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,

Ben Reid here: each week I pull together the weekly Memia scan across emerging tech and unfolding futures, as viewed from my corner of the world, Aotearoa New Zealand. I hope you enjoy reading it.

(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…🤦)

The most clicked link in the last issue (~30% of openers) was the Pete Bernhart’s useful infographic of the new National Climate Change Risk Assessment for AoNZ.

Weekly Covid-19 reading

[As Auckland moves into Level 2.5 and 96 planes departed Auckland Airport on Monday]:

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.)

  • Thoughts:

    • 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.

Negative interest💵

Grinding tectonic movements continue underneath the concept of money itself:

“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.

[Weak] signals

Some (mostly tech) signals from near and far futures…

  • Materials science:

    • Terminator 2 gets nearer reality:


Notable mentions around AoNZ this week:

Mind expanding

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.”

Hidden gems

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