Memia 2020.19: The apocalyptic scenario🌪️// just create new money💵// axis of kindness👐//🏥hospital-ITis🤒// human IPO📉
What to do with all those statues...
Hi / Kia ora,
Ben Reid here with another Memia weekly scan across unfolding futures and emerging tech viewed 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 apocalyptic scenario🌪️
The latest UNCTAD trade data released last week shows global exports plunging in April due to Covid-19. (AoNZ figures better than most, exports down only 2% - dairy, huh). The effect on the developing world is especially stark.
A little over a month ago, Finnish economist Tuomas Malinen modeled “good”, “bad” and “apocalyptic” post-Covid scenarios - the latter based on the historical progress of the Spanish Flu in 1918-1919:
…In the “apocalyptic” scenario, we assume that the devastating flood of corporate bankruptcies …leads to bank runs and to a banking crisis, starting from Europe by [Northern Hemisphere] summer…
And then the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic strikes. The virus starts to spread rapidly around the world during the fall of 2020 and continuing into the winter, with a possible third wave erupting in the spring of 2021.
Supply-chains break down completely and global logistics routes are disrupted…Nations start to protect vulnerable industries and resources. Food security becomes the main national security issue. Global food transfers are halted or disrupted.
These grim factors, combined with soaring unemployment, business failures and market turmoil topple the global banking sector… The European banking sector collapses completely, followed by an implosion of the global financial order. Global commerce evaporates. The world succumbs to utter economic annihilation.
Yikes. Unusually strong words for an economist. Here in Aotearoa it feels more sheltered from this storm than most - but nonetheless sensible to batten down the hatches a bit more, eh.
Just create new money💵
Modern Monetary Theory (MMT - sometimes referred to as “magic money tree theory”) is a topical alternative to mainstream economic theory which argues that governments should be free to create new money using fiscal policy rather than just through taxes and debt: as monopoly issuers of their currency, it is argued, governments can print as much money as they need.
Crazy huh? Well perhaps not…this interview posted on interest.co.nz with UK economist Stephanie Kelton discusses her new book, The Deficit Myth, Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy.
For a robust counterpoint, Tuomas Malinen again:
The choice (or balance) seems to be between at least two undesirable future outcomes:
Out of control inflation and currency devaluation, OR
Years of austerity and stifling debt for future generations to pay off…(which in turn requires a continuation of carbon-emitting, extractive economic growth…???).
Eyes wide open.
The “Axis of Kindness”👐
I set down a few thoughts on AoNZ’s forthcoming general election in a post this week: The "Axis of Kindness": has Jacinda Ardern created a new political Z-Axis to win the 2020 election?
This is an election year unlike any other: dominated by the previously unimaginable national shutdown between March and May to eliminate Covid-19 - and the (so far) successful and highly popular technocratic leadership shown by the PM and her coalition government.
In his recent article An election like no other: with 100 days to go, can Jacinda Ardern maintain her extraordinary popularity? Victoria University of Wellington Professor Jack Vowles draws the traditional axes of AoNZ politics:
“Research conducted by the New Zealand Election Study identifies two ideological dimensions behind party choice. The first is the balance between state and market in public policy. It’s a perennial debate between left and right that (despite claims to the contrary) hasn’t gone away. The second is based on other values: a liberal desire for freedom to pursue one’s own choices versus a conservative desire to maintain social cohesion and conformity with traditional community norms.”
In my post I describe how Ardern has effectively defined a new Z-axis - an “Axis of Kindness”- which is orthogonal to the traditional political plane:
So will kindness be the deciding factor in Aotearoa’s polling booths in September? Or is this a brief interlude as the relentless gears of capitalism get turning again and things go back to old-normal post-pandemic?
A recent national hospital stocktake exposed the jarring contrast between the Ministry of Health’s AI-enabled health technology future vision and the present-day reality of obsolete IT systems and crushing technical debt which weighs down the whole AoNZ health sector. (They still use faxes 🤦.)
(The recent challenge to effectively deploy a national contact tracing system which meets modern privacy and personal data sovereignty expectations is arguably a symptom of the underlying mess: if there was already a suitably designed “myhealth.govt.nz” app on our phones which most people used to manage health data and day to day public health system interactions, it would likely have been a relatively simple feature update and population coverage would likely have approached 80% or above).
Time to invest some of that post-pandemic magic money pot in a patient/citizen-centric joined up architecture for portable and self-sovereign health data and related services.
In particular, new technology should enable a full rethink the whole health system operating model: in the same way as we have suddenly discovered the ease and advantages of working from home, imminent advances in smart sensors, remote medicine and robotics mean there will be transformative opportunities to “treat at home” - and less need for complex specification, capital-intensive, late-delivered hospital buildings which also have a tendency to harbour superbugs…
I had a good yarn on this topic and many others with NZHIT CEO Scott Arrol on the Digital Health Insights podcast just out this week, take a listen.
So much going on:
AI enjoyed its usual hyperbolic - and bipolar - coverage:
Tim Cross in the Economist: AI’s limitations are starting to sink in: After years of hype, many people feel AI has failed to deliver.
Michael Dahm: comprehensive overview of Chinese debates on the military utility of AI. Lost somewhere in translation but grok the phrase:
an Intelligentized “Form of War”
Global AI Talent Tracker:
More GAN fun (see Memia 2020.15):
Swarms of robots are much more than the sum of their parts.
New solar panels from Zero Mass Water Inc. create drinking water out of thin air.
…And straight out of Black Mirror: Human IPO. Yikes.📉
Happening in AoNZ last week:
NZ, Chile and Singapore signed a trade deal focused on the digital economy. Minister for Trade David Parker very proud to sign the agreement digitally. (21st Century. Welcome.😐)
If you missed the talks at last week’s Visionweek NZ Web Summit, you can view all the presentations and videos online.
Google NZ’s Ross Young explains how Google is rolling out a transparency tool to reveal sources of political advertising and is working to make authoritative information from the Electoral Commission available so that people can easily find info to enrol and vote in the run up to September's General Election.
(Fascinating emergent tension between the mechanics of AoNZ democracy, ensuring an informed electorate and a (benevolent?) international technology giant with a near monopoly on search…)
A few diversions for this week:
Interesting Newshub poll: if now’s the time to remove colonial place names, should New Zealand be formally renamed Aotearoa? (69/31 in favour of status quo when I looked).
Stunning AR dragon demo (what could this do for live sport…?)
Topical: after the fall of the USSR the former Soviet states created museums for toppled statues of communist figures. One of them, off the coast of Crimea, is underwater:
I very much want one of these:
And finally, this photo essay of the original Monopoly board in 2020 pandemic London is marvellous:
As always big 🙏 to readers who take the time to get in touch with links and feedback!
…And if you enjoy these Memia posts, please take the time to share with a friend in AoNZ or around the 🌎🌍🌏.
More again next week.
Regards / Ngā mihi