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The Development of Artificial Intelligence in the People's Republic of China – Modern Diplomacy

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In this article, we will examine one by one the points that do not yet enable studies and developments on artificial intelligence in the People’s Republic of China to rise to 100% of the international advanced level.
I) Economic benefits come first: lack of vision
Many AI companies and some local governments lack vision and pursue short-term economic benefits, hoping to achieve clear economic returns within one-two or two-three years. This results in a large number of AI start-ups eager for quick success, albeit with lack of confidence and weak development.
Economic benefits must be pursued, but high-tech sectors or the sectors that use AI technology to promote the transformation and upgrading of other sectors and their development, should follow specific laws, as well as require a constitutive process and a certain level of success, and not a premature search for immediate profits.
II) The general level of artificial intelligence must be improved as a matter of urgency
Despite the late start of national AI and the lack of participation in the development of corresponding international AI technologies, patents and standards, in China many scientific research institutes and enterprises are participating in research and technology development and, in some areas, are basically at the same level or even leading compared to foreign countries. However, the overall capacity and level of AI in China are far from the international level and there is still a significant gap between the general level of basic AI research and the advanced level. There is still a long way to go in order to reach this level as a whole and it will take time.
III) The national decision-making process still needs to be put in place
Although China has announced a number of development plans related to artificial intelligence, such as the Intelligent Manufacturing 2025, the Robot Industry Development Plan (2016-2020) and the Three-Year Plan for implementing the Action for Artificial Intelligence on the Internet, etc., no national strategy for the global development of AI has been developed yet. The above-mentioned programme plans must also turn policy plans into targeted actions and into visible benefits.
IV) State financial support must be further improved.
As mentioned in previous articles, China has supported AI research and related science and technology projects in many national scientific research and technology development plans, and support is increasing. However, compared to AI on the Internet, as well as intelligent manufacturing and other projects, in response to the investment of some developed countries in Europe and the United States of America, China’s financial support for AI scientific research and industrial development is far from sufficient.
Moreover, compared to other projects, AI needs to analyse more problems, and involve a wider range of players – hence everything becomes harder and requires greater national support.
V) The allocation of funds for scientific research is not sufficiently fair and equitable
From time to time the allocation of funds for scientific research has long been controversial. Firstly, the limited funds have not been used for the most important and urgent projects, but have been evenly distributed – thus resulting “too equal” – between some projects that did not urgently need funds and those that, on the contrary, needed key support. Secondly, some members of the “expert group” allocating funds to projects use their power for personal gain, and sometimes even collude with each other to induce certain funding. For a while, this had become an unwritten rule. Thirdly, the evaluation and use of funds for scientific research lack effective supervision, and these problems also exist in the field of AI.
VI) Citizens are concerned about the AI development
Since AI has been conceived as a component of the civil society, its social impact has attracted widespread attention among people. Some people are concerned about the emergence and development of AI (software) and intelligent robots (hardware supported by said software), fearing that AI and intelligent machines will one day threaten the survival and development of human beings. The greatest scientist who referred to this danger was Stephen Hawking (1942-2018). As one of the world’s most influential physicists, he was concerned that the use of AI technology to create machines that could think independently would eventually threaten the survival of humanity. Hawking stated: “The full development of artificial intelligence may lead to the extinction of human beings”. The echo of his views has been grasped by many citizens, scientists and technicians. There is obviously another viewpoint of society: it is believed that although AI has made great progress after sixty years of development, the general level of AI in the near future will never be such as to surpass human intelligence. We add, however, that since progress is constant on a geometric scale, there will always be a point of no return. The question is the following: will we be able to control, but mainly to define this point of no return and block it at “-x from”?
Nevertheless, some people – in our opinion, in a reckless and senseless manner – argue that we must instead attach great importance to the impact of AI itself on human society, and not waste time on researching and formulating countermeasures – the “-x from” – to quell public concerns and ensure human security.
VII) A race can lead to wild competition
Some historians and scientists believe that there is a sort of traditional culture in Chinese society, i.e. a phenomenon that flourishes everywhere and expresses in the same way in many parts of the country. They add that these expressions are elaborate, refined and sophisticated, but they cannot guarantee the quality of the product, thus causing a huge waste of resources and manpower, and ultimately bring neither economic nor social benefits. This was the case in the past for large-scale steel production – the failure of the Great Leap Forward of 1958-1961 – as well as for large-scale jet aircraft technology and thyristor devices (the Silicon Controlled Rectifier, which is a component that, from an electrical viewpoint, is almost equivalent to the diode, with the only difference that direct conduction occurs only after applying an appropriate trigger signal on a third terminal called gate), and in the current automotive production, industrial robot parks and drone development. At present, there is not only overcapacity in the automotive sector, but most of the companies in the robotics industrial park are facing a difficult situation of wild competition and risk being wiped out in the near future.
China’s AI and its industry have currently attracted unprecedented attention from the government and all walks of society. Fortunately, the phenomenon of the AI industry popping up and flourishing everywhere without any criteria has not occurred. The threshold for the technological starting point of the AI industry is relatively high and the difficulty and risk of starting and developing a business are equally high. There may be fewer entrepreneurs with courage and strength than robot entrepreneurs, and hopefully the robot industry park will repeat the proliferation phenomenon.
VIII) Blind optimism and arrogance are detrimental to development
Many perceptive people believe that there is a big gap between the current national AI basic research, application development and international advanced level. Some national AI researchers and developers, however, overestimate their achievements, believing that national AI has surpassed the international advanced level in many respects.
In view of assessing whether a discipline has reached or surpassed the international advanced level, not only must unbiased and equal international standards be generally recognised, but also a set of convincing results. We will not specifically discuss the issue in this article, but we would like to describe the level of AI development in China from the status of the Turing Award, the highest scientific and technological award in the international computing and IT sector.
Since 1966 the US Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has organised 55 editions of the Turing Award, with a total of 75 winners, considering that in some editions there were more than one winner.
Winners include the Chinese-American computer scientist from Shanghai, Yao Qizhi, who won the award in 2000, with the Theory of Computation, including pseudo-random number generation, cryptography and communication complexity.
China won the international supercomputer speed championship several times. This is a result which is worth celebrating, but all this is not enough to prove that China’s AI technology has reached the international advanced level. Although the AI development of many national corporate giants has made quick progress and their achievements are rewarding, China has not yet reached the level of international leadership.
Large international companies and developed countries in Europe, America and Japan have invested heavily in their efforts to reach a dominant position in such global competition. The secret lies in not being blindly optimistic and never overestimate one’s own achievements.
IX) There is a tendency to replace research on artificial intelligence with philosophical research
Artificial intelligence, though not belonging to the humanities branch, has philosophical questions to put on the table. Some scholars carry out research ranging from AI to philosophy of information or other philosophical perspectives, which are necessary and worthy of support. For a long time, however, there has been a tendency in China to replace AI research with philosophical research, as well as to exaggerate the role of philosophical issues over AI technical aspects, and even try to dominate AI disciplines with philosophy.
There is a need, instead, for down-to-earth research on the main AI issues. Prof. Wu Wenjun (1919-2017), a mathematician and academic known for his contributions in the areas of differential geometry, topology and computational geometry, once seriously warned: “Our real intention is never to argue with words, and to talk with letters. What we should do is work hard and do it skilfully. Taking advantage of the great opportunity opened up by the advent of the computer era, we should take the lead in promoting the mechanisation of mental work in the world and show our ideas to the planet with concrete results”.
10) International cooperation should be further strengthened
China has promoted considerable international cooperation in the AI field, including the organisation of international conferences, travels abroad to attend international conferences, and the sending of staff to take part in international AI research on a cooperative basis. These activities not only need to be expanded, but also the level of cooperation results needs to be improved. It must be said that international cooperation on AI must be further strengthened so that the “international” status of Chinese scholars will be further enhanced. (8. continued).
Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs)- as a counter to the growing threat of Centralisation
Searching the skies for the building blocks of life in the universe
Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “
Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs)- as a counter to the growing threat of Centralisation
Xi calls ties with Iran strategic, backs Iran’s membership in BRICS
China’s Proxy War in Ukraine
Indian students and U.S. strategy in R&D
Like-Minded Coalitions, New-Age Models for Cooperation? An Indian Perspective
Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Cyber era which found its genesis with the advent of the global internet- through the US Department of Defense funding ARPANET experimentations in the late 1960s[1] – embodies the liberal spirit of laissez-faire and the freedom of expression and has grown rapidly from about 3 billion internet users in 2018,[2] to over 5,385,798,406 internet users, – or 67.9% of our total population – as of June 30, 2022.[3] Attempts, however, have been made to curtail users ability to access what is on the internet through the development of national intranets- examples being China’s great firewall,[4] Russia’s sovereign internet,[5] Iran’s National Information Network,[6] and North Korea’s Kwangmyong network.[7] What these national intranets have in common is centralised management in terms of websites and social media that are accessible, and information that is available to the citizens. Each of these states has the ability to distort truth, to rewrite the narrative, and to determine what is fact and force-feed it to their citizens by filtering opposing content and through restricting/blocking access to alternatives. ‘Centralisation’ here refers to concentrated power in the hands of one group, that allows for unilateral decisions to be made on behalf of the entire population or network.
The threat of centralisation also persists within the private sphere/realm, with tech companies having found themselves at the centre of a new debate in the press media. While tech companies focusing on social media may have first formulated/established themselves as outlets for expression of their user base they have now been taking strides in the opposite direction by censoring user posts and content. Recent instance include Pinterest which in 2019 began blocking any and all search results concerning vaccinations.[8] Similarly, Facebook in 2020 began deleting ‘events’ that aimed at organising protests against home quarantine during the start of the COVID pandemic.[9] Twitter in 2021 extricated over 70,000 accounts that were linked with the ‘QAnon’ conspiracy that threatened public order.[10] This was part of Twitter’s policy of removing posts and deleting accounts that broke their platform’s rules. While in each of these instances the concerned tech company may have arguably acted with good intention, their ability to simply flick a switch and unanimously censor content is deeply troubling. The control that social media companies exerted even over influential people culminated with the permanent suspension of U.S ex-President Donald Trump’s Twitter handle.[11] This incident is exemplary when it comes to determining the power of web censorship that is imbued within the hands of social media companies.
How can DLTs help counteract centrality?
‘Distributed Ledger Technologies’ (DLTs) can be used to counter the growing threat of centralisation from both state actors and monolithic tech-companies. There are various kinds of DLTs- such as Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAG), Holochain, Block Lattice, and the most renowned of all being- Blockchains.[12] Quintessentially, DLTs are distributed peer-to-peer networks that utilise a majority consensus for transactions to be verified and then stored as data on a public ledger. For simplicity sake this article will utilise blockchains to illustrate how DLT networks function.
‘Nodes’ are individual peers within a Blockchain network that maintain a record of the ledger thereby being involved in the process of storing, verifying, and distributing the full set of data with other participant nodes on the blockchain.[13] This “ledger of records” is immutable- allowing for data, events, and transactions to be time-stamped on chain, thus creating a verifiable log of all network user’s micro-history. The key features of a DLT are that they are ‘immutable’, ‘trustless’, and ‘verifiable’ with transactions being easily accessible/viewable by anyone in the entire network and it is these qualities that become instrumental when countering centralisation.
Take for instance the ostracisation of some Iranian national banks in 2012 and Russian national banks in 2022 from the ‘Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications’ (SWIFT)- an international banking system which executes international financial transactions.[14]  These instances demonstrate the current weaknesses/drawbacks of our existing financial system- as failure to comply with international norms has resulted in the enforcement of ‘one-sided’ economic sanctions. This cuts off these Banks’ and thereby the nation’s access to the global market as most exchanges occur using SWIFT via the U.S. Dollar and has the secondary effect of debilitating the economic strength of the local currency. Cryptocurrencies, however, are not restricted by these same limitations and were thereby used as a hedge by citizens both in Ukraine and in Russia to save the value of their savings by transferring them from fiat currencies into digital cryptocurrencies.[15] DLTs moreover are resistant to external influence as the transactions (here referring to both financial transactions and any information that is ingrained on-chain) occurring on them are ‘immutable’, which means that once the network/chain is set up- the data time-stamped onto the ledger can no longer be tampered with by third-parties and will continue to exist on-chain permanently. Similarly, attempts made to restrict transactions to -and- between users from a particular region will prove ineffectual as no single entity has control over the entire network.
A second advantage/strength of DLTs is that the ‘consensus mechanism’- the process through which nodes coordinate to add transactions to the network- is designed in such a way so as to allow for the entire process to be ‘trustless’. The immutability of the DLT grants participants on the network the ability to engage in transactions with one-another without having to trust one-another or rely on a third intermediary such as banks or centralised tech platforms to execute the transaction. Moreover, these financial transfer are instant- a real life example being witnessed during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine where individual netizens across the world were able to make direct donations totalling $42 million in 6 days to the Ukrainian Government after they posted their verified wallet address/public key- circumventing the restrictions imposed through bureaucracy.[16] Furthermore it can be argued that the public nature of the digital ledger of transactions grants greater transparency to the public on how exactly the donated money was and can be spent. This is due to the fact all transactions made on-chain (the sending of cryptocurrency to the donated address and the spending of this donated amount on other things) become visible through inputting the public key address on tools such as BSCscan or Etherscan which display all existing transactions.[17] The astounding feature of this whole process is that this can be executed while granting anonymity to the donators- as the only way to identify which address belongs to whom is if the donator somehow revealed that the corresponding wallet belonged to them.
To summarise DLTs have a low barrier to entry as anyone with an internet connection and who is willing to invest time and energy into understanding how the crypto space/system works is able to utilise it. DLTs are designed to be resistant to censorship as every node is independent and the network therefore decentralised. Therefore, a good way to test the strength of a DLT is to measure/assess how easy it would be for a government, corporation, or any external third party (venture capitalist firms, hackers, hacktivists) to shut down or interfere with the network. To shut down or effectively change a decentralized network would require ownership or control of over half the nodes or systems. Even individual countries are incapable of exacting their influence on these independent networks. Algeria, Nepal, Northern Macedonia, and China have all passed laws that decreed the trading and purchase of cryptocurrencies and the utilisation of their underlying blockchains as illegal further blocking user access to websites where cryptocurrencies could be purchased or exchanged making user access difficult but not impossible.[18] Technologies such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) grant users the ability to circumvent censorship and allow citizens of even the most authoritarian regimes accessibility.[19] The immutable, anonymous, and decentralized (cross-border/international) nature of DLTs therefore make it very hard for countries to police and regulate crypto transactions. In fact, this was a point argued by Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who called for mutual cooperation and a common solution between countries to tackle the global dilemma posed by cryptocurrencies during a high-level panel discussion organised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in April, 2022.[20]
This makes it evident that for the first time in the history of humanity a series of systems are implemented that are capable of resisting State influence which has historically enjoyed its power unperturbed. What has made all of this possible is the invention of ‘smart contracts’, which is immutable computer code, existing on-chain, that allows for the terms and conditions of an agreement between two parties to be carried out without the intervention of a third-trusted party.[21] The contractual clause- such as the release of funds in the form of cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero etc.) is executed automatically when the necessary preconditions (the fulfilment of services) have been successfully met. Smart contracts allow for the development of decentralised applications and offer increased versatility.
How to discern a centralised DLT from a truly decentralised DLT
DLT networks attempt to adhere to the tenets of decentralisation, at least ideologically, however, the harsh reality is that many of them simply masquerade themselves as being decentralised while falling short of the benchmark. ‘Solana’ is a fine example of an open-source blockchain that despite utilising smart contracts, and supporting decentralised applications (‘dapps’) is still quite centralised. For consensus and for adding transactions to its blockchain Solana utilises a hybrid proof-of-stake model combined with what it has termed as ‘proof-of-history’- where ‘leader’ nodes are chosen randomly for validation for fixed periods of time- thereby lowering latency and increasing throughput.[22] While Solana currently has 1975 validator nodes running giving the illusion of decentralisation- just 32 nodes hold a third of the total staked supply of SOL (a.k.a cumulative stake) and thereby validate a third of all transactions![23] This is dangerous as this implies that 32 of the largest nodes could potentially collude to halt the network. Secondly, once a DLT is up and running outages should virtually be impossible provided the DLT is decentralised enough as no one can collude to temporarily shut off the network. Solana witnessed six outages during the month of January 2022 for periods lasting longer than 8 hours,[24] during which time they halted the entire chain to identify and fix the issues before restarting the chain- something indicative of the centralised nature of this network. Finally, according to a 2021 report by Messari over 48% of Solana’s token allocation at its genesis were allotted to venture capital firms with only a very small fraction going to the public through lock drops or pre-launch sales.[25] Any DLT having almost half of its initial token allocation allotted to VC firms cannot be said to adhere to the ideologies of decentralisation as only a sliver of the entire allocation was even purchasable/attainable by the public. It is for these reasons that Solana can be categorised as a fairly centralised blockchain.
Bitcoin- the original progenitor of all blockchains- currently having over 15000 reachable nodes active all throughout the world- serves as a prime example of a DLT that truly mirrors the ethos of decentralisation.[26] Bitcoin fulfils the core tenets of decentralization with its blockchain being immutable, trestles through by utilising ‘proof-of-work’ (PoW) for consensus, and transparent with all the transactions on its blockchain being verifiable through services such as BScscan.[27] Moreover, the initial coins were distributed through the mining of blocks- which could be carried out by anyone with a Graphic Processing Unit (GPU) available within Personal Computers- further implying/meaning that bitcoins were openly accessible/earn-able by the public. Furthermore, and in direct contrast to Solana, Bitcoin is leaderless and since its inception in 2008 has never experienced any outages. To enact any change or upgrade to the Bitcoin network requires over 51% of the nodes on the network to acquiesce. Some criticisms have arisen that make reference to the top 6 (centrally managed) mining pools that when combined amount to over 75% of the total computing power in Bitcoin- a fact which would allow them to validate or cancel transactions, conduct double-spending and create coins from thin air.[28] However, the cold-undisputed truth remains that Bitcoin has never, since its inception, witnessed any such collusion that has resulted in a 51% attack- therefore, for all intents and purposes, Bitcoin stands as the apotheosis of decentralisation.
The conveniences afforded through the proliferation of the internet have simultaneously given rise to increasing avenues of centralised control to both national governments and monolithic state companies. In fact, Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey himself has grown despondent at this centralised nature of the internet and recently announced plans to create a new decentralised platform to combat it- terming this as the new Web5.[29] However, this article has also made clear how DLTs and their underlying crypto assets provide a unique solution to countering the growing threat of centralisation. Truly decentralised networks cannot be stopped by the government through some obscure law because the only law in crypto is ‘immutable computer code.’ Neither can cryptocurrencies on these networks be confiscated as they are private assets truly owned by the individual key holder. Governments are aware that DLTs and cryptocurrencies are a frontier they do not exercise sovereignty over and are actively adopting stances to oppose them. Therefore, it can be said that the true test of a DLTs decentralised nature will be to observe how each of them respond to increasing censorship from state and tech influence. It is the author’s opinion and belief that DLTs will remain relevant and continue to grow undeterred because digital assets and their underlying technology are firmly located at the heart of the next technological revolution that is reshaping the world across societies and economies.
[1] Andrews, Evan. 2019. “Who Invented The Internet?”. HISTORY. https://www.history.com/news/who-invented-the-internet.
[2] Morgan, Steve. 2019. “Humans On The Internet Will Triple From 2015 To 2022 And Hit 6 Billion”. Cybercrime Magazine. https://cybersecurityventures.com/how-many-internet-users-will-the-world-have-in-2022-and-in-2030/.
[3] Internetworldstats. 2022. “World Internet Users Statistics And 2022 World Population Stats”. Internetworldstats.Com. https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm.
[4] D’sa, Douglas Daniel. “How has China been using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to build a digital system of Social Control in East Turkistan (Xinjiang)?.” (2021).
[5] Epifanova, Alena. “Deciphering Russia’s “Sovereign internet law”: Tightening control and accelerating the Splinternet.” (2020): 10.
[6] Eyvazi, Mohammad Rahim, Safiye Rezaee, and Mohsen Mohammadi Khanghahi. “The role of the national information network in strengthening the independence and national security in the second step of the Islamic Revolution.” Islamic Revolution Research 10, no. 4 (2022): 29-55. (double check this one)
[7] Williams, Martyn. 2022. “A Peek Inside North Korea’s Intranet”. North Korea Tech – 노스코리아테크. https://www.northkoreatech.org/2015/07/06/a-peek-inside-north-koreas-intranet/.
[8] Telford, Taylor. 2019. “Pinterest Is Blocking Search Results About Vaccines To Protect Users From Misinformation”. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/02/21/pinterest-is-blocking-all-vaccine-related-searches-all-or-nothing-approach-policing-health-misinformation/.
[9] Ghaffary, Shirin. 2020. “Facebook Is Taking Down Some, But Not All, Quarantine Protest Event Pages”. Vox. https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/4/20/21228224/facebook-coronavirus-covid-19-protests-taking-down-content-moderation-freedom-speech-debate.
[10] Conger, Kate. 2021. “Twitter, In Widening Crackdown, Removes Over 70,000 Qanon Accounts (Published 2021)”. Nytimes.Com. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/11/technology/twitter-removes-70000-qanon-accounts.html.
[11] Twitter. 2021. “Permanent Suspension Of @Realdonaldtrump”. Blog.Twitter.Com. https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/suspension.
[12] The Zenon Team. 2020. “Network Of Momentum- Leaderless BFT Dual Ledger Architecture”. https://github.com/zenon-network/zenon.network/releases/download/whitepaper/whitepaper.pdf.
[13] ​​Florian, Martin, Sebastian Henningsen, Sophie Beaucamp, and Björn Scheuermann. “Erasing data from blockchain nodes.” In 2019 IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy Workshops (EuroS&PW), pp. 367-376. IEEE, 2019.
[14] Tulun, Teoman Ertuğrul. “SWIFT System Turns Into Economic Sanctions Instrument.” (2022).
[15] Lau, Yvonne. 2022. “They Fled Russia With Little Cash. Here’S How Cryptocurrency Saved Them”. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2022/03/30/russia-ukraine-war-cryptocurrency-sanctions-capital-controls-refugees-cash-oligarchs/.
[16] Taku, Nitasha, and Jeremy Merrill. 2022. “Ukraine Asked For Donations In Crypto. Then Things Got Weird.”. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/03/03/ukraine-cryptocurrency-donations/.
[17] Cernera, Federico, Massimo La Morgia, Alessandro Mei, and Francesco Sassi. “Token Spammers, Rug Pulls, and SniperBots: An Analysis of the Ecosystem of Tokens in Ethereum and the Binance Smart Chain (BNB).” arXiv preprint arXiv:2206.08202 (2022).
[18] Orji, Chloe. 2022. “Bitcoin Ban: These Are The Countries Where Crypto Is Restricted Or Illegal”. Euronews. https://www.euronews.com/next/2022/04/27/bitcoin-ban-these-are-the-countries-where-crypto-is-restricted-or-illegal2.
[19] Varvello, Matteo, Inigo Querejeta Azurmendi, Antonio Nappa, Panagiotis Papadopoulos, Goncalo Pestana, and Benjamin Livshits. “VPN-Zero: A Privacy-Preserving Decentralized Virtual Private Network.” In 2021 IFIP Networking Conference (IFIP Networking), pp. 1-6. IEEE, 2021.
[20] PTI. 2022. “Cryptocurrency Could Be Used For Money Laundering And Terror Funding, Says Indian Finance Minister”. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.in/cryptocurrency/indian-finance-minister-says-that-cryptocurrency-could-be-used-for-money-laundering-and-terror-funding/articleshow/90933116.cms.
[21] Zheng, Zibin, Shaoan Xie, Hong-Ning Dai, Weili Chen, Xiangping Chen, Jian Weng, and Muhammad Imran. “An overview on smart contracts: Challenges, advances and platforms.” Future Generation Computer Systems 105 (2020): 475-491.
[22] Yakovenko, Anatoly. 2017. “Solana: A New Architecture For A High Performance Blockchain V0.8.13”. Solana.Com. https://solana.com/solana-whitepaper.pdf.
[23] Beach, Solana. 2022. “Dashboard | Solana Beach”. Solanabeach.Io. https://solanabeach.io/validators. Accessed on 6th September, 2022.
[24] Nicolle, Emily, and Bloomberg. 2022. “Solana’S Sixth Outage This Month—And Founder’S ‘Lol’ Tweet—Frustrates Traders”. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2022/01/25/solana-founder-anatoly-yakovenko-crypto-crash-blockchain-instability/.
[25] Watkins, Ryan. 2022. “Power And Wealth In Cryptoeconomies”. Messari.Io. https://messari.io/report/power-and-wealth-in-cryptoeconomies.
[26] Bitnodes. 2022. “Bitnodes”. Bitnodes.Io. https://bitnodes.io/. Accessed on 12th September, 2022
[27] Cernera, Federico, Massimo La Morgia, Alessandro Mei, and Francesco Sassi. “Token Spammers, Rug Pulls, and SniperBots: An Analysis of the Ecosystem of Tokens in Ethereum and the Binance Smart Chain (BNB).” arXiv preprint arXiv:2206.08202 (2022).  
[28] Gervais, Arthur, Ghassan O. Karame, Vedran Capkun, and Srdjan Capkun. “Is bitcoin a decentralized currency?.” IEEE security & privacy 12, no. 3 (2014): 54-60.
[29] Ramage, Jack. 2022. “Move Over Web3. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Wants To Launch Web5 Based On Bitcoin”. Euronews. https://www.euronews.com/next/2022/06/15/move-over-web3-former-twitter-ceo-jack-dorsey-wants-to-launch-web5-based-on-bitcoin.
Since its 25 December 2021 launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana and following 30 years in the making, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the Christmas Day gift to astronomers that keeps on giving.
Like many astronomers in Europe, Pierre-Olivier Lagage, an astrophysicist at the Paris-based French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), has been preparing for JWST for years.
A joint project with NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA), JWST started beaming back its first images of the cosmos in July 2022 after arriving at its vantage point 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth and unfurling its distinctive giant sunshield.
A worthy successor to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope, the €10 billion JWST has big scientific goals. These include the study of the early universe shortly after the Big Bang, galaxies and star formation, black holes, our own solar system and the search for the building blocks of life in the universe.
Scientific goldmine
‘An exoplanet is a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun,’ Lagage said.
Lagage is the principal investigator of the H2020-funded ‘Exoplanet Atmosphere New Emission Transmission Spectra Analysis’ or ExoplANETS A project. He and his colleagues developed a data tool to exploit the wealth of existing spectroscopic data from previous missions to study exoplanets.
From a standing start, exoplanet astronomy has discovered thousands of exoplanets in the past 20 years. Now JWST’s spectroscopy instrumentation offers an unprecedented opportunity to study exoplanets for the chemical signatures of life in their atmosphere.
Spectroscopy of transiting exoplanets is one of the main techniques in exoplanet astronomy. When an orbiting planet moves in front of its star relative to the observer, the spectrum of light from the star changes as it passes through the planet’s atmosphere. When the changes in the light are detected, they indicate the chemical composition of the planet’s atmosphere and whether it is likely to support life or not.
The Exoplanets A tool uses data analysis to enable astronomers to characterise a broad range of exoplanet atmospheres. Astronomers using JWST are likely to find this useful to help their own observations by indicating which information is likely to be useful, and what is likely to be noise.
One drawback of spectroscopic observations is that while they are a goldmine of information, the signal is mixed up with a lot of noise. Useless information not related to the exoplanet’s atmosphere can obscure the valuable data in the observation.
Systematic noise
This is because the signal created by the planetary atmosphere is tiny compared with the rest of the light coming from the star, according to Lagage. ‘So, you have to develop tools to remove this systematic noise and get the right signal,’ he said.
The Exoplanets A project goes further. In order to model the atmosphere of an exoplanet, you also need to have a good understanding of its host star. To assist with this, the project created a database of the properties of stars with exoplanets. It was made with archived data from the ESA’s XMM-Newton and Gaia space observatory.
JWST’s initial exoplanet observations were of hot gas giant planet WASP-39b, described as a ‘hot Jupiter’. It orbits a Sun-like star 700 light-years away. Last month, using spectroscopy, JWST made the first confirmed observation of carbon dioxide in an exoplanet.
Caught in a TRAPPIST-1
The ESCAPE (Exploring Shortcuts for the Characterization of the Atmospheres of Planets similar to Earth) project has also been looking for shortcuts to help characterise the atmospheres of Earth-like exoplanets.
Martin Turbet, an astrophysicist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and principal investigator on the H2020-funded ESCAPE project, said that this required exploring novel observation techniques, using different ground- and space-based telescopes.
For example, the astronomers have been developing new methods to calculate the density of the planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, an ultra-cool red dwarf star around 40 light years from our solar system.
Discovered initially in 2000, it was later announced in 2017 that the TRAPPIST-1 star hosts seven small exoplanets, orbiting in tight formation, at least some of which may be habitable.
To calculate the density of a planet, you need to know its radius and mass. Sizing the planet can be done using spectroscopic observations. Mass can be calculated by observing the effect of the planet’s gravitational pull on its host star.
Weighing exoplanets
‘This is the classical way to measure the weight of a planet,’ said Turbet. ‘But in the case of the TRAPPIST-1 planets, the mass of the planets is so small that the classical technique doesn’t work.’
However, the TRAPPIST-1 system is peculiar because the seven planets all orbit very close to each other and exert strong gravitational forces on each other, he said.
This effects their orbits and means that they don’t pass, or transit, in front of their host star at fixed time points.
Measuring the deviations in these transit timings enabled the researchers to assess the strength of the gravitational forces between the planets and evaluate their masses, said Turbet.
Thanks to this this technique, they say they are now able to make the most accurate predictions so far of the water content of the seven known planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system.
The observations, and mass, density and water content calculations were made using ground-based telescopes – such as the SPECULOOS telescope at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, space-telescopes, and novel theoretical work.
Turbet said that the JWST and the planned Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) could be able to detect potential signs of life, known as biomarkers, in exoplanet atmospheres.
He cautioned, however, that these ‘cannot be used as definitive proof that there is life on the planet’. This is because recent work has shown that biomarkers, such as oxygen, can be formed without life.
Reflected starlight
Turbet and his colleagues have also been investigating a newer spectroscopy technique, known as reflected light spectroscopy. Rather than analysing how a star’s light changes as a planet passes in front of it, this method looks at how light from the star is reflected by the planet’s atmosphere.
The models of water content and planetary atmospheres will also assist observations from the JWST, Turbet said. They will enable astronomers to plan their observations to maximise the collection of data of genuine interest.
That being said, exoplanet research isn’t just about looking for alien life. Exoplanets could also provide us with information on the history of Earth and how its atmosphere developed, according to Lagage.
‘What I am most interested in is the atmosphere of super-Earth and Earth-sized exoplanets,’ he said.
Research in this article was funded via the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) and was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.  
Today, we are living in the midst of a global technological revolution, which is dramatically altering almost everything from how we live and work to how economic activities are organised, and wars are fought. Of the various technologies driving this revolution, blockchain technologies offer a wide range of opportunities. In simple terms, blockchain technology is a ‘distributed ledger that connects a decentralized network on which users can send transactions and build applications without the need for a central authority or a server.’
In recent times, blockchain has been widely heralded due to its numerous benefits, such as removing intermediaries, reducing costs, increasing transaction speeds, enhancing transparency, preventing manipulation of transactions, and increasing trust between parties. Currently, blockchain technology is being applied in a wide variety of sectors around the globe.In the financial sector, many banks, financial companies, and remittance service providers are utilising the technology for payments and currency or cross-border transfers. In e-commerce, businesses are employing blockchain to provide customers with multiple secure payment options. In real estate, its utility ranges from facilitating monetary transactions and paperwork to ownership transfer and exchanging confidential information. The healthcare sector is using it for preserving and exchanging patient records through laboratories, hospitals, and pharmaceutical firms.
Blockchain technology has also greatly benefitted supply chain management by increasing the efficiency of transactions and facilitating greater integration of financial and logistics services. States, like Sierra Leonean, have also been experimenting with the blockchain-based voting system to enhance political accountability and transparency of the electoral process. Additionally, blockchain has the potential to contribute to environmental sustainability by, for instance, facilitating the monitoring of groundwater usage. Moreover, it has facilitated the protection of the rights of digital asset owners. This is achieved through the possession of Non-Fungible Tokens that exist on the blockchain and are non-duplicable.These tokens represent real-world content such as music, arts, or clothing. 
While these cases represent some of the frequently cited applications of the technology, the utility of blockchain goes far beyond them. Thus, the rapid growth of the global blockchain technology market is no surprise. According to Statista, the value of the worldwide blockchain market grew to USD 5.85 billion  in 2021 from USD 1.57 billion in 2018, and this value is forecasted to grow to USD 163 billion by 2027.
In Pakistan, blockchain technology has also recently gained much traction. In January, the President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi advocated for developing a ‘National Blockchain Strategy’ and training the country’s human resource in multiple domains, including blockchain technology, cyber security, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). These statements came following the President’s meeting with the delegation from the BSV blockchain association in Islamabad. The Ministry of IT and Telecommunication (MoITT) recently announced the decision to formulate Pakistan’s National Blockchain Policy, which will perhaps be a defining element in accelerating blockchain technology innovation and adoption in the country.
Realising the benefits offered by such emerging technologies, the President of Pakistan in December 2021, launched the ‘Presidential Initiative for Artificial Intelligence & Computing (PIAIC)’ to serve as an interdisciplinary hub for education and research in blockchain, AI, data science, and the like. PIAIC offers a one-year blockchain programme to prepare a talent pool in this emerging field. The Pakistan Blockchain Institute is another organisation that provides research, education, and consultation in blockchain technology.
Apart from this, some progress with regard to the development and deployment of blockchain technology is also underway in Pakistan. In the banking sector, the Telenor Microfinance Bank, in collaboration with Valyou Malaysia, has deployed blockchain-based remittance services. In 2019, Faysal Bank adopted blockchain technology for cross-border payments. Moreover, the Sindh Police has been utilizing a blockchain-powered Resource Management System to manage and distribute police warehouse inventory. Additionally, there are numerous blockchain technology start-ups in Pakistan, such as Tin Tash, Cubix, Softtik Technologies, Software Alliance, and Techmate Tech LLC, among others.
The current progress notwithstanding, some other major steps will have to be taken. First, there is no specific law for blockchain technology in Pakistan. It is important that legal recognition and protection is granted to the technology in parallel to the formulation of the policy. Second, there is a need to ensure that sufficient financial resources are available to blockchain technology start-ups and R&D institutions to help them with technology development and implementation of pilot projects. The private sector’s support can perhaps play a defining role in this context. Additionally, the adoption of new technologies can happen much faster if their benefits are understood. Therefore, it is imperative to disseminate awareness regarding the implications and potential of using blockchain in the private and public sectors to reap the game-changing potential of this emerging technology. 
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