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Navigating Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP: How Google Is Quietly Making Blockchains Searchable


t’s a balmy 80 degrees on a mid-December day in Singapore, and something is puzzling Allen Day, a 41-year-old data scientist. Using the tools he has developed at Google, he can see a mysterious concerted usage of artificial intelligence on the blockchain for Ethereum. Ether is the world’s third-largest cryptocurrency (after bitcoin and XRP), and it still sports a market cap of some $11 billion despite losing 83% of its value in 2018. Peering into its blockchain—the distributed database of transactions underpinning the cryptocurrency—Day detects a “whole bunch” of “autonomous agents” moving funds around “in an automated fashion.” While he doesn’t yet know who has created the AI, he suspects they could be the agents of cryptocurrency exchanges trading among themselves in order to artificially inflate ether’s price.  

“It’s not really just single agents doing things on their own,” Day says from Google’s Asia-Pacific headquarters. “They’re forming with other agents to have some larger group effect.” 

Day’s official title is senior developer advocate for Google Cloud, but he describes his role as “customer zero” for the company’s cloud computing efforts. As such it’s his job to anticipate demand before a product even exists, and he thinks making the blockchain more accessible is the next big thing. Just as Google enabled (and ultimately profited) from making the internet more usable 20 years ago, its next billions may come from shining a bright light on blockchains. If Day is successful, the world will know whether blockchain’s real usage is living up to its hype.

Danish researcher Thomas Silkjaer is using Google's BigQuery to map publicly available information about XRP cryptocurrency addresses. The craters represent some of cryptocurrency's largest exchanges.

Last year Day and a small team of open-source developers quietly began loading data for the entire Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains into Google’s big-data analytics platfor...

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