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Chiral Particles to Realize the Promise of Nanomedicine

Chiral molecules are widely used in drug design, with some molecules designed to interact with the body in an enantiomer-specific manner. For instance,…



By Yuwen Wang and Andy Tay, PhD

Chirality refers to the property of an object that cannot be superimposed on its mirror image. Chiral molecules and their mirror images are called enantiomers, which are denoted as “D” (dextrorotatory) and “L” (levorotatory) in Latin nomenclature. The concept of chirality is well established in the fields of organic and stereochemistry, however, its application in biomedicine, particularly nanomedicine, is still in its early stages of development.

In nature, small molecules such as amino acids, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids, which play a crucial role in the origin of life, are chiral. For instance, amino acids are predominantly L, while sugars and the well-known DNA double helix structure are mostly D. This phenomenon is referred to as homochirality and is a defining characteristic of all living things.

Chiral molecules have been widely utilized in drug design, with some molecules designed to interact with the body in an enantiomer-specific manner. For instance, D-Ethambutol is an anti-tuberculosis medication, while L-Ethambutol can induce blindness.1 The introduction of chirality into nanoparticles (NPs) and nanoassemblies is a promising venue to enhance the translational impact of nanomedicine.

Chiral NPs are synthesized by binding a chiral ligand onto the surface of an NP. In contrast, chiral nanoassemblies denote structures that possess chirality when composed of multiple individual NPs.2 The preparation of chiral nanoassemblies can be based on intrinsic chiral interactions, external field induction, or chiral template facilitation, and depending on the driving force leading to the symmetry defect, it can yield a diversity of nanoassembly shapes.

Chiral nanomaterial for immunotherapy

A chiral molecule is one that is not superposable with its mirror image. Like left and right hands that have a thumb and fingers in the same order, but are mirror images and not the same, chiral molecules have the same things attached in the same order, but are mirror images and not the same. Although most amino acids can exist in both left- and right-handed forms, Life on Earth is made of left-handed amino acids, almost exclusively. [Wiki Commons]
A recent study led by Hua Kuang and Chuanlai Xu from Jiangnan University, and Nicholas Kotov from the University of Michigan, found that NPs with identical chemical structures but different chirality exhibit divergent capacities to stimulate immune cells due to varying atomic spatial arrangements.4 The team synthesized monodispersed gold NPs using circularly polarized light and chiral peptides and found that both enantiomers of NPs elicited an immune response, with the L-NP demonstrating a stronger effect than the right-handed enantiomer.

Going further, the team showed that the L-NP was able to enter immune dendritic cells with twice the efficiency than D-NP in vitro and L-NP displayed a 1,258-fold higher efficiency as an adjuvant for the H9N2 influenza virus vaccine compared to the D-NP, offering the potential for the utilization of nanoscale chirality in the field of immunology.

“Chiral nanoparticles and chirality in nanometer scale (not at the angstrom scale typical for optical centers in carbons) is under-explored but critically important area because proteins and other biomacromolecules have it. Thus, we can engineer the NPs to make to interact with the proteins according to the chirality requirements specified by the target protein. Nanoscale chirality enables them to ‘fit’ better. In the case of cancer vaccines, many issues originate from the problem that the good targets on the target proteins (or other macromolecules) exhibit low immune response. This is a reason for many failed cancer vaccines. Chiral NPs can help activate, for example, dendritic cells to ‘learn’ the sequences of target macromolecules to create a more potent vaccine and a more long-lasting curative effect,” says Kotov.

Chiral nanoparticles as cancer treatment and prevention

The utilization of lipid NPs as a drug delivery platform in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the potential of nanotechnology to revolutionize the field of drug delivery. As various applications of nanotechnology in drug delivery are being explored, lipid NPs have emerged as a promising technology, particularly in the delivery of mRNA vaccines.

Cancer is a significant global health threat and is the second leading cause of death worldwide.5 A 2019 study showed that there were 23.6 million new cancer cases and 10 million cancer-related deaths.6 While traditional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are commonly used, these interventions often have severe side effects, largely due to their lack of tumor specificity. To address this issue, researchers are exploring the use of cancer vaccines, which aim to specifically target and eliminate cancer cells through the stimulation of the immune system.

Wang et al., used circularly polarized light to synthesize L-/D-gold NPs capable of performing both therapeutic and preventive functions against tumors in mouse models.7 The L-NPs demonstrated stronger interaction with cells, resulting in enhanced activation of NK cells and CD8+ T cells and their infiltration into the tumor tissues.

“Adaptive immunity depends on the recognition of specific antigen. Tumors can escape immune surveillance by cloaking their cell membrane proteins. Thus, there are no desirable target antigens available on the surface of tumor cells. But tumor cells are different from normal cells in some surface protein abundances. We can design chiral nanoparticles targeting tumor cells to release intrinsic antigen, damage associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) and cytokines, and recruit immune cells. The cold immunosuppressive tumor can then be transformed to hot tumor,” says Chuanlai Xu, who led his team to develop chiral nanoparticle for cancer therapy and prevention.

Enantiomer-dependent treatment of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the primary cause of dementia and is a significant health concern in terms of cost, mortality, and burden.8 The study of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease has recently become a focus for chiral nanotherapeutics. Shi et al., discovered that chiral gold NPs can effectively promote the differentiation of neural stem cells (NSCs) into neurons in mice under near-infrared light irradiation.9 NSCs, which possess pluripotency and remarkable regenerative potential, have been proposed as a potential treatment for neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, and spinal cord injury. It was found that the efficiency of cell differentiation increased with the enhancement of chirality, and these chiral NPs also showed significant therapeutic effects in in vivo studies on Alzheimer’s disease mouse models.

The study of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease has recently become a focus for chiral nanotherapeutics. [TEK Image/Science Photo Library/Getty Images]
In addition to therapy using NSCs, preventing the aggregation of amyloid β (Aβ) peptides is a promising approach for the treatment of AD. The formation of neurofibrillary tangles caused by misfolded aggregates of Aβ peptides is a prominent histopathological feature of AD. A team led by  Zhiyong Tang, a professor from the Center for Nanomaterials in China demonstrated that chiral NPs can effectively inhibit the aggregation of Aβ42 and cross the blood-brain barrier after intravenous administration with minimal toxicity.10 The L-NPs exhibit a greater binding affinity for Aβ42 and higher brain biodistribution compared to their enantiomeric D-NPs, leading to improved inhibition of Aβ42 fibrillation and more effective rescue of behavioral deficits in AD mouse models.

“The thalidomide tragedy from the last century taught us that different enantiomers of a drug can have vastly different outcomes, with one being effective while the other might be inactive or even harmful. Therefore, determining the chirality of a drug is crucial to ensure its safety and effectiveness. In the field of nanomedicine, chiral nanoparticles have unique characteristics that affect their pharmacokinetics, biodistribution, and efficacy as drug delivery vehicles. Our research has shown that chiral gold nanoparticles exhibit enantioselectivity against amyloid beta aggregation, meaning they preferentially interact with one enantiomer of a drug over the other,” says Tang.  

He adds that most clinical trials using small molecules or antibodies have been unsuccessful against Alzheimer’s disease because the small size of nanoparticles enables them to overcome the body’s barriers and cross the blood-brain barrier, resulting in higher bioavailability and fewer side effects.

“Nevertheless, as with any new therapeutic approach, the safety and toxicity of chiral nanoparticles must be thoroughly evaluated. This includes understanding their potential impact on the immune system, as well as their long-term safety profile. Chiral nanomedicines may also offer noninvasive methods for disease imaging and monitoring, leading to improved patient outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. By minimizing toxicity, chiral nanomedicine has the potential to enhance patients’ quality of life.”  

Challenges and outlook

The use of chiral nanotherapeutics holds significant promise but faces several challenges. For one, the exact mechanism in which cells interact with chiral NPs is not yet fully understood. For instance, a study found that chiral NPs can activate the potassium ion signaling pathway to stimulate immune cells (Xu et al., 2022),4 but this is not the typical pathway leading to cytokine release which is typically regulated by calcium channels.11 Hence, it is of great interest to further investigate this phenomenon.

According to Kotov, another challenge is to develop a high-performance toolbox for predicting formations NP-protein complexes with chiral lock-and key fits in which he suggests the need to integrate chirality measures tools and artificial intelligence practices. Additionally, the complexity of synthesizing NPs also makes it challenging to scale up and obtain fast regulatory approval.

All in all, studying the fundamental physicochemical properties of NPs, including size, shape, and surface charge, has become a routine aspect of nanoparticle research.12 Despite the challenges faced, the potential for chiral nanomaterials to play a role in medicine is significant, and ongoing laboratory studies suggest their viability as a therapeutic tool.


  1. Chhabra, N., Aseri, M. L., & Padmanabhan, D. (2013). A review of drug isomerism and its significance. International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research, 3(1).
  2. Ma, W., Xu L., de Moura, A. F., Wu, X., Kuang, H., Xu, C. and Kotov, N. A. (2017). Chiral Inorganic Nanostructures. Chemical Reviews, 117, 8041–8093.
  3. Lv, J., Gao, X., Han, B., Zhu, Y., Hou, K., & Tang, Z. (2022). Self-assembled inorganic chiral superstructures. Nature Reviews Chemistry, 6(2), Article 2.
  4. Xu, L., Wang, X., Wang, W., Sun, M., Choi, W. J., Kim, J.-Y., Hao, C., Li, S., Qu, A., Lu, M., Wu, X., Colombari, F. M., Gomes, W. R., Blanco, A. L., de Moura, A. F., Guo, X., Kuang, H., Kotov, N. A., & Xu, C. (2022). Enantiomer-dependent immunological response to chiral nanoparticles. Nature, 601(7893), Article 7893.
  5. Vos, T., Lim, S. S., Abbafati, C., Abbas, K. M., Abbasi, M., Abbasifard, M., Abbasi-Kangevari, M., Abbastabar, H., Abd-Allah, F., Abdelalim, A., Abdollahi, M., Abdollahpour, I., Abolhassani, H., Aboyans, V., Abrams, E. M., Abreu, L. G., Abrigo, M. R. M., Abu-Raddad, L. J., Abushouk, A. I., … Murray, C. J. L. (2020). Global burden of 369 diseases and injuries in 204 countries and territories, 1990–2019: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The Lancet, 396(10258), 1204–1222.
  6. Global Burden of Disease 2019 Cancer Collaboration. (2022). Cancer Incidence, Mortality, Years of Life Lost, Years Lived With Disability, and Disability-Adjusted Life Years for 29 Cancer Groups From 2010 to 2019: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. JAMA Oncology, 8(3), 420–444.
  7. Wang, W., Zhao, J., Hao, C., Hu, S., Chen, C., Cao, Y., Xu, Z., Guo, J., Xu, L., Sun, M., Xu, C., & Kuang, H. (2022). The Development of Chiral Nanoparticles to Target NK Cells and CD8+ T Cells for Cancer Immunotherapy. Advanced Materials, 34(16), 2109354.
  8. Scheltens, P., Strooper, B. D., Kivipelto, M., Holstege, H., Chételat, G., Teunissen, C. E., Cummings, J., & Flier, W. M. van der. (2021). Alzheimer’s disease. The Lancet, 397(10284), 1577–1590.
  9. Shi, B., Zhao, J., Xu, Z., Chen, C., Xu, L., Xu, C., Sun, M., & Kuang, H. (2022). Chiral Nanoparticles Force Neural Stem Cell Differentiation to Alleviate Alzheimer’s Disease. Advanced Science, 9(29), 2202475.
  10. Hou, K., Zhao, J., Wang, H., Li, B., Li, K., Shi, X., Wan, K., Ai, J., Lv, J., Wang, D., Huang, Q., Wang, H., Cao, Q., Liu, S., & Tang, Z. (2020). Chiral gold nanoparticles enantioselectively rescue memory deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Nature Communications, 11(1), Article 1.
  11. Feske, S., Wulff, H., & Skolnik, E. Y. (2015). Ion Channels in Innate and Adaptive Immunity. Annual Review of Immunology, 33(1), 291–353.
  12. Wang, Y., Liu, L., Le, Z., & Tay, A. (2022). Analysis of Nanomedicine Efficacy for Osteoarthritis. Advanced NanoBiomed Research, 2(12), 2200085.


The post Chiral Particles to Realize the Promise of Nanomedicine appeared first on GEN - Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

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“True Stories… Could Fuel Hesitancy”: Stanford Project Worked To Censor Even True Stories On Social Media

"True Stories… Could Fuel Hesitancy": Stanford Project Worked To Censor Even True Stories On Social Media

Authored by Jonathan Turley,




"True Stories... Could Fuel Hesitancy": Stanford Project Worked To Censor Even True Stories On Social Media

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

While lost in the explosive news about Donald Trump’s expected arrest, journalist Matt Taibbi released new details on previously undisclosed censorship efforts on social media. The latest Twitter Files revealed a breathtaking effort from Stanford’s Virality Project to censor even true stories. After all, the project insisted “true stories … could fuel hesitancy” over taking the vaccine or other measures. The effort included suppressing stories that we now know are legitimate such as natural immunity defenses, the exaggerated value of masks, and questions over vaccine efficacy in preventing second illnesses. The work of the Virality Project to censor even true stories should result in the severance of any connection with Stanford University.

We have learned of an ever-expanding coalition of groups working with the government and social media to target and censor Americans, including government-funded organizations.

However, the new files are chilling in the details allegedly showing how the Virality Project labeled even true stories as “anti-vaccine” and, therefore, subject to censorship. These files would suggest that the Project eagerly worked to limit free speech and suppress alternative scientific viewpoints.

Taibbi describes the Virality Project as “a sweeping, cross-platform effort to monitor billions of social media posts by Stanford University, federal agencies, and a slew of (often state-funded) NGOs.”

He added: “We’ve since learned the Virality Project in 2021 worked with government to launch a pan-industry monitoring plan for Covid-related content. At least six major Internet platforms were ‘onboarded’ to the same JIRA ticketing system, daily sending millions of items for review.”

According to Taibbi, it targeted anyone who did not robotically fall in line with the CDC and media narratives, including targeting postings that shared “Reports of vaccinated individuals contracting Covid-19 anyway,” research on “natural immunity,” suggesting Covid-19 “leaked from a lab,” and even “worrisome jokes.”

That included evidence that it “knowingly targeted true material and legitimate political opinion, while often being factually wrong itself.”

The Virality Project warned Twitter that “true stories … could fuel hesitancy,” including stories on “celebrity deaths after vaccine” and the closure of a central New York school due to reports of post-vaccine illness.

The Project is part of the Cyber Policy Center at Stanford and bills itself as “a joint initiative of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Stanford Law School, connects academia, the legal and tech industry and civil society with policymakers around the country to address the most pressing cyber policy concerns.”

The Center launched the Project as a “a global study aimed at understanding the disinformation dynamics specific to the COVID-19 crisis.”

As with many disinformation projects, it became a source of its own disinformation in the effort to suppress alternative views.

It is being funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies and the Hewlett Foundation.

On its website, it proclaims: “At the Stanford Internet Observatory our mission is to study the misuse of the internet to cause harm, and to help create policy and technical mitigations to those harms.” It defines its mission to maintain the truth as it sees it:

“The global COVID-19 crisis has significantly shifted the landscape for mis- and disinformation as the pandemic has become the primary concern of almost every nation on the planet. This has perhaps never happened before; few topics have commanded and sustained attention at a global level simultaneously, or provided such a wealth of opportunities for governments, economically motivated actors, and domestic activists alike to spread malign narratives in service to their interests.”

What is even more disconcerting is that groups like the Virality Project worked against public health by suppressing such stories that are now considered legitimate from the efficacy of masks to the lab origin theory. It was declaring dissenting scientific views to be dangerous disinformation. Nothing could be more inimical to the academic mission. Yet, Stanford still heralds the work of the Project on its website.

There is nothing more inherently in conflict with academic values than censorship. Stanford’s association with this censorship effort is disgraceful and should be a matter for faculty action. This is a project that sought to censor true stories that undermined government or media narratives.

I am not hopeful that Stanford will sever its connection to the Project.  Censorship is now the rage on campuses and the Project is the perfect embodiment of this movement. Cloaking censorship efforts in self-righteous rhetoric, the Project sought to silence those who failed to adhere to a certain orthodoxy, including scientific and public health claims that were later found flawed or wrong. The Project itself is an example of what it called “media and social media capabilities – overt and covert – to spread particular narratives.”

Stanford should fulfill its pledge in creating the Virality Project in fighting disinformation by eliminating the Virality Project.

Tyler Durden Sun, 03/19/2023 - 17:55

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“The New Normal”: New York To Lower Math And English Proficiency Standards Due To Poor Test Result

"The New Normal": New York To Lower Math And English Proficiency Standards Due To Poor Test Result

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

I recently…



"The New Normal": New York To Lower Math And English Proficiency Standards Due To Poor Test Result

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

recently wrote how public educators and unions were methodically killing public education. The best example this week comes from New York where a school board committee has solved the dismal math and reading scores for children in the system . . .  they lowered the standards. This is not the first system to gut its standards rather than improve its quality of education. 

As teachers and unions object to school choice, they continue to make the case for private education.

Parents are increasingly voting with their feet.

The board is simply calling the lack of proficiency “the new normal” and changing the standards. Done.

New York will permanently lower the math and reading proficiency standards after embarrassing results in state testing. It is akin to shortening the 100 yards dash to 50 yards to stay competitive on speed.

The media reported that

“A scoring committee that reports to the Board of Regents said Monday that they must take into account the results of last year’s tests for students in grades three through eight. Some schools posted shocking results — in Schenectady, no eighth grader who took the math test scored as proficient. And the scores for the third through eighth grade tests throughout the state were much lower in 2022 than in 2019, a result no doubt of the absence of in-person learning during the first year and beyond of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This may seem insane to anyone with a proficiency in logic, but it is being shrugged off by many in New York. There is now an acceptance that the public schools cannot actually educate students to proficiency levels needed to succeed in the modern world. In the meantime, some districts are moving to a four-day work week for teachers to reduce stress.

We previously discussed the elimination of gifted and talented programs to achieve equity by artificially lowering everyone to the same level.

Other schools have eliminated the “F” to guarantee 100 percent passage rates.

Still others have suspended proficiency standards to simply graduate students who cannot reach required levels in writing, math, and English.

There is also a move to end standardized testing.

In a prior column, I was particularly moved by the frustration of a mother in Baltimore recently who complained that her son was in the top half of his class despite failing all but three of his classes. Graduating students without proficiency in English or Math is the worst possible path for these students, schools and society.

It is the dumbing down of America but administrators, boards, and unions insist that it is better for these students, who face dismal prospects for future employment. In the meantime, we are pouring billions into schools that cannot produce a single proficient student in basic subjects. If this were a business, there would be criminal fraud charges across the nation.

Tyler Durden Sun, 03/19/2023 - 13:30

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Is The US Funding An Experiment In Digital Control In Ukraine?

Is The US Funding An Experiment In Digital Control In Ukraine?

Authored by Marie Hawthorne via The Organic Prepper blog,

Fighting between…



Is The US Funding An Experiment In Digital Control In Ukraine?

Authored by Marie Hawthorne via The Organic Prepper blog,

Fighting between Russia and Ukraine has been going on for a little over a year now, ending the lives of hundreds of thousands of young men and displacing millions.  Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, invited Western arms manufacturers to test their newest weapons against Russians in 2022. And indeed, all kinds of weaponry have been flowing into Ukraine.  It is truly a testing ground.

So, this begs the question, is anything else getting tested there?  The Ukrainian government seems pretty willing to use its own citizens as guinea pigs, and the American government seems pretty willing to foot the bill.  Are American tax dollars going to any other interesting projects?

Here’s what the US is funding in Ukraine.

Yes, actually.  Volodymyr Zelensky became president of Ukraine in May 2019, and almost immediately he introduced his idea of a “country in a smartphone.”

In early September 2019, Ukraine launched its Ministry of Digital Transformation, headed by a World Economic Forum participant, Mykhailo Fedorov  According to Federov, the goal of this new government department was to streamline government services, making it easier to apply for driver’s licenses, passports, and so on.  Ukraine has long held the reputation as Europe’s most corrupt country, and young politicians like Federov want to take advantage of new technology to make changes.

So, in early February 2020, the Ukrainian government launched its Diia app for smartphones.  Developed by volunteers from EPAM Systems, Diia has been touted as a way to streamline government services.  By 2021 it had allowed Ukraine to become the first European nation to accord digital passports and one of the first to issue digital drivers’ licenses.  Federov reported in 2021 that about one-fourth of the Ukrainian population was using it, and it was gaining in popularity.  As of January 2023, about half the adult Ukrainian population was using it.

There is a positive side to streamlining government services.  Diia has allowed Ukrainians to easily start new businesses, making all the required government paperwork easily available.  I can see this being helpful for young entrepreneurs.

However, negative consequences became readily apparent, too.

Within a year of its launch, millions of Ukrainians found that their personal data, such as driver’s licenses, social media information, and banking information, were being traded online.  There’s always been the risk of losing your wallet and your driver’s license, but with everything online, the risks of fraud and identity theft increase astronomically.

Early on in his presidency, Zelensky talked about streamlining the voting process via the app.  Aside from the fact that experts have never agreed about the safety of online voting, by July 2022, Zelensky had banned political opposition parties and shut down media companies with alternative views. Having one central app that controls everyone’s important documents makes it far easier for any ruling party to maintain its power.

Controlling elections is only the beginning.  Diia launched in February 2020, and by March 2020, Diia was helping the Ukrainian government enforce its lockdown policies, as discussed in the recent report by Redacted.

The Redacted report shows portions of various WEF summits and at 2:06 has a clip of a WEF paper saying, “This digital identity determines what products, services, and information we can access—or conversely, what is closed off to us.”  Diia (and other digital identity products) have been marketed as a convenience, but don’t be fooled.  Developers of this technology have seen their potential as a control mechanism from the beginning.

The Redacted report also shows clips of Federov speaking at the 2021 WEF summit, and at 5:40 he openly admits that the pandemic allowed the Ukrainian government to speed up Ukraine’s digital transformation.  “The pandemic has accelerated our progress,” says Federov.  “People are really now demanding digital online services.  People have no choice but to trust technology.”

The Redacted report traces Diia’s transformation from a convenient service to a military tool.  At 6:39, they discuss an interview in Wired with Anton Melnyk, an adviser in Ukraine’s Ministry for Digital Transformation.  In March 2022, Dr. Melnyk stated, “We have restructured the Ministry of Digital Transformation into a clear military organization.”

Wartime features in an app

Shortly after the Russian invasion, Diia added all kinds of new wartime features.  Ukrainians can report Russian troop movements through Diia’s chatbot, eVorog (eEnemy).  Ukrainians can receive government payments even if they’re displaced.  But Diia doesn’t stop there.

Diia encourages citizens to snitch on their neighbors.  The wartime features allow any citizen to anonymously accuse any other citizen of being a Russian collaborator.  Stalin’s rule in the Soviet Union demonstrated how wrong this can go.  Ukrainians hate Stalin, and rightfully so.  But using cutting-edge technology to encourage the exact same kind of community-destroying snitching is a page right out of his playbook.  Between the snitching and its one official, government-approved news station, Diia is rapidly becoming Stalin in a smartphone.

Here’s why Americans should care.

In case you’re wondering why we should care about the ins and outs of Ukrainian bureaucracy, there are two big reasons worth paying attention to this.  The first is that Americans have been paying for much of the technical development.  The second is that the “government in a smartphone” concept is rapidly spreading around the world.

USAID has been supporting Ukraine’s digital transformation since 2016.  The volunteers that developed Diia were Ukrainians working with EPAM Systems, a software engineering company based in Pennsylvania.  And EPAM Systems may be a private company, but USAID isn’t. It’s taxpayer-funded.

After the Russian invasion, USAID donated another $8.5 million to Ukraine to help develop Diia’s wartime features.  USAID director Samantha Power spoke at the World Economic Forum in 2023, touting Diia’s success.  She and Federov both talked about the huge successes and discussed sharing Diia’s model with other countries.  Incidentally, Samantha Power is married to Cass Sunstein, the author of Nudge and a number of other books that some might consider pro-social-manipulation.

Power has stated that USAID intends to look for leaders in developing nations that have been running on anti-corruption platforms and sharing Diia-like technology with them to help modernize their countries.  She specifically cited Zambia, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador. In January, Estonia announced that they would begin trial runs of their mRiik app, modeled after Ukraine’s Diia.

And, of course, all of this sounds very loving and charitable. However, it’s impossible to ignore the financial incentives.

The digital shift in America

The U.S. got a giant shove online when lockdowns were enforced in 2020 and 2021.  The U.S.’s “digital transformation,” even though it was only partial, still made already-wealthy tech companies even wealthier. Even though billionaire wealth can fluctuate pretty dramatically, by the end of 2022, American billionaires were still 50% richer than pre-pandemic.

Lovers of free-market economics will point out that increased technological ability is a rising wave that lifts everyone.  That can be true, but ask yourself, are most people you know 50% richer than before the pandemic?  Probably not.  Our lives have been getting pushed online over the past few years.  Some people profited, but the quality of life of the average citizen decreased.

Combine the shift to a digital world with the reconstruction after wartime destruction, and you see huge opportunities for profit.  It’s estimated that rebuilding Ukraine, so far, will cost over $1 trillion.  Zelensky and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink have already come to an agreement about managing the rebuilding of Ukraine.  USAID may be charitable, but BlackRock isn’t.  Ukraine is in the process of being destroyed and being rebuilt.  This is going to be hugely profitable for certain people, and Big Tech seems to be intent on getting their slice of the pie.

This kind of thing isn’t new.  Brigadier General Smedley Butler, combat veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, wrote War Is a Racket back in the 1930s.  The book is full of examples of industries generating huge wartime profits in conflicts a hundred years ago.  War profiteering isn’t new. It isn’t a conspiracy. It’s human nature.

There’s no reason not to think that the same powerful Big Tech figures will not continue to push the expansion of their businesses by pushing life around the world online, with or without violent conflict.

Will we all be pushed into government-by-smartphone?

Maybe some emerging markets will be helped by Diia-like apps.  But what about countries that already had reasonably safe and secure government services?  Will functional governments be pushed onto a smartphone?

It’s likely, though not imminent.  The Improving Digital Identity Act of 2021 is in Congress right now. There are a few versions of it under review. The Senate version actually states that the government cannot require digital identity for any kind of transaction.

Americans are still, on average, relatively concerned about privacy and the concentration of power.  The many concerns surrounding Centralized Bank Digital Currencies apply to digital identification, as well.  The OP ran an article last month discussing the total loss of anonymity that will occur when CBDCs become implemented.

And there are other, less discussed applications.  Look at geofencing.  A federal district judge just issued a first-ever “geofencing” warrant for anyone in the vicinity of the Capitol on January 6.  This gave police the authority to search the cell phone data of every American whose coordinates happened to be in the area, regardless of whether or not they had anything to do with the shenanigans at the Capitol.

Imagine if they could pull your driver’s license or freeze your bank account, too.  Right now, that’s not possible. With all of your important documents linked to something like Diia, it could be.

Here’s how it could unfold.

I don’t think we will all be forced onto something like Diia in the space of a year, but I think we’re at the beginning of a certain chain of events.  Digital IDs begin to be offered as a convenience, they become popular, they begin to be preferred by businesses and governments, and we eventually lose the option of physical IDs.  And, of course, some kind of crisis (climate change, another pandemic, a hot war) could speed this up more quickly, as happened in Ukraine.

The tools to implement a CBDC linked to a digital identity are already out there.  Look at China’s social credit system.  It’s technically possible for us, too. It sounds crazy, but conspiracy theorists have been proven correct so consistently lately I don’t think skepticism regarding these new, profitable technologies is unreasonable.

How to retain our privacy

We need to remember that life’s about more than convenience.  It’s about the freedom to try new things, some of which will fail spectacularly and some of which will lead to resounding successes.  That combination of failure and success is what leads to the deeper insights that make most of us into interesting people.  If we continue to trade privacy for convenience, we may find we don’t have much freedom left, either.

If we want to retain some measure of privacy and control over our own lives, if we want to avoid the techno-prison currently being constructed for us, if Americans don’t want our own “Stalin in a smartphone,” we need to avoid feeding the digital beast.  Yes, it’s hard, and no, it’s not going to be realistic for 99.9% of us to live completely offline.  But we can keep our friendships and purchases offline as much as possible.  We can drag our feet when it comes to getting the newest smart gadgets.  Perhaps most importantly, those of us with teenagers and young adults can spend time explaining our privacy concerns to the younger generation, so they try to live life offline, as well.

The digital prison is being constructed, but it’s by no means done yet.  Grand plans like “government in a smartphone” always fall apart at some point.  The problems with Diia are obvious to anyone paying attention.  If enough of us can postpone moving everything online, hopefully, this impetus will collapse on its own.

Tyler Durden Sun, 03/19/2023 - 07:00

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