What? As if 900 crypto-currencies were not enough, we now have “Dentacoin.”

You guessed it, Dentacoin is for paying dentists. At the moment, you can only pay two dentists with this digital currency, one in Bulgaria and the other in London, but the wheel, and the planet, turns. (Update: Now 38 clinics in 14 countries accept the coin.)

These digital currencies, also called “crypto” or “e-cash” are a way of getting out from under bank fees, inflation, security risks and of course government control. Eeek, as they say in the treasury. We are fast approaching a thousand varieties and there’s no reason to expect it to stop there. Shades of early America, when banks in all the states used to issue their own currency. Except they could keep printing money. Bitcoin tops out at 21 million coins.

The rise of these alternate currencies was predicted in 1999 by Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman: “I think the Internet is going to be one of the major forces for reducing the role of government. The one thing that’s missing, but that will soon be developed, is a reliable ‘e-cash.'”

Well, with Bitcoin transactions and other currencies like it, there are no intermediaries, and computer encryption software can keep it more secure than any other kind of transaction. Joy says these are secure, but Bob notes that Bitcoins have been stolen out of “secure” Bitcoin wallets before. If you buy at, you’re given a special code. Don’t lose it or share it.

Though dozens of stores now accept Bitcoin, it doesn’t make much sense to buy it only to purchase goods in the U.S. Here it is often bought as a speculation. (Can you short it?) In other parts of the world, it can help people avoid confiscation of their property by dictators, and can establish property titles. (Seventy percent of the people in the world who own land have a tenuous title to it.)  It does this by creating so-called “smart contracts” which are generated by transactions automatically.

Dentacoin is a start-up in the Netherlands, and is finishing  its first “initial coin offering” on November 1. It’s currently used by a clinic in Varna, Bulgaria and another  clinic in London. There have been so many of these rival currencies that Forbes magazine did a cover story and called it “The Emperor’s New Coins.” In the meantime, prices keep going up.

The CEO of  CruisAIDer, a German company, which makes  dental power carts, says Dentacoin makes his supplies cheaper. “Up until now we were stuck having to change between currencies to source the materials we need to manufacture our Powercart.”

Joy invested a small amount in Bitcoin but Bob did not. As for the rival coins, it seems a bit scary just yet, though investing in the Blockchain, through Ethereum, might make sense.  As with most things in life, buyer beware.


  • A Wonderfully Satisfying Compilation of Handmade Pop-Up Cards.” Search on that phrase to see an amazing display of pop-ups. Skyscrapers, carnivals, animals and more rise off the flat page. See also
  • is the website for “Students Against Destructive Decisions.” It has thousands of chapters nationwide and tips like: When teens are in a dangerous situation, they should have a special code, like “222.” Sending a 222 by text to a parent could mean: “Please pick me up now.” A Liberty Mutual study sponsored by the organization showed that one third of students and 27 percent of parents think it’s legal to drive under the influence of marijuana if marijuana is legal in that state. It isn’t.

Artificial Intelligence No Longer Needs Us

The game of “Go” has been around for at least 2500 years. It is complex and difficult. How complex? Well, the number of possible moves is 10 to the 761st power. which is 10 followed by 760 zeroes. To put that into some kind of perspective, the number of moves in chess is 10 to the 120th power, and the number of atoms in the Universe is estimated at 10 to the 80th.

In 2016 a Google computer program, “AlphaGo,” used artificial intelligence to defeat a human player for the first time. In May of this year it defeated a world champion player in Korea. Recently, an improved version, AlphaGo Zero, defeated the previous AI program.

There is a remarkable difference between the two programs. The earlier one learned to play by watching and improving on the 30 million moves made by players in thousands of games. The improved version had no information, it learned by trial and error. On the first day it lost every game. After three days it won most of the time. After 21 days it defeated its own earlier program. After 40 days it won all the time.

The implications of such an artificial intelligence program are deep and profound.

The Inventor’s Computer

The “Pi-Top” computer is for inventors and programmers. It has a slide-out keyboard with a treasure trove of electronic components in a compartment underneath. They’re  kept in place by magnets. An earlier version is used in 1500 schools.

The “Pi” in the name refers to “Raspberry Pi,” a credit card size computer that can be attached to a monitor or TV and accept input from a keyboard and mouse. People can use it to learn how to program. It made a splash when it came out a few years ago for $25, and the latest version, Raspberry Pi 3 is $35. Some use it to play old Nintendo games, or for network-attached storage.

But it takes a bit of tech know-how to conquer Raspberry Pi, or a lot of tutorial-watching on YouTube. The Pi-Top modular laptop makes it a bit easier by bringing together all the components you need and then some, such as the inventor’s kit. It’s not cheap at $320, but for a laptop, it’s not bad. The display is 14 inches, and it comes with its own software bundle for web browsing and creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

The Pi-Top website mentions possible projects. Make a music synthesizer, with your own beats and rhythms. Make your own Space Race game, using LEDs, resistors, copper wire and programming code. Or invent a robot that interacts with you. Use LEDs, proximity sensors, and a microphone to create an Android friend.

The website makes it sound easy. But take a look at the user forums before taking the plunge. There you’ll learn of frustrations and triumphs.




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