Memia 2020.08: Going all-in on H₂ 🌊🔋⛽ // Covid-19 😷 enough already // Ministry of data // Back to basic // Income portfolio design // Next up: ultra-globalisation

Expand your bubble

Hi / Kia ora

Ben Reid here with another issue of Memia, my weekly roundup covering new tech, strategy and global change (of which there is *rather a lot*, right now). All with a slant from my corner of the world, Aotearoa New Zealand. Please feel free to forward this email - and you can sign up here if you haven’t already.

The most clicked link in the last issue (~10% of openers) was Mitchell & Webb’s Remain Indoors sketch. Dark. 🧟

Covid-19 😷 enough already

So we’re nearly through our first week of national bubble lockdown here in Aotearoa. Other countries around the world are dealing with the pandemic with varying degrees of success. Or not. There is massive uncertainty about how things are going to play out short and long term. We are living through unprecedented and historically revolutionary times.

Who could have predicted this 1 month ago:

But news and commentary about Covid-19 has reached saturation point for me - it’s become so incredibly hard to peel my eyes away from news sites and social media and do something else productive. So, here are my top 5 Covid-19 reads from the last week - after that, let’s talk about something else (mostly).

“…now that it’s gone, perhaps people might realise that capitalism wasn’t so bad after all. And, who knows, the snowflake generation might just have second thoughts about socialism too — once they’ve been conscripted as farm labour.” 😱

Back to basic

To UBI or not to UBI? That is the question right now as employers begin laying off workers all around the world and we head into what is likely to be the heaviest economic recession in decades.

  • Here in New Zealand: action group Basic Income NZ / Te utu tika hei oranga i Aotearoa lays out a convincing argument for a UBI: Pandemics and the need for Basic Income, including:

    “Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) staff registering people for jobseeker support are likely to be overwhelmed...the system was designed to try and force people into full-time employment and was not designed to cope with an economic downturn resulting from a pandemic.”

  • Currently there’s a petition with nearly 10,000 signatures (mine included) going around for an emergency Aotearoa UBI at the same level as superannuation.

  • There are those arguing against a kneejerk response: think tank The NZ Initiative published a policy paper: Stay On Target advocating targeting of emergency relief: the paper suggests tax changes that could improve cash flows for businesses and individuals - and also suggests an extension of New Zealand’s Student Loan Scheme to cover every New Zealander. Worth considering.

My 2¢:

  • NZ actually already has an (age-discriminated) basic income: Superannuation. Plenty of over-65s are able to live very comfortably without it but that doesn’t stop them drawing it. The values underlying this arrangement are historical and anachronistic today - why isn’t Super targeted? In the same way any values system underlying targeting of emergency income relief, separating the “deserving” and “undeserving” is a rabbit-hole ideological debate we don’t have time for as the economy collapses around us…

  • More pertinently: the time, cost and complexity of setting up a bureaucracy to administer and enforce targeting for 5m individuals will way exceed any benefit gained. Again, speed is of the essence: the government needs to get *just enough* emergency cash into people's bank accounts quickly and avoid overwhelming the existing welfare system. So what if some people are perceived to “win” and others “lose”? ...wash it up later.

  • Perhaps even more pertinently: an emergency UBI will set a precedent for the future if it is popular, potentially a frontline election issue - would NZers vote to ditch it?

  • Personally I prefer to think about UBI as enabling better “income portfolio management” for citizens, leading to higher wellbeing (and quite possibly productivity). UBI gives people more flexibility to work zero, one or multiple jobs at any time, take career training breaks and be freer to run an intentionally designed income portfolio without an employer/employee/debt serfdom construct dominating all decisions. NZ can afford this.

Future scenario - ultra-globalisation?

Economist Cameron Bagrie writes that Covid-19 looks to be the tipping point on globalisation reversing. I’m not so sure. Retreating inside national borders (particularly our tiny, remote one) could create greater long term fragility, not resilience.

If anything I expect to see the emergence of new ultra-resilient, ultra-efficient, ultra-automated transnational supply chains - for both goods and services - which are designed to keep on trucking through emergency situations like we have currently. Get with the play, I say.

Given these two opposite ends of the spectrum, I’m developing some scenarios on what the mid- to long-term future might look like. In particular how new technologies can enable companies to adjust to new patterns of demand which may emerge. Watch this space.

Going all-in on Hydrogen

I would say that now is a good time to bring investment into New Zealand’s Hydrogen Economy forward:

Here’s what’s happened so far:


Who’s saying and doing what around NZ?

[Weak] Signals

A few signals from near and far future:

Hidden Gems

Some zeitgeist moments from the last week:

Tim Urban at @WaitButWhy - You Won’t Believe My Morning

Zoom bingo:


… and Rotterdam Philharmonic orchestra performing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy while in home isolation:

As always big 🙏 to everyone who sent in links and feedback - and please feel free to share with a friend somewhere around the 🌎 🌍 🌏. Thank you!

More next week. Stay in your bubble.

Regards / Ngā mihi