Weekend Roundup: Voting, Vetos, and a Very Big Brain Idea

Hey, good news: It’s the weekend (or very close to it, if you’re reading this on Friday). It’s time to sit back, relax, and let us catch you up on the future of voting, cryptocurrency gone awry, Elon Musk’s stupid brain idea, Instagram vulnerabilities, and a more virtual you.

Let’s get to it!

The Government wants to veto crypto

Silk Road couldn’t bring cryptocurrency down, likely because buying drugs on the dark web didn’t make lobbyists feel like the entire structure of capitalism was at risk. Facebook’s Libra crypto-coin, though… that’s causing a stir.

According to Reuters, the House Financial Services Committee has drafted legislation that would prevent any “big tech” company from offering any type of financial services directly to consumers. The Keep Big Tech Out Of Finance Act (which just plain sounds like some lobbyist wrote it during a fever dream one night) proposes a $1 million per-day fine for any company violating its rules, and targets companies that operate mainly online and generate $25 billion in annual revenue.

“A large platform utility may not establish, maintain, or operate a digital asset that is intended to be widely used as medium of exchange, unit of account, store of value, or any other similar function, as defined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,” the bill states.

It’s not law yet, but the pace at which this bill was introduced after Libra was announced shows the government and various financial lobbyists are getting serious about preventing Facebook (and others) from creating private financial networks. Even if this one fails, the concept won’t die.

Elon’s Big Brain Idea

Neuralink, a pretty secretive company owned by Elon Musk, announced this week its plans to drill holes into your skull, attach lead wires to your brain, and glue a Raspberry Pi to your scalp… all so you can think your commands to a computer.

We’re being glib, kinda. In this hypothetical scenario, the leads attached to your brain are thinner than human hairs, and the component on the outside looks a lot more like a cochlear implant device than a tin of Altoids. Musk confirmed in a presentation that Neuralink was already testing on animals such as rats and monkeys; he says the concept is to merge our minds with A.I. (and he’s on the record as terrified of A.I., so… weird).

If this all sounds too strange to be good, here’s a key excerpt from The Verge’s piece on it:

Max Hodak, president of Neuralink, also came on stage and admitted that he wasn’t originally sure “this technology was a good idea,” but that Musk convinced him it would be possible.

So, the guy in charge of it all had to be convinced it was even a good idea. Sounds promising.

Elon Musk, who can’t quite figure out self-driving cars or the production line, and distracts himself by selling branded flame throwers and running afoul of the SEC for making weed-related jokes about taking his company private, wants direct access to your brain. That’s a no from me, dawg.

ElectionGuard 2020

Microsoft showed off a working prototype of its ElectionGuard voting system this week, and says it will be “piloting” the platform for the 2020 election cycle. It says it has deals with half the companies manufacturing voting systems in the United States, and is adding two major partners.

ElectionGuard encrypts your vote, and provides a tracking code you can use to go online and view your vote to ensure it wasn’t compromised (and had been counted). There will also be an option to print a ballot, which is meant as a second layer of protection. Microsoft’s ElectionGuard prototype was essentially a Surface tablet and a blown-up version of its accessibility controller for the Xbox, but it’s unlikely that will see its way to voters in 2020.

It’s not clear how existing voting system manufacturers might implement this system, but it’s a lot better than the setup we have in place today.

Have a great weekend!