor the Central Bank. In spite of what you may think due to how much coverage it receives, Bitcoin isn’t the only cryptocurrency out there. In fact, there are over 1,000 of them, with the largest being Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin. They all have different attributes and uses, but they use the same technology (blockchain) as the basis for their currencies.

While cryptocurrencies are an exciting technology which undoubtedly will have a large effect on the financial industry and our global society in the coming decades, its uses and applications are far more limited than its underlying system: the blockchain. As Don Tapscott, a Canadian business executive who is one of the people at the forefront in the industry, explained in his TED talk, our current internet is the “internet of information”, in which copies of originals are shared (for example when sending a PowerPoint or uploading a video to YouTube). However, this doesn’t work well with assets: one cannot send a copy of 10€ and still have that same 10€ as an original (something called the double-spend problem). The inability to solve this issue through the internet of information is what has been keeping us reliant on middlemen such as banks to transfer money and other assets. These intermediaries’ services are expensive to use and, since they are centralised, they are prone to hacks and other attacks. Moreover, looking at banks, transactions are only possible if the individuals have enough money to create a bank account, which already restricts a huge part of the global population from taking part in the financial system as they may not have the money to do so. Other than being slow and taking large percentages of the transferred money, they also capture our data, which can undermine our privacy. Furthermore, as we are reliant on them to transfer value, they don’t have to face any heavy repercussions if they don’t treat their customers fairly. As Tapscott put it, these intermediaries have “appropriated the largesse of the digital age asymmetrically”, essentially meaning that they have been able to profit and benefit from the internet of information while others haven’t due to the institutions in place – something he claims can be seen through growing social inequalities.

So, what can we do so that we all can reap the benefits of the internet? How can we transfer value in other ways than through these influential institutions? This is where the blockchain comes in. As previously mentioned, the blockchain cannot only be used to transfer value in the form of money. Anything of value can be transacted securely on it, whether that be music, art, or shares. It ensures fair compensation for creators of intellectual property because the system can prove that they are the creators of it, and it cuts out the middle men. This means that e.g. music artists will be able to receive all or most of the money from the music they sell on the system, instead of big label companies taking sometimes more than 90% of their revenue. Because the blockchain is auditable and holds a truth which is verified by its network, it cannot be manipulated in favor of any group or individual who claims to own an asset or product which they don’t. In other words, it holds an immutable truth. For example, if someone claims something of yours, the system is able to prove that you are the rightful owner of that possession or asset and no one would be able to say otherwise, because the blockchain is incorruptible. That’s the beauty of it. This would, for example, enable people in poorer nations or dictatorships to have the security of knowing that neither the state nor powerful companies can illegally seize their land or any other valuable belonging of theirs as they have proof that it is theirs.

So why should you care about all this? Although there is no telling what blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies hold for us in the future, it is a new system in which power and wealth creation is democratised and is more accessible for the global population, without excluding minorities. It holds vast promises and is likely to have a big, if not a bigger impact on our lives than the internet did (in fact, some are comparing Blockchain’s position today to the internet’s position in 1993 when it was becoming adapted by more and more people). However, as we know, in the early 90’s no one would have predicted such advanced and powerful systems as Google, Amazon, or Alibaba to come about using only the internet. In the same way, we have very little clue of how the blockchain will turn out and what it will be used for, but in the coming years we will undoubtedly be seeing immense innovation and new ideas within this field which may be as impactful as the internet of information.

We don’t know what applications the blockchain has, or what effects cryptocurrencies will have on our economies or day-to-day lives. We are still in the “Wild West” of this technological breakthrough and we do not yet know what lies ahead of us. What we do know, however, is that things are changing in a similar way they did in the 90s, and that it will hopefully, once again, be for the better.

 

Credits to Vidae Önnerfors for the help!

Thomas Humphreys, 7EN