- Would a decentralized Twitter really stop censorship?
- We’re keeping a close eye on this battery company
- The biggest tech trend of the decade…
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.
We haven’t talked about jobs for a few weeks, so I thought we’d get a quick update on how the job recovery is progressing in the U.S. market.
No matter how much the media peddles fear and panic, the U.S. economy is recovering. This week’s jobs report shared just 787,000 jobless claims. October has seen the lowest levels since March of this year.
These numbers don’t surprise me a bit. I’ve been traveling all over the country throughout the pandemic. And I have noticed a remarkable uptick in economic activity, especially over the last four to six weeks.
While city centers are certainly less congested (which is actually nice), metropolitan areas are very busy. There is a lot of traffic on roads and highways, and I am seeing a return to more normal economic activities.
Airports are busy again too. Flights are nearly full, and the hustle and bustle that I am used to in airport terminals has definitely returned.
What will return the U.S. economy to “normal”? What will cause the employment rates to return to pre-pandemic levels? Returning to school and opening up the economy. It’s plain and simple.
Mortality rates have already dropped by 75%-plus in the most at-risk part of the population (70 years or older and those who are morbidly obese).
The medical community now has therapies to treat the small number who are hospitalized due to COVID-19. And one or perhaps two vaccines will be approved for emergency use authorization (EUA) before the end of this year.
The global infection fatality rate (IFR) is between 0.15–0.20% for all age groups and 0.03–0.04% for those younger than 70 years old. Yes, for those less than 70, the IFR is less than influenza.
We have so much to be excited about. We can think rationally and logically, protect those who are at risk, and return to the economic growth and record unemployment that we had at the beginning of the year.
A healthy, functioning economy empowers us to innovate and use technology and biotechnology to solve the world’s greatest challenges. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do…
I hope you all have a great weekend.
What decentralized social media would look like…
Let’s begin with a question on social media and blockchain technology…
Hi, Jeff – First, I want to thank you for sharing your insights on The Bleeding Edge. I love reading your articles and feel that, as a result, I’m better informed about current and future technologies than 99% of my peers. And as a Near Future Report subscriber, my investment returns have never performed better.
I recently read your post discussing [Twitter CEO] Jack Dorsey’s work toward creating a decentralized social media platform using blockchain technology to weed out bad actors. In light of most recent events, how would democratization through blockchain not prevent similar results?
If the users determine “bad actors,” what’s to prevent 51% of users deciding that voices in opposition to their own should be blocked from the platform?
– Jess R.
Hi, Jess, and thanks for being a reader and subscriber. I’m glad to hear you’ve been enjoying success with my research.
We discussed Dorsey’s plans for a decentralized Twitter earlier this month. At the Oslo Freedom Forum 2020, he talked about the work his company is doing to support and fund the Bluesky project. Bluesky is a nonprofit organization creating a framework for a decentralized social media network.
This is a social media platform that would not be controlled by a centralized company like Twitter or Facebook. Instead, it would be enabled by the users.
This is a brilliant move. Decentralized social media platforms will be based on blockchain technology, which will be able to verify a user’s identity at sign-up. That will prevent the creation of fake accounts set up just to spew garbage, which is such a big problem.
In this way, blockchain will also be far better at fighting the bots and bad actors that are manipulating social media networks today. That will create a better user experience. And it will remove social media from the regulatory crosshairs.
While it will take a few years to develop this technology, this bodes well for Twitter’s future as one of the dominant social media platforms of our time.
As for your question, Jess, we don’t have too many specific details yet on how Bluesky will work. But based on what we can guess, I don’t think we need to worry about users censoring each other in the way you mention.
As one possibility, we can envision a system where each post would be written to the blockchain and timestamped. It would be censor-proof. No posts would ever be removed, but users would have the option to rate or flag posts as malicious or false.
Then, under certain criteria (such as a number of flags), new viewers could receive a notification of the questionable nature of the post.
And for other ideas of how a decentralized platform like this might work, we can look at existing systems.
One decentralized social media platform is Mastodon. Mastodon is an open-source program that functions much like Twitter. Anyone can start up their own network within its system.
Instead of a single company controlling all of the data, however, information is shared among multiple servers. These servers are hosted around the world and have their own codes of conduct and rules.
While a server admin can still remove posts that violate guidelines, Mastodon’s setup offers more flexibility. Different servers offer different codes of conduct, so users are able to choose the option that fits their needs. Individual networks can implement their own unique rules about what content they allow to be published.
This could be very useful for different cultures and regulatory environments around the world.
Another existing platform is Peepeth. Posts are kept forever on its blockchain (based on Ethereum), meaning no posts can be deleted or edited.
In this case, the platform moderates its content by hiding posts from its main feed when they violate the terms of service, but any moderation is transparent. Anyone can view the blockchain to see what Peepeth is choosing not to display.
So Bluesky will have a number of options for how to implement its decentralized system fairly. We’ll keep an eye out for any more details the project reveals going forward.
One of the additional nuances about how a decentralized social media platform functions, though, is how it is governed.
Many blockchain projects have a governing board that is meant to establish policy and determine the future direction of the project. And that can affect whether or not freedom of speech and opinions are protected.
And in a civil and free society, it really is up to us to make sure that bad actors are kept at bay and our freedoms are preserved for all.
The advancement of battery technology…
Next, a reader wants to know more about one of our watchlist companies…
Just wondering if you are keeping an eye on privately held Sila Nanotechnologies as a player in the advancement of current battery technology. Keep up the good work!
– John G.
Hi John, and thanks for your question. Battery technology is a popular topic, and you’ve hit on a key player.
I first wrote about the company you mentioned, Sila Nanotechnologies, at the end of last year.
As a refresher for new readers, Sila Nanotechnologies is an early stage private company that has some important backers. In its venture capital (VC) rounds, which have raised over $340 million in total, Daimler, Samsung, and In-Q-Tel (the CIA’s VC arm) have all contributed funds.
As a result, Sila Nanotechnologies now sports a post-money valuation of $1.04 billion. It’s what the industry calls a “unicorn.”
And the company is attracting support because it has developed a way to improve the energy density in lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries by at least 20%.
Energy density refers to the amount of energy stored in the battery. The greater the energy density, the farther an electric vehicle (EV) can travel without charging.
What’s more, Sila believes it can ultimately achieve a 40% improvement in energy density. We haven’t seen any jumps like this for years. Typically, we see small yearly improvements of 2–3% at most.
So this is a big advancement.
The key is the silicon-based anode that Sila developed to replace its graphite-based counterpart. That’s what drives efficiencies.
And as a bonus, the silicon anode can be produced using semiconductor manufacturing technologies. That means high-volume, low-cost production… which will make EV batteries cheaper to produce.
And Kurt Kelty, a former Tesla exec, is the automotive vice president at Sila Nano. He was a key partner in Tesla’s partnership with Panasonic, one of the largest Li-Ion battery manufacturers in the world.
And in a report Sila Nano put out this past September, it predicted, “In the next five to 10 years, we will see a $50 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery cell that’s capable of fast charging, 10,000+ cycles, 1 million+ miles, a 30-year calendar life, and produced with abundant raw materials found all around the world and recycled.”
If Sila Nano succeeds, both the EV industry and the consumer electronics industry will benefit. These are massive, high-volume industries to sell into.
And if I were the CEO, I would be looking to go public after I started making products for these industries. So that’s what I’m watching for… and I’m hoping Sila stays independent. This company could make for a terrific investment at some point in the near future.
So we’re keeping a close eye on this watchlist company…
Why we really need 5G networks…
Let’s conclude with a question about how 5G will work…
What is the big deal about 5G for cell phones? I don’t do gaming and don’t watch movies on my iPhone. The speed of my 4G phone seems perfectly adequate for email and texting, so what’s the advantage of 5G? And why bother if the networks still need a lot of build-out?
I understand 5G works in closer proximity to the cell towers, which must be spaced closer together and many more of them. Will 5G work indoors from outdoor towers? Or will we need new routers for indoors?
Similarly, how does one get 5G for computers indoors? That’s where speed will make a difference. Same answer – new router?
– James A.
Hi, James. Thanks for your questions. The 5G rollout is a huge tech trend we follow here in The Bleeding Edge.
To your first point, on some 4G wireless networks with today’s applications, the speeds are suitable for what we need to do. If all a consumer wants to do is text and read a few emails, 4G is going to be fine most of the time.
But I live in a busier economic region of the country with a higher population density. I have watched the speed of my 4G wireless network operator decline consistently over the last three years.
Today, I often have limited use of internet access or video because my wireless network has simply become too congested. At times, I am literally unable to download emails and struggle to send or receive a simple photograph over text.
The reason is that too many people are on the network doing data-intensive things (like watching video). Sometimes the network grinds to a complete halt. I still experience dropped calls on a regular basis over the latest and greatest 4G networks.
Perhaps you aren’t experiencing the same thing. Wireless networks in less populated areas have less congestion right now, but it won’t be like that forever. Here’s why…
The amount of data that is flowing over these 4G networks is growing exponentially. Take a look at the chart below.
Our wireless networks saw over 45 exabytes of data traffic in Q1 of this year, a 56% increase from just a year before. As I’ve mentioned, an exabyte is equivalent to 100,000 times all the printed material in the Library of Congress.
This growth in data simply can’t be transmitted over 4G wireless networks forever… Eventually, every 4G network will slow down.
And as 5G wireless networks become more ubiquitous, new consumer-facing applications will be launched that are very data heavy. This will include things like augmented or virtual reality and immersive multiplayer gaming applications. Without a 5G-enabled smartphone or tablet, these apps won’t run properly.
To your second point, many of the 5G wireless networks are being deployed over millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies. These are higher frequencies than those currently being used for 4G or 3G wireless networks.
These mmWave networks require a small cell network architecture. That means the 5G network will require exponentially more base stations to provide the same kind of network coverage as 4G. And yes, that even means putting small 5G base stations or repeaters inside buildings.
I’d like to make one key point… Building penetration has nothing to do with a “weakness” of 5G wireless technology. 5G is simply a new technology, operating at higher frequencies, that requires a different network design.
Building penetration is enabled by building out the small cell network architecture to ensure that signal levels inside of buildings allow connectivity.
I tested this out for myself recently on my American heartland tour. I crisscrossed the country testing out 5G networks in different cities. And I was even able to connect to 5G networks from the inside of a bank vault.
You can watch my indoor speed test below.
So while there’s still a way to go as these networks expand their coverage, we will certainly be able to access 5G indoors.
And the infrastructure required to make 5G a reality is just one reason I think this is the biggest tech investment trend of the decade.
My tour convinced me the opportunity here is actually five times bigger than I previously thought. As investors, we need to make sure we’re paying attention to 5G technology.
If any readers missed my recent “Beyond Exponential” summit this week, you can go here right now to watch a replay of my latest findings on this millionaire-making trend. There, I showed viewers more footage from my travels and the best way for investors to gain exposure to the exponential growth that’s underway.
And as for 5G routers, this technology is really designed for fixed internet access. A 5G-enabled router connects to the internet using a 5G wireless connection. The device then uses a Wi-Fi router to connect the user to the internet.
The nuance is that a consumer’s electronic devices connect via a local Wi-Fi network (not the 5G network), while the Wi-Fi network accesses the internet using a 5G wireless connection.
This is something that I’m particularly excited about because internet connectivity over CATV-provided services in the U.S. is embarrassingly bad compared to other developed countries.
And CATV-based internet providers ranked dead last in the 2019 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
As an alternative, Verizon Wireless just revealed a powerful new 5G home gateway system earlier this month.
Verizon’s 5G Home Router
The 5G home gateway is a Wi-Fi 6 router that has an Ethernet port and a 5G internet receiver built in. It will allow us to replace the horrible, overpriced internet service offered by cable TV companies with true 5G wireless broadband.
Verizon is rolling out its 5G gateway product in the higher frequencies. It’s a true ultra-wideband service. Verizon says that customers will get speeds of at least 300 megabits per second (Mbps), and top-end speeds will hit 1 gigabit per second (Gbps).
300 Mbps is on par with the best internet services around the country. Anything above that level is superior to what we typically experience getting broadband internet over a cable TV network today.
And here’s the best part – this is a turnkey system. Because the gateway is wireless, consumers can set it up themselves. No more waiting for technicians to show up within a four-hour window.
And just one final point about smartphone upgrades…
Several times throughout the year, the operating systems (OS) of our smartphones get upgrades such as security patches and new feature improvements. This is true for both Android’s operating system and Apple’s iOS.
With each new software release, the code tends to get “heavier.” For the new software to run well, our phones require more and more processing power.
This is why each new smartphone generation includes new semiconductor designs that are typically 50%-plus more powerful and more power-efficient.
Eventually, after three years or so, the older semiconductors really struggle to run the latest smartphone operating systems. There is a noticeable drop in performance, and it isn’t unusual for a smartphone to simply lock up and require a reboot to run properly. This is when we know that our phone is too old, and we really need to upgrade.
So even if we don’t feel we need a new phone to take advantage of the super high speeds of 5G and low-latency applications, we’ll still benefit from upgrading our phones every few years.
And I’m willing to bet that for most consumers, they’ll be pleasantly surprised by at least a few of the new applications taking advantage of the 5G wireless technology.
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.
Editor, The Bleeding Edge
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