Memia 2020.31: Coronatech🦠// Tiktok and the sorting hat🕺💃🎩// waste not (ever again)🗑️🛑// 3d printed not-quite-steak🥩🤢// burning man in VR🔥🧍👓

Modern arborists use LASERS!🌳🌟

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Hi / Kia ora,

I’m Ben Reid and 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.

The most clicked link in the last issue (~21% of openers) was the video of Facebook 2020 Research: Photorealistic Avatars & Full Body Tracking.🤯


Alongside driving global economic and societal change at the new accelerated “2020 pace”, Covid-19 is also speeding up related tech innovations. Just three examples:

  • Finally there’s no doubt that Covid-19 is providing entrepreneurial tech opportunities worldwide. While low-tech facemask demand soars, Swiss startup Aeris Health is marketing its “AI-powered” air purifier which (it claims) removes coronavirus from the air inside buildings.

Tiktok and the sorting hat🕺💃🎩

The sorry US Tiktok “extortion/acquisition” saga drags on, with the Chinese government now getting involved to potentially block certain algorithms as part of the sale. (“Technology export controls” boot on the other foot…doh!). As Benedict Evans notes in his newsletter($), “…there’s a hilarious parallel with eBay buying Skype”.

(…And how a consortium of Microsoft and Walmart would add value to US Tiktok operations once separated from Chinese parent Bytedance is, er, *uncertain*…)

For an absolutely authoritative and eye-opening read on what actually makes Tiktok so special, I highly recommend Eugene Wei’s recent post: Tiktok and the sorting hat:

“How did an app designed by two guys in Shanghai manage to run circles around U.S. video apps from YouTube to Facebook to Instagram to Snapchat, becoming the most fertile source for meme origination, mutation, and dissemination in a culture so different from the one in which it was built? …It turns out that in some categories, a machine learning algorithm significantly responsive and accurate can pierce the veil of cultural ignorance. Today, sometimes culture can be abstracted.”

Waste not (ever again)🗑️🛑

Back in Memia 2020.21 I introduced the concept of Modern Alchemy: taking something abundant and transmuting it into something scarce. Here’s another example: take landfill-destined refuse by the tonne and use a modern blast furnace to turn it into clean syngas energy (and rocks for construction projects). Check out the explainer video from Sierra Energy below:

This technology could completely change waste disposal:

  • Net zero carbon emissions.

  • 100% recycled waste.

  • No. More. Landfills. Ever.

Sierra Energy successfully raised US$33M last year - around that time CEO and Edmund Hillary Foundation (EHF) Fellow Mike Hart spoke at the New Frontiers conference last year on the opportunity for Aotearoa:

“What about a net-zero New Zealand? What about making New Zealand the first nation in the world with 100% recycling?…there’s only 13,000 tonnes of garbage created a day in the whole country…so with a couple of dozen [Sierra gasifiers] it would be possible to recycle 100% of the waste produced and convert it into clean fuels…”

[Weak] signals

So that’s waste disposal sorted then. What’s next? Oh, lots…

“Entire business models could be declared illegal and have to be scrapped if these complaints are valid.”

  • 🌳🌟The modern Arborist uses *LASERS*!


Lots has been happening around AoNZ this week:

Mind expanding🧠⏩☁

This week’s cerebrally expansionary recommendations:

  • Agree with Andrew Leckie that this Critical thinking guide should be taught in schools.

  • From a few months ago: venture capitalist, prolific Tweeter and tech philosopher Balaji S. Srinivasan writes about The Purpose Of Technology. (Short term: reducing scarcity. Long term: immortality, natch…)

  • The Big Bang may be a black hole inside another universe🤯:

Hidden gems💎

  • Gripping (long) read from Wired about a young UK hacker’s story:

  • The Dutch have “bicycle buses” to get kids to school and back:

🙏🙏🙏 Thanks to everyone who takes the time to get in touch with links and feedback, it’s always great to hear from you.

…And please take a moment to share this email with those in your network who you think might enjoy it. Thank you!

More next week.

Cheers / Ngā mihi