Posted on Leave a comment

Building Digital Integrity: The Role of Blockchain in Virtual Identity

Virtual Identity and Digital Integrity

In today’s digital age, virtual identity has become an integral part of our online existence. It is the representation of who we are in the digital world, and it plays a significant role in our interactions with the online community. However, the growing concern of identity theft and data breaches highlights the need for a secure and reliable system to manage virtual identity. Blockchain technology has emerged as a potential solution to these challenges, offering a secure and decentralized platform for identity management. In this article, we will explore the role of blockchain in virtual identity and its impact on digital integrity.

Understanding the Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology is a distributed ledger that provides a secure and transparent system for recording transactions. It is a decentralized system that operates on a peer-to-peer network, eliminating the need for a central authority to govern the transactions. Each block in the chain is linked to the previous block, creating an unalterable record of all the transactions. The security of the blockchain lies in its consensus mechanism, which ensures that all network participants agree on the validity of each transaction.

The Role of Blockchain in Identity Management

Blockchain technology offers a secure and decentralized platform for identity management, enabling individuals to have greater control over their personal data. Instead of relying on central authorities to manage identity, blockchain allows individuals to create and manage their own digital identities. This eliminates the need for third-party authentication, providing a more secure and efficient system for identity verification.

Safeguarding Personal Data with Blockchain

Blockchain technology provides a secure platform for storing and sharing personal data. The decentralization of the blockchain ensures that there is no single point of failure, making it difficult for hackers to breach the system. The use of encryption algorithms further enhances the security of the data, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access it.

The Benefits of Blockchain for Digital Integrity

Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we manage digital identities, offering several benefits for digital integrity. Firstly, it provides a secure and decentralized platform for identity management, eliminating the need for third-party authentication. Secondly, it ensures the security of personal data, safeguarding against data breaches and identity theft. Thirdly, it provides greater transparency and accountability, enabling individuals to have greater control over their data.

Blockchain and Biometric Authentication

Blockchain technology can also be used for biometric authentication, providing an additional layer of security for identity management. Biometric authentication uses unique biological characteristics such as fingerprints and facial recognition to verify identity. By combining biometric authentication with blockchain, we can create a more secure and efficient system for identity verification.

The Future of Digital Identity with Blockchain

The future of digital identity is closely linked to the development of blockchain technology. With the increasing use of blockchain in identity management, we can expect to see a more secure and efficient system for managing virtual identity. The use of biometric authentication and encryption algorithms will further enhance the security of the system, providing a reliable platform for managing personal data.

Overcoming the Challenges of Blockchain Implementation

The implementation of blockchain technology presents several challenges, including scalability, interoperability and regulatory issues. Scalability is a major challenge for blockchain, as the system needs to be able to handle a large number of transactions. Interoperability is also a challenge, as different blockchain networks may not be compatible with each other. Regulatory issues also need to be addressed, as the use of blockchain in identity management raises several legal and ethical concerns.

Regulatory Frameworks for Blockchain and Virtual Identity

Regulatory frameworks for blockchain and virtual identity are still in the early stages of development. However, several initiatives have been launched to address the legal and ethical issues surrounding blockchain technology. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the US’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are two examples of regulatory frameworks that aim to promote the responsible use of blockchain in identity management.

Use Cases of Blockchain in Virtual Identity

Blockchain technology has several use cases in virtual identity, including digital identity management, biometric authentication, and secure data storage. The use of blockchain in virtual identity can also be extended to other applications, such as healthcare, finance, and e-commerce.

Conclusion: The Path Towards Digital Integrity

Blockchain technology has the potential to transform the way we manage virtual identity and promote digital integrity. By providing a secure and decentralized platform for identity management, blockchain can eliminate the need for third-party authentication, safeguard personal data, and enhance transparency and accountability. While there are still challenges to overcome, the future of digital identity looks promising with the use of blockchain technology.

References and Further Reading

  • Böhme, R., Christin, N., Edelman, B., & Moore, T. (2015). Bitcoin: Economics, technology, and governance. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 29(2), 213-238.
  • Nakamoto, S. (2008). Bitcoin: A peer-to-peer electronic cash system. Retrieved from
  • Swan, M. (2015). Blockchain: Blueprint for a new economy. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
Posted on Leave a comment

Neuralink 2022 Update -Human Trials are coming

Let’s get into the latest updates on Elon Musk’s futuristic brain implant company Neuralink. Elon has been talking a lot lately about Neuralink and some of the applications that he expects it will be capable of, or not capable of, in the first decade or so of the product life cycle.

We know that Elon has broadly promised that Neuralink can do everything from helping people with spinal cord injuries, to enabling telepathic communication, curing brain disease like Parkinsons and ALS, allowing us to control devices with our thoughts and even merging human consciousness with artificial intelligence.

But as we get closer to the first clinical human trials for Neuralink, things are starting to become a little more clear on what this Brain Computer Interface technology will actually do, and how it will help people. So, let’s talk about what’s up with Neuralink in 2022.

Neuralink Human Trials 2022

When asked recently if Neuralink was still on track for their first human trial by the end of this year, Elon Musk replied by simply saying, “Yes.” Which I think is a good sign. It does seem like whenever Elon gives an abrupt answer like this, it means that he is confident about what he’s saying.

For comparison, at around the same time last year, when asked about human trials of Neuralink, Elon wrote, “If things go well, we might be able to do initial human trials later this year.” Notice the significant difference in those two replies. Not saying this is a science or anything, but it is notable.

We also saw earlier this year that Neuralink were looking to hire both a Director and Coordinator for Clinical Trials. In the job posting, Neuralink says that The director will “work closely with some of the most innovative doctors and top engineers, as well as working with Neuralink’s first Clinical Trial participants.”

We know that Neuralink have been conducting their surgical trials so far with a combination of monkeys and pigs. In their 2020 demonstration, Neuralink showed us a group of pigs who had all received Neuralink implants, and in some cases had also undergone the procedure to have the implant removed. Then in 2021, we were shown a monkey who could play video games without the need for a controller, using only his brain, which was connected with two Neuralink implants.

Human trials with Neuralink would obviously be a major step forward in product development. Last year, Elon wrote that, “Neuralink is working super hard to ensure implant safety & is in close communication with the FDA.” Previously, during Neuralink events, he has said that the company is striving to exceed all FDA safety requirements, not just to meet them. In the same way that Tesla vehicles exceed all crash safety requirements, they actually score higher than any other car ever manufactured.

What can Neuralink Do?

As we get closer to the prospective timeline for human testing, Elon has also been dialing down a little more into what exactly Neuralink will be able to do in its first phase implementation. It’s been a little bit hard to keep track when Elon is literally talking about using this technology for every crazy thing that can be imagined - that Neuralink would make language obsolete, that it would allow us to create digital backups of human minds, that we could merge our consciousness with an artificial super intelligence and become ultra enhanced cyborgs.

One of the new things that Elon has been talking about recently is treating morbid obesity with a Neuralink, which he brought up during a live TED Talk interview. Which is not something that we expected to hear, but it’s a claim that does seem to be backed up by some science. There have already been a couple of studies done with brain implants in people with morbid obesity, the implant transmitted frequent electric pulses into the hypothalamus region of the brain, which is thought to be driving an increase in appetite. It’s still too soon to know if that particular method is really effective, but it would be significantly less invasive than other surgeries that modify a patient's stomach in hopes of suppressing their appetite.

Elon followed up on the comment in a tweet, writing that it is “Certainly physically possible” to treat obesity through the brain. In the same post, Elon expanded on the concept, writing, “We’re working on bridging broken links between brain & body. Neuralinks in motor & sensory cortex bridging past weak/broken links in neck/spine to Neuralinks in spinal cord should theoretically be able to restore full body functionality.”

Which is one of the more practical implementations of Neuralink technology that we are expecting to see. These electrical signals can be read in the brain by one Neuralink device, and then wirelessly transmitted through BlueTooth to a second Neuralink device that is implanted in a muscle group, where the signal from the brain is delivered straight into the muscles. This exact kind of treatment has been done before with brain implants and muscular implants, but it has always required the patient to have a very cumbersome set up with wires running through their body into their brain, and wires running out of their skull and into a computer. The real innovation of Neuralink is that it makes this all possible with very small implants that connect wirelessly, so just by looking at the patient, you would never know that they have a brain implant.

Elon commented on this in another Tweet, writing, “It is an electronics, slash mechanical, slash software engineering problem for the Neuralink device that is similar in complexity level to smart watches - which are not easy!, plus the surgical robot, which is comparable to state-of-the art CNC machines.”

So the Neuralink has more in common with an Apple Watch than it does with any existing Brain Computer Interface Technology. And it is only made possible by the autonomous robotic device that conducts the surgery, the electrodes that connect the Neuralink device into the brain cortex are too small and fine to be sewn by human hands.

Elon touched on this in a response to being asked if Neuralink could cure tinnitus, a permanent ringing in the ears. Elon wrote, “Definitely. Might be less than 5 years away, as current version Neuralinks are semi-generalized neural read/write devices with about 1000 electrodes and tinnitus  probably needs much less than 1000.” He then added that, “Future generation Neuralinks will increase electrode count by many orders of magnitude.”

This brings us back to setting more realistic expectations of what a Neuralink can and cannot do. It’s entirely possible that in the future, the device can be expanded to handle some very complex issues, but as it is today, the benefits will be limited. Recently a person Tweeted at Elon, asking, “I lost a grandparent to Alzheimers - how will Neuralink address the loss of memory in the human brain?” Elon replied to say, “Current generation Neuralinks can help to some degree, but an advanced case of Alzheimers often involves macro degeneration of the brain. However, Neuralinks should theoretically be able restore almost any functionality lost due *localized* brain damage from stroke or injury.”

So, because those 1,000 electrodes can’t go into all areas of the brain all at once, Neuralink will not be effective against a condition that afflicts the brain as a whole. But those electrodes can be targeted on one particular area of damage or injury, and that’s how Neuralink will start to help in the short term, and this will be the focus of early human trials.

During his TED Talk interview, Elon spoke about the people that reached out to him, wanting to participate in Neuralink’s first human trials. Quote, “The emails that we get at Neuralink are heartbreaking. They'll send us just tragic stories where someone was in the prime of life and they had an accident on a motorcycle and now someone who’s 25 years old can’t even feed themselves. This is something we could fix.” End quote.

In a separate interview with Business Insider that was done in March, Elon talked more specifically about the Neuralink timeline, saying, “Neuralink in the short term is just about solving brain injuries, spinal injuries and that kind of thing. So for many years, Neuralink’s products will just be helpful to someone who has lost the use of their arms or legs or has just a traumatic brain injury of some kind.”

This is a much more realistic viewpoint than what we’ve seen from Elon in interviews of the past. On one episode of the Joe Rogan Podcast, Elon tried to claim that in 5 years from now language would become obsolete because everyone would be using Neuralink to communicate with a kind of digital telepathy. That could have just been the weed talking, but I’m hoping that the more realistic Elon’s messaging becomes, the closer we are getting to a real medical trial of the implant.

And finally, the key to reaching a safe and effective human trial is going to be that robot sewing machine that threads the electrodes into the cortex.  Elon referred to it as being comparable to a CNC machine. Because as good as the chip itself might be, if we can’t have a reliable procedure to perform the implant, then nothing can move forward. The idea is that after a round section of the person’s skull is removed, this robot will come in and place the tiny wires into a very specific areas in the outer layer of the brain - these don’t go deep into the tissue, only a couple of millimeters is enough to tap into the neural network of electrical signals. In theory this can all be done in a couple of hours, while the patient is still conscious - they would get an anesthetic to numb their head, obviously, but they wouldn’t have to go under full sedation, and therefore could be in and out of the procedure in an afternoon. Very similar deal to laser eye surgery - a fast and automated method to accomplish a very complex medical task. 

That’s what this Twitter user was referencing when he recently asked how close the new, version two of the Neuralink robot was to inserting the chip as simply as a LASIK procedure. To which Elon responded, quote, “Getting there.”

We know that the robot system is being tested on monkeys right now, and from what Elon says, it is making progress towards being suitable for human trials.

The last interesting thing that Elon said on Twitter in relation to Neuralink was his comment, “No need for artificial intelligence, neural networks or machine learning quite yet.” He wrote these out as abbreviations, but these are all terms that we are well familiar with from Tesla and their autonomous vehicle program. We know that Elon is an expert in AI and he has people working for him at Tesla in this department that are probably the best in the world. This is a skill set that will eventually be applied at Neuralink, but to what end, we still don’t know.

Posted on Leave a comment

Genomic Surveillance

Executive summary

Genomic surveillance in Belgium is based on whole genome sequencing (WGS) of a selection of
representative samples, complemented with targeted active surveillance initiatives and targeted
molecular markers aiming to early detect and precisely monitor the epidemiological evolution of
variants of concern (VOCs). Currently, 5.050 sequences of samples collected in Belgium are available
on GISAID in open access. During week 3 of 2021, Belgium achieved a coverage of 3,5% of all positive
sequences being sequenced.
During the last 2 weeks (week 5 and 6), 146 samples have been sequenced as part of the baseline
surveillance, among which 48 (33%) were 501Y.V1 and 8 (5%) were 501Y.V2.
Since week 52 of 2020, Belgium has experienced multiple introductions of VOCs followed by sustained
local transmissions. As a consequence of a higher transmissibility of these variants, we observe a
progressive shift in viral populations, with 501Y.V1 expected to represent the majority of circulating
strains by early March. Together with the rollout of vaccination, genomic surveillance will monitor the
eventual positive selection of VOCs harbouring immune escape mutations such as S:E484K.
During the last 2 weeks, the progressive phenomenon of viral population replacement by more
transmissible strains did not alter the overall stability of the epidemic in Belgium. This is probably due
to a combination of active public health response and limited number of social interactions in the
population. The risk of disruption of this equilibrium remains, as the proportion of more transmissible
viruses will continue rising, but this risk can be mitigated by a combination of active outbreak control
interventions, maintained efforts to reduce transmission in the population and rapid roll-out of