Beijing has struggled to appear as an attractive alternative to the US-led liberal world order
In what we imagine will become one of the most quickly realized use-cases for blockchain technology, the CDC and IBM have partnered to research how the former can develop a blockchain-based system to allow health-care providers to more easily share information about individual patients, and data about burgeoning pandemics.
Since finding new possible applications for blockchain seemingly became the obsession of a legion of entrepreneurs and corporate technology chiefs in recent years, its potential to revolutionize the storage and dissemination of health records has received quite a bit of attention.
While the partnership will focus on developing the technology for use by the federal government, the research will help aid in the creation of health-care solutions for the private market, said IBM’s chief science officer, Shahram Ebadollahi. Ebadollahi made the announcement alongside IBM’s chief health officer, Kyu Rhee, during Watson Health’s panel discussion at the Fast Company Innovation Festival.
And by combining blockchain technology with breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, the creation of home units that perform diagnostic functions in lieu of a doctor may not be far off.
Rhee said he believes AI applications in healthcare will eventually enable consumers to purchase a home health system as easily as they can now acquire a home security system. “Think about where we were with the internet in 1993,” he said. “That’s about where we are today with AI.”
Rhee and Ebadollahi explained what many health insurers and health-care providers have already acknowledged: That blockchain is particularly well suited for sharing a patient’s sensitive medical records among multiple providers. Considering that most medical practices still store patient information in a paper chart that isn’t easily shared, many have identified medical records as an area ripe for blockchain disruption.
“Blockchain is very useful when there are so many actors in the system,” Ebadollahi said. “It enables the ecosystem of data in healthcare to have more fluidity, and AI allows us to extract insights from the data. Everybody talks about Big Data in healthcare but I think the more important thing is Long Data.”
As Rhee, who began his career practicing pediatric medicine, said healthcare professionals are swamped by data. “There are more than 8,000 healthcare publications each day,” he said.
“Nobody can keep up. We need a system to translate all the data into key insights that can be applied to a patient, and that’s where AI systems can support a clinician.”
And the security features of blockchain technology make it particularly well suited for storing sensitive health records.
“Privacy and security come first,” Rhee said. “Patients own their data, and you can’t share data with people you don’t trust.”
Of course, AI's potential stretches far beyond the health-care industry.
“When a bunch of physicists collaborated and created this thing called the World Wide Web a few decades ago, nobody imagined Facebook and Google and Amazon,” he said. “With blockchain we can collect data and extract insights through AI, and the future will have an economy around that we can hardly even imagine right now.”
However, anybody who expects these breakthroughs to arrive in the near term should probably reconsider. As we recently reported, some experts believe the hype surrounding AI and machine learnings is rapidly approach the “peak of inflated expectations…"
…And as AI evangelists recognize that the technology could take decades to develop, public expectations will soon move toward the “trough of disillusionment."
Alan Joyce tops a list of LGBT executives for campaigning for same-sex marriage in Australia.
Will the rise of China mean the fall of America? In a word, yes. Although decline might be more accurate.
Why do I think this? Because China is about to launch the PetroYuan and when it does the demand for dollars and for dollar denominated debt will shrink. When it does, I question whether the world will be so sanguine about the level of debt that America carries. If that happens then the value of the dollar is in question.
At the moment no matter what level of debt America carries, other countries need dollars. Dollars to pay for oil, since oil is traded in dollars. Dollars for their financial system so their banks can settle contracts for goods and services traded in dollars.
But over the last few years China has been systematically putting in place everything it needs to launch the Yuan as not only a rival to the dollar in trading and settling oil contracts but as a rival to the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. At the moment the only rival to the dollar is the Euro. I think it fair to say the relationship between the two currencies and their issuing powers, has been… ‘delicate’. The news that Sadam Hussein was going to start trading his oil in Euros came just a few months before America and its lap dog GB, decided Sadam was a threat to world peace and went to war with him. Something similar happened to Colonel Qaddafi.
Under Qaddafi Libya’s currency was backed by the country’s large holdings of gold and silver. This had allowed Qaddafi to finance, for example, the entire construction of the Great Man Made River without going to Western banks for a single loan. Libya was debt free and owned its own resources and infrastructure. Obviously a very unsatisfactory state of affairs for any third world country to get ideas so far above their station. Worse, he had a very public plan which he had laid before the Pan African Congress, to create a pan African currency backed by gold and silver to be launched by 2023. It was not too long before Hilary Clinton arrived in a freshly bombed Libya and crowed to CBS, “We came, we saw, he died.” Charming woman. I was only surprised she didn’t say “Mission accomplished.”
Libya and Iraq were small enough, that their pretensions to threaten the hegemony of the dollar and have the jumped up arrogance to think they could trade their own resources in their own currency or a currency of their choice, could be dealt with by shock, awe and death. I think China might not be so easily dealt with.
China’s plans for the replacement of the dollar and the positioning of their own currency are very like Libya’s. China too has had the idea to back its new settlement and perhaps one day its reserve currency, with gold. And China is not alone. Russia has been a part of the BRIC group with an interest in the plan. Russia, like China has been a very large buyer of gold.
As reported just a few weeks ago by the Irish Independent,
…the Bank of Russia has more than doubled the pace of gold purchases, bringing the share of bullion in its international reserves to the highest of Mr Putin’s 17 years in power, according to World Gold Council data.
In the second quarter alone, it accounted for 38pc of all gold purchased by central banks.
The article goes on to explain how purchasing gold has meant that Russia has not had to buy foreign currencies. For foreign currencies think Dollars.
The gold rush is allowing the Bank of Russia to continue growing its reserves while abstaining from purchases of foreign currency for more than two years.
China and Russia have very large holdings of gold between them. China actually produces 12% of the world’s gold and keeps much if not most of what it produces. The new Petro Yuan will be backed by Gold, Something the IMF decades ago, said no paper currency should have. A clear break with the Bretton Woods Dollar-world agreement.
Who will use this new currency? Over the past few years a network of bilateral agreements has been created around China and Russia. Back in 2012, in an article called A new Reserve currency to challenge the dollar – What’s really going on in The Straits of Hormuz, I pointed out that not only had China and Russia agreed to bypass the dollar and trade direct in their own currencies but that,
the India Times reported that India was talking to Iran about moving out of dollar settlements so as to be able to buy Iranian oil despite a US embargo. India said it was discussing settling in Gold. Remember, India has just signed a settlement agreement with China to use the Yuan.
Remember also, Russia recently eclipsed Saudi as the number one supplier of China’s oil. And if I remember correctly Angola was number two. Promoting perhaps the recent state visit this year of Saudi’s King Salman to see Mr Putin. As The Guardian put it,
Saudi king’s visit to Russia heralds shift in global power structures
King Salman agrees new areas of cooperation with Vladimir Putin on first official trip by Saudi monarch to Moscow
In addition Japan and China have agreed to trade in Yuan, by-passing the dollar, as has Iran. They are now trading their oil in Yuan or euros, but not the dollar. Ever wondered why Iran is ‘the axis of evil? It’s because they don’t use the dollar.
Then came the news in 2015 that Qatar had opened the first and so far only financial centre in the Middle East, for trading and clearing oil, gas and anything else, in Yuan. China’s ICBC is the central banking concern in the hub, allowing any Middle Eastern country to trade oil and gas and settle in Yuan. In the previous few years China’s trade with Qatar had tripled. And now, guess what? Qatar has been declared by the US to be a sponsor of terrorism and US allies in the gulf , led by Saudi, have begun to blockade Qatar’s trade. Hmm. Any pattern emerging?
The problem for the US is how much debt is too much for any country or business? Clearly it is not any magic figure or particular debt to GDP ratio. America and China carry huge debts and no one has balked…yet. How much debt you can carry is a function of debt to the estimated future productive capacity of the country in question. That creates the demand for its currency and the demand for the currency creates a market and demand for debt denominated in that currency.
At the moment the US can carry a huge debt load because everyone needs dollars to trade oil. And China can carry a huge debt because everyone needs yuan to buy the goods whose production was off-shored to China by our globalist leadership.
But what happens to demand for Dollars and dollar debt when, not if, oil starts to be traded less and less in dollars? I suggest the world’s appetite will diminish quite quickly. As it does so, the world will start to see US debt in a different light. While the opposite will happen to China. And this is what interests me and makes me think China has a plan.
At the moment China also has a very large debt load. I have argued that the Central Chinese authorities have not got the control they would like to have over the growth of that debt. Of course I have no inside information. But the on again/ off again attempts of the Chinese central authorities to deflate its housing-debt bubble and its quite out-of-control shadow banking lending suggests, to me at least, that the central authorities have not and can not control the level of debt being accumulated by provincial governments, their off-book, arm’s length financial vehicles, regional banks, property developers and the vast, largely unregulated trade in wealth management vehicles.
Chinese debt already overflowed once back in the 90’s. Four companies were created to take the debt off the banks’ books and trade it away. Decades later these companies still exist and still have the bad debts from the 90’s hanging around. You will see headlines telling you how those companies have been doing well, making money. Suggesting their trade in bad chinese debt has been going well. The reality, if you dig a little deeper, is that those companies lobbied for and were given permission to engage in ‘proper’ banking activities. Which meant they began to make their own loans – to property developers. As the property bubble continued to inflate over the last decade and a half they have ridden it and that, not trading the old bad-debt, is why they have made a profit. But now those ‘bad’ banks, have themselves started to find some of their own loans going bad. In any hard-landing or financial paroxysm the ‘bad-banks’ will need to be rescued by a new bad banks. Bad banks for bad banks is not really a solution.
I think the Chinese authorities can see this. It doesn’t take a genius after all. What can they do? Well if you already have a huge debt problem and know many of them are going to go bad and will do so overnight in the event of another global banking crisis, and know you are not able to reign it all in, then a very tempting alternative would be to get the world to agree that you can carry more debt – a lot more. And what could help convince the world? Well if your currency could become far more sought after, that would be peachy.
And so I think the long standing Chinese goal of making the yuan an important international currency which China, and Hong Kong in particular, have been working towards for years, has now taken on a far greater import and urgency. I think the Chinese central government’s best way of avoiding a politically disastrous domestic debt implosion is to get the Yuan to be used as a settlement currency for oil and not long after that to become a de facto rival to the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.
Recently I argued at length with a military analyst who disagreed that China would risk such a break with America. Too dangerous he felt. China, he pointed out has such huge holdings of American debt. He argued that the Chinese would prefer to work alongside the dollar. I feel that even if the Chinese would prefer to ‘work alongside’ the dollar, this will prove very difficult if not impossible. Once a flow of countries and trade moves away from the dollar there will be a momentum the Chinese will not be in control of. Cooperation between dollar and Yuan as clearing and reserve currency, especially for oil, will be like trying to dock two super-tankers in a high sea. In theory possible. In practice – not going to work.
As for Chinese holdings of US debt – I think the advantages of avoiding a domestic debt implosion and projecting the Yuan to world centre stage, will outweigh the losses. I also think, If I were the Chinese, I would imagine a scenario where the dollar does begin to look vulnerable. Its value begins to be questioned, nations holding dollars and dollar debt will feel America’s profligate indebtedness is a global danger. They will blame America. How wonderful then, for China to arrive and say to a worried world, on the edge of a huge crisis, “Fear not, we have thought ahead and can offer you the use of a new currency – one backed by GOLD not paper debts. We are here to save you. To offer a ride on a sound ship as an alternative to the rotten and leaking ship you have been riding on.” China will be able to position their rise not as an aggressive act, not as trying to destabilise the world, but as trying to save it, from the collapse of an internally divided, corrupt, aggressive and indebted America.
America’s decline will be both financial and political. Financial due to the recalibration of what the world thinks of America’s debt load, and therefore their confidence in and need for the dollar. Political, because America has got used to being able to enforce its foreign policy through sanctions and embargoes. But once oil and other goods and the nations trading in them, no longer need the dollar for their trade, and do not have to use US clearing or custodial banks, then this power evaporates.
Try to imagine the shift in power when Wall Street’s banks are no longer guaranteed top position as the world’s custodial banks and Manhattan’s Southern District Court (Wall Street’s court) is no longer in a position to dictate to whole nations via decisions upon Wall Street Custodial banks, what debts those nations and their custodial banks must pay and to whom. The whole edifice of Bilateral Investment Treaties and the trade agreements they sit inside, depends for enforcement upon the US banks being the custodial banks and the Southern District court’s rulings being able to tell those banks what they must do. Take that power away, which will happen if the dollar is no longer pre-emininent, and America will no longer be able to enforce its foreign policy or world view via economic sanction.
I think the main US banks will be positioning themselves to try to bridge this decline by having a major presence in Hong Kong. They are all already there but will be working to be part of the new Yuan-world of trade and clearing.
Of course this is speculation. But it seems to me the underlying evidence of the previous decade makes it worth thinking about.
If I am in any way correct then I think other things follow.
I think the House of Saud knows it’s future is in question. I have written a lot about how I see Qatar rising to rival Saudi. Qatar not Saudi has the Yuan clearing house. Saudi is late to the party. Can Saudi risk being seen to move away from its traditional ally, America? If it does, too quickly, and signs yuan trade deals it risks falling as soon as Americal turns its back. If it doesn’t move quickly enough it risks being completely eclipsed by Qatar, having to go to Qatar cap in hand to trade its oil with Russia and China.
I see the political changes within the House of Saud as signs of the internal struggles to decide which way to go. I personally think the House of Saud will fall.
I also think the position of Israel under its present leadership is also very fragile. Israel needs Saudi. While they may seem to be on opposite sides, in many ways they are on the same side. If the House of Saud falls or changes allegiances from America to Russia/China then Israel will become even more isolated than it is. And of course if America is eclipsed and does enter a period of decline, then Israel will go with it.
If any of the above is near the mark, will it mean the end of America? Of course not. American’s will still work and sleep and raise their children like everyone else. But the pre-eminence of the dollar and American finance will decline as the stock of dollar denominated bonds and debt agreements expires, and with it the power and wealth of many of America’s elite. How that decline will sit alongside America’s still overwhelming military power I don’t know.
Of course what I have suggested above is merely speculation but personally I think another debt crisis will happen, because never ending QE and Central Bank debt buying cannot go one for ever, and what China does in the next few months could very well destabilise the whole unstable system. Many people will suffer and lives will be blighted. But I wonder if, when we all look back from a decade or a generation after, if we won’t think it lucky the crisis did finally come and the system we have been slaving under since 2007 as well as those who have forced it upon us for their own enrichment, were called to account.
It is difficult to accept that such historic changes could occur. But history has not ended despite what some have claimed.
Rumours of History’s end have been, in my opinion, greatly exaggerated. History is very much alive and happening to us, now. We are, as the Chinese saying goes, living in interesting times.
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