- More disruption ahead for Hollywood…
- The self-driving semi that no one is talking about…
- SWIFT races to develop blockchain tech it can control…
One of the most important lessons parents teach their children when they’re young is not to play with fire.
When the lesson is first taught, it’s literal. Don’t play with fire – you’ll either burn yourself, or you’ll burn the whole house down. There’s obvious value in that.
But what makes the lesson so valuable in life is its deeper meaning: Don’t mess around with things that can go horribly wrong.
Which is what makes the latest news regarding COVID-19 so alarming. Researchers at Boston University thought it was a good idea to create a new, more-lethal version of COVID-19 in their laboratory.
The reckless idea was to engineer a hybrid version of COVID-19. A mutant version like this is also known as a chimeric virus. It’s such an appropriate name in this case, as a chimera in Greek mythology is a fire-breathing creature made up of different animal parts.
Which brings us back to Boston, where scientists thought to combine the spike protein of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 with the original virus that came out of Wuhan in early 2020. They wanted to see if they could create something nastier than Omicron.
And while the chimeric virus didn’t breathe fire, the newly engineered variant ended up killing 80% of the mice that they gave the virus to. This is compared to a control group of mice that were given the Omicron strain, of which none died, as the symptoms were only mild.
Talk about playing with fire! All we need right now is another highly transmissible, engineered virus let loose on the public.
Worse yet, the laboratory is funded by none other than the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
It appears that the NIAID and the NIH haven’t learned their lesson. After all, we now know that the NIH funded gain of function (GOF) research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology – the likely origin of the pandemic – via funding provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci through a New York-based nonprofit called EcoHealth Alliance.
The purpose of the funding was to enhance bat coronavirus in a way that makes the virus more transmissible and dangerous. It was a stupid idea back then, which makes it even dumber now.
But it gets worse.
Days ago, Dr. Fauci – in his remaining months as the head of the NIAID – just awarded EcoHealth Alliance an additional $653,000 for additional GOF research.
That now marks four concurrent grants from Dr. Fauci, two of which are focused on what’s now being called “enhanced potential pandemic pathogen” (ePPP) research on coronavirus. The other two grants involve high-risk virus discovery.
For those who’re curious, the grants can be viewed on the NIH RePORT website (under grants AI110964, AI151797, AI153420, and AI163118).
I’m sure that many of you caught the sleight of hand by Dr. Fauci, the NIAID, and the NIH.
The subject “gain of function” became a hot potato, so they stopped using it. Then “they” came up with different terminology to describe the same thing, thinking we wouldn’t notice – “enhanced potential pandemic pathogen” (ePPP). “Enhanced,” of course, being the operative word.
At best, this is completely reckless, dangerous, and irresponsible. At worst, this research is designed with malicious intent.
The reality is that this funding is like giving a child keys to a building, flammable material, a lighter, and a pat on the back… and then saying “have fun” while they’re at it.
No responsible parent would ever do that. Nor should the NIH. We’ve already learned our lesson, and we’ve already had enough.
The race is on for text-to-video…
We talked about Meta’s new “Make a Video” technology last week. This is artificial intelligence (AI) tech that can produce short videos just based on text input.
Well, days ago, Google announced its own text-to-video software called Imagen 2. It’s an upgrade of Google’s text-to-image software Imagen.
And the concept is exactly the same. Imagen 2 is AI-based software that takes in text and produces pretty remarkable videos from scratch in seconds.
Here’s a great example:
Imagen 2-Produced Video
Here we can see the AI working from text input: “Sprouts in the shape of text ‘Imagen’ coming out of a fairy tale book.” And sure enough, the video is an understandable interpretation of the text.
Here’s another great example. This one is from the text: “A teddy bear washing dishes.”
Another Imagen 2-Produced Video
As we can see, the video perfectly depicts a teddy bear washing a dish in a sink with running water.
What’s remarkable here is that the AI created this video from “memory.” It ingested the text, extrapolated from its own learnings, and created a video representation of what it imagined such an action would look like if it were real.
Of course, we’re only looking at short, three-second videos here. That’s what the AI is currently producing based on short text inputs.
But Google is taking this a step further. It’s also experimenting with longer text prompts that are far more detailed.
In fact, Google put out a paper saying that there’s no end to how long these AI-generated videos can be. It’s just a matter of having a detailed prompt.
The implications here are incredible.
What we’re talking about is the ability to take any text – let’s say from a short, 50-page novel – and turn that text into a 30-minute movie. A task like this could be done in a matter of minutes.
Then we could have content producers edit and improve the AI-generated video. Now we have a full feature-length film that took merely a few days to produce.
As we discussed last week, this kind of technology will ultimately turn everyone into a potential movie producer – empowering normal people to become content creators empowered by AI through a simple text prompt input.
There will always be a place for big-budget film and show productions with well-known actors. But just as platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook changed the landscape of who and what a content creator was, AI will power the next leap forward in social media and content creation, not Hollywood.
Tesla’s latest announcement is flying under the radar…
Tesla originally released a prototype for its electric semi-trucks back in 2017. That feels like decades ago at this point.
We haven’t heard much about the Tesla Semi in a while, however. That’s in part thanks to the supply chain issues that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CEO Elon Musk was forced to prioritize the production of existing Tesla models like the Model S, Model 3, and Model X. In the absence of key parts and materials, the Tesla Semi project took a back seat.
But not anymore.
Tesla just confirmed that it started production on its first electric semi-trucks. And Pepsi is the first customer. It ordered 100 semi-trucks for use between Modesto and Sacramento in California.
Tesla plans to deliver the very first trucks to Pepsi on December 1. That’s how fast this is moving.
Given the spike in fuel prices this year, all the focus right now is on the cost efficiencies of electric trucks versus diesel trucks. The addition of new subsidies are also a catalyst for production given how much more expensive the electric semi-trucks are compared to diesel versions.
Tesla’s semis can travel about 500 miles on a single charge. And the current analysis shows that electric trucks will cost about half as much to operate compared to diesel. Of course, the electric trucks cost more up front. But they will be cheaper to run over time.
That’s certainly an important dynamic. But I’m surprised that nobody is talking about the bigger picture…
And that is, these semi-trucks come with Tesla’s full suite of self-driving technology. They have all the sensors that Tesla cars have. And they’re equipped with the full self-driving (FSD) software, just like the cars.
That means these trucks will be able to drive themselves on U.S. highways. They’ll still need humans to monitor them. But the days of truck drivers pulling long, exhausting hours on the road are numbered.
To me, this is really the big development. And it seems to be flying under the radar right now.
As we’ve discussed before, Tesla trains its self-driving AI on every mile driven in self-driving mode. So that means the semi-trucks will benefit from the 35 million miles that Tesla cars have already driven in FSD mode, and the billions of miles already driven with its Auto Pilot software.
And the AI will only get better as the semi-trucks themselves log self-driving miles along common highway routes.
The big takeaway here is that Tesla’s self-driving trucks will quickly become the most widely adopted semi-trucks on the road. It won’t take years. I believe we’ll see rapid adoption happen in a matter of months.
And of course, once trucks are fully self-driving, the drivers will no longer be necessary. The trucks will be able to run all through the night. That should help reduce truck traffic during peak travel hours during the day.
The legacy financial system isn’t going down without a fight…
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) system just announced that it has completed testing a distributed ledger technology (DLT) for the purposes of implementing central bank-backed digital currencies.
This is absolutely a shot at the blockchain industry. I’ll explain with a little context…
SWIFT is what works in the background of the global financial system. It connects over 11,000 financial institutions across 200 countries.
When money is transferred from one bank to another around the world, it flows through SWIFT. We can think of it as the backbone of the global financial system, as it currently exists.
Naturally, blockchain technology presents a threat to this system.
That’s because blockchain-based systems can transfer digital assets from one wallet to another much faster and cheaper than SWIFT can. And it doesn’t matter what country the wallets are in. Digital assets move across borders as if they didn’t exist.
In fact, Ripple’s entire business was designed to do SWIFT’s job at a small fraction of the cost, with settlement times measured in seconds. We’ve talked about Ripple quite a few times before in these pages, and it’s been remarkably successful with its technology solution.
For the sake of new readers, Ripple can settle transactions with its own digital asset XRP in three to five seconds. And each transaction reduces cross-border transactions costs by about 70%.
This is why over 300 financial institutions in over 40 countries adopted Ripple’s tech. It’s the perfect solution for moving funds cheaply and quickly.
So SWIFT’s foray into distributed ledger tech is absolutely about self-preservation. The DLT’s purpose is to transfer central bank digital currencies efficiently.
SWIFT also revealed that it experimented with something called tokenized assets. These are digital assets that represent bonds or securities.
To me, this is a clear indication that the legacy financial system is working to create its own alternative to existing blockchain technology.
And that becomes more obvious if we look at who SWIFT is partnering with. Its recent tests involved 14 central and commercial banks. The list includes well-known legacy financial institutions HSBC, UBS, and Wells Fargo.
SWIFT is also collaborating with Capgemini on transactions over the Quorum and Corda networks. These networks are also backed by legacy financial institutions, including JPMorgan.
The bottom line here is that the legacy system is trying to insulate itself from disruption. This is the groundwork that’s being laid for what’s coming. That means CBDCs are coming soon – and not just to small island nations, but to the large, developed countries around the world.
Other securities like bonds, debt, and even equities will follow. This is a massive trend of tokenization that I’ve written and spoke about many times in the past. And now SWIFT is openly talking about how big this new “official” digital asset market will be. The World Economic Forum projects it could reach $24 trillion by 2027.
So this is absolutely a trend we need to keep an eye on.
This is an admission by the incumbents that blockchain technology will greatly improve the financial system. The incumbent financial institutions are trying to carve out their space with this new technology to ensure that they aren’t boxed out entirely from these technological innovations.
Once this happens, it will open the door for incredible innovation across the entire blockchain industry and a flood of capital will follow.
Editor, The Bleeding Edge