Memia 2020.23: The 4th tsunami🌊// beyond bureaucracy🐌// BIG BIG battery🔋// city🏙️digital🔢twins👨🏻‍🤝‍👨🏽// fly me anywhere🚁

Beatboxing in MRI🎶

Hi / Kia ora,

Ben Reid here again with my 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 to receive the weekly email if you haven’t already.

The most clicked link in the last issue (~23% of openers) was the Covid Causal Loops diagram tweeted by Jon Gosier… I’ve since located the source article by researchers from Griffith University, Brisbane which is worth the read: Developing a Preliminary Causal Loop Diagram for Understanding the Wicked Complexity of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The 4th tsunami🌊

You may have seen the original version (or meme-ified variations thereof) floating around the internet of the “tsunami waves” image by Canadian cartoonist Graeme MacKay below. He chronicles the (corona)viral spread and evolution of the meme. (…There’s already a 5th tsunami in the wild!)

Beyond bureaucracy🐌

In The End of Bureaucracy, Again?, BCG Henderson Institute’s Martin Reeves, Edzard Wesselink and Kevin Whitaker explore why the 19th-century organisational paradigm of hierarchical bureaucracy still dominates in the face of other more modern alternatives. As long ago as 1966 people were saying:

“The conditions of our modern industrial world will bring about the death of bureaucracy”

…and yet if you look at the vast majority of large corporates worldwide today - let alone governments - top-down, planned bureaucracies are still by far the most common. The outcome being that these large organisations are innately programmed for stability/inertia, not agility/change.

BCG lists and compares some alternative paradigms: Teal, Holacracy, Market Based Dynamics, RenDanHeyI (Micro-Enterprise System), Scaled Agile, Lean Startup and the Open Organisation. Also recently I covered the zeitgeist DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation - see Memia 2020.16)

There’s an accompanying BCG podcast with Gary Hamel, author of the forthcoming book Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them:

“Bureaucracy was designed to maximize conformance. The idea behind Humanocracy is to maximize contribution” - Gary Hamel

In The Org Chart is Dead from 2016, Aaron Dignan (The Ready) charts the history of hierarchical orgs - from IBM to Walt Disney and beyond…

…and concludes:

“There’s a billion dollar opportunity in giving us what the org chart promised but never delivered. [Like] the social graph, we need an equally elegant solution to the organizational graph. This tool would be a living, breathing org chart — a dynamic network — combined with what I’m calling ‘GitHub for organizations.’”

Given our current turbulent times (a recent research paper finds that crisis events demand decision-making networks that are dynamic, not static) - what is the quantifiable opportunity for small countries like Aotearoa to radically reform government [and corporate] bureaucracies (and the legal frameworks they operate in) into more effective people/technology hybrid networks, optimised for situations of change, not stability?

Do Public Sector Reforms actually reform, or just move the deck chairs? Is anyone involved imagining a New Zealand government organisation where:

“In five years a new employee is going to walk in for her first day, sit down in front of a screen (or HUD) and say, “[govt digital assistant], show me the org, how it’s changed in the last 6 months, how it works, and where I can help.” And then the screen (and her eyes) are going to light up.” (Aaron Dignan - The Ready)

BIG BIG battery🔋

After many years of having one foot out the door, Tiwai Point owner Rio Tinto finally announced that one of the world’s lowest carbon emissions aluminium plants is to be decommissioned - nominally because the (100% hydro) electricity bill isn’t quite discounted enough. (If there was ever a clear indicator that carbon pricing isn’t working internationally…) Between 1000 and 2600 local jobs are estimated to be affected.

So: when 800MW - 13% of the country’s (near zero-carbon emission) electricity generation capacity - suddenly comes free, do you:

[Weak] signals

Lots of emerging tech and other future-signalling developments around the world this week.


  • Synthetic biology: is DNA Hardware or Software? Conversation with Michael Levin,  one of the scientists behind the announcement earlier this year of xenobots, the world’s first “living robots”.

Covid times:

  • Height of fashion:

  • Waze for viruses? Alternative to contact tracing apps: like drivers reporting road accidents or broken traffic lights, in such a system organizations would share Covid-19 test result data – but with “differential privacy,” so that individual identities are (*effectively*) disguised.

  • The semi-nomadic future of work during (and after?) the pandemic: work remotely from Barbados in the Caribbean for a year.


Neuroscience and BCIs:

  • Brain-computer interface startup Kernel announces a pivot based on two new devices: Flow (reads magnetic fields generated neural activity) and Flux (monitors blood flow in the brain) - providing the equivalent of functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) at a fraction of the cost.

Synthetic foods:

  • Legendary Vish - 3D printed “fish”, made from plants. (Not *actually* real yet I would say from the photos🤫).

Green transport:


Moving and shaking around AoNZ:

  • Techweek 2020 is on 27 July-2 August: 191 tech-sector related events, most of them online, most of them free to register. An incredible array of events every year - get in, take part.

  • Wellington City Council Innovation Lead Sean Audain has pulled together this great resource on everything you need to know about City🏙️Digital🔢Twins👨🏻‍🤝‍👨🏽:

  • Also coming soon in Wellington, electric ferries - ah so quiet…

Hidden gems

And a few highlights from around the internet this week:

  • What does beatboxing look like through an MRI?🎶

  • Dinosaurs at home:

  • And a t-shirt design for readers in the US (ht @HaljoHal):

The usual 🙏 appreciation to those readers who take the time to get in touch with links and feedback!

…As always 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