- Can the government confiscate our cryptos?
- What’s our timeline on nuclear fusion technology?
- Convenience vs. privacy: A reader weighs in on Amazon’s health care ambitions…
Welcome to our weekly mailbag edition of The Bleeding Edge. All week, you submitted your questions about the biggest trends in technology.
Today, I’ll do my best to answer them.
If you have a question you’d like answered next week, be sure you submit it right here.
For anyone who is concerned and cares about freedom of information and freedom of speech, I strongly encourage having a look at the Great Barrington Declaration.
Some of the most impressive and accomplished infectious disease epidemiologists joined together in an effort to view the COVID-19 pandemic in a logical and rational way.
And the Declaration provides a proposed framework for setting policy. The three epidemiologists that have been leading this movement are:
Martin Kulldorff – professor of medicine at Harvard University, a biostatistician, and epidemiologist with expertise in detecting and monitoring infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety evaluations
Sunetra Gupta – professor at Oxford University, an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology, vaccine development, and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases
Jay Bhattacharya – professor at Stanford University Medical School, a physician, epidemiologist, health economist, and public heath policy expert focusing on infectious diseases and vulnerable populations
I hope we can all agree that their backgrounds are perfectly suited to provide a valuable opinion on COVID-19, its risks (or lack thereof), and appropriate policy measures concerning the pandemic.
Yet these three professionals and the Great Barrington Declaration are being censored. Twitter, YouTube (Google), and Facebook are all censoring related content.
At one stage, Google “disappeared” the Declaration from its search results. It was as if the Declaration didn’t exist. Twitter has actively restricted the account and deleted its followers. There are simply too many examples.
Kulldorff, Gupta, and Bhattacharya have also had to suffer from extensive shaming, hatred, and attempts to discredit their character and lifelong careers. What has taken place is unbelievable.
What was their crime? Did they publish something illegal? Was it hateful?
Not at all. Quite the contrary, in fact.
Here are some excerpts from the Declaration:
We have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.
Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come.
Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.
For children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.
Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.
Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19.
Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal.
Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching.
Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed.
Restaurants and other businesses should open.
It is hard to take issue with the key tenets of the Great Barrington Declaration. In fact, they are logical, thoughtful, rational, and based on scientific research on epidemiology.
Yet this is quite the opposite of what we are often told by the media, academic community, and parts of the medical community that are pandering fear and panic.
Whenever we see or hear language like “all scientists agree that…” from politicians and even practitioners, we should immediately know that it is not true. It is the worst kind of misinformation.
The Great Barrington Declaration has in fact been signed by over 12,000 medical and public health scientists and over 36,000 medical practitioners.
And for what it is worth, it has also been signed by me.
Now let’s turn to our mailbag…
Why the IRS seized a bitcoin wallet…
Let’s begin with a question on whether our crypto can be confiscated:
Hello, Jeff – Your subscribers owe you an incredible debt of gratitude for all the hard work and research you pour into every issue of your newsletters. We are all enlightened by the education you provide on so many topics.
I have MANY questions, but one in particular stands out: Cryptocurrencies have been touted in many publications to be safe depositories for our assets, if held in cold wallets. But your Bleeding Edge issue from November 10 suggested that the IRS had seized a wallet, possibly containing a billion dollars’ worth of bitcoin.
This begs the question, if the IRS can confiscate this private property, can we consider our personal holdings of ANY cryptocurrencies, or any assets held in blockchain, to be secure? Are we being deluded about the safety and anonymity of these holdings? Thanks in advance for your response.
– Allan U.
Hi, Allan, and thanks for taking the time to write in.
For readers who need a refresher on this topic, I recently wrote about the latest events surrounding the Silk Road “darknet” marketplace. This market existed in a hidden part of the internet that was only accessible through special web browsers. One of its favorite currencies was bitcoin.
Silk Road fast became one of the largest illicit drug markets in the world. It also sold illegal weapons and even discussed murders for hire.
The creator of the site, Ross Ulbricht, was arrested back in 2013. But at the time, the feds weren’t able to locate a large number of the bitcoins he had amassed.
That’s where the bitcoin wallet you referred to comes into the story. For seven years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tracked a wallet holding nearly 70,000 bitcoins connected to this black market drug trade. All told, the worth of the wallet has grown to over $1 billion at present.
According to the IRS’s criminal investigation unit, a person known as “Individual X” hacked the Silk Road sometime between May 2012 and April 2013 and stole the money (bitcoin) made from these illicit transactions before Ulbricht’s arrest in October 2013.
The news that hit the headlines recently claimed the IRS had finally tracked down the hacker, who allowed law enforcement to take control of those funds.
Going back to your question, does this mean that we need to worry about our bitcoins or other cryptocurrency being confiscated?
There are a couple of reasons I’m not concerned.
First, these bitcoins were clearly tied to illegal activity. This was the motivation for the agency to pursue these funds. As long as we are using our cryptocurrency in legal ways and paying our taxes on any digital asset-related capital gains, we should not need to worry about the IRS or any other government agency taking action against us.
Second, you’re correct about the security that cold storage offers for crypto wallets. This wasn’t an issue of the government successfully breaking into someone’s wallet. That’s why the coins have been sitting there untouched for so many years. Only the person with the private keys could access the money.
The IRS finally “seized” the bitcoins by locating the hacker who’d stolen them from Ulbricht. The IRS persuaded Individual X to turn over the money. And the government will first have to prove its case in front of a judge before it can ultimately auction off the bitcoins for U.S. dollars.
The nuance here is around anonymity, though. With enough forensic work, a public blockchain address can be linked to a private address and, ultimately, a person. That’s what happened in the case of Individual X. The other nuance is that some blockchains are less anonymous than others.
You do, however, touch on a point that does have me very concerned. What if a government feels that it should have a much larger percentage of our hard-earned assets?
There are those who believe that wealth should be taken away from those who were productive, worked hard, and saved their money. They believe that wealth should be redistributed to those who didn’t. And this would happen by force, if necessary.
In a political environment like that, your concerns are very well founded.
Nuclear fusion in the near future…
Next, a reader wants to know more about how soon we can expect nuclear fusion:
Hello, Jeff, I very much enjoy reading and listening to you with Glenn Beck. You wrote about nuclear fusion vs. fission, and I was wondering how near to nuclear fusion do you think we are? I know there’s been a 50-year joke that we are 30 years away, but I wondered if you think it’s possible in our lifetime? Thank you.
– Lauren J.
Hi, Lauren, and thanks for your kind words. I initially spoke on Glenn Beck’s show back in the fall of last year – he called it one of his favorite podcast episodes of the year. In fact, it was Glenn’s No. 1 most viewed podcast of all time.
And I’ve had the pleasure to speak with him more recently on the radio and on his Blaze TV programs. I’m glad to hear that you’ve been enjoying our conversations.
And nuclear fusion technology is one of our readers’ favorite topics here at The Bleeding Edge. As a reminder, nuclear fusion is very different from nuclear fission technology. Nuclear fusion replicates the power of the Sun. It is 100% clean energy that can produce power 24 hours per day… with no radiation or nuclear waste of any kind.
But as you noted, a number of people have expressed skepticism about this technology being ready anytime soon. Even some of my readers have written in telling me I’m crazy for believing this tech is just around the corner.
However, I stand by my prediction that we will have nuclear fusion technology ready for use in less than five years. In fact, I believe this will be one of my most accurate and unexpected technology predictions. And after that, it will be a race to mass commercialization.
What some people miss is that, even though nuclear fusion doesn’t currently fuel our homes, this doesn’t mean that the technology doesn’t exist. To be very clear, nuclear fusion technology does exist. Prototype reactors have already been built in several places around the world.
As an example, I wrote back in July about Commonwealth Fusion Systems. Its team plans to have a reactor producing “net energy production” by 2025. That term refers to the point when the reactor’s energy output exceeds the energy input needed to run the fusion reactor.
More output than input is why nuclear fusion can provide unlimited clean energy. When this happens, energy costs will plummet. And equally important, carbon emissions will do the same.
I’ve also shared a special report I put together on this topic along with the most exciting private company I’ve found in this space. You can download it here for free.
When I see the work being done in this space, I’m more convinced than ever that my prediction will come true.
And I believe that the combined advances in materials science and artificial intelligence (AI) as applied to maintaining a plasma reaction in real time are the key developments that most experts are missing.
I look forward to the day when we can enjoy this kind of clean, efficient, and affordable energy as a replacement for all carbon-based baseload energy production.
Amazon is entering the health care space…
Let’s conclude with a question about privacy concerns:
You talk about how transformational Amazon’s pharmacy and telehealth are going to be for the consumer. My problem with them is I have a real problem trusting any conglomerate with that much knowledge about my life. Personally, I am not on any social media because I believe in privacy. How do you reconcile privacy issues and trusting a company like Amazon?
– Mark K.
Hey, Mark. Thanks for sending in this astute question.
To catch readers up, on November 18, I wrote about Amazon’s launch of Amazon Pharmacy, which will deliver our prescriptions right to our door. This is a great service for people who don’t want to stand in line at the store while COVID-19 cases are rising.
What’s more, Amazon is making it easy for customers to compare the prices of their medicines in several ways. Customers can see what their medicine would cost if they paid cash rather than using their health insurance. And they can see what a generic drug costs relative to a brand name.
I also predicted that this is just the first step. Amazon already launched a telehealth service for its employees in Seattle called Amazon Care. I believe this is a test run that will lead to yet another public service offering. Amazon will test its telehealth model with its employees, optimize it, and then roll out a country-wide telehealth service.
This obviously brings up a valid concern. Our health information is some of the most personal data we possess. Can we trust Amazon with our most sensitive info?
And there’s one key difference that I believe sets Amazon apart from other companies I’ve criticized on this very issue, like Facebook and Google.
As I’ve written before, Facebook, Google, and their ilk are not good stewards of our data. Why?
Because their entire business model is built on advertising. They generate revenue by providing advertisers access to our data. I canceled my own Facebook account eight years ago when I understood what it was doing with my data.
And back in April, I shared Google’s announcement of its health care interface. As I said then, Google wants access to our health data in order to analyze it and add it to the profiles it builds on us to sell to advertisers. It already generates 84% of its annual revenues from data surveillance of consumers like us.
That’s a conflict of interest that can’t be removed without changing Google’s whole business model.
To contrast this, companies like Amazon and Apple are much better custodians of our data because their businesses are not primarily based on advertising. They sell products and services that are entirely unrelated to advertising. They aren’t perfect, but I would choose them over Google and Facebook on any day.
But sadly, I have bad news for you. While you and I may not have a Facebook account, Facebook is tracking us every day, as is Google. If we use Google or even an app like Waze on our smartphones, Google is tracking every website we visit on the internet and our exact location throughout the day.
We have small software “cookies” on our phones, laptops, tablets, and desktop computers that monitor all of our activity. It doesn’t seem right, and it should be illegal. But it is a widespread problem. In fact, if we have a phone or a computer, we simply can’t avoid it. There is no way to opt out at all.
The only way that I know how to go completely offline is to never use a computer and exchange the smartphone for one of the old flip phones that can’t download any software applications. At least that allows for text messaging.
The real question is determining how much of our modern conveniences we are willing to forego for our privacy. There isn’t really a middle ground. It takes extreme measures to maintain privacy, and even then, our personal information is still not secure.
I truly wish I had better news for you.
For what it’s worth, Apple continues to make strides toward providing more privacy, not less, with its operating system releases. It has already done a lot to reduce the ability of software applications to secretly download tracking software to our phones. And I believe that progress will continue.
The same is not true for Android devices. If anyone is at all concerned about privacy, Android-based products are absolutely the worst.
That’s all we have time for this week. If you have a question for a future mailbag, you can send it to me right here.
Have a wonderful holiday weekend.
Giving thanks for all of my great subscribers,
Editor, The Bleeding Edge
Like what you’re reading? Send your thoughts to [email protected].