Memia 2020.20: *Real* house prices?🏘️// belief scarring🗯️// farmers vs forests vs future🌳// walkies🐕

Golden Brown Brubeck🎹

Hi / Kia ora,

Ben Reid here with the 20th(🥳!) Memia 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 most clicked link in the last issue (~15% of openers) was the video of the neat vertical bike rack. Go gadget geeks!

🤦And just to clear matters up, the diagram below from last week’s Axis of Kindness article was not a subtle kite-flying exercise ahead of the launch of the new Memia Party (slogan “WE JUST DON’T CARE”). I will not be moving to Epsom. Thanks to several readers who pointed out that I should sack the graphic designer…😅.

*Real* house prices?🏘️

A lot of Kiwis have made a lot of money selling houses to each other since 1980:

Who’s expecting this to continue after Covid-19?🤔

Belief scarring🗯️

A while ago I spotted a paper in my feed by writers at the Federal Bank of St Louis in the US: Scarring Body and Mind: The Long-Term Belief-Scarring Effects of COVID-19. From the abstract (my emphasis):

“The largest economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic could arise if it changed behavior long after the immediate health crisis is resolved. A common explanation for such a long-lived effect is the scarring of beliefs…We find that the long-run effect of the COVID crisis depends crucially on whether bankruptcies and changes in habit make existing capital obsolete.

Belief Scarring (👍that term) is defined as:

“a persistent change in beliefs about the probability of an extreme, negative shock to the economy.”

It’s a dry read but my takeaways:

  • The global economic shock from the pandemic is partly driven by the “separation of labour from capital” - for example in the tourism sector during lockdown some staff were unable to work from home so the hotel rooms / restaurant / bungee jump assets were unproductive: “it is as if a fraction of the productive capital stock has disappeared”.

  • The Covid-19 pandemic may well increase the perceived likelihood of extreme negative economic shocks happening in future.

  • Policy which seeks to avoid mass bankruptcies during the pandemic may be advisable for the long term recovery: otherwise firms may be so scarred by seeing how fragile the world economy is in a pandemic, while adjusting their estimates of extreme negative shock frequency upwards, that they may take decades to return to previous investment habits. If ever.

Farmers vs forests vs future🌳

It’s election season. “Farmers vs forests” has bounced around my personal echo chamber this week. I did some reading. Here are some links:

  • The Ministry for Environment has a number of downloadable land use map layers dated up to 2016 based upon LUCAS (Land-use and Carbon Analysis System) satellite imagery interpretation.

  • The latest official forestry stats I could find are from 2005 (if there are more up to date numbers / aerial maps, please point me to them?):

    “New Zealand’s forest resource covers over 8 million hectares, or 29 percent of New Zealand’s total land area. Indigenous forests make up the majority of this with 6.3 million hectares, planted production forest accounts for the remaining 1.7 million hectares…Radiata pine…makes up ninety percent of the total exotic forests. Douglas fir makes up five percent, eucalyptus two percent and the remainder is a variety of special purpose species...” - StatsNZ archive, 2005

    [Weak] signals

    Tech signals from near and far future:

    • Microsoft’s experimental subsea, renewable energy data centre Natick has been operating off the coast of Scotland’s Orkney Islands since 2018 (see video below). Recently it proved its use as part of the Folding@home distributed computing project to crunch COVID-related protein-folding problems looking for antibodies and figuring out ways they could create immunizations. Nice PR opportunity - but unclear whether this will replace standard on-land DCs any time soon. (…And what would the Azure region be called? “Pacific-Trench North?”)

    • I’ve talked a fair bit about GANs recently (see Memia 2020.15 and 2020.19). Here’s another practical example: AI algorithms designing better buildings. (eg “This building does not exist”).

    (Side observation: Spot would have been a better option than the military robots used for Pike River re-entry.)


    Around AoNZ this week:

    Hidden gems

    • Sculpcha culcha:

    • Fox News got played real good:


    And finally this video from musician Lawrence Mason is sublime: so convincing it had me Googling to see if The Stranglers covered Dave Brubeck with their song Golden Brown (they didn’t*). A beautiful tribute to both groups.

    (*Although unfortunately The Wurzels🚜 did cover The Stranglers).

    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