• Our driver’s license will soon enter the digital age…
  • What we can learn from ancient asteroids…
  • Apple is cutting Intel out of the loop…

Dear Reader,

Like so many in the U.S., I didn’t get much sleep last night.

My interest in the election festivities was a bit different than normal, however. My take is that the U.S. is going to be fine no matter what happens.

Yes, silly politics will continue, but there will be a balance of power to keep things in check either way.

What I was watching closely was the data, how it was being presented, and how it was being portrayed by the media. It was remarkable how states were being “given” to one candidate very early on, only to be retracted. And then other states were not announced even when there was a large lead with most votes counted.

The media grossly manipulated the viewers with a heavy bias. CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, MSNBC, social media platforms like Twitter, and other sources are all guilty.

And just about every polling outfit has been wrong. They have been horribly incorrect… again. That leads us to a major problem: Who do we trust?

This has become one of the largest challenges of our time.

When I research, I read everything with a healthy skepticism. I look for bias. I look for data. And I review sources. I ask whether an author has anything to benefit from their position. And I track people, companies, and institutions over time to understand if they are trustworthy.

It is exhausting, but I know of no other way.

And what we are witnessing now is all about trust… trust in the process for electing representatives in a democracy. Yet hundreds of thousands of votes appear to be showing up, all for one candidate, without a single vote for anyone else. Of course, that is statistically impossible.

It’s not about politics. It’s about whether we can trust if the system is fair and honest. If we can trust the process, we can accept the results and move on.

But if the process is fraudulent, then the U.S. and its equity markets are in for a lot of pain over the coming weeks. My single hope was that we would have a “clean” outcome and a quick resolution for the elections. It’s not looking that way.

Ironically, this situation can be solved with technology. We have the tech to eliminate mail-in ballots entirely. This would eliminate the ballot harvesting and voter fraud that look to be unfolding.

Voting can be done using a smartphone application that can verify voters using biometrics. We can use technology like blockchain to cryptographically secure all votes and make them publicly available to all… instantaneously. The results would be immutable.

And all of the results would be available on the evening of the election. For the small number of voters in each district who don’t have a smartphone or are uncomfortable with technology, we can still make in-person voting available.

We have to make this leap. Otherwise, the U.S. will become just another banana republic.

Either way, there is a silver lining. No matter how the elections end, what is happening in the world of technology and biotechnology is unstoppable.

The pace of innovation accelerates every month, and we are seeing record levels of investment into new bleeding-edge companies. These companies will thrive under any president.

They may pay more or less taxes or operate under heavier or lighter regulations. But either way, they will still make incredible investment opportunities.

Now let’s turn to our insights…

Get ready for a digital driver’s license…

Speaking of digital identities…

We are still carrying around a little plastic card that serves as both our driver’s license and our state-issued ID card. It’s crazy.

At my local polling station, I provided my driver’s license. It wasn’t for proof of identification (they wouldn’t have been able to tell because I was wearing a mask) but simply to check my address and cross my name off of a list… manually.

Well, it appears that our identification system is finally about to join the digital age.

We are now seeing some strong developments around standardization for a digital driver’s license. This has been a group effort among state governments, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), several universities, Google, and a few other companies.

The digital driver’s license is outlined in a new International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard – 18013-5.

It will be a smartphone application that cryptographically secures our personal data. And it will use biometric identification to confirm the identity of the holder through facial recognition or a fingerprint. The technology could even incorporate voice identification as well.

And when we need to present our ID, the other party will either scan a QR code on our phone using their mobile device, or our device will use near-field communications (NFR) to send the requested data.

It will be completely contactless. The days of passing a plastic card back and forth will be over.

What I like about this system is that it will allow greater privacy.

When we hand someone our ID today, they can see sensitive data like our birthday and our home address. This data could be used in malicious ways if the other party is a bad actor. That could be in the form of hacking or attempts at identity theft. Or it could be in the form of physical stalking.

The digital driver’s license won’t share our personal information like this.

Instead, it will simply confirm the information required for the interaction or transactions. For example, it could confirm our identity and that we are of proper age to enter an event or purchase products that have age requirements.

I see this as something that’s long overdue. The technology to do this has been around for a long time now, but we haven’t utilized it.

And this is another great example of how COVID-19 was the catalyst needed to drive contactless technology forward.

Once a digital driver’s license system is in place, it will be a natural jump to put a nationwide digital voting system using smartphones in place.

Checking back in on OSIRIS-REx…

Two weeks ago, we talked about the OSIRIS-REx mission. OSIRIS is a NASA spacecraft that’s been orbiting a 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid named Bennu since December 2018. Its ultimate job was to bring a sample of Bennu’s surface back to Earth for analysis.

When we first talked about the mission, OSIRIS had just descended and scooped up a sample of dust, debris, rubble, and stones. Here is the spacecraft’s “vacuum” arm just before it touched the surface of Bennu:

Taking a Sample of Bennu

Source: NASA

Well, the mission took an interesting twist that had NASA nervous.

Bennu’s surface was widely thought to be rocky and hard. And OSIRIS’s vacuum arm was designed accordingly.

But it turns out that Bennu’s surface is soft and soil-like. This allowed the arm to descend about 19 inches into the ground. Then it shot out nitrogen to stir up the particles, sending them up into the sample container.

When it was done, OSIRIS had collected more than two pounds of material. That was far more than NASA expected.

In fact, a comparable mission – Japan’s Hayabusa2 – only collected a tenth of a gram of material from the asteroid it excavated. That’s far less than 1% of what OSIRIS-REx collected.

And this surprising success caused a problem.

The collecting arm picked up so much debris that OSIRIS-REx could not close the lid of its collection container. Rocks and debris were drifting into space as OSIRIS-REx ascended back up to orbit. At first, NASA feared the entire sample would be lost.

Fortunately, NASA took remote control of the spacecraft, managing to close the container and latch it down for the return trip.

OSIRIS-REx will orbit Bennu for another four months until its path brings it as close as possible to Earth. Then it will begin the trek back, bringing with it more than two pounds of material that was formed, roughly, at the beginning of the universe.

The only bad news is that OSIRIS-REx won’t be back until September 2023. We’ll have to wait nearly two years to analyze the samples.

The collection will give us a great idea of what kinds of minerals are present in these distant asteroids. That will inform our ambitions to potentially mine asteroids one day.

Perhaps even more exciting, this sample may give us some keen insights into what our universe looked like when it was formed. I can’t wait.

Apple’s “One More Thing” event…

It has been a remarkable year for Apple. The company announced a new lineup of Apple Watches and iPads in September. And it announced a new content and service package called Apple One at that time as well.

Then we got the big iPhone announcement last month. Apple came out with not one but four 5G-enabled smartphone models – two of which contain advanced imaging technology in the form of light detection and ranging (lidar).

And now, with a hat tip to Steve Jobs, Apple announced a “One More Thing” event on November 10. This event will release details on Apple’s new laptops.

We talked about Apple’s new laptops a little bit back in July. In a major shift, Apple is switching from Intel’s x86 semiconductor architecture to ARM-based semiconductors optimized specifically for Apple’s operating system. This is a huge deal.

Historically, Apple has been at the mercy of Intel’s silicon road map. And we know that Intel has made one misstep after another in recent years, to the detriment of companies like Apple that use its chips.

But this new announcement confirms that the shift is complete.

Apple is set to announce three different laptop models on November 10, each with ARM-based processors. No Intel inside.

And that means Apple now has more control over its semiconductors. It is no longer tethered to Intel.

What’s more, Apple’s new laptops will be able to run mobile applications as well. That’s never been the case before.

This is because the mobile operating system (iOS) is different from the computer operating system (macOS) due to the semiconductor technology used. Now, Apple will be able to synchronize both the hardware and operating systems in a way that enables seamless interoperability.

There will be incredible crossover between apps on Apple’s computers and its iPhones and iPads. Consumers will be able to run all apps in Apple’s universe seamlessly, regardless of the device.

I believe this marks a major turning point in the industry. This convenience sets Apple up to be a major competitor to Microsoft and its Windows operating system. That’s never been the case before.

So this is yet another development at Apple that I am incredibly excited about. I expect we will see Apple’s market share in PC and laptop sales grow at a faster clip over the next few years as a result of these strategic decisions.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

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