• Take a look at this picture. What do you see?
  • FedEx is finally adopting robotics into its fulfillment centers
  • Your neighborhood mall will look very different in the next few years…

Dear Reader,

Just in the last 24 hours, Michigan State University and the University of Notre Dame announced that they are both suspending in-person learning. The announcements seem to happen daily now. Colleges are falling over like a row of dominoes.

This dilemma isn’t just in the U.S. either. The debate is raging in many other countries as well.

Not surprisingly, the U.K. has been wrestling hard with this issue. I say that because the U.K. is home to Neil Ferguson, the “expert” epidemiologist and professor of mathematical biology at the Imperial College who forecasted that two million Americans would die from COVID-19. His forecasts for the U.K. were equally as frightening.

We can all be happy that he was embarrassingly wrong in his projections.

As it turns out, his forecasts weren’t grossly inaccurate for just the U.S. but the entire world.

Consider research conducted in mid-April by other “experts” in Sweden and Belgium. These researchers have PhDs in structural biology, infectious disease modeling, engineering, clinical epidemiology, and cell and molecular biology.

Clearly, many areas of expertise sound like a great fit for performing the analysis. But they based their research on Ferguson’s modeling. Here is what they predicted for Sweden…

By July 1, “approximately 96,000 deaths can be expected.” And “at the peak period (early May), the need for ICU beds will be at least 40-fold higher than the pre-pandemic ICU-bed capacity.”

The research went further and stated that the 96,000 death toll could be reduced by more than half if Sweden would commit to household isolation similar to what many of us in the U.S. did.

Since it is now August 19, what actually happened?

As of today, there have been a total of 85,411 COVID-19 cases and 5,802 deaths in Sweden. There have been zero COVID-19 daily deaths most days over the last week. The pandemic is basically over there.

Let’s think about that. There haven’t even been 96,000 COVID-19 cases, let alone deaths. And the actual COVID-19-related deaths have been only 6% of what was forecast by the “experts.” How could they possibly be that far off?

It was appallingly bad work that stoked fear and panic worldwide for no reason.

Here’s the best part. Sweden’s numbers happened without closing the schools down, shutting the economy down, or requiring masks. The only significant modification was banning gatherings of more than 50 people. That’s it.

And additional research was just published analyzing the difference between Finland and Sweden.

It looked at whether closing schools impacted COVID-19 infection rates in Finland. Due to the similar climate and geography of the two countries, the studies could make a good comparison. Here’s what the research found:

  • The closure of schools in Finland had no measurable effect on the number of COVID-19 cases among children compared to Sweden.

  • Children are not a major risk group for COVID-19 and “play a less important role in transmission.”

  • Teachers faced no increased risk of exposure to infection to COVID-19, compared to a restaurant chef, for example, who would have 2.5 times the risk, or a taxi driver, who would have 4.8 times the risk of becoming infected with COVID-

And taking things further, the health departments in Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark all provide clear guidance that wearing a mask is not recommended and can in fact increase the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.

When we are faced with this evidence, it is incredible that anyone would fall for the antics of the panic peddlers. Why should any country close its schools right now? There is no logical reason for doing so.

To my friends in Sweden, well done.

Now let’s turn to our insights…

The next space outpost beyond Mars…

Let’s have a look at the picture below.

Any guesses as to what this could be?

Source: NASA

The highlighted area shows salt deposits beneath the surface of Ceres, a massive asteroid in our solar system.

That’s right, we are venturing even farther out into space today.

Yesterday, we talked about how SpaceX just took its next step toward a manned mission to Mars. Today, we are going into the great asteroid belt that lies between the Red Planet and Jupiter.

Back in 2007, NASA sent a spacecraft called Dawn to this asteroid belt. One of its main missions was to investigate Ceres, which is so big that it is considered a dwarf planet.

Dawn came within 22 miles of Ceres, and it hung around the area collecting data from 2015 to 2018. We are just now getting the analysis back on that data, and it is striking.

That pinkish section in the picture represents relatively new salt deposits beneath the surface. Researchers determined that the salt deposits came from a pool of brine just beneath the surface. And the implications of that are incredible.

These deposits indicate that there may be a massive subterranean ocean beneath the surface of this dwarf planet. Researchers believe that the ocean is potentially hundreds of miles wide.

And the fact that the salt is gradually rising to the surface of the planet suggests that there is still geologic activity happening on Ceres. And, of course, that means there may be life in this subterranean ocean.

How’s that for amazing? Extraterrestrial sushi, anyone?

And this discovery has important implications for our future as a space-faring species…

Assuming that Ceres does have a massive body of water, it would make a logical outpost for humans as we expand our space exploration outward. We can use the water to sustain life and produce hydrogen for fuel and oxygen for breathing… And we might even be able to make some sea salt for cooking.

We will start with the Moon. Then we’ll expand out to Mars. And from there we can set up a base on Ceres. Beyond that, perhaps Saturn’s moon Titan?

To me, this discovery hammers home the fact that it is 2020, and we still don’t know a lot about our own solar system… our own backyard. That’s surprising given the fact that we first landed on the Moon in 1969.

That said, we’re on the right track now. I’m sure we are in for some major discoveries in the coming years. We are going to see some unbelievable space-related developments over the course of the next two decades.

FedEx is finally embracing automation…

Readers who receive packages via FedEx may have noticed that deliveries are taking longer than they used to. There’s a simple reason for this – FedEx can’t keep up with its own demand right now.

As we know, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a boom in online shopping. In fact, in May, 52% of U.S. adults admitted that they are now purchasing more products online because of the pandemic.

And that’s led to more packages being shipped today than ever before.

But before these packages can get to their destinations, they must be sorted at a fulfillment center. Somebody must make sure the right packages are placed in the right location to be put on the right truck for the next day’s delivery run.

That’s where FedEx is falling behind.

The company is struggling to sort all its packages so that they can be shipped on time. And that’s mostly because FedEx can’t find enough employees willing to do the work. Its Memphis hub runs about 1,000 workers short on any given night compared to what it needs to keep up with demand.

In other words, FedEx is dealing with a labor shortage. And it’s no surprise why. After all, who wants to work the night shift picking up packages and moving them around? It’s boring work that is also tough on the body.

Fortunately, technology is going to save the day.

FedEx announced its plan to install AI-driven robotics in order to automate 80% of its packaging processes. The company’s goal is to have the tech fully implemented by next year.

To get the job done, FedEx will be using robotic arms from Japanese robotics firm Yaskawa. And they are integrating artificial intelligence (AI) from San Antonio-based software firm Plus One Robotics.

Essentially, Yaskawa’s robotic arm supplies the might, and Plus One’s AI software provides the intelligence.

The result will be robots that spend all night sorting packages to make sure deliveries go out on time each day. Here’s a look at them in action:

Robotic Package Sorting

Source: The Wall Street Journal

This is the future of our economy.

The robotics and automation trends were in motion already, and COVID-19 just kicked them into high gear.

But contrary to mainstream belief, AI-powered robots are not going to replace humans. Instead, robots are going to augment humans by doing the work that we really don’t want to do anyway.

And that’s going to create higher-value jobs. In the case of FedEx, one human employee will be needed to manage every eight robotic arms working each night.

So fear not, FedEx customers – the day is coming when our packages will be delivered on time again. FedEx is making the right move here.

The ironic thing is that Amazon has been using automation technology for roughly eight years. It bought Kiva Systems for less than a billion dollars back in 2012, and that technology became the foundation for its automation technology. It became a key strategic advantage for Amazon.

FedEx could have gone this route years ago and saved itself some big headaches.

Better late than never, FedEx.

Amazon’s plan to save the malls…

Speaking of Amazon, the company is in serious talks with Simon Property Group – the largest owner of shopping malls in the U.S. What’s this about?

Well, the “death of retail” trend has been in motion for years.

2017 saw the bankruptcies of Toys R Us, Vitamin World, Payless, and The Limited. In 2018, we said goodbye to David’s Bridal, Mattress Firm, Brookstone, and Sears. And last year, Destination Maternity, Forever 21, Gymboree, and Avenue each went bankrupt.

This year, thanks to the COVID-19 lockdowns, a record number of retailers have gone bust.

Neiman Marcus, Stein Mart, J. Crew, JCPenney, Brooks Brothers, Jos. A. Bank, Men’s Wearhouse, and GNC, among others, have each declared bankruptcy this year. We would find most of these stores located in any large mall in the U.S.

As we can expect, this has companies like Simon Property Group on the ropes. With all these retailers packing it in, who is going to pay rent for the expensive mall real estate?

The answer might be Amazon.

Amazon wants to convert the empty department store spaces in malls around the country into fulfillment centers. This is a smart move.

For one, this would be far cheaper than building brand new buildings for fulfillment. Plus, these malls are near large population centers. Amazon will be close to most of its customers, making this a great location for a logistics facility. It will enable Amazon to deliver products even faster.

And, of course, this would certainly be better for Simon Property Group. It would provide much-needed cash flow for a struggling, debt-intensive business.

The trend is clear – e-commerce is on the rise. And that’s very bullish for Amazon (AMZN).

Back in 2019, I went on record and said that Amazon (AMZN) would ultimately surpass $2 trillion in market cap. It sounded extreme at the time. How could such a massive $900 billion company more than double once again?

But we all know that was the right call. Since my recommendation, AMZN is up nearly 100%.

And don’t look now, But Amazon has a market cap of $1.6 trillion today. Next stop: $2 trillion.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

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