• The Orb has captured more than 1.2 million eyes…
  • UAEs plans for a CBDC
  • Amazon is planning for a commercial robotaxi service

Dear Reader,

One of the biggest red flags that we can see in the U.S. economy right now is the all-time record levels of credit card debt.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently published its household debt and credit report for the fourth quarter of last year. The numbers were stunning, as credit card debt has now reached $986 billion after an increase of $61 billion since the previous quarter. 

There’s no question that credit card debt will smash through the $1 trillion mark this quarter.

And it’s not just credit card debt. Mortgage debt has risen to a record level of $1.92 trillion, auto loan debt is at $1.55 trillion, and student loan debt is at $1.60 trillion.

Some have suggested that this level of credit card activity is a sign of a “robust economy.” But that’s not the case. And the problem isn’t irresponsible spending either. The situation with credit card debt is one of necessity.

To better understand why, all we have to do is look at the increase in prices of a few daily necessities between January 2021 and January 2023:

  • Average gasoline costs have risen 58% over those two years, and that’s after the large decline in prices since last summer

  • Average cost of electricity (Kilowatt-hour) has increased by 23.5%

  • Average cost of heating oil is up 118%

  • Average cost of a dozen eggs is up 229%

  • 30 year fixed mortgage rates have risen from just under 3% to almost 7%

And those are just averages. 

Some parts of the country have seen more than double those increases. We could go on and on. It’s across the board.

That’s why we’re seeing record levels of credit card debt. Disposable income is largely gone due to the rising costs of food, energy, and borrowing.

Making matters worse is that in a rising interest rate environment, interest rates on credit card debt are at astronomical levels. The average credit card interest is now at an incredible 24%. This will clearly compound the problem.

There’s trouble ahead. 

With the Federal Reserve hell bent on continuing interest rate hikes, something is going to break. Delinquencies are on the rise, the credit markets are in trouble, and housing has already started to crack.

Worldcoin needs more money for its mission…

It’s been a while since checking in on Worldcoin. But it’s recent plans for a new $120 million funding round at a $3 billion valuation gave me a reason to do so.

Regular readers may remember this one.

Worldcoin is a creepy project that’s a bizarre combination of biometric tracking and cryptocurrency. It uses a device called “the Orb” to scan people’s face and eyes – specifically the iris.

The idea is to create a unique biometric identity for everyone on the planet. That identity is then tied to a digital wallet for the project’s cryptocurrency, WDC.

Worldcoin hired “orb operators” to go around to major cities and perform eye scans on people. Here’s a look at the orb in action:

The Worldcoin “Orb”

Source: Silicon Angle

Now, Worldcoin claims that these scans are simply to verify a user’s identity and avoid duplication. Worldcoin refers to this as verifying “an individual’s unique personhood.” The company claims that it will not link this biometric data to individuals and their digital wallet.

I don’t believe that for a second.

That’s why I warned readers not to be enticed by this project’s free crypto offering.

But it seems the orb operators have been relatively successful so far. Over 1.2 million people from a host of countries have now signed up. That’s 1.2 million irises scanned.

Worldcoin continues to build its network.

The company’s stated goal is to become the largest financial network on the planet. And Worldcoin wants to implement something akin to a Universal Basic Income (UBI) model. That would involve sending out its own cryptocurrency, which it mints itself, as “stimulus” to all members of the network from time to time.

To me, Worldcoin’s positioning and rhetoric sounds far too closely linked to the World Economic Forum (WEF) and its proposed “Great Reset” plan. I don’t trust this project at all.

That said, Worldcoin continues to garner strong financial backing from well-known venture capital firms. And there’s a key reason for this…

Worldcoin was founded by Sam Altman. Altman is also the CEO of OpenAI.

And as we know, OpenAI’s ChatGPT has become incredibly successful in a short period of time. OpenAI is now valued at nearly $30 billion. We also now know that Sam Altman and his team at OpenAI have intentionally programed bias into ChatGPT.

But to many, that won’t matter. And if venture capital firms see a path to taking Worldcoin from a $3 billion valuation to a $30 billion valuation, they’re going to jump at it. Given OpenAI’s sudden success, I’m sure it was a lot easier to raise the additional capital.

Needless to say, we’ll continue to keep a close eye on this one (pun intended).

The additional capital will enable Worldcoin to hire even more operators to go out and conduct iris scans. But my warning remains the same – avoid having your iris scanned. Run the other way if someone approaches you with an Orb.

No amount of WDC is worth giving our biometric data to a company that cannot guarantee privacy and security.

For the UAE, it’s a lot more than just a digital currency…

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) just announced a formal plan to roll out its central bank digital currency (CBDC). And the plan’s quite aggressive.

The UAE expects to have its financial infrastructure transformation – they call it “FIT” – fully integrated by 2026. That’s just three years away.

As part of this initiative, the UAE plans to move to a cashless society. They want to remove all bills and coins from circulation. This would force everyone to adopt the new CBDC.

The UAE also plans to implement an electronic version of “Know Your Customer” (KYC) regulation into the CBDC and its digital wallet. This would require every individual’s identity to be tied directly to their financial transactions.

As a result, every transaction will be tracked and linked back to each individual user. Financial privacy will be a thing of the past.

This of course could open the door to draconian restrictions, should the UAE government decide to go that route. Once citizens are tied directly to a single digital wallet, the government could freeze their account or disable certain transactions if they so choose.

That’s why CBDCs paired with a cashless society are so scary. We’re talking about a major step backwards for human rights and privacy.

Sadly, this is the direction that many prominent countries seem to be going in.

Fortunately the U.S. hasn’t made any formal CBDC plans yet. But that doesn’t mean something isn’t in the works. My suspicion is that we’ll hear something from the Fed about a U.S. CBDC within the first half of this year. And I expect they’ll present a timeline for implementation.

We’ll be tracking that very closely.

Zoox just hit the public roadways…

Some of us might remember Zoox, the autonomous driving tech company that Amazon acquired for $1.3 billion back in 2020. That was a big number back then for a company that had no commercial product, and no revenues.

Zoox is unique in that its vehicles don’t have fronts or backs. They are identical on both sides. Thus, they can drive forwards or backwards without the need to turn around.

Zoox’s Autonomous Vehicle

Source: Zoox

As we can see, the Zoox vehicle is perfectly symmetrical. And it’s optimized for autonomous driving. There’s no steering wheel and pedals. Just seats for passengers.

Zoox is the first vehicle without traditional controls – like steering wheels – to be approved for use on public roads by the California Department of Motorized Vehicles. And the big news is that Amazon has now deployed Zoox robotaxis on public roads in California.

It’s already autonomously shuttling employees back and forth between corporate buildings in Foster City, which is just outside of San Francisco.

These employee test runs are the first step towards getting regulatory approval for a customer-facing ride hailing program. That’s what comes next.

And bigger picture, I suspect that Amazon likely has plans to employ this same technology into its own massive distribution network for autonomous delivery vehicles.

Paired with a humanoid robot capable of taking packages right to the consumer’s doorstep, Amazon could reduce delivery and operational costs substantially.

So I’m very interested to follow Amazon’s progress here. Zoox may be the catalyst for fully automated delivery services.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge