Memia 2020.05: Covid-19 ecological salvation? // Digital twin *is* strategy // Copyright futility // Indie highland coos
Are *you* elbow bumping yet?
Hi / Kia ora
The most clicked link in the last issue (~18% of opens) was Michelle Dickinson’s video of the baby 🐬learning to jump. (No surprises there, then 😍.) As always, if you enjoy these newsletters, please consider forwarding this to a friend. Or share using the handy button below. 🤗
Covid-19 - ecological salvation?
At the time of writing, there are five known cases of the new Covid-19 Coronavirus in New Zealand. Despite the efforts of governments around the world, it’s looking increasingly likely that the disease will propagate out from here - the focus now seems to be shifting towards flattening the curve of its spread rather than containing it.
Here are a few of my (mostly tangential) thoughts to add to the many commentaries already out there - thoughts go out to everyone who is individually affected directly or indirectly. Uncertain times.
China nitrogen dioxide emissions in January (left) and February this year (right). - Source NASA/ESA
The environmental effects of radically reduced economic activity in China are clearly visible in these images supplied by Nasa - showing radical reductions in NO2 emissions (a key pollutant). Other analysis shows that Chinese CO2 emissions have (temporarily) reduced by 25% as a result of the Coronavirus. Airlines around the world are cancelling flights and going broke due to huge dropoffs in air travel. All said, while Covid-19 is disastrous for human health and the economy, it actually seems pretty positive for the environment. As if we needed reminding, this shows starkly just how much the current global economic system is in direct opposition to the world’s ecological balance…
Diseases spread faster in densely populated areas. So has the global shift towards urbanisation has gone too far? (Contrary to our rural self-image, Aotearoa has one of the most urbanised populations in the world with 86.5% of the population living in towns and cities).
Working from home is increasingly going to be the new normal, at least for knowledge workers. (Updating on my earlier report, videoconferencing company Zoom’s share price is now <CORRECTION Thanks=“sharp-eyed reader Greg Day” CorrectTicker="ZM, not ZOOM”> up nearly 54% [***still respectable but not the 500% originally published***]</CORRECTION> since 1 Jan). And at least one New Zealand company has abandoned their Auckland office. Less commuting, less business travel, less interruptions, more time to actually get stuff done... could Covid-19 precipitate quicker moves towards the 4-day work week I wonder?
At the more prosaic end of the scale, expect changes to business manners as well: close-quarters body language will become far less important at work. Firm handshakes are no longer de rigeur - are *you* elbow-bumping yet? And no need for makeup in the morning [*why*, in our supposedly genderless times, does anyone feel obliged to wear makeup to work?!] Personally, I’m looking forward to ironing fewer shirts…
The digital twin *is* the business strategy
“The era of setting strategy by force of argument and presentation skills is over. Show me the data. In real time.”
Last issue I mused about how company boards will increasingly use digital twins to set strategic direction. Going deeper on this, I wrote a piece this week: The Digital Twin *Is* The Business Strategy. It’s definitely time to increase data maturity across NZ businesses IMO.
Copyright is futile
"…so maybe if these numbers have existed since the beginning of time and we're just plucking them out, maybe melodies are just math, which is just facts, which is not copyrightable."
- Damien Riehl
I loved this: two musicians have developed an algorithm to generate every possible melody (at least those within one octave and 12 beats) and released them all under the Creative Commons Zero License. The brute force algorithm operates at a rate of 300,000 melodies per second - and the authors aim to stop “you stole my melody” copyright lawsuits that they believe stifle creative freedom. Fair enough, eh.
This random content generator approach can be used for pretty much any digital content: once a bounding information space has been defined (eg all the words in the English language, all the pixels in a 4K image…) given enough compute, any possible combination can be autogenerated and published to the public domain.
This method shows in clear sight just how anachronistic (and faintly ridiculous) the principles underlying existing copyright law are. Sort of like arguing how many angels on a pinhead - fundamentally, in the 21st century, how can information/content/memes that virally jump from mind to computer to mind be considered “owned” by anyone??
New Zealand’s 1994 copyright legislation is undergoing a multi-year review - apparently NZ is obligated by a number of international treaties to have certain copyright laws in place… but other than that, what’s the point of anything NZ-specific on top of this? Given increasingly convincing arguments in favour of copyleft and open source models, is there really any economic or practical case for maintaining complex and costly legal frameworks dating back to the introduction of the printing press rather than something more native to the digital/generative AI future? I can’t see it.
As always lots going on in Aotearoa’s tech and innovation ecosystem:
In light of last week’s launch of NZVIF’s NZ$300M “Elevate” startup investment fund it’s worth re-reading tech lawyer Andrew Simmonds’ thoughts on last year’s Venture Capital Bill. Also check out Simmonds Stewart’s comprehensive guide to active investors in NZ tech startups updated for 2020. (Last year SS were involved in raising NZ$114M of funding for NZ companies.)
The IRD issued a proposal to remove GST from crypto-assets - and better, to backdate this rule to 1 January 2009, the date the first crypto-asset, bitcoin, was launched . Eminently sensible.
The Govt announced a new Digital Council to advise on tech and data policy, a much needed initiative. Hopefully this will lead to more long term thinking in Wellington circles. (...some of the challenges are described in this publication from Vic Uni Institute for Governance and Policy Studies from last year: Foresight, Insight and Oversight). My 2¢: Aotearoa needs something like the National Office for Strategic Foresight Anchored in Critical Science and Technologies proposed by respected US *quantitative futurist* Amy Webb last year.
The perennially underwhelming NZ Government SSO service Realme is shifting its login and assertion services to Microsoft Azure (presumably Australia) while retaining the identity verification service (and data) within New Zealand. Given last year’s passing of the invasive encryption-piercing Assistance and Access law, many organisations are now increasingly uncomfortable using cloud services in Australia.
…Although, clearly not too discouraged, Google Cloud has just opened a new Melbourne region.
Ōtautahi aviation startup Electric Air is planning to start 1-hour flights using new battery operated electric planes, taking range anxiety to a whole new level 😬. Seriously, though, Norway is aiming to have all short-haul flights running on electricity by 2040. What’s the plan, Aotearoa?
And if you’re a Kiwi Fintech looking to scale up - get along to the launch of the new industry-driven Golden Ticket programme on 1 April in Wellington.
Indoor augmented reality navigation is working live today - impressive demo guiding from train station concourse to a store in a shopping mall. Now imagine it while wearing NReal AR glasses (with hand-tracking).
Learn to fire someone in virtual reality.
Anyone who has ever had to write up workshop outputs with lots of post-it notes and whiteboard drawings *needs* this app from Sydney startup Wallsync (great 2 min video demo).
This is fantastic. 30 Animals That Look Like They’re About To Drop The Hottest Albums Of The Year. Check out the Indie Highland coos.
As always 🙏 to everyone who sent in links and feedback - and since you managed to read all the way to the end, a reminder to please share with a friend somewhere around the 🌎 🌍 🌏. Thank you!
More next time…
Regards / Ngā mihi