- This AI can spot new cancer therapies…
- Facebook’s digital dollar gets another chance…
- The U.K. is developing its own “Britcoin”…
It has been absolutely heartbreaking to see schools closed during the pandemic.
From elementary schools all the way up to colleges and universities, all were negatively affected. Ironically, none of the decisions to close the schools were based on scientific research. They were based on fear and incorrect guidance from public health “experts.”
This fearmongering also resulted in the cancellation of college athletic programs around the country.
One of the justifications used was the potential for COVID-19 to cause damage to the hearts of school-aged children and college athletes. Again, there was no proof, but college athletic programs were still shut down.
Now there is proof… Proof that if a college athlete catches COVID-19, there is no scientific evidence of the virus causing any adverse heart problems at all.
Days ago, a study was published involving 19,378 college athletes from 42 colleges and universities. 3,018 students tested positive for COVID-19 and underwent cardiac evaluations. This is the most comprehensive study of its kind and was published by the American Heart Association.
And get this – not a single one of those 3,018 athletes was presented with any kind of adverse cardiac complications. Not one. And only one of the athletes did have an adverse cardiac event that was unrelated to COVID-19.
The ironic part is that playing sports is fantastic for our cardiovascular system. Yet the “experts” prohibited them from playing.
It is baffling to me that schools remain closed around the country, even more so considering that every teacher has access to a COVID-19 vaccine. Not only should everyone be back at school – there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to be wearing masks either.
Let them breathe freely. Let them learn. And let them compete as athletes and enjoy some of the very best years of their lives.
Now let’s turn to today’s insights…
Why Facebook is getting into biotechnology research…
In something of a surprise move, Facebook just released a new artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled model for biotechnology research. It’s called the Compositional Perturbation Autoencoder (CPA). That’s quite a mouthful.
The CPA is an open source algorithm focused on the discovery of drug combinations that can treat cancer and other serious diseases. And by making it open source, Facebook is allowing the entire biotech industry to access and use this new model.
Of course, it seems strange that Facebook is releasing an AI focused on biotech research. After all, it is a social media company… But it makes sense.
AI algorithms are typically generic in structure. They can be applied to any kind of dataset to look for patterns, which can be used to predict outcomes.
In this case, Facebook is simply applying its AI to existing therapeutic development databases to identify drug combinations for cancer that human researchers may have missed.
Put another way, the CPA is looking for existing therapies that could be paired together to provide an effective cancer treatment. And the model looks quite promising.
Facebook tested the CPA against known drug combinations, and the model was 90% accurate in forecasting the human body’s cellular response to them. In other words, the CPA correctly predicted the impact a given drug combination would have 90% of the time.
These are excellent results. And they imply that the CPA could provide accurate forecasts for drug combinations that haven’t been tried yet.
But this begs the question… Why is Facebook doing this? Obviously, biotech research has nothing to do with its core social media business.
Well, Facebook has found itself in regulatory trouble on several occasions over its privacy practices.
I’m sure Facebook’s executives look at this project as a way to generate goodwill for the next time it is under regulatory scrutiny. Facebook will be able to point to this project and say that it is providing a service to humanity for free.
But there may be a darker side to this as well.
Facebook could potentially gain access to medical records in order to train its AI. And those records would give the company tremendous insight into patients’ conditions.
On top of that, this predictive AI could provide insights on patients that would be valuable to advertisers. These insights would no doubt be packaged into Facebook’s dossier on individual consumers.
So I can’t help but think that Facebook may be using this as a way to break into the medical industry through the back door – under the guise of doing good.
It pains me to be cynical, but this isn’t a new topic. That’s something Google has been trying to do for years for the same reason. It’s all about getting access to medical records for the wealth of data they provide.
The problem isn’t the use of the data to help solve complex problems. It’s the motivations and underlying business model of the company that is doing it.
Facebook’s revenues come from selling access to consumer information to advertisers.
A biotechnology company, however, will generate revenues from drug development, royalties, or other business development agreements that support therapeutic development. No advertising revenues are involved.
This is something we need to be watching closely. Facebook’s CPA may indeed be useful to the biotech industry, but there may be something more nefarious at play here.
Facebook plans to launch its digital currency in the months ahead…
And while we are talking about Facebook, the company is very close to launching its digital currency now known as Diem. We haven’t discussed this topic in a while, but it has been almost two years in the making.
It was about this time of year in 2019 when we first talked about Facebook’s master plan. The company was pushing a digital currency called Libra. At that time, Libra would be backed by a basket of national fiat currencies.
Of course, that didn’t go over well with the regulators around the world. In their eyes, Libra looked too much like it was being positioned as a global reserve currency. That’s something regulators took issue with.
It got so bad that the corporate backers of the project, headlined by Visa and MasterCard, quickly resigned from it. They didn’t want to be associated with Libra and bring regulatory scrutiny upon themselves.
I think the world largely forgot about this in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Facebook has spent the last two years going through a rebranding effort. It renamed its digital currency to Diem. And Facebook announced that Diem will be a stablecoin backed by a single fiat currency – probably the U.S. dollar.
This is something that is more acceptable to regulators. Facebook is currently in talks with Swiss regulators to secure a Payment Service Provider (PSP) license for Diem. That could come in a matter of weeks.
And Facebook plans to launch its stablecoin shortly after the license is secured. The goal is to have Diem up and running before the end of the year.
Even though Facebook watered down its original plans, this is still a huge story.
Remember, Facebook has billions of daily active users. Once Diem is off the ground, these billions of users will be able to transact with each other easily with just the click of a button – all from within Facebook’s platform. That means Facebook will potentially become the largest payment network in the world overnight.
As exciting as this is, Facebook is starting to use language that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Management is now talking about being strict with its Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) compliance.
It seems innocuous on the surface as it sounds like these are “good things” to do. But guess what’s required to comply with KYC and AML? Sensitive personal information.
Facebook is going to ask consumers for even more personal information. Will it involve photos of drivers’ licenses, passports, social security numbers, pictures of our faces, and other biometrics? We’ll see…
This will be under the guise of preventing money laundering, but there’s no doubt Facebook will use it to boost its dossier on consumers. At that point, it will have the most comprehensive profile of individual users that it has ever had. And that’s a scary thought.
Diem is a huge story, and it will be largely seen as a great convenience to consumers. But there may be immense privacy trade-offs that come with it.
The Bank of England finally gets to work on a CBDC…
Speaking of digital currencies, the Bank of England (BOE), in cooperation with Her Majesty’s Treasury, just announced that it is exploring a central bank digital currency (CBDC) for the United Kingdom (U.K.), which would be an entirely digital representation of the Pound sterling.
In designing the CBDC, the BOE plans to consult with banks, financial technology (fintech) companies, and payment infrastructure providers in the U.K. This is a clear sign that they want to build it for rapid widespread adoption throughout the country.
This is a long time coming. The BOE has been largely inactive in this space until now. That’s surprising given the fact that the European Union (E.U.) has been pressing forward with its own CBDC plans for a while now.
The U.K. is playing catch-up here. It is even behind the United States with regards to its CBDC. And that’s saying something given how far the U.S. is behind China, Japan, and some smaller countries.
So we can expect talk of CBDCs to heat up in the second half of this year. This is going to become a pressing issue for the large economic powers around the world.
And for investors, this is our signal that the financial system is changing. That’s a scary thought, but there are also immense opportunities here, especially with regards to leading companies in the financial technology space.
For readers who want to be fully prepared for the coming changes in our financial system, you can go right here to learn about my top recommendations in this space.
Editor, The Bleeding Edge
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