Memia 2020.30: Watching those watching us👀// ethics-as-a-service📜// negative interest💵// the quad⬜// uplifting Gertrude the pig🐷
Copy and Taste🍸
Hi / Kia ora,
(This week’s newsletter is a bit shorter than usual as I’m on tour down South cheering on my daughter’s netball team - but under Level 2 spectating conditions which mostly involves sitting in the carpark outside the arena watching the livestream on Facebook…🤦)
Weekly Covid-19 reading
The best prognosis of the global Covid-19 pandemic I’ve read in months by Yale’s Nicholas Christakis in the Economist:
Watching those watching us👀
I spluttered into my morning coffee this week when RNZ uncovered that AoNZ Police have been quietly setting up a $9m facial recognition system which can identify people from CCTV feeds and more. (Comprehensive, in depth article by RNZ’s Phil Pennington, worth reading in full).
The risks and dangers of state use of facial recognition systems are well documented since, well, forever.
…There are also many valid arguments why they may be used: see Law Enforcement Facial Recognition Use Case Catalog from 2019, a joint effort of the IJIS Institute and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The AoNZ Privacy Commission provides the following advice: Can I use facial recognition technology? (Answer: Yes, but…)
Police are notably NOT one of the founding signatories of the AoNZ Government’s newly minted Algorithm Charter which could be assumed to guide the development of such systems in government from now on. Why not?
For a recent rigorous discussion of the key issues, spend some time listening to Jason Calacanis’ excellent probing interview with Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI: balancing privacy & security, engaging with controversy.
(Clearview AI is a US technology company developing facial recognition software used by private companies and law enforcement agencies, able to match faces to a database of more than three billion images scraped from the Internet, including social media applications.)
There are valid, granular, reasons for and against why facial recognition technology should be implemented for particular use cases (e-Gates at the border, at the most basic, for example…)
Better governance and peer review is clearly needed at every level from technical up. (Refer Ofqual in the UK otherwise…)
Most fundamentally: this stuff is surely better done out in the open from now on, rather than hidden away - have the debate publicly over time, educate society and help consensus evolve quicker…AoNZ isn’t China, the Police Commissioner needs to own this from here.
Grinding tectonic movements continue underneath the concept of money itself:
Tim Denning on Medium interprets Warren Buffett: The value of the money you have is changing. “Debt” and what it means is fundamentally changing:
“The [US] debt isn’t going to be repaid; it’s going to be refunded…You better own something other than debt.” - Warren Buffet
…and a take on current QE efforts:
To continue a running theme of these Memia newsletters, the whole global system of money creation is being called under review: if (as seems increasingly likely post-pandemic) it were to be upgraded, what could the new global monetary system be optimised for? Digital (crypto-)currency technologies will likely underpin all of the most viable solutions.
Some (mostly tech) signals from near and far futures…
The Quad⬜: The US is pushing for closer Indo-Pacific defence relations with India, Japan and Australia – known as “The Quad” – towards something more closely resembling NATO, to counter China’s influence in the region. This is now officially out in the open…AoNZ’s position?
📜Google announced plans to sell “ethics-as-a-service” to other AI companies - initially offering others advice on ethical guidelines for AI projects. Longer term, Google may offer to audit customers’ AI systems for “ethical integrity”. Hmmm🤔.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt reprises his concerns about low US R&D spending and a future Chinese AI-enabled Superpower.
Meanwhile, here’s a good use of AI related to China:
ICYMI back in June, Facebook labs released this teaser video of photorealistic avatars: … they say this stuff is a long way off consumer release… but just, wow.
And more wow, AR dance moves:
Plane designer Otto Aviation came out of stealth, announcing the Celera 500L. Founder William Otto said:
“Our goal was to create a private aircraft that would allow for direct flights between any city pair in the U.S. at speeds and cost comparable to commercial air travel”.
Given the turmoil that the global aviation industry currently finds itself in, with $billions of stranded assets just sitting idle on the ground, perhaps a paradigm shift towards affordable point-to-point flight will happen early.
Agriculture and construction intersect: what if every new building had a rooftop greenhouse?
Terminator 2 gets nearer reality:
How China Cloned Shanghai - (See also Digital Duality link later below)
🐷…And last but not least, Elon Musk did a recruitment pitch for his Brain-Computer-Interface (BCI) startup Neuralink, introducing the world to Gertrude the [Uplifted] Pig, an early recipient of a Neuralink brain implant. Top marks for showmanship… and yep the man does have a track record of #GSD… but, meh.
(My thoughts from 2017 on the topic: Why Neuralink and Kernel are trying to solve the right problem at the wrong time. Better investments to be had in BCI software than hardware, methinks.)
Notable mentions around AoNZ this week:
The full details are yet to surface about the vulnerabilities exposed by the recent NZX cyber attack. Kudos to GCSB Minister Andrew Little who, I thought) demonstrated an impressive command of DDOS attacks and his complex technology security brief when interviewed on RNZ. The most tech-savvy politician in our region alongside Australia’s Ed Husic MP.
Netherlands-based Kiwi economist David Skilling has started a new Substack: Small World: The global economy from a small economy perspective, including a first article on how small economies are leading in controlling the spread of Covid-19, and are generating better economic outcomes.
Paul Goodeve, Chief Executive of gas network operator Firstgas writes about the Tiwai Hydrogen Opportunity in Stuff.
…and Rocketlab are back in the game:
Two essays to consider reading this week:
UCL Professor of Neurology Karl Friston on the mathematics of mind-time: the special trick of consciousness is being able to project action and time into a range of possible futures.
Complexity Void’s Richard Shutte on Digital Dualism:
“Without a reflexive feedback loop between our Digital World and the World – combining our digital perceptions of Reality with our shared lived experience – the transformative capacity of abstraction ( Mental Models of the World) begins to break down.”
Three finds to distract you this week:
After covering Gartner’s Hype Cycle last week, Memia reader (and fellow Swimrun enthusiast) John Hancock pointed me to the Climate Tech Hype Cycle:
Web browser market share 1995-2019 animation. I still remember the excitement of installing Mosaic for the first time…
🍸And finally: Copy and Taste - top class AR skills by Matt Reed:
As always, 🙏🙏🙏 to everyone who takes the time to get in touch with links and feedback, it’s great to hear from you!
…And also a special request since you’ve read this far: please take a moment to share this email with your network in AoNZ and around the 🌎🌍🌏. Thank you!
Cheers / Ngā mihi