Memia 2020.21: Modern alchemy⚗️// wealth💰recycling♻️// outpost Aotearoa🥝// privacy. act!🔐// deepfake timeline 2020⌛// memories of Australia🦘
👁👄👁 It was what it was
Hi / Kia ora,
Ben Reid here with another weekly Memia scan across emerging tech and the unfolding future, as 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.
1. July. 2020.
So. Half way through 2020, then. Some ride so far, eh. 🤯
Taking a moment to reflect on Aotearoa’s situation relative to the rest of the world and thinking of friends, family and colleagues still living with Covid effects day to day: keep safe and well everyone 👐.
Throughout history, alchemy was the attempt to purify and perfect certain desirable materials - in particular seeking to transmute common base metals (eg. lead) into valuable and rare “noble metals” - notably gold. (“Water into wine” is another classic.)
I’m a techno-optimist by nature. One technique I use to parse the emerging technology horizon is a kind of “modern alchemy": scanning for opportunities to take something abundant and low value and turn it into something of rarity and high value.
A few examples to illustrate: take something on the left and transmute it (in an environmentally sustainable way!) to something on the right:
Some of the pathways I’ve explored so far this year…
…and some solutions:
Some of the solutions are already mature - for example solar power and Tesla - but others are still emergent, pushed by startup companies or still in the lab:
CO2 -> Food: Solar Foods
CO2 -> [Formic Acid Fuel Cell] -> Electricity: Scientists at Rice University, Houston, Texas
Sunlight + Air -> Potable Water: Zero Mass Water
Air Pollution -> Construction Materials: Carbon Craft Design
Household Waste -> Hydrogen: Ways2H
Let your imagination fly to what’s possible if any of these examples can be scaled…
Regular Memia readers may recall various references to the verbose output of reformist French economist Thomas Piketty: in summary, Piketty’s core diagnosis is that for governments to reduce inequality, they have to implement taxes on wealth.
(Several other countries around the world already have wealth taxes - including Switzerland since 1840!).
Currently AoNZ’s supposedly “broad based” taxation system is actually rather narrowly comprised mostly of taxes on income and GST. Personal income tax tiers max out at 30% for incomes above NZ$70K - see the Average Income Tax Rate graph below - someone would have to earn >NZ$250K to actually get taxed at 30%.
But proposing a tax on wealth, or even just capital gains, has always been politically *brave* in Aotearoa. Until, that is, this week’s Poverty Action Plan policy announcement from the Green Party. The Greens propose to introduce a “wealth recycling” system:
1% tax on net wealth above NZ$1M, 2% above NZ$2M, raising ~NZ$8Bn in the first year to pay for…
…NZ$325/week “guaranteed minimum income” to effectively replace the (let’s be honest) labyrinthine and expensive to administer benefits system.
Whatever one’s political persuasion, at least we finally have a meaty policy debate on our hands.
And timing, huh? The traditional argument that the multi-millionaires would just take their wealth offshore and go and live in a tax haven…not so likely with a pandemic washing over the world for years to come…
As predicted in Memia 2020.14 in May, Amazon Web Services were likely to respond to Microsoft’s announcement of a new Azure cloud region onshore in AoNZ. They did - not with a full datacentre of their own but with the launch of a new “Outposts” region.
(Outposts is basically a hybrid cloud option for customers to install fully managed and configurable racks of AWS-designed hardware in their datacentre of choice. For those of us going back years in the cloud computing industry (I’m looking at you, @benkepes), it’s basically the grown up version of what Oracle’s Larry Ellison was selling in 2010: Cloud in a Box🤣).
New Zealand’s Parliament passed amendments to the Privacy Act with unanimous support of all parties - and the changes come into effect on 1 December 2020. Still leaves AoNZ behind privacy laws in other jurisdictions (eg EU/GDPR) but a significant step forward, nonetheless.
Microsoft - pretty vocal on privacy protection in recent times - welcomed in the changes (…and couldn’t help but namecheck the Privacy Commissioner’s office itself as an Office365 customer).
Law firm Simpson Grierson covers the main points here: Six months to get in shape for the new privacy act:
“Under the new Act…failing to report a notifiable privacy breach to the Privacy Commissioner is an offence and businesses could be liable to a fine up to $10,000.”
Signals from near and far futures:
Facebook launches WhatsApp payments in Brazil, while Telegram cops a US$18M SEC fine and returns US$1.2 billion to investors as it dissolves its own decentralised digital currency TON. Go figure.
Radioactive bookkeeping of CO2 emissions - singling out which carbon dioxide molecules in the atmosphere derive from fossil fuels.
Tallest “hybrid timber” tower to be built in Sydney:
Continued DDOS attacks on Truth: nearly half of Twitter accounts pushing to reopen America may be bots.
Michael Garfield on Medium: Welcome to the end of reality: Deepfake timeline 2020⌛ - and check out the Collider “Deepfake Roundtable” from the end of last year. Uncannily real. And funny.
“Waiting for NB-IoT" could be a new telecom-themed play in tribute to Samuel Beckett.”
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) could be built with hybrid neural circuits using chemical neurotransmitters (eg dopamine) as well as electrons.
Captivating video of University of Tokyo DRAGON aerial drone:
*Not* on the rollcall: no AoNZ or Australian companies featured in this year’s WEF Technology Pioneers cohort. 100 businesses from economies including: Argentina, Austria, Brazil, China, Chile, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Spain, United States, United Kingdom. (Sigh.)
The new HealthTech Supernode Challenge launched in Ōtautahi this week:
AoNZ VC firm Movac is building out their team in readiness for NZ$200M Fund 5:
And if you’ve got security chops and an inclination towards keeping the rest of us safe: intelligence agency GCSB are hiring for a Senior Policy Advisor - Information Security.
A few wee nuggets from around the internet this week:
The story behind it is what it is 👁👄👁.
What are the odds that you exist? Wellington tech ecosystem wrangler Mike Riversdale on The Astounding Improbable You.
The original Blade Runner bombed 38 years ago:
🦘And to finish this week, this video is incredible to watch and a signal of what’s just around the corner with Unreal Engine 5 being released next year. Aussie / Swedish Game Studio Art Director Andrew Hamilton writes:
“Having moved from Australia to Sweden more than 15 years ago, I’m often struck with the crystal clear memory of a sound, smell, or particularly calm experience as a kid growing up in the land down under. This is a little tribute and collection of a few of those moments and sounds (WEAR HEADPHONES!) that leave me feeling positively nostalgic about a wonderful past, of great adventures, and of the ones we've lost. All nature you see here – vegetation, rocks, cliffs, etc – I’ve built from my own photogrammetry scans captured on a recent visit to Australia. I kept within typical game budgets for content and technical features, running in real-time on Unreal Engine. I hope you get a little taste of these memories and experiences that bring me joy. Enjoy! "
The usual 🙏 warm appreciation to those 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